If You’re Struggling to Give Thanks {on Thanksgiving}

Maybe your Thanksgiving week is rushed and harried. Maybe you’re struggling to give thanks right now. Maybe you could use a moment to slow your soul and remember the indescribable beauty of God just behind the thin veil of earth.

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If that’s you today, I share this song I wrote after reading Ann Voskamp’s 1,000 Gifts. I hope it encourages you!

 

Some holiday info about Ebenezer Designs:

  1. For Black Friday– anyone who purchases between 9AM-5PM tomorrow will be entered to win the Christmas Print of your choice- free! ALSO, this year’s bargain is any 3 digital prints for $30! Here is the special listing for this, and in the note of the listing you can specify which 3 you’d like! Black Friday
  2. Remember, every print in my shop is a downloadable, digital print (unless otherwise specified). Obviously, these you can download and print yourself. BUT, if you decide you’d like to order a physical print to be mailed to you, you’ll notice that’s a separate listing for both 8×10 and 5×7 prints.
  3. Don’t forget about the Christmas cards!!! I’m SO excited about these, friends, and I only have about 12 sets left! And those are NOT downloadable. Remember each set comes with 4 different card designs. Rejoice Wreath Love Hans Comfort and Joy A Beautiful Sight
  4. Any item to be mailed- i.e. Christmas cards, physical prints, etc.- needs to be ordered by Wednesday, December 16th at the very latest. 
  5. There may be a special Christmas gift package on sale in the next couple of weeks, so keep your eye out for that!

Abide: Prepare Him Room

Last week, I talked about how I’ve been hand-lettering some dear, good quotes from Christmas hymns, and we talked about having the fullness of Christ- a thrill of hope- in the middle of darkness and winter.

A Thrill close up

Today, I am SO excited to share this very merry print with you:

Prepare Him Room

These words have been rolling around in my heart for a long time, and when Christmas draws near, they inevitably surface again. Which is such a good thing! It’s like someone showing up at my house with a homemade pumpkin roll (arguably my favorite baked good made at this time of year). 

Prepare Him room. 

Isn’t it delicious? Christmas time often makes me able to slip into this message like a cozy sweater on a winter night, or hanging extra twinkle lights (because people, I have them up year round) to brighten the house.

It’s a very fitting lyric found in the middle of “Joy to the World.” And a very key element of why Jesus was born to begin with. Emmanuel- God with us- came down to dwell here. Not just to spend some time with us, but to abide in us. (It says that exact thing in “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Maybe I should doodle that one next…) 

We will go and visit loved ones for Thanksgiving, and enjoy the unique hospitality that only comes from family (in my case, this is an immensely good thing, though I recognize it’s not for everyone). They will prepare some space for us and for Lucy.

When we come back, we will probably spend a good deal of time preparing our home for Christmas cheer (again, with the twinkle lights). And in both cases, there is a preparing- a making room- for something good.

But the joy spoken of in “Joy to the World” is obviously so much deeper than homey comforts and twinkle lights (though they are delightful); joy comes from Jesus.

“Christ in me, the hope of glory,” right?

I’ve got to make room for that to happen. To receive my King, I must rest in him, clear out the clutter in my soul, and adorn my heart with hope and trust in Jesus.

I know I’m being so overtly metaphoric, but I don’t care. Because you know what? Humans need overt metaphors sometimes… We aren’t always the brightest baubles on the tree. And something about the literal action of hanging ornaments and decorations helps lead our hearts to the manger where they should be. And ultimately- we end up at the cross.

No, wait. We end up at the empty tomb.

He’s not there because he’s dwelling in us, now. My prayer this week is that as we brace ourselves for the world’s head-on collision of commercials, coupons, and calendars that spread our sanity thin- may we slow instead. May we let hope quiet us, love fill us, and faith to make space in our souls.

Prepare Him Room closeup

Let’s prepare him room together.

 

This print will be in the shop tomorrow!

 

Some holiday housekeeping for Ebenezer Designs:

  1. Remember, every print in my shop is a downloadable, digital print (unless otherwise specified). Obviously, these you can download and print yourself. BUT, if you decide you’d like to order a physical print to be mailed to you, you’ll notice that’s a separate listing for both 8×10 and 5×7 prints.
  2. Don’t forget about the Christmas cards!!! I’m SO excited about these, friends, and I only have about 12 sets left! And those are NOT downloadable. Remember each set comes with 4 different card designs. Rejoice Wreath Love Hans Comfort and Joy A Beautiful Sight
  3. Any item to be mailed- i.e. Christmas cards, physical prints, etc.- needs to be ordered by Wednesday, December 16th at the very latest. 
  4. There may be a special Christmas gift package on sale in the next couple of weeks, so keep your eye out for that!

Abide: A Thrill of Hope!

Sometimes, I’m preoccupied with my feelings. SO preoccupied, that I am no longer fit for anything except for going to bed and letting Jesus and sleep wash my brain out. (Or “peelings” as in this video… If you’ve never seen the Happy Slip videos, you should. Some wonderful MK friends who grew up in the Philippines shared these with me in college… They are still awesome.)

Lately, I find myself asking for God to hush my soul, quiet the unceasing river of thoughts and feelings and little worries and distractions that even the smallest of occurrences sometimes unleash. It’s annoying is what it is.

But he answers me- you know, when I let him.

I don’t know if you are one of those people who doesn’t listen to Christmas music until at least the day after Thanksgiving, but here, I freely confess that I’ve been listening to Christmas music for like, a couple weeks now.

Not so much the bumpety-bump-bump-bumpety-bump-bump-look-at-frosty-go kinds of songs. I’m talking about the real stuff, the good stuff. Like this album by Aaron Shust, or this album by The Chieftains. For one thing, I’ve listened to the latter for most Christmases of my life. The former just came out within the last couple years.

What I love about these is the sort of ancient beauty that comes with a lot of their songs, the hard-to-explain wonder and mystery of Christ becoming flesh, dwelling among us, working out God’s mighty plan (as the “Advent Carol” says on Shust’s album).

And the other thing I love is- the hope. Somehow, I can often hear hope louder at Christmas time. It’s “the truth that sings into my darkness, the melody of love that leads me on” as Ellie Holcomb talks about.

Don’t the old Christmas hymns put it all so well? Like, O Holy Night.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!”

I love that. “A thrill of hope.” It makes me glad we celebrate Christmas when we do, even though Jesus was probably actually born at the opposite end of the year.

A Thrill

Because winter is dark, friends. And so is the world. At it’s darkest time of the year, we celebrate light. We celebrate the Light. The Word came down and spoke a new word to us- hope.

Maybe that’s why I’ve started listening to Christmas music already. Sure, I love the festive mood, but the hope of Christmas goes infinitely deeper than bells and holly.

 

I felt it already, yesterday. It was all rainy and overcast and sleepy, and all the kids at daycare seemed to be fighting a case of the Mondays- but on a Wednesday. (Bless their sweet lives. I can relate. Can’t you?) And I looked out the window during nap time, and saw a tree all but silhouetted against a dark gray sky.

And I felt a thrill of hope. It’s a sort of quietly defiant thing; it’s knowing that Jesus gives his abundant peace and abundant presence- right here. Right now.

A Thrill close upThank you, God, for that. If anything can quiet my confusing, annoying feelings, that hope can. As the NASB version of Romans 5:5 says,

and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

If I’m feeling disappointed, then it seems like that’s probably because my hope wasn’t in the right place. (Isn’t it funny how we are always questioning God about things- when he never changes-when we are the ones who are so changeable? ) 

The mystery of Christmas is the mystery of Christ- this abundance and hope that when we dwell in- abide in- him, he gives us his fullness. Wow. Fullness, you guys.

Most of the time, I feel lacking- incomplete. But the Word says we are made complete through him. This is our hope. Paul says this in Colossians 1,

so that I might [aj]fully carry out the preaching of the word of God,26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His [ak]saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

He keeps laying that on me during this season of abiding: the riches of the glory of this mystery…which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

I keep pondering this phrase, asking God to plant it like a seed deep in my soul. Christ in me- a thrill of hope.

May we delight in this mystery together.

There are so many deep, good words of Christmas. I’ve been swirling some of them onto paper for the shop this Christmas. I’ll be revealing them one at a time here! To see “A Thrill of Hope” in the shop, click either of the pictures above.

Some housekeeping about the shop:

  1. Remember, every print in my shop is a downloadable, digital print (unless otherwise specified). Obviously, these you can download and print yourself. BUT, if you decide you’d like to order a physical print to be mailed to you, you’ll notice that’s a separate listing for both 8×10 and 5×7 prints.
  2. Don’t forget about the Christmas cards!!! I’m SO excited about these, friends, and I only have about 12 sets left! And those are NOT downloadable. Remember each set comes with 4 different card designs. Rejoice Wreath Love Hans Comfort and Joy A Beautiful Sight
  3. Any item to be mailed- i.e. Christmas cards, physical prints, etc.- needs to be ordered by Wednesday, December 16th at the very latest. 
  4. There may be a special Christmas gift package on sale in the next couple of weeks, so keep your eye out for that!

That’s all, friends. I hope this post brought you a little- well- hope today. From my heart to yours.

Abide: The Sower’s Song {Andrew Peterson Concert!}

Last week, I talked about bearing fruit and performing, and how they are often seemingly at odds with each other. And also- that “perform” often conjures ideas of self-promotion and self-glorification.

Which is icky, right? And I don’t want to be icky. I just want to create meaningful beauty that somehow- impossibly- becomes more than it is.

I want the beauty of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Because when He is present in the moments of our art, heaven breaks through to earth a little more.

Art is a Bell Mockup

I know it, because that’s exactly what happened on Sunday night.

A few weeks ago, my dear kindred spirit friend, Brooke, discovered free tickets to an Andrew Peterson concert outside Indianapolis, and texted me asking if I wanted to go… And then we indulged ourselves in much all-caps and exclamation points and emojis in our seismic excitement!

I left after church Sunday morning, drove the two hours to Indy, had lunch with my parents and some friends, and waited about an hour in which I attempted to pretend I could “rest” (at which I mostly failed) for awhile before leaving to meet up with Brooke.

We headed in the direction of the concert, stopping for an exceedingly fancy dinner at McDonald’s (as per McDonald’s usual), and found that eating was basically superfluous in light of our excitement and joy at being together and getting to experience such a soul-filling event together.

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(This is our we’re-so-excited-we-can’t-hold-the-phone-steady selfie.) 

It ended up being one of the last concerts on his Burning Edge of Dawn tour. If you haven’t looked up this album, STOP READING THIS and do it ASAP.

This is my favorite song from the album right now, namely because it is all about abiding. When I first heard it a month or so ago, it was such a kairos moment. (You know, the spiritual version of that epic moment in a story when you’re like, NO WAY- That was THAT GUY?!?! Oh, if you click that link, you mostly need to just skip to 1:39… Anyway, you know what I mean? Like, when the whole intricate plot is revealed? Harry Potter fans will here understand what I mean.)

 

 

He talked about gardening, and how much he’s learning about God and humanity through it. He mentioned the way you literally have to tear open the earth- like a wound- but that the wound is not the last step. It’s the first. Then comes the seed, which must die in order to bear fruit. And then seasons of waiting and winter and rain must come before the sun warms the earth, before the yield that the gardener harvests.

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(Oh, and that’s his 15-year-old son in the middle. How awesome is that?!)

That’s what God does with us, too. And as Andrew (Peterson? Mr. Peterson? Why is that always so weird for me?) said, you don’t often hear a lot of sermons about God the Gardener. We often hear about God as the shepherd, or the fortress, or the savior. All of which are just as true!

But gardener. That paints such an articulate picture of patience, of the steadfast love that tends the rocky soil of the heart.

If we don’t let him dig down deep- if we don’t let him open us up, we can’t let him plant seeds in us. And if the planting happens, so must the dying- of something.

What must die in me, God? Let me give it up! Let me be soil that receives everything from you as good.

Right now, for me, it starts with an inhale. And then an exhale. And then a reading and rereading of these words:

[God] redeems your life from the pit, he surrounds you with grace and compassion, he contents you with good as long as you live, so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.” – Psalm 103:4-5

Contents you with good. In all my frazzled, frenetic tendencies, God reminds me to breathe. To let Jesus show me himself in each moment- even and especially my ugliest darkest ones. It’s helping me dwell in this garden, which is more than a season of peace- it’s a place of peace. That doesn’t pass away.

Lately, I’ve been wanting to reorganize and rearrange everything in my home. I realize this sounds like it’s unrelated, but once you start reorganizing, you start Pinteresting organizing methods and looking up the endless cavern of organizing bins and carts and whatnot at IKEA  (insert the onslaught of impossible expectations). 

And I keep seeing with the sight of scarcity. Looking at what I don’t have and feeling like if only I did have x,y,z then I could achieve what I want. But a) I already have the means to rearrange and reorganize with my current possessions (which number too great for our two-bedroom apartment as it is), and b) even if I did get the things I “need” God has reminded me that it won’t satisfy.

As Brooke and I talked about these things on our way to and from the concert, she said, “Jesus is the ultimate goal.” And it’s SO true! Jesus is the only thing that will satisfy. Not things, not systems of organization, not perfect appearance or perfect performance, not even my “wildest dreams” which I’d imagine look considerably tame next to what God can do through me. He contents me with good.

All this is not just what happened in my heart at an Andrew Peterson concert. But rather, the concert was all part of this movement that God has orchestrated around me lately.

And along with that? I got to witness what it looks like to allow God to bear fruit through a person’s story, through their times of darkness and light. Andrew is a singer-songwriter. And many of the songs on this album were born out of seasons of winter and rain and darkness. But he always proclaims the hope, too. He said, “There’s always a good end to the story.”

This is where a performance is so much more than a performance. It becomes something holy, a safe space for the soul to listen for the Holy Spirit. When a lot of souls do that at once, it’s a kind of communion.

This is so encouraging to me as an artist! In light of it, I feel unencumbered by all the whys and worries about my motives and my appearance and my results. Turns out, the pressure really is off, because results are the business of the Father. My business is to be a faithful, available servant, and to continue creating. Sometimes, what you create isn’t only about you. (Often it isn’t.) Just look at The Sower’s Song, and how God has used it in my life.

And that’s just one song!

I hope this encourages you and me- not just as artists, but as humans- to allow God to tear open our sometimes rocky, sometimes barren, earthy hearts; to plant a seed; to allow a dying so that we can give way to new life. His work does not return void.

Remember- I am not the gardener. And neither are you. Here’s what He has to say to us seedlings, waiting for the sun:

8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”

 

Will you abide with me in this today? May our souls be tilled with the tender hands of our Father; may we bear fruit.

Bearing Fruit {Or: Is Perform a Dirty Word?}

I’ve been doing some studying. Some reading. Some puzzle-piece-together-putting.

And it’s been about as unwieldy and awkward as that hyphenated mess I just typed. But I think it’s an unwieldy and awkward step in the right direction.

In this season of peace, this abiding, God has laid out some truths for me… some dots that I’m connecting.

First, I started with John 15. Okay God, I said, Let’s read this again… And I read verse 16, which says,

“You did not choose me, I chose you; and I have commissioned you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last; so that whatever you ask from the Father in my name he may give you.”

Did you catch that? (No, I’m not talking about Jesus’ copious use of the semicolon, which just makes me feel like my run-on sentences are justified.) Well, I guess there was more than one thing really…

What first stuck out to me was that he says he has commissioned us to go and bear fruit. I felt like that was a little wink from God, just because it called to mind someone commissioning something from an artist. And as a creative whose abilities lie in performance, whether on a stage or a piece of paper or on this blog, I feel hope.

Performance has become a dirty word in certain circles, and for good reason.You’re cringing a little just reading it, aren’t you? The idea of performing tends to call up images of pandering for approval, or showing off, or being insincere in your faith, or just going through the motions. And a performance (usually…) intends to incite positive response of some kind from someone.

It’s one of the biggest pebbles in my shoe. I’m always stumbling over things like motives- why am I doing this? Why do I create- and then feel compelled to share my creation with someone else? Shouldn’t delighting the eyes of God be sufficient for me?

To answer this, I’ve realized we must walk a fine line as artists. We must remember that what we create isn’t really ours. I mean- it both is and isn’t. (Isn’t our faith full of delightfully baffling paradoxes?) But the part that isn’t ours is the gift it comes from. God gives us abilities, gifts, whatever you want to call them- to glorify Him. 

I put that in bold as if I know what it means to do that.

But a big grace of God’s is that he’s leading me into a new season of learning. Graciously, generously, he knows I’ll fail over and over. He knows that taking a brave new step will test my mettle.

And he knows that my mettle on its own will fall short- without Jesus.

That’s why the other piece of that verse that sticks out is that we’re commissioned to bear fruit- fruit that will last. Wow. I don’t know that I’m capable of producing that kind of fruit.

Scratch that- I’m definitely not capable of producing that kind of fruit. Like it says back in verse 4,

“Stay united with me, as I will with you- for just as the branch can’t put forth fruit by itself apart from the vine, so you can’t bear fruit apart from me.”

Another way to say “Stay united with me” is “Abide in me, as I abide in you.” Can you feel your soul breathing a little easier?

I can. And I’d read some verses from our churches Brave series a few weeks ago that reminded me who God is and what God does.

[God] redeems your life from the pit, he surrounds you with grace and compassion, he contents you with good as long as you live, so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.” – Psalm 103:4-5

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him” – Psalm 103:11

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6

“He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” – Psalm 46:10-11

“As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord?… It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle… You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.” – Psalm 18:30-36

 

God reminds us that he is a shelter, he is a fortress, he is a shield. And if he is all those things, then it follows that we are not. 

My issue is forgetting that truth and going about my life as if I’m the fortress. I’ve got to make things happen, hustle, hurry, worry, strive… perform. And when I’m doing all those things? My purpose quickly deteriorates into building up my own counterfeit kingdom, exalting myself.

But if I’m not the fortress, and if I’m not God, then I can’t protect. I can’t produce.

And I most definitely cannot bear fruit. If performing is all we have, it’s more like wax fruit, as one of the commentaries in my Blue Letter Bible app put it.

But the pressure is off, dear friends! We aren’t saviors, we are the Beloved of the Savior. Our fortress, our shelter, our true vine. Come inside- it’s safe to dwell here in Jesus.

I know it’s hard. For me, it’s hard because I’m so distracted by others who seem to be running a faster, better, more beautiful and Instagram-able race that I am. And for that reason, I’ve decided to follow less people on Instagram. It’s not a big deal, I’ve just realized that, as my friend, Kara said to me this morning,

Too many voices clouds your calling.”

Right?! (I liked it so much, I whipped up a free printable for you! Which you’ll find below. Okay, so it’s kind of rustic, but this is just for you- not for my shop or anything other than just being free encouragement. Especially because I just noticed I added an unnecessary “s.” Or does it still work, grammatically? Ah, well. Either way, it just goes along with acknowledging my imperfections. Maybe I’ll make a nicer version of this quote some time.) 

So, it’s ok if you need to do that, too. I’ve decided I don’t need to be incessantly Instagram-able. And my goal isn’t to manufacture success- or something that looks like the success of others. I don’t really want their life.

Clouding Your Calling 2

I want abundant life- that comes through Christ. Amazing how much I’ve talked about longing for abundance here. To bear an abundance of fruit will mean abiding in Christ.

So, let’s stop performing. At least- let’s stop performing in our own power. Because as creatives, sharing your creations often technically is a performance. But when we abide in Christ, he does amazing things through us.

We’re wired to perform in some way. Let today be a day that we surrender our gifts to the Lord, who will complete the work he began in us, even if/when we try to take it from his hands.

Let’s run our own race. As dear Aimee reminded me recently,

Here’s the deal… Let’s all just stay in our own lanes running hard after Jesus within our own gifts. Let’s also cheer loudly for the folks running their own race in their lanes.

Comparison is a dirty, rotten scoundrel. It belongs in exactly no one’s lane.

Be your own kind of beautiful.”

When it comes down to it, that’s exactly what I’m getting at today.

kara quote

If you need encouragement, I’ll tell you- you’re looking good over there in your lane, my friend! Let’s abide in Jesus together today.

Artist of the Month: Aimee Brown {And the Art of Motherhood}

1551609_10202193226584670_1552926476_nAlong with being a wife and mother to 5, Aimee Brown has been a second mother to hundreds of others- and indirectly- to thousands! Her influence stretches far and wide, because that’s always been her posture- open and welcoming to anyone and everyone. She seems to give away an overflowing basket of love to anyone who brushes her space. She poured that love into me when she and her husband pastored my youth group growing up. She’s always seen beauty in me even and especially when I couldn’t/can’t see it in myself, and a good deal of who I am today I owe to that sight and the encouragement that accompanied it.

I just know you need to hear her words today. Hear from a true artist of love, one who has made motherhood into an art.

Welcome to my front porch!

gather

Come on up and make yourselves comfy. I’ve got coffee brewing and muffins fresh from the oven for you to enjoy. I want you to feel loved and accepted here, so just take a load off for a moment to be encouraged on this beautiful journey called mommyhood.

Let me remind you, precious Mama, that you are treasured and highly regarded by our Loving God. That you are a difference maker in the lives of your children-that yes you are doing a fantastic job of loving them well, especially on those days you feel as if you have utterly failed them.

porch
Let me introduce myself-I’m Aimee, wife to Rob & momma to five beautiful children ages 17 down to 8.

10989256_856010467805397_9007892530086802728_oWhat I originally thought would be a journey of heartache (being told I could not carry babies) has instead become my very joy and delight; my grandest adventure. Mine is the majesty of raising up this ruckus bunch (did I mention we have four boys?) into whole-hearted folks who love God and love people with all that they are.

I remember holding my oldest, my Jack, for the very first time. I remember thinking ‘ah. This is why I have arms-to hold and protect this beatiful, perfect boy’. I recall thinking if Jack could never form words, if he could never call me Mama or tell me he loves me that everything would be okay; my love for him was enough. I whispered my thanks like a prayer….I’m so glad it’s right now.

As Jack grew, discovering his world and forming a huge imagination, I savored every moment. He giggled often, asked many questions and ran everywhere we went.

A couple years later, along came our second son, our Eli. What a gentle, kind addition he has been! He champions the underdog, he loves people so well. He is a discoverer; he loves to figure out how things work. He provides levity, he’s a peacemaker.

Our third son, our Camden, he’s a fighter. Born 6 weeks early, we were told he wouldn’t make it through childbirth. I hoped, I prayed, I begged my God in heaven for his life. Our tiny boy, our hilarious Cam- what a gift he is to us! Both tough and tender, spirited and gentle, he is brave and honest and good. He has my heart and my gumption. In those first days, when premie clothing was way too big and his suckle reflex wasn’t quite what it should be, when I was trying to make sure he received enough calories, that he was warm enough, that he would thrive…in those days as I held my sweet baby, sleep-deprived and weepy, I would whisper ‘I’m so glad you’re here, Cam; that you’re alive. You are strong and good. You will do great things……… I’m so glad it’s right now”.

Ahnna Caroline, our beautiful princess, full of such gentleness and kindness, humor and generosity. An artist, she sees beauty everywhere. Sharing with others is her second nature. I asked the Lord for a daughter one sunny afternnoon, my arms elbow-deep in soap suds in our old farmhouse. Oh the joy she has brought us! A snuggler, she just wants to be near, and I love that with my whole heart.

Our baby, our curly-headed, animal-loving, kind-hearted, darling boy, Asher. Big and deliciously chunky when he was born, instantly loved and adored by his siblings, sweet and quiet. He is a seer, he notices when someone feels left out or is shy. He loves to wrestle with his daddy and his brothers, loves to snuggle with me.

 

Our babies came nearly every two years (some closer together, others further apart).

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These child-bearing years were the best kind of busy. But I remember. I remember taking our time, never rushing the sitting up, standing, walking. I knew these things would come. I remember the late night child-wonderings, the questions, the chats, the prayers. I remember chubby hands and messy spills and always running late (I’ve never minded being late to things, so this was never a big deal)

Savor.

Don’t be in a hurry; pause so you’ll remember always the beauty of these ordinary extraordinary days.
I want to encourage your spirit of adventure Mamas, because Motherhood isn’t a pause button; it’s not an in between where your goals and dreams rest.

Motherhood is the adventure!

I’ve lived more fully in the last seventeen years because of the wonder of my children. I’ve nursed babies in downtown Mantattan, on beaches, in national parks, in restaurants, churches and everywhere in between.

Doing real, actual life with our children allows them to feel intrinsically part of this world, to know for sure they belong in any situation. Sometimes this inclusion has lead to idealic, easy breezy situations, other times we’ve had to back up and start over regarding behavior in certain settings. Always, we’re glad we choose to include our five.

If I could look each one of you in the eyes, I would tell you to trust your gut, girls. You are hard wired to know exactly what your child needs, where they should sleep (crib or co-sleeping with you), how they should be educated, which activities best suit your life, etc. True rest may be found in motherhood when we parent according to our own instincts instead of swimming around in the pool of public opinion.

Trust yourself!

The most beautiful parts of our family life occur, not on social media, but privately just among us seven. Our story is personal, sacred to my heart. Sometimes the very best moments can get lost in a haze of filters and angles. Being private doesn’t mean having a lack of authenticity, it just means I’m holding my children’s stories closely.

They enjoy having memories to recount, weaving their own takes into experiences we’ve shared. They have beautiful voices that I never want to overshadow with quick snapshots, with casual references of my own.
Our oldest, after having spent years looking back to make sure I’m right there, is now only looking ahead. He’s checking out colleges, studying for the SAT. He’s perched right on the edge of my nest, ready to fly. He’s a man now. I have to look up to see his face, his voice is deep, confident.

Our second born will soon be driving. Tall like his brother, he calls me shorty.

I am loving these days with teenagers and deep life talks. There is absolutely nowhere else I would rather be than right here with my people. They need my attention, they need my ears to truly hear.

There are few things I would do differently. I’m so glad I’ve paid attention, was present, savored.

You are enough just as you are, dear mamas. You’ve got what it takes to love your children well. Put away that imaginary measuring stick, those unreal expectations. Look your babies in the eye, smile, tell them how glad you are that they were born. Love them big, cheer for them loudly, champion them, hold them close. You are exactly who they need, especially when they push you away. These really are the glory days.

Someday in the future I may get a phone call from one of my babies recounting a grand adventure they’ve had on their own. I’ll listen, I’ll marvel, I’ll savor that conversation. Then I’ll whisper it again like a benediction….oh Jesus, thank you. I’m so glad it’s right now.

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Thank you for sitting awhile on my porch awhile. I’m glad you stopped by.

Welcome to Our New Home! {On the Interweb}

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That’s right, folks! My little blog has moved here- to an official website!!!! I’m SO UTTERLY EXCITED about this!

It’s a huge step for me, and really for us (aka for me and my husband, without whose magical techno-powers none of this would be happening). 

DSC_0720I started the blog to be a place where I could not only share my heart and never ending hunt for beauty (and moreso for the Originator of it) but as a place to foster community- a safe place for all creatives (whether you consider yourself one or not) to come and explore beauty and the part it plays in their lives as well.

At this new home, this website (oooohhh it’s so fun to say), you’ll find the blog of course, but you’ll also find a page devoted to Ebenezer Designs, as well as a page for- wait for it- music. WHEW! That’s the hardest, most vulnerable sharing for me- songwriting is like emptying the contents of my heart into verse and melody. But I believe in sharing it with you nonetheless.

Bear with me as we get all the kinks worked out and polished over the coming weeks. Moving from my free little wordpress site to an official website is like moving from an apartment to a real, live house. (Or, that’s what I imagine it to be like… I still live in an apartment. HA.) Lord willing, loveliness will fill up the corners of this new home…

I encourage you to share this {exciting, scary, crazy, amazing} new endeavor with everyone you know!!! I covet your prayers and your encouragement as we take this brave new step!

Thanks for continuing with me in this journey.

Now that you’re here- take a look around! I can’t wait for you to see what’s going on around here! Pardon our dust… we’re still getting settled. (You understand, right?)

Love,

Haylie

 

P.S. Come back tomorrow for November’s Artist of the Month!!! It’s a good one.

Abide Vs. Strive

I picked this verse. During this series called “Brave,” we were challenged at one point to first choose a verse that stuck out to us from among a handful, then memorize it. Additionally, we were challenged to take a “brave new step” towards something called our heading (i.e. where we feel God is calling us to be brave/grow/etc). 

God of Hope

So, I picked this verse. My method of memorizing it was to swirlify the letters and words and doodle all around them, forcing me to face each word with whole-hearted attention.

And it actually worked! This isn’t the first time I’ve done that. It’s actually one big reason I started my shop. Because if I need the Word to have pockets all over my house and my life, then maybe someone else does, too. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a very real thing for me, friends. (You can see it on Etsy, here if you need this print for yourself.)

Over the past few months, the Lord has persistently laid this word “abide” before me, along with Jesus’ words in John 15. I realized it’s because I was running on the fumes of other things, rather than the fuel of the Spirit’s love and abundance.

What does it actually look and feel like when God fills you with all joy and peace? Or when you overflow with hope by the power of the Spirit?

I desire to know and experience those things for myself. And sometimes, I’ve wrestled with feeling like I couldn’t fill up with God’s joy and peace on my own. Which I then realized is absolutely right.

We can’t do that on our own.

And I gained hope again, because there’s a key phrase in the middle of all those swirls: as you trust in him.

The only way I can fill with joy and peace instead of my own striving is to trust in the Lord. I guess it’s part of the whole relationship thing. But I forget that Jesus desires a relationship, not a checklist.

I’ve been reading 1 Samuel, quite frankly because my mentor was reading it and kept telling me how she was wowed by seeing the difference between David’s heart and Saul’s heart, and how David’s exemplifies a heart that is seeking (emphasis on the “ing”- it’s a continuous process) God.

The crazy thing? It goes completely with this whole abiding vs. striving thing. (Also, the reason I named the shop “Ebenezer Designs” is because of 1 Samuel 7:12)

I’m desperate to learn what a truly abiding heart- like David’s- looks like, and though I’ve read it before, it’s almost as if I hadn’t really. Remember this verse?

 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7

It hit me hard this time around. Because it turns out that a war of Appearance rages in me. More often than not, I overflow with appearance-driven striving instead of hope.

It is- quite literally- a look-alike hope. A counterfeit abundance that leaves me with mountains of not-enough. A joy-stealing wreck.

Saul knew this struggle well, I think. He was a striver. Constantly, exhaustingly, indomitably striving, his white-knuckled reign fostered a nation filled with fear; his leadership- though often performing the outward actions of worship- in reality sacrificed all on the altar of Saul.

David was a shepherd, a true leader filled with bold humility (most of the time), a psalm-singer, a friend, who- instead of chasing after his throne (he was anointed king after all)- chased after God. He was still human, of course, and made some pretty big boo-boos (that whole Bath-Sheba debacle for one), but his heart was always the most important part of him. Even after he sins, he repents, he returns, he remembers who is truly King, and finds God can redeem and sustain him still.

Reading through 1 Samuel has revealed multiple instances where it talks about David finding his strength in (trusting in, putting hope in) God. He didn’t just strive for joy, peace, hope. He couldn’t manufacture them. He trusted in God first.

So this week, I’ve begun to navigate a little more slowly, more intentionally in the things I do, in the people I’m with, in moments God gives.

I’m letting myself abide.


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I pray this prayer for you- that God will fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Abide: Season of Peace

To say I enjoyed October, is to put it mildly.

And I’d been joyfully praying over and planning what to write about in November (and possibly December). It’s kind of an odd phenomenon to be this plan-y for me, you guys. But I really like it!

Especially, because it gives me an opportunity to look at what God is saying to me lately.

The message has been overwhelmingly, abundantly clear: abide. 

I’ve longed for peace.

I’ve asked for clarity.

I’ve prayed to know the Lord better.

And I keep hearing the answer: Abide.

Amidst all of the swirling questions about things that do and don’t matter, I find I mix them all up and require an anchor. The answer keeps repeating like a sounding joy, Abide. 

To my shock (not really), abiding doesn’t fall within the spectrum of things I’m good at. And it’s grown more evident, like a whisper that rises to a shout, that passage in John 15:

The Vine and the Branches

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

Abide

So, that’s what we’ll be exploring around here as we enter into my absolute favorite time of year! Abiding in Christ to cultivate a season of peace.