Friday, April 3, 2015

The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Day

This piece originally appeared in Do South Magazine. Follow the link for more of my musings and to subscribe to this beautiful publication. 

Years ago, when my two oldest sons were toddlers, we stumbled upon a park. It was spring, and I wish they had been older when we found it. As it was, they were one and two respectively, and so I am alone in my memories of the place. 
We’d gone to visit their dad at the jobsite he was working on, a federal prison being built in Wartburg, Tennessee. It was an armpit of a town lodged in the middle of the great Smoky Mountains, with two small diners and an Arby’s, broken down roads and a population that knew each other by name. We’d arrived too early or too late, I don’t remember which, and as a result we ended up with time to kill. So I drove off from the half-built prison with my boys in the backseat, the windows down, set to explore. 
It was the kind of day and the sort of scenery that makes for lovely postcards. My white Pontiac weaved through winding roads, passing lush pastures. I stopped for a turtle to finish crossing to safety. Everything was blooming, and my soul drank it up, thirsty after years of apartment living. 

Then, without warning, there was a park. 
Of course, I pulled in. I didn’t know the extraordinary nature of what I’d found, taking it as just a welcome distraction. A park is, after all, exactly what a mother of two small children with time to waste needs. It wasn’t until I started to unbuckle the car seats that I felt the chill in my spine. As soon as we stepped off the blacktop, some unexplained awareness crawled under my skin. The place was alive. 
The playground itself was tucked at the foot of a steep embankment on one side and a very tall, sloping, wooded mountainside on the other. The light, being filtered down through many leaves, had a greenish quality. It held no eeriness though, only an opulent ripeness. You could almost bite it, chew it, feel it tickle your throat like juice of a green pear or the freshness of a just-picked cucumber. 
Butterflies swarmed up from a low creek that ran through the bottom of a deep trench. We crossed over a creaking, wooden bridge that spanned it and my sense of wonder grew. I distinctly recall the smell of rotten leaves, like compost and earthworms, and the faint sweetness of honeysuckle. It was the kind of smell quite different from any food, but that somehow possesses the power to deceive a mouth into watering. 
My children, oblivious to the feeling reverberating inside me, made a beeline to the slide, a yellow plastic thing with mold and moss in every crevice. More butterflies, maybe a hundred, fluttered in the air above the equipment while ladybugs creeped along the surface and brightly colored lizards scattered to the underside. 
The sound of birds echoed back and forth between embankment and hillside, the sort of sound that is so solid and subtly powerful it lulls the deepest, soul-bound places of a person into submission. A place we forget we have, jarred by traffic noises and alarm clocks. A place hungry for the sound of a life-filled mountain park in the spring. 
I’m not sure how long we stayed. Until the knees and seats of jeans were stained with green life and the underneaths of nails were dirt caked. Until the demands for snacks became louder than the birds. And we left. We loaded into the car, changed diapers and opened juice boxes and as abruptly as we’d stumbled upon the place, we were driving away from it, headed to a prison and an apartment and clean, regular life. 
I never went back. 
What if someone power washed the life off of the slide, and what if the butterflies had moved on? What if I returned, hungry to taste spring, and found only just a park? It was too risky. 
I did think about it often, though. When the concrete became overwhelming, I’d visit the park in my mind. When winter felt endless, I’d remember the greenness, the sounds and the smells of that living place. I didn’t talk about it much, because I couldn’t impress upon my audience what it had done to me, to just be in a place so fully alive. 
My world has changed so much since then. 
Our homestead, according to Google, is 499 miles from Wartburg, Tennessee. It is as far as the moon from apartment living, from being starved of growth and fresh life. And while I remember the day I came across the mountain park and the way it quenched my soul, it has been a very long time since I craved it. 
It took me a long time to pinpoint it, but what I felt that day was more than just a thankfulness for spring. It was reverence for the creation of God. I remember when my life was so immersed in the man-made, it took a deliberate plan to escape it. 
Creation requires no seeking on an Arkansas homestead. I see it everywhere now, stumbling upon it in everyday places, always stopping to note the wonder. I don’t ever want to take it for granted, lest it lose its capacity to move my heart. 
Yesterday I found it in a box of peeping chicks that I picked up from the post office. I plunged my hand into the heap of wiggling, downy bodies, felt the tiny resonance of their chirps against my fingers. Their frailty is intimidating, but their intricacy is divine. 
I’ve found it in the soil of the garden, and in the way it feels beneath my feet. I’ve felt it in the thrill that comes with sprouting seedlings, watching their tender leaves unfurl to feast from the sun. I’ve felt it in the weight of tomatoes, under the skin of tart berries, and in the tight heads of asparagus shoots.
I have found it on my back porch in the morning. I listen to the birds in the trees, the geese in the pond across the street, the brassy donkey’s bray in the field next door, the rooster’s crow. I sit, with my Bible in my lap, while my coffee gets cool and my children fuss over cereal on the other side of the screen door, and I let the sound of nature and the Word work together to unbar my deep places, the demand-rattled pieces of my heart. 

I have found the feeling in the soft places behind the ears and under the chins of my infant sons. As our family has grown, one boy after the next, I’ve learned to savor the smell of them, the transparency of their skin and bow of their upper lips. And a few weeks ago, I carried home the brand new boy that would be my last. I laid him on the bed as the sun shone across it and imagined him a seed being planted in the fertile soil of our home. I prayed he would grow with the ferocity of that which I saw growing so many years ago in the mountain park. 

I thank God for the gift He has given me. He gave me a thirst for life, and opened my eyes to the beauty of it. He has given me a home to cultivate, to garden, to grow. And I leave the door open, always inviting people in. My hope, in truth, is that those who stumble through might find some inspiration here. I pray they might find what I found one spring day, years ago, in a mountain park. Wonder. Enchantment. Life. 
I pray it lodges in their soul a bit, quenches a thirst they didn’t realize they had. I pray it quells the churning in their spirit and that they feel the peace and the unmistakable mark of being in the presence of something fully living.
Maybe the walk of a wonderer is unique to me, but I don’t think so. I believe it is within the spirit of every man to be soothed by nature and to crave creation. I hope you find it this spring, either on your back porch or in an evening walk or at a lonely, unkempt playground. And when you stumble upon it, I hope you stop and let it make you feel small. That it might have a chance to quiet your soul before you move on to the next noisy, worldly thing. 
I hope you find your mountain park. 
And I hope you are never the same.

Monday, February 16, 2015

To Be Brokenhearted.

We are called to live in reflection of Christ.

He, who was completely broken. 
He, who went to great lengths to SAVE. 
From Heaven to Earth. From life to death. Back again. 
He, who held nothing back. 

He, who became COMPLETELY broken. 
Completely poured out. 

I tried to hold on to wholeness before. But God showed me that I could not be whole and still be wholly used by Him. There are only two sorts of hearts. 
Hard hearts or broken ones. 
Unusable or Pliable. 

And serving God always holds a promise of A BROKEN HEART. 
But allowing our hearts to harden holds a promise of straying. 

I laid in bed and wept last night for the brokenness and pain in the marriages around me. 
This pain that comes from hearts hardened to those whom vows have been said to. I see infidelity, insecurity, wandering in the wilderness looking for...what?
And lying in my own marriage bed, which has been redeemed from sexual sin, restored to covenant intimacy,  I wept. 


This is new to me. This compassion and hurt comes from a new obedience. To reflect Him that I might be empowered by Him. 

I wonder how a person can go so astray from righteousness. How can a marriage bed become so defiled? How can any man experience the power of God then choose sin instead?

The answer: a hard heart. 

The Israelites witnessed the plagues. The Passover. The parting of the Red Sea. 
They have been promised a land but were BLINDED, AFRAID and ultimately HARDENED by the giants occupying it. 

A hard heart leads to rebellion. 
A hard heart leads to life wasted in the wilderness. 
A hard heart landed Jonah in a whale's belly and ended his story on a bitter hillside. 
A hard heart blinded the Pharisee to the Messiah, standing flesh and blood in front of them. 
Hard hearts prevail in the proclaimed church today. 
Hard hearts boldly condemn homosexuals in the name of our broken, loving Savior then turn around and proclaim racist hate about presidents and protestors. 
A hard heart is a virus. 
A plague. 
It is the stronghold of pride. 
Of self righteousness. 
of selfishness. 

It is the opposite of Jesus. 

Hebrews 3:8 "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion."
Hebrews 2:1 "Therefore, WE MUST PAY MUCH CLOSER ATTENTION to what we have HEARD, lest we drift away from it."

This is not a once on fix. 
This is a daily death. Our very nature is to be hard-hearted. 

Ephesians 4:18
Proverbs 28: 13-14
Matthew 13:14-15
Exodus 9:12
Mark 8:17

Hardened hearts! Hardened hearts! Hardened hearts!

We, even in a life-well of a church, are also in danger of complacency. Even if we can see sin and demons coming from a mile away, we are still in danger of a creeping, spreading virus of
 a hardened heart. 

If we desire the greatest of the gifts:
to prophesy, to lay hands, witness healing, perform signs and wonders- we must first seek Him to examine our hearts. We must cry out, moan and groan in our spirits for revival, REPENT. 
And daily partake in the brokenness of Jesus, allowing our own hearts to BREAK at the state of mankind. 

And in our own restored places, in our marriage beds and healed bodies, in our fertility and in our broken addictions, we must realize that the only wholeness God ever gives us is for the purpose of a stable ALTER to cry out from. To cry out in pain for the lost and shattered world we minister too. 

He gives us His wholeness so that we can have the stability to be broken. 
He gave us His son to show us that sacrificial brokenness is His design. 

There are two choices.
Hard hearts or broken ones. 
But there is only one that leads to repentance and revival. 
And the other leads to calamity, destruction, death and 
the neglect of salvation. 

He pours His gifts and power through His spirit unto us in such great measure only when we allow ourselves to be broken so that it might seep from our cracks and seams onto our thirsty world. 

Christianity is a corpse. Hardened by the rigor mortis of pride, of doctrine, of tradition. 
Of Pharisaical RELIGION. 
Bound in the chains they themselves hold with the unrelenting death grip of dead men who refuse to be made live again. 

We, the remnant, are the only hope for revival. For the life breath of our God and His Spirit to be breathed back into His Bride, we must BURN and BREAK with complete abandon. 

We must not hold onto any wholeness, any reserve. For when we allow even one small place of self-righteousness to remain in us, someone remains chained to that corpse. 

We cannot knowingly allow anything of the world to prevail in our life. There is no room and no time to harbor sin and choose bondage. Because this remnant will move on. 
You will miss your call. 
You will drift away. 
And it may be in a slow drift, but one day you stand the risk of raising your head and finding yourself a bedfellow to death. 
And that life has moved on to those who would receive her. 

Which brings us to the final point. 
This is not a solitary call. 

Hebrews 3:12-13- "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another everyday, as long as it is still today, that none of you may be HARDENED by the deceitfulness of sin. 

If our brothers are falling while we revel in the Holy Spirit, something is wrong. 

If marriages are failing around us while we tout of our own restoration, we don't deserve the wholeness we have been granted. 

There will always be free will. We will never have a perfect record. But we MUST exhort one another every. single. day. 
Without procrastination. 
Because we are running out of time. 

We must fan the flames in each other and in ourselves. 
We must BURN and BREAK and CRY OUT from our restoration for repentance and revival. 

We must pay much closer attention to that which we have heard. 

Then we WILL see a corpse revived. 
We WILL see the church return to her first love. 
We WILL get the revival we cry out for. 
When we cry out with broken hearts. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The View From Here

This post originally appeared in Do South Magazine.  
If life is a series of mountaintops and valleys, January has always been a valley month for me.  It’s bleak, forlorn, and bitter cold.
It is the evictor of December, of Christmas and festivities, of family time and long breaks from school. January starts well enough. It comes with glitter, champagne and kazoos. It makes big promises with midnight kisses and sparkling plans for new resolutions. But too often, all it has to follow up with is runny noses, colorless trees and a produce section full of gourds and out-of-season fruit shipped from somewhere warmer than here.
No, I have never cared much for January.
Last year was a hard year. It was a year of transitions. It was the sort of year you couldn’t pay me to relive, but even despite the struggle of it, I am thankful for it. I was saved in the fourth grade, baptized by water the day before I turned nine. I’m what you could call a lifetime Christian, a generational church-goer. But 2014 will forever go down as the year God got my attention.
It was during last spring, after two decades of walking with, dancing around and even running from my Savior, I met Him face to face. A tornado came crashing through our lives, destroying homes in Mayflower and Vilonia, Arkansas, and a family we loved. I sat on the front row of the saddest funeral I’d ever been to, crying not just at the loss of my sons’ two best friends but at the sound that was coming from their mother, April, who survived them. We were plunged into a valley. A deep and dark one, flooded with sorrow and littered with debris.
God does love a good resurrection story though, doesn’t He? It was out of that valley that my life was repurposed. He showed me direction, told me to scrap the plans I had and follow His plan instead. And I obliged. It was from the depths of that valley that God carried me to the highest mountaintop I’ve ever experienced. He showed His grace and the promise of His hope.
I think, too often, we try to classify the seasons of our life as good or bad by using the wrong scale. Whether a person is living for Christ or not, they will undeniably face trials and tribulations. Pain is not an indicator of a hard time. It is a promise of living in this broken world. The only difference in facing the unthinkable with Jesus is that we can have the hope to look past what is temporarily shattered around us and focus on what is set up in eternity. These are the moments that God takes us to the mountaintop. These are the moments that we get to see the view from where He sits.
But we don’t get to stay there.
Oswald Chambers wrote, “We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life — those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength. Yet our spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mountain. We feel that we could talk and live like perfect angels, if we could only stay on the mountaintop.”
Which brings us to now. Normally, I would spend this bummer month nursing my post-holiday blues. But this year, I know better. I have learned, at last, to appreciate the lulls in life, the Januarys. It would be easy to live on top of the mountain where faith is a given and the view is clear. But if we stayed there, our faith would become weak like an unused muscle. If we never had to strain our eyes through the fog of the valley, we would lose the ability to trust His path even when we can’t see the end destination. I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever want to lose that.
It’s funny the things that God brings us to, the way He uses our weaknesses to show His glory. This year, I will get the opportunity to speak to thousands of women.  The first time someone told me I should preach, I laughed. When God first started to show this purpose to me, I thought I was going crazy. “Surely not, God,” I thought. I am the girl who threw up before giving speeches in high school Oral Communications class. I am the introvert that takes five minute bathroom breaks during parties just to sit on the floor and feel like I can breathe again. But then another person said it, and another. And deep down I knew I would have to. Then the calls started coming in. Multiple conferences around the South asking to book my friend April and me to share our story from the tornado, our testimonies and our faith.
The thought of being in front of a crowd still makes my hands go clammy, but I can’t teach people that God always provides and then not believe it myself. If He is enough to get April through that storm, through that funeral where we said goodbye to her sons, He is enough to get me through the anxiety of speaking. This is an instance of walking into the fog, knowing God will lead me through. The only part I have to do is be willing to reflect Him.
On top of the exciting speaking engagements, this year our family will grow as we welcome our sixth child. His name will be Benjamin and I am counting down the weeks until we get to kiss his soft hair and smell his baby skin. Our little farm will also be growing. Garden plans and beehives and goat fences will be underway this spring. Chickens will start to lay and I may just wake up in the mornings and cry on the porch as I look out at this little dream of mine coming to fruition. We will continue to homeschool, to worship, to build up what we have been given. I can’t be sure exactly what 2015 will hold, because the view isn’t clear from here, but I am positive of one thing. We will be running the race set out for us. Holding strong in the ordinary every day.
Sometimes it’s hard. And most of the time I’m tired. There are days I feel so dried up and so far away from God. But He’s always there, waiting to be sought by me. Occasionally, I get a peek from the mountain. Occasionally, I am affirmed by people who have been blessed by words God gave me. Occasionally, I see His fingerprints or get glimpses at the intricacies of His plan. But a lot of the time, I’m standing in the fog. And that’s ok.
For the first time, I’m alright with January. Because even though the view from the valley is limited, I know there is so much to look forward to.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Patience and a Birthday Request

It's warm today. Mid-December and 69 degrees but a breeze with a bite is blowing through reminding me that we've got a long way to go until spring.  

This morning an underforecasted storm blew in and I woke up before the sun hearing Jeremiah wrangling boots out of the dark closet and muttering something exasperatedly about the weatherman and something about tools in the trailer and something about the darn rain. I went back to sleep.  

The older boys are at their dad's house along with a backpack full of their homeschool books. The baby boys are napping and Jeremiah has preoccupied himself with one of his projects now that the sky is blue again. The floor is in disarray and the dishes fill the sink, but I think I'll ignore it all and call this time mine. I think I'll sit here at my desk and listen to the wind howl by and feel the warm sun shining through the window and just write a while.   

Tomorrow is my birthday. 29. Still barely an adult by many standards, but somehow in my world as a young mother, these moments of solitude are so rare I don't remember my last one. It's funny how birthdays make us reflective, how warm days make us look ahead in anticipation, how quiet times make the loudness of everyday seem so much less overwhelming.   

I used to read a lot, back when I still had time for things like that.  When my grandmother passed, years ago now, I ended up with boxes of her books. I read all the time. Novels on top of novels. But then the third child came and then the fourth, and I'm happy to get 15 minutes alone with my Bible now. Occasionally, a title will call out to me from the shelf though. And I'll pick it up and forgo my stolen trips to Pinterest and Facebook for a few days and devour a book instead. Sneaking chapters the way mothers have to hide in the pantry if they hope to eat half a cupcake. Silly, the things motherhood brings us to.   

Yesterday I picked up a book I've read before. Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver.  Its just a story of a family, forerunners in the locavore food movement, that moved across the country to take up the call of homesteading. In hand with this passion, they challenged themselves to an entire year of eating locally. And so the story goes. Barbara (when I get attached to authors we gain first-name-basis status, in my head at least) is an author I love anyway. She's written multiple books that have moved me, back in my reading days that is. But this book....this manifesto towards food and a lifestyle I crave does something different. I'm halfway through it now, hence my cluttered floor and piled up dishes, and I feel this passion welling up.   

Maybe its just the timing. The birthday, the unseasonal warmth, the hours of unexpected peace today. But I like to believe nothing is wasted. I like to think everything is divine.   

I remember the last time I read this book. It was years ago, in a suburban neighborhood, in a house I was happy to call home. The idea of some level of food-sustainability was romantic at best. I fancied the idea of exclusively shopping at farmers markets and lining the porch with a container garden that would surely flourish. The next year my containers flopped. My tomato plants grew leggy and my squash blossomed and then wilted due to a lack of pollinators.   

Now though, as I write this, I hear a rooster crowing over the sound of the wind and the squeak of the whirlybird on the roof. He's my rooster. His name is Bob, dubbed by the kind stranger who gave him to me. He oversees a flock of laying hens that were my hearts desire for nearly a decade. And now I have them.   Hens may seem a silly thing to dream of. And it may be due to pregnancy hormones, but I wanted them so badly that I have now cried over more eggs than I'd like to admit.   

This summer was a whirlwind. At the start of it I found myself surrounded by boxes, with a flooded basement, in mourning after a tornado in a new-to-me house in the middle of rural nowhere. But at the end of it, I found myself at home, committed to homeschool with my husband alongside me, committed to homestead. It's a slow going process, but the 5-year-plan is so exciting and the 10-year-plan is enough to make my mind reel.   

There are setbacks, sure. There is never enough money and there is debt to be handled. There are unforecasted rainy mornings that breed lazy afternoons. But then there are also crowing roosters. There are glossy heirloom seed catalogs with somewhere to actually plant the seeds. There is rich dirt, freshly planted apple trees, wild blackberries, and surprise pecans. There are persimmons...everywhere. There is a squeaky whirlybird. Even when it's ugly and discouraging, it's what I prayed for.   

One point that Barbara touches on in her book is that the quality experience is worth waiting for. I teach this. I teach it in the form of abstinence to the young people I have worked with. I teach it to my children as they save their money for the toys they want. I repeat it to myself when faced with all the things I want to do RIGHT NOW. But I don't implement it how I should. Like I said, we have debt that came from not waiting. We have baggage that came from not waiting. And we have a pantry full of food that is bad for us that comes from not waiting. It strikes me now, on this reflective afternoon, how much we could benefit from just learning to practice patience. 

And I mean, really practice it.   

1 Corinthians 13 tells us, after all, that the very first defining trait of love is patience. We are bankrupt without love. We accept this as a truth, but then live in this impatient world conforming to it's habits and let its ways bankrupt us. Why is it so hard to just make do with what we have? Why is it so hard to just wait on God to provide, to heal, to implement His plan instead of ours. My name is Jessica. And I am terribly impatient. 

Like really, seriously impatient.   

So how do I get better? I'd like to say I could make some year long commitment to eating only local food or some fabulous plan to serve in a grandiose and sacrificial way. I have ideas and hopes to implement a very strict budget and a crack of dawn schedule that never leaves dishes in the sink at noon.   

But that is all based on what I can do. I've tried these big acts of self-restraint before and fallen short. Given up. Because I've always relied on my power. My strength. And my power is nil, my strength is worse. So I think I'll start with prayer. Which brings me to the point. Will you pray with me? A sweet friend asked me yesterday how to pray, and my first response was for energy and motivation to DO more, BE more efficient. Still about me.  

God has showed me my purpose and I have seen what holds me back: this mildly manic woman's tendency to run headlong into a dream and then fall flat at a lack of progress. Impatience, in short, to let hard work run its course.   

So pray for me to have a new heart. To be content. To be fulfilled by what God has provided NOW. To see His fingerprints even when I can't see the fullness of His plan. Would you pray for me, please, that I might not strive for my idea of perfection, but simply for a life that pleases God? Because I've read the Word. And really, when I read of the imperfect people after God's heart, they are exactly who I want to be; Esther with her boldness, Peter with his passion, Paul with his tunnel vision for Christ, Ruth with her faithfulness and even the unnamed Proverbs 31 woman and her steadfast hand in raising her home.   

And I, for now, am going to go check in on my chickens. And then do the dishes, by which time naptime will be over and it will be time to start practicing patience. And so the story goes... 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

This Old Table

This article originally appeared in Do South Magazine, a beautiful publication out of Fort Smith, Arkansas. I am so thankful to contribute monthly to this magazine. Follow them on Facebook for more of my writing. 

Our table is large. Usually it seats six, but when
guests come and the extender leaves come out, we can squeeze up to twelve if we don’t get too fussy about bumping elbows. As our babies grow and graduate from high chairs, the extenders will become permanent fixtures. When I bought this table from a Craigslist ad, I imagined what the future would hold. There were only three children then but I knew that my table would be full someday. I knew that it would
be important.
Our table dwells in the heart of our home. Early in the morning, mugs of tea and coffee, Bibles, and journals are scattered across it. The sun shines through the curtains in a reddish glow, kissing our hands good morning as we write down the things God is doing in us. We speak to Jesus at our table.
Then the kids wake up. Boys of varying ages with cowlicks in their hair and sleep in their eyes come in and sit down here. They make monumental messes of jam and toast and cherry yogurt and giggle as they recount silly dreams. They make plans for the day’s adventures and I smile at the endlessness of their ambitions.
This table is our schoolhouse. It is a teacher’s desk and a second and third grade class. We learn about verbs here, and multiplication. We read classic novels and Google the world’s smallest reptile. Curiosity is encouraged at our table. Questions are applauded. Lessons of all sorts are learned. Crayon marks are scrubbed off daily. Seeing their hungry eagerness to learn is my fuel, and I am so thankful to teach them here.
This old table, with its mediocre paint job and mismatched chairs, has been strewn with clipped coupons and magazines. With wedding invitations of dear old friends. With Christmas cards from loved ones nationwide. It has been so buried by Pinterest projects that we were forced to eat dinner on the couch. It has desked a laptop in the wee hours of the morning as I typed furiously with fire in my fingers and passion for words in my heart.
So many things have been created here, dreamed here, prayed here. I have had the passing thought that I should dig back in my e-mail and find the man who sold it to us. Then I could tell him how greatly we have loved it. I could ask him if anyone had ever come to know Jesus at it before. Or was my son the first? I could ask him if he knew where it came from. Maybe, if I spoke with him, I could tell my table’s story more fully.  I’ve talked myself out of this. Too often, I have made the mistake of assuming other people think like me. And too often, I have found that most people don’t care about the story of a table.
I care though. Because this table, since we asked it into our home, has known the very essence of our family. It has vibrated beneath the sewing machine whirring through a Thor costume and been plastered with newspaper soggy from Jack-O-Lantern guts. It has born the burden of a twenty-four pound turkey, perfectly glazed with balsamic vinegar and fig reduction, and has been surrounded by our vibrant and earth-shakingly loud extended family. It has seen a spread of freshly decorated Christmas cookies, tins of Nanny’s fudge and a steaming casserole of Grandmother’s hot fruit crunch. And it has seen the rueful smile that crosses my face as I survey these heirloom recipes and wish that I could have more than sweet memories of these women at my table.
The chair I usually occupy, a yellow high-back with a wobbly leg, has a view of our back yard.  It’s rarely quiet in a house full of sons, but when it is, I sit here at the end of my table and stare out at our acreage. Already, in the short time we have lived here, we have started embedding ourselves into this place. I can see the fire pit where the summer was spent making s’mores and memories. I can see the back gate, which is never closed, that leads to the uncleared part of our land where the good exploring takes place. I can see our fingerprints, and remember what a mess we took on with a foreclosure no one had loved in years. I remember the excitement I felt as I watched two strong men load this impossibly heavy table of solid oak into a U-Haul, knowing it was headed to my homestead.
In these quiet moments, my imagination is wild. There are no bounds on what we could do here. At the end of my table, in my yellow chair, there are no budget restrictions, no time constraints. I can see goats and chickens and a bee hive just past the open gate. Before I know it, my eyes are shut and I am envisioning the table laid with my favorite red pie pan, a quiche made from eggs gathered that morning, a pot of golden honey and goat’s milk cheese on a bone china plate. And then someone cries. And I come back to reality.
Lovely place settings are not the type of thing that my home sees much of. My table is more likely to be danced on by a toddler than set with fine china. But I like to think the things it has seen are even more magnificent than the most beautiful magazine spread. It has held gallons of blackberries freshly picked from the vine, dark and juicy, impatiently waiting pectin and canning jars. It has felt the heft and purity and inspiration that comes with baskets of farmer’s market bounty. This old, second-hand table has seen such abundance. So much, I have even questioned the fairness of it.
Don’t mistake me. Our table has also held bowls of cold cereal served for dinner. It has been privy to the aftermath of rejection and overheard our deepest fears. It has seen stacks of bills we had no idea how to pay. It has caught tears and witnessed the nastiness that comes in marriage when we choose to love ourselves more than we love each other. It has seen our temper. It has watched silently as meals burned and the almighty roar of toddler’s tantrum exploded over supper. But this old table has known grace. It has heard prayers desperate for help and provision and patience. And it has listened to us praise Him when those prayers were answered.
Over and over, our table has heard the words “But God.”
We couldn’t make ends meet. But God.
We couldn’t see past the pain of loss. But God.
We couldn’t let go of anger. But God.
We didn’t know what our purpose was. But then, God.
This humble table knows our ineptitudes and it knows our strength. It holds daily the testimony of our faith, of our love, and our family. And there’s an empty seat. Because what is faith and love and family if it is not shared? So pull up a chair, my friend, if you don’t mind bumping elbows. Our table is large.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Citrus Lane Review & Discount- September 2014

When our Citrus Lane box came last month, I completely goofed and forgot to photograph everything as I opened it. Of course, the kids had taken it all and played with it by the time I thought of it....so no August review for you. Sorry guys. 

This time, I was a good blogger and had the camera ready as soon as we broke the seal on the box. So without further ado, I give you September's Citrus Lane box review. This month, I ordered a box for a  16 month old boy (my Ezra). 

Boon Fleet Stacking Bath Toys- Price on Amazon 9.99

These are my favorite things in this month's box so I listed them first. I would have probably never bought a Boon product if it weren't for Citrus Lane but once I tried them for the first time, I was hooked. Boon makes lots of cool stuff, but are most known for bath toys. They are super high quality plastic. The only rubber duckies we have any more are Boon because they are the only ones that don't get moldy and gross. I was excited to see this product because I was just recently thinking we could use some new bath toys. These are nice heavy plastic, have holes in top to let water run through and of course, float. I really like this product. 

Happy Baby Pouch- Spinach, Mango & Pear flavor- Retail around. 2.50- Ez had just got up from his nap when our box came and he swiped the Happy Baby Pouch as soon as the box was open. I buy these anyway so they aren't super exciting to see. I mean, its nice to have one but it's a pretty cheap item so receiving one in my box doesn't save money or introduce something new.  I do like the coupons that come with it though, and Ezra is always happy to see it in there. 

I promise, he's happy. He doesn't wake up well. 

Samply sized bottle of Meyer's Clean Day Dish Soap- Retail $1 plus $1 off coupon
I was glad to get this. I usually use 7th Generation Dish Soap and it's average. I have bought Meyers cleaning products before and always liked them so I will give this a try and probably buy a full sized bottle with the coupon. 

Tea Collection Bodysuit- Retail $26.00-
They actually sent me an email this month giving me the option to customize my box and asking what size clothing article we would like (since that's pretty varying by child, I appreciate that feature). I actually went ahead and put in 6-12 months which is way too small for Ezra but I thought I'd save it for the new baby. I did this on the off chance it might be a bodysuit because I don't really care for bodysuits on older babies. I'm glad I did because that's exactly what it was. 

Now, I'll be honest. I am a cheapskate. I like a bargain and I very rarely buy expensive clothes for my kids. I would probably never pay 26 dollars for one shirt like this BUT I will say, this is a very, very high quality article of clothing. It's super thick, very soft cotton. I'm glad to have it. 

There was also a coupon for $25 dollars off a $50 purchase at www.teacollection.com.
And because I really am a cheapskate, I'll never use that coupon because I won't even spent 25 dollars. If this is something you can use, shoot me a message using that contact form in the sidebar. I'd be happy to share this with the first person that contacts me (and I'll remove this when the code is gone). 

Citrus Lane has this really cool feature called "Add to Box". Basically, each month they have select items that you can add to your box and you don't pay any additional tax or shipping. Also, they are really awesome about sending out coupon codes for 5 or 10 dollars off your purchase when you are on their mailing list. 
I kind of use this to my advantage and stack these two things. Any time I get a coupon code, I go apply it to an Add to Box Item. So this month, when I got a coupon code for 10 dollars off any purchase, I applied it to these Boon Trap Bath Appliques (8 dollars on Amazon) and I paid .56 for them. Yes. That's cents. And of course, no shipping or tax because it was an Add to Box item. 

Then...a week or so later, they sent out another coupon code for 5 dollars off any purchase.  I wasn't sure if I'd be able to add more than one item a month but decided to give it a try. I was able to add this very nice Bumkins bib and only pay 1 dollar for it. 

Last month I got a great little Skip Hop backpack for only 10 dollars with this coupon code/add to box trick. I realize this tip doesn't really help those of you deciding whether you should subscribe because it isn't a definite thing...however, I do think it's nice to know there is a potential for good deals! 

If you want to sign up for Citrus Lane and would like 50% off your first box, please consider using my referral link here! It helps both of us! You get half off your first box and I get a referral credit which helps me keep doing these reviews! If you'd just like to try the discounted box, you are able to choose the monthly subscription option and cancel at anytime. However, they have a GREAT referral program, so if you sign up and share your own referral link on social media, you have the potential to get your future boxes discounted or even free! I love this program!