soul steps

i was feeling a little un-centered today (is that i word?  it should be; you know not centered, off center, out of focus …)  it has been a week of burden bearing.  walking alongside friends as they trudge through the deep sludge of life.  my soul feet feel heavy and my spiritual breaths short and labored.  gray clouds, snow, rain, and chilly temperatures have done nothing but increase the oppression of the week.  (i’m greatly affected by the weather- why is it?  i probably shouldn’t be so fickle, but warm rays of sunshine make my heart happy everyday- maybe i should move to california?)

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this morning the sun has come sneaking through the somber clouds, and i decide i need a walk.  not a, put on my yoga pants arm pumping kind of walk, a soul walk.  i need to do it more; take a walk; remind myself how grateful i am to live here; see my creator: in the smooth rocks, the sun rays over the mountain, and the mountain flowers peeking up.  i need to gaze on the horizon and remember there is more astir then what i see.  as my feet step over brush and stride across an open field; i need to feel peace and calm.

rocks lie in the hay field; little disturbances to life.  the hay will still grow, but not as well, not quite as much unless the rocks are removed.  all i need do is pick them up; pile them along the fence.  it’s a tiny task; it will go unnoticed by farmer seated on his tractor.  but i will know; i will know that a few more sprouts will surface because they have been freed- they have space to grow.  i will pick up smooth stones and know that they have weathered some time in the field, but the time has come for them to move.  i will see that hearts need stirring, and rocks need moving.  growth is inevitable; growth is tough.  sometimes i can reach in and move stones; sometimes i can help.  sometimes i can’t.

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my soul thirsts for this; for walking and remembering. for picking up stones knowing that new days will come, that hearts will heal and grow.  i can breath deep and exhale; i can take soul steps.

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explorers

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my boys are explorers!  i’m convinced that if there were still unknown territories in the world they would be begging us to pioneer into uncharted waters!  they love to “look around” “go adventuring” “explore” all the places.

i am so thankful for our house at apple flats where they have space to roam and wander.  i’m tempted to always take off with them; i want to join in on their expeditions.  a few days ago, after i’d packed a backpack and water bottle for my youngest and secured it on his back; i sat in the kitchen gazing out the window as they marched off.  i wanted to follow, but i knew that mommy presence might spoil the fun.

i know that the bond my boys have is tight and strong, in some part due to the freedom i give them to explore on their own.  they’ve returned from exploring- oldest carrying the youngest; helping each other tote their found treasures; all ablaze of excitement to share what they’ve discovered.  i do not doubt that my presence on such trips would void some of that brotherly care and joy.  i’ve a nack for spoiling the fun.  i’d have limited the number of dry cattails they stuck in their pockets, or warned against wading through the frigid creek water.  i’d have spied a safer route or a better way and directed them far too much.

i’ll admit i’m a bit jealous sometimes; like last week when they returned eyes sparkling, beckoning me to come and see what treasure they’d found.  a huge set of elk antlers set in our yard; i mean huge!  and boys were all a jumble of voices and words to tell me about the fantastic find.  part of me feels like i’m missing out on the adventure!  part of me wouldn’t trade their independent little boy adventures for the world.  because that is exactly what i’m after- hearts that yearn for excitement; minds that are never satisfied with what they’ve read but want the experience; souls that know deeply that their Maker has great things in store for them, if they take the time to explore!

pesto for lunch

i have a little tin can sitting on my windowsill; pretty little sprouts of green are just peeking through to soak in the sunshine.  while i was washing dishes tonight, i glanced at those little leaves and my mind filled with a summer gone by.

i have a friend who grows an amazing garden (actually i have quite a few friends with fabulous gardens- why isn’t their ability rubbing off on me?)  he can grow anything well; and he is generous (the best gardeners always are).  one summer his abundant garden produced a plethora of basil.  green basil, and purple basil, all kinds of basil in excess.  his wife (one of my besties) came to my house arms laden with bags full of basil, and we made pesto.  we made pesto all summer; we ate pesto on freshly baked crusty white bread.  she sat at my kitchen counter, and we talked life and kids and cooking and preserving and we ate pesto.  it is a memory of summer and friendship and real food, made fresh and made well.  it is a memory of smells and tastes and grit on my hands from basil pulled freshly from the ground.  it is a memory of joy.

so tonight when i peered into that little tin can and spied those green basil sprouts i was full of joy; because food is an essential part of our lives.  it is memory; it is nourishment; it is giving and sharing and enjoying goodness together.

i miss my friends whom now live to far away to partake in pesto making and eating.  but basil in my garden and in my kitchen this summer will make them feel closer.  and i will gather new friends, while i think about my old friends.  we will eat pesto for lunch, and we will make new memories.

jen’s pesto

a few handfuls of basil

bunches of freshly minced garlic

a handful of almonds

a couple good pours of extra virgin olive oil

a few shakes of parmesan cheese

put it all in a food processor and process til its pasty; put a couple spoonfuls on a plate with another pour of olive oil.  dip some warm crusty bread in there and scoop up a good amount— enjoy!

 

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i like fun socks and….kale

what do you know about yourself that you didn’t know ten years ago?

i got a text from a dear friend today.  she was shopping and looking at socks which apparently reminded her of me.  why?  because i love fun socks; bright colors or happy little patterned socks, crazy socks, mix-matched socks, anything but navy blue itchy knee socks (which i had to wear with my plaid school skirt- those socks were the bain of my existence for awhile)  but i’ve always liked fun socks; i mean since i was a kid- except for the hideous knee socks- i always wanted to wear fun socks.  i think i may have been slightly influenced by punky brewster or pippi longstocking.  there are things about me that haven’t changed much; likes and dislikes that have remained constant through my life.  likes-ice cream, chuck taylors, flying, books, stacked bracelets…  dislikes- snakes, olives, laundry, tent camping…. some things don’t change much.  there is also the growing, and the learning who you are.  i would say around the time that i turned 30 maybe a little bit before; i really began to understand myself.  or maybe it was that i was finally honest about who i really am.  maybe i was finally mature enough to be truthful about my likes and dislikes, my strengths and weaknesses.  i’m sure some of it is just growth and circumstances and breadth of experience and change.

what i want has changed; it will probably continue to change.  when chris and i built our first house we were young, our family was small.  i painted our bedroom this bright blue color with a denim like finish; it was horrible.  it was way too bright and hard to match and just too much for a master bedroom.  but in my twenties i guess i liked it- what was i thinking?  i liked our house then.

but when we sold and made plans to build again i wanted bigger.  i wanted a formal dining room where i could entertain my friends at fancy dinner parties; i wanted a huge master bedroom with a sitting area and a school room where we could study and learn and keep all of our books and educational toys.  our house was lovely; it was beautiful and i was sad when we sold it.  i did host dinner parties in my dining room, they were never fancy- i realized fancy didn’t suite me.  i stored a lot of laundry in the sitting area of our ginormous master bedroom; i have fond memories of school time with my young children in our lovely schoolroom loft.

but i have changed.  i like a smaller house now, with less rooms to clean and less space to collect junk; and tighter spaces where we are all comfy together.  we sit in the living room or at the kitchen table for school, and i will probably never want to change that.  when we moved into our current rental home we painted all walls white- no color, no crazy blue denim business.  i’d rather have a large table in my kitchen then fancy dining room.  i want to cook and talk and host families with lots of messy children all around the same kitchen table.

my tastes have changed in part due to the season of life i am in.  i think this is the way of it.  it’s the same way that i could never choose one favorite Bible verse.  they are all good.  different verses speak to me specifically at different times in my life.  because i’m not who i was; i’m being remade.  i’m new.(there’s a little song reference for ya; do you know who sings a song with those fantastic words?) and over and over again i am new, but part of me remains the same.  it’s a little perplexing, this learning myself.

so what do i know about myself that i didn’t know ten years ago?  or what is some specific like/dislike or trait that has changed in the last ten years?  (ten years is a long time peeps- so if it’s too long for you, i mean if you were only 11 ten years ago then you could ask yourself the question using 5 years or 1 year.  i’ll bet your fashion choices have changed in ten years for sure; unless your like me hanging on to some college jeans and t-shirts.)

 

-i am disorganized, very seriously disorganized.  i used to think that i was an orderly person but naturally i just am not.

-i am creative and i have need to create beautiful things and find beauty.

-i like asparagus.

-i’ve become a tea drinker- living in a colder climate and trying to maintain good health will do that to you.

-i’m an odd introvert; i’m happy to speak in front of a group of 100 women, but ask me to start up a conversation with a stranger in the park and i might break out into a cold sweat or run away.

-i like kale – in a good salad or sautéed in a little bit of coconut oil (it’s so good you should totally try it)

-i still like fun socks – but that’s nothing new.

 

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more or less

i have a friend who is writing a book.  she is amazing, and when it is ready i will happily share it with you and shout her praises and unashamedly push her book.  but today i’m feeling a little less.  i have a friend who is writing a book; i have a friend who is adopting a baby; i have a friend who is traveling to uganda; i have a friend who’s training for a triathlon.  meanwhile i’ve got laundry piled up to my ears (have you noticed laundry is an ongoing problem for me- i hate it)  i made some really gross pumpkin muffins this morning for my children for breakfast.  i could surely use some makeup and a hairbrush about now; and honestly i just had to run outside because i could hear my kids screaming at each other while i was in the bathroom.  (ok so that’s a lie; i didn’t run.  i waited and listened to see if anyone was hurt.  upon deciphering that the voices were merely angry fighting boys and not injured children, i walked slowly outside to face the reality.  the reality which was, my older boys on the roof of the house chucking snowballs at my littles who were on the roof of the shed…. seriously.)

some days i feel less; less of a disciple, less of a wife, less of a mom.  maybe i’ve been struggling with this a lot lately; because i seem to be working it out in one form or another is several places.  we all feel less sometimes.  we can all look at others and wish we were more.

yesterday during women’s bible study, i was reminded of how God views me; of what God calls me.  a saint, anointed, His child, beloved, worthy, heir, sister, daughter… so today as i’m feeling less; i’m trying to remember that He is more.  that His words, His view, His plan is more; and He has given more to me.  in grasping more; i strive to be more.  not in a competitive, jealous, keeping-up kind of way.  i strive to live up to the words He has spoken over me.  to face my rowdy, snowball throwing boys with grace and peace.  i strive to entrench myself in His word so that His words will flow from my mouth.  i tackle the task He has given me with joy.

i will not be writing books anytime soon; but i will sit down and read to my children.  i will tell them stories of my youth, stories of their lives, and stories from my heart.  i will not be adopting a newborn, but i will love on my friend and encourage and pray for her as she mothers her baby.  i will hug my children- biological and adopted -and remember the days when their hands were so little and their cheeks so sweet.  there are no trips to africa planned for our family; but we have friends across the world whom i will pray for as they reach out to the lost and the hopeless.  i will show the love of Christ to my neighbors and my friends down the street and be His hands and feet right where i live.  i will most surely not be training for a triathlon or a marathon or even a 5k (i do not like participating in races), but i will choose health.  i will do T25 with my son who loves to “workout” and i will talk a walk outside today and enjoy the sunshine.

i am feeling less today, but i am consciously choosing to be more.

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gather

i’ve never chosen “one little word” for the year.  i’m honestly not much of a planner; so choosing a theme word for a whole year seems daunting.  but the start of this year has been daunting in and of itself.  our family is going through change; we are learning and growing and adapting.  parenting four boys with different personalities, interests, and needs can be intimidating.  throw in the beginning of adolescence for one and some special needs for another and you’ve got a recipe for two overwhelmed parents.  trying to know my children and care for them well has caused me to sink deeper into prayer, thought, reading the Word, and research at the start of this year.  it has also pushed me to be more aware of myself and want needs i have.  somehow parenting can do that; we try to figure out what to do for our kids and we end up learning more about ourselves.

in all the searching and digging i’ve been doing; God has actually brought “one little word” to me this year.  it’s a word for me; a theme for my year; a little of who i am and who i want to be.

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community is important to me; it is important to God; it is important to us as Christ followers.  i have always longed for community.  in community i am complete; my joy can be full; i can love better and worship more fully; i can bring more glory to God. so this year i want to gather people into community.  gather-to bring together into one group, collection, or place.  i want to gather people to commune and fellowship and worship.  i want to gather our family together to be close, to enjoy each other, to grow.  i want to gather memories, flowers, good food, joy, eggs, quilts, books….

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so there you have it “gather” it’s my mantra for 2015.

do you have a theme for this year?

is there “one little word” you’ve chosen?

our new food adventure

our family has decided to change our eating habits.  praying that we might see some changes in our physical and emotional health.  we’ve cut refined sugar, dairy, and most gluten, along with all processed foods.  i’ve always made most of our food from scratch, but “made from scratch” is taking on a new meaning for me.

 

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we appreciate the food we eat all the more when we actually have to work for it.  milling our own flour, gathering fresh eggs, and enjoying fresh pork from our summer pigs has deepened our joy in the food set before us.

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it also makes me look forward to growing, and harvesting, and preparing.  my thoughts have been drifting towards planting veggies, foraging for wild berries, and expanding our little flock of chickens.  i want to grow in myself and my family a deeper appreciation for the food that nourishes our bodies.

our new food adventure is taking some getting used to; our palates have grown accustomed to artificial sweetness.  but as we experiment and eat more real, good food we are seeing changes; and they are good.

 

here’s a quick and easy recipe for you:

 

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Happy Morning Muffins

1 medium well ripened banana ( i wait for mine to turn dark then freeze them to pull out for recipes and smoothies)

1/2 cup of your favorite nut butter (we’ve been using peanut and almond)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp baking soda

2-3 pitted dates

1/4 cup cocoa powder

throw all those ingredients into your blender and whip em up real good!  then scoop into some greased mini muffin tins and bake 8-10 minutes at 350.  you won’t believe how fluffy these flourless muffins are!  we like to eat them with raspberries or strawberries and maybe a little coconut cream.  these muffins make for a happy morning in my house.

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it doesn’t all look pretty

i want to start blogging again, but everytime i look at all the blogs i admire, i realize— what i’ve got doesn’t look that pretty.  my house isn’t all decorated; it doesn’t look perfectly imperfect around here.  our piles of laundry aren’t piled high on beds of beautiful linen.

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my messy kitchen looks, well messy; it doesn’t look quaint with flour scattered about on antique cutting boards.  there is dust and dirt, and i may be wearing mismatched socks and a shirt with holes (it’s just too comfortable to throw away).  i can admit the imperfections, but i can’t shake the feeling that it just doesn’t add up.

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i’ve been learning to balance the line of: all the hopes and dreams and lists of things…and reality.  i know i’m not the only one; your life probably doesn’t look pretty all the time either.  your every hair isn’t always in place; your nails probably aren’t painted (or even better- chippy); you might feel like you “don’t have it altogether”.

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we can look at photos on blogs, on instagram, on Facebook and think it all looks so pretty. but a picture is just a portion; it tells a story, but not the whole story.  i say let’s give up trying to look like the picture; it’s not gonna always be pretty.  i think i’d rather be real than pretty anyway.

how about you?

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well hello there

it’s been a long time since i’ve done any blogging… a really long time! like a couldn’t even remember what to do when i opened up the page to write…kind of long time! i’ve just been busy doing life and not feeling like writing it all down. i’ve probably conjured up a dozen or more blog posts in my head over the last month or so; just not taking the time to sit down and get it on the screen.

the summer was full: we took a trip back “home” to visit with friends and family; we moved to a fabulous new place here in our little mountain town; we got 18 chickens, 2 pigs, and a cat.

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those are just the extras on top of regular life things like: hiking and guests and rodeo and canning and barefoot boys all over the place…

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i am so thankful for our new place; i walk outside almost everyday and say “i can’t believe i get to live here!”

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i just wanted to pop in here to say hi, and let you all know that i’m still alive and kicking.  i will be back soon- i promise!

happy birthday to me

my mom and i went shopping at my favorite thrift store last year on my birthday.  we took all four boys with us; which means a little bit of crazy.  thrift shopping is awesome and at HOPE thrift (in richmond, va) where they have $1 clothes week i stock up.  so i went to the register with an arm load of clothes; my mom checked out ahead of me.  after the cashier had rung up my pile; a lady in line behind me tapped me on the shoulder.  “i would like to pay for your purchase” she said.  instantly my mind went defensive and selfish-how haggard do i look for this women to feel the need to pay for my thrift store clothes?  my kids must have done it- she feels sorry for the poor mom with 4, out of control, boys.  “oh you don’t have to do that” i said.  “i would like to; God has greatly blessed me and i would like to bless you”  she said.  and smack, i got hit in the face with God’s goodness and my pride.  my face went hot and my eyes welled with tears.  “it’s my birthday today” i blubbered and hugged the godly stranger lady.  “thank you”.  the woman behind the counter held back tears as she handed me my bag and i rushed out the door to my mom and boys to share my birthday story.

that was last year’s birthday.  this year i’m in a new place- physically, emotionally, spiritually.  God has heaped blessings upon me.  i’m going shopping at my new thrift store.  we’ll see what happens; maybe i will pay for the person in line in front of me.

happy birthday to me.

 

(on a ridiculous side note:  i took the boys to a winter survival homeschool coop yesterday.  we went hiking in the “backcountry” -what does that even mean?  we rushed out the door at the last minute -surprise, surprise- and i didn’t even think to take sunscreen.  i’m 35 years old; i have 4 kiddos, we are outside all the time!  but you’d think i was a newbie!  today we all have glowing red faces (mine’s the worst) and i’m slathering on aloe.  when am i gonna grow up?)