Sunday, January 27, 2013

Little Worker Bees

   It was a cold crisp day. The temperature did not make it above freezing but the brilliant sunshine seemed to take the chill off the day long enough for Little One and Little Two to work alongside Pappy in the yard. I don't know who had more was a definite toss-up.
   After all, it doesn't take too much to make two little girls happy: a yard full of sticks, a wheelbarrow filled with pine straw and one adoring grandfather. It's a surefire recipe for happiness.

    After all that hard work, the girls were barely able to keep their 
eyes open long enough to watch
Cinderella get her fella!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Update on Little Three!

   My, my, how time flies when you are having fun...and that's precisely what Little Three is all about...having fun! He is a laidback, happy baby who shares the joy from his storehouse of love that is filled with a seemingly endless supply. Without a doubt, this boy is a charmer of the first order and an incorrigible flirt!
   I expect he will be crawling, no, make that running, very soon. He can roll over like nobody's business, loves to sit up by himself, and stand and bounce in his exersaucer. While he can also totally amuse himself, he is nonetheless is an incredibly social baby. He enjoys watching others eat and will mimic the moves that said people make when chewing their food. It's hilarious!
   Little Three has been vocal for months now and is starting to string his vowels together. It's a toss up whether "Baabaa Bye Bye" or "Mmmmama" will be his first word. Of course, these are all signs of a remarkable baby. But according to Nonna and Pappy, that's the only kind we have around here. Here is a glimpse of sheer adorableness! And to think he is not yet six months old!

The sweetest baby kisses!

When he laughs, he closes his eyes...
definitely a family trait!

Oh, and did I mention that he totally adores his Momma?!

Or that this Nonna is totally smitten with this boy!
Little Three turns me to mush!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Winter's Song

     Somehow winter seems not to have gotten the message. Its arrival here in Middle Tennessee is long overdue. Despite the gloom that winter sometimes casts across my soul, I love and appreciate the singularity of its beauty, for it is the very starkness that sleeps in the heart of winter that sets my imagination free to roam and wander at will.
    Moreover, I am always amazed by the articulated expectancy I find in winter; truly it seems as though the Earth is pregnant with a longing so deep that it nearly transcends words. It is a song of snow and ice and the fire that burns within. Longfellow says it well.

       Woods in Winter by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
When winter winds are piercing chill,
And through the hawthorn blows the gale,
With solemn feet I tread the hill,
That overbrows the lonely vale.

O'er the bare upland, and away

Through the long reach of desert woods,
The embracing sunbeams chastely play,
And gladden these deep solitudes.

Where, twisted round the barren oak,

The summer vine in beauty clung,
And summer winds the stillness broke,
The crystal icicle is hung.


       Where, from their frozen urns, mute springs

                     Pour out the river's gradual tide,
                        Shrilly the skater's iron rings,
                      And voices fill the woodland side.

             Alas! how changed from the fair scene,

                When birds sang out their mellow lay,
                     And winds were soft, and woods were green,
                And the song ceased not with the day!

         But still wild music is abroad,

          Pale, desert woods! within your crowd;

              And gathering winds, in hoarse accord,
          Amid the vocal reeds pipe loud.

            Chill airs and wintry winds! my ear

         Has grown familiar with your song;
    I hear it in the opening year,
       I listen, and it cheers me long.

Both images were taken by a former student of mine, Josh B. Carter.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Beauty that is Not False

In light of my recent post about beauty (Mirror, Mirror on the Wall), I wanted to share these thoughts again about a very special woman and the very important life lesson she gave me.

    Raising a daughter and three sons in a beauty-obsessed culture has certainly posed some significant challenges, but thankfully nearly thirty years ago I met a woman who embodied the very essence of beauty. Long before The Daughter was but a babe in arms, I found myself struggling to process the conflicting messages that bombarded me in this area.  How could a concept that has been so totally corrupted by man be redeemed? What did walking out redemption of an idea like beauty look like (no pun intended)? Could I truly embrace the truth that beauty emanates from the soul of a woman or a man as they mirror the image of the Living God as opposed to the cultural mandate that the reflection in the mirror is the most important representation of beauty? How could I not succumb to the seduction of a culture that cuts, carves, and transforms both men and women, but predominantly women, into objects that bear little resemblance to real human beings and furthermore, serves to sexualize them in abhorrent ways?  And perhaps most importantly, how in the world would I be able to teach my daughter and my sons what I struggle to understand, embrace, and practice myself.?
   And then I met a woman whom the Lord used to help me understand the concept of beauty in a powerfully transcendent way. She became the representation of the plumb-line to which I returned over and over as I struggled to redefine my ideas about beauty. Her name was Sadie Yoder, and she was the undoubtedly the most beautiful woman I have ever known.

Mom and Dad Yoder
She was also the godliest. She had a peace and a serenity that drew others to her like weary travelers to an oasis in the desert. Yet her outward appearance was in many ways quite ordinary, but her inner beauty, well her inner beauty was so extraordinary that it totally consumed her outer being. Raised in an Amish home, she was a woman who never wore make-up a day in her life and she certainly never invested a dime in any miracle creams that promised to mitigate, alter, or alleviate the passage of time. She was totally comfortable in her size 14 dresses. In fact, she was totally comfortable in her skin. Her skin was just that. Her skin. It was not who she was or what she was. It was the covering over the muscles and tissue and bones. It did not define her or empower her. It was simply just the covering for the tent. Each time I left her presence I came away refreshed and challenged anew to reorient my thinking to the truth of the gospel she so loved and embodied. I found her beauty and her faith compelling. She was absolutely gorgeous to me. When my daughter was little, she told me many times that she wanted to grow up to be like Sadie. I understood. I wanted to grow up to be like Sadie, too. I have been thinking about her a lot this week. Her beloved husband passed into the glories of heaven week before last, and the family gathered at the homestead one last time to lay the body of the man she loved with all of her heart into the ground. He was just as remarkable as she. The beauty she emanated is in no small part due to the steadfast love and faith that they shared. She was his beloved and he was hers. They were beautiful together.

Sadie as a young woman
     I am so thankful that before The Daughter and I had the inevitable teenage arguments about make-up, pierced ears, and the length of her dresses, we decided together that Sadie would be the hallmark and standard by which we would judge beauty. It was a good decision and one that helped to steer our discussions in the right direction. We would talk about Sadie and the fact that although she took care with her appearance, she was not consumed by a need to pursue a notion of beauty that was totally false.
    I am blessed to know many beautiful women, but what I find most beautiful about them is the strength of their spirits, the tenderness of their faith, and the genuine lack of artifice that they possess. It is never the size of the waistline or the lack of wrinkles on their skin. It is the way that they look when they smile or when they laugh with joy. It is the undeniable and beautiful glory of the heavenly Father I see reflected in them.
    Mom Yoder, I am missing you today. I am missing your beauty and how you helped me understand what the world could not. I am so thankful to have known both you and Dad. You made a difference in my life. I am comforted and encouraged by the thought that at long last you are worshipping together at the feet of the Beautiful Savior, Jesus himself.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Little Levity on a Rainy Day

  My last post was heavy. I used up too many brain cells. Today, I just need to chill. And smile a little. Maybe laugh out loud. How about you? Here's some help in that direction...

Source: via Carolyn on Pinterest
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Source: via Julie on Pinterest

Source: via Linda on Pinterest

Source: via klw on Pinterest

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...An Important Conversation about Beauty

Source: via Christie on Pinterest

  I've been toying with this post for the past year or so as it has been on my heart for sometime. This idea surfaces periodically, and I push it down, but it keeps coming back. I am taking that as a nudge from the Holy Spirit that I need to listen.
   The problem is that I have listened to the world for so long that it has substantially altered my thinking. I have bought into the lie. Now it's time to do something about it. I am taking what I am calling "The Pledge." God help me that I don't have to eat my words. I also am likely going to offend some of you out there, but this is too important. There is a great deal at stake here. Not only do we need to look at ourselves, but we also need to look at the messages that we, as women, are sending to our daughters and our granddaughters along with our husbands and our sons.
   This is the problem. We talk about beauty as if we believe that it comes from the inner character and soul of a person, but we don't live as though we believe this. In fact, we constantly define our idea of beauty by the culture's standard and by the most cursed object of them all: the mirror.
     Truth be told: when we look in the mirror, most of us are not happy with what we see. We moisturize our wrinkles until they cannot be moisturized away, and then turn to injections like Botox and Restylane to minimize the encroaching signs of aging. Others laser their damaged skin, subject it to harsh chemicals, sand it down to oblivion, or better yet, go under the knife to cut away or lift up the offending portions. Just thinking about all of this deeply saddens me. Why are we doing it to ourselves? What is so offensive about aging? And if we start subjecting ourselves to these procedures, how and when will we stop?
    My intent here is not to castigate, vilify, condemn, or shame any woman who has resorted to any cosmetic procedures. Instead, I want to encourage us to begin an honest conversation about the struggle that most of us face with regard to aging. We could begin by telling the truth. Let's not lie about what we are doing to circumvent the passage of time, whether it be so simple as coloring our hair to hide the gray or having that eye-lift we've dreamed about. And let's drop that critical appearance-driven-standard that we apply to every woman we encounter over the age of 40. Let's be honest. Most of us are quite adept at secretly judging other women for the size of their hips or the depth of their crow's feet (or even the lack thereof) behind their backs, all the while subjecting ourselves to countless diets and other fads to keep the sweet bird of youth firmly in our grasp.
   The irony is that when we start grasping for that youthful girl we once were, she is already long, long gone. In our culture we no longer talk about aging gracefully the way that we once used to, and I am deeply saddened by this. We know longer look at a woman with gray hair and widening hips and celebrate the woman that she is...instead we look at her and pronounce judgments about her external appearance. Instead of celebrating the lines that time has etched on her face, we disparage them.
   Not too long ago, I heard a woman say about another older woman, "Boy, has she let herself go." I asked her what she meant, and she said, "Well, she obviously hasn't taken care of herself. She doesn't see a dermatologist or surgeon...that's for sure."
   Wow. And neither do I.
So here is my pledge.
    No matter how far my face slides down, and no matter how much pull gravity exerts on my neck, my boobs, and my stomach (to name but a few areas), I will NOT define myself by reflection I see in the mirror, nor will I judge others by their reflection either. I pledge to look for the beauty within each woman I encounter and to embrace and celebrate what I find. I do not plan to have surgery, inject myself with Botox, or other fillers, laser my skin away, or sand it down to nothing, but I will not excoriate those who do. I simply want us to have an honest dialogue about the culture's notion of beauty and how manipulative and destructive it has become and to believe that there IS another way to age.
   Trust me, I am constantly tempted, but I keep coming back to what I believe God says about me. And it has nothing to do with the way that I look in the mirror.
    It's not the procedures that are so vile, it's what they represent to aging women. It is a deep and profound unkindess that we are doing to ourselves. We are not loving well, not one another or ourselves. We are buying into the lie. And I am vowing to try to turn the tide that threatens to overwhelm me at times.
   Aging gracefully means accepting myself for who I am in the mirror as well as who I am on the inside. And certainly who I am when no one is looking.
    It's hard to be real. It is difficult to choose the authentic self. Everything about this world since Eve ate the apple has been about covering up. Not just our private parts, but our true feelings, our emotions, our pain, our struggles, our hurts. We want to look good.
    I know. I battle this. Every. Single. Day.
    I battle this when I go up another pant size, when I find more wrinkles around my already wrinkly mouth, or when I get dressed up to go out and can hardly find my eyelashes anymore to even apply mascara.
    Daily I struggle to bring my thoughts captive to a God who tells me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. And He is talking about not just on that day that I was born with my new, soft skin, tiny hands, and tiny feet, but also NOW with my dry skin, my pimply more than middle-aged chin, my sagging crepe neck and my crows' feet. NOW. He finds me lovely NOW.
     I really want to believe this. My heart longs to believe this. And I wager so do most women out there. We do not want to be defined or confined by the image in the mirror. We long for validation and beauty that emanate from the inner soul.
    The issue is: Can I dare to find myself lovely? Can I let go of the corrupted vision of beauty that woos me with its promises of a younger self? Am I willing to be an almost 60 year-old-woman who is so thankful to not be 25 or 35 or 45 anymore? Am I willing to be content with who I am?
    Pray with me and for me that together we can stand and proclaim that God is not lying when we says that "Charm is deceitful and beauty evaporates, but a woman that feareth the Lord shall be praised."
   I want to embrace the Lord's vision of me. I want to look into His eyes to see myself rather than defining myself by my own flawed and aging reflection in the mirror. I want to mirror Him.
"...inwardly we are being renewed every day..."
I am daring to believe that He does not lie.
I am choosing another way.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Little Two's Christmas with Nonna and Pappy

   It felt like at least three Christmases around here...not that I am complaining, because I loved every moment of it all. There is nothing better in my book than having family come, and come, and come again. This is the year that Little Two and her parents travel to Birmingham to be with her other set of grandparents, Big and Mimi, who love her every bit as much as we do, I might add. Before she left town, Little Two came over one afternoon to decorate her Gingerbread House with Nonna, and then the evening before they headed South her parents joined us for a stromboli supper followed by a gift exchange. Little Two's main present (her Momma helped me select this!) was an incredible pink teepee! It was a HUGE hit!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Favorite Things....Yet Again!

   The Ish Girls Bible Study got together for our annual Christmas dinner, and in lieu of an ornament exchange or something of a similar ilk, we decided once again to have our "Favorite Things Party." After seeing this idea on Pinterest a couple of years ago, we have come to totally embrace the idea, and have opted to do the party, not once, but twice each year. It seems as though we might never run out of favorite things!
    Seeing someone else (whom you have come to love and appreciate) share her idea of a "favorite thing" is both enjoyable and revealing. You learn about the way a person gives gifts, what they like to do in their spare time, and what intrigues or engages them.
    We ate dinner together and then gathered in the family room to share our little gifts with one another. As an aside, we set an $8 limit for each gift. I ended up with some wonderful gifts that included a pair of comfy socks, an exciting new book to read, a craft, delectable treats from Trader Joe's, lovely little muslim bags filled with a lavender and oatmeal bath soak from Thistle Farms, a bottle of red wine, and a tiny little bundt cake in an adorable little box! It was so much fun! If you've not done this with your friends, I encourage you to give it a try! We always have a ball!

We always celebrate birthdays when we gather, hence the cupcakes...
except these are little bundtinis from Nothing Bundt Cakes!

The Red Velvet is my favorite!

Snowflakes sparkle in the candlelight. Sometimes an all-white winter
table is just the thing to serve as a counterpoint to all the red and green!

 Love the Ish Girls!