Monday, September 30

The Understory {Lessons Learned in a Forest}

Source: Flickr Creative Commons

I read aloud to the kids that day with sunlight streaming in the windows. The littles were napping, so it was just the four big ones and I gathered within the coziness of home to learn more about forests. It felt right, since we are situated right in the middle of one. Complete with visiting wildlife ranging from the wee mouse to the burly bear.

Having always lived in a forest of some sort, I'm familiar with the different layers: emergent, canopy, shrub, herb, and the forest floor. But there was one forest layer I'd never heard of, and I immediately tripped over it's name and description.

The understory.

"This layer consists of two different groups of trees. Some of the trees in the understory are young trees that will continue to grow and eventually become part of the canopy. Other trees in the understory are different species, which may be shorter and are designed (or have adapted) to grow with less sunlight." - Properties of Ecosystems {Answers in Genesis Science}

The understory is the layer of a forest that sits below the emergent and canopy layers. It serves it's purpose as a middle layer well, but receives less light than the sections above.

Less light.

I couldn't help but think about all of humanity as I read this:

"Some of the trees ... will continue to grow and eventually become part of the canopy. Other trees ... are designed (or have adapted) to grow with less sunlight."

Some of us grow right on toward the light, while others adapt to living with less light and grow comfortable in the shadows below. We hang on to devastating habits. We fail to address issues in mediocre marriages. We stay in harmful relationships. We pursue selfish ambitions.

I don't believe we  always choose to stay deliberately, sometimes we don't know how good it can be up above. If you've never tasted the air up there, you won't know you should desire it. And that it's good for us. And in turn good for the people whom our lives affect.

As I sit and stew on this some more, I realize that we're all stuck feeling around in the dark until we're brought into the kingdom of light through Jesus Christ. Even if our days seem to be full of light, and our lives are moving along pleasantly, it's still so dark without Him. Maybe we don't realize there is more. A life up where the air is clear. (Hello, Mary Poppins.)

13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Colossians 1:13-14 

The understory has it's purpose for certain kinds of plants, but we humans weren't meant to stay there in the figurative sense. We were meant for more.

Doesn't it sound inviting to live the above part of your story and leave the under behind?

Lift your eyes above the shadows. Breathe in the clean air. And reach up with a trusting hand.

Resist the urge to climb out yourself, because He's waiting to carry you.

Friday, September 27

4 Things I Learned in September

I'm linking up at the end of each month with the gang over at Chatting at the Sky. Come take a peek!

The month of September was so packed to the brim in our household that I hardly remember it wooshing by. We weren't out doing anything amazing -- our calendar was quite empty, in fact, but we did experience some newness and growth around here:

  • We began our 9th year of homeschooling with a brand new curriculum for all. My Father's World is rocking our world this Fall. (We're using Kindergarten and Exploring Countries and Cultures, if you'd like to know. Along with Teaching Textbooks Math... I would pick up and twirl the makers of TT around and around if given the chance. It helps us that much.)
  • Our three oldest kids began in-home guitar lessons this month. If you're looking for an instrument that won't drive you bonkers when your kids practice? Acoustic guitar just might be the ticket. I love hearing them practice.
  • This month, I am getting used to meeting deadlines and allotting the proper amount of time to work on my writing. It's a challenge I'm willing to work hard at; even if I have to escape to the quiet of a coffee shop every once in a while to get it done. We all experience times of suffering, don't we?
  •  Jeremy is working overtime one extra day every week for the next couple months. While that means one less day of him here with us (boo), it means more pay. And for that, we're thankful.

That's what's new in September, now on to what I've learned. (If you're still with me.)

1.  Honestly, the biggest thing I've learned in September, is that I don't have to be who I've always been. It's never too late to reel in the fishing line, and cast it out again. You can always start over. If you've spent 36 years living one way, but decide to start heading in a new direction? It's absolutely possible. These growing pains I'm experiencing are all a part of who He is making me into, and I can't wait for you to get to know her. "... he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)

2.  I'm usually a huge fan of Pumpkin Spice Lattes each fall. But I learned that there is a more decadent way to drink one that brings just as much, if not more fall sensation to my taste buds. Try this, friends: order a breve (latte made with half and half) with pumpkin spice flavoring instead. I've stopped twice in the last week to get one of these. They. Are. Divine. Plus, it feels great to support one of our fabulous locally-owned coffee shops instead of "the other guys."

3.  This one is goofy. I should have known this by now. Last week, I learned (from my 12 year old son) that the drawers in our kitchen have the ability to "lock" in the open position. I've lived in this house for nine and a half years and had no idea. Knowing this little trick could have saved five of our babies' fingers from getting smooshed when playing in their favorite baby-friendly kitchen drawer.

4.  And just a couple days ago, one of my dear friends who is also a blogger, taught me that you can schedule posts on a facebook fan page like you can on a blog. (To make it post when you want, and not just at that moment.) Just click on the little clock symbol just below the text box when you're typing your status or posting your link. Who knew?? Obviously, not me. You facebook page keeping gals probably already knew this, but just in case: You're Welcome.

That's all I've got this month, friends. I wish I could be more creative this time around, but I just can't. What have you been learning this month? I'd love to hear.

Happy upcoming October to you!

Tuesday, September 24

be that YOU


Hello, friend.

Yes, you. The one who loves fiercely, but isn't sure she's lovable in return.

The one who shuffles her feet and pulls at her shirt when told she's beautiful.

The one who is sure she's messing up her children.

The one who doesn't feel like enough.


You are lovable, beautiful, capable, and enough because He says you are. And He should know, because he got uber creative until he was staring at the version of you -- the exact version of you he saw fit to impact your generation.

So go be that you. Your generation needs you.

Monday, September 23

When Mama Needs Her Own Curriculum

In the midst of gathering curriculum and preparing for a new year of homeschooling our kids, we often forget that we need to prepare for us too. The moms. You and I. The ones (in most cases) who operate this whole merry-go-round. We beam with satisfaction at our best-laid plans for the kids, yet are we truly ready to carry them out? What plans are we making for us?

Continue reading the entire post right here...

Today, I'm over at The Homeschool Classroom, sharing my very first post as a monthly contributor!

Join me there? Please do, it will help calm my quaking knees and fluttery tummy to know that all of you are in this with me.

Thursday, September 12

When the Gift Gives Way to a Dream

Since she was a girl, she knew there was something different about her. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but she knew it was there.

In the oddest way, she began to catch herself enjoying opportunities to talk in front of her classmates. You wouldn't know it, but she liked the chance to read a poem in front of the fourth grade or have a small speaking part in a class play. It felt fun and easy.

This painfully shy girl couldn't understand how the pull toward public speaking and her shyness could co-exist, but they did. Somehow.

Eventually, she had to give a speech in front of her entire ninth grade class, all the while thinking that she really, really liked it. It wasn't the fact that people were looking at her (that made her insides shrivel), it was the passing on of a message that she enjoyed. Seeing the faces, making the eye contact, and relaying the message. That's the part she loved.

But it was too strange, so she never said it out loud to anyone. Because, who likes public speaking, especially in the ninth grade? Only the wacky ones, she thought.

So she kept her love of speaking and message sharing to herself. Public speaking made most people throw up, shake, pass out, or turn beet-red. So she knew she wasn't normal.

What she didn't know back then was that God had given her a gift.

And she was simply learning to use it.

As she reached adulthood, went to college, got married, and became a mother, she grabbed onto her gift and walked forward with courage and the spark of a dream. She wondered if this love of message sharing would be part of her future. And how.

For a few years, it seemed like it would be. Speaking engagements were regular, and she began to hope. Wow, really? Now?

Right when she was in the middle of having babies, the dream was becoming a reality. Things were falling into place. And then... nothing. Truly nothing for three years. She received no calls, no emails, no recommendations. It was over.

The dream had completely flatlined. It no longer had brainwaves or a heartbeat.

It felt like a death. The death of a dream.

She began to feel as if she'd done something wrong. Or maybe said something wrong, and the word got out. She'd been too eager, or not eager enough. There must have been something.

But as she began to let go and hold her dreams with open hands instead of the tightest of death-grips, God helped her realize that she could have more than one dream. And this was the time for the next dream to walk out onto the stage. And in order for the next dream to unfold, the first had to rest.

It was like a commercial break. One that was necessary and part of her story. The first dream hadn't truly died, it was just in a God-induced coma. It's brainwaves were still present; it's heart still beating. But the time to open its eyes and be fully present in daily life wasn't then. Oh, the relief. And oh, the patience it took to let it lie and just be. Sort of like when your arms are itching to hold your newborn baby who has just fallen asleep with the most angelic expression. You really need to get some work done, or get a shower, but you can hardly keep your hands off the poor babe. You ache to be with her. To be close and feel a part of her.

Just like a baby, dreams need rest with no one trying to hold them.

The next dream unfolded during those three years. It was hard and beautiful. Beautiful and hard. She continued to wonder if she should try to entice the first dream back to life. But she knew better. The next dream was taking up more than enough of her physical and mental energy. She just had to wait. And wait. And... wait.

Then one day, the first dream woke up.  It came out of that three-year coma with a jolt, almost as if it were never sleeping. It was time. The dream she'd just spent the last three years living didn't have to die for the first dream to come back to life. They could co-exist.

Just like public speaking and shyness.

Her dream has new life.  And leave it to God to add a new element she didn't think would be a possibility while her children were young. But the Dream Waker knew better.

The dream has gotten out of bed, and has begun walking.

And best of all, she began to understand that God didn't just sit back and dream about His people.

He got up and pursued them.  

Friday, September 6

Confessions of a Pollyanna

One week ago today, I saw sat on my couch and cried. And cried and cried.

I sobbed big hot tears and choked out strings of despairing words to my poor husband.

With the start of another school year close at hand, my inner Pollyanna was not feeling so glad. In fact, it had been building up inside me for weeks. And Pollyanna was mad.


There we sat, just three days away from the first day of new books, new schedules, a new kindergartener, three older kids, and three little ones too. I was feeling extremely apprehensive about the week ahead. Maybe scared, crazy, worried, and grumpy are more appropriate to describe my outlook that day.

Pollyanna was nowhere to be found. I was not glad at all. Not one bit.

What was I getting myself into? If Pollyanna was gone, then where was my other inner BFF, that Ann Voskamp-y side of me, who is thankful and sees the precious in so many of our life moments? She was gone too.

In fact, when I was crying ugly tears that day, I went as far as telling my husband that I just didn't like homeschooling.

Would Ann ever say that? Somebody please tell me she's at least thought it. Never mind, it doesn't matter; because I'm not Ann. Though I do deeply admire the woman and love how her humility walks into a room before she does. Not that I've ever been in the same room as her.

There, I'd said it. I just didn't like homeschooling. But did I really mean it? In that moment I thought I did. But what I realized not too long after, is that it's not the homeschooling I don't like. It's the chaos that reigns in the midst of homeschooling if I allow it.

If I'm not proactive and attentive with my little ones, it can all run amuck really quickly. If I'm too busy staring at my laptop screen at inopportune times, I get behind and wonder why this can't be more fun. And include me working on my laptop.

But that's like me wondering why being in hard labor can't involve something more fun like shopping for earrings. Crazy, I know. I realized that sometimes you've just got to buckle down and do the work.

Then you can play.

Sometimes we've got to buckle down and do the work.

Those dishes you despise? Do the work.
The training and re-training of a strong-willed toddler? Do the work.
That marriage that is hard? So stinkin' hard? Do the work.

We had a great week. Oh my, we had a great week.

I stuck to my guns and the schedule. I did the work. I stuck to my rule about putting the laptop away during school.

The baby and preschoolers went with the flow. I even had a fun little schedule for them. And they thrived in it, keeping happily busy and untangled from mama's legs. They were a handful at times (which is to be expected) and there were several frustrating moments.

Like the time I was shout-reading a book about Bible translation for the unreached people groups, while Emmy screamed on the floor behind me and the toddlers had their noses stuck to the wall in timeout. Classy, right?

But the difference was this:

Though there were moments of frustration, I didn't let it shake me. I just kept on being me. Moving along, taking care of business. Loving, hugging, encouraging. Doing the work. Even if that meant stopping what I'm doing to talk eye-to-eye with a little one who needs accountability. Even if that means explaining the English assignment again and again to the one who doesn't understand.

After the week I was dreading is now 4/5ths of the way through, I can honestly say that I love homeschooling. I love it.

Pollyanna is back. So is that Ann Voskamp-y way of thinking. I can't promise you I will always be glad.  And I can't promise you things will always seem precious and beautiful to me.

But I can promise that if you do the work, you'll have time to play.

This post is linked up with other bloggers HERE and HERE. Go take a look!

Wednesday, September 4

Birthday Boys and Conversations

I need to be brief, but wanted to give a birthday shout-out to Levi on his 3rd birthday!

Happy Birthday to Curious George, Eeyore, and Tigger all wrapped up into one awesome kid. 

We love you, buddy.

Also, I'd like to invite you to join us over on The Scarlet Paisley's facebook page. I post several times a week, and would love to have you join in the conversation. I'd love to "meet" you!

Consider clicking here to "like" the page!

Happy Day to you! We're off on day 3 of this new school year... I think we're gonna make it!

Monday, September 2

First Day of School


A new year of homeschooling has begun! With a new outlook, I'm taking it one. day. at. a. time.

And we're off!  Are you off on any new adventures?


A Homeschool Mom's Prayer {Could this be for you?}