slowing down to find gold stars.

When his fever first came, I must admit that I didn’t mind. In our long-distance dating days, I hated being far away when he got sick, not able to care for him. I still appreciate the chance to be his nurse on sick days. And besides, I thought it would be short lived, since his immune system tends to seem rock-solid. I thought a day or two, taking care of my sick husband sounded pretty nice.

But then a day, turned into a few days, turned into a full week of no work for him and all three of us being sick.

Weekend plans to visit friends, cancelled.

Seeing our musician friend play at a local restaurant, cancelled.

Meeting with a mentor, cancelled.

Going to Sunday’s church service, cancelled.

It was frustrating to see all my plans get waylaid, especially so soon after being sick myself, only a few weeks ago now. I felt sick of being sick and wanted to get on with doing and seeing things. Sickness was not on my agenda.

When I picked up Roots and Sky, I was already looking forward to this read. I was not so secretly hoping to find some common ground with the author. After all, she had recently moved to PA too and shares about her journey in creating home in that first year of transition.

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Not only did I relate to her as she honestly writes about the pain and beauty in this new season, but I felt the Lord whisper to my heart as I read this brave woman’s story. Christie Purifoy takes the reader through that first year, chapter by chapter, month by month, giving the sense of time passing by. This book felt like part poetry, part journal, part gardening saga, part sermon, all woven together. As I sat on that quiet Saturday afternoon, my heart seemed to soak in these words that I needed so much.

The Lord used Christie’s words to speak to my heart in so many chapters, but one that especially struck a chord were her words on gold stars and living a quiet life:

“I never have outgrown my kindergarten love for shiny gold stars in neat rose. But it is harder to find them now. I used to earn stars for making my bed or putting the crayons back where they belong….I lean over the heat of my saute pan, push a wooden spoon through bright yellow squash, gold oil and browned bits of garlic. There is no gold star when I entice my children to eat their vegetables. There is no gold star when I remember to sweep the kitchen floor. Yet Paul told Jesus’ first followers that humble lives, empties of selfish ambition would “shine like stars in the sky” (Phil 2:15). And he gave them this surprising charge: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life” (1Thess. 4:11).

I have witnessed the glory of a quiet life. I am beginning to understand what it might mean to be ambitious for quietness rather than accomplishment. I still do not live this quietness every day, perhaps not even on most days, but I am sure it is the thing most worthy of all my ambition. The quiet life shares the good news loudest, perhaps because only the quiet life is first able to hear the good news.

Quietness is a receptive emptiness. Only the meek will inherit the earth because only the meek have room within themselves to receive such a wide and wild inheritance. At Maplehurst, I have seen where the gold stars shine. They are not found in finishing chores or checking off lists. Not in hustle or efficiency. They glow in unexpected places, like the ends of every loose, twisting strand of a baby girl’s hair.

But the gold stars can also be found just where they are meant to be. The true tragedy of an unquiet life is not that we are unable to find the stars that fall to unexpected corners. The greatests tragedy is that we do not even slow down long enough to find the stars where we know they can be found. (200, 202)

This struck my heart deeply. As I was frustrated with sore throats and my to-do list that was not getting checked off, as we snuggled together for a cartoon instead of accomplishing something, the Lord sent me these words. He asked me to see the sickness, not as a curse, but as an invitation into a quiet life. I saw him inviting me to slow down, to rest, to look for gold stars.

Here are a few (and I truly mean only a few) of my recent gold stars from Jesus. 

My hope in sharing these is to share the goodness that the Lord offers each of us in the simple, beautiful moments of our days.

My hope is that we would not be frustrated with what circumstances we find ourselves in or our lack of energy for the tasks ahead. (I’m preaching to myself today, as I find myself with another day of sore throats, runny noses and occasional grumpiness for L & me.)

My hope is that you would be invited to rest and see the gold stars in your own life.

My hope is that we all would echo Christie’s heart, “I want nothing less than the stars.” (202)

Peggy: A Brave Chicken on A Big Adventure. I loved the subtitle of this book as soon as I read it, and the pages inside are just as delightful. It only took a few minutes to read, but my heart needed those few minutes to slow down and enjoy a chicken.

Jewelry Exploring. Who knew I had a treasure trove to rival any pirate’s? The last few days I’ve let L help me pick out my earrings in the morning. This really means I’m picking out earrings and she is oohing and ahhing over every shiny thing I possess. It makes me appreciate the jewelry I do have even more as this girl delights in each piece of it. And bonus, I get to feel like a pirate every morning, without the trouble of swashbuckling or looting.

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Breakfast for dinner. My husband suggested we just forage for leftovers for dinner at the end of another sick day, but I had another idea. I had a little energy and was willing to spend it on making warm blueberry sauce and crepe batter. It was well worth the effort. Our indoor picnic of breakfast food was a gift to my heart.

Quince. We had a five minute date the other night of looking for the most exotic fruit we could find at the grocery store. Since a quince was something I had only read about in alphabet books, representing the letter “Q” and the smell was divine, I was totally on board. What I discovered once we purchased the fruit (it was a thrill to say, “Just the quince, please.”) was that it has to be cooked in order to be enjoyed. In its raw form, it is woody and hard. I think the delayed gratification made this fruit even exciting as we added anticipation to its allure. A lovely fruit adventure.

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Hedgehog Salt & Pepper shakers. Just look at them. Aren’t they dear? I love sprinkling hedgehog salt or pepper on my food. Infinitely better than normal salt or pepper. L and I love to wave to them and pet their backs and tickle their undersides on a daily basis. A special Christmas gift from my brother and sister and they shower gold stars on me every time I sit at the table.

Colored pencils as part of journaling. I certainly don’t consider myself much of an artist, but in recent days, I’ve been embracing the idea of including colors and sketches as part of journaling. I’ve loved outlining words that stand out to me in a bright shade or drawing a bouquet of wildflowers in the corner of my page. I feel like I’m in second grade, as I pull out my box, clinking with colored pencils every morning to read my Bible and journal. It makes me wonder why it I hadn’t started doing it sooner.

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Internet Intentionality. When I list the things that make me come alive, I rarely include the internet. Unless I’m using it like the tool it is, to write or connect or learn, I end up wasting time. I wish it wasn’t true, but my self control isn’t where I want to be. This last week I committed to timing myself. These ten minutes for Facebook. Five minutes to send this email and then off. I actually enjoyed myself so much more and was incredibly intentional to use those minutes well, than if I had just been aimlessly scrolling. I’m trying to do this more. I’m trying to name why I’m getting on the internet, before I actually do. It’s not perfect, but it’s helping me.

Candles at dinner. The Lifegiving Home talks about the atmosphere their family tries to create at mealtimes. I loved hearing about their candle-lit dinners and wanted to start utilizing candles more, especially on these dark, cold winter days. The last week of dinners have felt extra cozy all from a simple addition to our table.

Tea Parties. After the pediatrician’s visit and four shots of last week,  it seemed like a good idea to plan for a treat afterwards. A mug of tea and a piece of pumpkin cake was the perfect answer to the afternoon. L loves drinking out of anything without a lid, so tea parties are always a win. Whether it has an ice cube in it to cool it to a toddler’s tongue or is steaming for my mug, tea is a gold star in my book. I can’t get over how delighted L is by this beverage and the joy it brings my heart to share it with her. We spent about 15 minutes this morning clinking our cups, celebrating our drink with “cheers” and giggling. Gold stars galore.  PS. English No 1 is magic in a cup. 

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Naps. Right now, I have a love/hate relationship with naps. I love how good I feel after I take them and the rest they bring my body. I hate how they feel like they inhibit productivity and waste the day. I hate how they point out how hard it is for me to rest and submit to what my body needs. But this last week, I submitted. I let myself have the rest I needed. I snuggled up next to my husband after we put L to bed, and slept. It was a gift to slow down and sleep.

Surprise Snow. After the blizzard of a few weeks ago, much of the snow had melted away. It truly felt magical to wake up to a layer of snow on the trees and ground a few days ago. It looked as though it wouldn’t last long, so after breakfast, I went on a slow walk up our road to enjoy the beauty. At the top of the hill, the sky surprised me with blue, contrasting with the white all around. The world seemed to hush and my heart filled with wonder celebrating this gift of snow. I feel like it is hard not to pray and thank Jesus for making such beautiful things in such moments. By the afternoon, the wind had shaken the magic from the trees, making my heart extra grateful for the gift of walking in it when I’d had the chance.

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Reading. I know I talk about books a lot, but I think it is because they are frequent gold stars for me. The Lord so often uses the words of others to get my mind engaged and my heart tender to the things he cares about.

This book was a gold star in itself. Her vulnerable sharing, her difficult and depression in transition, her heart discoveries in the process were everything my heart needed. I’m so grateful for Christie’s courage to share AND her courage to give up her dream of being a celebrated professor to live the quiet life of wife and mom and make this beautiful home. I know I was given a gift because of her surrender to a new dream from the Lord. Her words are treasures. 5/5 for me.

*Revell Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Roots and Sky,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

I love when a book asks good questions. This one goes beyond “What do you want to be when you grow up?” to “Who do you want to be?” Jonathan Golden has an impressive resume, but shares how his accomplishments don’t mean anything without purpose behind them. I deeply resonated with his drive to do more than just what was expected or what looked good. He speaks throughout his book of the quiet faithfulness behind real transformation, doing things little by little. I love the courage he speaks of to start doing the things that make you come alive. “Every calling begins with one brave step.” (48) He gives permission for the unconventional and bold, inviting the reader to ask better questions of what it means to live a life of meaning. 4/5 for me.

*Baker Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Be You. Do Good.” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

This was an engaging read for a sick day. Lynette Eason has written a thriller, with some unconventional roles. The story follows a female bodyguard protecting a radio show host who has a dangerous stalker. As you might imagine, there is chemistry between the two leads. But I think beyond the surface, I appreciated the underlying question of “what matters most?” that dictated everyone’s actions. For our villains, greed, control and money mattered more than relationships. For others, being known mattered more than living out of fear, with trust trumping control. It was a fun book, and a surprising ending. 3.5/5 for me.

*Revell Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Always Watching,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

I truly enjoyed my time with this book. It is a compilation of stories and essays on friendship that I blazed through in an afternoon as the snow fell. I was surprised how many different friends the Lord brought to my mind as I read these words from so many others. Despite being physically alone while reading, I felt surrounded as I remembered the many people the Lord has given me, whether for one season or for many. I won’t deny how difficult friendships can be, especially into transitions throughout adulthood. But so often, I think I can forget the deep, profound graces I’ve been gifted through the friendships I’ve been given. I am grateful for the reminder of how the Lord has cared for me through my friends. 4/5 for me.

*Revell Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of “The Gift of Friendship,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

What are a few of your gold stars today?

How are you quieting your heart to notice them?

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