Category Archives: Friday Gratitude Lists

This is how I feel about finishing my book + a celebratory poem

This is how I feel about finishing my book

To celebrate finishing my book, I want to share a poem I found a few weeks ago. This poem spoke so deeply to me and I kept it close while finishing my book. This poem reminds me to go on the journey regardless of who comes along. It reminds me to be brave. It reminds me to honor the small, inner voice. “There was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own….” I hope this poem inspires you today, too. xo. EE.

THE JOURNEY
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Tears of despair & tears of Thanksgiving

“Get down on your knees and repent,” my grandmother said. Her voice was quiet, cold and fully controlled. Nobody defied her.

And so, I knelt.

“Say the prayer, admit that your life is a failure and a mess.”

I said the prayer.

“You didn’t say it like you meant it,” she said. “You’re going to say this prayer until you’re fully contrite.”

Shame, like a knife, pierced my stomach. I was trembling. I glanced over at my husband–he wouldn’t look at me. We’d been called into this meeting because someone had reported to my grandmother that I was “rebellious” and “unsubmissive.” I had committed the unpardonable sin of asking questions about why my cousin was being beaten by her father, a pastor in our church.

As the grand-daughter of our church’s founder, my questions were a threat to their ministry. I had to be stopped.

I knew what was required of me: a full, complete breaking. Total surrender. She wanted to see me cry.

But I had trained myself not to cry in front of her. Crying was a sign of weakness, of surrender and I didn’t want to give my grandmother the satisfaction of seeing me cry. Through a series of these meetings, she had already achieved her goal of breaking me down psychologically.

Every day I was battling suicidal thoughts. I was cutting myself. I had asked God to kill me so I wouldn’t have to live the rest of my life in this godforsaken cult.

But I did, in fact, cry that day. I wept on my knees until my grandmother was satisfied. She didn’t know that I was really weeping for the long, miserable life that stretched ahead of me, for the dreams I would never fulfill, for the children I would bear and bring into this misery, for the stupidity of ever hoping I’d be free…..

Something changed after that day. I lost hope. I resigned myself. I stopped fighting. I often wept tears of despair.

It’s been thirteen years since that day and I’ve been free for almost 9 years. I still marvel at this freedom, this precious, precious freedom.

The tears I cry now are tears of freedom and gratitude. The first Thanksgiving I celebrated after leaving the cult, I gave thanks for freedom.

Sometimes I still weep for what was lost. My husband asked me recently if I would ever want to reconnect with my grandparents. I said no. My grandparents set out to break me. They were successful and I very nearly paid for it with my life.

But I will weep for them and for the lives they destroyed. I will weep for their souls.

I will weep with thanksgiving because it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance.

This Thanksgiving, I will weep tears of gratitude because I am free.

And I will never, ever take this freedom for granted.

Friday Roundup

Here are some pieces I’ve been reading and thinking about this week. Enjoy.

Scott Morizot shares a fascinating video about the difference between the Orthodox & Protestant view of salvation. Be sure to read the comments, too. Scott is great at dissecting/explaining the ideas.

Jennifer Fulwiler shares some thoughts from St. Francis de Sales about prayer and how to place yourself in the presence of God.

New research shows that bilingualism can help ward off Alzheimer’s and dementia. Yet another good reason to teach your kids a second language!

Rachel Held Evans asks: have you been exposed to the myth that beauty is part of “biblical womanhood”? With all the pressures placed on Christian women, I found Rachel’s insights especially myth-shattering.

Bound4Life, a prayer-based pro-life group which eschews vocal, angry protests and instead relies on silence and prayer, shared an interesting video that highlighted some of the recent debate on Mike Pence’s amendment to defund Planned Parenthood.  (By the way, the House voted 240-185 to defund Planned Parenthood).

Yes, I am going to Relevant ’11: a Christian blogging conference! Shocking, right? Here’s why: I think it’s hugely important for Christians of all persuasions to make an effort at crossing theological lines and demonstrating love to their brothers and sisters who perhaps practice their faith in different ways. The Christian community is larger than just conservative, homeschooling evangelicals or just Catholics or just _______(fill in the blank). I am making this decision in good faith, hoping I will be welcomed. My heart is open. Is yours? (Relevant tickets go on sale March 1st. I would love to meet some of you in person. Please consider attending?)

a gratitude list in pictures…

1. a few moments to read my Bible(s) and to journal

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2. dew-drenched grass beneath my bare feet

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4. a treasury of gently-used children's books from a neighbor–perfect for reading in bed with little ones all tucked in around me (thank you, Elise)

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5. early morning moments alone in my backyard–breathing, watching sunrise, marveling at dew drops on flowers

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6. a rambunctious game of peek-a-boo with twin toddlers

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7. happy little feet pounding up and down the hall

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8. a boy who still likes to be held by his Mama

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9. the chance to meet a kindred spirit and blog-friend in real-life. i love you, Molly Piper!

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10. flowers from my beloved. just because.

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11. potty-seats make perfectly lovely necklaces.

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12. a daughter who is confident enough to run for class President.

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For these, and all our gifts, we give Thee thanks.

Links & Thinks.

I'm going on a date with my hubby tonight! I can't wait! We're not going anywhere fancy, but still, I'm dressing up. We'll eat cheap food and just look at each other. We might talk a little. But mostly, it will be so nice just to be together.

I do hope you have an restful weekend, too. Here are some fun, lovely things to read. Enjoy!

Ann shares some beautiful thoughts on "simply accepting that we are messy people." In other words, embrace the messiness of living, of loving and being in your home. Messes are OK!

Ali Edwards encourages us to celebrate and appreciate where we are Right Now.

DaMomma shares how she discovered that motherhood was "the truth" and how, even in difficult times, the children keep her afloat.

Jen W. writes a helpful list about what NOT to say to a grieving mother.

Jen F. shares some insider tips for building traffic to your blog. H/T Rachelle Gardner.

Molly experiences a wonderful parenting paradigm shift.

Rachel B., a mother dying from cancer, writes about the challenge of finishing well.

Ali Rae, a pediatric nurse working on medical ship in Benin, shares a lovely wedding story. Be sure to check out the photos–they moved me to tears.

10 Random Things About This Week.

1. I suck at taking care of pets. First, we had to find a new home for Milton and then today, Bubbles the betta fish goes belly up. Nice.

2. I broke my Lenten fast this week. Yep. I fasted from secular music all Lent and it was awesome. This week I downloaded Kanye's "Homecoming" (the clean version, yo!) and I literally had a full-body goosebump attack. What is it about Hip-Hop and R&B that just feeeels so goooooood?

3. I need to quit arguing with fundamentalists/patriarchal/homeschooling peeps. I don't know why I feel like I need to help these people. But I do. Ack. I need to get over it. Because it's n-o-t working. And it's not my place, anyway. I need to shut it.

4. Cherry 7-Up tastes good on a hot day.

5. I go barefoot way too much. Or maybe I need to pick the toys up off the floor more often. YEE-freaking-OW!

6. I like my fake nails. It's been ages since I got my nails done. They look awesome—even if the rest of me doesn't! Heh.

7. I watched a documentary on Hurricane Katrina. It made me sick. How did this happen in America? And then I was outraged. At myself. For not caring enough back in '05.

8. I need to eat more vegetables.

9. I want to take a 2 year vacation with my husband. I miss him. Which sounds weird, because I see him everyday. But with five kids, um, I feel like we're ships passing in the night. That's it, I'm setting up a month's worth of date nights!

10. I ate frozen yogurt 3x this week. I'm officially addicted.

7 Quick Takes

Playing along with Jen F. again! Because it's Friday and it's fun.

1. Two weeks ago, we cut back our sitters' hours. I found myself scrambling
to reorganize schedules, chores and errands. At first I was completely
overwhelmed. But things are better now. The older children are
definitely doing their part. They share vacuuming, sweeping,
dish-washing, table-setting, room tidying and trash duties. It's challenging but we're working together, pulling as a team. That makes all the difference.

2. Finished trimming the Christmas tree. I waited until the local craft store held a 60% off sale and then bought more ornaments, berry picks and silk poinsettias to build on our "Red & Gold" theme. I had a little help from my sitter who barged in and demanded, "Ju tink deese es pretty?" Umm…I guess not? "Ju hass to let me feex eet," she said. I let her fix it and then she told me she was going off to Church to pray for me. I suppose my decorating skills are in dire need of prayer. Her skills, however, totally rock:

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3. Am keeping up the beauty regimen. I dressed cute and did my hair & makeup every day this week. I had forgotten how empowering it feels to wear lipstick. I think I actually get more done when I dress nicely. My family appreciates it, too. I guess I didn't realize how my looking put together could have such a positive effect on them. Perhaps it shows them that I care about this important job I do? Whatever the reason, I'm motivated!

4. Sir Milton has become quite the Biblical dog. He now waits patiently between the twins' chairs for food to fall, just like St. Mark 7:28 says, "yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs."  We're proud of our holy, little doggie.
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5. The kids wrote their letters to Santa Claus this week. I was shocked to read Jewel's letter—she doesn't want toys. She wants….facial cleansers. And perfume. And clothes. Um…WHEN did she grow up? And WHO gave her permission to do that? Yikes.

6. I was wrapping some gifts and accidentally left out the wrapping paper. Jewel saw this and said, "Um, Mom? Isn't that kind of obvious?" I guess if we're gonna believe in Santa Claus around here, I should at least make an attempt to hide the wrapping paper, huh?

7. While driving Jude and the twins to the park, I turned up the volume on some great R&B.

"Work it, Jude!" I shouted. "Work it LIKE YOU OWN IT!"

In the rearview mirror, I could see his face get all serious. I turned down the music.

"What is it, Jude?" I asked.

"Mommy," he said, earnestly, "if I'm going to work it like I own it, I will have to get out of my car-seat."

Absolute best laugh of the week.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

7 Quick Takes.

I'm doing Jennifer's 7 Quick Takes play-along again. Here they are all rolled into one fresh-from-the-oven double serving with a side of cranberry sauce goodness:

1. I went sorta crazy on the hair-bow thing. This is how it goes with my hobby obsessions. A few years ago it was sewing, then scrapbooking. Now it's blogging + hair-bows. Per reader request, here are the twins modeling the hair-bows. Y'know I live to please y'all. :-) Jasiel is the blue bow and Jorai is the pink bow.
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2. I went back to my therapist this week. Although I don't write about it here on my blog, I'm coming up on the anniversary of a devastating personal loss. Talk therapy has been immensely helpful for me. When I feel myself sliding down into anxiety or prolonged sadness, talk therapy is the responsible thing for me to do. I highly recommend it.

3. Jewel got a 98% on a math test! This is a HUGE victory for her since she was pulling a few D's and C's through the early part of this year. She has decided she wants to be a NICU nurse. Or a massage therapist. If all else fails, she wants to be a chiropractor because "chiropractors are Great Depression-proof." Wise words.

4. I think we should make it illegal to talk on a cell phone while walking. In CA., it's already illegal to drive while holding a cell phone. But twice this week, people almost ran into me because they were blabbing into their phones and not watching where they were going. One guy almost made me fall and he kept rushing on. I turned around and called after him: EXCUSE YOU! He ignored me. The other lady reared back and apologized profusely. The guy was a young'un, the lady was elderly. Is there a generational etiquette gap?

5. I wore cute clothes every day except Tuesday. Dude, it's exhausting getting dressed up all the time! I quit. Next week it's back to sweats and sloppy pony-tail buns.

6. Made Thanksgiving Day plans. We're holding our traditional Thanksgiving Dinner Celebration complete with turkey, great-grandma's stuffin', green bean casserole, gravy, mashed taters, and three kinds of pies. Oh. And of course, Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Cider. My parents are tee-totalers. So, at our house, no such thing as en vino veritas. This year, I might go rogue and break out my favorite pinot. Any suggestions?

7. The plumbing in our "new" house (har har) is still wonky. We're down to one shower and even that one drains so slowly we're all taking hyper-speed showers. I call it Forced Conservation. That is, after I exhaust my extensive repertoire of sanctified, Christian cuss words. Because even though it feels nice (sorta) to be eco-friendly, I also take the liberty to call my drain a blasted, no-good, doggone, sorry excuse for plumbing!

Now, go have a FANTASTIC weekend!

7 Quick Takes Friday.

A brief behind-the-scenes snapshot of my life this week, per Jennifer's Quick Take Challenge.

1. Went to the doctor this week to find out why I'm feeling so sluggish, down, exhausted. Do I have cancer? Am I dying? Am I depressed? No. Apparently, I'm just tired. Rats. The one thing I don't have time for is rest.

2. Decided that chivalry is officially dead. I splurged and went to Starbucks this week where the barista threw a cup tray at me when I asked for one. He didn't look at me, just chucked it at me like: here ya go, lady, now get outta my way.  I know I'm just a bedraggled mom of 5, but DUDE, does that mean I'm not worth common courtesy? I could say this to the guy who stole my spot at the gas pump, too. Just zipped in with his spiffy little sports car and cut me off—after I'd been waiting there for several minutes. WHAT-to-the-EVAH!

Did I respond, you ask? To the guy in the sports car–no. He wasn't worth my time. To the barista who was actually being PAID to provide service? Yeah. I smiled very nicely and said very slowly (and loudly–so everyone else could hear)–"THANKS FOR THE TRAY!" I also didn't leave a tip.

3. My baby-sitter almost took a better paying job this week. I don't blame her. The new job paid more for less work.  I swallowed my panic and told her she should take it, that I couldn't match it and that I totally understood. But, thanks be to God, she said she would stay on for 6 more months. Disaster averted. Sanity maintained. Barely.

4. Have delayed getting flu shots. Last time we got flu shots I got horribly sick. The kids did, too. But this year I might try again. What do you think?

5. Boys in fourth grade are getting worse each year. Jewel comes home with horror stories. Since when did "sexy" become an acceptable adjective, part of the daily vernacular, and NOT considered harrassment?

6. Bought three pairs of deeply discounted jeans this week. For myself. I'm still wearing maternity clothes even though I've lost most of the weight (except for that last pesky 10 lbs.). It's amazing what a new pair of jeans and some lipstick does for a woman. Who knows? I might even start blow drying my hair again.

7. Watched the Bill Ayers interview on Good Morning America today. Please, President Obama, please don't appoint Mr. Ayers as Secretary of Education. If that happens, I'm absolutely pulling all my kids out of PS and at long last, becoming a homeschool mom. No questions asked.

Friday Gratitude List

1. For a good, clean debate. Thanks, everyone!

2. For swapping favorite movie lines with my sister and laughing so hard we started getting dirty looks from other restaurant patrons. oops.

3. For making it three weeks without TV. I think this might become a permanent thing. Yay for books!

4. For Jesus, lover of my soul.

5. For 8/8/8. Eight has always been my favorite number. Triple 8? I can hardly wait!