thanks . giving — counting blessings + considering the Cross


Count your many blessings name them one by one

Count your many blessings see what God has done

Count your many blessings

Name them one . by . one

Count your many blessings

See what God has done!

Ever since I can remember we would sing out this chorus on Sunday mornings, feeling blessing and singing happily. Everyone is singing, everyone is counting. Everyone is blessed.

There was this one time when I was a teenage girl, I took the time to start a list.

  1. Jesus
  2. the Bible
  3. Salvation
  4. my church
  5. my family
  6. school
  7. friends

The list kept on going,… there are so many blessings to count. The length of the list almost overwhelmed me, and I rolled my eyes at my own naïveté, that I could actually write a list, that I could actually count my blessings.

I could sing the song with everyone, but I could not count the blessings, every one.

Older now, instead of rolling my eyes at the length of the list of blessings, I’ve moved past naive list-making and realize the number of blessings are like the numbers of the stars over our heads, infinite, too many too count. And these countless stars and countless blessings are not meant to be quantified, they’re meant to cause us to marvel at the Creator, the One who Blesses, to see the Lord, and to worship Him for all of who He is and all that He has done!

Every blessings, each day, each hour, each minute – – – 365 days in a year. 24×365 = 8760 hours in a year. 525,6000 minutes make up only one year. Then the seconds… and then all of the moments and memories that make up those numbers, that make those numbers mean something significant. Blessings heap into a countless pile, like the countless stars.

Counted blessings overwhelm me, but instead of rolling my eyes and throwing the list into the wastebasket, I choose to let the blessings pile, let the blessings turn my gaze upward, let the counting and the counted become worship of the One Blessing.

These heaped blessings – family, and friends; church and community; memories, journals, books, and cups of hot tea; salvation and sanctification, suffering and pain – pile up on top of me, pressing me face up the sky, back down to the ground, arms out from my side, legs straight, feet pointing into the air… I’m pressed into the shape of a cross.

Heaped blessings press me, shape us, into the shape of a cross. 

This is the power of piled blessings.

Piled blessings are not meant to be counted and saved, like gold coins in a vault.

Piled blessing are not meant to be quantified and are are not meant to qualify.

Piled blessings are meant to press us into the shape of a Cross.

Piled blessed are given so that we can give out.

Piled blessings are meant to be poured out, blessings multiplied, a joy shared is a joy multiplied.

Piled blessings are meant to be treasure hunted from heaps of pain and suffering and all of our various trials. Only Jesus can transform what was meant for our evil into eternally good.

One more blessing for the pile.

Piled blessings are meant to point us to praise the name of Jesus.

Piled blessings are meant to point others to praise the name of Jesus.

Piled blessings are meant to pile praise to the heavens.

Piled blessings are meant to blaze a trail of people who carry the life and love and name of Jesus to every family member, each friend, neighbors who line our streets, strangers who line our lives, all the way into eternity.

If we make a list and count our blessings and we only pile up the blessings and we stop at the blessings, if we forget to list and then look up to the One who blesses us, we are prone to despair; we are prone to pride. We might think that our blessing are not enough compared to the person’s list beside us. Or we might think that all we gave ourselves this list, or that we deserve this list, or that all of these blessings deserve our praise.

Our blessings are gifted to us so that we might praise the name of Jesus, so that we might look up and worship, so that we might look out and welcome. 

So this Thanksgiving, let’s count our blessings, one by one. Heaping blessings humble us, pile on us. Pressed under these blessings, let’s conform to the Cross, and live with hearts and arms opened wide for the one name of Jesus.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.”

(Ephesians 1:3)


the turn from 31 to 32

This year has been one for the books. It has been one of the fastest, fullest, craziest, most wonderful, best, sweetest, difficult, slow, relaxed, and contented years I have known.

  1. We welcomed Haddon soon after my birthday, and our lives have changed in all of the wonderful ways life does when you welcome a whole person into your home, into your family. We are so appreciative to the person who invented the pacifier, and we are so glad that Haddon is the hungriest, happiest, humblest, handsomest Haddon we have ever known.IMG_1356
  2. We transitioned local churches. This transition is something we have done/are doing in full confidence before the Lord, and has been frustrating and difficult in ways I didn’t expect and still don’t remember to prepare for. It’s an undoing and a remaking, and for it I am so glad, and over it I have cried so much.
  3. Tyler has traveled less this year, which affects all sorts of things. We are not glad about it but we do like him, so there’s that. I generally hate when someone replies “oh well now that you have three kids…” or “well isn’t that nice!”…. y’all, that’s dumb. We like going out there for the gospel and His Glory and we love it when Tyler gets to play the guitar and be a small part of this massive movement of God called the sharing the gospel with people. But the cool thing is – it’s one on one relationships that Jesus uses to spread His kingdom and we have three young men who need the gospel and their daddy has been home to share it with them and to show it to them, and for that, we are so. glad. 
  4. We are homeschooling – for real. And honestly, I love it. Y’all are crazy for sitting in carpool and for doing all the homework and for making all of the lunches and doing parent/teacher conferences and all. of. that. stuff. but hey! you be you, and I’ll be me. 😉 at home, with my children, comfortable, drinking coffee, sitting in the sunshine.
  5. At the end of the summer, I did whole30, which I probably at some point said I would never do, and realized I have a gluten intolerance (due to severe joint paint in my hands, knees, and feet which goes totally away when I do not eat gluten) which I am sure I hoped I would never have (I didn’t want to be one of those people) but the pain isn’t worth the bread or the pasta, so I’m a gluten-free girl – what can I say (but HELP!).
  6. Noelle cut my hair. and I was soooo nervous but now I love it! What was I waiting for!? It’s not that short hair = perfect hair, but it is that short hair = great for me now hair!IMG_1319
  7. I have realized sometimes done is better than perfect and perfect – like what you and I both know I mean here – is retarded. Life is dynamic, not static, and in heaven, where we who believe in Christ will be most alive, life will be most dynamic, and nothing will stay still and be perfect (like what we both know I mean about perfect ((think, model-home)). the thing is with model homes – nobody lives there. And if you start looking past the perfect plush furniture and on point paint colors you will realize it’s not comfortable, and it’s nobody’s favorite. which takes away from the immediate shiny-star appeal and makes you realize you want to go home. to your home with your stuff and your dust and your dishes and your laundry and your people. and basically life is made of relationships that are not perfect but definitely alive and unconditionally loved, and also cozy and lived in and loved and (sometimes barely) done stuff.
  8. I am in the middle of writing a bible study. Goodness, just typing that makes me question all of my merit. But!, I am so glad to be writing it. I am so happy that the Lord gave me the space, and gave me the girls to do it with me. The whole undertaking is a lot like doing homework. I just do the little bit that I can, when I can, and I just plod through it. I thought – before I started – that it would be a lot more like floating through, magically writing a gleaming glittery bible study. But it’s a lot more like digging in the dirt work. And I am so happy about that, too.
  9. As of the beginning of October, I have a four year old and a 6 year old. I am in this thing. I am a momma. For realz. There is no talking about how I am brand-new at this; no hiding behind some sort of ignorance or naivety. Nope. I am a momma. and not any momma, but one to three little men. I read an article in the latest Magnolia Journal with a question that asked “What sort of mom do you want to be?”… and then encouraged the reader to go be that mom. This is a question I have been asking myself and answering with the Lord over the last little bit. As much as I so admire my friends who are free-falling, driving to the beach without a plan or a care in the world, eating all of the ice-cream and about to fall over with laughter and amazing spontaneity, I am just not her. Because holy moly what if she runs out of gas on the way!? A plan would have helped. And besides that, my plan falls under my principled convictions and fierce passion to live up to those. And my principled convictions are not some trite self-realized, self-identified, self-fulfillment sort of list I have created. They are the very Word of God as the Holy Spirit helps me to understand and apply His Word in my context, and by His upholding grace, I will come under and I will live out of them. This is what I am talking about – I want to be a momma, a woman!, who, if my boys get to decide what gets etched as my epitaph would choose “she sought first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of the rest was just added on as well”… I want my life, each of my roles and tasks to be about seeking first His kingdom. So I cannot! and pray I will not! be about trite, stupid, and otherwise ridiculous sinful ways and selfish ambition. I want my sons to know I have laid down my life for the cause of Christ, and for His Life to be made manifest in each one of them, little men, big man. I want them to know I did this happily, out of the joy set before me, for their good, and for His great glory. I want them to know with every hug, kiss, hot meal, chocolate chip cookie, and set of clean sheets, that Jesus Jesus and ONLY Jesus is who I want for them. If I haven’t made this clear yet in this paragraph, my face and my heart, my mind and my day in and day out ways are set like a flint toward this desire. Oh God, please, let it be so.IMG_1289
  10. It’s fun fun fun to be married to Tyler. We have been married for ten and a half years and we are realizing one. We are not newlyweds. and two. We are still so young. Ha! It’s fun and funny and the bestest thing ever 🙂 Since we were dating I have been reminding Tyler of my birthday this way : when the clock says 11:06 I tell him it’s my birthday. Thankfully this ridiculous reminder has worked for the last several years; he has not forgotten my birthday yet. IMG_1231
  11. Turning into thirty-two I realize I have only begun, but in all of the ways that I have started to begin, I have set patterns and habits that are forming who I am. Some patterns and habits must be repented of and abandoned, and others must be steadfastly continued. I have begun to realize not only am I not invincible like I felt before I had children, but I am also fragile, fallible, and finite. I am the weaker vessel, and I am a weak vessel. I sin easily; I forget all too often. I am flesh, covered in sun spots and freckles, the beginnings of wrinkles… soft, stretched, and gluten gives me pain. When I haven’t eaten enough or slept enough, I get upset and impatient too fast. And I cannot always control whether or not I have slept enough or… well, I cannot control. I cannot make up the perfect world. Ha. not even the perfect moment. or perfect me. But… I have also realized that if I say I believe that this world is the best of all possible worlds, and I do; and if I say I believe in His meticulous Providence, and I do, then I don’t always have to be on the hunt for the best, and the better, as if it is something to accomplish and gain on my own… I can rest and relax, I can simply wake up today – and see His best, His good, His care, His providence, all around me, for me. So happy birthday to me, and heres to 32.



homeschool, honestly : one-piece life

This school year, I have felt the difference.
Leland, if we were going the public school route, would be up our backyard’s hill at the neighborhood school. I watch, washing the dishes and listening to my boys playing, as parents drop off their littles ones in the morning. I see moms pull up the carpool to collect their small students as I cuddle with my sons on the couch, reading a book. All of these sights, just up the hill.
It’s a difference I’m aware of when all four of us, Haddon tucked into the ergo, a boy on each elbow, walk into the grocery store – the library – the indoor pool – the playground – in the middle of the day. Others’ eyes ask.
I’m happy with our decision and ok with the difference. I’ve heard from other seasoned homeschool moms that we homeschoolers are actually among the majority in North Carolina.
I’m not upset by it, or uncomfortable with it, but it is something.
On the other hand, I grow more happily confident in the rhythm of homeschooling each week. We do, as Ann writes, live one-piece lives. The line between learning and living is a hard one to trace; we can barely make it out. And I like that so much. I want our sons to be life-long learners, and learners who live life well. I have the opportunity personally to cultivate this lifestyle, and to erase the line.
At the same time, I understand that education is a discipline, and subtly but surely, it is one I am almost daily working into the habit of my children. Most days, we get out our school box and go through the pages of math, reading, and writing. And each day, we go through the pages of history, science, literature, poetry, and Scripture and soak in whatever we are able to absorb. Sometimes we draw; sometimes we imagine. Sometimes we ask questions and find answers in another book we’ve been reading. We ask, and listen, we learn and we laugh. We work and we play and we live, together.
Learning. – Living. – Home.
This is our one-piece life rhythm, one I’m realizing is different, one I’m growing in, appreciative and content.
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homeschool, honestly : a quick note

One homeschool-mama who significantly inspires me is Ann Voskamp. I mean, she inspires several (million) people, and I am one of them. A few years ago I read this blog post by her and she filled my soul with vision for what our home+school could be like.

She is a homeschool-mama and this year, for her “first day” Instagram post, she included a “happy mama manifesto” that as soon as I could, I copied and pasted and printed and slipped into the front clear part of my homeschool planner-binder.

I wanted to tag each and every mama-friend of mine, homeschooling or not, because the manifesto is for every one of them out there (all the billion of them).

I decided it might be better to share the manifesto-document on my blog – so here it is. Enjoy! (maybe you’ll print it too!)

Happy Mama Manifesto:

1. Today, even if everything goes wrong, love is always right. There is ridiculous hope in this.

2. Today, the only thing that has to be written in stone is when to pray. We will just pray at set times & make our home a house of prayer. What else really matters?

3. Today, there are no emergencies. Life is a GIFT — not an emergency! Only amateurs hurry. So: Say yes to one game every day and laugh loud. No empty-nest mama looks around and wishes she did one more load of laundry.

4. Today, when stress mounts, I pray to dismount it with gratitude. My stress management plan will be simple: all stress will have an intervention of giving thanks for one thing out loud. I can only feel one feeling at a time, and I choose to give thanks at all times.

5. Today, I will pray to speak words that make souls stronger. Grace is the only non-toxic air.

6. Today, I will pray to just be: Consistently consistent. Make rhythms, live routines, wear good habits. Do the same thing at the same time every day — and you kinda change your life.

7. Today, THIS: The moment when I am most repelled by a child’s behavior, that is my sign to draw the very closest to that child.

8. Today, I will hug each of my children as many times as I serve them meals — because children’s hearts feed on touch. I’ll look for as many opportunities to touch my children today as possible — the taller they are, the more so.
Whenever I want to throw hands up, I’ll throw them around someone instead. Holding someone always helps holds things together.

9. Love is a roof.

Be a shelter, a safe place, just be a roof for your people today.

10. Today, I will laugh! And I will create a culture of JOY! The only life worth living is a scandalous one: scandalous love, offensive mercy, foolish faith. Let joy live loud in your soul.


PS I am currently, finally reading her book, The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life, and I have only just begun. Friends, and even my sister, have recommended it to me, and the other day I decided it was time to read it. If you’d like, we can read it together. Just let me know you want to! ❤


homeschool, honestly : our home, our school

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click the image to shop

To begin school last year, we gifted our sons with this book. The colorfully illustrated story shares a little boy’s home/school life all under the same roof, with his family. He shares happily and candidly. The illustrations cast vision for our home and help us cultivate what it means to live+learn together.

This book has helped me, the momma + teacher, to peek inside a little boy’s heart and mind to see what he saw of his home/school life – and to go after the good he shares.

This illustration, for instance, has us all dreaming of where we can put our tree house and how big we can make it in our own back yard.

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image from orange marmalade blog

With how much this children’s story has inspired me, I thought I would share a few peeks into our home/school. I am no illustrator, but I have taken a few quick iPhone pictures to show you around, and I hope these little images will help you as you begin into the proper-school year.

Ok so here is the first one :

our downstairs living room, aka homeschool spot

For all of you homeschooling-mommas, you know that this quick snapshot took a lot of effort to get – to get the cabinet organized correctly, to realize that yep, those folding tables and stacking chairs at Costco are in fact a good idea. Perhaps the couch or the green chair or Tyler’s desk chair pulled in from his desk is a good place to sit…  I sit and stand all over the place in the course of the hour and a half that it takes (when we do all-the-things) to do “school proper.”

We opened our Sonlight box and excitedly began. I do love their curriculum and how they plan everything so I don’t really have to. The weekly schedule tells me how much of whatever book I should be reading, broken down into days, and if we get ahead, great. If we get “behind”, I just keep going to the next week, knowing that eventually it will all shake out. And if it doesn’t, really, really!, it’s not a big deal.

Well, my excitement soon fizzled into frustration. Nothing was organized. Which meant  I was spending fifteen minutes getting all of my little mess together and then the boys were already distracted and doing who knows what (jumping off of the couch, playing a board game, asking to watch a TV show, or arguing). Obviously frustrating.

So I emphatically t.o.l.d. Tyler I had to get my mess together. I had to get organized. I stared at all of the stuff and I stared at my space – which is that cabinet, and after I stared and stared some more, I went to Target. I bought every plastic bin I thought might help, brought it home, put it all together, which really was the shorter part of the whole ordeal, and returned the plastic bins that ended up not being used.

In those bins…



I have math manipulatives, handwriting manipulatives; math and language arts games; a box for Leland, and a box for Grafton; my “side” of the cabinet, and a space for the books we are currently reading. Other games and books and all sorts of stuff are in the play room. We can go get them any time, but this cabinet is reserved for the “school stuff” and the play things, like play doh and paint, that we play with t-o-g-e-t-h-e-r. 🙂

On any given day the cabinet is not fancy, but it is functional and I can close the doors, which is fantastic!

Sometimes we get out the folding tables and chairs, which I tuck away in the coat closet when we aren’t using them… and sometimes we sit at the kitchen table. Other times we go outside to the picnic table, and I hope as the weather cools to take school to the park.

Typically the boys get dressed in the morning, but sometimes pjs are just fine for school. #homeschoolperks 😉

My favorite time is couch time aka reading time. Truly, the manifold reasons are obvious. The boys and I sit together, we read great stories, we take about all that we are learning, I answer a pile of questions, and, did I mention we are sitting on the couch?!

our reading corner

I’m not too far into this whole homeschool thing, but so far, I am enjoying so many of the inherent benefits of living and learning together under the same roof. Sure, sometimes it’s hard. I have learned that we all need a snack before we start school. It evens our blood sugar and fills our tummies so we can actually listen to the story, do our work books, and get through the time a lot more happily. We begin with prayer and end with thanking the Lord for school and learning. We make sure to play out side… which is one more place I want to show you.


Sometimes we have visitors (see sweet Story and Selah?) and we haven’t constructed a tree house yet, like in This is My Home, This is My School, but we are on our way to having a pretty good backyard. And funny enough, this is where we have recess.

Grafton’s 4th Birthday . the story of his psalm

Before each of our sons was born, we chose for them a psalm. This scripture is our prayer, our prophecy, the banner of the Word over their lives, who and what kind of man we pray they become. This Word is to comfort them, challenge them, be a reminder to them of who God is and what He has done, and who they are in Him and how they are to live.
For Grafton, we chose Psalm 112. After reading through the psalms, we loved how psalm 112 acts as a commentary and an amplified version of Psalm 1, which is Leland’s psalm.

Both psalms begin with “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord” but Grafton’s is preceded by Praise the Lord! … and then the psalmist goes on to describe the life of the man who fears the Lord. He delights in the Lord. His offspring is blessed, is mighty, endures. His character is upright. He works and gives generously – I especially love this challenge to Grafton. This psalmist’s language particularly points to Christ – after all, who else’s righteousness endures forever? I love that too for Grafton because the reality is only Christ can be this Blessed Man, and only in Christ can Grafton be a blessed man. Only in Christ can his life be a song of praise to the Lord.

Grafton has always been a brother, and he compliments and illumines his brothers. He is a lover, a good worker, and a generous friend. These attributes are both intrinsic to his God-imaging nature and will be sanctified as he puts his trust in Christ and lives in the fear of the Lord.

We thank You and we pray this, Lord.

So as we celebrate Grafton this year, we reflect on all of the goodness of the Lord in our lives, all of the ways that He has revealed His glory to us in the life of Grafton, we remember all of His good works, and we request that the Lord SAVE Grafton for Himself, at an early age, for his whole life, that Grafton may live as a blessed man who delights in the Lord, who lives out of the life of Christ, to the praise of His great glory.

Happy birthday, G.

Psalm 112 . The Righteous Will Never Be Moved

112 Praise the LORD!

Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,

who greatly delights in his commandments!

His offspring will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are in his house,

and his righteousness endures forever.

Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;

he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.

It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;

who conducts his affairs with justice.

For the righteous will never be moved;

he will be remembered forever.

He is not afraid of bad news;

his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.

His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,

until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.

He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor;

his righteousness endures forever;

his horn is exalted in honor.

10  The wicked man sees it and is angry;

he gnashes his teeth and melts away;

the desire of the wicked will perish!


Photographs – Amy Free Photography  

for me, for life

Colossians 3:1-4 . The Message

He Is Your Life

1-2 So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from hisperspective.

3-4 Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

oh yes Lord. yes yes yes. When I say no, I repent, and help me, in Your great mercy, to say  yes. You are Life.