new and beautiful

quotenewyears

Every year for as long as I can remember, has always been better than the proceeding one.

I have a feeling this has a lot more to do with an increasingly positive outlook on life and simply being a year older (and hopefully, wiser) than anything actually more spectacular happening during the course of the year.

LIFE IS GOOD and I feel eager to embrace it and find the beauty in each moment now, rather than whenever the next goal or item on my checklist arrives.  Some times those things don’t come, and when they do, it doesn’t necessarily mean my life will be any better.

DSC_0055.JPG

So without getting really all that philosophical or “deep”, I am entering the new year feeling energized, ready to tackle new projects and be more present and accessible to my children, family, friends, and others I encounter.  Some simple goals include reading and writing much more, creating when I feel inspired, and getting my business defined clearly enough to really resemble me and what I have to offer.

I am ready to dream big, give big, simplify and get re-organized in order to make time for the things that really matter.

Part of this has included stepping back from social media and trying to focus more on what is in front of me.  When you disconnect it seems like you will become isolated, but I have already found that it opens up more connection with those closest to me.

Because moments like this one are what I want to be present for:

DSC_0059_01

This year, I want to live each day as if it were truly the best day and as if a new opportunity could be around every corner.

Wishing you a Happy New Year and hope you are inspired to be the best YOU have ever been.

b.e.

all images created by becca ellis of b.e.

 

12/28/15 – crave

Christmas is officially over.  I sit here, on the living room floor, perched next to the coffee table in my jeans, pulling my sweater tighter to keep the cold out and putting off starting  fire.  The remnants of the Christmas unwrapping still visible across the floor.  One child enjoying a gift, the other still fast asleep from our final holiday gathering last night.

My tea cup is empty and the new year approaches.

And I want something more.

DSC_0054

This past year I felt a little lost.  So cynical so much of the time.  Selfish. Dark. Isolated, even though surrounded by wonderful and lively people. And I needed them so badly to anchor and inspire me.

As this year wraps up, I find myself increasingly wanting to just go for it. Not anything in particular. I don’t have some secret skill or desire I have been harboring inside that I am just going to come out and announce.

No. I just want more intention.

I crave real.

I want to be present and love those around me so intensely that it trickles down and makes a difference in the world.

I want to tend my garden, spend our days outside, read, laugh from my gut, make music, eat good food, sing loud, dance barefoot, give generously, be with friends, meet strangers. Be with and love my family in a way that moves them and makes them feel at home.

I want to grow.  Develop my craft and love for it, find deep satisfaction in who I am and what I do, celebrate and enjoy what others are doing also.

And I want to choose joy even when those things don’t pan out.  Even when I fall back into that dark little hole and again and I feel unsatisfied.

We need those times.  For if there was no time to settle into the darkness and remain uncomfortable, lost and afraid, when we finally see the light, it would not look so radiant and we may never see who we really are or believe.

DSC_0041

 

is this really fiction

DSC_0004

A wall was growing between them, words seemed unable to slow the building process, separating even the places they slept. Her heart would tug and pull and slowly will her to glance over the wall, only to see the backside of him – merely a shadow in the dim room – so her head would drop once more to her pillow and she would stare toward her side table, listening to the ticking clock and wondering,

“O God, what will become of us and how long
until morning breaks and the cheek receives the stale kiss,
the daily ritual which has long lost its meaning,
warded off by this cold heart and stinging throat
and off he goes and I am left alone with my sagging heart and anxious hands
gripping the handle of this coffee mug and swallowing the gin as if gasping for air.”

something different for me in my writing. I have been laying in bed at night with emotions forming into story and characters and people and wondering if they exist in real life and wanting to let the words spill forth and form something that resonates or creates a connection

And so, this.

-b.e.

listen instead

copy_07

I sit here, tea cup to my side; half full with tea which has steeped for too long and become tainted with bitterness. The house, quiet, other than the near silent whirring of the fan and humming of the computer.

Children tucked in and kissed and brought water, nightlight turned on and off and on again and chilly toes tucked in once more, finally, settled and still and breathing the sweet deep sighs of sleep.

I sit here to write, but a phrase cycles through my head: “listen instead”.

I close my eyes.  The typing ceases. Breath becomes quiet and small. And I listen.

No agenda.

I am not trying to hear anything specific.

I simply listen.

If only more often, I would listen to listen, rather than to reply, perhaps my relationships would grow deeper and my understanding of others richer and the words they have to offer more valuable.

What if when my child is going on and on and on, and I really just want to quickly respond, because there are so many things I am trying to do…what if I actually stopped and fully listened? Not just so I can reply with affirmation, laughter, or correction, but so I can understand this growing and developing young person. And what if this became more of a practice in my every day life and encounters with others?

I feel an enormous amount of gratitude for people in my life and the diversity of perspectives and stories each has enriched my life with; a kaleidoscope of color. Yet there are many colors I have not even begun to imagine, for even the ones I think up and have caught vague glimpses of, I have not come close enough to understand all the depth and shades and value.

I read a book earlier this year about the Amish culture, specifically about the way their children are raised, but one part of their culture or common behavior which left an imprint on my mind was the way in which they listened and responded to one another.  The writer referred to it as the “amish pause”, because every time someone spoke, there would be an uncomfortable (to our outsider ears) pause in the conversation as everyone in the room reflected on what was said and took their time before replying. This allows them to focus simply on listening while the other is talking, and put their attention on their response after they have listened fully and clearly.

In a world where everything is so instant and we begin to worry when someone hasn’t texted us back or replied to an email within a day, I truly believe there is so much value in this waiting that we have lost.  So often we can feel undervalued when someone does not respond to us almost immediately. What if taking a little longer to reply was actually a gesture of respect, rather than the other way around?

This is just a small thought on a quiet night, but when I am gearing up to respond, I hope I will more often choose to listen instead.

-b.e.

when do they see this in me?

DSC_0001 DSC_0003_01 DSC_0003_02 DSC_0006 DSC_0007 DSC_0009_01 DSC_0028 DSC_0030 DSC_0066_01 DSC_0081 DSC_0134 DSC_0139 DSC_0151 DSC_0163

childhood wonder // museum light // new plush brother // window // day at the park // comfort food // the big jump // summer melons // shades // disc // wood // this beauty // skate girl // evening longboarding //

Time speeds by, I cannot believe that August is only two weeks away from ending and we will begin to settle into the swing of a new school year.  My big boy entering Kindergarten and myself entering a new season of guiding young ones and no longer having a baby and a preschooler.  My heart is beginning to yearn for fall, although I am also already feeling sad for the loss of late warm evenings and outdoor adventures the summer brought. Every turn brings newness and the sameness in a new way and I am trying to embrace it.  Letting go of the mistakes and making better choices.  Working for my dreams and working my way there even when self-defeating voices squirm their way into my head. Listening to those who love and support me and trying so hard to find the balance between it all.

I love to write and share images and thoughts and passions.  I love reading others who share their heart and knowledge, also. But there is an inner struggle I have been battling between sharing and simply being.  Social media has a way of killing the joy for me.  Every time I post something on my facebook, I feel remorse and anxiety.  I begin to actually worry about who “likes” me (both literally and based off of the click of a button), and if I am too much for some people.  All of us will always be “too much” of something to someone, though.  Is this normal?  If it is, it is a strange thing to put myself through. I have come close to deleting my social media accounts several times, but there is always a practical reason for not doing it – a conversation with someone not finished, my phone contacts needing to be switched over manually, my photography page and networking sources. Deleting it may not be the answer, but it is difficult to find the balance.  I find nothing added to my life when I log on other than too many opinions and articles, so I haven’t been as much, and I have weeded out many of the people I follow.

I have almost finished a book by Jo Piazza titled, If Nuns Ran the World. The author found modern day nuns living in America and shared their stories, dedicating a chapter each to 10 different radical ladies.  It has profoundly impacted me.  Not in a way that I wish I were a nun, but that I wish I could have that dedication to make a difference in lives without needing any fanfare.  That I would be willing to give the loving embraces these women offer strangers and fight for the marginalized. Of course, I have chosen a family and with that come my first responsibilities, but I have a heavy burden on my heart that my children begin to see compassion and selflessness and the gospel that we believe in lived out.  As their mother, I question….when do they see this in me? There are so many things I long to teach them that I have not yet learned.

The beginning of the school year always seems like a more appropriate time for resolutions than January 1st to me.  Preparing for homeschooling, I have spent plenty of time thinking about academic curriculum and envisioning how our school day will be carried out and what our weeks will look like. But there is another greater, deeper element I want to turn my focus to. This year, I want to find ways to be a part of the lives of those who are hurting. I want my children to look at others and feel the same compassion Jesus felt when he looked out at the crowds gathering at his feet.

Because if there is one thing that this hurting world needs more of, it is compassion and love and mercy.

-b.e.

before they fade away

It was quiet in the house.  Son in the office listening to an audio book. Myself taking a moment to sit and rest in the living room. Daughter upstairs being unusually still.  She doesn’t actually sleep much during our sacred still space in the middle of the day, so I was curious to see if she was indeed asleep.

I crept up the stairs and found her lying flat on her stomach at the top of the stairs, breathing and sleeping deep.

There was something about the way she was laying there, as the sun filtered through the window and warmed her little spot, golden curls highlighted in the bright rays and softly falling across her face.
DSC_0002_01

I lingered a moment and watched.  Watched her breath. Looked at her small features and rosy skin. Things I couldn’t stop myself from doing when she had hardly been outside the womb a few days, but now it was harder to slow and just look.DSC_0006_01

Life speeds by so fast. There are so many things we can think about wanting to do or places we want to go, and so often, those things just end up passing us by.  Or we can become so consumed in achieving our goals that what is already around us fades into the background and we forget what we already have.

I find myself wanting to be more present and more realistic. As mothers, we can feel pressed to prove our worth and the value of what we are accomplishing on a daily basis.  It is so easy to look at our friends without children or those who continued with their careers or developing other hobbies and talents into something that seems so much more exciting than what we are doing. Or perhaps you are on the other side, waiting for those precious little ones to call your own, to nurture and care for and fulfill a deep longing in your own heart.

It is good to pursue your callings.

But oh dear mothers, how I wish I could look you in the eye and tell you that you are doing so much.

If there is a calling on your heart and it is the season, pursue it.  But also,

soak in these warm sunshine filled moments.

Maybe right now they feel few and far apart,

but when they are there, grasp them for just a little while longer before they fade.

I remember reading in a gardening book about waiting a full season in a new house before planting your garden. During this time, record how the sun falls, the water drains, the vegetation grows so you can be the most prepared when you finally begin to lay seed into the ground.

Maybe we need to do this more with our children. Watching and paying attention to who they are and then carefully considering what seeds we will plant in their lives.

Some times we simply have to linger longer and wait, faithfully, consistently, lovingly.

stop our feet for a moment or two

breath

and just watch.
DSC_0012_01– b.e.

these words are hope for a mommy who needed a break

WP_005249 Photogram-20150721020836 DSC_0455 DSC_0456 DSC_0461 DSC_0467 DSC_0470 DSC_0478

I have been enjoying summer and love being out with friends and doing things as a family. Beaches and parks and day trips and so much more.  But there has been a lot of stressful moments and pinging feelings of failure as a mom.

This week so much has adjusted.  Not just by itself like I hoped it might.  No.  It took conviction and thought and intention and planning and work.  And it may not look like a big deal or anything, but it is movement in a better direction, and after 5 days, I see small progress.

We have slowly stumbled into some sort of a cadence for our daily life, and fine tuning happens each day, but everything has slowed down and become simpler, less rushed, better.

I have almost finished the book, “More Than Happy: The Wisdom of Amish Parenting” by Serena Miller.  It has impacted me more than I thought, as I didn’t even expect to want to read the entire book. For the past few years, I have tried to embrace more of a simplistic lifestyle.  We have come a far way, but we have also gone back to the way things were many times.  With each new stage my children enter into, I see new needs – or old ones I have stopped paying attention to.  I have noticed more of my ill modeled actions being echoed in these little mirrors, actions I chose in desperation to make things better when I had no idea of what to do.

Consistency failing because I never had the answers and my husband and I  didn’t always see eye to eye on how we should respond.

One thing we have decided to do is put down our phones. We disconnected our internet at home and haven’t had it for almost a month now.  While we can access it with hotspots on our phone, it is very slow and really only to do things like pay bills, check email, or to blog, etc., and it generally takes place in a condense period of time after the kids are in bed. Not only are we saving money, but so much time.

I started planning and using our days intentionally. I began to think of motherhood as a job – not because I feel like I need some sort of affirmation of the importance of what I do, but rather to raise more of an accountability for how my everyday goes.  If I was at work, I would not be “checking out” on my phone, I would check it only on a break or for important calls.  I wouldn’t leave what I was doing to answer a text or check my email. I realized how much time this adds up to and how belittling it must feel to my children when they are less interesting to me than a text. And how I limit their screen time, but not my own.

It has made our days so much better.  I am learning to watch my children and enjoy them – they are young for so little. I have slowed down my words and looked them in the eye and I am seeing tones change and respect for everyone becoming greater. We are cooking together, creating together and playing wildly together. Shea loves racing on his bike against me on my longboard – today we did it for nearly an hour in an empty parking lot, and didn’t want to stop even then.

We are pursuing interests they have that I never had the energy to teach before, always giving the answer “not today”. Shea has been reading books to me every day. Small, short ones, but he is growing more confident and it has remained fun.  I taught him how to use my sewing machine and he sat there and competently sewed a small dress for his sister’s plush duck with just a little guidance and practice. We find our way into the backyard or a local park and come up with as many variations of hide and seek as we can think of and I am joining instead of trying to read a book or catch up on articles and facebook posts. we are so happy to get in bed and sleep soundly at the end of the day.

We read and read and read.

And some times, I still grow tired and we do put in a short DVD, but it is treated as a reward now and often we just enjoy it as a family rather than as a babysitter.

There is so much joy to be had when we turn off  and limit our access to the screens, because we don’t realize how much time we are wasting until we are sitting there in the void. We become more selective about the information we decide to read and what we do with our screen time and whether it will be a positive addition to our lives or not.

What for a while felt like a daily battle where at the end of the day, bedtime – which had never been hard for so long – began to feel like that last uphill climb at the end of a run that drains every last bit of reserved energy, has now changed so suddenly.

I wonder how children feel when after a day of spending time with them, mom collapses on the couch and of course they come wanting to cuddle and dad says, “mommy needs a break”. What message do they get from that?  Yes, it IS tiring taking care of children.  Yes, some days it feels like I am spending the entire day teaching them something I thought they already knew. Reminding them again and again. YES.  Because this is parenting.  And parenting means making a lot of sacrifices and realizing that many of the things we want to teach our children we never learned to do ourselves.  Slowing down has brought peace back to our household.

It has been a tremendous amount of encouragement for me how one huge desire and a few small steps can create momentum and purpose.

And I write about all of this because I don’t know how many parents I have had to see do and say these things before I tried it. I don’t know how many days I have sat there thinking about how tired I was and how I couldn’t understand how my children could behave the way that they do and how that reflected on me and what an awful parent everyone must think I am and how my life had turned into just waiting for the “break” at the end of the day.

When so many of us are just figuring things out from the pieces we were given from our parents and experiences. It is so easy to judge from one moment.

Or several.

And read into all the things that someone is doing or not doing and not really give any encouragement because we are too busy talking about it to others and justifying the good things we are doing and excusing the areas we are failing, because at least our children “don’t do that”.  (And when I say “we” I am definitely talking about myself). Grace abounds and we can be transmitters of that grace to others.

These words are maybe a mess and spewed out from a jumbled heap of thoughts being processed late at night as my heart has ached and prayed desperately for my children and a change of my own heart. But. They are hope.  And they are tangible and real ways I am seeing my prayers answered. Once change begins, it is hard to go back. It is a constant and moving process, but I no longer feel like a helpless bystander.

I have been given these beautiful children.

I have been given this assignment of raising them.

I am better for it.

And it is a beautiful place to be.

– b.e.

We need more good words.

I am tired.

Tired of whining, complaining, back-talking, yelling, screaming, kicking, fighting, and one-way conversations.

I am referring to my 5 year old, but I am not thinking of him alone.

It seems like all I can see lately is negativity around me.  I see it on my social media feeds. I hear it from my friends. And I feel like I am adding to it also, and my heart feels heavy and dark from it.  Even my husband has noticed my negativity.

I am at a point in my parenting where I need to make some adjustments.  My children are growing and weaving their way through stage after stage and I am barely able to catch my breath as I try to keep up with them.

And I am finding something that I think is a huge barrier to helping these fierce beings grow into loving, compassionate, understanding, and generous humans.

Bad words.

Not the four letter kind that we wouldn’t dare mention.

No, something I consider much worse.

The name calling, labeling, pigeon-holing, dooming, defining ones that cling to us and can become intertwined with who we believe ourselves to be.

And I am guilty as a parent of doing this to my children.

I know I can ache like the rest of you mamas can when someone hurts your child, whether intentionally or not, with words or deeds.   I know what it feels like to watch my child do something they shouldn’t and receive a natural consequence in return – but I wish the person inflicting it had chosen a different route.

It is easy to be indignant when I am not the one at blame.

But I see myself letting this same attitude creep under my skin and come out in ugly roars when my children test and prod and push my buttons.  When they repeatedly (how many times do I have to say it?) make the same foolish mistake again and again and I have to step in and muster up whatever mother-wisdom I have and discipline and watch them suffer through the consequences of their choices (usually with loud protests).

So many times I catch myself speaking so many bad words that are not speaking truth into their lives and are simply used as a shortcut to get what I want at that moment.

Words cut deep and leave very real scars.  And when we are careless with them, if we don’t catch ourselves, we can continue to become more and more insensitive to what we are doing, what we are creating, what we are leaving.

My social network feeds are full of them. Labeling people on one side of an argument in the same way those in opposition label them. Jumping to conclusions about the way people think and how they came to an understanding of something. Maybe we don’t outright yell it in their faces, but some times passively stating it can be even worse, perhaps causing more people to begin to believe the words are being spoken about them.

Because in a world where there is so much noise and so many questions about who we are and so much insecurity as we are told who we should be and what we should believe, how many are questioning themselves and fearful that maybe they aren’t who they think?  Or they should start thinking of themselves as different?

I believe strongly that when someone is sent the same message about themselves over and over again, they will start to believe it. If I continually tell my child that he is obnoxious and always too rough and never listens, what words will he cling to?

I am not saying that there is no bad or evil in the world.  I’m not saying to pretend like there is nothing wrong ever.  There is abuse that must be spoken out against, injustices that must be heard, issues that we must have conversations about, disagree about, and wrestle through.

But where are the good words?

Not the superficial ones to get out of a conversation with someone you “know” you don’t agree with only to turn to those who do and further label and degrade that person in opposition as someone who clearly can’t think for themselves.

Where are all the good words?

The ones that inspire, motivate, and invite us into truth. Even if we don’t always know what that means at the moment.  The ones that cause pause and reflection. Or even if they don’t.  Is a good and truth-filled word a wasted word?

I am choosing to speak more good words.  Not just to your face, but behind your back too.

I want my children to see not only that they are worthwhile, but to see the good in others affirmed, that their hearts will also learn to reach out and share good words with others.

Jesus did not go on about the women’s adulterous act.  He simply said to sin no more.  He did not define her as an adulterer.  He defined her as a valued, forgiven, and loved co-heir and daughter of God.

If the good news we bear on our hearts and lives is not evident, then who are we really representing?

They will know us by our fruit.

They will also know us by our words.

“Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

– b.e.

capturing childhood: sprinkler kids

DSC_0012 DSC_0027

DSC_0140 DSC_0141 DSC_0041 DSC_0080 DSC_0102 DSC_0107 DSC_0113 DSC_0115 DSC_0124 DSC_0127 DSC_0137bw

Oh how I love these two.  Their delight in the simple things like cold hose water spraying and trying to run so fast it can’t catch you, but then laughing like a maniac when you feel the refreshing drops hit against your hot skin.  I love it when these two play so hard together and look out for the other.  Makes up for the times they wear me out with their fighting and I’m trying to remember that I was like that too and some times I still want to fuss and put up a fight for what I think is fair.

At least some times, just turning on the sprinkler and finding that common thing you can enjoy together makes all the difference.  Even as adults, some times we can put aside our differences and have fun together.

– b.e.