Friday, March 29, 2013

Motherhood, Loss, and Good Friday

"We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty."
— Maya Angelou

I was seven years old when my Uncle Terry, my mother’s only brother, was ripped from our lives. His death, a freak accident, was so unexpected that I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around it. Terry was thirty-three years old, only five years younger than I am now. How wise, and mature-and tall- he seemed at the time. How ancient I thought my mother was, and yet when I do the math, I realize that she was only in her twenties. I remember the night we got the news of Terry’s death. When the phone rang, my mother was washing my younger siblings’ hair, making shampoo hair-dos and getting ready to tuck us all in for the night. My father, in seminary, and working at least two jobs,was not home yet, so mom left me to watch Joshua and Jemimah while she went to answer the phone. I remember how the bathroom door was propped open just enough for her to see us from where the phone hung on the wall. I remember how she turned away from us when the words begin to register. I remember how she leaned into the wall for support, head bent, shoulders hunched, as she called my dad to tell him that her only brother had died.     

    I only have a few memories from the week surrounding Terry’s death and funeral. I recall that when I gave a note to my second grade teacher explaining why I would be out of town, my teacher asked me if my uncle was okay. Always one to over think things and never one to want to disappoint adults, I slowly nodded my head yes. After all, I reasoned to myself, Uncle Terry was in heaven now, so technically he was okay . . . right?         

At the funeral home, I was both afraid and curious to view his body. Afraid because I was a child and a dead body seemed about the most awful thing I could look at.  I knew he would still look like my uncle but the fact that he would not wake up, tickle me, and call me Small, was unfathomable. I didn’t want to see him that way, frozen in sleep, his body there, but not his spirit, his voice, his smile.  When I finally found the courage to approach his open casket, it was only partially motivated by wanting to see him there for myself. With my own eyes. Mostly, why I went over to tell him goodbye has to do with Hush Puppies.        

Sitting in my solitary chair in the lobby of the funeral home I listened intently as all the adults kept talking about how my uncle had been buried in his beloved Hush Puppies shoes. Not completely positive of what Hush Puppies looked like, I eventually called to mind the poster with the words Hush and Puppies printed over the picture of a basset hound I had seen at Summers Shoe Store.  Putting two and two together, I decided that Hush Puppies must be slippers that looked like those droopy eyed, long eared dogs. What I couldn’t figure out was why my Uncle Terry, a seemingly normal grown man, had slippers that looked like basset hounds, or why the funeral people would bury him in them. All of this was beyond my childhood reasoning and so determined to see these slippers for myself, I found the courage to walk over to the casket and peer in. Of course I was sadly disappointed to see he was covered from the waist down and to later learn that Hush Puppies were just plain shoes, not slippers at all.        

Back at my grandmother’s house, after all of the services were over, after all the well-meaning casseroles had been covered and put away, after everyone else has gone home,  my mother prepared me and my siblings for bed, tucking us in and covering us with kisses and hugs. As she left the room, I spied my grandmother in the shadow of the doorway, and watched as she rested her head on my mother’s shoulder. As her tears begin to fall, I head her say, barely above a whisper “ How will I go on without him here? How?”  My mother’s reply was inaudible, but I could tell from her posture that her words were tender, full of comfort, and that her own tears mingled with my grandmother’s.  Soon, the door closed and the room was engulfed by darkness, and the memory of my grandmother’s broken heart was stamped on mine forever. I do not know what it is like to be a man on this earth. Or to be Christ. Or to be crucified. But I do know what it is like to have a son. And I have seen firsthand what it means to lose a son too soon (always too soon)  and I cannot imagine that Mary said anything less than, “How? How will I go on without him?  

A few years ago, there was a popular worship tune that we sang often at our church called Here I am to Worship. And while I liked the song well enough, there was one line that has always bothered me a bit. Every time we sang the lyric “I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross,” I would wince. Even though I understood the writers intent, in the back of my mind was this gnawing thought: I might not know how much it cost, but there were those who did. Those such as  Mary mother of Jesus’ and John; Mary Magdalene, and Peter. I am pretty sure that they understood the cost. I think about Mary and I look at my boys and I cannot imagine losing them, let.      

In her novel The Poisonwood Bible, author Barbara Kingslover writes these words: 
“For if there is any single thing that everyone hopes for most dearly, it must be this: that the youngest outlive the oldest.” say Barbara Kingsolver. I agree wholeheartedly and I don’t know why that would be any less true for Mary than it was for my grandmother. From where I sit,
Palm Sunday is about jubilation and Easter is about rebirth and resurrection, but Good Friday is about loss. Who better understood and felt the cost of that loss than Christ’s own mother?   Sometimes the closest I can get to identifying with Christ suffering, is to identify with Mary’s. I am not the mother of Christ, but I am a woman and a mother of sons. Let's be honest- the gulf between my paradigm as a twenty-first century middle-class Caucasian woman and Christ context as a first century Jewish male carpenter- turned -Messiah , is often quite wide. 
But by looking through the lense of Mary's story, I can inch a little closer to understanding what the first Good Friday meant, the darkness that must have fallen over the hearts of those who loved Jesus, the void his death brought, bottomless and as dark as the sky. On Good Friday, I try and live in that place of loss and uncertainty, that place of Mary. I try to honor her loss, and live in a space where the sky is as dark as night, and the greatest of gifts have been ripped away prematurely. Only then, and only barely, am I able to scratch the surface of the wonder and miracle that is the Resurrection.

Blessings on this Good Friday my friends.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Blog Tour Day 8- Bread & Wine on Maundy Thursday

Ever have moments where you just have to pinch yourself? Moments when you can't quite believe that the something wonderful that is happening, is in fact, actually, happening?
Having Shauna Niequest agree to read my book, then provide a blurb about it, and then host the blog tour, on her blog, a few of those pinchable moments for me. Especially considering she was in the same boat as me-juggling kids, family, work, a book deadline and a book release.  You see, Shauna also has a book filled with stories, and recipes, coming out on April 1. A wonderful, delicious, honest, encouraging, transparent, book, entitled Bread &Wine,  A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, with Recipes, (an advance copy of which I have had the great joy of reading during Lent.)

And then there was the moment- the icing on the cake -.

You see, I was shopping for the ingredients to Shauna's Mango Chicken Curry recipe, when I got a Tweet from her, saying that her post, about A Homemade Yearwas live. I just about did a happy dance, right there, in the exotic food aisle.

After I had recovered from our moment of kismet, I finished my grocery shopping and headed home to give her recipe a try. You will have to get your own copy for the full recipe (I know, I am so mean,) but let me tell you the few things I changed up and why.
You see, the truth is this: I have a few weird food things. 
1) I am afraid of cooking rice. As I type this I realize that I need to buy a rice cooker. But I don't have one yet, so last night I decided that this would be a curry taco meal instead of a curry rice meal.
2) I am also afraid of cutting up mango's. Again, I know. I am a weenie. So I went with canned pineapple instead. And it was still so yummy.
3) I left out the ginger and the currents. I didn't think currents would go well with corn tortilla shells, and the  ginger is just a weird quirk. I like ginger in things, I just don't like to handle it. It has to do with homeopathic methods for healing intense morning sickness that I still haven't recovered from. 
4) Also I reduced the chicken broth by 1/2 because the dish was going in soft tortilla shells and not on rice, so I thought it could be a little less saucy.

Now, lest you think Shauna would be irritated by my changes, let me assure you that she is not.  Part of Shauna's cooking philosophy is make it your own. She wants you to find your way to connect, create and enjoy the process of cooking for others and yourself.  All throughout Bread & Wine, Shauna shows time and time again, the wonderful, magical things that can happen, when you open your heart- and your table- to and embrace and explore new methods, new flavors, new challenges, new friends, and  try things you would never have tried before. Like curry tacos. 

Today is Maundy Thursday. The day in Holy Week when we remember the last time Christ, and his messy, broken dozen, gathered around a table, ate a meal together, breaking bread and spilling wine. Bread and wine is where it all begin,  and the table is where we continue to gather- broken, messy, imperfect, as we are - to open our hearts, and embrace both the challenges, and the wonder, we find there. 


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Blog Tour Day 7 - Planting Dandelions

This is my friend Kyran. She is a writer, a fellow blogger, and a real-life face-to-face, friend. 

She is also  Newfoundland wildflower who married a southern fella and found herself suddenly living a semi-domesticated life. Her book Planting Dandelions is about that journey and more.

Kyran and I met a few years ago, (though these days if feels like a hundred,) when we were both selected for  an article on bloggers for an issue of local family magazine, of which Kyran and her boys were the cover stars.
 Kyran was first published author I really knew personally and I have leaned on her for support and advice countless times over the past two year journey of bringing A Homemade Year to life. She has graciously endured quite a few, "what do you think about..." and "what do I do about..." and "OMG- is this normal?"  emails and text from me. Every first time author should have a-been-there-done-that-bought-the-cute-tote author friend to help guide them through the publishing process.

This past summer. Kyran and I,  got to spend a good chunk of time together at the Arkansas Women's Blogger conference and during our ridiculous fun and silly Boot Shoot.  During these adventures I learned three previously unknown facts about Kyran- 
1) She has crazy good legs. I'm not kidding. Crazy good. Pretty sure I spent at least two years in high school trying to get those to no avail. 
2) No one looks better in red lipstick. No one.
3) She is a mighty fine travel pal. And this is important because things get real, real quick,when you travel with someone.

I am so honored to have my friend hosting the Blog Tour today, at her light filled casa, and to be offering readers - hers and mine- the chance to win a copy of A Homemade Year!

So head on over to Kyran's place, have a cup of tea, and enter-the blog tour will be over before you know it!

A Party Pause..and a winner

 I thought we would press pause, briefly, on the blog tour for one momento, so we could just hang out together. Parties are tons of fun, but sometimes a girl just needs a moment to sit on the sofa and chat one-to-one, don't you agree? 
So here is a little bit about what has been going on around our casa lately...

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, and the weather was unseasonably cold.  Our entire church congregation gathered in the parish hall,  clutching our palm leaves between icy fingers, breathing in the heavy incense, not meant for such a tight space, preparing to make our jubilant procession into the sanctuary, all together.  There were ladies in fancy hats, and friends in puffy vest, and children waving their palm leaves in every ones faces.
We are new liturgicals, attending this modest neighborhood church, whose bells we can hear ring out their warning that we are late (again,) from our driveway. We are fresh faced participants in  this tradition, but long-in-the-tooth in the faith,  and so we are experiencing, with both familiarity and curiosity, the beauty and mystery of learning, and worshiping, and serving, together,in community again.

Last week was spring break, but the winter weather that invaded, keeping us indoors. So we hunkered down, and went to visit the great-grandparents. There we watched movies, and stitched stories, and ate soup and slaw and cornbread, all golden and crusty. Each evening, after supper,  I would lay next to my grandmother, in her high four poster bed, as she read my book and I read a novel found on her bookshelves. (Why I ever pack reading material when I go to her house I am not sure. I always prefer the selections found on her shelves more.) So, there we were, me and her, side by side, just as if I was eight years old.   I would read and she would read, and the the whole time I could smell her face lotion and see her hands out of the corner of my eye. The same hands that have patted and fed and comforted me for my entire 38 years of being. And we would stay that way, both of us reading, her occasionally patting my hand when she read something she especially liked, until my grandfather was ready to join her, and only then would I acquiesce his side of the bed. In those moments I was five, and ten, and eighteen, and all the ages I have ever been thus far. 

My first attempt EVER at gardening finally produced some flowers, which were swiftly beaten and pelted by the rain and sleet.  I brought in the blooms that were broken and blown over and placed them in a little cream pitcher. They were covered in dirt and very windblown, but still their sunny disposition shone through. I am trying to take their approach to this weird turn of the weather. 

I had just cleaned the living room, when I walked in and saw the floor covered with preparations for an epic battle. I considered being miffed and yelling BOYS! at the top of my lungs. But then I remembered. There will not always be toys on my floor. One day (sooner than I want to ponder) the floor will stay clean. For days. And so I let it slide. 

We have begun the process of freshening up the front of the house. Sweet Man and I have started multiple Pinterest boards, which are all filling up fast. Currently our progress includes- the exterior of the front and sides of the house have been painted this celery green, the leaves have been raked and moved to the chicken run, and plants have been added along the walkway. I would make you a list of everything we still need to do, but then I would cry and have to hide under the covers for a week. It is that overwhelming. Instead, let's just enjoy the progress that has been made, OK?  I knew you would understand. (And please tell me I am not alone at feeling overwhelmed by getting the exterior of a house up to par?)

I do have one question though. The front of our house does not get tons of light due to ancient oak trees, but I would love to do some filling in along the front with herbs or edible plants. Any suggestions? 

Now on to what you have all been waiting for...
Congrats to Alexis Hilgert, who won my Inspired Giveaway!
Look for an email soon!

Also, a HUGE thank you to everyone who entered and who played along with my first attempt at Rafflecopter. What did you think?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Blog Tour Day 7- Hope and Honey

Today's blog tour party is happening over at Casa d'Hart. Oh my goodness. I am sitting here, completely humbled by the words of grace and love that are flowing like hope and honey, from Annalea today. 
Birthing a book is a little bit like birthing a baby in that everything is the same and nothing is the same. My everyday life continues; work, bills, decisions, fighting kids, broken dishwashers. And yet there is the new, exciting, and overwhelming thing happening too; flurries of emails and calendar balancing, deadlines and meetings and party planning. And both of these things - the new and the old- they are happening simultaneously. Which means it is easier than ever to rush through it all, to be so consumed by all the details and to-do list, to run when you should stand still. Or better yet, kneel. Kneel and weep. Weep in humility and gratefulness and awe of the grace-and graciousness-that has been shown you.
Today, reading Annalea's post, was that moment for me.

If you have never hung out with Annalea, I strongly suggest that you do. This mama is precious, tenderhearted, honest, and full of hope and honey.

As a former homeschooled child myself, I have a special soft spot for both homeschool kids and their mothers. Annalea and her kiddos are no exception. I am pretty sure that if I lived anywhere near to Annalea I might just risk homeschooling my boys knowing I had her in my corner. Plus how cute is her classroom area? (I know, I know, getting to decorate an at-home school room is NOT the reason to homeschool...)

In addition to her homeschooling prowess and general fashionista coolness, Mrs. Hart is also quite crafty and has a great sense of style. I have adored getting to see how she has turned their blank-slate New Mexico casa into a warm, inspiring, and comfy home. This pillow combo alone has me swooning.

(all images from Annalea's blog)

So take a hop on over to Annalea's place and see for yourself just how lovely she is, and enter the Homemade Year giveaway while you are there! 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Blog Tour Day 6.5- Mabel's House

Once upon a time, back when I was a dewy eyed, fresh new blogger, someone said to me "Oh, you have a blog? Do you know Liz of Mabel's House? She lives in North Little Rock too!" 
And so I found Liz. But only online at first, and she was way cool. And popular.  So I just lurked around a bit. Then slowly, I made contact. And then she started coming around my blog too, and I would see things, now and then, things that I made and sold at a local shop, I would see those things show up in her home, and on her blog, which was very cool.  And then eventually, a few years down the road, I got brave. And I suggested that we meet. In person.

And we did. And it was lovely. Nowadays, despite her move across the river (which I have only sorda forgiven her for,) we continue to meet up now and again (that is lovely Liz in the polka-dots)  to talk books and blogs and babies and thrifting.

Liz is the wife of Matt and the mother of Jane and her blog is named for her pup Mabel, who likes to think that she runs the house. They are a pretty darn cute family unit, and watching Jane embody parts of Liz's, and Matt's, personalities is enough entertainment for a lifetime.

Liz is also a book author of a charming memoir about faith and friendship called My (not so) Storybook Life. If you haven't read it, please do so. And buy a copy for your best friend for Mother's Day while you are at it!

Today Liz is making me a little misty eyed with her sweet post about A Homemade Year.  It is always a little nerve wracking to have people I love and admire read my work. It is doubly so if I know I will have to see them face-to-face afterwards. I am overwhelmed by each person who takes away from the book exactly what I prayed they would - oodles and oodles of grace and freedom, permission to enjoy, to choose, to be.

If you have yet to meet Liz, Jane, Matt and Mabel, then please take a quick minute and skip on over to Mabel's House. I think you will love it there as much as I do!

Blog Tour Day 6- The Cottage Nest

Today's first blog tour hostess is Jen Kershner of The Cottage Nest. Jen was one of my very first blogging bosom buddies and a constant friend over the years. Her beautiful style, and  her sweet spirit, are always so inspiring and encouraging. If you have not met Jen yet, then absolutely must visit her blog pronto!

I love seeing A Homemade Year turn up in fun places.  This particular sighting is from Jen's Instagram feed, and that is her adorable daughter, (and book addict like myself,) Emma reading. If A Homemade Year ends up in your Instagram feed, make sure to tag me ( so I can see!

I adore Jen's cottage and all the sweet details she has been adding over the past year (or is it two, or perhaps three?) since her and her family made the move from suburbia to village life. From this adorable dining space to her perfect front door, everything Jen does exudes happiness and peace. One of these days I am going to make it up her way, take a nap on her lovely porch, attend one of her crafty classes and have her give me the full tour of her village.

Today Jen is hosting A Homemade Year Giveaway, and I am blown away by her sweet comments about the book. Hop on over there for another chance to win a copy of A Homemade Year. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

blog tour day 5- Amy Powers is Inspired!

Amy Powers was one of the very first crafty blogs I found when I started blogging oh those many moons ago.  Her happy colors, tiny creations and sunny attitude felt so refreshing and familiar. Finding her blog was one of those moments where I thought "oh! I am not alone!"  She gave me hope that my style, and my ascetic, might resonate with others, and that a creative life was worth pursuing.
Since those early days both of our lives, our blogs, and our shops, have changed. But still, Amy is Amy. Always looking on the bright side, always creating bits that make my heart happy and my imagination soar.  All these years later, I am blessed to call Amy my friend. And it is her friendship, her enthusiasm, her support, her honesty, her creativity, and her heart that continue to truly inspire me, over and over.

Today, Amy is showing off a project she made, completely inspired by a craft in A Homemade Year, the craft apron. If you head on over to Amy's blog to check out the apron, make sure you also check out the DISCOUNT code at the bottom of her post. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

blog tour day 4- Whatever Flower Patch Farmgirl

So sometimes there are things in life that are straight up kismet. Things that happen despite your best laid plans. Things that are so much BETTER than your plans.

Like discovering that these two ladies blogging about A Homemade Year at the same time.

How much happier can it get than Meg and Shannan together? (Kinda makes me want to sing that song from Grease.. together forever, like....)

These ladies (well, let's be honest, all the ladies on the blog tour) are part of my cyber-crew.  Ladies I go to for inspiration, encouragement, laughter, reflection, hope, and community.  Their raw truth is bea-u-ti-ful and I cannot get anough.

Today, Meg's shop is opening back up at Noon. I cannot wait to get one of her pieces. She is the color queen! And everything she does is just so cheerful- which is encouraging because she has 5 kids- 3 of whom are teenagers and she does not glamorize the whole big family thing at all. She shows the pretty and the messy- and you know I love that. 
Amazing. Also, I dream of making it to one of her Craft Weekends someday. Someday...

If you have not seen Shannan's kitchen in her new casa, you must. Love it so very, very much. Further proof that you don't have to "go big" in order to have great style.
And then of course, Shannan's journey from farm girl to other-side-of-the-tracks by choice city girl is one worth reading, as is every morsal of her life with her three bebe's- all adopted - and her ever revovling door of her "big kids." And don't even get me started on the whole "living with less" bit.    She is on my list of "why don't I live next door to you?" people. 

So, if you have the chance, pop on over to Meg's place to check out A Homemade Year AND her new shop opening and then, take a hop over to Shannan's to hear a bit about the intersection of her story and mine (can we say hankie wavin when the spirit moves?) and enter to win a copy of the book for yourself. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Blog Tour Day 3.5- Courtney Walsh

Courtney Walsh is one of those gals who you immediately think "oh, we could so be besties." She is that sweet, and that real.

Over, and over, I have said, and will continue to say, that the community I have found via Blogland has been the very best part of this entire journey. Courtney is one of those gals whose friendship, encouragement and advice I am so blessed to have because of the connections we have made because of our blogs.

Courtney was sweet enough to provide a wonderful blurb for A Homemade Year, and now she is going one step further by hosting A Homemade Giveaway for the blog tour.

So, if you have time, please skip on over to her blog today and say hello, and enter the giveaway while you are at it.

Celebrating {A Homemade Year} with a Giveaway!!

Blog Tour Day 3 - Sarah Bessey

Today I am beyond honored to be guest posting over on Sarah Bessey's blog, and writing a bit about why I wrote A Homemade Year to begin with. This simple, short, post was a beast to write. Mostly, I think, because I admire Sarah's writing so much, and because introducing myself to a new group of folks is always intimidating. 

So if you don't mind, help a sister out and go on over to Sarah's site, and take a peek at a my post. And if you haven't met Sarah yet,  take some time to dig in and get to know her. I think you will enjoy her company.

Sarah is one of those happy-clappy Jesus followers. She is an uneasy pacifist, a Kingdom of God focused woman on the mission, postmodern, liberal to the conservative and conservative to the liberal in matters of both religion and politics, a justice wanna-be trying to do some good, a quasi-socialist, and a nondenominational recovering know-it-all slowly falling back in love with the Church.
Sarah's book (which I cannot wait to read) Jesus Feminist is due out next fall. 

Click here to visit:

In which I want the pretty and the broken :: a guest post by Jerusalem Greer

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Blog Tour Day 2 -House of Belonging

The Homemade Year Blog Tour continues today over at House of Belonging.

Tiff's blog is one of those spaces that brings me joy each and everytime I visit. Her creativity, her cheerful outlook in the midst of a VERY busy life, and her heart of love, acceptance, and healing, are just a few of the things I love about this momma and gradmomma (can you believe??) 

Tiff and her eldest daughter have an Etsy shop where they sell their adorable paintings, full of the best quotes, and verses. One of these days I am going to save enough pennies to commision one.

Her post today, about A Homemade Year, brought tears to my eyes. More than anything, my prayer has always been that this book would be an encouragement and  bring freedom, and inspiration, to each reader. Tiff's post gives me hope that my prayer is being answered with a resounded YES!

Hop on over to House of Belonging and enter for ANOTHER chance to win a copy of A Homemade Year and spend some time getting to know Tiff- you will fall head over heels just like I did!

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