Monday, January 19, 2015

12 in 2014 {a photo re-cap}

One of the things I've always loved to do at the beginning of each new year is take a look back on the previous year's photos. It always tells such a story.  2014 was a year of difficulties and loss, but also packed full of blessings and joy.  It was a turbulent year...a real emotional hum-dinger. (I know I'm aging myself by using the term "hum-dinger!"  Does anyone even say that anymore?!) It was so hard to pick just one photo to capture each month!   Here is my year in photos:


Our New Year's Eve tradition is to burn a bayberry candle A Bayberry Candle.  As they say, a bayberry candle "burned to the socket brings Luck to the household, Food to the larder and Gold to the pocket." It's a fun and simple thing to do.  I love how it symbolizes a fresh and shiny new year ahead, filled with good things.


Last winter we all discovered our love of "afternoon tea!"  February was the perfect month to cozy up with a steaming cup of tea, some yummy treats and a stack of read-alouds.  So that's exactly what we did.


March was one of the most difficult months of my life.  I miscarried my baby boy,very suddenly at 18 weeks.  A few weeks later, one of my best friends and her family moved away.  But, as I looked through my folder of March photos, I was struck by this picture.  It's a Pileated Woodpecker.  I'm a self-proclaimed "bird nerd" and have always wanted to see one of these birds in my yard, but never have.  One day, not long after my miscarriage, this beautiful bird visited our yard for the entire day.  Even in my saddness, I remember the thrill of watching this happy bird pecking away at our silver maple.  It serves as a reminder to me, that even right there, in the midst of trials, there are still moments of joy and blessing, if you keep your eyes open.


Aaaaaah, Easter.  Spring was such a balm to my hurting soul last Spring.  The return of all things green and living, and warm fresh breezes wafting through windows was exactly what I needed.  We had a beautiful Easter, complete with egg hunts, good times with family and baskets brimming full of goodies.


May was an exciting month for us, as Luke made his first Holy Communion!  I love this picture in particular, even though it's blurry, because of his beaming smile as he walked down the aisle of the church.  


Every summer our family vacations at the Outer Banks, NC.  It's always a wonderful time, and this year was no exception.  The weather was hot and sticky on this particular day, and Kevin and the boys got stuck at the top of the lighthouse for over an hour (!!), but it was still great fun.


July conjures memories of warm summer nights, BBQ and...fireworks!  Our family had a great time watching the fireworks display on the July 4th.  It was a night of sticky juice box spills and goldfish cracker feasts, on a damp too-small quilt.  We waited in parking lot traffic for almost an hour afterward.  But it was totally worth it, in order to see the kids faces light up brighter than the display across the sky.


Looking back on August, I remember spending tons of time outside in the backyard gardening, while the kids climbed trees, splashed around in the kiddie pool and dug up bugs.  I remember how thrilled the kids were to find this little guy hiding out in the garden shed!


This photo was taken at a Labor Day picnic at the beach.  The weather was perfect and we all had a blast visiting with family, squeezing out every last drop of summer sunshiny goodness this bright September day.


I remember how much the kids and I laughed hysterically when I accidentally photographed Adam with his jack-o-lantern in a way that made it look like he was IN his pumpkin!  After that, we decided we just had to snap pics of Luke and Megan "inside" their jacks, too!  (For some reason we couldn't seem to get Megan's quite right, though!)  Too funny!


Around the beginning of November we started seeing a group of turkeys (technically called a "rafter"of turkeys.  There's your nerd fact for the day!) pass through our backyard, nearly every day. I found it was so fitting that they started showing up around Thanksgiving!   Ever since, we've been enjoying our morning turkey-spotting ritual!  Whoever notices them first shouts "Turkeys!" and we all drop everything and run to the window to see how many there are.  On this particular day there were almost 30 turkeys out there!


Christmas morning excitement!  Need I say more?!

So, that's my year in photos.  It was so nice to take a look back and really see all of blessings--even during the difficult months.  And it struck me how much the kids have grown in a year--how does it happen so fast?!

Sharing my photo re-cap over at House Unseen.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Peace Like a River

With the arrival of the new year, many of us take stock of our lives--where we're at, where we're headed, what we wish to accomplish in the year to come.  While I've never been a huge "resolution" person, in more recent years I've become more intentional about the progress I wish to make in the coming year. By being around goal-oriented friends and reading books on the subject, goal-making has rubbed off on me a bit!  So, while I'm still reluctant to adopt the more formal (and intimidating!) "list" approach to resolutions, I do love the practice of choosing a one-word goal.

Having a one word goal helps give me focus during the day-to-day routines of life.  It's a gentle reminder, when I feel like I'm stumbling and overwhelmed, to just slow down and see the bigger picture. My one word becomes a part of me, changing me forever.  One of the really neat things that has happened ever since adopting this practice, is that I have begun to see the inter-connection between my words from year to year.  As I worked on trust a couple of years ago, I discovered how it was related to my previous goal of "courage."  The connection makes sense, really, since spiritual goals never really exist in isolation.  I've been marveling at how my words have fit together year by year, like puzzle pieces.

A beautiful necklace my (awesome!) sister made for me for Christmas.

This year, the word I've chosen is peace.  Sometime last Fall I started thinking about what my new word would be.  One of the words that initially came to mind was "stillness."  As I began to think and read about stillness, it led me to the word peace, which felt just perfect.  While I spent 2014 trying to live more fully in the present, I felt like I wasn't allowing enough time to just be at peace.  My days are often filled with near-constant interruptions, noise and busyness (homeschooling 4 kids can have that effect!).  But I need peace in order to steady myself.  And one of the amazing things about peace is that it can still exist in times of chaos, because it's not dependent upon the environment; it's something that dwells within us.

Once I decided on peace as my word for 2015 I wanted to start by seeing how the dictionary defines it. The definitions were a great place to begin:

Peace: Freedom from disturbance; quiet tranquility.  A state of security.  Freedom from oppressive thoughts or emotions.  A state of calmness. 

I loved thinking about peace as a type of "freedom."  How true that being held captive--by our surroundings, or thoughts and fears--is what destroys our peace. After pondering this definition I wanted to see what scripture had to say on the matter of peace:

"'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed' says the Lord." --Isaiah 54:10

"You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." --Isaiah 55:12

"I have told you these things, so that in me, you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world." --John 16:33

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the holy spirit." --Rom. 15:13

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." --Phil. 4:6-7

But the one that spoke to me the loudest was this verse that helped bring me comfort through my miscarriages:

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."  --John 14:27

As I read all of these verses, so many amazing things kept popping out at me...most of all the connection between peace and hope, trust, thanksgiving and joy.  Before I had read the scripture verses on peace, I hadn't given a ton of thought to how closely related all of these things are.  But it started to dawn on me, that when we have give thanks, we can trust more deeply, which fills us with hope, spilling over into joy...all of these things working together toward peace.  So, in a sense, peace is the gateway to joy!  Amazing!

I'm looking forward to seeing where my one word will take me this year.  So far, I've been setting aside time each day to read and think about peace.  I've been trying my best to put aside the Martha-esque to-dos and worries, to just be still.  One of the things I've enjoyed playing around with lately is Zentangle.  Concentrating on the repetitive strokes and letting go of perfection while I do it is a great way to bring calm and a feeling of peacefulness.  My good friend introduced me to it about a month ago, and I've been loving it ever since! 

I've also resolved to write in my gratitude journal every. single. day.  While I've somewhat kept up kept up on jotting things down in my journal, I had fallen out of the practice of writing in it daily.  So, now I begin each morning jotting down my eucharisteo.  

I've also put into practice, during my morning prayer time, a few minutes to just be quiet and let God speak.  I tend to do a lot of "talking" to God when I pray, and sometimes I forget to just listen.   

I can't wait to see what the year ahead will bring!

Do you choose a one word goal for the year?  I'd love to hear yours.  Do you make a list of resolutions?  Feel free to share in the comments!


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