• the mothering arts

    Pursuing peace…

    So let us be glad and bear with patience everything the world throws at us, secure in the knowledge that it is then that we are most in the mind of God.

    St Basil the Great

    If there is anything the last four years of medical trauma have taught us, it is simply how human we are. Very, very human. Tempers fray when one is sick, or exhausted; the dirty dishes in the sink can look five feet higher. The way can look a lot deeper and a lot darker when you’re so tired you can barely pick up a spoon- despair creeps in- impatience, frustration, all of it. Like Job’s friends they make a hard journey even harder, dragging at your feet, mocking your efforts.

    Peace can be in short supply.

    I’ve been considering carefully how I can more actively encourage my children in the area of practicing peace. In working through it, I realized I needed a refresher too. It is very important to us that we choose peace and rest, and that gets a bit interesting when humans are tired and sick. But if we are making conscious, purposeful decisions in the non-temper frayed moments, it will hopefully pay dividends when we are at the edge of our rope.

    Here’s what I’ve jotted down.

    • better discipling of the children in conflict resolution
    • encouraging and practicing respect of each other, spaces, and personal things
    • quiet music makes a big difference in energy level in our house- use it.
    • use soft light and candles both morning and evening to help “set the tone”

    It’s funny- when you’re prayerfully working through something, it will amaze you how quickly the Holy Spirit can provide what you need if you are willing to ask. I had jotted down “better discipling” and then prayed about it- in less than twenty four hours multiple sources of information ‘fell in my lap’- a post by a friend on Instagram, a shared link, etc. I have realized that conflict resolution does require a lot of parental presence but not a lot of parental talking. We are more Switzerland and diplomats during conflict resolution than active participants.

    Here’s what I collected and collated about walking children through conflict resolution.


    Teach the children different strategies to calm: walk away, take deep breaths, counting, prayer with the icons, writing it down. Teach them also as they come back to center to ‘claim before blame’- identify what part of the conflict/problem they were a part of.


    We’ve found the “How Big is My Problem” poster from Teachers Pay Teachers really helpful in helping to designate how much help a parent needs to be in the situation. Encourage them to promote peacefulness- that there is a solution, not just stuck in yelling at each other for what has already happened. Use “I” statements: “I felt hurt because…so I threw…”


    Use humility and candor. (Candor: the quality of being open and honest in expression. Also means, don’t say you’re fine if you aren’t.) Take responsibility: “I used unkind words that hurt you.”. Show regret: ” I’m sorry, I will try to do better next time.” Empathy is helpful here: “If that happened to me I would have felt…” State remedy: how the problem will be fixed. “Next time I will choose to walk away before I get so angry that I call you names.”


    Encourage them to listen carefully and accurately and paraphrase what the other said. Don’t interfere or suggest adult solutions unless absolutely necessary.

    5. FOLLOW UP

    If the talk together/work it out strategy isn’t working, re-connect and encourage a different approach (i.e. playing with someone else) BUT always encouraging them to use kind words and friendly voices.

    If there’s anything that has struck me in reviewing my notes today, it is the thought that we are in control. We can actively choose peace even in conflict. Peacefulness doesn’t mean a lack of conflict. Peace means that when there is conflict, we choose hope, and love, through it: we realize that our relationship is more important than any problem we might be at loggerheads about at the moment. It also takes discipline- a conscious choice to choose differently and try differently. It’s absolutely worth it.

    How about you? Is this an area of struggle too? What have you learned?

  • the home arts,  the mothering arts

    Rooted deep…

    To circle back to my post about finding beauty in the chaos, I’m going to dig a little deeper today about taking some of my thoughts and studies and breaking it down a bit further in a specific area.

    [As a side note, I’ve really struggled over the years to take big picture ideas and break them down into usable goals and strategies. It wasn’t until last year when Elise Blaha Cripe did a series of Instagram Stories on goal setting that the light bulb finally came on. I am saving up my pennies for when her new book comes out! She’s a great resource for understanding how to do this.]

    I find it more and more important that our children feel grounded and safe in ways I would not have even contemplated (or have had the discipline for) four years previously. Because our life is so chaotic, it has become increasingly important that what can be made predictable and clear is made so. That we hold to our family rhythms as much as possible. It gives the children ‘hooks’ to hang everything else on that doesn’t quite make as much sense. This means, by necessity, that we say no to a lot of things that in the past we probably would have said yes to. We tend not to stray outside of our scheduled rhythm very often, because it is upended by medical things anyways. The days that we can hold on to it are very important and we place a higher value on rootedness than some of the ‘short term gains’ activities we could be doing.

    What does encouraging “grounded-ness/rootedness” look like?

    Here are some recent notes I jotted down and some reasoning behind them:

    • caring for ourselves: medicines, dental care, faces and hair
    • caring for our sleep: lamps lowered, quiet tv or reading together before bed, calming music, essential oils for sleep, prayers
    • caring for our home: regular chores, inspecting what we expect, faithful service with a good attitude

    Caring for ourselves: We have medicine regimens that seem to change almost weekly or daily at times. I have been much, much more intentional about setting phone alarms to remind myself of medication needs- to make the practice external and automatic and not something my brain has to track. I’ve also gotten quite literal about setting reminders about making sure that the children have attended to brushing their teeth and hair and washing their face. It’s a little thing, setting the reminder on the phone, but the sort of mental load cost it was costing me to continually track and remind children was pretty high. It was a simple fix and I wish I had done it much, much sooner.

    Caring for our sleep: This has been a constant struggle and shuffle for all of us in the family for different reasons over the last three years. There are cycles where no one sleeps well because of an ill child or because they are an ill child themselves. It’s not unusual that just about every third or fourth week of the month everyone’s sleep cycles will get interrupted. It starts a cycle of grumpiness (for the kids) and exhaustion (for the adults). In the last month we started putting these practices into place to solidify the importance of good sleep for us all, teaching these sort of self-care practices to them, discipling them to honor the gift of sleep that the Lord gives, to pray and to let go of the cares of the day. Again, being super, super protective and intentional with these ‘getting ready for sleep’ practices has made a marked difference in our lives in just a month, and again, I wish we had gotten more intentional about it much sooner.

    Caring for our home: We go through cycles where the children basically have to fend for themselves in many ways, and I realized that we could make that reality a little bit easier on us all if we acknowledged, firstly, that it happens, and secondly, to have a plan for it. To up the competency level of the children, overall, in say, being familiar with and having the ability to make an easy meal. To make super clear what a ‘clean space’ actually looks like with instructions and pictures. When everyone is clear on the expectations, it makes it a lot easier to hit the marks that are needed to keep a family of eight running. It also means that no one person is having to carry it all in their head or gets stuck doing all the work. This has been a bit more nebulous in practice than the previous two, but I still see improvements happening, if only in shifting what we pay attention to. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, there’s more of a trend towards empowered and confident, both for me and for the kids.

    In practical action, here are the strategies we recently put in place to encourage grounded-ness:

    • phone alarms for medicines and brushing teeth
    • essential oils and rosewater spray at bedtime
    • calming music at bedtime
    • lowered lights
    • better chore chart making clear responsibility
    • working on teaching children how to make easier meals

    So there you go! What are some practices you do in your home that encourage grounded-ness for your family (even if you are single or it’s just you and your partner these days) ?

  • the mothering arts

    Finding beauty in the chaos…

    This summer has absolutely not gone according to plan. It hasn’t even been in the same zip code as ‘the Plan’. I think we’re on the tail end of the alphabet of plans, having zipped through plan A, B, and C and associated letters in rapid succession. But you know? It not going to plan is precisely what I sort of expected to happen. I’m getting used to this dance we do, learning to bob and weave and flex and still find center.

    Somehow, strangely, I’ve had a lot of time to read and to think this summer. These two things don’t usually happen together the way things usually go these last few years. It feels good. But odd. ~weak grin~

    It has led to a pretty thorough evaluation of our life at the moment. The Circe Institute/Mason Jar podcasts certainly fanned the coals of awareness into a full blown flame of thought. It was something I was already turning over and over in my mind, but the podcast has given a lot of structure and depth and lines of inquiry to the thought process. It seems like the books that have landed in my to read pile on my night stand have serendipitously had more to say in this line. I just feel the Holy Spirit ministering and probing deep right now, because I would have never consciously strung all this together on my own.

    Who are we, as a family? What are our aims? What are we living for?

    I feel like we had a solid answer to this back in the day. The last four years? Not so much.

    My job, my thought process, lately, is to bring these two disparate realities into a cohesive tension. Notice I say tension, not balance. I’m starting to realize that words like ‘balance’ and ‘normal’ are red herrings, distracting from naming true realities.

    The fact is, who we are hasn’t essentially changed. The words that come to mind when I think of our family and what we value are words like: peace, servanthood, delight, wonder, inquiring minds, grounded-ness, and creativity. What that looked like in daily practice pre-medical trauma and what they look like now are very different. Our aims and how and what we are living for have shifted into whole new zip codes in the intervening years.

    It’s been a good thought exercise to stop and take stock of just how much things have changed and how we need to re-calibrate our approaches. It’s been important to address places where we got distracted, where we failed, and yes, places where we sinned. You can’t really repair a foundation if you don’t take proper stock of where the damage is and what needs repairing, what’s just fine and what’s not. Without that, you might tear out something that is entirely good and useful or fail to see the gaping hole of damage that needs shoring up and repair.

    Here are some of the realities we know to be certain, currently:

    • That Elliana, while currently relatively healthy, may ‘crash’ as she has done in the past. She has currently been stable for about a year, and is monitored on a regular basis. Hopefully, we would have plenty of warning that things are changing/deteriorating with her and be able to plan accordingly for care needs.
    • Josiah’s health will continue to fluctuate in radical ways, requiring unexpected care at unexpected times.
    • That Josiah will require multiple surgeries this upcoming school year, particularly this fall.
    • Josiah’s level of intervention will continue to increase as the damage to his body becomes more and more visible.
    • Our special needs teen, who recently had his diagnosis switched from Sensory Processing Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder to full blown Autism, needs intense intervention (PT/OT, ABA, and medical) at the moment and long stretches of time investment with both parents, especially this next six month time frame.
    • James’ (my husband) health is precarious and showing the profound affect of three years of intense stress. My own is not much better, though I have, Glory to God, not had quite the level of sickness as James has. However, the fatigue we both feel, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, is very real and should not be ignored.
    • That our finances will continue to be profoundly impacted by the level of medical care required. (I’ll delve into this more in depth in a later post.)
    • that our other children struggle with the emotional realities of having siblings with intense medical and emotional needs, and often have had to have their own needs take a ‘back seat’ to their special needs siblings. This reality can be a beautiful thing, but it can also be a brutal thing. A ‘brutiful’ reality. Helping our other children to feel seen and heard is an ever increasing priority for us as of late as we settle into the reality that it’s only going to get crazier in the short term ahead of us and the long term consequences are already being felt.

    When I think about these ‘knowns’ I realize that a lot of the ways that I would have defined those “our family is…” words previously in an outward focus towards serving people in the community has now, by necessity, turned to an inward focus on serving within our family. I think there was an element of both back in the day (both outward community involvement and inward discipling and teaching kids what this looks like within the family), but now we really have to make sure that our own family and children have their own ‘oxygen masks’ on before turning to help others.

    I keep thinking of stained glass windows and mosaics and all sorts of art forms like that. There is beauty in what, looked at a certain way, would seem incredibly chaotic and broken. One of our main aims as a family right now is to shift our vision from the shards of glass to seeing what is being created from them–to find the beauty in the chaos.

  • the mothering arts

    Cultivating Culture: Service

    This particular episode is probably one of my favorites from the new season. I’ve listened to it twice and my husband has listened to it; it’s been food for some very deep conversations in our house lately.

    Having a servant’s heart towards others is very important to our family culture, but as James and I both realized listening to this episode, we’ve never sat down and really spelled out why- nor have we been purposeful and pragmatic about what cultivating a culture of service in our family would look like.

    For James and I, though, choosing servant leadership in our family and community has been a very conscious choice since early in our marriage. It has been very important to us that we serve wherever we are needed in whatever capacity, to be the sort of help we wish to see in the world. We both have been very mindful that the little jobs are important- the jobs no one sees- and that instead of complaining about things left undone in our community, we need to pick up the tools and go to work ourselves. However, we’ve never really articulated to our children why this is so important to us.

    We are definitely fixing that now! ~grin~

    This isn’t to say that we don’t already practice a lot of cultivation of servanthood- it’s just that we are going to be far more intentional about it now.

    There were a few things in this episode that really stood out to me.

    I, myself, am a former military dependent, and I remember myself how the community of strangers always showed up to help in various ways and how we dropped everything to show up for them when things got crazy. How it wasn’t unusual for my dad to mow our next door neighbor’s yard (we lived in military housing his entire career) or fix a sink for the young mom three doors down. I myself watched others’ little ones as a young teen. It was profoundly a culture of service without commendation or notice. It was just woven into the fabric of the community. It was just “something you do”. It certainly has carried out into my civilian life- and it is a big part of why I help people without questioning why they need the help. I, too, am “paying it forward” for all the help my family received when I was young. I join Christina in wishing that aspect of community extended into the civilian world, and to be quite honest, as ‘soldiers of Christ’ it should be a noticeable hallmark of any Christian community. But it isn’t. How can we change that?

    At time stamp 14:48, she mentions that her husband appreciates a sort of mantra from Georges Hébert : “Être fort pour être utile” (“Being strong to be useful”). She mentions that many in their circle work out and keep fit not from a sense of vanity but so that they can continue to be of service in whatever capacity they are needed. This really struck me, not only in the physical sense, but also in the spiritual and emotional sense. What would our daily rhythms look like if we are keeping this in mind as a family? Are we ready to step into service at a moment’s notice? What would that take? I personally hate working out and I really struggle with it. Putting it in the context of what Christina was saying helps me think differently about it.

    Perhaps where I could most relate to Christina’s words was in her discussion of how illness had affected how and why they serve, and how it had affected her “vision” of others. She says in more than a few places how she wouldn’t have the eyes to see how someone is struggling if she hadn’t experienced it herself. It calls to mind the quote I shared last Wednesday in a way. I know for my own self that my vision has been profoundly changed by my own life experiences. I know what it is like to have to move house at 34 weeks pregnant by myself and no one willing to help: it’s why I show up with my big strong boy-men to help others every time. I know what it is like to show up in church with a fussy baby and minutes of sleep, trying to keep from crying as my toddlers head butt a parishioner: it’s why I am always on the lookout to be of service to the young parents in our parish. I know how sudden illness can suddenly wreck everything a family holds dear- I’m still living it myself: it’s why I am always going to show up for other families in crisis. But I especially love how Christina describes these actions of service as “giving refreshment”. Holding a fussy baby for a tired mom for a few minutes takes so little of us but grants such a deep breath to the mom.

    In investment terms, the return on our tiny bit of work is huge. If we could keep that in mind, how much quicker would we be to step up and help others?

    I could also relate to how she herself has struggled with accepting help, how she has had interactions with others who find it strange that they would be willing to help, and how sometimes they’ve had to just take a step back and not help. It’s quite sad, really, when you think of it, the weed of pride creeping in. We were made for each other. We were made to be in community, and we were made to need each other. Sometimes having a servant’s heart also means that we need to be humble and realize our limitations, and accept offered help gratefully! Goodness I am preaching to myself here, please understand. I kept thinking to myself after I listened through the episode again- if we truly believe that all comes from God’s hand, whether by our own hand or others’, who are we to disdain it? Try to push it away?

    There’s a particular situation our family finds ourself in at the moment that is very, very humbling on multiple levels. We would not be surviving our day to day lives without a few key people pouring into us. I know this deep down in my heart. I am unbelievably and profoundly grateful that these people are willing to sacrifice their own resources for us so that we may be able to keep our heads above water. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I struggle with the weed of pride: how it annoys me sometimes that we need so much help, why can’t we just get it together, I should be helping them, not the other way around. But like Jacob/Israel, our hip bone has been broken and we walk with a limp now, to testify to the Glory of God and not our own. I must remember this, and root out the prideful thoughts that threaten my joy and delight in His provision.

    What about you? Have you listened to the episode? What stood out to you?

  • the home arts,  the kitchen arts,  the learning arts,  the mothering arts

    A good listen…

    I’ve really been enjoying the new season of The Mason Jar from Circe Institute. Karen Kern has taken the reins from Cindy Rollins (of Ordo Amoris, if you remember that wonderful blog!), and the first eight episodes are regarding cultivating culture within your home. While it may be a “homeschooling” podcast, these episodes will encourage and challenge any parent. I’m chewing on what I’ve listened to so far; I have so much I want to say about it, but I’m marinating right now. Definitely go have a listen!