Grateful for Home

        Home. What do you think of when you hear that word? Do you see a picture of the house where you grew up as a kid? Or how about the face of someone you love? Maybe it’s even a certain smell or feeling that comes over you with the memory of “home”. I distinctly remember a moment in time where my mom, sister, and I decided that “home” was wherever we all three were together. Up until that time, at 12 years of age, “home” had simply been representative to me of our physical house…the place we lived. You see, the pain of losing my Dad had caused us to realize that no matter what our situation was or how challenging our new normal had become, we were going to lean into each other to keep that sense of “home”. We started realizing that we could experience that feeling and place of belonging even while traveling the world. Why? Because we had navigated the roughest waters of our lives together and were learning how to swim above the surface instead of letting it take us under.IMG_2359

        This past summer, I was able to take my three littles down to Auburn, Alabama, to visit my Mom for a week. After the crazy rush of meeting deadlines and making sure all of the schedules are kept through the end of the school year, we were all in need of some time to slow down. While my Mom does not live in the same house that I grew up in, or the same city either, I could not wait to get there because SHE was there. I could almost feel my blood pressure lower and my muscles relax as we pulled into the driveway. As she greeted us in the driveway with arms open wide, I felt that deep sense of “home”. We walked in the door and followed our noses straight to the kitchen to grab a slice of her freshly baked, cream cheese poundcake. Are you with me? I’m sure you are wanting a piece, too! The memories started flooding back of all of my favorite things she did and continues to do to create a beautiful, hospitable place of belonging.

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        That week ended up being such a peaceful respite from our busy life. We took daily trips to walk my Mom’s dog around a little pond at the park, cooled off with a swim in the pool, went to story time at the library, took a day trip to visit an awesome Wild Animal Safari in Georgia, had afternoon tea parties, went exploring for bugs to put in Will’s bug catcher, visited my sweet Grandparent’s graves, and the list goes on! Most importantly, I slowed down enough to watch my Mom continue to create those unique memories of “home”. Of being together. I watched her foster the curiosity and adventurous spirits in my children as she dug her beautiful hands down in the dirt to help Will catch bugs (something I don’t remember ever seeing her do as we only had girls in my house growing up!), and as she offered space for them to run and play.

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As the week came to a close and we started our journey back home to Tennessee, I was reminded of an E.E. Cummings quote that I love…”I carry your heart with me. I carry it in my heart. I am never without it. Anywhere I go, you go, my dear.” The sadness of saying goodbye for now was comforted in knowing that the memories we had made that week and the love we shared will be carried in our hearts forever. My children will be able to look back on “that one summer at Ami’s” where they felt loved, celebrated, and encouraged to see the world with adventurous eyes. Do you have any memories you can recall where you were able to experience a deep sense of “home”? Have you been able to help create those kinds of memories for your children? Is there a certain person in your life who helped model this for you? I am so grateful to my Mom for her ability to center me and to help me remember what really matters most when spending time with my children. I spent less time looking at screens that week and more time looking into the wonder in my children’s eyes. Turns out, the old saying is true…home really is “where the heart is.”

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Joy in the Sillies

           If you’re anything like me, the end of the school year was a blur as our schedule filled up with extra places to be as everything came to a close. Between end of the year parties, talent shows, and parades…I was in a state of exhaustion at the end of it all! In those moments of non-stop running, I could feel tension rise in my body and stress levels that left me feeling edgy and frustrated. As much as I would try hard to make the puzzle pieces of our schedule all fit to work together, inevitably within a few hours of waking, things would shift tossing my puzzle pieces in the air! Cue deep breaths.

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         Over the last couple weeks, I have been leaning into the Spirit and asking God to help me relax and have more fun with my children. I want to laugh more. Not just the courtesy laugh where they do something only they think is silly. But the kind of laugh that comes from my gut. The kind where we both are living in the moment and feeling connected. I want them to feel my joy in spending time with them.

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         So, this summer, I am on my own adventure to find joy in the sillies. To let my fears and anxiety about what might happen go and let God fill me with adoration for what is happening right now. I want to be present in their adorable voices, in the funny way they say some of their words, and even in the silly things they do that may even make a mess! I don’t want to miss a thing.

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         Moms, are you with me? Let’s soak these precious days in!!

An escape from the winter blues

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Over the Christmas holidays, our family did something new we had not done before. We rented a house at the beach for two weeks! Although the weather was still cold (needing hoodies and sometimes hats and gloves), we were able to be outside more than we would have at home. We also brought our dogs along which helped motivate us to take lots of walks.

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We went for walks on the beach, the kids went on bike rides, and we even ventured out one morning to the local Gulfarium to see lots of sea animals from sharks, sea lions, and dolphins. The place we went to was very small and not crowded on a winter day so we were able to let the children have more freedom than usual wandering around exploring as they looked at the animals.

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This time together as a family was invaluable and my husband and I came away with such full hearts. One night after dinner, we decided to go on a walk along the sand near the ocean on a path secluded from cars. Our five-year-old could hold the leash of one dog while our 4-year-old would carry the leash of the other dog.  This quickly became their favorite nightly routine as they would beg to take walks each night. As we were walking along the second night our five-year-old daughter exclaimed, “Mom, being out here together makes me feel so much JOY!”. My husband and I looked at each other as parents do when their understanding of how powerful a moment we were experiencing felt. To be outside in God’s creation, taking in the beauty of the ocean with the smells of the beach, we were able to have many conversations that may have never started had we stayed inside and let them watch another show or play on their technology devices. Watching their tender hearts embrace responsibility as they were learning to walk the dogs and listening to their questions and conversations as we were on our adventures grew our family closer and created special memories that we will hold onto forever.

I know many of us are stuck inside where we live in the cold winter months but I wonder if there may be a new place you can go explore with your children (even indoors)? My husband and I were so grateful that we pushed out of our comfort zones (staying inside where it was warm and cozy) to listen to the desires of our children and follow their lead. Knowing our children deeply and connecting with their hearts is so important. I’d love to hear what creative things you do with your children to help lighten up the winter blues!

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Change their Perspective

photo-3One of the desires of my heart is to have my children grasp how important it is to be a part of something bigger than them. To participate in the greater good. To reach out of their comfort zones to love on people and join God in the work He is doing. It is nothing that can be forced, but something that must be modeled.

Last year, a friend of our family’s called to ask if we wanted to help their family make Thanksgiving dinner for a local shelter. We were thrilled to have the opportunity and happily agreed. Our two families shared the duties of making various dishes. We were able to help serve the meal and even sit down with families in the shelter and share Thanksgiving dinner together.

As many of you know, with small children this can be a challenge so we were able to find a sitter for our youngest boys (1 and 3) and took our 5, 13, and 15 year old daughters with us. My mom was in town and helped us cook as well as serve. I was so thankful she could be a part!

Watching my girls interact with the children there, made my heart swell with love and adoration for them. My older two jumped right in while my five year old had some difficulty adjusting. She was able to participate after watching her big sister’s example.

We left there after breaking bread with people who didn’t look like us or live like us and our perspective had changed. We were no longer consumed with whether or not we should make pumpkin pie or sweet potato pie. The petty things of our day had all taken a back seat to what was fresh on our minds. These beautiful people whom God had not forgotten and whom we had the blessing of serving Thanksgiving dinner to had helped us focus on what really matters.

One of the names of God I love so much is El Roi. He is the God who sees. That Thanksgiving day, God helped remind me that He sees, knows, and loves people who may feel so alone on a holiday. And I pray our children will remember that day as a moment where their eyes were opened to how God wants to use them to bring hope and love to everyone they come in contact with.

Is there a way you can include your children in reaching out this Thanksgiving to someone in need? Have you felt the spirit nudging you to find a place to serve? Be brave and step into it! You will create a legacy moment for your family for years to come!