Change

It happens from time to time.  A shift in focus, a new direction, the tugs from other parts of my life.  Time is needed elsewhere, writing takes a backseat.

And so again, this place must rest.

I have been busy with pursuits both old and new: nourishing a marriage, feeding and homeschooling children, tending friendships.  And art.  The joyful blooming of a passion from my childhood.

I will be back.  My six years of off-again-on-again blogging have taught me that I can’t end it completely.  I’m planning an Etsy shop of work by the new year, so be on the lookout for exciting developments!  This home stretch to forty has inspired me to reach higher and farther for dreams than ever before.

I am most active on Instagram.  I’d love to connect there if we haven’t already!  Find me: @FruitNSeason.

Until then, friends, I wish you the most vibrant of journeys, abundant blessings, love and grace to spare.

Are we like the sparrows?

house sparrow

I tried to like them.  I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe no one liked them because they weren’t as pretty as the others, or because they were so common.

So I gave these little birds a fair shake.  Three years worth of fair shakes, actually.  I defended them a bit, studied up on them and yet, I ended up not liking them in the end.

These house sparrows, with their loud chatter and obsessive territorial behavior, proved themselves to be just what everyone had said: pests.

The thought that I can’t escape, that keeps nagging at me as I think about these noisy little birds, is that we Christians are often just like them.  Instead of being known by our love, we are often known for being noisy, negative, and possessive.  In the eyes of many, we are the community of “shoulds” and “shall nots”, instead of the community of Grace.  I include myself in this, of course.  My finger is firmly pointed my own way.

I don’t think there’s an easy way to be both truly loving and still share truth.  Our attempts come across as judgmental and conditional.  And aren’t they?  Jesus, being fully man and fully God, is the only one to ever truly love unconditionally and still share the truth.  Because He is truth.

So why can’t we just share Him?

Without the rules, without the loud, judgmental chatter, without the add-ons.  Become known as a community that loves.  Period.  If we know Truth as a person, we don’t need to argue and defend, just introduce.  And if we disagree with our fellow Christians on matters small or even not-so-small, isn’t it more important to show grace on the inside of our community than to judge and try to convince?

Each morning I hear the obnoxious chatter outside my window, and every spring I see the sparrows chase away yet another pleasantly-settled family of birds from our birdhouse and I sigh.  I wonder if I’m perceived like that, and the thought saddens me.

So today, this week, this month, I purpose to be the one who loves.  Even if I disagree.  Even if I am afraid.  Even if it’s not popular.  Even if it’s hard.

Because the more I read Jesus’ words and actions, the less I find a rulebook.  And the more and more real Grace becomes.

 

Photo credit: Evan Finkle

Interesting places and exciting happenings {Lots of Links}

There has been so much going on around the internet lately and I’ve been collecting great things to read, research, and do.  Here are some things you might be interested in!

Homeschool Links

Artsy Links

Lisa Congdon lettering

Lisa Congdon- artist {click for link to her site}

  • I have been pinning on my Art Journaling and Art boards on Pinterest lately, loving the beauty that can be found all around the web.
  • Kris writes, “What if God calls us to an art purely for His pleasure, and not for the stamp of approval of the world–will we own it?” in her Five-Minute Friday post today.
  • One of my favorite online finds this week is this post by Alisa Burke about her entire sketching process.  It includes materials, techniques, and loads of pictures!
  • I have a significant addiction slight problem with art books, especially art journaling or sketching books, lately.  This list is not doing anything to help said problem, but it does give me lots to drool over!
  • I have always had a love affair with color.  I am a woman of drama and boldness, and tend toward color imagery in my life and work.  I loved this personality color test.  Go take it (it’s very brief) and come back to tell me what your color is in the comments.  Make sure you follow the directions and don’t over think it!

Important Links

Beautiful Links

Exciting deal coming next week!

iHomeschoolNetwork ebook bundle

Don’t forget to pop back in next Tuesday as this amazing deal begins!

 

 A New Feature

Those of you who have been connecting with me here for a while, or are following me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, know that I have become infatuated with art journaling.  The artistic process has met a deep need in my life, brought me back to the creativity of my childhood, and helped me to cope with stress and depression.  I have come to recognize how crucial it is for those of us with a creative spirit to have an artistic outlet and I want to encourage that in other moms, and especially homeschoolers, who feel that they can’t take any time for themselves.

I will be starting a weekly feature on my blog in September.  Yay!  Every Thursday I will post either some artwork of my own, how-to’s, informational posts, or guest posts by others who are prioritizing the creative in their lives.  Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss anything!

Follow Your Passion

Friendship: embracing the uncomfortable

I’ve written quite a bit on friendship this past year.  It’s been an intentional goal of mine: to learn to be real and true, and to break apart the walls of perfectionism and the desire to keep masks covering the fact of my messiness.  I’ve had lots of time to practice these things, to be uncomfortable, to ask for forgiveness, to share and put myself in vulnerable positions.

As I sat with a wonderful friend late at night on a recent trip, our children sleeping peacefully in beds upstairs and down, I unwrapped some ugly things I had been dealing with and gave them to her.  I did not hesitate.  She showed grace and care and tenderness as she listened and encouraged.

After I went to bed, I wondered if I should have said so much.  If I was too negative, too transparent, too ugly.  The “me” who likes people to think I have it all together surfaced and chided with a wagging finger.

The next morning, kids running all over the house, making noise and messes, my friend began sharing some difficult things in her life.  I listened and tried to be as careful with her sharing as she was with mine.

And then she said, “Wow, nothing like being a downer!”  I encouraged, told her of course she’s not, that’s what our friendship is for, and that I had wondered myself if I was too negative the night before.

I’ve pondered those conversations since that morning and I came to realize something I knew in my heart to be very important.

Maybe a barometer of our friendships, of their authenticity and depth, is how often we feel uncomfortable with our level of sharing.  Maybe we’re missing out if we never have the need to wonder, or even ask, if we’ve said too much.

Maybe real friendship does make us uncomfortable, and maybe that is a very good thing.

What about you?  How often do you share at a level that makes you squirm, just a little?

 

Photo credit: Fountain_Head

What my friends should know… {10*in*10}

10-in-10 iHomeschool Network

So it’s week 10 already?  Wow, that went fast!!  Here are my other 10*in*10 posts in this fun blog hop:

Top Ten Homeschooling Questions
Top Ten Reasons We Defy a Homeschool Label
Top Ten Reasons We Love to Homeschool (Poetry edition)
Top Ten Series for Middle School Boys
Top Ten Homeschooling Websites
Top Ten Pieces of Homeschooling Advice

 If you’re here, you’re a friend.

That’s how I think of you.  You read my thoughtful posts as I’m wrestling out my life and my faith.  You read my silly posts when my sarcastic sense of humor pops up.  You read my homeschooling posts, and hopefully learn from my many mistakes!

But what are the things I maybe haven’t told you, that you really should know?  The things that you would know if you were a local friend with whom I met for regular coffee chats or play dates with the kids?

Yes, I color my hair...

Yes, I color my hair, and yes, my kitchen is cluttered…

Here goes!  The real me, unbound and unashamed:

  1. I am a hugger.  I love to squeeze those that I love, whether it’s when they are celebrating, or mourning, or simply because I’m thankful for them in that moment.
  2. I am a lousy housekeeper.  It’s only been in the last couple of years that I have accepted this fact, and stopped trying to make excuses.  I’m not horrible, but I’m certainly not great.  My cleaning rotations are not as neat, tidy or frequent as some of the ones I see on other blogs (even the ones that claim to be homeschool-friendly) but I’m OK with that.
  3. I am a true book junkie.  It goes along with my main learning style, which is visual, and so when I have a problem or question, the first thing I’ll do is find a book about it and read to learn.  I thought, because I love the feel and smell of real books, that I would never get an e-reader, but I did cave and get a Nook to go overseas.  And I love that too, although when I have a book I need to really chew on, I use multi-colored highlighters in a real book!
  4. I think in images.  This is why my recent return to art has been so profoundly satisfying for me.  I’ve always been one to speak and write metaphorically about things, and come up with imagery to explain my feelings.  For example, in my work as a classical voice teacher I’m more likely to describe a sound I want my student to produce with a mental image, than with physiology.  Or when my husband asks how getting some art time makes me feel I tell him it’s like a “dry sponge that is immersed in a vast ocean and immediately swells with life.”  This is just normal for me.  My husband thinks it’s a bit weird.
  5. I am a true introvert.  If you were my neighbor, you’d know that I don’t often socialize (I feel badly about that sometimes.)  I love to be around a friend or two at a time and share deeply, and I love spending time with my family.
  6. I treasure friendship.  There was a time in my life when I didn’t feel understood, had no really close friends to share with deeply.  I had moved and was in the midst of creating this beautiful family I have with a husband who was trying to establish himself in his career.  It was a lonely place.  So therefore I do not take for granted those amazing women who give of themselves, and share their hearts and lives with me.
  7. I sometimes don’t want to homeschool anymore.  Yes, I have those bad days too, which is why it’s so important to have a back up plan.  But I believe so completely that it’s right for our family, and our children are thriving in this learning environment, so I have no real intentions of quitting, it’s just important to be honest about the fact that sometimes it’s tough.
  8. Sometimes I love homeschooling so much I want to convince everyone else to do it.  Just so you know how normal it is to vacillate dramatically between feelings of drudgery and the euphoria, I had to add this one.  And I can be obnoxious, on these days, in my gushing about how much I love it.
  9. I am a woman of highs and lows.  If numbers 7 and 8 didn’t give you a clue, here’s a newsflash: there is no “vanilla” with me.  I run hot or cold, with rarely any in-betweens.  This is also something I’ve come to accept as I’ve gotten older.  I feel things deeply, for good and bad, and sometimes am so whacked out of balance I need to pull back and just be alone.
  10. I’ll be 39 this week.   Ack!!  What should I do for the remainder of my waning journey to the big 4-0?  I need some way to chronicle this next year and make it a good one.  Any suggestions?

So, dear readers…what should I know about you?

Top Ten Tuesday

Visit Angie and link up your Top Ten for the week!

And hop on over to Today’s Housewife to read my guest post on Art Journaling!

Art Journal- Hopes and Dreams

“Hopes and Dreams”

Kitchen friends


Recently I invited a wonderful friend and her four adorable kids over for the afternoon.  I promised I would not clean first.  For some reason this promise was a challenge for me and it seemed to indicate a shift in friendship from “I’m trying to impress you” to “Here I am in all my messiness”.  I almost swept (which I hadn’t done in over a week) but I didn’t.  Instead, before she came and after getting back from a morning at the zoo with my brood, I took a fifteen minute nap.

And of course, when they arrived, I felt the need to remind her that I promised I wouldn’t clean, assuring her with a sweep of my hand that I truly hadn’t, and proceeded to do the dishes while we chatted.  Old habits die hard.  I couldn’t just sit on the couch and relax.

But with this upheld promise Kris solidified her place in my very-small-but-mighty group of kitchen friends.

Kitchen friends and Living Room friends: what’s the difference?

Living room friends are those for whom you feel the need to pick up your house, make sure you’re showered, clean the kids’ faces while coaching them on what to do when guests arrive, and have banana bread baking so the house smells good.  Living room friends come with ruler in hand, or at least it often feels that way.

Kitchen friends are different.

Kitchen friends wipe off the crumbs from their feet without a word as they walk through your kitchen, and accept the spit up from your baby on their own shoulder without blinking.  Kitchen friends help keep your kids in time-out by giving them the hairy eyeball while you’re in the bathroom taking that much needed shower.  Kitchen friends bring you the banana bread if they know you have had a bad day.

With living room friends, you sometimes feel judged.

With kitchen friends, you always feel loved.

I am blessed by the friends who accept the less-than-perfect me.  The ones who simply know that behind that closed laundry room door is an avalanche of stuff that was piled there a half hour before they arrived.  Or better yet, friends for whom I don’t even have to close the laundry room door in the first place!  Those friends make me feel whole without having to overlook my brokenness.  They instead embrace it.

Do you have kitchen friends?  What does that distinction mean to you?


Photo credit

The non-post thankful post

I had stuff I was going to say.  Thoughts in my head, swirlingswirling these last couple of weeks {once erased accidentally in blogger; we won’t talk about that…} but no time to write them down.

And now…Relevant

And again there’s no time, but it’s a good no time, as I prepare my home, my family, for my absence, and prepare myself for God’s blessing and soft words of leading, along with a side of hugs from friends.  The butterflies are frantic in my belly as I anticipate the coming weekend.

And I am overcome with thankfulness.

So I count…

937.  God’s perfect timing even in the little things of life

938.  Wholeness- from Jesus alone

939.  Warmth under blankets as the wind rushes

940.  Maddy’s mumbles in her sleep

941.  Falling asleep reading- a wonderful feeling

942.  Running through the rain

943.  Crazy, giddy kids

944.  Jason helping Maddy with her schoolwork, so patient and loving

10 things my Relevant roomies need to know…

So, I’m going to Relevant.

And nope, I’m not excited a bit.

{{YAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!}}

This will be my first blog conference and though I’ve read the recaps, what-to-expect posts, and chatter on Twitter about it, I’m sure there will something there that God will shock me with in the best possible way.

So for my roomies, Heather, Beth, Kris, and Carrie:

1.  I don’t snore, but I do talk in my sleep sometimes.

2.  In situations where I feel comfortable, I’m social, chatty and loud- but I am by nature an introvert.  Weird combination.  Blame it on the marriage of my obnoxious Italian upbringing and my deep, thoughtful, shy, artistic spirit.

3.  I’m a classical singer by trade and very frequently can’t help breaking into song or some kind of random scale.  I’m a soprano so my voice often gets pretty high, even when I’m speaking.  I really can’t help it.  ;)

4.  I don’t spend much time in the bathroom getting ready.  I put on a bit of make-up but can get it all done in 3 minutes.  It’s a good thing, since we have five of us in the room!

5.  I am a morning person.  I am very chipper very early, but watch out when it hits 10 or 10:30pm.  Sometimes I just hit a big wall and completely zone out.  I stop talking, kind of look off into space, and think about bed.

6.  I am a new caffeine drinker.  I’ve always liked coffee, but up till recently only had it rarely (and only decaf).  The caffeine has a negative affect on singing (see #3).  But now I drink some every day and my body still isn’t used to it so it gets all buzzy-feeling.

7.  I can’t stand small talk.  I want to know your junk and share mine right off the bat (if you want to hear it, of course.  I won’t just dump it on you!).  We’re all broken, why try to hide it?  Let’s just help each other get to the Healer.

8.  I snack on chocolate all day long.  It’s a serious problem.

9.  I love to run and hopefully will be getting up really early to do so (if we even sleep at all).  Maybe you’ll come with me?

10.  I have a dorky and sometimes irreverent sense of humor.  Just humor me.

Find me @FruitNSeason on Twitter…

Linking up with Amanda for Top Ten Tuesday and Brooke (who has a link up for Relevant roomies posts!  Great idea!)

Journey to True Friendship- Childishness to Maturity






“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child,

I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
1 Cor. 13:11 ESV


Childish friends are fickle
True friends endure

Childish friends rely on shared activities
True friends rely on shared hopes and values

Childish friends make you want to do better to receive praise
True friends make you want to be better

Childish friends always want to impress on the surface
True friends make an impression simply by being true and steadfast

Childish friends shy away from conflict or struggle
True friends are open, honest, and broken with you

Childish friends gossip
True friends show grace

Childish friends are for children
I choose the path to True Friendship

I hope you will join me.    

This series has been a challenging one for me in some ways.  I am no more an expert on friendship than you are.  Sometimes I’m not that great of a friend at all.  I am by nature weak, and insecure, and selfish.  But I am also a new creation, every moment if need be, and I know that I can make the choice each day to move toward True Friendship with those I treasure.  My friends.  I have been blessed by your companionship along this journey, and hope that you’ve gained some encouragement, and will go forward to learn more about yourself and build better, truer friendships.

“The unfolding of how we were created to need one another,
to need our relationships with one another, in order
to live fully into the people we were intended
to be is magnificently masterful…I am amazed 
at the beauty of how this opportunity
for growth is revealed to me as I engage
in friendships with others.”
The Friends We Keep, Sarah Zacharias Davis
If you’ve missed any of the series and would like to go back, please use the button on my sidebar.  I have also linked below the books I referenced throughout.  May God bless your friendships and grant you new companions on your own journeys!

Journey to True Friendship- Friendship is easy (if you want to stay safe)




“We desire to break out of our isolation

and loneliness and enter into a relationship
that offers us a sense of home, an experience
of belonging, a feeling of safety, and a sense of 
being well-connected.  But every time we 
explore such a relationship, we discover quickly
the difficulty of being close to anybody
and the complexity of intimacy between two people.”
Henri Nouwen, Here and Now

Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, the day-to-day struggles get the upper hand and we function in our default mode.  
And our friends will have a default mode too.  When the going gets tough, and the honeymoon period of friendship is done, when our human nature shows up and meets face-to-face with the humanness in our friends, and if we truly have let the masks go, we have a choice to stay and grow, or give in to the fear and pull back.

Conflict.

What do you do with it?  Are you a paste-a-smile-on-and-hide-it person?  A sweep-it-under-the-rug person?  A cold-shoulder person?  A hot-headed, be-honest-no-matter-who-it-hurts person?

I’ll be completely honest.  This is not an area that I historically have been all that good at.  I come from a long line of under-the-rug sweepers, and have friendships I can look back with the realization that I pulled away rather than sought to resolve a problem.  And I know that I have been the one to hurt a friend at times and, 20/20 being hindsight, look back with a critical eye at my own insensitivity.

Lisa Whelchel, in her book Friendship for Grown-Ups, borrows the idea from an author friend that insensitivities and hurts are little “bricks” that lay between friends:

“…time and neglect or apathy or denial are exactly what enable
one brick to remain, and then another, until there’s a pile or the bricks
are so heavily laid one upon the other that you can wake up 
to find a brick wall of separation between you and another person.  
Once a wall starts appearing, you either walk away from one another, 
because who can walk through walls.  Or you have an explosive argument 
to blast through the brick wall- and at least one person, if 
not both of you, is going to be wounded by the blast, bruised in
the rubble, or buried in the dust.”
In most of my adult life, I have chosen to remain slightly distant rather than deal with any bricks.  The bricks may be small things or big things, but unresolved they will do damage regardless of the size.  There is a better way to deal with them gently, but head-on, if we are brave enough.

When conflict arises (which, if a friendship is close and it endures, probably will happen at some point) what would it feel like to say, “I’d love to talk with you about something.  You are so important to me and I want to make sure I’m understanding you right, and not assuming something you didn’t intend.”

Or, “I realized recently that you were very upset and I wanted to see how I added to that.  I may have hurt you with my words and I want to apologize to you.  I appreciate you too much to let this slip away unresolved.”

Or, “Can we talk about the other day?  I was hurt by your decision to go with so-and-so rather than me, and I wanted to tell you my feelings before my desire to sweep them under the rug got the best of me.  I care about our friendship too much to let that happen.”

Conflict doesn’t have to look like it did in our families growing up.  The word “conflict” is not a bad word in itself, but most people’s default way of handling it is not healthy.  There are skills that can be practiced and learned.  And aren’t our friendships worth it?

Nouwen, above, calls it the “complexity of intimacy between two people” and I think he’s right.  At its most deep and abiding, friendship is true and honest and doesn’t shy away from the fact that both people are bringing in baggage and bad habits, personality flaws and misunderstandings.  It will inevitably be complex.

And my hope and prayer is that I will mature enough to give my friendships what they truly deserve: loving honesty, forgiveness, and the chance to withstand conflict if and when it occurs.

What conflicts have you come up with, real or perceived, in your friendships?  How have you handled them?  

(A book that helped me tremendously in conflicts in my church work, and later even with family, is Crucial Conversations.  The tools I learned when reading this book would benefit the outcome of any conflict, be it personal or work-related.)

I am sharing this act of journeying with five wonderful women, 
also writing about the travels of their hearts:

Heather~ Journey Toward a Prayerful Life
Kris~ Journey Out of Fear
Erika~ Journey Into the Word
Emily~ Journey Toward Rest
Nicole~ Journey of Providence

Photo credit