#SimpleSummerPleasures

Summer is upon us, and—just like that—it’s already getting away from us. Can you believe we just finished celebrating the 4th of July last week?

Before the remainder of summer slides swiftly away, we want to take a moment to reflect on what we want to truly savor this summer—the sweet, simple summer pleasures that make this season feel complete.

We started thinking of this as a checklist of sorts, of things we want to make sure to do this summer (things the kids want to do, too, of course!), but checklists (though we do love our checklists) have a way of imposing stress, somehow, and by nature require checking things off…and we don’t want this to end up as just one more thing added to the never-ending to-do list.

So…we came up with the idea of #simplesummerpleasures:

You might remember that we used to do #soulintheseason posts, and this idea is very much an extension of that. Some of the most joy-inducing parts of life are the seasonal shifts and traditions, anticipating them, savoring them, and looking back on them as fond memories. We want to be intentional about enjoying the seasons, but we want to keep it simple.

Below, we each describe a few of the simple things about summer that really make the season pleasurable, things we want to savor and experience before the days grow shorter and the usual grind of the fall begins.

Ember:

To me, summer is synonymous with slow. (Such a lofty goal, I know.) Slow, of course, is more what I wish summer would be, what I dream of summer being, even though it often isn’t. Inevitably, work speeds up for me in the summer months, rather than slowing down. (Luckily, my employer lets me work from home more in the summer, and so the lack of hustle every morning just to get out the door makes me feel like the pace is somewhat slower, even if the workload isn’t.)

The kids are out of school for the summer, and I’m so lucky to have a Mom who lives nearby and wants to spend time with my girls during the week. They take swimming lessons, go on walks, visit the library weekly to participate in the summer reading program, go to the beach, and just hang out and play outside. I have to admit, I feel quite a bit of Mommy guilt for not signing them up for more camps over the summer. The answer to that dreaded question from other parents, “What are your kids up to this summer?” seems like it shouldn’t be “Ummm…watching a lot of cartoons??” but, admittedly, there is some of that on lazy summer mornings, and if I’m being honest, I’m okay with it, even if it feels a bit under-achieving. For now, with my own 6- and 8-year-olds, at least, the “less is more” approach to summer fits the slower pace we all needed as we collapsed into summer after an arduous school year.

And with slow as my mantra, I’ve also tried not to go too crazy with scheduling up our weekends as a family. We’re fortunate to live in a tourist town that comes alive in the summer, near water, and so the need to leave on vacation just isn’t there. Simple activities like walking down to let the girls jump off the neighborhood docks to swim, anchoring in the bayou, driving 10 minutes to a Lake Michigan beach, having campfires with our neighbors on a random Friday night (S’mores and sparklers included), and eating grilled burgers, watermelon, berries, peaches, and garden tomatoes like it’s our job…these are all things that don’t require too much effort, planning, or running around…but they make summer really feel like summer to me.

Kate:

Growing up summer was my favorite time of year; school was out, which meant my mom was home, and the pool cover was off. I have vivid memories of eating lunch in wet swimsuits followed by games of Marco Polo and rounding out the afternoon with a treat of ice cream drumsticks nearly every. single. day. But it wasn’t just the swimming I loved, it was playing in the creek and swinging from the willow branches with our neighbors, going for bike rides, and catching fire flies to fill my bug jug. The days were long and simple and sweet.

It didn’t happen overnight, it was a slow, gradual shift, but over the years my perception about this season has changed and sadly, not for the better. Being in the construction industry work-wise, this is our busy season. Add baseball season on top of that and then remember that our “areas of maintenance” have now doubled as we include gardening and weeding and mowing to the weekly chores (ha! Weekly is sometimes a bit of a stretch around these parts) and oh yeah, that’s why I kind of dread this season; because no matter how hard I try, I can never keep up with it all. I went into this summer thinking it was going to be so much better, so much easier, since I’m no longer working, but that just hasn’t been the case, it’s been different, that’s for sure, but I wouldn’t say easier.

As I prepped for our week Up North at our family cabin and thought about the fact that when we got home the month of June would be over, I realized that if I’m not careful this whole season will be over before I know it. I made a conscious decision right then and there to savor every bit of the remainder of this season – to not only have ice cream but to enjoy my ice cream. At the cabin I watched my kids (and their cousins) jump from the dock with wild abandon, we kayaked and witnessed a blue heron take flight right before our eyes (to which Stella exclaimed, “Flamingo!”), and we listened to the loon call over the lake. One evening one of my boys said to me, “wow, the days feel so long up here!” I smiled and nodded my head in agreement – I knew exactly what he was talking about, long and simple and sweet.

BLT’s and watermelon for dinner, looking for constellations under the night sky, s’mores by the campfire, berry picking and pie making, and feeling the sand under my feet….there’s a good chance my garden is going to get weedier and my school room isn’t going to be completely organized before we dive into lessons again, but I’m not going to let that stop me from savoring what’s left of this season.

We’d love to hear what simple summer pleasures you’re currently enjoying, too! If you’re following us on instagram @thesunlitpath, use the hashtags #simplesummerpleasures and #soulintheseason so that we can see how you’re savoring your summer. Or, post a pic here on our Facebook page of your #simplesummerpleasures!

The 5-Word Prayer

My head and heart were conflicted.

As we walked out the front door after that first house tour, my heart was racing. Could this finally be the house? It felt like home as soon as we walked into the front entry that day, and I honestly hadn’t been expecting that. We’d already walked through so many homes—desperate to find one when our own house sold in only four days on the market—but we always left feeling defeated. The feeling was completely different today. Defeated? No. Hopeful? Definitely.

But why was I getting my hopes up? Just as soon as I let myself even think—hope—that this house was it, my brain kicked into high gear with all the reasons why it just wasn’t going to work out:

It was “too much house” for us. (We didn’t need that much space. Does anyone?)

It was too nice for us. (Who were we to deserve a nice house, anyway?)

Only a couple years earlier, we’d all but committed (or maybe resigned?) ourselves to staying put in our modest (yet perfectly adequate) split-level home, knowing that it’d be paid off in a few short years.

Were we prepared to give that up now? Did it really make financial sense for us to “upgrade”?

I turned to Drew, willing my feelings not to be written all over my face. (Those of you who know me well know what an impossible task that is, however. I don’t do poker faces.)

“What’d you think?” I asked, tentatively.

He didn’t say much at first, which was different than the typical response. After the last few showings, he’d basically just said, “Nope, not it.” And for the most part, I agreed with him. There was always something that felt like a deal-breaker in the houses we’d seen so far. Knowing that no house would be perfect, I was starting to feel a little frantic, maybe even a little resentful of Drew’s consistent “Nope” responses.

With the closing on our own house looming, I started to become fearful that we’d have to secure temporary housing somewhere before we found the house we were ultimately supposed to buy.

I started to doubt that selling our house—our beloved house of 11 years, the house we struggled to conceive and fervently prayed for babies in, mourned our lost babies in, and finally brought our babies home to—was already promised to another growing family, and in a few weeks time, we’d be without a home.

I’d been the one who suggested putting our house on the market in the first place. Even though our house was fine, I was becoming weary of our tiny shared bathroom upstairs, the lack of storage in our kitchen, always feeling cramped when we had people over. The bedrooms were small, and as the girls grew out of their cribs and toddler beds, it became clear that their rooms wouldn’t accommodate much more than the bare essentials.

Knowing that the market had improved from a few years earlier when we’d tried to sell our house during our brief stint in Kalamazoo, I contacted a realtor and asked her to give us an idea of what our house was worth in the current market. Her answer was what cinched the deal for me—I was ready to sign on the dotted line and get it listed after our first meeting.

Now I was experiencing regret over being so hasty. Our home was all but sold, but there was no house we loved enough to commit to. I felt as though I’d made a rash decision, possibly hadn’t prayed about it enough. Had the Lord really been leading us to move, or had I made a huge mistake going down this path? Had the prospect of it being “a good time to sell” clouded the only real opinion that mattered: whether it was God’s will for us?

“I don’t know, Em,” Drew replied, interrupting my thoughts.

“Yeah…” I nodded, knowing what was coming next.

“This might be it,” he finished.

I looked him straight in the eyes to make sure he wasn’t messing with me, but all I saw there was sincerity. “Really?” I replied, doubtful.

“You don’t think so?” he said.

“I mean, I love it,” I admitted. “But it’s too much…isn’t it?”

“Probably,” he nodded.

Our realtor walked over to us just then. “What’d you think, guys?” she asked.

We both looked at each other, and in the next moment said, “We should probably put an offer on it.”

The next few days were a blur of negotiations. The night before our last counter-offer was submitted, I couldn’t sleep.

I sat out in our living room in the dark by myself, watching the familiar shadows of the trees outside dance across the far wall. Tears streamed down my face as my head and heart duked it out inside me.

I still wasn’t completely sure that buying this house was the right thing. Sure, we wanted it. It was as close as any of the houses we’d seen to checking off all the boxes, it was in a location we loved, and (most importantly) Drew and the girls and I were all excited about it and agreed that it felt like home.

At the same time, I felt a lot of guilt. Hadn’t I said to friends and acquaintances many times that living a simpler life was my goal? How was buying a larger, nicer house in line with that goal? Was I just being greedy and getting caught up in the rat race?

I picked up my phone and called Kate, crying.

“Are you okay?” she asked, concerned. (In retrospect, she probably thought someone was hurt based on how I sounded.)

“I just don’t know if we’re supposed to get this house,” I wailed. “I feel like a fraud. I love it, but I don’t deserve it. I’ve always said we don’t need something this nice, but I can’t help myself. Something about it just feels right. Am I a horrible person?”

“No,” she replied. “Of course not. But if you truly feel this conflicted, why don’t you pray about it? You know, bless it or block it?”

I sniffed, reaching for a tissue. “Yeah…” I replied. “That’s exactly what I need to do. Thanks, hon.”

After I hung up, I prayed and basically asked the Lord to have the deal fall apart if we weren’t supposed to go down this path. If it was His will, I asked that the deal would go through smoothly without further negotiations.

The next morning, our final counter-offer was accepted.

I knew, then, that I had to have faith that our path forward would be blessed, because it certainly hadn’t been blocked.

This coming Memorial Day weekend we’ll celebrate our two-year anniversary in this house. Our move to this house, which has truly felt like home from the start, has been a blessing in so many ways. We love our neighborhood. We’ve met so many wonderful people, made good friends, and the kids always seem to have other kids to play with and are mostly free to roam, as kids should. I’ve become involved with a women’s Bible Study in the neighborhood, and it has been a wonderful source of fellowship and support to me.

Even though my head never completely reconciled some of the more practical concerns over our move (or worrying about what others would think about it, if I’m being honest), I know that those aren’t the only factors that go into decision-making. If we had weighted our decision purely on what our heads were telling us, we may not have moved forward with buying this house.

And the thought of that, now knowing all of the blessings that have come along with the move, helps me remember that sometimes this simple 5-word prayer is all we can really do when our heads and hearts are at odds.

Who am I now?

I am sitting in the chair nearest the window when she swings the door hastily open and comes bustling through. The salon is downtown and has been beautifully remodeled to have an urban, modern feel but the building itself is older and the door has a push button handle and creaks loudly, boldly announcing the arrival of new clients. She is wearing heels and a navy skirt suit and her hands are overflowing – a brief case and purse in one and a laptop computer in the other –  but despite juggling all of these while also trying to command the door, she is in complete control.

“I’m sorry I’m late.” She announces and then takes a deep breath, “I came straight from work.”

We never really mean to eavesdrop at the salon, do we? But it seems the close proximity of chairs makes it nearly impossible not to.  As she sits down with her stylist I hear all about her day full of meetings and presentations for clients. The longer I listen the lower I feel myself sink into my own chair.

I am now one week out of work, one week into my dream job as a stay-at-home mom and I am more confused than ever. There was once a time, not so very long ago, that I thought I would be that women in the salon – the career woman in the business suit juggling many things at once and seemingly doing it with ease. I look at myself in the mirror, half my head covered in tin foil, and wonder frantically in my mind, “Who am I now?”

**

I hadn’t realized how much my identity had been tied up in my career and I was completely unprepared for the onslaught of feelings I was going to have when I could no longer say I was a working mom. Being able to stay home with the kids is what I have been dreaming about for so long but now that it’s finally here I’m so bewildered, instead of rejoicing I feel like I am mourning the sudden loss of a life-long friend. I feel like a part of me has been ripped away….a part of me I didn’t even realize I was grasping onto so tightly.

**

I stop at Target on my way home from my appointment because I need diapers and office supplies – it is a quick stop as my time limit is about up, the baby will be hungry soon. As I am hurrying down the aisle a display on the end cap catches my eye – it is an office name plate that reads “The Future is Female” and on the shelf just below it sits a coffee mug that says “Strong Like Mom.”

My cart comes to an abrupt halt the second I read the words. I picture my daughter, Stella, as the voice in my head utters to her with a condescending tone, “Except not your mom.”

“Am I weak? Is that who I am now?” I think to myself. “The woman that couldn’t handle working and raising kids? The woman who tried to juggle a million things but instead of balancing them perfectly – like the lady in the salon – she dropped nearly every ball she had in the air. Does walking away from the working world make me weak?”

I push the words down and my cart away, refusing to let the anxiety rising in my chest get the best of me in the office supply aisle at Target, but the thought lingers.

**

“Do you think I’m weak, now?” I blurt out as soon as I step in the back door. Collin looks utterly confused at the question. “What? No. What are you talking about?” He asks as he trades me bags for a baby.

The boys are roller blading around the couch and the sound of their wheels reverberating on the hard wood floor amplifies the overall noise level as they laugh and yell out “Hi Mom!”

Stella comes running from the school room exclaiming “Mama Hoooome!”

The baby is giggling and kicking in my arms.

It is the most welcomed sight, really, and one that should instantly snap me out of my despair but that nagging question is just still there, still pulling at my heart…”who am I now?”

**

The baby and I retreat to the back of the house; he’s hungry and if I can find just a bit of quiet maybe I can continue my soul searching.  As I sit down in the brown rocker in the nursery I close my eyes and ask God for an answer to my question.

I feel so deflated and my ego could really use a boost. I hope that He will pour accolades into my heart – that He will tell me I’m strong and capable, worthy and successful.

With my elbow propped on the chair I rest my head in my hand and I hear His answer:

You are my daughter.

Those four words rolled around in my head for several days as I tried to make sense of them; it wasn’t at all the response I was looking for – I wanted some recognition and assurance that He has grand plans for me. But after some contemplation what I have come to realize is that the answer I received is so much better than the praises I was looking for and in my heart I have found a deep sense of peace.

You too, my friend, are a daughter of God. What does that mean to you? I would encourage you to let those four words roll around in your head and nestle into your heart.

 

Resurrection

Happy (belated) Easter!

What a beautiful season of renewal this time of year can be for us.  How fitting that the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection comes just as nature ushers in new life all around us. While Mother Nature lovingly blanketed us with a fresh coat of snow this past week, I do believe Spring is right around the corner. Before this latest round of winter weather the robins had returned, the grass was ever so slowly turning green, and, dare-say, I expect we’ll see the first signs of flowers budding sooner than we think. After the long inhale of fall and winter, the drawing in and hunkering down, this season of new growth and new life, this exhale, makes us want to jump for joy.

For various reasons life hasn’t allowed Ember and I to frequent this space for quite some time, nearly two years; but after much prayer and consideration, we have felt the Lord calling us back here. We have felt His urging of a revival, a resurrection, of this site. It brings us joy to think about writing here again, to once again share our walk down The Sunlit Path with you, but we realized that before we dig back in we should first share with you some of the twists and turns our Paths have taken over the past two years…..


KATE:

Photo Credit: Van Dreel Photography

When I left off here I was a newly minted mom of four. Shortly after our daughter was born we decided to take a leap of faith and homeschool our boys despite the fact that I had to return to work following maternity leave and didn’t know when, or if, I’d ever be able to step out of the working world.

I won’t sugar coat things, these past two years of working full-time and homeschooling have been tough – both physically and mentally. But not a day went by that I didn’t think it was worth it; sometimes the Lord asks us to do hard things. Sometimes, He asks us to do hard things even when we don’t see how they will possibly work. Sometimes he asks us to take a leap of faith and trust.

What I’ve learned over these past two years is that if we are willing to say “Yes” to His requests He will supply us with the grace needed to persevere through challenging circumstances. And when He adds more to your plate, like, say, a pregnancy, He’ll carry you through that too.

Yes! That’s right! I am now a newly minted mom of five.  We welcomed Sayer Dennis, our fourth little boy, into the world on a foggy night in November. He has been the perfect addition to our family and our hearts could not be any fuller.

This most recent maternity leave also brought with it a major change for our family. Last summer it was announced that the company I worked for was going to be acquired. My initial reaction to this news was panic; I was shocked and fear-stricken. What would this mean for our family? But almost as quick as the fear came, it left and I felt a sense of peace completely consume me. I knew what it meant almost instantly and while it was scary (it is still scary) I am choosing to trust in the Lord. Deep in my heart I’ve always known that this would happen in His timing, and under His circumstances, not mine. As of April 1st, I can now share with you that I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling, mom of five.

I am so looking forward to being able to pour my heart and energy completely into educating my kids and helping Collin run our family business. And while we have abandoned our plans to sell our house, because we finally realized that was not where God was calling us (at least not right now), we do have plans to start a little farm and orchard right here, right where we are.

I’m still not exactly sure what our future looks like but I do know I’m excited for it and I’m excited to share our journey with you once again.


EMBER:

Photo Credit: Olivia Mundwiler Photography

To the outside observer, it would appear that not much has changed for me in the two years since Kate and I regularly wrote here on The Sunlit Path. No change of job situation, no new additions to our family. The biggest notable outward changes would probably be us moving to a new house and neighborhood almost two years ago (which has turned out to be such a blessing…more on that in a future post) and the fact that both our girls are now in elementary school full-time (my youngest started kindergarten this year, and this Mama is still coming to terms with that…).

But if you were to dig a little deeper, on the inside, I would say that I feel worlds apart from the frantic woman of two years ago (this post is a good example of my struggle, feeling like I was never doing “enough” as a wife, mother, employee, etc.), while re-adjusting to being back to work full-time, and not entirely confident that I’d made the right decision for our family in doing so.

These days, sure, there still exists the “daily grind” routine of getting the girls out the door to the bus stop on time, the 45 minute commute to and from work, helping with the girls’ homework and getting them to their extra-curricular activities, then getting up the next day and doing it all again…

…but there’s also a lot less hustling, flailing, despite not being any less busy “on paper”. Something somewhere along the way shifted inside of me, and I know that shift is entirely the Lord’s doing–I can take no credit for it.

Something I’ve struggled with my entire life is feeling inherently worthy–just for being me. I worked so hard in school and my extra-curricular activities, always trying to get to a place where I was worthy of praise, and I learned early on that doing the right things (good grades, awards, looking a certain way, etc.) won me that admiration. If I were to relax–stop trying so hard just for a second–I believed the praise (the love) would disappear. If I wasn’t good, didn’t excel, didn’t fit in…what good was I?

Two years ago when I wrote that post, I was still very much caught up in such works–on whether I was doing the right things, doing enough things, or doing anything well enough–and when I wasn’t (which was most days), I would unravel into a shame spiral.

One book in particular, Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect, helped me start to break free from that unhealthy pattern of trying-failing-shaming. In the book, Shauna talks about how, as someone who never saw herself as particularly pretty or overly brilliant, her ability to be a “workhorse”–someone that could always be counted on to say “yes” and get things done–became her calling card. If she couldn’t be counted on as that person who dug in and did ALL THE THINGS, then who was she? What made her valuable–worthy of being loved?

Whoa. Could I ever relate to that thought process. I had become so entangled in whether or not I was living up to other people’s standards, or my own unrealistic standards, that I couldn’t reconcile the inevitable failure to meet any of them.

I needed a reminder of God’s grace, of His unconditional love. That I was worthy, not because of anything I have done, but because of God’s selfless gift to humanity–dying for our sins on the cross–an act that still takes my breath away during this Resurrection season.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

Jesus loves all of us, just as we are. Not because of our beauty or goodness or intelligence or righteousness. As sinners, we all will fall short if we were loved based only on the standards of this world.

All He desires of us is our time and hearts. He wants us to commune with him daily–to read His word and pray, so that we are walking with him on the path. I don’t always succeed at this, either–but I certainly notice a difference in how I view the world around me when I’m focusing on the present moment and my daily walk, not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, or getting caught up with what the spectators along the way may think.

Some days, something will happen that sends me down that all-too-familiar shame spiral again. It may be dwelling on something I screwed up, or an event that catapults me into a frenzy of worry. It is so hard to pull out of those dark places–mind and heart racing, stomach dropping, breath catching. I can feel myself tumble down, and I know I need to step back, start to pray for Him to help pull me out of it, and trust


We both believe that the idea for The Sunlit Path didn’t come from ourselves. We knew we wanted to start a collaborative blog where both of us could write about our daily lives as mothers, our dreams for the future, and how our faith continues to evolve and shape how we make decisions that affect the course of our lives. Somewhere in the midst of our brainstorming and plans, the purpose of The Sunlit Path presented itself to us:

Life’s journey is not what we expected. We can’t plan too far ahead–can’t see beyond that next bend in the road–as much as our Type A personalities keep trying.

 

This winding, branching path called life has taken us many places. And we’ve been down some dark, desolate stretches.

 

But along the way we’ve discovered that as we step back and trust in God’s plan for our lives, our next steps forward are illuminated in His timing.

The idea was illuminated in our minds when we stepped back and prayed about what God wanted us to focus on in our writing.

We still believe in this purpose, and want to continue to explore it and reinforce it in our own lives. We hope that you’ll come and walk with us as we “resurrect” The Sunlit Path and get back to sharing in this space what we feel as though the Lord has laid on our hearts.

Letting the Light Be My Guide

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Sunlit Path the past few weeks. In many ways I’ve been resigned for quite some time to the fact that I just don’t have the time to post here much anymore, ever since returning to work full-time and experiencing all the craziness that comes along with working for a start-up.

But I’ve been involved in a neighborhood Bible study since the beginning of this year, and it has been such a blessing to me. I’ve appreciated meeting with a group of women who have also been craving the fellowship of others, digging into scripture, and seeking to understand how it applies to our lives as wives, mothers, grandmothers, employees, or volunteers. Hearing the perspectives of others on a passage of scripture can be so helpful in illuminating its meaning in our own minds and hearts.

One recent passage we studied really resonated with me, because it reminded me so much of the underlying idea Kate and I had when we were first dreaming up this blog. A few weeks ago, we were studying John 1:1-9 and 8:12. In these verses, there were many references to Jesus as the Light:

“In him was life, and that life was the light of mankind.” – John 1:4

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” – John 8:12

Before we met as a group, I spent time on my own reading the verses. I wanted to step back and think of light and darkness in the most simple terms:

We know that light allows us to see, while darkness prevents us from seeing.

Most of us will search for a light when it’s dark, hoping that we’ll be able to see the way in front of us when we find one. If we fumble around, unable to find a light, we know what usually happens: We can’t see the way ahead; we might trip, stumble, or fall.

As I reflected on these verses each day, the word “guide” kept coming to mind. If Jesus is our Light, then He is also our Guide, right? He will illuminate our path and help prevent us from stumbling around in the darkness.

At a time when it feels like so much darkness surrounds us, I’m feeling more than ever how important it is to keep the Light (my Guide) near me at all times, holding on to it tightly, so that the darkness doesn’t overtake me.

The darkness exists right there on the edges of the path, and I have often wandered down side paths that may seem in line with my Guide’s intent at first, but as the light faded the further I ventured on my own, I began to realize that I must have strayed too far. At some point I stopped keeping my eyes firmly affixed to the Source of the Light and trusted my own vision, short-sighted as it is.

These past few months I have been reminded yet again that the more time I spend studying the Word—holding tight and keeping my eyes fixed on the Light—the less likely I am to wander off-path.

A difference in the air

I feel it the moment I open the laundry room door and step onto the stoop, an ever-so-slight difference in the air. Collin just got home, another late evening, the kids and I have already eaten dinner and the boys are busy telling him about their day and begging him to look for the walkie-talkies. Stella is tucked in her highchair banging her sippy cup and randomly squealing with delight – she likes to be a part of the action too.  Collin tries to eat a taco while talking to the baby and acknowledging the urgency in finding those hand-held gadgets; they are all distracted and it’s a perfect time for me to step outside to take the morning’s laundry down.

The yard is still and the quiet that surrounds me is in stark contrast to the bubbling energy inside – I can actually hear myself think. As I pinch the hooks to release the shirts I realize the clothes on the far east end of the line are in the shade; just last week at this same time at night it was still full sun back here. I ponder this as the clothes whip about in the breeze; a breeze that has just a sliver of a bite to it.

As I fold the last pair of pants I look up and see my hanging basket; the only yellow set of flowers in a sea of pinks and purples this year. It’s in rough shape, the very tippy top has a bit of luscious green with a flower or two blooming (thanks to the recent rain) but the majority of the branches are brown and shriveled. It looks like a bad haircut. “Ha! Mullets aren’t very becoming on plants,” I muse to myself. Watering plants was the one outside chore I tried to keep up on this summer but in the last few weeks I’ve let the rain take care of business and quite honestly, if it doesn’t rain I don’t plan to put much more effort into this task – I see the mums are already making their debut in the nurseries, it’s probably time for these impatiens to slip quietly into the night anyway. Next to the basket hangs the Oriole feeder; the remnants of dried up oranges and sticky jelly are screaming to be cleaned and the feeder put away for the season. We never had any more orioles after the last fill, just bumble bees.

I head inside to round up the troops and the dog slips out the door with them so I put her on the leash and try my best to maneuver her and the stroller.  The big boys ride their bikes in front of me and then turn their heads nearly 180 degrees in order to shout out questions  – “IS THIS THE ONE WITH THE DEER?? Does it have a GIRAFFE?” I plan to take them to the zoo up North on Friday and they are trying to remember all the details from their last visit.

Out of nowhere Nolan comes careening in from behind us –  his bike is neon orange and his helmet has three inch green spikes in the shape of a mohawak –  you really can’t miss him and as he catches up to his brothers the three of them ride off in a hurry to the end of the cul-de-sac. I breathe in the air slowly, letting it fill my lungs, and then exhale ever so gently; an evening walk is a luxury the summer months simply didn’t allow and I don’t want to take even a second of it for granted.

This summer has been….full, hectic, intense. I always feel a bit out of whack during the rush of the summer and between the boys sports schedules, work deadlines, and engagements that filled up weekends and sometimes required travel, this summer has been no different. Most of the season felt like an arduous swim upstream and a portion of it felt like out right drowning. But in the last few nights I have felt the shift – schedules are easing and a new, slower, rhythm is starting to emerge. We haven’t delved back in to school yet but that is coming soon and I think we’re all anxious for the return of the routine. Yes, there is a slight difference in the air, one that always seems to come at this time of year, and I’m welcoming it with open arms….hello, September.

Walking by Faith

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Early November 2015

It’s early November, the leaves are all but gone, the air is beginning to turn frigid and I’m running a solid 40 minutes late because I forgot how long it takes to get out of the house with a newborn. I send a text to let the girls know I’m on my way and they respond “no problem, we haven’t even started yet.”

I tuck the book we’ll be discussing, along with a couple of diapers and wipes, in my little yellow and gray chevron bag – a makeshift diaper bag. I could pull out my real diaper bag but Stella is only a bit over a week old and to be honest it hasn’t quite hit me yet that we are back in diaper-bag land. The book is Walking with Mary: A Biblical Journey from Nazareth to the Cross; I’m only a couple of chapters in but am in love with it all ready. Not only does the hardcover and slightly textured book jacket feel good in my hands after reading so many paperbacks in a row but the words have been speaking directly to my heart, forcing me to more deeply consider the Lord’s will for my life and our family….

“Although walking with God in faith can be a thrilling adventure, it also has some unsettling elements. If we truly allow him to guide our lives, we will be challenged to step out into the unknown, give up control, and rely more completely on him. And that is not something we easily do.” ~Edward Sri

We’ve been contemplating this decision for months, no….it’s been longer than that, much longer…years…our hearts already know the answer but our heads are hung up on the how. How would this possibly work? The logistics of it don’t make sense to me and yet each day the pull from my heart is stronger and stronger. We’ve talked to a few friends and family about it, but up until this point have been mostly cautious about saying too much—lest anyone think we’ve lost our mind—and I remind myself as I put the key in the ignition that this is not the place to bring up the discussion.

Mandi made muffins and coffee and as I settle in on the couch, baby in one arm and book in the other, we chat about a myriad of things: birth experiences, the age our babies crawled, and the local coffee shop before starting our book discussion. We keep an eye on the clock because most of us have preschoolers to pick up at 11, but we delve in.

“Kate, is there something you feel God is calling you to do?”

I berate myself before the words even come out of my mouth—Why am I such an open book?—but I blurt them out nonetheless: “I think God’s calling us to home school.” But I don’t stop there; I share it all, as I’m known to do, and tell them how I just don’t know how this would work. I’m not in a position to quit my job, how could I possibly handle both?

I look up and expect to see blank stares; these are, after all, mothers of my children’s classmates, but the reception my confession gets is the farthest thing from a blank stare.

“I’ve considered it.”

“I have neighbors that home school; it can be such a beautiful life.”

And it’s these words that will ring in my ears for the coming weeks: “God only asks us to take one step at a time.”

I had never considered it before, but those words made me realize that maybe, just maybe, if we are willing to take this step, God will open up doors for us, doors that seem impossible to imagine right now. Maybe even a door that would allow me to step back or out of work entirely. But, if we are unwilling to take this step, we’ll never know.


Late December 2015

 It’s the week before Christmas and our house is twinkling with lights and there are carols being played over the TV: Channel 811, even the kids choose it over cartoons these days. I read the text and laugh a little because I can relate: “Can I drop this food off at your house? I’m afraid if we keep it much longer we’ll end up eating it.”

She leaves her car running as she runs to the door with a grocery bag full of food. In addition to the casserole she brought raviolis, cans of soup, and breakfast bars. It’s clear that her youngest is still under a year; she vividly remembers what moms of newborns need to have on hand: quick meals and snacks.

We try to keep the conversation short as my boys would like nothing more than for her kids to get out of the car and play, but I fill her in on where we are: We took the boys out of school for the 10 days leading up to Christmas break, a dry-run if you will. And inevitably the words come pouring out….I just don’t know how it will work.

Jess is a woman of faith, one who has leapt, even when she cannot see, and her words resonate with me: “Maybe he is asking you to take a leap of faith.”

A leap of faith. I contemplate this in the days to come. Where might this jump take us if only we are willing to say yes to the request?


January 6, 2016

The baby has just gone down for a nap, so we send the boys outside to play while Collin and I tear through the pantry: organizing food, wiping down shelves, cleaning drawers…deep-cleaning a room that has been neglected for way too long, and doing it as quickly as possible because nap time only lasts about three hours.

I didn’t hear it ring, but my phone lights up as the voicemail buzzes in. It’s Mandi and she wants to know if we are home, she has a package to drop off. I smile because it’s my birthday, and I know full well the “package” she speaks of is really a present.

When she arrives I invite her in, out of the January cold, and we talk for a bit. I tell her how it went, breaking the news with the boys’ teachers and principal. It has been two days since we officially pulled them out of school. In my eyes I can start to feel the tears welling up again, as they did just two days ago. We loved the kids’ school. We loved their teachers and classmates; we had no complaints, which makes explaining our decision to others even harder. There was nothing wrong with our current situation, per se, except that it wasn’t where we felt God was leading us. But we are far from having it all figured it, and every day I have to stop myself from being overwhelmed by the how. How will this possibly work when I have to return to work?

She hands me the gift bag that says “Party like it’s your Birthday!” and inside is a mug and journal. The mug is blue and it’s one of those shorter, rounder ones and I can imagine retiring with it at the end of the day, tea in hand. As I flip the journal over in my hands the read the inscription it takes my breath away, there on the cover is an ombre blue and teal tree with gold lettering, the word Faith stands out like a beacon.

“I will walk by Faith even when I cannot see.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:7

I clutch it to my chest and tell her it is perfect.


April 2016

It’s been over three months now and I’ve been back to work for over two. “How is this working?” my mom has asked me more than once. I laugh every time the question comes up because the truth is, three months in I still don’t really know how, but somehow it is. We take it day-by-day, moment-by-moment…..I pray, a lot. Haha, I often say that tongue-in-cheek, but I actually mean it quite literally. I frequently ask the Lord to give me the grace to make it through this moment, just this one… this moment, this circumstance and you know what… He has.

That being said, we’re about to have another transition as building season is upon us and Collin is gearing up for a busy summer. That’s wonderful! We are so grateful for the work, but it has had me wondering again, how will this work?

What I have come to realize is that I’m not supposed to know how; I’m simply supposed to trust that it will. I’m supposed to trust and walk by faith, even when I can not see.

Enough

So.

I would like to write a blog post here that somehow brings you up-to-speed on my life over the past few months, but that also leaves you feeling some sort of peace or inspiration afterwards. That’s what I’ve always hoped to do here on The Sunlit Path: to uplift or encourage you, dear readers, if I can. As well as myself.

Unfortunately, I appear incapable of writing anything these days that isn’t directly related to the unending list of work deliverables piled up in front of me (and believe me, it is actually a lot of writing…it’s just a very different kind of writing).

So.

That leaves me feeling like I should apologize. Across the board…and to everyone.

“I’m sorry…have we not met? I’m Ember. Let me just start right off by apologizing for any future things I will not do well enough.”

An apology for the Mom I am not, the Employee I am not, the Wife I am not, the Daughter I am not…the Sister I am not…the Friend I am not…

I don’t have a lot of time and space in my life right now for inspiration. (Can you tell?)

I want to change that. I do. I just don’t know how.

I keep trying to do just that—to find pockets of time in my day to sit with myself and be—but it feels forced. It usually happens around 10 p.m. at night…after a full day of drop-offs and commutes, errands and conference calls, hours spent at the computer —trying to make sense out of chaos, dinner-making and homework overseeing, baths-books-bedtime, and even a return to work responsibilities for an hour or two, before I flip that switch over to “me” time.

Lately, by then that “me” time consists of reading a few pages of my book, checking out what I missed all day on social media, maybe watching a show, then stumbling to bed.

Ta da.

Don’t you feel inspired? Uplifted? I have so much to give lately.

I’d love to be able to share with you all about how well I’m balancing it all, and feeling great about it. “I’m figuring it out, you guys!” Except…you know I’ve written before about how I believe balance is a fallacy.

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To be honest, these days I mostly just feel tired. And apologetic. Cut off from my family and friends (but oh-so-grateful for the work friends who have become like family to me). Accomplishing what I need to do for work, thankfully, even if it’s kicking my ass, but then holding on so tight to those precious little girls of mine in the evenings. Nodding and smiling wryly at my understanding husband as we share the details of our work days. Hoping that those brief moments with the ones I love are enough.

They don’t feel like enough.

I don’t feel like enough.

But, for now, it’s going to have to be…good enough.

Not Yet

I tuck my leg up under me as I sit down on the couch. Now that she is a bit older and it doesn’t take quite as much concentration I no longer have to retreat to the rocker to nurse her. As I cradle my daughter in my arms my two big boys are on the floor beneath me carving shapes into boxes they found in the wood room—boxes and now shreds of boxes that will eventually be used as fire starters. Their younger brother, who’s not old enough for a pocket knife—not even the My First Pocket Knife his two siblings got for Christmas and their birthday—lies on his belly with his chin propped in his hands.  He watches the carving intently and jumps at the chance to pick up scraps and put them in the wood box.

“I don’t want to go back to work!” My mind screams.

I have two weeks left, two weeks left of twelve.  I took the full twelve, even if it wasn’t the best decision financially, because I knew full well that I wouldn’t be ready mentally or emotionally to head back at six, eight, nine… or ten.

But the truth is I won’t be ready at twelve either.

I won’t be ready because nothing has changed since I wrote this post last January in which I declared my number one goal for 2015 to become a stay-at-home mom. What I didn’t state in that post is that my number one goal was really to become a stay-at-home-homeschooling mom. I wasn’t ready to announce that to the world in its entirety, but now the world knows because at the beginning of 2016, the homeschooling mom part went from dream to reality.

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I don’t want to go back to work.

Part of its nerves: how will I balance working full-time while also being solely responsible for my children’s education?  Of course, I use the word solely loosely; it will be a joint effort between Collin and me and those who have offered to help. But most of it is simply this: the deepest desire of heart is still, and I suspect ever will be, to be a stay-at-home mom.

My eyes well up with tears as I tilt the baby up to burp her and watch the boys below, still carving away.

Not yet.

I hear the two words in my heart clear as a bell, a God whisper.  Not yet.

In two weeks time our family is going to embark on one of our most difficult journeys yet.  It won’t be easy, this working and homeschooling thing. I know that, but unfortunately staying home full-time just isn’t an option right now…not yet.

My oldest holds up a box carving, “Look mom, a great horned owl!” and I smile because I realize not yet doesn’t mean not ever.

A Special Place

We returned from our family vacation “Up North” a little over a week ago now, and I wanted to share a little something here about our time away.

What I was really hoping to do is write something during vacation and post it from Mackinaw City. The beach house we rented outside of town doesn’t have Wi-Fi (a blessing when you’re trying to unplug), so my grandiose plan was to rise early before my husband, kids, and the sun and do a little writing out in one of the adirondack chairs on the back deck while facing the lapping waves of Lake Michigan…slowly watching the sun start to illuminate the grass, then sand, then water, as its soft glow expanded from east to west. Then I’d pack up my laptop, throw on a baseball cap, and run (not actually) into town to the 3-story Starbucks and luxuriate in the warm and sweet froth of my frou-frou latte while logging in to post what I’d written. And then I’d somehow sneak back to the beach house before everyone else awoke. Mommy rules!

Ha! How idyllic that sounds. And how naive I unswervingly remain despite my continual failure to accomplish anything remotely resembling these daydreams. If there were an award for over-inflated expectations, I would be the champion!

Also, let’s face it: I’m not a morning person. I keep filling my head with these cute and quaint scenarios of “making the most” of a quiet hour or two before the candor and chaos of the kids waking up, but the fact of the matter is, two things make the possibility of the aforementioned scenario highly unlikely:

  • My 3-year-old is a bonafide Pop-tart. (Translation: she literally “pops” up out of bed by 6 a.m., give or take, raring to go, and chattery as hell, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.)
  • I am a night-owl. Rarely do I fall asleep before midnight. My brain usually pops on at about 9 p.m. and goes places I wish it would leave for tomorrow right when I’m trying to wind down for the evening.

So, for the sake of comparison, it’s really only fair to describe an actual typical morning while we were on vacation:

“Mommy, I awake!!!”

Little feet pad across the bedroom floor. Lily has let herself into the master bedroom at the beach house. As I groan inwardly, I’m suddenly re-thinking our bright idea to leave that wicker chair next to the ungodly-high full-size bed in the bedroom next to ours (where Lil’s been sleeping) so that she doesn’t knock herself out while climbing down.

She starts grunting and struggling to pull herself up onto our also-higher-than-normal bed, grasping at the duvet and pulling it off me. I’m already shivering from the breeze blowing in off the Lake from the open windows, which I’ve been too lazy to get up and close. The blast of cold is a bit shocking as I struggle to pull the duvet back around myself.

I hungry!Can I play your tablet?We should go downstairs now!Can you make pancakes?I gotta go potty!Will you read me this book?Are we going to the island today?Mommy, your hair looks CRAZY right now!” A million questions and declarations spill forth from her mouth all at once.

I groan and turn over, trying to block little fingers from poking at my eyes, nose, cheeks…wherever she can try to peck at and get me to acknowledge her presence and open my eyes.

Drew groans and turns over. “Shhh!” he says, then returns to snoring.

I reach for my tablet to let her play games while I try to grab a few more winks, but I knock my journal off the nightstand in the process. Guilt ensues. I groan again. Oh yeah, I was going to get up and WRITE this morning. Hahahahaha…the best laid plans…

So much for that.


In all seriousness, though, our vacation was really great. Idyllic morning aspirations aside, I think we all had a nice mix of just-relaxing-on-the-beach days and getting-out-and-about-to-explore days. I was joking with a friend before we left that vacation for us = moving the whining and fighting approximately 4 hours north for the week, and while that is still absolutely a true statement, we desperately needed, and benefited from, a change of scenery and schedule for the week.

The scenery, by the way? Can you believe this view? I never, ever got tired of it.

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Inspiring, isn’t it?

So inspiring, in fact, that this is the place that originally spurred the idea for The Sunlit Path two years ago. There really is something about the tranquility and beauty of this place that makes just about anything seem possible. The spark of an idea for a combined writing space slowly evolved and took shape during that first year after our joint family vacation, and last year at this time we went live, sharing The Sunlit Path with our family and friends. Although our lives don’t allow us to write here nearly as often as our hearts desire, we are so grateful for this space, and for you…our readers!

We missed having Kate and her family join us at the beach house this year, but as vacation drew nearer, it became quite clear that Kate would need to stick close to home in an effort to keep Baby Stella tucked safely inside her for as long as possible. #stayputstella

The beach house, and the Mackinac area in general, will always hold a special place in our hearts, both for the memories we made there during our first extended stay two years ago, and now because of new memories we made this year as a family.

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