Effort and Mercy

I sit on the couch at the moment, something I don’t usually do during school hours, but today is different.  It’s day three of sick children home from school, day three of life in two worlds as we keep the healthy ones moving and nurse the sick ones on the couch.  This means, of course, more time sitting, holding, reading than I usually do.  It’s also provided time to think and for that I am grateful.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog lately, about why it is that I seem to have lost my voice, why so often I sit down to write a post and never publish it.  I’ve been writing here for 4.5 years now and it’s been such a blessing in my life.  One of those blessings has been the process of “finding my voice.”  Yet as this calendar year has progressed, I find myself sharing less of life and mostly posting pictures of my sewing.  While I love quilting and it makes me giddy to be part of that online community, there is a part of my heart that weeps a little at the clamps that seem to be on my heart when it’s time to type.  I have always felt a desire to use my blog to encourage myself and others and I feel I’m failing in this goal.


Yesterday I had a telephone conversation with someone who helped resolve a problem facing one of my children and as I hung up the phone I was amazed by the outcome.  I wondered how it was that things could be so simply solved, aware that a more difficult solution would have been just, wondering if perhaps a dis-service was being done my child through an easy resolution.  Until I remembered reading this quote last week:

“No human face is exactly the same in its lines on each side, no leaf perfect in its lobes, no branch in its symmetry.  All admit irregularity as they imply change; and to banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality.

All things are literally better, lovelier, and more beloved for the imperfections which have been divinely appointed, that the law of human life may be Effort, and the law of human judgment, Mercy.

– John Ruskin (emphasis added) I walked through my kitchen as that last word struck me profoundly.  Mercy.  The power of it and a sense of what a gift it is rushed through me and all my wondering was replaced with profound gratitude for mercy expended in my child’s direction.  A heartfelt desire to have that gift for me, as well, followed closely on its heels.

I’ve always known that our family is full of imperfections, but somehow believed that by the time they were grown we would have managed to overcome the worst of them.  This week my oldest son started a new job and not seeing him for 12 or more hours each day has been strange.  It has also helped me identify something I’ve been struggling with, something which has contributed greatly to the clamps that have silenced me so much.  It’s sobering, humbling, and a little bit frightening to be so near the point of sending a child out into the world, an “adult”, realizing that you probably won’t overcome or fix everything you wanted to master while they are still at home and under your influence.  The continued struggle and ongoing battles have made me quiet.  I question myself more, not because my values or beliefs are at risk, but because I don’t know how to make someone different of myself when all I have is me to work with.  This year my imperfections have felt like my enemies rather than things that make life better, lovelier or more beloved.  I have felt discouraged when my efforts seem to bring no material change.  I have recognized I’m in the middle of an ongoing but largely imperceptible transformation and the slowness of it has made me almost desperate with frustration.  I feel like I have little to add to life’s conversation because all I really know is “get up and try again tomorrow and try to believe that in another 20 years you will see a difference.”  And this, while my children grow at warp speed.

These words keep playing in my heart:

“that the law of human life may be Effort, and the law of human judgment, Mercy.”

I am good at effort.  I can do that.   I will work at mercy, as the tiny taste I had yesterday was so delicious to me.  I think of this blog, of my relative silence, and consider that perhaps I can contribute to the conversation of EFFORT as one of life’s blessings and goals.

I noticed the above leaf this week and was so intrigued by it that I paused to study it.  The dry and crumpled edges such a contrast to the supple center, the red and yellow with a white vein in the center.  Such an imperfect leaf, and yet I preferred it to the more “beautiful” leaves nearby.  As I studied it I was reminded that imperfection is beautiful in its own way, and resolved to live my imperfect live with eyes open to its beauty, and with faith in my Heavenly Father’s mercy.  Maybe that will help unlock my heart…

Full of Gratitude: My Birthday Heart


It’s been one of those weeks that is so full you hardly know what to say about it and yet something must be said before the march of days swallows it all.  It’s been a week of thoughtfulness in many directions, of joy and mercy and abundance of the best kind.  Forgive me if the sifting results in a lengthy post!

I received an unexpected visit from a dear friend on Monday night.  She came bearing a yummy treat and a beautifully wrapped gift which she insisted I open in spite of my birthday being the following day.  I was completely stunned to open the gift and find inside it the book you see pictured above filled with letters to me from friends and family near and far.  She, with lots of help from my husband, had secretly worked for weeks with the goal of collecting forty letters from forty friends to mark my 40th birthday.  They got more than seventy.

I sat up late into the night reading letter after letter, more humbled with each one by the generosity of my friends and family.  The kindness of their words lifted my heart in a way nothing else could.  It is true that our Heavenly Father knows our needs far better than we do, and when he meets an unknown need so completely through the work of someone we know the gift is overwhelmingly sweet.  Such was the impact of these letters.    Some of them came from people I lost touch with years ago, and many came from friends I dearly love but whose friendships I’ve neglected in the past few years while trying to find my stride as a mother of eight children.  Some came from people whose friendships are newer and carried a warmth I had not thought yet formed.  Some made me laugh out loud and many sent silent tears down my cheeks.  There was a note from one brother that touched me deeply and countless compliments from people I admire so greatly that I felt I should be the one writing such things about them .  Throughout all of them came the whisper “you are loved, you are accepted, you are good.”  Perhaps the whisper was the best part of all, the golden thread that wove through every word and wrapped it all up with a big bow and left me with the distinct feeling that I’d been given back my friends.  Not that they weren’t there before, but that I’d assumed I was disqualified for a dozen reasons.  It felt like Heavenly Father put it in my lap and said, “I know it’s been long and hard, but here you go.  It’s time to run with this again.”  Which is exactly what I hope to do.

I was surprised by themes that emerged in the letters, by how many times certain qualities were mentioned.  Surprised that I was worth the pause in their too-busy lives to contribute to the project.  Surprised.  Grateful.  Healed.

When at last I put the book down, having read every word, I was also filled.  Filled with determination to arise and be the person they seem to think I am capable of being.  Filled with longing to aim higher and farther.  Filled with wonder at the mercy and generosity of these people I know, who had obviously sifted through much and chose to focus on the best in me.  I want to be like them.  I thought again of my friend Kathy who passed away this summer, of her happiness on her special day last year.  I remembered the smile on her face and realized I was tasting what she felt that windy afternoon.   I am filled with a desire to be more, to do more, to give more, to find whatever energy and strength of will it takes to follow every impulse to do good, to lift, to contribute, to build.  I don’t ever want to miss an opportunity to be a part of strengthening someone as I was strengthened this week.

All the other trappings and trimmings were icing on the cake:  a special birthday breakfast, phone calls, pretty packages, cake, dinner with my husband, balloons, an evening rainstorm.  Then Thursday night I was off for a couple of days for a girls weekend with most of the women in my family and it was awesome in every way.  I’ve learned so much this week, about myself and others, about goodness and kindness, life and dreams.   And we are happy when we are learning, so I feel rich in joy.

So my heart sings out “thank you” in a thousand directions while tonight I sit in a pile with my children who I’ve missed as much as I enjoyed the break.  I look around me at the smiles on faces so very dear and marvel once more that although I am certainly one of the least of God’s daughters, still He chooses to work in my life.  THAT is the gift of a lifetime.


Thirty things in thirty days

Well, today is the day.  I’m officially done with my thirties and the number forty and I are getting acquainted.   It’s time to report on my 30 in 30 list, so here it is, in no particular order:

1.  Do a liquid cleansing diet for 10 days.  Done!
2.  Give away a quilt top for charity.  I added a border, pieced a backing and gave my postage stamp quilt top to a group of ladies in my neighborhood who meet weekly to make quilts for humanitarian causes.  Doing this was one of my favorite things on my list.


3.  Plan a half birthday party for my daughter.  Done.  Lots of work to do, but we’ve got the date, time, guest list, and details all planned out.  Now I need to get moving!
4.  Enter a contest.  Done.
5.  Re-organize my dining room cabinet.  I had a prompting at the beginning of summer to begin doing a specific thing with my older children each morning and I wanted a designated place for it.  Done.  I especially like this shelf:


6.  Do something with my gold frame.  I bought it months ago and it’s been sitting.  I intended to put a specific piece of my 1st grader’s artwork in it but cannot find it anywhere!  (Grrr.)  Until I track it down, I printed a quote I like and it will do.


7.  Lay on my lawn in the evening and look at the stars.  Done.
8.  Make a delicious homemade white chicken garlic pizza.  Done.
9.  Clean out the closet in my guest room.  Done. (although my regular guests won’t notice much difference.  I have a big project to finish and then it will be a drastic improvement) 10.  Deliver a birthday gift ON TIME!  Done.  Four times, even!
11.  Mail thank you notes to extended family for a great family reunion and do it PROMPTLY,  with the signatures of all 10 family members.  Done.
12.  Transfer blog to BlogLovin.  Done.
13.  Make a lavender cake.  Done.  Pictures here .  I’ve also tried two other recipes and am hoping to have a favorite one soon.
14.  Put the kids to bed, sit down with my feet up, and read a magazine cover to cover in a quiet room.  Done.
15.  Decorate for the 4th of July.  Done.


16.  Make a “4” sign for the 4th of July.  Not sure how much I love it, but I did it.


17.  Experiment with an olive oil rosemary bread recipe.  Done.  Needs more work.
18.  Write a letter to a distant friend.  Done.
19.  Hang pictures and get my family room wall looking like I want it to.  Done.  (see 4th of July photo above; I hung two of my favorite photos from our trip to the beach in April) 20.  Stitch some door holders for the house.  Done.  Pictures will come in a separate post ASAP.
21.  Make a binder of all my handouts for my Sunbeam class.  Done.
22.  Fix my family room clock.  Done.
23.  Pick up a pencil and draw a little!  Specifically, I had an idea for a subway art sign I wanted to make to remind us all of the drops of awesome principle .  I loved drawing as a child and through high school, but have rarely done it for many years.  This is a talent I’d like to tap in the next 10 years.  I haven’t added color yet, but here’s the black and white version of what I drew (and yes, I know it hardly counts as drawing, but is mostly hand-lettering, which is another interest of mine):


24.  Finish a quilt.  Done.  Pictures coming in a second post.
25.  Make a ship quilt block.  Done.  Decisions to make.
26.  Organize the hallway closet off entry.  This is now more of a home management resource area and includes what I’m calling my happy shelf.  Done!


27.  Make a batch of frozen yogurt .  Done.  (We made raspberry with blueberries, blackberries and raspberries in it.  Yum!)
28.  Make lavender lemonade .  Done.  Love that stuff!
29.  Read The Tempest by Shakespeare.  I did it and loved it.  I also went to the library and found a book to use and also read the Cliff notes on it so I could be sure to appreciate and understand it well.  This ended up being another of my favorite items on the list and I plan to keep reading.


30.  Finish embroidering Lincoln’s signature.  Done.

Shared here
31.  Request a new copy of my patriarchal blessing, which I somehow lost and have been aching to read.  Done.
32.  Brainstorm a special thing I can do for my 3rd daughter to meet some needs in her life.  The perfect idea came and the plan is being developed.

A few things I also worked on but didn’t finish:

1.  Read McCullough’s book, The Greater Journey.  I hadn’t finished it, so I started it over and am now past where I quit reading, but far from finishing.  I love his writing!
2.  Design an anchor quilt block.  I did this and made a test block.  Now I need to make another to check my instructions, notes and measurements.  I really hope to find time to work on this soon.
3.  Clean out basement storage room.  Oh, this needs more time!
4.  Add new artwork to kids gallery wall in family room.  I got a few of them framed, but not hung.
5.  Get the kids’ summer cleaning routine running smoothly.  Not there yet, and the summer is half over.  Some of them still fight me every morning but it’s worth the effort.
6.  Work with my daughter and her friend on finishing their quilts .  We got the backings pieced; next comes basting and quilting!

A few things I hoped to make time for but didn’t:

1.  Paint my oldest daughter’s bedroom 2.  Finish a family tree project 3.  Finishing touches on paint in youngest girls’ room 4.  Organize linen closets 5.  Finish mirror for dining room.
6.  Start seashell mirror project.
7.  Letterpress a paper project.


As you can see, I have a talent for never-ending lists!  Once the ideas began flowing, I simply kept writing.  While there are a few things that I can’t believe I didn’t just finish (like hanging artwork), I’m happy to say that I met my goal.  Everything on the list was either something I simply hadn’t managed to finish, an idea I was anxious to bring to life, or something I rarely slow down and do.  Finishing each one brought a smile to my face and reminded me that happiness is to be had each day if I choose it.   I’m also glad to have fewer unfinished things weighing on my life.  Doing one a day helped keep me from stewing over a birthday I was dreading and gave me something purposeful to do instead. An interesting thing has happened over the past few weeks.  I’ve sorted through the reasons for my dread, learned some things about myself and about life in the process, and come out on the other side with an entirely different perspective than the one I started with.  I’ll share more of this soon as well.

Forty.  I’m hoping we get along nicely.


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