embarrassment, empathy, endurance: why the show must go on… and why we should help it

Once, several years ago— before marriage and babies— I found myself giving a 50 minute long one-woman show to an auditorium with over 500 people watching me.  As if that wasn’t adrenaline-inducing enough, I had just stepped on the edge of my floor length skirt and felt the clasp in the back pull and undo.

That was fun.

I remember, continuing my performance, and simultaneously pleading for the Good Lord, in His mercy and goodness to prevent my skirt from completing its malfunction in front of everyone.  That I could just do my “job,” without something very important falling down around me.

It’s an extreme AND completely real example.  It’s one that I thought wouldn’t apply to me again very much at all in my life.  But, man, was I wrong.

Here we all are, aren’t we?  Just trying to do our “jobs”— trying to live and maybe tell our stories.  We don’t want any extra drama.  We don’t want anything more to think about because the job, though hopefully enjoyable , is still daunting enough.  But then… we feel something begin to give way that shouldn’t.  We suddenly shift into worry and doubt and fervent prayer because we know, that just a little bit more… just another inch… just one more slight shift… and we will be vulnerable in ways we never, ever want to be.

IF my skirt had actually fallen down that day… if that whole auditorium had seen me, standing there, exposed in my undergarments and embarrassment… honestly, what would have happened?  Okay, so I would have been completely mortified and would have wanted to claw up the floorboards of that stage in order to disappear… but besides that?  What would have happened?

I wouldn’t have died, no matter how much I would have wanted to.  I would have swallowed hard, and pulled my skirt up, made some comment to attempt to save face, and feel my cheeks grow hot.  My throat might have almost closed from choking down the emotion of it all… and I might have even had to excuse myself before going back out and continuing where I left off.

That’s what would have happened.  Because I needed to finish my job.  Finish what I started.  Tell the story that placed me on that stage in the first place.

I think, whether or not you have been on stage at all, you know exactly what it is like to be in the scenario I found myself.  Life has taught you to be afraid that something horrible is going to derail what you are doing— and what you are doing is plenty enough already, thankyouverymuch.  We are afraid to be left exposed and scrambling.  We are petrified of our jobs being harder, our lives more complicated.  We are scared of contingency plans and crisis modes and being distracted from what was **so carefully** planned, practiced, and rehearsed.  And maybe, just maybe, we are worried about what people would say and think as they witness it all fall.

Hardship is so, well, hard to even think about.  There’s a reason why those thoughts instantly drive us to worry— and hopefully and much better— prayer. The grand irony of it all is that we are just as much audience as performer.  We watch others live all around us, and don’t think for one second that they are worried about their own wardrobes exposing them, or tripping on stage, or forgetting their lines.  That they are just as afraid and vulnerable to messing up themselves.  They seem to have it all together as they go along, while we feel like we just stumbling by.  Honestly, shouldn’t we know better by now?

We know the truth.  The fact that we are all actors should make us the most empathetic audience in the world.  It is exactly because I know what it is like to imagine the worst case scenario (by almost being or ACTUALLY being in worst case scenarios) that I can lean into other’s experiences when their worst case scenario happens.  It’s why we can join others in the uncomfortable, and not let our own awkwardness keep us from doing what is right.  And what is right? Right is swallowing your own discomfort to make it easier for your friend or neighbor or fellow momma to pick up her skirt and her pride, swallow hard, and keep going when her world is falling apart.

Best of all, we don’t have to say and think anything beyond admiration and support— in whatever capacity we can.  

Life itself is a stage, someone brilliant once said.  

We are all players.  

And in this global cast, faith, hope, and love is the obligation for all of us.

Random bits & pieces: free mulch and foraging

The weather is getting warmer, and the plants are making their way from the cups and little planters we started seeds in to our raised beds. Maybe I’m just getting old or maybe what excites me in my life has changed— probably both 😂— but gracious, I delight in seeing seedlings grow. Just little green bursts of friendly potential.

Watching my kiddos take pride in the plants is just another added privilege to see.

Behold, my buddy’s pea plant. 🙂

If you look at the picture above, you’ll see some mulch around the peas from a pile that we received for free from a company called Chip Drop (https://getchipdrop.com/). We went to the website, filled out our info and a few days later, a truck was dumping a huge mulch mountain in our front yard! We’ve placed it on our flower beds and in our raised beds as filler and enrichment.

It was completely free and convenient, and will be doing it again in the future, I’m sure.

Another way, besides gardening, that I’m enriching my own knowledge and experience is learning how to use “wild” and useful plants— for food, comfort, and wellness.

See, I didn’t grow up on a farm. I didn’t grow up learning about plants or animals, how to observe nature not just for its beauty, awe, and intricateness… but for how we can exist and be symbiotic with it— how it provides for us in unexpected places, and how we, in turn, can provide for it, too.

Here is a plant I never, ever knew was edible, and it grows in our shady spaces so incredibly well… hostas! Here was my first time, harvesting and cooking hosta from our yard! To my surprise, it cooks down and tastes very similarly to spinach. I’m researching other ways to use it in my cooking and meals… but I was thrilled to start here!

My daughter’s friend, P, was over while I was snipping the hostas and was still there as I finished cooking them and needed “taste-testers.” Three out of four kids lined up, and they each loved them! Later that day, I got a text from P’s mom, asking me about my “hosta recipe.”

And I laughed because not once ever in my life did I ever think I would have a hosta recipe, let along be asked for it.

Here’s to tasting food from our gardens and yards and learning about how to care for them well while learning how they can care for us.

If that’s not essential living, I don’t know what is. 💛

storytelling: ideas to help our students narrate well

If you have come across Charlotte Mason at all in your research about homeschooling– or if you would describe your own homelearning style as Mason-leaning– the term “narration” is probably one you are familiar with.

There are a lot more articles and even books that go into a lot more detail about what narration is and why it is important, and I’m not going to re-invent the wheel here.

The point of this post isn’t to take the time to define what it IS, but to remember what it is NOT. Narration isn’t just a regurgitation of the facts or plot-line of the story. It isn’t just us getting to see what the student knows–or doesn’t. I mean, it CAN (and probably should) include both of those purposes. But that is not all it is.

The purpose of narration is an invitation– and invitation for the student to make the information, the story and the lessons and impacts of it… his or her own.

Because there are ALL types of learners, it stands to reason that there will be all types of storytellers and all kinds of ownership.

A danger that we can fall into when we ask our kids to narrate is to accept– and maybe even encourage, because of time, energy, etc– that we get the “easiest” version of narration from them: basically, a simple retelling. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a retelling… but sometimes, some learners own stories in different ways.

I have found that my oldest isn’t a fan of simply retelling– she wants to create something. She will use figurines, peg dolls, playdough, etc. to create scenes. She wants to put on little skits and give lines to her smaller siblings (bless their hearts, ha!). A simple re-telling? No thanks.

I think it is hard for us as parent-teachers to come up with narration ideas on the fly if our kiddos are being a bit… hesitant. Sometimes all our children need is a germ of an idea and the freedom to run with it.

So, I’ve made up some bookmarks to print out and place in your books and read-alouds. Your child can choose off of the list or you can have a fresh idea rotation, come narration time! Several of the ideas I tweaked from the following post by Simply Charlotte Mason, but I intermingled several ideas of my own that we have done over here. ❤

Happy storytelling, friends! May we be encouraged by how the power of story and living tellings of them shape our students and ourselves!

build a long rope: how to memorize long passages

It is said that “Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” (It’s a Chinese proverb, I believe.)

Regardless of whether or not you are a fan of memorization, no one can ignore the fact that we do have to remember something/be able to recall it to actually learn it, apply it, and create with it. That’s one of the main reasons memorizing takes its place as the base of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Being able to recall facts creates the ability for a student– for all of us– to be able to begin wrapping our minds around it, applying it to our lives and situation, analyzing connections, evaluating what we are learning… with the hopes that we can create something new out of it.

We can talk forever about how our current educational system might rely too much on remembering, or mistake remembering for education itself… and I actually have strong thoughts and feelings about that: as a teacher in a classroom for years myself (high school and college), I have definitely felt very frustrated about how pre-assessing and assessing and post-assessing whether or not students learned content was basically just memory-based– when learning is so. much. more!

But that’s not the point of this post. 😀

The point is: we DO need memory. Memory is the foundation for us not just to remember things, but to work and play with information and thought and art in our own heads: to “follow us” by simply being with us. Within us.

I have memorized A LOT in my educational journey. Not just for tests and quizzes, but for performance. Part of my undergrad and graduate degree requirements were me, myself, and I creating and performing 50 minute to 1hr and 10 minute one-woman shows. That’s a LOT of memorization.

But the memorization was just the first step. It was the first way for me to get that text in my head… to trickle down into my heart. I can’t tell you how many times I would be rehearsing the memory in my head, and suddenly I would get light-bulb moments about what the text really meant and how I could perform it. Suddenly, I would understand the characters in the story or the lines in the poetry I didn’t– and wouldn’t– without having it secure in my mind first.

Memorizing passage– classical and religious– is something we do in our home because I believe in the value of having thoughts, not just words, shape the hearts and the minds of my children.

So, how do you do it? How do you learn long passages? And to take it one more step… how can you get your students to do it as you use it in your home and homelearning?

In this very “amateur” video (because I don’t have equipment and a fancy home studio or anything. Instead, you get to join me at my kitchen table with a chalkboard in the background, ha!), I go through what I have done, what you can do, and how you can adapt the long-passage memory technique for little people and slip it into your morning time easily.

When you watch the video, you’ll completely understand what I mean by building “a long rope,” and how easy it is to actually do it!

Companion planting… with a twist

In our Gathering Wellness group* for the month of March, we have been concentrating on how to start a garden, seed prep, planting, and plant care for the season ahead. (Gardening is one of the best ways to practice reliance and cut the gardening budget while learning life skills… so a win/win/win!) Yesterday, we chatted a bit about companion plants: how some plants are great friends… and others aren’t.

A hack that my husband and I have used before in a small capacity and really plan to use a lot more of this year is the idea of companion SPRAYS… not just plants.

We’ve used essential oil sprays on our plants before, mainly for luscious green in our home and for pest-aways on our plants (Brian has such a cool story about cedarwood and roses!)… but I’m really wanting to step it up a notch this growing season.

What’s the idea behind companion sprays?

Well, essential oils are made from plants (I feel like I should say “duh” here, ha!)… so consider using oils in place of your companion plants. Companion sprays might work especially well with smaller plots of land or are doing container gardening!

Let’s look at an example. Say you want some luscious green beans this summer, but need to plant other veggies instead of transplanting a lavender bush beside your beans. (Don’t get me wrong, though… lavender is so great to have on hand, but that’s another post!) So, grab your Lavender essential oil instead, and let it do the work for you while you save soil space.

Here’s a guide to creating Companion sprays to use on the soil and leaves of the plant: Add 10-15 drops of the corresponding essential oil to a 4 oz. glass spray bottle. Top with distilled water; shake before each use. So easy!

PLANT …………… COMPANION PLANTS

Green Beans….… Lavender, Basil

Broccoli……………. Basil, Thyme

Carrots……………… Sage

Cucumber…………. Sage

Onion……………..…. German Chamomile

Potatoes………….… Basil, Sage

Tomatoes………….. Basil


I think we are going to try a Basil spray first, since it seems to be friends with lots of types of plants!

I’ll keep you posted as the season goes on!

If you want to check out a whole little e-zine on some of the other information about how oils can be used to encourage growth and troubleshoot problems in your garden, click the button below to read more. 🙂

  • Gathering Wellness is an interactive FB community where we learn about lifeskills, homemaking, and wellness together. To join us, just click here!

The Revolutionary War… “close to home” (with a free homeschool resource)

As term 2 of our school year comes to a close, I get the exciting privilege of planning our end-of-year home learning trip!

Our history with A Gentle Feast centered around the Revolutionary War this year. Initially, I had grand plans of driving up through VA and up into the Philly areas, hitting several of the things and areas that we had learned about: Mt. Vernon, Monticello, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Betsy Ross museum… even up and over to Valley Forge. My brain was in high gear, planning all the things!

But then something else happened to hit a high, too.

Hello there, gasoline… I’m looking at you. :/

Between the high fuel prices and planning a long road trip to Texas later in the summer for a family wedding/reunion, it looks like we will be postponing that long trip for the next time we hit this history rotation. (My younger kids will be able to appreciate it more at that point anyway. Three is a little young to appreciate being in the same room that the Declaration was signed in, I think. Ha!)

Fortunately, my family lives in a state that was one of the original 13 colonies… so I started to really dig into the Revolutionary war close to home. I knew of a couple of battle fields quasi-close by, and knew that Nathanael Greene and the Swamp Fox had been up and around our state… but for living in this state all of my life (and going to state schools growing up), I was incredibly surprised about ALL of the Revolutionary history here in SC. (Truth be told, my memories in school of war and our state all seemed to be about the Civil War and fighting against our country vs. being a major contributor to its creation, but that’s another thought for another time.)

So now, my brain is back into high gear, plotting at least 5 battlefields and museums within an hour of our house… and planning an overnight closer to the coast.

I’m a huge fan of journaling and recording thoughts, questions, etc., as they come up… and find that my 3rd grader still needs a few prompts to help her write out her observations. I went ahead and designed some pages for our days out and about for her to use to help document what she learns along the way.

For fellow South Carolina homeschool/homelearning families, I’d love to have you use the pages I created to document your own trek of learning across our state. Just download and use the pdf below!

I’m going to share a few super helpful links below if you are interested in plotting your own weekend field trips! (Click the images for more information.) The Southern Campaign Animated Map is great for a general overview/review… but the other links below are geared towards an Piedmont/Upstate focus of the state’s involvement. I’m hoping to do a part 2 of it with more of a midland and coastal focus, if/when we get around to doing that soon.


Piedmont/Upstate Areas of Interest

Ninety Six National Historic Site
South Carolina Museum of Revolutionary War History
Battle of Musgrove Hill State Historic Site
Kings Mountain National Military Park
Cowpens National Battlefield

the right instructions.

Wendell Berry once said, “You mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this: ‘Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.’ I am not all the way capable of so much. But those are the right instructions.”

I don’t know about you, but there are some days that I just love where I’m at and what I’m doing. The moments seem light and joyful, and I feel perfectly placed in my life.

And there are days I don’t.

I can blame it on a lot of things: the news. My lists. The worries on my shoulders. Grief. Extra fighting from the kids. Exchanged sarcasm. The toddler climbing into bed because a storm ignited her fears… making us all restless. And squished. And sleep deprived.

But the fact of the matter is: the biggest hinderance to my own happiness is my disconnect to the command to give thanks.

You know the verse, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” We just like to slap those words on anything tricky that we need some extra diligence for… but what, specifically, is it referring to? Paul is referring to being content— in every circumstance. He says that he has learned to do it, no matter what. How? He can do it “through Christ,” who gave him strength *to give this thanks.*

What do you need to give thanks for? What gives your heart pause, just thinking about hoisting it to heaven with gratitude on your lips? I can think of a few things that I feel are just too hard, too sad, too hurtful for me to be thankful for… but fortunately, we don’t have to do it alone. We have a Helper to lift our offering high, and intercede with perfect words we have an impossible time finding.

Christ.

He will give us strength.

Strength enough to offer gratitude…

and in the doing, we are placed in the perfect position to receive His grace.

And isn’t that something we can be oh so thankful for? 💛

embracing grace in the grind.

For those of you who grow weary in well-doing sometimes– or easily get overwhelmed with the task of doing tasks without seeing the list grow smaller… this is a reminder:

It’s okay to let things go sometimes.

If there are certain things that you can’t *stand* being messy– as in, it wears on your mental or physical well-being– then by all means, keep doing those things. But others? It might just be okay to give them… space.

This quotation by Emily P. Freeman is talking about spiritual practices, but I’m going to apply it to the here and now…

“It’s not about what items on a [cleaning] checklist that we need to check off. In fact, if a [task] is causing you to experience shame, anxiety, tension, or overwhelm, I’d say that’s a practice you don’t need to be doing right now. It doesn’t mean the practice itself is bad or that you’ll never engage with it again, but anxiety in a practice is your body trying to tell you something. It could be an arrow to a wound. It may also be, and often is evidence of a season of growth or change, even though it probably doesn’t feel that way, but that could be what it is…

There is a true narrative and that is the stunning and relentless love God has for you. If a practice runs counter to that narrative, take a pause, take a break, take a breath and find a practice that reminds you of the love of God instead.”

For me, this means I can’t ignore my kitchen forever (nor do I want to)… but it does mean that it is better for me to ignore it until my soul is restored and I can clean it in a healthier space, instead of one of shame (“if you don’t clean this right away, you are lazy”) or anxiety (“I don’t want it to be a mess in case someone stops by”) or overwhelm (when I look around and let simple kitchen clutter upset me in ways that it shouldn’t). THAT is a sign: if the kitchen overwhelms me, that is because I am already overwhelmed, and I need to sit and deal with that before the dishes.

It’s hard for me to do… but I feel like it will lead to a much happier, healthier me, and actually give me the capacity to love my home better overall. ❤️




If you are looking for a place to get ideas about how to love your home while still embracing grace in the grind, please head over to the FB group, Gathering Wellness. We choose a new topic each month to explore and right now we are in the middle of encouragement, conversations, etc., that are all about making our home a loving place for everyone to thrive in. 🙂

examening your home

I was listening to a podcast the other day, and it was talking about the Daily Examen– what’s typically considered a spiritual practice of reflection by asking & answering a pattern of questions at the end of the day.

As I was listening, my thoughts connected that idea to my goal for the month of February– loving my home and making it easier for my family and I to love being in it. I’ll be honest; I am so thankful for my home… but the daily-ness of all the daily tasks that are also housed here overwhelm me at times. I like to do things and then move on the next thing and for projects to be “done…” but there’s nothing done about the bits of food that reemerge on the floor, or the dishes that reappear in the sink, or the laundry that regrows in our hampers. And sometimes, those things make me feel like I can’t actually do what I WANT to do in my home and with the people in it.

So this month, I’m reshaping my thoughts around my home, and finding better tools for me to love it better.

As I listened to the 5 steps of the Examen, my mind tweaked the points a bit… and I wanted to share them. You know, just in case someone else needs to regroup and offer a reminder of a bigger, lovelier picture.

1) Think back to your day and find the love that you had while at home. Was it something specific about a space? An item? A moment you had there? The people in it? Find a moment at home that brought you joy, for whatever reason.

2) Show gratitude for that moment. Offer thanks for it.

3) Allow yourself to feel whatever feelings arise after that. It “makes sense” that offering thanks would/”should” bring a positive emotion, but that might not always be the case. I can be thankful for a moment, and still feel a shadow that someone or something wasn’t in it. That’s okay to feel and to acknowledge.

4) Take that moment and pray from it, journal about it, process it.

5) Look ahead towards tomorrow. That might mean just having hope that tomorrow can offer the same experience… or it might mean making a mental action step about how to encourage the same type of moment. (For instance, if you realized that your morning was super peaceful because of waking up to clean surfaces and no dishes, maybe resolve to do that more often. No guilt or commitment attached– just an observation and maybe a thought to try it again.)

Anyhoo, taking time to think big picture and reflecting is huge for me– especially when I sometimes tend to make lists that feel too large and daunting OR even make it a measurement of my worth. Here’s to noting the love for and in our homes, offering gratitude for it, and believing that we can have more of it in our moments. ❤

of mugs and memories and becoming.

This mug.

It’s from my college-teaching, single, pre-kid days.

It’s held countless cups of morning coffee, winter-day soups, and even a summer evening bowl of ice cream or two. (Or five. Or more. Ahem.)

It’s held pens and pencils and markers and a plant.

It was gingerly tucked away and packed as I moved offices and apartments and then houses, and came through them all— but not without a chip or two.

Gracious, isn’t this mug a symbol of life? Time passes, we hold things in and let things go. Our roles change. We move. We get chipped along the way. (Maybe even broken.)

We lose a bit of our shine, even. We get worn through the washing and handling of decades.

But there’s still beauty and worth in the worn— the gift of having memories, becoming memories, and showing up for so many kinds of moments.

Shiny and new might be nice… but there is nothing like having something faithful and familiar, that effortlessly provides comfort that only time and experience can bring.

Here’s to mugs, and memories, and sitting well with how time changes us into more comfortable, comforting versions of ourselves. 💛