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Ashley

At other places, linkup
Until the dawn appeareth
December 28, 2014 at 11:38 am 4
I’m stuck in the death part, maybe you are too. The part where we wait. The part where darkness feels like a companion and we wait for dawn together. It’s not cancer, or terrorism or racial strife – no, it’s just the daily hard, and it can feel like drowning. My mind so easily travels where I know it’s unhealthy to go. To wistful thinking about my grad school days overseas, where I was young, and thin and could drink without worrying about a baby inside of me or breastfeeding. Or, I think of filtered Facebook pictures showing friends who have the time, money and lack of being tied down to travel around the world. And I want that. Oh, how I want that. What I wouldn’t give to be sitting in a rooftop café in Rome eating bread and mozzarella, curled up with a hot cup of coffee. This laying down is a choice to sacrifice for the moment, waiting with eager expectation that the dawn is coming. But the dawn feels like a dream. There's a daily laying down – diapers, and not sleeping, and late-night arguments because in all of the crazy, I forgot not only to care for myself but also for my husband. And we retreat to contempt or we sweep it under the rug. Maybe you're wondering if someone sees you. If the mess of the house or your love handles won't be the currency to gain you love. That even in the now, even without traveling the world, that you are worth so very much. dawn_sunrise_sun Because validation is never going to come from an outside source and be truly satisfying. For me, I notice how my mind spirals deeper and deeper down and away from a center, and I realize the caverns of what Christians call sin in my own heart. How I reach out with Grinch-like talons to grasp onto a life that is not mine, can never be mine. Because it’s not just the daily deaths of motherhood, it’s this whole life of faith. Because this life is not mine. It’s His. Frankly sometimes that stings. And the death hurts. Yet, there is no meaning apart from this daily death dance that you and I do. And I want my life, my sacrifice, to mean something. There is a promise that is centuries old, and moves in waves across genders, cultures and political movements. And it is a grace that is bigger than me or you, and the diapers and the tiredness and the lack of “me time.” It envelops and brightens and makes the suffering beautiful. It takes twisted, broken things and turns them into beauty. So we’ll wait – you and I – until the dawn appears.
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Celebrate
Circling the Story’s Top 5
December 23, 2014 at 3:28 pm 2
There's so much chatter and static and noise inside our heads and around us -- especially this time of year. (Does anyone else have their To Do list on a constant internal loop? Or is that just me?) My hope and prayer for you, my dear reader, is that this season would be full of hope and light and breath. Little things that communicate care and consideration -- whether that's the joy of reading a graceful sentence, a hot steaming cup of tea, a thoughtful present from a loved one, a flickering candle, or even a moment of stillness. I hope you find something small to hold on to, to keep you going. Because it's not the grand gesture that speaks volumes, it's the showing up, day-in and day-out, that communicate care. Maybe something here could give you that little something to mull over, words to cup into your hands and heart as you end the year. Here are Circling the Story's Top 5 posts; the posts that readers keep reading and sharing. I hope you'll take a look. Drumroll.... 5. Stories save us: "As I walked the paths of the bookstore, lingering by enticing covers and feeling the heft of what-might-be in my hands, I really was longing for redemption." Stories save us | Circling the Story 4. Am I enough? The god of the scale: "Every morning I strip down and step on the scale and I look to its numbers to tell me what I’m worth. With the softness of a belly that has swollen and receded four times, I ask it to tell me if I’m okay, if I measure up." The god of the scale | Circling the Story 3. Real Food + Real People = World Changed: A manifesto about the simply subversive act of having people in your home for dinner. Real food, vulnerability, get people to help out; rinse and repeat. Real Food World Changed | Circling the Story 2. That's the book I need to write: Yep, I'm working on a book. "It’s about how places sink into our souls, about how we learn to be a part of places [...]. It’s about daily little liturgies of walking your kids to and from school, of bumping into friends at the supermarket and about feeling a sense of your own smallness in big places." That's the book I have to write | Circling the Story 1. Red cup righteousness: My most-read post this year. "We think that the red paper cup holds out relief, or validation, or just respite from the weariness of the daily." Red cup righteousness | Circling the Story I hope you'll have a very restful Christmas -- that even in the chaos, you'll take time to savor the moments of truth and beauty, even if (and when) it's hard, or ugly or unlovely. Those moments are the ones that help to grow us into even more beautiful and graceful people. Thank you for reading Circling the Story dear friends! I hope something I've written has been encouraging to you; if it has, please consider sharing. See you in 2015! Love, Ashley
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Beauty in the Mundane, Faith + Vulnerability
Clinging to promises and the daily hard
December 21, 2014 at 9:04 pm 10
I shared this lovely, beautiful post over at the Facebook page for Circling the Story. But it deserves another share. It's a post that captures in words and pictures our fight to stay present, our fight to be real and authentic and vulnerable amidst the daily hard we all face. Here are just a few gems that jumped out at me:
The idea of perfection had become more important than honesty. You may feel broken.  You may feel imperfect. You may feel like this chapter of your story is not one worth remembering. But it is.  The most beautiful chapter of life is the one that does not go unnoticed.
What do you notice? For me, as I've been thinking about what this photographer might see in my day, might capture in me, so often it's not beautiful little moments of care and connection. No, the raw that she might see would be me: fists clenched feeling the need to have my way, to have the kids be quiet so I could get time just to myself. That I deserved it. That I pour myself out again and again for a ragamuffin band of little people that have no clue. Sacrifice never feels like enough. It always feels like too much. When we bear it ourselves, when we look with us alone, it is too much. And as a friend said to me, we keep wishing those moments away. I think when it comes down to it, those moments that someone else might capture -- all the daily hard -- are moments when I have to prove something. Have to show myself and those around me what I'm made of, because if I don't -- if I actually "take up my cross and die" well, then, what? Then I'll disappear. Sometimes staying at home with children feels like disappearing. Disappearing from a workplace where you're validated and critiqued or even have a quiet space to work out ideas. At home, I just have laundry, and a To Do list and my inner perfectionist critiquing it all. Who tells me all the ways I don't measure up to perfection. It's too much. The hamster wheel. The mama guilt. The fear and worry that accompanies the dailyness because I didn't measure up -- or was selfish, or needed time away, or needed something from someone, anyone. Anyone to hear and say "Yes, I see you." But the raw feels like failure. The raw feels like disappearing. It feels unproductive. But it is only in giving up that we can be made to be filled up and full again. Overflowing with a strength of character that says, "yes", "tell me more", that says, "I will be present in the now. Even in the hurt. Even in my anger. Even in my frustration, I will be present." And it makes promises: I won't steamroller you because I'm angry. I won't hurt you because I'm wrestling with God about how my needs are met. No, I lay down, hour by hour, arms outstretched and say "yes". It means I say I'm sorry a whole bunch because most of the time I walk around with my teeth clenched; it means I give space and time for the emotions to firm up so they can be said. This "letting go" is the hardest thing I've ever done. It's not even the "letting go" of my growing-up children that's the challenge -- it's the day-in and day-out challenge of letting go of the expectations and thoughts I had of how great I'd be or how amazing life would be now -- married with children, owning a house, career path and passions and friends. Because this letting go, is a letting go that strikes at the root of who I am. But I'm confident, deep in my bones and even as I falter, that something lovely will rise from the ashes. That by being raw and truthful and seeking beauty amongst the ruins, that hope and life and fullness and joy will follow. For that's what's promised. So I'm going to sink my nails into that promise and cling to it with all I've got.
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At other places, linkup
Book Musing Link-up Mondays!
December 21, 2014 at 8:29 pm 0
Welcome to: Book Musing Mondays final (1)

Book Musing Hosts

Mary @Maryandering Creatively

Blog/Facebook/Twitter/PinterestInstagram

Ashley @Circling the Story

Blog/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/Instagram

  Welcome to Week 4 of Book Musing Mondays: the Holiday Edition. I want to wish everyone Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! I can’t believe 2014 is almost coming to an end can you? Congratulations to Asheritah who blogs at One Thing Alone. Her post What’s On My Winter Bookshelf received the most clicks. She blogged about some great books. Be sure to check out her post. What's on my winter bookshelf We will make it worth your while if you linkup with us!  When you linkup, your hosts will promote your posts across their social media platforms. We will also pin your book-related images on our Book Musing Mondays’ Pinterest Board. Be sure to follow the board for great books reviews and giveaways by our Book Musing Mondays’ bloggers! Follow Mary Hill's board Book Musing Mondays Linkup on Pinterest. We love to read family-friendly book reviews and posts about anything literacy related. For next week’s linkup on December 29th, we would love to read your New Year’s Resolutions for reading! What are your reading this holiday season? What do you look forward to reading in the New Year. What do you think will be the break out books for next year? Share your posts so we can put them on our To Read lists.  

 
Now it is time to link up to the third Book Musing Mondays hop!
  Book Musing Mondays final (1) Linkup Rules:
  1. Include a link back or the blog hop button linked to this hop on your posts.
  2. Link up the urls to your posts not to your blog.
  3. Please remember this is a family-friendly linkup. We reserve the right to delete any posts that are not family friendly. We love all kinds of literature and genres including family-friendly inspirational romances. We do not welcome anything with excessive sexual content or cursing.
  4. Be sure to visit at least two other bloggers’ posts and share comment love!  Remember it is also nice to follow them on their social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
  5. Follow your hosts and co-hosts on their social media.
  6. Tweet about the link up too!
 
Welcome to the fourth linkup for Book Musing Mondays. You may link up to three posts on book related topics or family literacy activities.
Add your link (Submissions close in 6d 21h 0m)
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linkup
“Adore”: Prom Queens, bootstraps and a slow letting go
December 19, 2014 at 5:00 am 7
"Adore." It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, this word "adore." It's starry-eyed princesses with tiny waists and big eyes expecting to be fawned over. It's weak men eyeing the prom queen because she has a social cache that he wants. It means giving our power to another. And honestly, that feels weak. It means I'm not a pull-yourself-up-by-your bootstraps person. It means that I don't have this whole thing all figured out. It means that I'm not in control. And then, comes the fear. If I don't have power, if I don't have control, then what? If properly-given adoration -- not improperly like the examples above connote --means a giving up, do I really "adore" God? Do I bend the knee like the three kings, laying down my wealth and status and reputation? Or do I clench tightly to my well-worn leather boots and say (in the voice of my toddler son): that I can do it myself? It's only in trading in those boots for something more humble that we'll begin to walk slowly in the direction of adoration. Slowly pacing towards a slow giving up, again and again -- a laying down, an open-handedness -- we'll creep towards adoration as a giving up instead of a power grab.   __ Five-minute Friday is a writing prompt where you write (no editing) in 5 minutes. This is the last prompt for the year. Visit Kate Montaung's blog to read some other great writers and what they came up with.
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Celebrate
Words to hold on to and last-minute gift ideas
December 18, 2014 at 11:05 am 0
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  • This is a lovely post by Lisa-Jo Baker on SheReadsTruth. If you're a mom and feeling a bit down please go and read it. Here's a gem: "So when Mary and Elizabeth literally break into loud, unashamed song declaring the wild purpose of the new life bottled up inside them like so much rich treasure, I want to hold on with both hands and be part of that understanding of womanhood." Wow. Print that one out when you're drowning in whining and dishes.
  • If you need a last-minute homemade gift for your neighbors or teachers or just someone passing by, consider this Whiskey Caramel Sauce, by Becky Rosenthal, @SLCfoodie (and check out her blog, it's great!)
  • There has been so much horrendous suffering in the news and all around us of late -- children lost, so much sickness and death and suffering. I really loved this post on What I don't mean when I say Black Lives Matter from Colleen Mitchell.
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  • I finally got my gold Antho initial mug and love it! But when I was getting some stuff at CostPlus World Market for stockings, found they have some really cute initial mugs there, too. If you need something quick, it's a great gift idea! And at only $6, a steal!
  • Finally, what are you reading? Some of my absolute favorite titles that I've read recently are: Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table; Brene Brown's Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection; Anne Lamott's Help, Thanks, Wow; oddly I haven't reached much for fiction lately. I guess I'm trying to study the non-fiction genre. What's on your Xmas reading list??
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Celebrate, Space + Place
Home now and a year ago
December 15, 2014 at 2:23 pm 2
"Home" today means staying in, even though it's sunny outside. Home means grabbing what I can find to eat as I hold my feverish baby, a baby born a year ago tomorrow. For, I am home to this little one, as she curls on my chest trying to get comfortable amidst her runny nose and warm forehead. She wakes briefly to smile and point at her brother, emanating joy even in her sorrow. IMG_1253.JPG A year ago, I waited and waited for her birth. I couldn't really believe I was going to have a girl after three boys and it all felt new for the first time, though I'd already had three babies. Her entrance in the world was steady and true and came through the pain of bearing down when I just didn't want to do it anymore. But my beautiful Harriet Susan Joy came at the appointed time. And then was later whisked away to the NICU for breathing problems. I felt like my joy was stolen. No baby cuddles in the middle of the night, except through beeps and wires. No blissful rooming-in as we watched the snow fall outside the window. I was in my room and she in hers and every three hours, I visited her, my breasts an offering and a letting go. I walked that pathway -- from room, down halls, to elevator, to NICU, to elevator, to room -- as a labyrinth, looking for illumination and meaning, yet just feeling separated from her and alone. And so today, though there is much to be done, nothing is more important than now and nothing is more important than this. Today there are no NICU walls or wires to separate us. This ministry of presence, of just being here, and showing up. Whether you're showing up for a spouse, a friend, a colleague or a sick child, I hope that you, too, will show up and be present and let the inconsequential fall away. Because "home" is your people. Wherever you may find them.   IMG_1943.JPG
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At other places, linkup
Monday Literacy link-up!
December 15, 2014 at 9:00 am 0

Welcome to:

Book Musing Mondays final (1)

Book Musing Hosts

Mary @Maryandering Creatively

Blog/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/ Instagram

Ashley @Circling the Story

Blog/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/Instagram

  We had a great second week with 20 posts linked up! Let's continue improving! Please invite your friends and promote this hop! Two bloggers tied for top post last week with the most clicks!  First up was Carole Jarvis for her review of The Christmas Cat on her The Power of Words blog.  Next up for most clicks was Joanne Viola's book review post on Juana Mikels' Choosing Him All Over Again. Congratulations! Remember next week your post could be featured for the most clicks; so, be sure to link up!   .   1932374_10203790437016092_6110263693406532419_n               The goal behind this hop is to promote family-friendly literature and activites. We welcome all book related posts such as book reviews or discussion of great activities to do with your family in relation to the books that you have read. Any genre is welcome. Just remember to feature family-friendly books. We reserve the right to remove posts to books with excessive vulgar language or sexual content. To celebrate the kickoff of this hop, we partnered with two great book bloggers to give away five awesome books!  Our book giveaway partners and the books they are giving away are:   Welcome! Melissa from My Recent Favorite Books.  Her giveaway book is a wonderful family-friendly romance! Melissa's social media sites are : Facebook, Twitter,  Pinterest, Google+ and Bloglovin. mrmiracle This heart-warming story is being made into Hallmark Movie! Plot Summary:  Harry Mills is a guardian angel on a mission: help twenty-four-year-old Addie Folsom get her life back on track—and, if the right moment strikes, help her find love. Read more about this book at Debbie Macomber's site.         CaroleProfileAlso joining us is Carole from the Power of Words. You can follow Carole on Pinterest, Twitter,  and Facebook. She will be giving away the book which she reviewed on her blog here : Summary: An empty nest has Ingrid Christiansen dreading the upcoming holidays, but her husband, John, couldn’t be more excited about this new season of life. He even has a surprise trip abroad  planned. He’s sure she’ll love it. What’s more romantic than Christmas in Paris? Before he can stop her, however, Ingrid agrees to spearhead a major church project. Then their faithful dog, Butterscotch, needs emergency surgery, draining their savings. And then—because  disasters strike in threes—an unexpected guest arrives, dredging up old hurts. As a beautiful blanket of snow transforms the north woods into a winter wonderland, a deep chill settles over John and Ingrid’s marriage. With the holidays fast approaching, their only hope of keeping their love evergreen depends on turning the page on the past and embracing a new chapter of their future. Your hosts, Mary and Ashley are giving away these books:   DSC_1111

This small  book, 365 Pocket Prayers for Mother by Christian authors and mothers, Amie Carlson, Karen Hodge, and Erin Kelley Marshall, is packed with quick prayers tied into the Word of God that you can meditate on and let sink into your soul.  Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a copy of this book which I will mail to the winner. :)

You see more in my review of this book here.

A Donkeys Tale Win This beautiful book by author R. Mitchell Scott was published by Ambassador International. The publisher provided me with a copy and will be sending a copy to our winner. You can read my review here!   Ashley is giving away this great cookbook.   photo 1 photo 2  
I am pleased to announce the winner of our Great Holiday Book Giveaway! Congratulations Kay Moorhouse. Kay will soon receive this Christmas bonanza of fun books for her and her family to enjoy. Thank you to all those who participated in our giveawy. We will have more great giveaways soon!

Now it is time to link up to the first Book Musings Monday hop!
 
Book Musing Mondays final (1)
  1. Include a link back or the blog hop button linked to this hop on your posts.
  2. Link up the urls to your posts not to your blog.
  3. Please remember this is a family-friendly linkup. We reserve the right to delete any posts that are not family friendly. We love all kinds of literature and genres including family-friendly inspirational romances. We do not welcome anything with excessive sexual content or cursing.
  4. Be sure to visit at least two other bloggers' posts and share comment love!  Remember it is also nice to follow them on their social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
  5. Follow your hosts and co-hosts on their social media.
  6. Tweet about the link up too!

 [tweetthis]Come join the fun and link up your family-friendly book-related posts at Book Musing Mondays![/tweetthis]

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Linking up with these hops this week:

Inspire Me Mondays at Create with Joy,   Inspire Me Monday at Angie Ryg, Mama Moments Monday, Motivation Mondays, Good Morning Mondays

 
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At other places, linkup
Five Minute Friday: Prepare
December 12, 2014 at 5:00 am 9
"Prepare" feels like a weight I can't lift; full of To-Do lists and an endless round of stuff, of moving things back and forth and spending minutes, precious minutes, managing life, instead of living it. I want to prepare in this Advent season, I do. But the type of preparation I want to do is the sort of heart preparation that looks like inadequacy, that feels like death, and means I'm motionless. With hands outstretched. Waiting. For His coming that will make sense of my days, make sense of my wandering, make sense of my anger at injustice and own wounded pride. Preparation without the anxiety is such a gift. A beautiful moment to pause, to breathe, to remember who you are, why you're here. And so I'm choosing to stop. To not worry about the mess and crumbs and the spills that I can get so side-tracked by. True preparation is pause, is reflection; for it's there that we find not only who we are -- as we move away from the bustle of the To-Do list -- but we find Him. Humble, of no account, born in a no-name town. And there, there is peace. __ Five-minute Friday is a weekly writing prompt where you write for 5 minutes flat, no editing. Visit here to see some other link-ups on "prepare"!
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At other places, Celebrate
Those numbers are people
December 10, 2014 at 2:40 pm 4
I ride a roller coaster almost daily. Letting numbers define me -- whether it's on the scale or my blog stats as I check them constantly to see how many are reading, is the number growing, and do readers stick around to read more than one post. It's exhausting and defeating and I know I want no part of that, and yet, I keep hitting refresh. What's that Bible verse about the dogs returning to their own vomit? Yeah, lovely image. IMG_1493.JPG It's time for a reboot. But those numbers? They're people. You guys have entrusted moments of your day to words that I type out with faltering hands. Words that offer refreshment, or ask questions or fumble gracelessly towards truth. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading. Every number on there is a person. A real flesh-and-blood person that I might not even know personally. Someone who believes, like me, that stories matter. That your story matters. That together our stories can heal as we say the scary things out loud to one another.

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So, what is your story? What dreams are you dreaming? What are you hoping for this Advent season? What's the big thing that you're afraid to say because once it has a name, you have to acknowledge it? I've already spilled the beans over here, what about you?
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