Thursday, September 26, 2013

Please Find Me

I just spent the last 30 minutes with this clown playing Cut the Rope on my phone (who also apparently takes pictures of himself when I'm not looking)...

We giggled, we squealed, we cuddled. Somewhere in the back of my mind, where the guilt chambers hold me hostage, something said, "You should be working on alphabet flash cards!" Sometimes, every once in a while, I have the ability break free of my guilt hostage and run free. Please do not hear what I am NOT saying; educating our kids is a huge part in their lives, but today, Cut the Rope trumped the Abeka flashcards :)

As he was getting ready to go take a nap, he asked for a drink of milk. While he was drinking his milk he informed me that I was "uninvited" to boys night tonight. Thursday nights all the sisters are at Pioneer Girls, so it's just the 3 of us. AJ refers to it as "Boys Night" even though I, a girl, am still around. To which I replied, "Oh, you cannot un-invite me or I'll eat your ears off and and blow up your nose!" Well, he lost it and started laughing so hard he spit his milk across the entire kitchen and all over me. We were both crawling around on the floor with tea towels mopping up the mess and howling.

It was at that moment I thought, "Oh, dear God, in ten years let us still be doing this exact same thing!"

In ten years, I know he won't be wearing these stinking cute super hero underwear, and he probably will be opposed to me pinching his booty cheeks 24/7. It is possible in ten years, he'll stand taller than me and believe he is faster and stronger than me. But I pray with this fervent yearning in my heart, that I will find him ten years from now. Find his heart, find his soul, find the things that make him laugh so hard he spits milk all over the kitchen. I pray that we (Mark and I), will fight the plague of the upcoming stages and willingly wade through the years of heavy sludge to earnestly seek out our children.

As parents, we often get tangled up and slowed down by the logistical decisions we have to make for our kids like; meals, clothing, schools, health, education, extracurricular activities, spirituality, friends, and everything else that pertains to keeping them going; that we lose them. Or maybe, we never took the time to find them.

When I see young moms at the grocery store with kids crawling all over them, and one child inevitably screaming for the newest candy that the devil-isle-placer-peoples intentionally put on children's eye level, I want to grab her and say, "find them, find them, FIND THEM!" Strip away all the melt downs, all the temper tantrums, all the moments you swear you are going to die in the mundane of toddlerhood-ville, and FIND THEM! You have to dig beyond the external behavior and get to their core. What makes them tick, scream, laugh, light up, resist you, resist others, embrace you, embrace others...really do you know who your children are?!

One of the greatest joys of my entire life has been finding my children. Finding each of them in a unique and intimate way. Each child is not to be discovered with the same techniques, or in the same time frame, or in the same manner, but each of them is begging, "PLEASE FIND ME!"

Here is to finding your children!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Just Give Me the Dirt (Day 37)

Well, here we are 8 weeks into school, and I am all, "Sweet baby Jesus, we survived to tell about it!"

I am happy to report that this family is finding their public school groove, and let me tell you, it didn't happen over night. The biggest change? (Besides the sweet bliss I feel when I am staring out the window sipping coffee in silence? :) Most definitely mastering the 3-8 pm hours. I think I've told some of you this, when Anderson and I go and get the girls from school, the walk home feels like I am running a triage unit, attending to the child who is bleeding out the most. It's like learning to speed read, I am listening for key statements and phrases to cue me in on the pulse of their days,

"Mom, I bombed my spelling test!"
ME: Ok baby, we will work harder this week. Mama always struggled with spelling too, I still do :)

"Mom, the lunch you sent was delicious!"
ME: Happy Dance!

"Mom, the lunch you sent was disgusting!"
ME: Carrots are not disgusting...

"Mom, all the kids at school say I have the softest skin!"
ME: Tell 'em it's the coconut oil.

"Mom, today at school the boys chased the girls at recess!"
ME: Boys have been chasing girls at recess since Adam and Eve. Run faster.

"Mom, what's for dinner?"
ME: A big bowl of boogers.
ME: Just kidding :)

Typically, I can quickly find out, what, when, and how about their day. The beauty of chatty girls. Sometimes I can detect a discouraged spirit, a tired spirit, an overwhelmed spirit, an excited spirit, a proud (the good kind) of spirit, within seconds of seeing them.

But I have to tell you, one moment that still gets me a little choked up is when I am sending them off for the day. More often than not, I try and address each of them individually and send them off with a promise and a challenge.

"Katie, I LOVE YOU! You are going to rock that math test! Be sensitive to hurting kids today."

"Julia, how do you spell whiskers? I LOVE YOU! Look for someone who needs extra love today."

"Lucy, did you remember your lunch? Be a BIG helper today! Be brave, no tears! I LOVE YOU!

"Did I mention that I LOVE YOU?!!!"


Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Val Hall Kind of Weekend

If you happened to be under a rock last weekend, you would have missed the millions of pictures entitled #hallfamilyvacation clogging up FB.

In case you missed it....

We took a #hallfamilyvacation. In my almost 32 years of life, this was our second family vacation. Our first was to Colorado in 1991. Don't get me wrong, we have taken LOTS of family get-a-ways to the lake of the Ozarks to stay in my Uncle's cabin. Every year Mom and Dad would take tons of youth to Branson for Young Christians Weekend. Currently, we take advantage of every holiday and turn it into some type of family gathering, even if it's just to celebrate the first day of spring.  Where there is a will there is a party. :)

For as long as I can remember, the biggest joy of vacations, get-a-ways, or holidays is the simple high we all get just being together. Deep down, we love being together. Really, it doesn't matter where or when. This is a HUGE compliment to my parents and the hard work they poured out in raising us to enjoy one another. Raising siblings who genuinely love each other comes from a place of intentional parenting. From my own experience of being a sibling and now raising siblings, you don't just naturally love the people you dwell with day after day after day. It's a lot of work. I know mom and dad broke up endless squabbles and fist fights. They put a stop to many arguments, and made rotation lists regarding who got shot gun to and from school. But at the end of the day, it was 100% unacceptable to be ugly, unkind, and unloving to one another. Some of the harshest discipline I received as a little girl was the direct consequence of breaking this cardinal Hall rule.

Many years later there is a deep, deep, loyalty and love we feel toward one another. We will fight to the death for each other, (unless you're really being dumb, then we sidestep and let someone kick the snot out of you :)

Last weekend was the first time we had all been back together since our heavy November. For weeks leading up to our #hallfamilyvacation we texted like giddy school children. Again, the fact that we were pumped to see each other is a stand alone victory :)!

Dad picked Branson for the setting because we have endless memories there as a family, and really because Mama loved Branson.

It was such a sweet weekend! It went by far to fast and no one wanted to leave. We go-carted, we shopped, we conquered Silver Dollar City and rode rides until we were sick, we ate deliciousness, and we did what we always do best; we were together.

The weekend was not without some sucker punches. While the six grands hopped onto the tram, with smiles as big as Christmas on their faces, I caught myself choking up and thinking, "She would have loved this." While the train conductor teased the kids while we waited for the train to return to the station, I caught my breath, "She would have thought this was just perfect!" And while we splashed and hollered in the pool and hot tub, I could see her sitting among us soaking up every second of this precious moment!

Mom was a good soaker-upper. She didn't let moments pass by without saying, "Clint, where's the camera, take a picture of this!" She wanted to hold onto 'moments' as often as she could. Not only was she a great soaker-upper, she was an excellent architect in creating memories.

That's why we went to Branson, because as hard as it was to sense the magnified hole of her absence, we went because it's time to create more memories. We went because that's exactly what she would have us doing; soaking up each other. Mom is apart of every memory we make together, even if she can't be with us. She gave us an eternal gift; the gift of really loving each other.

We missed you last weekend Mama.
We miss you every day Mama.

It was definitely a Val Hall, kind of weekend,

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Send the Crowd Away!

I often find myself giggling at the twelve disciples, or the "twelve dudes who did" as the Littlejohns refer to them.

Today, I was rereading the story of the when Jesus fed the five thousand (15,000 when you count women and children). Jesus had spent the entire day surrounded by thousands of people. Mark 9 verse 11, tells us that Jesus welcomed them, healed them, cured them, and taught them. As the sun begins to set and the disciples stomachs begin to growl, I imagine they panic a little in regards to how in the heck they are going to get some good grub with all these people in their way. Maybe they were done with the whole "you are healed" stuff, and were ready to put the day in the books.

This is the verse that tripped me up, "Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, 'Send the crowd away'.... "


Or maybe not.

I see myself in this verse. I can relate to these dudes. When I am faced with an onslaught of undone, broken, helpless, situations; where needs and wants are far beyond my capabilities, sometimes, a lot of times, I try and persuade Jesus, "let's just send that crowd away! Let's disregard it. Can we just press the delete button and move on? The faith, energy, hurting, and sacrifice this particular situation might require of me is far too overwhelming."

Like the disciples, "Uh, Jesus we do not have the means to feed these people, let's send them to the local towns and villages to see if they can scrape up some food for 15,000 (because Chickfila's were everywhere in Bethsaida in 30 A.D. :)...

Here are the disciples standing in the presence of God Almighty, who created the world by pressing His lips together to form words, and the disciples are a mess because they are hungry and seem to be lacking in some problem solving skills. Again, I get the disciples issues. When I am hungry the problem solving part of my brain shuts down. KA-PUT! And I am not very "others" focused, (i.e. CRANKPOT!)

But this is what I love about my Jesus, His response, "Have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each!" Oh my stars, be still my administrative beating heart. The detail, the control, the calmness in His tone.
For all we know, next Jesus lead them in a camp song as they waited for the miracle. Don't ever doubt that our God is a God of details. He is in them, He uses them, He asks us sometimes to be about them.

"Have them sit down to EAT!" Before He even touches the scraps He is offered, there is HOPE! He announces what is about to happen to the disciples. And there is not an ounce of doubt in the King's mind; He is going to feed these people.

Can you see the confusion on the disciples faces? "Small problem here JC, we are in the middle of no where and all we have are two fish and five loaves of bread." But they did what faithful followers do; they obeyed, they asked the people to sit even though it made zero sense in their minds. They obeyed, despite the lack of understanding and knowing what was going to happen next. They obeyed, regardless of the fact they saw no logical solution before them; they obeyed.

Right when the disciples wanted to put the day behind them, right when they were begging Jesus to, "send the crowds away" God provided for one of the most basic needs humans have; food. Not only did He provide with such abundance, verse 17 tells us, "they were satisfied!" Ah, such sweet nectar to the hungry belly. I am fully convinced He satisfied not only their physical need of hunger that day, He satisfied their souls. He satisfied their doubts. He satisfied wavering, quivering, spirits. He satisfied. And you know what? He still SATISFIES.

Satisfied with Jesus, I am satisfied with Him! (*thank you Ruth Ward*)


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, LOVE!

Happy Birthday, to best man I know!
While you are leaving your perfect Jesus year behind, (33)
I think you age like a fine wine!
Thirty four will most definitely not be a bore.

Thanks for adding deep creativity, bold determination, daily adventure, sweet grace and endless perspective to our lives.

I hope and pray that you know not only by my words, but also by my deeds, that I celebrate you everyday inside and out!

You are home to me,

(endless perspective)

(deep creativity)

(bold determination)

(sweet grace)

(daily adventure)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I was doing the final inventory on our house in Kansas. I was checking my moving lists, reconfirming our hotels, and zipping up suitcases when I found this book laying on my suitcase. I didn't even have to wonder who the book was from. The Hall's love language is books. And the founder and chief of our love is our Dad. You want to win our hearts over? Books. Come into any of our homes and books are every.where. It's our inheritance.

 I read the titled and started crying. Here is the book cover synopsis, "Two thousand years ago Jesus gave an urgent assignment to his followers right before he left.  At its essence it was not just an invitation to believe: it was a bold call to action. It was a challenge to go into the world to reclaim, reform, and restore it for Christ. Simply stated, the message of this book is that God has invited each of us to join him in this world-changing mission. And if you are not personally participating in God's great endeavor, you could be missing the very thing he created you to do."

If you know anything about my Dad you should know that the man is so passionate about the gospel and taking it to the world. My Dad lights up when he starts talking about all the nations of the world being changed by Jesus. The hardest I have ever seen my Dad weep is when he spoke of abused girls being pulled out of sex slavery and redeemed by the gospel. Girls that were the same ages as his five granddaughters. Want to see Clint Hall, fired up? Ask the man how he is spending his days in "retirement" and he will not shy away from telling you. You cannot listen to his stories without believing that our personal work and the work as Christ's bride is still unfinished. You cannot listen to his stories and walk away unchanged. I hang up the phone with my Dad and I am ready to pack my bags and head for the Congo, or at least an OM Ship, or maybe just the dishes with a new passion. :)

There has been a reoccurring theme in my life the last two years and everywhere I turn the Lord is reconfirming the message. Whether it is has been through our experience at Woodland Ridge that marked our hearts forever, or women's bible studies, sermons, worship songs, personal study, intimate conversations between Mark and I, it keeps showing up on my heart. And I am all, "I get it God, I get it!"

The message?

"Seek out the broken. Find them. Run to them. Set aside all the selfishness and excess in your life (very much revealed to me in our study of  '7' by Jen Hatmaker) and by MY power cover yourself in the messiness of others. Sara, stop being comfortable stuck in the muck of the American dream."

News flash: we are not called to put all of our energy and resources into living out the American dream.


Oh, I wish I could dive into the 12 step plan God has given our family on how to do this. I wish I could have a whole blog series on how we are putting feet on that in our family. I cannot. Not yet :)

I can tell you some verses that our taking root in our hearts. Verses that are waking me up at night. Verses that are begging me to dig deeper in order to see how they are to play themselves out in our daily lives.

James 1: 26 & 27 ~ Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from a godless world.

Psalm 68: 5 & 6 ~ A father of the fatherless and an advocate for the widows, God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity.

Mark 14:7 ~ You will always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them.

Isaiah 58: 6-9 Paraphrased by yours truly, "You thought fasting just required you to fast from food. You went through the motions, but your heart was a million miles from me. Instead, this is the fast I want you to do; loosen the bonds of wickedness, undo the bands of the yoke, let oppressed go free, take your food and feed those that are hungry. Bring homeless, broken, people into YOUR home, cover those who are naked, and do not keep being comfortable stuck in the muck of the American dream. Expose yourself, inquire after painful, heart wrenching circumstances. And THEN you will find Me, your God, your Father. You will know my glory."

Oh friends, I am the not same. We are not the same. Our hearts are yearning for what God has for us each day. We are unfinished in every way. It only takes looking into a mirror (or trying to get a family photo) that reveals the brokenness right under our roof.

We want Jesus. More of Him, less of us.

As every good Hall does, my Dad signed the book he gave us; "This book is a great reminder of what all of us are to be about doing wherever God sends us. You go to Mississippi with my blessing and "let your light shine for all the world to see!"


Friday, September 6, 2013

Amelia Bedelia and Jesus

I love the blossoming ability of a child who is learning to read. They begin to uncover a whole other world, find characters they fall in love with and understand, explore places maybe they'll never travel too, and build sweet companionship with that mysterious haven our souls drift to when we unlock reading.

Julia has recently discovered Amelia Bedelia. Yesterday, she could hardly get her back pack off before she was reading me excerpts from the book. We were both laughing so hard at all the silly 'mistakes' Amelia was making. If you have never read these FANTASTIC stories by Peggy Parish, get up now, go to the local library and get you some. I don't care if you are eight or eighty eight. Amelia Bedelia makes everything better.

Amelia Bedelia is a house maid for the Rogers, a wealthy couple with lots of instructions. In last night's story, Amelia was instructed to "dust the furniture". What did Amelia Bedelia do? Well, of course, she grabbed some baby powder and 'dusted' every piece of furniture by spreading powder all over. She was also told to "change the towels". So Amelia grabbed some scissors and changed the towels until they were unrecognizable. Then Amelia was asked to draw the drapes. So out comes an easel and a picture of the drapes is drawn. Our favorite part that had Julia rolling on the floor, was when Amelia was told to "dress the chicken". Amelia found a fantastic pair of overalls and dressed that chicken to the nines. :)

I could feel it in Julia's tone, she was connecting with the character of Amelia Bedelia. It was cathartic for her to laugh at all the misinterpretations of the given instructions.

Hmmmm... misinterpretations of given instructions. How much of our journey with the Lord Jesus is a misinterpretation of given instructions? How often are we making this pilgrimage far more difficult than necessary? Why do we increase the load of our own brokenness, and other's brokenness, by interjecting a laundry list of man made rules to follow? How many pages after Revelation 22:21, have we added to the pure, undefiled, gospel of Jesus Christ?

John 15, has been marinating in my heart this week. In addition to redeemed, I could totally see myself getting a tattoo that said abide. Not only am I crazy about the letters used in this word, the way the curves and lines speak to my eyes, but I love, ADORE, cannot get enough of, what this word means! Hear this, let this sink deep down into the performance based lies that dwell in your 'be good, do good' heart file folders.

Abide; remain, accept, bear patiently, stick to, stand by.

So now, John 15:4, "Abide in me!" I love this invitation. I get chills at this flirtatious request to just come and be in the presence of the Almighty God of the Universe. The King of Kings, is whispering sweet nothings to our screwed up hearts. He is tirelessly running after us in order for us to gain from simply remaining, unequivocally accepting who He says He is, sticking with Him, standing in close quarters with a fearless warrior who pursues His people and fights their battles!!

We are not called to spin our wheels, run a muck by unsuccessfully pruning our outsides to be appealing; while we die on the inside because we've detached ourselves from the source of life. Pruning is HIS work in our lives, as we remain in close relationship with Him. Oh, and we aren't called to prune each other with hurtful sheers, God forbid we get out of the way and let God do His work in His people. He is the master pruner. His touch is neither too hard or too soft. He sees what needs to be trimmed by the perfectly, gracious, and just eyes He looks through. His sight far surpasses my broken vision of myself and others.

How much baby powder and strife have you dumped unnecessarily in the living room of your life? How many shredded towels and relationships lay at your feet because you wanted change? How many easels and plans have collapsed in your life because you want to be in charge of the drawing? And how many pairs of overalls and self help techniques have you wasted on dressing up the chickens in your life?

Do you hear it in His tone? Close your eyes and let it penetrate the raw edges of your day, "ABIDE IN ME!" That's it. Everything else is stripped away and we are found right where we should be; stuck like glue to Jesus.

To all the Amelia Bedelias out there ~ God speed. :)


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Different Type of Hangover

Here at Ljlife&literature, we have celebrated commiserated the first work day after each holiday by declaring it "holiday hangover day". It does not refer to the type of hangover some might deduce it to meaning, rather the long day that seems to emerge after a holiday, (particularly, this was an ongoing joke with my home school friends and SAHMs). We texted each other, we emailed each other, we blogged about the the way our children, our schooling, and our homes seemed to spiral out.of.control. on this day. (*clause* I am not intentionally leaving out people who work outside of their homes. I have not worked outside my home in ten years, so I do not know your 'holiday hangover' experiences, but I KNOW that they DO exist! I only try to speak out of my own personal experiences and not presume on yours!)

Any to the who~ after ten years of 'holiday hangovers' today I was almost jolted by the different hang over that clouded my little heart. I sent my wee babes to school early (early for me who likes to start the day around 9 :). AJ and I ate breakfast, lollygagged to bible study, read some of our favorite literature, cooked lunch, took a nap, rode bikes, picked up sisters from school and began the new mad sprint between 3-8. It is now approximately 8:02 and my husband and 3 smallest children are passed out (they too felt the side effects of holiday hangover day, or a work out with Scott Barlow :)..

Today, I ached for my kids (for my girls; obviously Anderson doesn't leave my side :). Like this very familiar ache of grieving something that is dead. Something between us has died. My days with them, in the confines of the sweet paced home school life has almost vanished. While, my role as their teacher will never die, this moment seems to have passed far too quickly. Like, we arrived here in MS and a few short days later I sent them off to school, neither having the time or space to process this new death in our lives.

I loved homeschooling. Not every second of every day. Not everyday for 5 years... Oh, this home school professor locked herself in her bathroom and sobbed her eyes out because sometimes I was D.O.N.E. Home schooling can be intense, especially when you start throwing in a lot of different grade levels.  I love my kids, with every ounce of energy this 30 something body can process, but I also knew in my core, WE knew in OUR core, it was time for them to go to school.

And so today was day 18 of school, and my first holiday hang over day without them. I spent most of it in tears and prayers for all the people with my girls, because deep down I knew how those teachers were feeling. I've tried to motivate my kids after a holiday weekend and it's draining. Multiple that by a classroom full of kids, and I was on my knees. At midnight, I had this totally southern inclination to bake some 'happys' for the teachers, tie some ribbon around a tote, and send a little note saying, 'Happy Hangover Day!' Then, I envisioned a phone call from DHS with some raised eye brows and a few harsh  (Julia's vocab word for the week) questions. Oh, the 'Christian Concern' I would spark :) Instead, I prayed for those really amazing teachers. And I hugged those precious girls so tightly when they emerged from the school building. The 3-8 o'clock sprint felt like heaven. I listened to every story, I signed papers like a boss ( Jen Hatmaker steal), I was attentive, alert, overly energized, and knocked homework out of this dry county.

Eighteen days later, and we are unbelievably grateful for the people who are pouring into our kids lives. Has it been a road of pink colored roses? No. (Is it ever, btw?) Have we already seen some incredible growth in our girls? UM YES!! Has this retired professor seen some really meaty things come from it in her own life? Yes, praise Jesus, YES!! Has homeschool died forever in the LJ house, we never say never here. But for this season, we are CHARGING (yes, it is a play on words) ahead.

So for all you teachers out there, if you every receive a little 'happy' from me with "Happy Holiday Hang Over" written in perfect calligraphy, please don't report me, just eat the baked good and know you are deeply appreciated!

Cheers, to a new 'holiday hangover'!