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Saturday, December 31, 2016

year in review

2016 was just so awful that I made the decision, repeatedly, not to record much of it. I have a one line a day journal that I did not fill in this year, except for maybe on the kids' birthdays - and maybe not even then. This year has been overwhelmingly hard and as the year comes to a close and everyone else is speaking out with how hard this past year was it makes me feel a little bit better to know that this has been an awful year for a lot of people - it makes me feel less alone.

A photo posted by faith raider (@faithraider) on

I don't even know where to start with writing a review for this year - the year stated out with Grayson's 2nd hospitalization in twice as many months. Not a great way to start the year.  My husband lost his job at the end of the summer and we were days away from being evicted - but God provided a new job for Daniel, right in the nick of time, and we didn't have to move. Daniel had another episode of major back pain, which was super scary. Grayson had major surgery this year, which was really hard for me to deal with, but Grayson recovered so much more quickly and easily then I thought he would. He goes in for a minor surgery again on Wednesday and I'm feeling a little bit more emotionally prepared for this. I also started homeschooling this year and in the fall not only Josiah but Eli as well and that has been hard. 

One of the down-sides of not keeping track of this year has been that it makes it harder to count the wins. As I look back on this year I wonder if I have really grown at all, and it is hard to remember all the way that God has brought me.

Here are a couple that I can remember:

Grayson got sick and didn't need to be hospitalized. That was an important moment for me. It was a relief to know that he wasn't going to have to be hospitalized every single time he got a bit sick.

I got my very first ebook published on Amazon. It is a Bible Study called Along the Way that I wrote with my best friend for her small group. You can buy it for 99cents using the link above.

I sent my very first book proposal to a real live literary agent and he had some really helpful things to say about it. I expected a rejection, and that is what I got but it was the most kind hearted rejections I could ever hope for - so that was something.

I offered my photography services this year and a few friends took me up on it! (actually way more than I thought - which reminded me that I have the best friends) and it felt super-good to be reminded of why I love photography, and that I don't totally suck as a photographer. If you're interested in seeing some of my sessions here is one for my best friend and here is my favorite session of the season.

A photo posted by faith raider (@faithraider) on
Both of my best friends and my little sister and I went to go see Bethel in concert. It Was Amazing.

A photo posted by faith raider (@faithraider) on
I drove all the way to Midland, NC by myself to spend some time with one of my favorite authors and proved to myself that I could get out of my comfort zone - waaaaay out of my comfort zone, and not die in the process.

Untitled Here was a big win: Daniel got a pool membership to the neighborhood next to ours and all of the kids learned to swim by the end of the year. It was a terrific way to spend a really hot and kind of boring summer. Another great thing that happened over the summer was that I got to spend a lot of time with my two best friends. We hung out with our kids at the pool and just enjoyed being together and sharing our lives, and our lunches.

We also got to spend a record number of days with my side of the family! We saw them twice over the summer, once in Atlanta and once here in Augusta. We also saw all of the cousins at my oldest nephew's High School graduation. We also met up with my sister for a last minute trip to Ikea. Which was a lot of fun.

We went to Hilton Head beach for the day. Which was a lot of fun!

Next year I plan to journal more. I'm going to try the bullet journal thing - so if you have any advice or favorite blog posts about it send them my way. It would be nice to be able to remember more of the wins, even if they are small.

Here are a few favorite blog posts:
What I learned this fall - mostly I learned that you can't control what season you are in.
An invitation - day 1 of my 31 days of blog posts on the topic of choosing brave.
Brave in my smallness - where I wonder if I will ever learn to be content with where I am.
When I forget everything I have learned - mulling on the ideas of duty and delight
When my prayers are lame - thinking about Jesus and the lame man.
This post where I write honestly about what it feels like to be homeschooling right now. 
Here is our year in review in pictures:
UntitledJanuary 23, 2016 we got a morning of snow. It had all melted by the end of the day!

DSC_8188DSC_8202DSC_8372 Untitled UntitledUntitled

We went to the zoo with my small group.

Beth turned 15!
Emma turned 13 and is now officially a teenager. 
Emma raised enough money to go to the State Capitol with her school group for Junior Georgia Youth Assembly where she wrote a bill and went through the process of trying to get it passed. She did a terrific job! I am just so proud of her.
Katie-Abigail started middle school. Emma is in her last year of middle school. Beth started high school. 
Happy Father's Day!
DSC_5915DSC_6264DSC_6022 UntitledDSC_8073UntitledUntitledUntitled
Grayson's Birthday!



Friday, December 30, 2016

brave when you run out of words

I have a vague idea of what I want to say here on this blog, but lately I have felt like I have totally and completely run out of words. Right this minute my boys are reading over my shoulder, complaining about the cold outside and wanting batteries for their walkie-talkies and the perpetual refrain of "I don't know what to do." Even though Christmas was not yet a week ago. Sigh.

Yet here I sit anyway. I handed over the baby to the biggest sister and said - take him outside, I need to write for a bit. Because I may not be at the point where I can blog 500 words a day but I can write a few. I might not be able to spend hours on a book but I can tap out a few words here.

And here is what I am here to say - I feel all out of words. It is the hum that has been at the back of my head, a fear thrumming in the background - I feel like I have lost my words. Where are my words? I do not know. I am all out at the moment. I have totally lost momentum, as I often do. So what am I going to do? What is the brave thing here?

Here is how to choose brave when I feel out of words - remember: I have not run out of words for the rest of my life. They will come back. They always do. It might not be today, it might not be tomorrow. It might not happen when the kids go back to school. It might not happen when I expect it, and the words may not be there when I want them to. It's okay that when I turn inwards to think about all the writing projects that were jostling for attention a month or two (or day or two) ago - they're all gone. It really is okay and they really will come back.

There are two big kids reading to little siblings in the room behind me. I'm trying to keep my thoughts from flying out of the room, getting lost in the noise behind me. The dog comes and licks my hand and I'm trying not to loose. my. mind. But I'm still here. Still writing. Even though I just had to get up to take one of the baby's ball from the dog's mouth. Ugh.

The first brave thing is to believe that the words really will come back. Here is the second brave thing. Keep showing up. Keep writing. Even if it is just this - to say I don't have much of anything to say and I'm struggling with all of this. I'm going to keep writing even though I don't have the energy within me that I had before.

Yesterday I realized something about my life - about the things that make me feel really happy and satisfied. Writing is part of it. Yesterday I wrote a blog post that was nothing particularly remarkable but I was so happy that day. I let go of the results end of the whole writing thing and the desire for comments or blog numbers and just enjoyed the fact that I am writing. I am writing on my blog again and it makes me happy. It makes me feel the most like myself - which I know I have said so many times that you are probably sick of it. But it is the truth.

So here I am. Saying let's keep on being brave. When we run out of words we take a breath and smile and say "it won't be like this forever, the words will come back." and then we sit down and write what we can. Let's not freak out or give up. The words and the projects and all of that, it's waiting down the road a bit. Maybe now is the time to focus on reading, or a time to just journal. But keep writing, don't give up. Hold onto hope. Keep showing up. Choose brave.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

choosing brave: in the dressing room

Over the last couple of years I have been asking myself "what would it mean to choose brave?" in many different circumstances - in smallness, exhaustion, anger, when I'm comfortable and when I'm waiting to name a few and esterday I found an unexpected place to choose brave - in the dressing room at Goodwill.

I have been meaning to go out and get new jeans for awhile, my current pair was wearing out, but it's not something I look forward to. I know it'll take forever and it'll be frustrating and expensive. Finally the little hole in the knee of my last pair of "good jeans" was noticeable and I couldn't take it any more. I told the hubs I'd be back eventually and headed out by myself for the nearest Goodwill. I spent awhile sorting through the crowded messy racks getting a range of sizes and headed to the dressing room.

When I was a teenager I was a ballet dancer. There was a time when I could fit into a size four. That was a long time ago though. I am 33 and have given birth to six children, one of which only about a year and a half ago. I'm a long ways from a size four now. And most of the time I can accept that. I have decided that the most important thing for me right now is to be able to nurse my baby and if this is the body I need to have in order to do that well then I'm okay with that. But I tend to have no idea what size I actually am. I don't know - not a size four anymore, not a fourteen. Something in between.

I don't typically dress in front of a full-length mirror and I don't try to stuff myself into pants that are too small so trying on jeans in front of that mirror made me catch my breath. Yeah so not a size four anymore - but this is when I get to choose brave. I get to be gentle with myself. I got to half laugh at myself and say "well, those don't fit!" and keep reaching for the next pair. I didn't even try on a couple of pairs in the smaller sizes I'd picked up. They were half off but oh well, I'm not going to buy anything else hoping I'll fit into it some day. I'm done with that.

I would never berate a friend or one of my children for not fitting into any certain size,  I'm done with the shaming self-talk. In the dressing room there is no should. There just is what is. I'm not going to loose weight by feeling bad about my body - been there, tried that, it didn't do me any good. I'm not going to become a smaller size by wishing I was a smaller size or telling myself I should be a smaller size. I would love it if a year from now, or six months from now, I found myself here again because these pants are too big. But I'm not. I am here now, in the body I have now dressing the body that I have now and not the body I wish I had or think I ought to have.

Sometime choosing brave means self-control and making a healthier choice. Sometimes choosing brave means being gentle and not pouring on shame. It means sending every single pair that doesn't feel comfortable into the reject pile because there is something spiritual about wearing a pants that fit and sometimes gaining five pounds grows your soul. And I am 100% done with shaming myself.

So here I sit in the most comfortable pair of green jeans (this is the first time I have ever bought colored jeans! Because I'm choosing to live out the truth that I am not 100% beige)  They are a size bigger than the ones I've been wearing and I guess for right now this is my self-care.  I am done trying to shove my muffin top into clothes that hurt me and I am done with shame in the dressing room.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

a year later

One year ago I was filling out the paperwork to take my oldest son out the public school around the corner. It was the school my other kids had loved, but it just wasn't working for Josiah. He was coming home telling me that he was a bad kid. He was stressed out and his already explosive behavior was getting worse and worse. I had been thinking about homeschooling him for about a year.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I had no idea that in the middle of a lot of other hard things, like the baby being hospitalized and needing surgery, changing churches and what feels like about a million other things being hard and going wrong during the last year, homeschooling would be the hardest thing I have done, maybe ever.

I was homeschooled, Kindergarten through twelfth grade, I thought I knew what to expect. I didn't. And since I'm being honest here, there have been plenty of days that I have wanted to drop him off at school and just be done with it. I have stood at the kitchen sink, ready to give up, again and again and again. But I believe that making decisions for the right reasons is every bit as important as making the right decision so I have plowed ahead into the next day, believing that this is the best thing for my family, at least for now.

For me, the reason I'm homeschooling is so that I can be with my boys, so that we can "do life" together and in the middle of life, we do school. That's my intention, but it hasn't always been my reality. Some days we would do school all. day. long and I'd get to the end of the day and feel like I was doing the opposite of what I wanted to do.

Today we went to the park and I watched my boys in their imaginative play and I thought this is what I have been working so hard for. There is still a lot that they still need to learn, but there is a lot that is going right. This last year has been so hard. Moments like these make it worth it. When they play together well, when they resolve conflicts between the two of them peacefully. When they are silly and kind and listen well. This is what I wanted.

I'm trying to figure out how to have more days like these as we move forward into the New Year. I want our homeschooling to fit my family, not the other way around. I am a homeschooling mom but it isn't the only thing I'm doing with my life right now and I am hoping that our days will reflect that more and more. Homeschooling takes up a lot of our day, a lot of my patience and energy. It takes up a lot of my kid's time too - but in the end we want them to learn how to live well not just do school well.


Thursday, December 15, 2016


Y'all I have at least a dozen blogs posts rattling around in my brain right now, they're getting crowded, elbow to elbow, bumping against each other but homeschooling (and the lack of being able to blog from my phone) have made it tricky to find the moment to sit down and let it spill out... till right now. This can't wait. The boys are in the kitchen eating apple slices and frozen yogurt tubes while I'm half-heartedly making a box of mac & cheese for their lunch and sneaking in this quick little note. Because it has to be said. Right here, right now. Before it goes away.

Contentment. Right here and now, right where I am. This is enough. This life. This craziness. All of it. I'm not in love with all of it everyday, some days more than others, but I am okay with it. Really. And who I am, the smallness of it, the bigness of it, the quiet, the trying to be heard amongst the din both in my house and online. I'm good with it. I have faith that I'm on a journey and my life won't always look like this, and it is going somewhere and that this stage matters... at least most days.

Then there are the other days - do you remember being that starry-eyed teenager? I don't know about you but I remember thinking that all I needed to be happy was a boyfriend. I could not wait to have someone notice me, and want to talk to me for hours, and hold my hand (sigh). And then once I had the boyfriend all I needed to be happy was to get married... and have a baby (or two), and then for them to get to be school-aged and less of a hassle (I really truly miss those hard, humble years) and then I realized that I was always wanting the next big thing and I stopped.

Until I realized that I am a writer.

Then it started all over again. I thought - oh I will finally be happy when I have a blog, with X number for followers, but that morphed into I will finally be happy when I have a book deal, or I will finally be happy when I am published. On this journey towards becoming a published author (did I just say that out loud? Yes I did.) There is a huge temptation to think that somehow to be published will be to be satisfied. I don't think so. There will always be something else, someone who has accomplished more, who has succeeded at a greater level than I am currently. Some next best thing.

The way I see it is like this - how will I feel if I accomplish all of my goals? I imagine myself packing to get on a plane to go speak somewhere and to sell my books and then I imagine coming home to a sink of dirty dishes. How will I feel then?  Well, I think there will be that temptation to wish I had bigger sales or better reviews or invitations to speak and this place or that. I imagine there will be the temptation to compare myself to someone farther along, bigger or better and I hear God's spirit encouraging me to learn this lesson here.

So I come around to this word "enough". I'm tempted to say "I am enough" and in a certain sense that is true, what God made when He made me is good. Sin has a way of turning that image of God into a fun-house crazy-snap-chat-filtered image sometimes but that little piece of the image of Himself that God placed into me when I was being formed, it's always there, even if it is kinda hidden. I keep asking Him - who do You say that I am? I want to be her as clearly as I possibly can be.

But I also have to say that God is enough - He is the one who satisfies my longings, and my identity is found in Him, he has set the boundaries for my life and I want to say with the Psalmist that they have fallen in pleasant places. I want to be like Paul who said that he had learned the secret of contentment, he had learned that he could have a lot and he could have next to nothing and it didn't rock the boat of his self-image. So I could be the next Ann VosKamp or for better or worse the next Jen Hatmaker, or the next Beth Moore or I could continue on as that sweet lady in the back row that just a few people know but they are loved by her - and it wouldn't make a difference.

That is when I am stopped right in my tracks. Really? It wouldn't make a difference? Not to me, not to God? Really? Really. Even when these kids are driving me CRAZY and I feel like one small drop in the ocean? Even then? I don't know who it is that God made you to be but I God made me to be a writer, and I want to be a writer because I believe that that is who God made me to be, not because that is who I am trying to become. I want to be a writer out of the overflow, not out of striving. I want to write because, for whatever reason, God decided that this world needed yet another writerly soul on it and I am one of them. I am not trying to prove anything, not even to myself. I am not trying to earn an identity, it was already given to me. I already have enough. I already am enough. At least that it what I am telling myself today.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Brave the Bible Study - Week 2 recap

Today I woke up to bad news about a close family member who is currently in the hospital and no internet. Today we wandered around a bit - wandered through Target, and the Library and the park. It was a day of wandering around, which was maybe a good way to prepare for this study on Hagar and her wandering through the wilderness.

I don't know about you but I can totally relate to the idea of wandering through a wilderness. During those seasons I feel isolated. I feel lack, scarcity, I feel like I'm wandering around without direction or purpose. That is why I turn to the story of Hagar when I need to be reminded of how God responds to me in the middle of my season of wilderness.

When I feel invisible - God sees me. When I feel like no one is listening - God hears me. 

When I am in the wilderness and everything around is just sand. This is the space in which God works. He makes the wilderness into a garden. He takes a valley of dry bones and make them into an army. When all I have are ashes that is the space in which God does amazing things.  I would challenge you to respond,  in the middle of your wilderness, with worship (here is a link to my Spotify worship list) find some space in the middle of you quiet or in the middle of your loud, by yourself but especially with your brothers & sisters and worship. 

Here is the Live video from Facebook... or a link to it or something...

Here is the link to the homework for next week. See you there!