Sunday, February 19, 2017

when you're just tired

I’m tired.

a river system and the master mind behind it. 

Tired of washing sheets and teaching math.

Tired of never actually wanting to go to church.

Tired of coming up with the dinner, making the dinner, cleaning up the dinner.

reading her valentine card from her daddy and her brother.

Tired of dirty socks on the floor, books used for car ramps, pieces of board games used for horse food.

I’m tired of telling myself over and over that the mess will clean up, it’s no big deal, they’re kids and they’re growing and learning. I’m tired of forcing myself to believe in and have peace in something that I want my mind and heart to just actually believe in and have peace in.

I’m tired of keeping my cool about the mess and the socks for an enormous amount of time and then losing it.

I’m tired of feeling guilty for losing it and then promising myself I won’t let the mess and the toys get me worked up ever again. Ever.

I’m tired of feeling guilty for relishing in our at home schedule, where we get boring things done like math and language arts and laundry, wondering if there are better things we need to be doing and places we need to be going.

I’m tired of forcing myself to go to play dates and to chic fil a and to the orchestra and then feeling the weight of being “behind” and recovering from such a busy week.

a valentine tradition.  dave and ian kick us out of the house and make dinner and set a special valentine table. 

I’m tired of things that are good for me being hard.  Running. Getting out the door with all of us looking halfway decent on a Sunday morning.  Eating semi-healthy. Being out in the world.

Tired of hearing my kids words hurt each other and reminding them to “please use kind words” and “please don’t talk to me that way.”

my valentine to dave: cleaning out the van. it's sad that this is actually a real gift. 

I’m tired of things being hard and stressful for my amazing husband.  I’m tired of him working so diligently and honestly only to be knocked down over and over.

I’m tired of fighting for joy.  I’m tired of choosing joy.  I’m tired of finding joy.

I just want it to find me.

I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for strong coffee with thick, frothy cream.

Thankful for the way a hard run clears my mind and awakens my heart.

Thankful for the blessing it always is to teach my 4th and 5th grade class, to hear glenn’s teaching and to worship in community.

preparing for her moana birthday party.

Thankful for the delicious feeling of satisfaction after using black beans and brown rice to stretch a pound of ground beef into taco salad, tacos and taco soup.

Thankful that my strong conviction to save my children’s childhood from the clutches of screens outweighs the mess of busy, imaginative kids every time.

Thankful that there is grace when I lose it.  Thankful that my kids get to hear me say I’m sorry, that they get to witness me needing Jesus.

quiet reading hour in front of the heater. 

I’m thankful that I feel so strongly and passionately about avery, ashton and ian learning at home with me for this season and that that passion wins again and again over the untidy inconveniences that come with homeschooling.

wendy's. nancy lewis park. pikes peak. 
thankyou colorado winters.

I’m thankful that when I push myself to go out into the world where there are real people (J) and interesting places, perspective from a friend's thoughts, or watching my kids experience something new makes it always worth it.

I’m thankful that days at home will always be our firm foundation.

box seats at the orchestra with cousins!

I’m thankful for a husband who gets up every time he’s knocked down and that he leads us by example by finding ways to laugh in the midst of trouble.

And I’m thankful that whenever I truly seek joy, I find it. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

not for the wise

in a season where praying does feel a bit childish, but definitely crucial, this bit on prayer sure has meant a lot.

 "in honesty, you have to admit to a wise man that prayer is not for the wise, not for the prudent, not for the sophisticated. instead, it is for those who recognize that in the face of their deepest needs, all their wisdom is quite helpless. it is for those who are willing to persist in doing something that is both childish and crucial." f. buechner

his first official quiet reading hour.  for the joy set before me. 

baby cousins!!!

homeschool perk: when finishing up her language arts for the day means reading robert fulton to me while i prepare lunch. 💕
9 year olds can sit on counters too. 

there is truly not much i prefer over pizza and movie night with this crew and their dad. 

watching diligence and persistence and concentration bud in my energetic boy is a beautiful sight to behold. 

we had a sweet valentines day.  we drove through chic fil a for our free breakfast and then packed up and took school to the library.

it was such a quiet, peaceful morning.  the kids rotated through their individual teaching time with me and then collected books or played on the computers.

while we were there they had a little toddler music time and it was killing me.  i mean, didn't i just bring my tiny ones to this very library, like, last week? i can picture each of them as toddlers at this library. there was the sweetest, cutest little mom.  she had a toddling one year old and she was so patient with her.  it brought tears to my eyes! it made me proud to be a mom.  we are doing such sacred, holy work and i was reminded of that watching that sweet mom with her little girl.

ashton could hardly finish her math because she kept watching the little ones!  she's a sucker for babies like her momma.

logan and amanda haag have been and always will be important friends to us! they are busy living a great adventure traveling the country and so we don't get to see them often, but it's such fun to see our kids get along and play together!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

in us and in others


to succeed in dealing with a problem.
to defeat an opponent and prevail.

i've been reading listening to your life by frederick buechner lately and this morning a paradigm shift washed over me when i read his words on overcoming.  it's easy to think of overcoming any number of life circumstances as a moment in time. i haven't overcome, oh and now i have overcome. the problem is over, i prevailed. 

buechner writes:

"and deep in my heart i do believe we shall overcome some day, by God's grace, by helping the seed of the kingdom grow in ourselves and in each other until finally in all of us it becomes a tree where the birds of the air can come and make their nests in our branches."

beautiful. and so familiar.

these words sent me straight to Matthew 13.

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man planted in his field. Although it is the smallest of all seeds, yet it grows into the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches."

the seed is overcoming even in all of the dark, underground moments as it sprouts and grows. 

the overcoming happens in the small, unnoticed, hushed ways of everyday.  the kind, steady, faithful moments of today are the overcoming moments of tomorrow. 

a meal for a friend, a morning run, offering forgiveness, the set up coffee pot, washed sheets, early prayer journaling, a letter in the mail, a heart-eyed text, seeking truth in God's word. 

overcoming becomes the process of helping the seed of the kingdom grow in ourselves and in each other. 

east library take over. it's so warm in there! so many windows! so much light! a lovely couple of hours. 


the kingdom in us.  the kingdom in others.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

the wait

2017 finds us in a small, unkept waiting room. it's lamp shines an eery glow of uncertainty and casts shadows of doubt across the walls. it's scary here.  we are believing that God is even now doing a great work on our behalf. we are choosing to trust in the faithfulness that we've seen from him in the past, but not knowing how he will move or when he will move is proving to be quite paralyzing. there is work to be done here in the wait and so we get up, we do the hard work of plowing the field and baking the bread, even as we pray for a miracle.

in christ alone, my hope is found.


he is my light, my strength, my song.

 when they're all doing something quiet together i always, ALWAYS take a picture. 

this cornerstone, this solid ground

 best cousins in the world. this is just fact.

firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

 right outside their little prairie school.  check out that view.

 what heights of love

again with the quiet togetherness. in-between squabbles of course.

what depths of peace

he is a giant.

when fears are stilled

remember that one time when we built an enormous fort with our cousins? 

when strivings cease

cowgirls with their horses on halloween

my comforter

 i'm telling you, i'm a sucker for peaceful moments. i look for them always. 

my all in all

favorite homeschooling mommas. favorite homeschooling mentors.

here in the love of christ, i stand. 

 when i take her to starbucks and we play fraction war. 

 couldn't love beautiful feet books any more. 

 houle/harms cousins north pole 2016. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

when i can't find hope

there are cracks in this earthen vessel.

there are moments where i feel alive and thankful for the smallest things, full of wonder and hope for what this life may bring and joy for what is today.  a bird song on a random warm january day, the steam from my morning cup of coffee rising slowly in the rays of the rising sun, a reading lesson with a six year old by a crackling fire.  these are good, soul filling things.

but there are also moments, days, weeks even where each moment bears the weighty reality of this broken world. i'm sick, again.  mind is foggy, breathing labored.  the kids are fighting, again. the bickering makes my weary body ache.  it makes my heart ache, too. sometimes it feels as if this world is fighting against dave, against his integrity, against his desire to work hard and humbly with honesty and conviction.   in these moments the glimmers of hope are hardly there.  it's almost as if i need others to see the hope for me.  i know it's there.  it's got to be there.

my grandma, worn and weary from a life lived in this harsh world, but soul alive because of her hope in christ, reminds me "you know, your grandpa preached a sermon about the fiery furnace one time back in iowa" she says, a glimmer in her misty eye. "he proclaimed it loud, there from the pulpit,  'you're safest when you're in the fire' he said 'because Jesus is there, too."

my friend laura speaks of joseph. reminds me of the one time he was thrown in this pit and that other time he was sold as a slave.  oh and yes, then he was falsely accused and thrown in jail, his name smeared through the stinking mud....all of his life bankrupt before him.

there is trouble here.  heartache to fill a thousand days.  what does it mean to hope in christ alone? when all else fails? when all else crumbles?  what does it really look like for all to be stripped away so that hope can truly be found, so that peace can finally be felt, so that joy can actually be a permanent fixture of our days?

there are two things my mind chooses to put my hope in.  his presence and his goodness.  his ability to be here in the mess, grieving for us as we lay flat on our backs, wind knocked out of us at the bottom of the pit.  and his goodness that will find a way out and carry us to safety.

he is here and he is good.

"and joesph said to them, "you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done." 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

an open letter to julie bogart

Hi Julie!

My name is Mandy Houle and I'm homeschooling my 3 kiddos (9,7,6) in Colorado Springs, CO.  I watched my first "Julie video" about a month ago while I was making dinner and instantly I was hooked to your voice of wisdom.  

check out that smile! i think horses are good for the soul.

I lead a small group of homeschooling mothers and have been subjecting them to small snip-its of your periscopes or facebook lives every time we meet.  They lovingly refer to you as "Mandy's Homegirl.".  

I'm attending the Vail Valley Homeschool retreat this coming weekend (Sarah Mackenzie is speaking and I'm thrilled to get to meet her!) and was asked to write out a couple of paragraphs.  One highlighting my biggest struggle in homeschooling this year and one focusing on my greatest win. 

After I completed this small assignment, I read over my paragraphs again and realized anew the impact that your work has had on me, my inner voice and my homeschool and thought "I really ought to let her know." 

So here is the paragraph(s) I wrote and with it, you have my deepest thanks.

this was our last lease day of the fall.  and it was freezing!

My biggest win in my 5th year of homeschooling is the wave of confidence that is crashing over me.  When my oldest was in kindergarten, homeschooling was magical.  I continually had pinch myself moments. Were we actually doing this?!? I loved that we were spending our days home together immersed in projects, reading all hours and basically structuring our play around books.  

Her 2nd and 3rd grade years came and waves of doubt would crash over me, leaving me coughing and sputtering as I struggled to catch my breath. I'm not really capable of this.  We aren't doing enough. If we skip math lessons to head to the zoo homeschooling will FALL APART. 

This year. I've immersed myself in Julie Bogart's online world, listening to everything I can and sitting under her experienced wisdom. Somehow the Holy Spirit is using her thoughts and ideas to take truths that have been rattling around inside my head and root them and settle them in my heart.  I'm taking deep breaths again.  I'm surveying the land.  I'm letting life and inspiration lead us instead of fear and certainly not math curriculum.

We've picked bushels of apples at an orchard and spent a day with friends turning our harvest into pies and butter and sauce.  We've spent days at a barn mucking stalls and riding horses.  Math is there for us at home when life and inspiration aren't taking us somewhere, well, better.

Your encouragement and wisdom have given me the courage to stop waiting.  To homeschool the way I desire right now. This day. This moment.  I'm incredibly grateful. 

With love from Colorado,

Mandy Houle