Monday, April 13, 2009

Mama Monday

Today's Mama Monday is the exquisite Tonia from the beautiful and peaceful blog Study in Brown. It is one of my top five favorite reads. I am always finding rest and wisdom there.

Tonia writes from a deep grace-filled perspective.

On her blog you will find lots of common sense, generous words, and lots of beauty.

Ladies, I am excited to bring you Tonia:

1. Greatest thing about being a mother:  discovering my children. they are extraordinary people. to watch a person grow beneath your heart - i mean this both figuratively and literally as i am an adoptive mom as well as a biological mom - and unfurl day by day into someone wholly other than you is an awe-some experience. and yet, in their otherness there is the undeniable truth that they are, for good or bad, woven with my fiber, inextricably a part of the person that I am right now. the privilege of it is constantly exciting.

2. Hardest thing:
i would answer this differently at different times of my mothering-life. i can clearly remember thinking the hardest part was the unrelenting physical and emotional exertion of caring for home and little kids. now, as most of my kids are in their teens (their ages are 16, 15, almost 14 and 9) i think the hardest thing is allowing for their individuality. the same thing that makes motherhood wonderful makes it sometimes terrifying. all of us nurture expectations and ambitions for our kids at some level, and watching them make their own choices that may not be in line with those expectations can be hard. i am learning to quiet down and not offer advice so freely, to transition to this new stage of listening and supporting instead of always directing. it's a challenge!

3. How you find balance in your life:  i think our culture (christian culture too!) has done a real disservice to people in the area of balance. we try to homogenize everyone and condense the intricacy of living into reader's digest-like articles that we can post on our fridge and follow for success. i am a firm believer that we need to let go of the one-size-fits-all programs and know ourselves. i'm not talking pop-psychology here, but about understanding the person God created you to be and taking on His freedom in that knowledge. the biggest part of balance is understanding where you are in life and how you can be the person God created the most fully and freely. for myself, i have learned to quit fighting my introversion and nurture it instead. i am alone far more than i am with others outside the family. i take regular breaks from blogging. i allow myself the freedom of not going to church if i feel too overwhelmed or pressured. i save my best energy for specific ministry opportunities, such as hosting a small group of people in our house twice a month. if we hosted this group every week i would be a basket case, but i have learned not to allow outside pressure to dictate my schedule. when i am tired or feel emotional stress, i stop working and find a quiet place to do some handwork or read a book or take a nap. i don't apologize for needing those times. that is how God made me. and i find that when i am faithful to those internal cues i have a deeper, richer place from which to share God's love with others. it's true that i don't accomplish as much on the outside as some others seem to, but i am running a marathon in this life, not a sprint. i want to finish strong and healthy.

4. Hobbies/interests: i am most interested in the art of living beautifully. with what the Lord has provided for me, i want to live abundantly and deeply. i am fascinated by nutrition, organic gardening and food preservation, health-supportive cooking, home-keeping, and handwork. in addition to spending time with my family, i love interacting with our animals (2 dogs, 2 cats, 6 chickens and 14 ducks), walking/hiking, reading, watching good movies, being outside in nature.

5. Describe your family:  there are 6 of us: Mark, my husband, Nick (16), Daniel (15), Meagan (soon to be 14) and Caleb (9). three years ago we moved to our "dream" house on 5 wooded acres in a small town. by "dream" house i mean that we are dreaming of what it will look like in 20 years! *smile* we've got a loooong way to go, but it's lovely to live with the trees and the quiet of nature.

6. Favorite blogs/websites: it changes on a regular basis. i have regular friends i visit, of course, but these are the sites i go to when i have extra time and am looking for inspiration:

habit of being - this is such a treasure...the photos, the words, the layout. i only let myself read it occasionally so i never lose the feeling of being somewhere special.

simple green frugal co-op - so many good, practical ideas here.

eyes of wonder - anyone who has read jewels' thoughts on motherhood and faith knows why this is a favorite.

jesus creed - i love scot mknight's approach to the big issues. he's gentle, wise and thinks outside the box.

karina's kitchen - best gluten-free/dairy-free recipes i've found.

7. The Lord has been speaking to me about:  living a life of gentleness. taking the gentleness and kindness of the Lord into every situation. refusing the fluster and bustle of the world and keeping my voice soft, my face kind, my words life-giving.

8. Favorite color:  brown (*smile* did you even need to ask?) ... and green and orange and red....

9. Favorite food:  perfectly ripe berries

10. Favorite thing to do in your free time:  it changes. right now i'm loving crochet.

11. Advice to a new mum:  i want to be careful here, because there is a lot to learn when you are a new mom and it is so important to be kind to yourself and not expect yourself to have everything perfected or accomplished. but i think that from the start you should be asking yourself what kind of life do you want to have in five years, ten years, twenty years? do you want your children to be respectful? kind? do you want your marriage to be strong and thriving? do you want to be strong, healthy, fit? do you want a beautiful, welcoming home? where do you want to be spiritually?

then live that life now. don't wait for someday when the house is clean or you are less tired or you quit working or your husband gets a raise. search out the ways you can live the life you want right now.

respect your children, speak gently to them, cultivate a lifestyle of kindness.
invest in your marriage. investment means you pay into something now for a return later. can you invest 5 minutes a day in listening well? 2 minutes a day in kissing? an hour a week to watch football with him?
put your shoes on and get outside for a walk. buy a bag of carrots instead of chips when you need a snack. drive right on past the McDonalds and make an omelet for dinner instead.
put flowers on the table every week. pray over the rooms of your house. cultivate peace with your smile and calm spirit.
let God define you. say no to things that detract from His calling and design. just because someone asks you to participate in something doesn't mean you have to agree. just because others are having fun with something doesn't mean you should get involved.  

12. Great books? For the Family's Sake - The Value of Home in Everyone's Life - Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.

Macaulay gave me a vocabulary and framework for my passion of home-making and keeping.

Soul Survivor - How My Faith Survived the Church - Philip Yancey

Yancey shares how a diverse group of authors, thinkers, leaders helped shape his understanding of his faith. When I read this I had come from a church upbringing that taught that anything or anyone not explicitly christian was evil and dangerous. Yancey introduced me to the idea of finding the imago dei (the image of God) in a diversity of places. It was my first taste of the expanse of God's grace and power.

Surprised by Hope - N.T. Wright

Applying God's redemptive purpose to all of creation and the age to come. Powerful and liberating.

13. How you've changed this year:  I've grown a tremendous amount in the last year or so. I have a new confidence in who God has called me to be, a new feeling of assurance about my faith and my particular expression of it. I have settled a few questions in my mind that have plagued me for years...finally admitting that I am not the girl raised in a fundamentalist church any longer and letting some old hangups and fears die. I am thinking about myself and my role in the world in a different light. It's a good time for me spiritually and emotionally.

14. Guilty pleasures?
 i don't feel guilty about any of these things! but these are some of my luxuries...

dark chocolate
a vanilla latte (with hemp milk...yum)
soft, natural yarns
spending a whole saturday on the couch with a good murder mystery
a bowl full of fresh greens and ripe tomatoes with creamy garlic dressing
duck eggs from my own much-loved ducks
salt and pepper Kettle chips
candlelit baths
listening to my daughter playing classical music on the piano
a live-in photographer
late-night backgammon with my husband

See what I mean? I myself will read and re-read Tonia's generous answers.

Thank you, Tonia!!!


Rain said...

Such wisdom from a beautiful woman. Thank you!

Marybeth said...

This was so good-- I am going to link to this on my blog and recommend that everyone read it! Thanks for sharing, Andrea.

Courtney said...

You have completely inspired me on a day that I'm feeling a little overwhelmed in the "new mama" department. It's just what I needed to read to nurture my soul this week. Thanks, Andrea for another wonderful Mama Mondays.

tonia said...

Thank YOU, andrea, for letting me share on your beautiful blog. i am honored to be in the company of such lovely mamas!

courtney, thank you for letting me know that you are encouraged. it is a blessing that we have this forum to reach out to each other and help strengthen each other. may you find JOY in your calling today.

with much love,


Patricia said...

So lovely! Lovely blog, lovely words, lovely mamas.

Gripped by His love, and full of thanksgiving...

Christine said...

What simple and yet profound truths. I will take the day (the week!) to digest these thoughts. Thanks Tonia and Andrea!

Lydia said...

Tonia ~ I so enjoyed this interview--your thoughts and the lovely photos.

Thank you, Andrea, for hosting ~ it's always a treat to read a bit more of Tonia.

laurel said...

I love Tonia's blog and I particularly loved her answers to the "new mama" question in this interview.

Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

Lovely words... but even lovelier in person, incarnating Love Himself.

The children smiled... missing you. Me too.

Thank you, Andrea, for weekly hosting gathering of mamas listening and learning from mamas... ~warm smile~...

All's grace,

L.L. Barkat said...

Totally loved the top pic. How beautiful (and it shows she is indeed engaged in "the art of living beautifully").

Smiled at the mention of chocolate. Oh, me too. Except I do it without guilt. :)

Linda said...

It is a joy to "talk" deeper and know you a bit better. Your quiet, gentle spirit is resident in your writing, and your wisdom and love for the Lord shines through as well.
As a Mom who is a bit farther ahead on this path (a grandmother now), it is such a blessing to see how well you mother - how well you live out your faith.

Susan @ Heart Pondering said...

What great reflections by Tonia; thank you! I'm intrigued especially by this part:

"i am a firm believer that we need to let go of the one-size-fits-all programs and know ourselves. i'm not talking pop-psychology here, but about understanding the person God created you to be and taking on His freedom in that knowledge. the biggest part of balance is understanding where you are in life and how you can be the person God created the most fully and freely."

i've been reflecting on this myself lately - what it means to be and fully maintain the identity God's given me in Christ while still giving myself wholly to the mothering task before me.
thanks for sayinig it so well.
very pleased to know about you and your blog!

tonia said...

thank you again, andrea, for giving me a chance to share. all these sweet comments have been such a blessing to me!

thank you everyone for your kindness.

in Christ,


Andrea said...

my pleasure, Tonia--it's been a blessing to me, too!

JJ said...

"let God define you" oohhh I'll be chewing on that for weeks (months?) to come......
thank you!

Laura A said...

I enjoyed reading this very much, Tonia! (I followed the link from your website.) Nice photos, too, as usual!

And I was really, really surprised to see a Kari Jo entry here, too. Wow, small world!

At A Hen's Pace said...

Great pics...great answers...much to think about!

Thanks, Tonia!