Elizabeth Taylor lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and two kids. She is passionate about Jesus, her family, healthy living, and singing. You can follow her on instagram: @theelizabethtaylor or ﬁnd more about her wreaths at facebook.com/wreathsbyliztaylor.
I am just like many of you: a wife, a stay-at-home mom, and a homeschool teacher. But in addition to all that, I deal with an auto-immune disease called Multiple Sclerosis (MS) which is a neurological disorder that can cause serious short term and/or long term physical impairment. Itʼs a difﬁcult and unpredictable disease. One month I may feel like a normal, healthy person. The next I may be lying in bed without the use of my limbs.
Since being diagnosed with MS in 2007 I have had three major episodes involving pain and physical impairment. The most recent of which was in February of this year. That particular episode caused me to become paralyzed on the right side of my body starting with my hand and foot, and gradually spreading to my entire right half. I was in that state of impairment for six weeks. Not easy for a thirty-something mother with two young chil-dren. At my doctorʼs advice, I underwent three days of intervenes steroid treatment knowing it was probably the only way to halt the episode, reverse the effects, and stop any permanent long-term damage.
It was a hard process. The steroid treatment added mental and emotional stress to my already handicapped condition. It was a long recovery and it was months before I could use my right hand again. The episode caused me to lose many motor skills that I had taken for granted. Even after the feeling and movement had returned I still had to retrain my muscles through weeks of physical therapy. I had to teach my hand how to cut food, button my kidʼs shirts, and type. These things seem so little and easy to the average person. To me they were difﬁcult, frustrating, and at times, impossible.
My therapy was eventually a success. Three months after my ﬁrst MS symptoms started occurring I was walking, grasping, reaching, and holding like a “normal” person again. My hand was still weak and a few ﬁngers still partially numb at times, but I knew that it would be the last part of me to heal. Little did I know, God would use this hand containing the last lingering and burdensome symptoms as a tool to bring me hope, restoration, and conﬁdence.
While browsing websites in October for a good holiday-themed wreath I noticed that the burlap wreaths were upwards of $60. I wondered why they were so costly, and I decided to try my hand at making my own wreath more affordable price. I went to a local craft store, grabbed some supplies, and hurried home to try and make something close to what I had seen online.
To my surprise, I caught on pretty quickly. The process was difﬁcult at ﬁrst, especially since my hand was not accustomed to being challenged and ﬂexed in such a repetitive manner. But the ﬁnished result was beautiful.
Being proud of the accomplishment, I decided to post it on my social media sites and see what others thought of my ﬁrst venture into wreath creation. I received comments from friends like “Thatʼs amazing!”, “Where did you buy that?”, “Did you make it?”, “Where can I buy one?”. I was shocked because I considered my accomplishment fun and therapeutic, but not a consumer product. Apparently, others thought different from me.
Friends from all over the country started requesting wreaths. Then the orders started coming in from strangers who had seen my wreaths in the homes of their friends. I had so many requests for wreaths that it became a family affair. I had my kids making tags for “Wreaths By Liz” and my husband shipping wreaths all over the country.
Over the last seven weeks, I have made and sold over 30 wreaths to 25 different people in five states. I also have several pending orders and even more prospective buyers. And the inquiries keep coming in daily.
I cannot adequately describe how much happiness and satisfaction making wreaths has brought me. There is such a sense of redemption as I use my own hand, a hand that wouldnʼt even move just a few months before, to bring such beauty to other’s homes as well as my own.
Isnʼt that just like God?
I have gone through an array of emotions this year: fear of what was happening to my 30-year-old body, terriﬁed that my condition would force me into a wheelchair, and desperate to recover. I struggled to ﬁnd the balance between hope and reality, and ﬁnally was able to surrender the outcomes of my future to God and rejoice in today knowing that God has a plan for me.
These wreaths are an expression of my journey this year. They are physical proof that God can truly turn our ashes into something beautiful and restore the joy that had once been lost.
Alyssa Bacon-Liu lives with her husband and puppy in Los Angeles. She blogs at All Things Beautiful, where she writes about marriage, faith, growing up, the pursuit of happiness, and finding the beauty in the everyday. Connect with her on Twitter or on Instagram: @alyssabaconliu.
The quiet chill and quickly fading daylight
It’s begging me to consider it all
To reexamine where I’ve been and where I’m going
This season, it begs me to reflect
The months just escaped from my fingers
Right in front me, they just disappeared
There are good things ahead, yes
So many good and wonderful things
It’s all so new and all so different
And I just want to stay in this place a little while longer
You know that place, right?
The place where today is all there is
Where I can tilt my head back
And soak in each ray of sun
And not have to worry about the days that are about to crash into me
Leaves change and
It’s dark already
And I’m just afraid that I can’t handle it all
Tomorrow could be beautiful
Or it could break before me
It’s funny actually
Hoping for it all to change
And then being scared when it does
I have to open my arms, I know
I have to embrace the change
Because it’s here and it’s real
And it’s been a long time coming
It’s dark already
But I’m stepping outside
But at least I’m taking the step
Even from this place, I know what happens when the morning comes
Leaves change and
Maybe I’m changing too
Kristin here. Thank you to everyone who has contributed this season so far and those to come. Celebration is important to reflect on, and Becca and I are looking forward to hearing more of what it means to you in the weeks to come. I am honored to be part of this community! More announcements to come in the months ahead, but until then, here are some of my latest musings.
Monday night I saw one of my heroes in person again – Ms. Anne Lamott. All day I planned in my head what I would ask her. You see, it’s my goal to talk to her every time I see her. It’s a funny thing, but after seeing her five times now, I almost feel like we have had a conversation of sorts over the years. From asking her who inspires her writing, to giving her a button she liked on my jacket, to this past week when I asked her how life on social media was going – our relationship is blooming in a lovely way (albeit a bit stalker-ish).
What I see in Anne is permission. Permission to be myself. Permission to know that God loves me no matter what… really, no matter what. That sometimes what I think matters most doesn’t and what really matters is always hard work – like loving someone who hurt you or writing because it’s part of my calling. We all need someone who can remind us of these things.
What I am reminded of is that life is labor, but what I forget is that labor has a flow to it. It contracts and relaxes. It gives and takes. It pushes and pulls. It requires courage and fear, but most of all love. And life is love.
Showing up to my life everyday, depending on how much sleep I’ve had, is sometimes easy and other times I want to pull the covers over my head and disappear, just for a little bit. Maybe I just need a nap, says the mom of a six-month-old who refuses to nap.
This week, in an adventure of showing up, I took an exploratory photog session of my house. Here is what I found.
Pure and simple – it’s a mess. I never wanted my dining room table to become a dumping ground. I like it when my dishes are clean and put away. I thought I could contain baby stuff to certain areas or baskets (laugh away, please, I live for comedy).
But today, something in me longs to celebrate this mess. I know that I am not going to show up on an episode of Hoarders quite yet. At some point, things will get picked up. However, reflecting in this moment, I do not see mess. I see the memories we have made in the last six months when we weren’t fussing over picking stuff up or agonizing over baby toys. I see meals made – great meals – I taste the beef stew, the homemade ice cream, and the fried eggs from our chickens. I see lying on floor for tickle-fests. I see papers that will be graded because I love my job.
When I asked Anne what she wants her grandson to know about social media, her answer was classic simple-Anne, but deeply profound.
“I want to be a grown-up he wants to be. Teenagers today do not want to be their parents. They see the gray, worried expressions caused by multitasking. I want to be radically silly and know when to relax.” Words of truth, words of permission. Words heard while making eye contact, not looking down at my phone or picking up piles. Words I hope to embody as life gets more and more technical, for these are not words to say, but words to live out.
So my son might not grow up with the cleanest of homes at times. And I’m learning to be okay with that. Trust me. This is not something that hasn’t caused a meltdown or two. But today, it is worth celebrating as I sit her amongst the dishes, toys, and papers and rest.
Kimberly Coyle recently moved from Switzerland back to the United States where she lives with her husband and favorite little people. She copes with life’s biggest questions by drinking lots of tea, writing, and God’s grace. You can find her writing at www.kimberlyanncoyle.com or tweeting @KimberlyACoyle.
I find something to love in every season, but Autumn requires no searching on my part. It is a feast of color and crisp October air, turkey and steaming cups of hot tea. The occasional gray and rainy afternoons suit my melancholy ways, and I find Autumn and I make sympathetic friends. We understand each other.
I have three children and not one of them shares my love for this season. Perhaps it’s the return to school, the loss of summer freedom, or the cold, foot-stomping wait at the bus stop. They see Autumn as a kind of death, and the school bell as a death knell to all that is right and good in their world.
Through Mama eyes, I see the return of routine, and I celebrate it with imaginary cartwheels, so as not to upset the delicate balance between my pleasure and their pain. In the Fall, my days have purpose—a rhythm that hums along at a quiet clip. My heart slows. I think deep thoughts. I know the days of full-on summer bloom have past, and the harvest just begun. I begin to reap all I’ve sown into this home and these children over the last few months. I feel the gathering of words that have waited all summer to find a place other than my head, and in the quiet, I harvest them, each and every one.
Autumn, with its flaming red, its pumpkin and spice drama, its golden harvest haze remind me it is good to enjoy the fruit of our labor. It is good to watch the seed fall and the leaves die, to live with expectancy, knowing all things rise again. This season reminds me that every consequence, every hard conversation, every hug and hot meal I’ve sown into my children will reap a reward. They are still growing, still springtime fresh, edging into summer bloom. But one day, one day, the leaves will turn and I will see them in their abundance and in all of their colorful glory.
This is the season we will gather in the fullness of our lives. We will meet around a cramped table and eat Dad’s Famous Turkey. We will share smiles and football fan shouts. We will share dirty dishes and aired grievances and old wounds. And in spite of them all, we will give thanks. Our children are in bloom, we will reap a harvest, be it this Autumn or the next. All things will fall like seed, a universe hidden within its husk, and all things fallen will rise again.
Bekah DiFelice is an adventurer, writer, and Jesus-enthusiast. She lives in San Diego, CA, where she rides her Vespa scooter, turns strangers into friends, and continues to work on a secret handshake with her husband Mike. Follow her adventures at the happy ones.
I’m convinced that fall is most honestly encountered on a walk and by surprise.
I love to go for walks, but I didn’t always walk so much. I was too busy running.
A few of years ago, I was a runner. I would measure productivity in time and tempo and pace, always pushing faster and harder. I would check my watch often and feel restless at stoplights. I was the active pedestrian, the one that pressed the “walk” button half a dozen times before resigning to wait.
I loved running. I loved it desperately. I loved the challenge of pushing myself to a rhythm, like dancing to the momentum of a fast song. And I danced often. Every morning I would open the screen door, pull out my iPod, and pick a fast song. Then I would chase momentum.
But after countless early mornings, dozens of race t-shirts, and seven marathons, a funny thing happened. My pace got interrupted.
I broke my hip at age 24, destroying some cartilage, developing a weird little cyst, and facing the potential of a total hip replacement before age 35. I think the injury came in the springtime, but I’m not really sure. It seems my running pace had been hiding an injury that was developing over quite some time.
In the fall of that year, I had reconstructive hip surgery, and I spent the season learning how to walk again.
Actually, the healing process began several steps before walking. At first, my physical therapy involved lying face down on the ground, teaching my hip and abdominal muscles to stretch again. Then I practiced sitting up. My sweet husband would prop me up on the toilet seat; my mom would help me sit at the table for dinner. Then I practiced bending my legs, knees to chest, slowly, one at a time, over and over again. For 6-8 hours each day for four weeks, this former runner laid in bed practicing bending her legs.
That fall, as leaves changed and temperatures turned, my pace changed too. It was an intervention.
In that season, God began addressing a deeper restlessness, one that couldn’t be satisfied with running legs or breakneck speed, but with a still, resting posture of the heart.
Sometimes a physical story narrates a deeper spiritual one.
Sometimes our pace must be interrupted so we can remember to pause, to rest, to heal.
A fast pace isn’t always a healthy one; it might just be the most familiar. And after the sun-drenched life of summertime, isn’t fall the season of loud transition, where all Creation prepares for the dormancy of winter? Fall transitions creation into rest.
This fall, two years after healing, my hips are getting altered once again, aching and shifting but for different reasons. I’m pregnant with my first child, carrying a baby girl that will someday practice tummy time on the floor, sitting up in a chair, and taking first tentative steps. She will grow into walking as I did, and I will get to parent the pace.
This fall I’m reminded that God rehabilitates us into the work set before us. He develops us as runners and walkers, as children and as parents. He matures different paces for different times, even seasons at His feet where we respond by laying facedown to rehabilitate the muscles of submission. His pacing is our protection, evidence of a good Father standing by.
Fall is when I remember the value of walking, the mercy of God’s perfect pacing.
I walk to celebrate.
Alissa BC is a wife, mother, and aspiring writer. She spends nap times obsessing over words and the rest of the day biking around town with her toddler or waiting for the next person to show up at her door. She writes about family, community, faith, doubt, the South, and simple living at Making Home Simple and loves when new friends stop by to say hello.
At about this time last year, I entered a new phase of life. It was September, though summer was still going strong here in the South, when I gave birth to my son and held him in my arms for the very first time. This was a big, momentous, earth-shattering moment for me, but something else important, something separate yet connected, also happened in the months that followed. It is something that I have often struggled to put into words, but that is becoming clearer and clearer as time moves on.
In the absence of a formal job, I turned to blogging, both as an intellectual and creative outlet, and as a form of self-care. At first, I would write about how I was learning to cook or starting to run, but slowly, carefully I abandoned those types of posts and began more and more to put words to my experiences in motherhood or my struggles with my own spirituality. I began reading blogs by women whose hearts were singing the same songs as mine, who were wrestling through the same struggles, but who, unlike me, were somehow finding bravery in the midst of them, to speak the truth of their experiences and to be the most honest version of themselves.
More and more, during nap times and late nights, I would sneak away and read their words, and slowly I became braver myself, my thoughts more raw, my words more true. I was making more time for writing, reading more about the process, and falling in love with it all. But most importantly, I was learning, perhaps for the first time ever, to sincerely accept my own voice and calling.
Also during this time, I was becoming a mother. I struggled with breastfeeding, endured sleepless nights, sacrificed alone time for the sake of my baby’s sleep, and developed patience for my son’s needs and tantrums, even as I was developing it for my own. It was, and is, an incredible combination of phases to go through at once, to be coming of age in a way, as you are also raising a baby for the first time.
It was at some point during these months that I came across a reference to a book titled Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches. I’m sure it’s a great read, but I’ve never actually read it, nor even seen it in print. For some reason, though, the title of this little book has burrowed its way into my consciousness in a way that hundreds of others, read and unread, have not.
For me, those three words, the little years, speak to the essence of how I have learned to balance these two seemingly conflicting phases: A son perhaps as needy as he will ever be, with siblings sure to come, and a woman who is finally becoming herself, desperate for the time and space to pursue dreams too long ignored.
I find myself turning to these words again and again, when the baby is teething and dinner is around the corner and I feel close to suffocating under the weight of my own need, for space and quiet and a blank page. It is in these moments that I grasp for the words, and turn them over in my mind like a stone in my palm.
The little years.
The little years.
The little years.
And I remember that they are long but fleeting, mundane yet precious. They are hard, but they are also worth celebrating.
So we go for long bike rides, and spend hours crawling back and forth across the hardwood floors, or swinging in the hammock, or walking through the neighborhood. And in the sacred hours of toddler sleep, I curl up on the couch and write my heart out. I do the hard work of keeping the lights of my dreams always flickering, dim as they may be. I know in years to come, there will be days for letting them burn fiercely, but now, today, these are the days of the little years, a season brief and brilliant and made to be celebrated.