Life on the Hill

A Day at Home

Posted by on Apr 28, 2016 in Blog Posts, Life on the Hill | 0 comments

Nowhere to go, but plenty to do!

Nowhere to go, but plenty to do!

It has been a while since I have had a day like this one. My planner has no directives for places to go. My list of things to do is small and so I plan to knock out those couple of penned plans, and then enjoy catching up on those back burner ones which have been simmering in my mind.

Perhaps like you, I have been seriously duped into believing that the empty nest equals an empty calendar. So a word of advice to you younger women about your seasonal busyness and dreaming of lazy days ahead-

It takes work ahead of time and a commitment to your spirit and your sanity to get those lazy days worked in on your calendar no matter the season in which you find yourself.

Still lounging in my pjs and writing this post past noon, I am pondering things like:

  • compiling ideas for upcoming blog posts
  • listing publications to submit writing queries
  • making yet another list of potential items to make for my Etsy shop
  • continuing reading Missional Motherhood
  • working on recipes for my personal summer cookbook
  • lingering in my Bible with my prayer journal in hand
  • eventually making a supper of stir fry of chicken and napa cabbage.

I am not sure how I let myself get too stretched and then stressed like a weakening rubber band bundling way more than its cylindrical strength will accommodate. Like that rubber band stretching farther than it should before snapping and releasing all of its hold down to the floor, I can also be stretched past the point of allowance and burst. When that occurs it manifests itself in ugly ways like judgmental thoughts and comments, criticism, sarcasm, short words with Rob, mindless munching, and a huge desire to drop everything and hide.

Then I make promises to God, Rob, and myself that I will never ever overdo my schedule again. Ever. Ever.

Then I go to bed, get a solid eight (most nights), and awaken to a renewed sense of being helpful and following through with great joy on those commitments.

So it is on a rare day like today that I sense the Lord saying to me to build in space for empty time. Granted when I was a college student that looked like a nap between classes. Then as a working wife outside the home, it was Saturday watching PBS with my husband while taking care of laundry. As a young mom and homemaker, it was a 15-minute bath with pen and journal in hand. Building in some time came easier when the boys were in school. Now that I’m a mom to adult sons and their wives and now their children, my free time is still limited as my time to get more involved in ministering to women has opened up. It is also my pleasure to be available to help my family, much like I remember specific women in our families who could assist us at a moment’s notice when the boys were little.

Yet, I am still learning repeatedly that if I am not careful to protect some quality down time to refresh and refuel my spirit, then I will be of no value to those in my family, in ministry, and friendships.

I rarely build in blank space on my calendar. And I want to be more intentional to do so in order to be a happier helper of those to whom I’ve committed my time. Today, God has been gracious to remind me that it is a good and necessary thing for this child of his.

Are days like this rare for you? If so, how do you sense God is directing you?

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Empty Next?

Posted by on Dec 31, 2014 in Life on the Hill | 4 comments

Grandson sunlight

{As 2015 becomes part of our years, I share this piece adapted from a writing I submitted for a small group of bloggers who have been writing one another during the Christmas season. They read the gist of this yesterday. Today, I share it with you in hopes that it will encourage you as you face whatever leaves you wondering what is next. My prayer for you, kind reader, is that God will fill your year with good things that prove to you he has not left you in the mire of sadness, emptiness, or loneliness. He is certainly pointing out all the ways he has planned to give you a full life. Let’s open our eyes each morning to his new and fresh mercies with much joy for his glory. Read Lamentations 3:21-24. Happy new year!}

Are you familiar with the empty nest? Maybe you are in it or maybe you are the reason someone else is all too familiar with it. Perhaps you are dreading it?

It’s funny, but for some reason, when I type those two words for years now, they most often come out as E M P T Y  N E X T.

Are you facing an empty next? What do you dread? Why?

I find it rather ironic that I do this so often because I believe something deep inside of me has a dread of this season that has moved me from being a full-time wife and mom at home to doing whatever is next.

That was the problem, though. I had put my identity in my being wife and mom at home and had made it an idol. For 25 years I had been clinging tightly to that idol.

A sure sign of bowing down to the bugger was that as I was in the midst of the emptying season, I wondered what would go on next? Would it be full? What would I do now that I was eliminating my position as full-time mom? How would my marriage move forward? What was I to do with all my time?

Surely, my life was going to be empty and not just my nest.

Have you talked with God about this empty next? Perhaps he has been trying to show you the root of this?

One particular morning during my prayer time I came to the above realization of where I had placed my identity for so long. That’s when I concurred with God that I had made it that ugly idol. Was it any wonder I couldn’t fathom moving forward? That’s what idols do, you know. They hold us hostage until we suffer from Stockholm Syndrome and serve and yearn for that slavery from our captors with whom we’ve fallen in love.

That day, by God’s grace, I remembered my identity is found in God through Jesus Christ.

He made me a woman with gifts, talents, callings, and gave me responsibilities to handle for his designated time. Season after season, if I focus on honoring him day by day, when the next phase in life comes, I can proceed more at ease if I keep him as my focus rather than myself or my title.

Thankfully, God has warmed up my heart and mind to the thought of moving forward into the next phase of life.

The nest might be empty, but life in this next season is abundant with blessings.

I have more time with my husband and we finish sentences, whole conversations even, with no interruptions.
I get to volunteer for things other than room mom.
Spending time with our first grand baby is pure bliss.
Seeing our sons and their wives in marriages that hold up the Gospel is rewarding.
I have time to assist our four parents when necessary.
Hobbies that were dormant or nonexistent are finding their way into my life.

My sons and daughters-in-love need me in a new capacity. I’m enjoying focusing on being their sister in Christ who encourages rather than their mom who oversees and disciplines.

My fear of the N E X T was because of my sin of idolizing that season’s main role for me. I had to let it go.

What might you have been gripping that needs to be released? How can your perspective change for the better? Have you thanked God for your past, your present, and your future?

Just as there were blessings before children arrived and while they shared our home, there are blessings in this next season. I don’t want to miss one of them mourning over something that I’m no longer called to do. It’s time to move forward excited and trusting God in what he has planned next for me.

E M P T Y  N E X T? Not a chance when our focus is on him.


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After Christmas Ponderings

Posted by on Dec 26, 2014 in Life on the Hill | 0 comments

Dec 26 2014It’s the day after Christmas and as I sit on the couch next to my husband with the fire going, the sun shining, the dog snoring, and Pandora Christmas radio playing I am thankfully pondering.

For the first time in a long time, I think I have to say this was the best Christmas ever, and to no offense to those we love (our parents, siblings, and our children).

The pace was that for which we had been yearning for many years. Slow and with concentrated time in our own home here on the hill, we knew it existed somewhere in the reality of life and not just in day after Christmas dreams.

Even in the time leading up to the big day, I was more relaxed this year. Other things occupied our time this fall (our youngest son’s wedding, opening an Etsy shop featuring custom knitted and crocheted goods, and helping my parents clear out their attic), and somewhere in the midst of it all, I just knew it would get done this year and that I didn’t have to stress as I have in years past.

I even had time to read and enjoy Ann VosKamp’s The Greatest Gift:Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas, this Advent. I’m only on December 23, by the way, but that’s okay. If I wanted to, I could relish it until Epiphany, or Easter, for that matter. The coordinating ornaments are on sale here if you want to nab your own set. I plan to incorporate the Jesse Tree next year.

Now, another Christmas has come and gone and we have memories of some firsts for us as the folks who live on the hill:

  • empty nest Christmas
  • grand baby Quentin
  • new daughter-in-love Valerie
  • Christmas lunch at our house with my in-loves
  • staying home most of the day.

As my next birthday approaches, I’m pondering my prayer-filled Holy Spirit prompts of some changes I believe this is the year to do and not just hope will magically happen without my own part in making them work – blogging here being one of them.

So, on this day after Christmas, what has you pondering?

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Why I Crochet

Posted by on Jun 18, 2014 in Life on the Hill | 8 comments

copyright Amy Ward 2014

copyright Amy Ward 2014

Yesterday’s post was about why I knit. Today’s is about my picking up crocheting a year ago.

For all the same reasons as wanting to learn to knit, such are the ones for learning to crochet with one additional reason.

It seems that crocheting goes faster, especially when it concerns a hat.

While waiting at two appointments on Monday, I completed a simple hat out of bulky yarn that reminded me of the color of straw, but is way more comfortable for a scalp that has lost hair due to chemotherapy. I just need to add a flower to finish it.

It was convenient to tote along and once the increases were done, I didn’t have to look at the pattern again. Single crochet stitch is the only stitch required for this one.

I didn’t stress about the wait, and I got something done while I waited.

My sister Louann taught me how to crochet last summer at our annual Sister Retreat, and I have enjoyed it ever since.

Other projects I’ve completed since then are a plethora of hats for cancer patients, some baby blankets, sachet pouches, coasters, and flowers for embellishing the gray baby hat below.

For pictures of most of my completed projects (knitted and crocheted) join Ravelry and you can see them all. My Ravelry link is in the sidebar.

You ready to crochet yet? Craftsy has classes for that, too. Click on the link below. (I’m an affiliate for Craftsy, so if you purchase from them through my blog, I get a little compensation and I’m required to let you know that.)

copyright Amy Ward 2014

copyright Amy Ward 2014

copyright Amy Ward 2014

copyright Amy Ward 2014

copyright Amy Ward 2014

copyright Amy Ward 2014

copyright Amy Ward 2014

copyright Amy Ward 2014

Another installment in…Hill life

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Why I Knit

Posted by on Jun 17, 2014 in Life on the Hill | 6 comments

Unsaved Preview DocumentThis is Knit in Public Week. Worldwide.  I tweeted about it. I posted it on Facebook. I’m an affiliate for Craftsy because I think you might want to take a class there after you read this post. I’ll link to it below.

And you thought the World Cup was big! (laugh)

Although it’s not a big deal in the eternal scheme of things, I thought I’d spin a yarn today about why I knit.

While going through cancer in 2010, I had little energy to do anything creative and when I would attempt to sew (a long-time hobby), my work was substandard. But at times I NEEDED to do something creative.

Also in that year, my sister made me lots of cute hats. I preferred them over my wig and store bought wide brimmed hats. She could take my head measurements, my yarn preferences, and favorite styles that would hide my bare hair line and make things that were comfortable and expressive. Hats that stayed on my head were a must and she knew how to accommodate that as well. (I had a store-bought brim fly off on a windy day after a ladies’ tea and although I lived to tell the story, I didn’t want that happening again. EVER. Thinking back on it, I still get an embarrassed feeling come over me.)

So, after I recovered and regained the mental energy to pursue creative outlets, I needed to create with my hands. More than a meal. More than a blog post. I needed to make something beautiful that wouldn’t shut me off in a room alone thinking, but give me something to do with my hands and still engage in time with my husband in the evenings. I needed something portable. I needed something affordable.

So, in 2012, I piled my daughter-in-law, and other son’s sweetheart into the car and we headed for Franklin, TN, to spend a few days with my sister Louann learning how to knit.

Mind you, this was my third attempt at learning it. Twice before my sister had taught me but I was a little girl first, then a teenager entering college. I had no time to continue what I learned so I never picked it up.

Something this time stuck with me and I have enjoyed it ever since. I love the colors of yarn, and the variety of textures that travel through fingers. I love the choosing of a project based on what I know I can do and what I want to learn to do. It’s a challenge to me mentally to think through and figure things and with the help of YouTube videos, texts and phone calls, my sister continues to help.

Walking into a local yarn shop rather than a big box chain store with a few aisles of yarn does something to my spirit as I see all the colors, textures, and completed samples ready for the feeling.

Sometimes, I even think about how neat (but oh so hard) it would be to open a local yarn shop right here in my community. But I don’t have the resources nor the freedom to do that, so I scour places online within a reasonable drive to visit.  Then, I hit the road solo usually for some thinking and praying time in the car.

I’ve even taken a “mystery knit along” class online through Craftsy to learn how to knit a scarf and the yarn was included in the class that I could move through at my own pace. That was awesome! They have quite a variety of classes for various skills in lots of things besides knitting, too.

I also enjoy knitting so I can make knitted hats for others coming through the cancer center where I volunteer. Shortly after I learned, I made the hat pictured at the top for a lady and had it ready the week I supposed she would be coming in with a scarf. Her eyes were beautiful blue and this seemed to suit her.

When I don’t have a specific patient in mind, I’ll knit a hat and take it to the center for placing on the ledge for any patient to pick up who has a need for one.

Hill lifeSo, knitting for me met the need to:

  • learn something
  • connect with my sister (and others)
  • CREATE (probably the biggest need at first for me)
  • touch and see beautiful yarn
  • give back
  • sit still

Have you considered learning to knit? Hmmm?

Maybe I should do like my sister did, and pass along what I know so next year, you can knit in public too. Craftsy has a class for that. Anybody want to learn?
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Our Son Returns from College Today

Posted by on Apr 30, 2014 in Life on the Hill | 9 comments

Preview{This post is dedicated to the mom who worries if her child will get out of school and succeed…the mom who packs on pressure on herself and transfers it to her child. Read it and hope. Read it and trust in God’s gracious goodness through it all. He loves your baby more than you do.}

He’ll be home today. Our youngest, David, is flying back into the nest for  a time before he marries this fall. I wrote about the emptying nest and refilling nest here. That’s been almost four years?! I should have counted the time by hair cuts since that post. So much has happened since then!

Time flies…like children flying out and circling back in the nest.

I am awake early today as  spring storms make their way through our region for the second morning in a row. Thoughts of cushioning the nest one last time have caused my restless sleep to ponder what groceries to purchase for his return and what things we can do to make this transition smooth for one about to graduate from college and enter the real world as gainfully employed man, yet living under his parents’ roof with rules until he says, “I do,” in October.

I think about the process of him getting into his favorite college when his high school academic experience  seemed to scream hopelessness in his face so often and squelch his dreams. I think that process began when he struggled with learning to read so young, then festered when a report of a ruptured ear drum caused us to nod when we thought back to him not answering us when we’d call to him from the other room, and perhaps explained why his reading got off to a rough start…hello? (if you can’t hear, you won’t hear the phonetic sounds of letters either). It progressed when a teacher shut him down by keeping him indoors during recess to make endless corrections on eraser-holed worksheets until it met her brutal expectations and he’d ball his hands into little boy fists not knowing how to express the hurt to his spirit she was causing.

I recall those AR tests in reading (insert Beethoven’s 5th Symphony sound byte here), in the summer, on vacation…ugh! I  believe those ruined any chance of a love of reading for that boy. I’m sure he would grow weary watching his dad and me veg out in books, not comprehending the joy we got/get from reading. Yet, he successfully went through a liberal arts degree with lots and lots of reading! Hallelujah!

In middle and high school, his average student tendencies were not the ones that charmed the teachers who preferred the easy to teach advanced learners that make a bad teacher look good, or a good teacher look great! He wasn’t the one who’d get the school noticed.

His good behavior didn’t even get him noticed since perfect GPA didn’t coincide. He never got in trouble at school. Never. He followed the rules, was kind to his classmates, respected his teachers, never smoked, never tried drugs, never drank, showed up on time, obeyed the speed limit, went to church, got in a relationship with Jesus early in life, made limited and wise friend choices, played outside every chance he got, had a great imagination, organized the little neighborhood boys for pick-up football and basketball and baseball. He developed his sense of humor and found it to be a way of breaking the ice among adults and peers.

He survived the good, bad, and ugly of school and came out strong and charmed his way into his college dream at Auburn University. He made friends with the admissions office and they bit and believed in him. He believed in Auburn and loved it early on and held onto that dream. (My alma mater’s not paying me to plug the creed.)

I prayed a lot for that boy in those school years…all of those 4K-12th grade years. I learned much about parenting flaws I had and how I didn’t trust God much with this child when it came to school. I tried to help, but my helping was a hovering worrier who questioned her child instantly at the end of the school day wanting to make sure he had all he needed to accomplish the day’s load at home related to school. I took on way too much pressure to help him succeed. I had to stop it and practice being the nurturing mom he needed rather than the worried mom who egged on the burdens he felt every period of the school day.

I worried about his grades in school and the school had a great way for parents to check on grades online 24/7. Ugh. I knew his scores before he did. Such was the pressure as a parent to be in the know and raise a successful child.

When he went away to college, he had to sign a waiver for us to access his grades. David signed the waiver. We never looked. Never. Not once. Ever. That was so freeing! It freed him. It freed us. And I think it caused him to thrive and take ownership over his academics.

School years at home was a tough season in mothering for me.

I’m not sure David even knows that.

Yet he survived. His dad and I survived. He thrived away from us and I want him to thrive back in the nest for this little period of time, too.

He’s coming back for just a little while. He’s coming back today.

So, to the mom who’s reading this and resonating with the worry and wondering about your own child who may have to work harder than most students for an average grade, don’t give up praying, don’t give up nurturing. Try to give up worrying and try to trust God’s better plans for your son or daughter. Don’t buy into the pressures of the academia gods. Be a student of your child. Quit comparing. Love them. Make some cookies for their return home from school today. Sit down and talk about something other than that. Go toss the ball. Snuggle. Take a walk. Tell them you believe in all the gracious goodness God has bestowed in them, and mean it.

To David, thank you for working hard and making it out of there in four years. Your dad and I are proud of you on so many levels. It’s really difficult for me to cite all of them. I’ll hug you hard when you pull in the driveway today. Welcome home!

To Auburn University, I say thank you for believing in David and supporting his progress. To the admissions office, I applaud you for taking a personal interest in his story and his background and offering hope to his ragged spirit when he applied and was wait-listed.  What a great place and an answer to prayers for him for you to take him under your wings.

To God. Thank You. I am overwhelmed.

I’ve got to go bake some cookies!

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