Letting Go (or, Raising Kids with Simplicity)

It is one thing to choose less for oneself. It is another thing entirely to make that same choice for your children.

We always want more for our children. More than we had. More than we are.


What kind of parent holds their child’s small hand and walks in the direction of less?





In some ways we have chosen less. We try (and fail, and try again) to choose less noise, less hurry, less stuff. We choose fewer activities, fewer commitments, fewer toys.

We limit sugar and entertainment (which, paradoxically, makes apple cider doughnuts sweeter and family movie night more fun).

But, mostly, and perhaps most significantly, less is chosen for us.

There is never enough money and there is never enough time for all that I want for my kids.

Yes, I want sewing lessons and music lessons and art lessons. Yes, I want a pool pass and movie tickets and restaurant meals. But I have four children and limited funds, and I say “no” a lot because “no” is the only thing I can say.

When I choose less for myself, I must trust in God’s provision. His protection. His presence. Yet I seem to believe that I am meant to be God for my children. As if I am the one who provides. As if I am the one who protects.

But my provision is faulty. My protection imperfect. Even when present I give myself with impatience rather than love.

Yet I would fill all those gaps with more. I would build a high wall – made of stuff and experiences and extra curricular activities – in order to launch my children into a future I cannot even begin to see.

It turns out that having less to give requires letting go.

Having let go, having placed my children in the hands of the only provider and protector, the one who has secured a future for each of them, I am freed of so much fear.

I am released to love them. Freed, even, to give good gifts without worrying that I must give every gift.


Living with less where our children are concerned might sound peaceful. It might sound idyllic. And, at times, it is.

Without the pool pass, there is the creek and the slip ‘n slide. Because of severe food allergies, there is more made-from-scratch food enjoyed together around our own table.

But often it feels as if we are jagged pebbles tossed together in one of those toy rock tumblers.

We cannot escape one another (because there are fewer camps and activities to take us in different directions).

We cannot stop hurting each other (perhaps because we are bored, or because we are not distracted by a screen, or because we are human).

This, then, is my prayer, this is my hope: that through constraints and tears and a thousand petty squabbles, we are becoming gems.





These Farmhouse Bookshelves

Another Saturday, another peak at my bookshelves. This one is for the mothers.

I know what you’re thinking. Who has time for reading once they have children? Admittedly, this is how I feel about exercise, but I do know a few moms who make the time. Me, I make time for reading. Every Single Day.

The secret? Lower Your Standards.

It is not possible to keep a pristine kitchen floor and read a novel a week. Priorities, people. It’s about priorities.

With that in mind, here are a few books for Mom.

picture book


I gave this one to my own mother a few years ago: Apples for Jam: A Colorful Cookbook (No) by Tessa Kiros.

This is a cookbook by a mom for moms (or anyone who cooks for a family). It doesn’t try to tempt children with smiley faces on pancakes. It doesn’t try to trick children by sneaking spinach purees into the brownies. This is a simple but beautiful book full of comforting, delicious, family-friendly food with a European flare.

This cookbook is all about memories. Creating them. Cherishing them. This is a cookbook that knows family happens around the table.

Apples for Jam is a satisfyingly hefty hardcover book full of beautiful photographs and the author’s own family memories.

Something else: the recipes in this cookbook are organized by color. Pink. Brown. White. And so on. It is wildly impractical and utterly enchanting. Kiros understands that many of us go looking for a recipe, not because we need an “entree” or an “appetizer,” but because we want to feed someone. We want to take care of ourselves and others. Maybe that requires an entree. But maybe that requires something white and beautiful. Or something rich and brown.

My Greek friends remember coming home from school to a piece of white bread, lightly broiled and splashed with olive oil, then sprinkled with some beautiful oregano, crushed between their mamma’s fingers.

This year I sent my mother-in-law Everything That Makes You Mom: A Bouquet of Memories by Laura Lynn Brown. Laura is a friend, but I’ve been excited about her book ever since she shared the concept with me.

This is a gift book, but I hesitate to call it that. Aren’t most “gift books” horrible? Do they ever get pulled from their place on the bookshelf? I’m willing to bet not often.

Everything That Makes You Mom is different. Full of great (read: not sentimental) quotations about motherhood and structured around the author’s own memories of her mother, this beautiful little book asks questions and offers prompts to help us record the big and little things we remember about our Moms.

Complete with your written memories, this would make a great gift for your mother. If your mother is no longer living, this book would make a wonderful keepsake for the next generation.

Mom bought a gravy whisk that we saw in a specialty kitchen store not so much because she needed a gravy whisk, but because its packaging claimed, ‘It scoffs at lumps.’ She gave it a new name: lump scoffer. When she made gravy, she whisked with glee, scoffing at those lumps herself with a single ‘Ha!’

Finally, here is the only parenting book I ever recommend: Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And Eight Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt by Leslie Leyland Fields.

I could tell you all about this one, but, really, isn’t the title enough? This book will set you free: free to live, to love, to be a whole person as well as a Mom or Dad.

If you or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed by parenthood itself or overwhelmed by all of the guilt-inducing advice send them this book. Trust me. When I first read this book I whispered thank you, thank you, thank you with every page I turned.

We want so badly to get it all right – our marriages, our parenting, our family dynamics. We want to meet all the requirements of a good Christian family. But God takes every hour of our home life, as well as every hour outside of it, and he uses the mistakes, the flaws, the pain as much, if not more, than he uses the good.

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