Keep yourself as a stranger here on earth, a pilgrim whom its affairs do not concern at all. Keep your heart free and raise it up to God, for you have not here a lasting home. ~Thomas à Kempis

I know … I really do.

God saw fit to create your form in a time and place that doesn’t fit your heart. And how do you reconcile that?

You crave frogsong and meadowlarks and starlight and almost-autumn-but-not-quite breezes and widest fields and deepest silence. You want home and your people and simplicity. And no, not always roses — you can appreciate true joy that comes only from bearing up under the cut of thorns.

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Instead, you find yourself with city noise, with elbows thrown, with siren calls to the shallow and selfish. The loves and longings God gave you aren’t always welcome in this space, and you’re tempted to believe the lie that you’re the one who’s missed the mark. What then?

When the floors of your cottage creak and none of your furniture matches? When you’re annoyed by conversations about hair color and throw pillows? When you tell someone you enjoy drying clothes out on the line and they look at you like you have a third eye? When you’re pleasantly plump and laugh a split second before everyone else? When you believe that personalized thank-you notes are part of the bedrock of civilized society?

When you’d take a book over a computer any day and you come close to demanding someone’s firstborn as collateral before you’ll loan out one of your treasures? When you know that tears and hopes shared face-to-face are better than all the screens in the world — but finding others who know seems as likely as winning the lottery?

What then? You choose to remember.

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You remember Ethel Higel. Separated from neighbors by hay and potato fields, and before telephones came along, she’d hang a sheet on the line to signal friends to come for coffee.

You remember Marietta Van Iwaarden, the widow in a tiny house who never said an unkind word about anyone and welcomed her entire family for tacos every Tuesday night so they’d stay connected.

You remember Patty Knapp and Nancy Mortensen, whose tender smiles and no-nonsense capabilities made the community picnic every cottonwood leaf-laden fall at the old one-room schoolhouse.


You remember Great-Grandma, whose kindness and hearty lunches were revered by the German prisoners of war sent to help harvest potatoes. Who raised six children and lost one to cancer. Whose baby boy was once too sick to nurse — so she rubbed lard all over his little body, wrapped him well, and laid him on the open oven door where it was warm. He absorbed enough nutrients to stay alive, to grow over six feet tall, to become your grandpa.


You remember Great-Grandmother, who anxiously watched her Texas lane for your arrival. Who met you at the screen door because she couldn’t wait to hug your neck, who always had a pot of brown beans simmering for supper, who wore an apron from morning till night — even while playing Comity-Come. In her 80s. Who made scores of hand-sewn quilts in her lifetime and fed everyone in the world at the same time.


You remember Grandmother, who always had at least two kinds of homemade cake or pie on the counter. Who could make cornbread and fried steak like no one else, and whose peaceful movements belied the nonstop work of raising daughters and helping with the ranch and then the campground. Who taught you to crochet and set the standard for writing letters. Like the one she sent when you were 3 and apologized for making you cry — promised never to take your picture again if you didn’t want her to.


You remember Grandma, who raised foster babies and baby calves and could sew anything. Who let you try on her wedding dress and let you toss clothes down the laundry chute from the upper bath to the lower and showed you how to find kittens in the barn. Who lost her eyesight and asked you to read to her and never made fun if you didn’t know a word — would just ask you to spell it and teach you to say it.


You remember Mama raising chickens and growing lilacs and sweet peas and a huge garden and plowing the fields and keeping the books and baking bread. And teaching you to love reading and laughter and babies, and the importance of good hugs. And you remember her clothespin apron and the first time she asked you to hang out the laundry by yourself while she went to town, and you felt so proud.

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These women lived the truth that this world is not our home. They were intelligent and hardworking — and they married good, intelligent, hardworking men. Still, the Depression and wars and loss meant that life was never easy.

Like you, they didn’t get much say in what their lives looked like. But a me-first attitude never crossed their minds. Not when they had to trust God with their uncertainty — trust Him for the roof over their head and for their daily bread.

And while they could have succeeded at any pursuit they chose, they chose humility. They knew what mattered most — and it wasn’t couture or granite countertops.

It was to impact the world by raising children well, by nurturing all who crossed their paths. To make the most of their gifts, work with excellence, serve with grace, endure with hope, love with courage, live with joy.

Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself. ~William Martin

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The world grows louder every day, and competing voices demand attention. Make every effort to quiet your heart and give thanks for life and breath and for God making you to be you.

Anyone can brag about a five-year plan to corporate success or say they wear a size 2 — but few know how to be a soft landing place for a wounded, wandering heart. How to recommend a just-right book, how to comfort a fevered brow, how to appreciate midnight constellations and midday birdsong, how to contentedly sit with their own thoughts, how to help others make sense of their thoughts.

Be confident of what you know, what you were taught, what you’re still learning: That a body tuned by life — by tending flowers and making soup and mending clothes and kneeling so little arms can reach you easily — may not look as fit as one toned in a gym. But it’s healthier.

Who stole the glory of motherhood by measuring it in pounds or wrinkles or saggy arms instead of lives, first breaths and steps, and heartbreaking conversations? In gotcha days and late nights of waiting up, in misunderstandings and forgiveness and the weight of immeasurable, shockingly ordinary glory? ~Lisa-Jo Baker

And that a home filled with second-hand furnishings might not make it into a Southern Living spread. But it spares you the worry of debt and the temptation of comparison. More importantly, when you unashamedly welcome guests to walk on your creaking floors and sit on your mismatched sofas, you affirm that hearts and minds and souls are always more valuable than outer, wasting-away shells and possessions.

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So confidently live with a sense of wonder and discovery and dreams. Find patches of green and moments of silence. Choose an uncovenanted suburb, and hang clothes on the line, even if neighbors cast a questioning eye. Transplant your grandmother’s lilacs to your city yard and fill a birdbath. Wear bright aprons and greet guests with a hug. Write letters and sip tea and read books and laugh often.

These things do matter. The world needs them. It needs you. You’re not missing the mark at all.

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