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Making the Journey Together

Making the Journey Together



Today I find my heart in reflection mode. Looking back. Remembering. Reaching back so that I can propel forward.

Another academic year has arrived and for most families that brings a time of planning and new beginnings.

To plan well, we first must reflect and take stock of what is going well and what needs to be adjusted. Sometimes we can just look back to yesterday and sometimes we have to go all the way back to where it began. That’s where my heart is today.

Recalling this now 7-year journey of homeschooling and wondering how I got here and how that first day of bringing Emma home from public school has become so many days of doing life together with some very dear friends: moms who go against the grain, swim upstream, and live outside of the box of societal norms.

My heart remembers the night I stood in our church hallway and poured out my insecurities to a veteran homeschooling mom who told me, “I was enough.” When I tried to convince her I was out of my league, she gently reminded me that if God gave me children, then I was the perfect choice for them and them for me. In her mind, her words may have just been noise from her lips but for me they were fuel to the kindling of the fire God was stirring in my soul.


I’m so blessed that God has allowed me to cross paths with some Godly mentors and friends including Sally Clarkson.  She is the heart behind the “I Take Joy” and “MomHeart” Blogs.  I am always grateful when she allows me to use her platform to share the messages God places on my heart.

With my heart,

Renee Parris

WAIT…In the Busyness

When life gets unusually busy and too many days in a row are hectic, I find myself stressing more and becoming short with those I love the most.  Why is that?  The people who share our homes and in many cases our names with are the ones we love most in life.  Yet those very people are on the receiving end of so many of our flaws.

We can’t hide the real us when we are in close proximity to the same people much of the time.   I have found I must intentionally wait to speak in order to protect the spirit of those whom I love.  Our words can fly quickly but are impossible to retract.  This is a daily struggle for most of us if we are honest with ourselves.

My go-to verse in so many instances is Psalms 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”  If I can just be still and wait, I am reminded that He is God and in control and that so much of what I stress about is insignificant.

photo (5)This week as I prepare to host the 10th annual Ladies Tea & Luncheon at our church I will remind myself often to be still and wait.  This event began a decade ago as a way to raise money for our missions program.  We set up, serve, decorate, and host approximately 140 ladies and girls who gather to enjoy an afternoon of Tea, Fellowship, Fun, Music and all things lovely.

It is a highlight of my year and I plan and prepare with anticipation of sharing grace with these ladies.  How silly would it be for me to allow such a gracious event to bring out unkind words or unpleasant experiences for those who work along side of me.  So, this week I will be quoting Psalms 46:10 often and asking God to remind me to wait in the busyness of life.

Blessings to you in your busy life as well.


When Motherhood Includes Grief

Today I’m writing over at “I Take Joy”…

Here’s a glimpse of the article…

Motherhood.  The word conjures up a host of emotions and words that we long for and dream of for years.

Planning.  Expectations.  Anticipation.  Celebration.  Embracing.

Millions of women have experienced the miracle of motherhood.  The transition from a woman with a whole heart into a woman with a capacity to have her heart live both inside and outside of her body is a beautiful and miraculous process.

A woman’s heart is never again whole once she has children.  For each of her children carry a piece of her heart with them through life.  Our capacity for love grows with each pregnancy.  We may think our hearts are full to capacity and yet with each new pregnancy emotions shift and unexplainable reserves of love make their way into our hearts.

Yet, because we live in a broken world suspended between the perfection of the Garden of Eden and Heaven, we understand that life is not always carefree.  Sometimes, life brings events that shake our foundation for a season.

Infertility.  Miscarriage.  Stillborn.  Prematurity.  Death.

Harsh, ugly words that no one wants to say much less experience as part of their journey in life.

Yet…too many of us do have one or more of those words as part of our life’s resume.  Known as grief, there is a process that we go through when our hearts are disappointed and we lose people or dreams that we had loved and held onto in our souls.

And when babies we carried beneath our breasts, those who lived and breathed and whose heart beat to its’ own cadence closer to ours than any other human being will ever be, leaves us…part of our heart goes to Heaven with them and never resides again here on earth.

  • When we miscarry, hormones rage.  Ovaries and uterus contract and try to find their rhythm again leaving us with emotions that are often hard to control.
  • When death comes to a child, the word sorrow takes on a depth of unexplainable meaning.
  • When we long for a child and fertility alludes us, empty wombs and arms seem to betray our femininity.
  • Grief includes waves of sadness that suffocate us making breathing seem a difficult chore.
  • In our valley, words spoken by well-meaning and good intentioned friends seem shallow.
  • Maybe most painful of all is that human comfort is lost for a season.

But then…God


One of Those Days

“It’s just one of those days,” my friend said to me when I asked her what was happening in her world.

…Ever have one of those days?

Days when it seems if it could or should go wrong, it will.


Days when it feels no forward progress is being made.


Days when it is hard to imagine that this too shall pass.


Days when it is easier to stay under the covers than face the world.

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…I’ve had far too many of those days, I’m sorry to admit.

Yet, TODAY, I choose to have another kind of day.

A day when I will look beyond the haze and drizzle and see that the sun is shining somewhere behind the clouds.


A day when I will admit that God is for me, so why should it matter who may be against me.

A day when I will count my blessings and know, undoubtedly, they outweigh my burdens.

A day when I know that I am loved, cherished, and fearfully and wonderfully made.

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Choose what kind of day will you have today!



Birds Nest Mothering

Yesterday when I arrived home, I found a small, beautiful bird’s nest laying in our yard underneath the pear tree.  I marveled at how diligently the bird worked on the nest and how much attention to detail was in the weaving and arranging of the twigs and materials that made up the nest.


It prompted me to think about how much effort goes into preparing for the upcoming eggs that will be placed in that delicate, oval nest.  Care and attention are given to the task of creating a safe place for the young to prosper until they are old enough to survive on their own.

Nature gives us such insight into God’s plan for motherhood.  I was reminded that the care and attention I give my home and family will go a long way in how my children face the world as adults.  Nurturing words and embraces will build them up when so much around them will seek to their them down.  Traditions will keep them grounded when life seems unpredictable.  Living out our faith before their young eyes will help deepen their own belief that God is real and oh, so good!

May we each endeavor to build our nest to be a strong, safe, and nurturing haven for the people God has placed in our care!

Mountains of Gratitude

Recently in the midst of a tense medical situation with my dad, I was able to unexpectedly go home for nine days.  Home will always be a corner of the Appalachian Mountains in southeastern Kentucky where I was raised.  A small, coal-mining town called Hazard, nestled in one of the most beautiful regions in our country.

I married at the amazingly wise and mature age of 17 (smile) and left those mountains and have lived in three other places and traveled oceans beyond – across the water – as my great aunt says, and while I know that home is where you dwell and where your heart is, there is a part of me that stayed in those mountains and so it will forever be home to me.

HazardSitting in my parent’s front room where floor to ceiling windows frame those mountains, I looked out over that land and mountains of gratitude welled up in my heart and soul.

This Thanksgiving season I have mountains of gratitude.

For a God who created me out of nothing and crafted a plan that is uniquely mine to live out.

For parents who did everything they knew to do to provide for me and my siblings.

For the discovery of coal lined mountains and the wisdom to extract it and use it for heat that kept me warm most of my growing up years.

For fresh water springs that flow from mountain tops and kept our family supplied with water.

For gardens of vegetables and animals raised that provided food enough for the large brood we were.

photo(13)For correction and the grandparents, aunts, uncles and anyone else who would swat my tail if they thought I needed it.

For a church literally built on a hillside where Sam and Wanda Fugate dedicated their lives to reaching the people in that area with the Gospel.  My eternity was in their hands – what if they had not answered God’s call to come home to those mountains and start a church from and with nothing?

For teachers who trained, loved and educated me more about issues of life than about academics.  They gave me a love for learning.

For mountain and bluegrass music that I was exposed to at an early age where I learned that the story in a song was far more important than the delivery of the tune.

photo(14)For indoor plumbing and all the years I spent using outhouses which make me forever grateful for modern facilities.

For pig roastings, square dances, and events that created a love for community and the importance of traditions.

For front porches lined with rocking chairs and swings and where hours of time were filled with family stories retold and passed down to new generations.

For tables of food and always enough for unexpected guests and open doors that welcomed anyone in homes who needed a safe place to land.

For willow trees that lined the creek banks and rocks that served as jumping off points when summers were warm and rivers were cool and inviting.

For Dogwood and Redbud trees that welcomed spring and signified Easter dresses were being sewn and eggs were being readied for after church play.

Picture 017For cousins that doubled as best friends and gathered nightly to play in the yard.  Those are the people who taught me how to get along, work things out, share and keep secrets, and the importance of family loyalty.

For lessons learned through the heartaches that life brought to the mountains: coal mining accidents that claimed the lives of relatives, poverty that comes from being isolated geographically, loneliness and longing when family would leave the mountains and homesickness to return.

For a slow pace of life where the goal was to enjoy those who God put in my life more than the possessions and activities that life can accumulate.

For mountains tall enough to scale during the day and valleys deep enough to hold safe housing at night which taught me that mountains and valleys are both necessary in life.

This Thanksgiving day, I’m looking back to those mountains with gratitude and ahead to the mountains I’ve yet to scale.  All with gratitude for what is and what lies beyond.


Just Say Jesus

I need to frame this post by saying that right now, at this moment, my father is in a hospital in Kentucky and I am sitting in my bedroom in North Carolina and although my heart is there with him, the distance between us physically seems way more than the 300 miles I know it to be.  How I wish I were there to hold his hand, kiss his cheek and pray with him as my sisters and I did a few months ago before a different surgery.  In thinking about him this morning, I just marvel that the timing of God never ceases to amaze me.  I began this blog post almost two weeks ago and could not get peace about posting…until this morning…

There is truth in the old adage, “Out of the mouths of babes…”  Sometimes the most profound and heartfelt conviction I receive comes from children.  Leave it to them to be brutally honest, right?

Some of the kids we do life with...gathered around my piano singing.

Some of the kids we do life with…gathered around my piano singing.

I would consider myself a visionary, a planner, a dreamer…and so when times comes to put those plans and visions into detailed  action, I can get it done but often with that comes moments of frustration and trying of the patience level.  People who work along me in ministry and those who do life with me know that about me and I’m so grateful for the grace and patience they extend to me in those moments.

The past few weeks have been very busy for our family as we help plan and prepare for our church’s fall festival and missions conference.  The Fall Festival is an annual event that welcomes about 400 people to enjoy games, hay ride, marshmallow roast, cake walk, etc. as an alternative to traditional trick-or-treating.  It’s so much fun and the kids have a great time.  But there is a ton of work in putting that together…finding workers, buying food, decorating, etc.  The missions’ conference is a highlight in our ministry and is just indescribable in this small space.  Perhaps I’ll write an entire post devoted to just that one event.  Again, for me personally, it is a very busy time.

So, one of the mornings as I’m leaving my house with list in hand, along with too many other things I was trying to carry, I was already stressed and near tears and my phone was buzzing repeatedly with questions, cancellations, email notifications, phone calls, etc.

Let me interrupt the picture in your mind of my morning and give you a little history to frame this blog post.  Right now on the airwaves of Christian radio stations there is a popular song out that says “When you don’t know what to say, just say Jesus.”  I’ve heard the song.  It’s beautiful and holds deep truth.

And, several weeks ago now, I was in the van with my friend Jenny (whose children I adore) and they were all talking a mile-a-minute and each one trying to tell me something and so the youngest girl Poppy says, “Mrs. Renee,” and I said, “Yes, Poppy?” to which she replied, “Ummm, Jesus.”  Instantly her sister Bella said, “When she doesn’t know what she wants to say, she just says Jesus.”  So, Jenny explains that they had listened to the song and about the line that says, “When you don’t know what to say, just say Jesus.”  So in Poppy’s 3-year-old mind, that made perfect sense.  She really didn’t know how to say whatever it was she was trying to say to me so she just said, “JESUS.”  Oh, how we laughed and laughed, but yet the truth was there.  When we are feeling overwhelmed, just saying the name JESUS does bring peace and calmness.

We spend a lot of time with these adorable little people and also with my other friend Jessi’s girls.  We do life together.  We attend the same church, do home school co-ops together, have sleep-overs, craft days hosted by the ever famous, Nanny Bear, Michelle Delgado, and just enjoy each other’s company.

A few weekends ago we had a yard sale together (which you can tell from our garage in the following picture) and while all the kids were at our house, they decorated the driveway…sort of…with sidewalk chalk.

It's a sidewalk chalk kind of day.

It’s a sidewalk chalk kind of day.

Back to my story about my stressful morning of preparation for the Fall Festival.  So, I’m leaving the house and juggling to press the button on my key-ring to unlock the door and as I’m walking to the car I look down and between my van and the yard is just enough of the concrete driveway for me to see ONE WORD written in sidewalk chalk…JESUS.  Immediately, I thought about the song and the girls and the admonition that really all I needed in my day was Jesus!

I quietly whispered a prayer and spoke to myself…”This (festival) is not life or death.  It will work out.  People will show up.  Kids will get candy and have fun!  My dad has cancer.  Emma is struggling with neurological issues again.  Spencer has been sick. Mike is still looking for a job.  People I love are hurting.  A friend just lost a baby.  Another friend buried her husband recently.  Those are big issues.  All these little things that I’m getting stressed out over are not issues at all.  Put it in perspective Renée.  Just say Jesus.”

So I did…I said JESUS.  And immediately, I felt His presence, calmness, grace, love, and companionship.  I smiled all the way to the church and it completely re-framed my day.  I can honestly say I went through the entire day calmer than at most events.  Even when little challenges came up, and they did, I just kept whispering, JESUS throughout the day.

These adorable little people, whom I love SO much, were used to remind me that life is so much about perspective.

Amazing people that I call Mom and Dad

Amazing people that I call Mom and Dad

And this morning at 5:00 a.m. when the Holy Spirit nudged me awake to pray for and think of my dad and how my heart longs to be with Him…again I will just say Jesus.  Because I don’t know what else to say!

For you my friends, let me say…When life gets crazy, and it will, just say JESUS.

Blessings to you,



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