ode to november

Some really don’t like November. It looks old and worn and cold and bare, I suppose, to some.

But I really really love November. It’s when the skies turn gray, the corn fields are golden stubble, and stark trees wave dark lacy branches. The palette turns soft and subtle. After a month of riotous color, quiet begins to slip in.

And I do love me some quiet.

Before we launch into this new month of celebration, a reflection on November and the fog, snow, super-moons, and beauty I managed to notice these past 30 days:

saturday morning

from my journal…

Saturday morning: We had two days of a full house of family, for Thanksgiving and then for games and leftovers. Children all around, playing pool and ping pong and piano, in dress up worlds of Cinderella and tea parties. Aunts and uncles, siblings and in-laws, parents and grandparents, friends — so many clusters of conversation and dishwashing and laughter. And the semi-composed house I greet this morning, looking none the worse for the wear (thanks to Ryan and my parents and bustling aunts!), but rather, seeming to glow with the lingering joy of a home used and lived in. This is a house at its best — with chairs askew and coffee flowing, candles lit on every extended table.

There is so much insight to be found here — glimpses of how we were made, what we were made for.

Today we will pause to rest — Daddy called for PJs and movies! But even in this resting, we are launched into the biggest celebration of all: Jesus was born for us!

*****

So much to be thankful for, truly, but having Jack with us rated pretty high up there.

serving in strength

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

That verse has been on my counter for the last couple of weeks, catching my eye, realigning my heart.

Some days I may wonder what “special gift” I have received, but other times it’s quite clear: these are days of service. Laying my life down and spending my moments and days in cleaning clothes, preparing meals, organizing home, giving instruction.

There is always more to do than I’m up for. I get tired sooner than the mountain is moved. I lose heart before the task is accomplished. Many, many times, I simply forget that I’m serving, and elevate my feelings of “I just don’t want to” to a place of consideration. Selfishness is incredibly strength-sapping.

But when my eye catches this line, the one that goes, “serve by the strength which God supplies,” my heart is renewed. There is a source of strength that is endless! Endless.

That doesn’t mean I don’t head to bed early these days — I do! — or pause long to sit with the nursing baby — I do! But it does mean my attitude doesn’t cut off the flow of strength that comes from the Holy Spirit in me. I can smile. And when I don’t, and the excuses start to flood my complaining heart, I can know that my feelings are out of line and there is a better, abundant, strength-giving truth available to me. Repent and get back into the flow of strength.

And when all else fails, I can at least be thankful that my serving is generally done with two feet firmly on the ground. This guy handles the roof problems.

november 8: I will be with you

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.

When.

When.

Not if, just when.

Sometimes the rivers overwhelm me. I am surprised to find myself in life up to my eyeballs. Sometimes what should be a small trial — a difficult week with too much going on — threatens to overflow me. Other times a truly significant testing of faith is the fire I face.

But so the path of Jesus leads — there will be waters, there will be fires, and

“We can’t go under them, we can’t go over them; Oh, no! We’ve got to go through them!” (Name that book.)

But here is my very favorite truth of the gospel: God with us.

“I will be with you.”

This morning, as a new day dawns and we have yet to see what waters or fires may await us, I can already know that there is a way through. And it is with Jesus.

a day in the life

Sometimes I wonder how everyone’s life really looks. Like, where do they put those piles of bills and catalogs and stuff that appear on the counter just around the time dinner is boiling over and the baby is crying? No, really. It makes me want to banish all horizontal surfaces in my house! (Ryan and I are both “pile” people. Usually we know where stuff is — it’s in that pile that looks like a mess to you, but in reality is my carefully saved collection of “things I need to return,” next to my pile of “papers relevant for today,” etc.)

But we learn so much from peeking into someone’s life and seeing how they do things. It’s never exactly how I would or could do my own life, but humility allows me to grow by their example. Isn’t that amazing? My mother was just recently saying how much she learned by just peeking into a friend’s spice cupboard –how did they organize their kitchen inventory? I watch my friend’s children follow a little routine each time they come inside and gain ideas for how to improve our home environment. My sisters and I are always asking, “How do you budget for ____? What’s the best way to clean xyz? What do you do when your 2yo does [fill in the blank with a 2yo antic]?”

And of course, probably my most favorite thing to catch a glimpse of is a homeschool day! Books and supplies to store, children to manage, meals to prepare, and self to care for — how does everyone do it, because surely there are some creative ideas I could capitalize on!

Someone asked me recently what our days looked like, and it made think I should write this post — A Day in the Life of Us. So, without further adieu, for anyone curious, here it is. Mind you, this is one day. And as a friend with a recently added fifth child said to me, No two days are created equal! (Which, as an aside, is so important to remember when we’re evaluating “good” days and “bad” days. Too often, “good” just means that it went the way we desired and preferred it to go. God is bigger than that — thank goodness!)

Here is the basic idea we’re working with. A few times this year, it has all happened! But only a few. Mostly, it’s to help us all see that there’s a time for everything, and for the most part, work and school precede play. Also, I have built in a couple of “hard stops” into our day: Circle Time, Outdoor Time, and a school-kid-and-Mama-together afternoon activity. No matter how the rest is going, I find that having those few spot in our day to prioritize and come together helps keep us from spinning out of control. Oh! And a pre-dinner “All hands on deck!” that I yell out around 5pm. That’s a crucial one!

And, in photos, here’s how this played out last Thursday:


Early, dark morning, and reaching for my quiet time “pile”.


Heading out for a walk, and listening to Dad’s sermon


Extra on the ball that morning! Breakfast set out for the kids before they woke.


Jameson took a picture while I did some chores.


Breakfast over and cleaned up, we gather for Circle Time. And here’s my corralled Circle Time basket [pile]!


Girls climbing on me to go over our verse.


It was science day!


And then break into independent book work. I love this picture with all five!


Holding a baby on my hip all through school and chore time = this snuggly moment.


Piles for pick up after chore time!


And lunch!


Outdoor time, and then rests. Two sweet girls fast asleep.


Setting up a tea party for the three eldest — which will actually be another Etiquette Lesson


Three kids ready for the tea party! (They had to knock and practice entering as polite visitors.)


Filling the rest of the afternoon with things like piano.


And a favorite moment to end our day: Daddy.

november 5

Oh, autumn. How I love thee.

This year, in no particular order, some of the moments to remember:


No words.


Finishing her second book


Nightgowns and little rocking chairs, favorite books and blonde ponytails.


The cutest profile ever made


Sudden warm days with favorite people


My favorite little-girl freckles on a sweet face that is getting older every day


A few days with special family


Running in long shadows of a fall evening.


Making wishes.


Two Papas to love


Discovering windows, watching the snow


The year’s first snowflakes


Dress up, always dress up


Our annual trek with these wonderful kiddos


This munchkin is more lovable every day


Making me laugh


One amazing sunrise…


After another.


Winter foods appearing


Gathering close in the dark evenings.


Making memories.

Memories of the special things, but most of all, memories of the everyday. That’s my favorite thing about fall: the memories I have tucked away of school on a blanket, altogether; of days falling into a rhythm of books and work and play; of lighting candles on the table each night just because it’s dark and we like cozy; of life together.

It’s so far from perfect — I am so far from perfect!! — but it is so rich.