February, in photos

The shortest month, almost done. So much just life crammed into four short weeks. So many moments of ordinary, and every one special and meaningful. I think that’s amazing.


This little one learning to stand, and take a few steps. Making us laugh with antics, loving when all eyes are on her.


This oldest one readily helping out each and every day.


Many mornings spent at the kitchen table, with kids drawing or painting while I read out loud from our current history selection. This hour+ is NOT on the schedule I made last fall, but that’s my favorite part of deep winter months: the quiet hours of books and creativity that sort of insert themselves in a way that just fits.


Mornings that occasionally look like this. Waking early and getting out for a walk before it all begins has been harder this winter than any other season in 5 years! But I keep trying. Something is better than nothing.


This blurry pic represents a whole-family excursion to scope out a new business location. As soon as we were all buckled in, I suddenly realized we hadn’t done anything all together since Christmas. We went out for dinner and it was special. We love each other.


We read lots of books in the winter. I wish it could be more — does anyone else look over their bookshelves and think, How can we read all of these wonderful stories today?!? But a moment here and a page there. It’s regular and routine and part of our lives, and I’m glad for that.


Reading is also togetherness most of the time.


I love hearing the boys read out loud. They put their best into it (although occasionally not, and I tell them to do it all over without the race-to-the-end effect!) This book is our 2017 winter favorite. “Snow,” by Uri Shulevitz. The kids always begin the story with title and author, because saying “Uri Shulevitz” is the most fun. If you don’t have this book, and you have littles, get it! Fiona had the story memorized immediately, so captivated was she by the simple text and fun illustrations.


February is when spring endeavors begin. William has begun rehearsals twice a week for his role in the upcoming high school musical. And no, he’s not in high school yet. Phew.


This. Every morning (except the occasional day when my routine gets thrown off and I forget!) A salad for Ryan. Probably most people think of him as a free spirit, spontaneous. And he is, somewhat. But not completely. He loves, craves routine. So each morning, this.


This past week, days that reached 60* (!!!), and rain that has melted all but the biggest piles of snow. But the week before, the loveliest snowfall of the entire winter. What I have no pictures of is the kids outside. Every single day, regardless of how on or off track we are, they head outside after lunch. They laugh and play (and fight and resolve), and are friends, even the ten year old boy and three year old girl. I love it.


This baby of mine. I just love her. She naps in a little “nest” on the floor, because I’m a weird hippie or something. We have no crib. Somehow I’ve always gotten through the crib stage without one, even if it’s a bit unconventional for a few months. She’s too old to be left on my bed, of course, but wants to lay down and nurse to sleep at nap time. So we do. I love these baby days. I know, and you know: they go too fast.


One of those mornings I did get out to walk, I sacrificed exercise for fellowship. I’ve been thinking about cultivating friendship with these girls. Rapport. Fiona, especially, really loves me. Somehow it’s easy to not really notice that, or to somehow think she just loves the mom in her life, but not necessarily me. I don’t want to take for granted or assume her affection. She’s a unique person who genuinely loves me as a person.

And so much more not pictured. Thoughts, conversations, piano lessons and meals and laundry piles and chores crossed off. Friends and family we share life with all week long. Choices made that allow for regular remembrance of Who our lives belong to and how we can honor Him.

So Happy Sunday. Thanks for following along with this update of the ordinary. Have a blessed day!

pray with me for jack?

Tonight we cut out hearts. Three little girls and a mama, rolling and cutting. And praying for my nephew, who continues to need a miracle. Praying so much. Saying our current memory verse together — Isaiah 53:5 — and praying some more.

And thinking, as I prayed and cut hearts, about love. The love of God. Love poured out richly, abundantly, lavishly, into our hearts. Love that overcomes.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Love wins.

building my house

It feels like yesterday that I wrote this post about laying foundations, the first step in a wise woman’s quest to build her house.

And, pinch me, but I’m already seeing strength rising up where there was a deep muddy chasm only a few years ago. It’s pretty amazing. Little things: I put dirty clothes through the cycles of washer and dryer, and then TA-DA!, it’s folded and on my dresser the next morning. I make dinner, serve it, and then sit on a couch to read a book with Fiona while the kitchen is put back together. I say, “Oh dear, Daddy is coming home right now!”, and the ten minute scurry that ensues actually results in a tidy home — usually while I just continue to cook the dinner or mind the baby.

Today, I noticed it after lunch. I picked up a book and the baby and said, “Finish lunch, clean up, get each other dressed, and go out to play. I’m going to go lay Cecily down for a nap.”

I sat in the armchair in my bedroom and snuggled the baby, while snippets of laughter and song and conversation — always so much conversation! — wafted through the closed door from kitchen. She fell asleep, I laid her down. Walking down the hallway, I paused. I heard William singing happily, “God’s not dead, No!,” while his sisters laughed and tried to sing along. Swish, swish, the sound of snow pants, and then quiet. A few minutes later, I saw the foursome parade through the snow, smiling and running.

(They are the most joyful children. I am struck by that almost daily, challenged by it.)

I finished showering and dressing, and came out to the kitchen. It’s not quite perfect — four pairs of shoes helter-skelter, wherever the wearer happened to kick them off, down the center of the kitchen. But it’s pretty close. Amazingly close.

Just a little moment, but fruit. They are growing in work and ability, in love and care for one another, and I sometimes get to just sit, watch, and marvel.

I matched those little shoes with a smile.

connecting our work to His

This afternoon, as the clear sun streamed in our windows, warming us despite cold outdoor temperatures, I looked up from my book to see little Cecily sitting, smiling at me.

My heart melted.

I had just been reading about work: about how God is the Master Craftsman, so to speak, and made in His image, we also are made to work. After looking for awhile at Genesis and the model set forth by God and then Adam, the author said, “So whether splicing a gene or doing brain surgery or collecting the rubbish or painting a picture, our work further develops, maintains, or repairs the fabric of the world. In this way, we connect our work to God’s work.”

That thought fresh in mind, I looked into sweet blue eyes. And I was struck again by what a rich calling motherhood is. For each time I do something as basic and “insignificant” as wiping this baby’s nose or changing this baby’s diaper, I am:

Investing in the development of this person. Her sense of value and worth is strengthened each time I cheerfully and gently attend to her needs.

Maintaining in a very real way this person. Sometimes it occurs to me, Where would these children be without someone to wipe noses and put on clean diapers? I am here, standing between them and disease and disorder.

This embracing of my calling is my part of redemption. In a world of brokenness where mothers sacrifice children for all sorts of things, even to the point of death, I am living out redemption — sin, repentance, grace, and all.

And that’s just changing diapers!

How much we are doing, dear mothers. We are an extension of the Kingdom of Heaven, touching lives. Don’t despise the mundane, the insignificant, the seed dead in the ground-ness of it all. See your work for what it is. And in this way, “connect [your] work to God’s work.”

a passion for the impossible

I just finished A Passion for the Impossible, a biography of Lilias Trotter. (I am part of a read-a-book-every-four-weeks challenge this year and am already enjoying immensely the motivation of the group!)

Lilias Trotter was an English aristocrat whose artistic ability had the potential to launch her into the position of first great female watercolor painter — but instead, she followed the voice of the Holy Spirit to Algeria, a part of the world theretofore untouched by the Gospel. Hers was a life of faithfulness. Many times, I put the book down, thinking, “Goodness, this is kind of slow.” And then it occurred to me: that’s the point. Her life never had a fireworks moment. There was never a crusade attended by thousands. She didn’t open orphanages that reached hundreds. In fact, as of the writing of the biography, Algeria is still a hard, dangerous place for Christianity.

And yet, she gave her life, daily, faithfully. She did not judge her steps by their “success,” but by her obedience. She died having affected many fellow missionaries and her persistence resulted in 15 outposts, penetrating the darkness with the light of Jesus. Not enough to make a “splash”, as it were, but counted in the currency of heaven, a chest of treasure.

Several spots struck me especially, and I’ll record them here (for my own future benefit!)

***

“As an eagle…fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings—so the Lord alone did lead him.” Fluttereth over—the early stages of faith are reaching upward, like the eaglets for their food when the mother-bird is overhead. . . it is an older faith that learns to swing out into nothingness & drop down full weight on God—the broken up nest of former “experiences” left behind—nothing between us & the abyss but Himself—A rejoicing in every fresh emergency that is going to prove Him true—The Lord Alone—that is trained faith.

***

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
And the love of God
And the fellowship of the Holy Ghost
be with you.”

We have so often listened to it as the soothing ending of a quiet sermon. In its full meaning it is a battle cry.

***

“Two glad Services are ours
Both the Master loves to bless
First we serve with all our powers
Then with all our helplessness.”

These lines of Charles Fox have rung in my head this last fortnight—& they link on with the wonderful words “weak with Him”—for the world’s salvation was not wrought out by the three years in which He went about doing good, but in the three hours of darkness in which He hung stripped & nailed, in utter exhaustion of spirit, soul, & body, till His heart broke. So little wonder of us, if the price of power is weakness.

***

How do we bring things to a focus in the world of optics? Not by looking at the things to be dropped, but by looking at the one point that is to be brought out.

Turn full your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him…

***

Along with this book, I very highly recommend the devotional, “A Blossom in the Desert,” which is a collection of her writings and artwork. It is beautiful, challenging, and bite sized! Her meditations are rich, Word-based, and life giving. Even today, her sacrifice is affecting hearts — like mine. How amazing!

january: convalescence

January was going to be a great return to scholastic endeavors and household industry. It was going to be fantastic! We would be hemmed in by snowstorms without, and gathered near around great books and warm fires within. Can you picture it? I could. I thought it was a grand idea.

And then one week in, and I was on the couch with strange aches. Nearly three weeks later, I have cared for all of the children and currently am still on that couch, holding a feverish, napping baby.

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination.” — C. S. Lewis

This little bit of a flu is hardly a trial worth even mentioning, but it is nevertheless just that: a trial. And the nature of trials is to tempt us into a poor response. We encounter the unpleasant or difficult thing, and are faced with the decision: how will we respond? Will we take the bait and fall into temptation, doubting and fearing (or just petulant and whining)? Or will we recognize the opportunity to grow in obedience and faith as we walk through the less than ideal?

*****

Weeks ago, maybe even months ago, I read a paragraph in “The Lifegiving Home” that struck me as an area I needed to grow in. I mulled over it and prayed about it quite a bit at the time, I recall. A few days ago, after many hours of snuggling children and planning ways to bless them in their sickness, I remembered reading this and was again refreshed in my care for these babies of mine:

In our hurried age, we have little time for frailty of body or soul. Sickness is an inconvenience we resist with the popping of pills and the forcing of will. . . What we rarely consider is the value of convalescence, the gentleness we sometimes need to offer ourselves and those who are weary and worn around us. Sickness is a space in which the uneasiness (dis-ease) of the body alerts us to the need for margin, rest, and special quiet.

*****

I’m reminded, too, as these fevers and runny noses have hemmed me in and curtailed almost all outside activity, that my YES to being a mother has a cost. It requires me to reaffirm that yes regularly, and to say no to much as a result. But I’m never so glad for those boundaries and focus as when my children suddenly need so much from me. It is so important to keep the commitments of life as simple as possible, able to quickly adapt to the constant and changing flow of needs. That’s not just for me as a mother, but I think in general. Certainly, whatever one’s calling or season in life, when Christ says, “Come,” we don’t want to be bogged down with unnecessary commitments and entanglements.

*****

Most of all, I marvel at the way learning to not fret about days gone awry, but instead pressing harder and harder into trust and obedience, has yielded peace and productivity. Oh, we may not have done all I’d envisioned us to do this month, but you know? Pretty close. And with more smiles and fond memories than if I’d pushed us through the rigors of my plans.

Yes, this month, with its fevers and tears and long nights, has also given me movies with my boys, books with my girls, hours of cuddling with my usually-on-the-go baby, easy mornings that gently unfolded, afternoons of quiet table work, and three proud school kids who are turning out reports and drawings and projects for their history deadline (while I hold that baby and read to my toddler.)

*****


Fiona’s newly discovered talent: drawing people!

*****

But just before it gets too grass-is-greener over here, I am exhausted. Ha!