A week in December

Here we are, one week gone. A week of tree mornings, cookie making and eating, Christmas piano duets, concert prep and trying so hard so focus on school work when what we all want to do is make more cookies and wrap presents! Let the best time of the year begin!

But Christmas isn’t really magic. A string of lights, few candles, and Michael Buble in the background does not, in actuality, deliver us from our sin nature. Hardly. And so we find ourselves in the thick of attitudes and selfishness and Mama running on fumes and all of us in actuality needing Jesus.

And that, my friends, is what Christmas is about. It’s what the angels declared back then and the echo of that declaration still resounds: Jesus came to bring peace between us and a holy God. Through Him, we can find ourselves falling short of the glory of God and then repent, confess our sins, and enjoy fellowship with a loving Father.

So, if in the midst of trying so hard to make lovely memories you find yourself instead confronted with a mess of human nature, instead of yelling, “What’s wrong with you kids? Don’t you know this is supposed to be special??” — realize that this is it! This is why He came! We need Him and we can have Him in all His fullness. Pause. Guide hearts to prepare Him room, to usher Him in. Leave a few “magic” things undone and don’t worry about it so much. Turn, instead, to the miracle. That we, the people who walked in darkness, have seen a great light.

Amazing. It gets me every time. He saw my need — and became the answer.

*****


Christmas is here when the scent of nutmeg and butter fills the kitchen!


Plaid. Everywhere.


Tree. Such a beautiful tradition!


Concert night. 5,000 photos and we’ll settle for this one.


Still, still, still — you can hear the falling snow.

a morning’s rambling

I wish I had a picture from yesterday’s scene outside my windows — children bundled in all sorts of colors, laughing and tumbling after each other across the backyard, exploring every familiar corner because suddenly it was transformed and enchanting by our first real snow.

It is one of my favorite things to see, I’ve realized. A rainbow in the sky, peonies bursting into bloom, ocean’s swell crashing against rocks — all outdone by the joy and magic and brightness of a snowy playday. I could stand and watch forever.

I know it’s been said here in this little corner of the internet so many times, but my, how the days do fly by. I feel it in my soul as I manage this particular season of motherhood. There were so very many days when playing outdoors had to mean mittens and boots for me, too. Not so much anymore. They all run out to dress and play on their own and this year there’s a baby whose needs dictate my availability. It used to be that train tracks needed my expertise, and Candyland could only be played with my assistance. Piano practice required me to be standing nearby, and every single meal depended upon me.

That was an exhausting and demanding season that required so much prayer and Holy Spirit.

But just as I knew they would, those days flew by. There was a last time that Jameson needed me to lay near him as he drifted to sleep — and it was long, long ago. I did my best to be fully present and not wishing away any of those weary yet joy-filled days, and still

They go.

Now there are new demands with new joys to go along. There is the beginning of the craziness that is newborns + older children, a combination I’ve long marveled at and wondered at and have vague memories of my mother doing so well without missing a beat — but how?? My new favorite thing is laying in the dark nursing a baby to sleep (and drifting there myself!) and suddenly hearing tip-toe footsteps as Jameson quietly comes to let me know he’s home from whatever evening activity he had and to tell me how it was. He’s off doing his own thing more and more, but without me ever asking, he still comes to let me know how it all was. I know how that goes: there’s a security in knowing your mom knows.

*****

We are mapping out the next 45 days. Every one needs to count, as we approach the whirlwind of activity that is “the most wonderful time of the year.” I ask the kids each year what their favorite part of the Christmas season is, and while one might anticipate answers including parties and concerts and tree decorating and the like, the most consistent answer is, “I like all the cozy nights by the tree when you read stories and we’re together.” That is the most precious answer they could give, of course, and I am so blessed to know those quiet evenings have mattered so much — but oh, what a challenge as well. Those simple memories require one thing: TIME. Time at home, and not hurried and exhausted time at home, but slow and routine time at home. So like a tenacious guard I scan the calendar and count out the evenings and decide with determination that this many we will give, and the rest will be protected, given to them, my precious children who want nothing more than to hear a favorite book while gazing at a favorite ornament, surrounded by their favorite people.

And as I carefully map out school, cookie baking, outside commitments, shopping trips, prayerfully prioritizing, I am suddenly feeling like Elijah on Mount Carmel. As familiar as I may become with managing our days together, as skilled as I may get a figuring out what should fit where, there is an element to our days together that I am desperate for but cannot bring myself: the fire of the presence of God. So my prayer has been renewed with each glance at the calendar: Lord, would You visit our home. Engulf our hearts. This is meaningless without You. How silly is a stone-cold altar and untouched sacrifice. The whole point is You.

a moment

I don’t know what you picture when you think “homeschool.” I know that what I imagine isn’t what my reality ends up being most of the time. We don’t have a school room, but rather a kitchen table — as well as a couch, a piano, the floor, and other random places school occurs all day long. We don’t all sit for 2.5 hours, break for lunch and recess, and then reconvene. Sure, we eat together 3 times, and there’s our Circle Time, but otherwise it’s a lot of managing moving parts.

And so today, when I got them all situated for our weekly painting session, and even the baby was happy nearby, I had to take a picture. No talking, just paint; we all need quiet, I said. And look, all those sweet head bowed around the table. 7th grader to kindergartener working happily while music played in the background. My soul took a deep breath and I smiled.

living life.

There is so much activity in the fall, isn’t there? After a summer that always feels full enough, I am suddenly launched into that same fullness, but with the addition of school for x number of kids, birthday parties, church routine in full swing, teaching CFA, field trips and fun trips and scrambling to be outside for one last hurrah — and all to the tune of shortening days.

This October seemed especially so, with every week requiring a planning strategy of its own, as I did my best to keep the essentials and be flexible with everything else. Some weeks or months or seasons are just like that. (Perhaps most are?) Our house has seemed extra-full, and that is my favorite kind of busyness.

But through it all, in it all, under it all, a sense of peace and provision and daily bread. Pressing needs that keep us all thinking about the faithfulness of God and praying in faith for His touch. We are busy each day but there’s also a unifying waiting, carrying happening in our hearts, down to Cecily. A text comes in with new numbers for Jack and we all stop, hearts in their eyes as they wait for new news. An email from the church prayer list with heavy news, and they all pause quietly, letting it sink in. A man they all know from church gets answers that aren’t answers from doctors, and they begin to ask for a miracle. And more. They are learning to carry one another’s burdens.

We are learning to do our chores well and to be more careful with math problems but we are learning far more.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing it right, this thing called life, this task of raising up people. Most of the time I’m too busy just doing it these days, though, and have to cast even those cares on Him, trusting that He is my Shepherd and that He is their Shepherd, and He will lead us through every hill and valley.

*****

A decade of William

William Sinclair Dunphey, my second beautiful boy, born mere hours after celebrating Ryan’s 36th birthday, turned ten this past weekend.

How we cherish him!

Sitting here and pondering who he is and all that there is to value in him, I’m struck by how intense and aggressive his love is. He is deeply invested in each member of his family, aware of us and who we all are, engaging with each of us each day in meaningful ways. He is also incredibly self-disciplined and already has a tough time when I direct the day in a way that disrupts his carefully laid out school and chore plan. He is learning already to take a deep breath and cheerfully serve, trusting that God knows the needs and desires of his little heart. He is black and white and likes rules to be observed, and here, too, he is already being shaped as he lives in a house full of renegades and wretches who are in the process of sanctification. Gentleness. Kindness. Understanding that life is not always lived through his perspective. These are lessons he struggles with and then latches on to with that intensity. He is deeply sincere and will occasionally weep over revelation of his sin and the brokenness it has wrought. He is sweet and funny and kind but he is not all softness. No, there is a rod of iron in there, a burning heart of integrity that makes me think of David who aggressively pursued the presence of God.

And now he is 10. Again, I wouldn’t trade this blossoming young man for the world! But oh — his sweet little dimpled face and games of dress up and crying for Mama at night… that all was too fleeting.

Happy birthday, dear sweet William. We treasure you.

autumn catch-up

Oh, another month of living, pressed down and running over — that’s the only way to measure these incredibly full days. Days full of beauty and adventure, or the refining rhythm of routine, read alouds we love and workbook pages that must be done, church things, work things, school things, family things… So much, and most of it with a baby in arms, which is why my thoughts tend to stay jumbled in my head instead of getting straightened out into neat and tidy sentences here.

Tonight, while I laid in bed with Enid next to me, amusing herself with the crinkly package of baby wipes, I looked through pictures and was a bit astounded to realize how long ago the end of September already feels. And so, a quick photo / memory dump:


Daily work with this eager kindergartener.


Thursday’s nature journaling, packed up and moved to the park.


A Sunday afternoon with the whole family, soaking in September sunshine.


Farewell to this old friend, and even more, to my favorite neighbors EVER.


Paint and journals abandoned and Mama left just sitting in silence. I may or may not have sat there for quite awhile.


Getting rounder, cuter, and more smiley all the time.


A crazy day that managed to get collected and calmed and tied up with the comforts of Autumn.


Another year of CFA begins!

We made it to John Brown’s House, near Lake Placid. We are history buffs and history buffs in the making and studying the Underground Railroad is all the more real with trips like this.

Our day doubled as an autumn holiday in the mountains.


Besides the stunning leaves, the array of mushrooms caught Beatrice’s eye.


Passing through and noticing three friends playing piano together in the evening, and realizing, somehow in a very profound way, that this moment is their real life.


And another moment that stopped me in my tracks: turning around to see my brand new baby playing on her tummy with toys. *sigh*

That’s all for now. A son is in need of tick removal. Life never stops, does it?