August 24

Time for change. That’s what fall is, isn’t it?

I step outside early in the morning, hoping to greet the sun as it rises. There is no hot, humid, heaviness as I open the door, only cool stillness. No matter that the forecast predicts nearly 90* this afternoon; for now, it is chilly. My hydrangeas are slowly turning shades of rusty peach, preparing for their autumn display of deep dusty pink. Geese suddenly appear from the horizon, honking their way south. Waves of nostalgia rush over me — sadness at leaving this summer behind, the sadness of countless others summers gone before. But the simultaneous anticipation of a new year beginning: new plans, new routines, new pencils, new charts. New tights and corduroys, new backpacks and lunch bags. Even better, old sweaters and favorite wool socks. This awaits us, and more.

Still, this summer with all of its firsts and adventures and laughter and spontaneous family moments — it is about to be packed away beside all the other treasures of my heart, memories that grow dim and fuzzy with age, but somehow form the fabric of family.

Anyone else slip into deep melancholy as the morning temperatures cool?

*****

Last spring was a school semester spent welcoming a new baby, and it was everything wonderful. There is a time for everything, and the Lord really helped me to embrace a time for slow, a time for together, a time to sit and read. We did lots of our school work gathered together in the music room, just listening to Tom Sawyer, or The Odyssey, or The Bronze Bow. I watched from the window as the four children ran outside to play, having helped each other don winter gear. Math and handwriting and all those basics somehow got well covered, and we happily made our way till the end of the year.

But there were little sparks of ideas for what I would love to do this year, when perhaps our school time wouldn’t be so centered around Mama cuddling a new baby. This summer those ideas have been brewing and percolating, and being prayed over lots. What is the big picture for this year? I try to ask the Lord for His heart each year. Things as pragmatic as “reading out loud every day,” “learning to recite clearly while making eye contact”, etc. But things that go deeper, too (and often those pragmatic goals are just outworking of deeper things, like connecting one-on-one, cultivating confidence, equipping to interact with the world, hiding scripture deep in their hearts.)

This year, my over-arching desire is to tie heart strings.

I have had a picture in my mind’s eye since last winter of a gathering time each afternoon where I am doing something with all three (and maybe four, as Fiona simply won’t be denied!) children. That is their love language: Mama sitting, creating, involved, right alongside them.

My eldest son is growing. There are not so many moments left of me gathering my little chicks all in a row — sooner than I know, it will be time to let them experience independence in new ways. And so I am burdened to tie these heart strings good and strong. To look in their eyes and help their hands and spend time not just downloading information or training in chores, but with them.

So we will have fun. It will not always be easy fun — it just doesn’t work that way in real life. There will be babies crying and flour on the floor, thread tangled and fingers stabbed, messy hands and dinner burning. There will be days when our hearts are out of synch and grumpiness threatens every plan I made. But I am praying for the vision to press through all of that and teach them, in so doing, that opposition doesn’t have be the end of effort, and that they are worth it.

*****

But for now, the last days of summer beckon. We’ll tie heart strings making chalk art, eating lunch outside, and taking spontaneous walks to the river.

August 22

I want to say that this has been a perfect Monday.

But what I would really mean is that this happened to be the kind of Monday I enjoy. I have had slews of other kinds of Mondays, and you know? My times are in His hands, He has written my days in His book, and there is perfect in those other Mondays because He is there.

I’m slow to learn that. I don’t always respond that way.

I’m trying.

It certainly helps to look up from my “perfect” Monday and ponder how many people are living vastly different lives at this moment. Bombs, guns, terror. Fear, pain, abuse. Loss, tragedy, grief. Confusion, depression, hurt.

He is there.

Emmanuel, my favorite of His names. He’s right here. And He is all — all — that we need.

*****

Up and at ’em — alone. My favorite way to start a day. Get everything humming. My spirit, my mind, my oven, my washer. It doesn’t happen often and it’s a gift.

The baby fell asleep as usual, and it was cool and breezy, and I spent two hours alone (“Are you bleeding? Is the bone broken? Go outside.“) starting to really map out the start of this year. Another gift that I had asked for but not banked on.

Sweet Cecily, asleep in her little nest on the floor, since laying down and nursing is her new (not negotiable) preference. Laying down twice a day doesn’t hurt me, either. God must know stuff.

Back to the kitchen for some more cooking-ahead. Cutting into tomatoes so dense and pink, I almost cried. Silly?, but I feel like I’m viewing something miraculous when I cut into these beautiful gems.

Sitting outside to write something, anything, on this little blog, and looking up to see this bit of sweetness. Yellow flowers, blue and white sky, navy polka dots, Goldilocks hair. I have so much beauty in my season.

August 20: seasons

Two days ago, my children and I had the most wonderful morning. We put on mud boots and sneakers and headed to a dear friend’s home, where she let us bounce on trampolines, explore her secret paths, swing as high as we could on swings, and best of all, take in the beauty and abundance of her vegetable and flower gardens.

Beautiful green trees artfully planted to create shade, interest, beauty: planted 22 years ago, when they first built their house. They were looking ahead, and now their grandchildren run giggling through branches and under boughs. Friends, like me, come and hear the rustling of leaves and take in the peace of their tall green presence.

Neatly laid walkways of sandstone, cleverly built tables of sandstone. Swings built here and there. Birdhouses, paths mowed to their pond. All speaking of careful workmanship, sweat and labor, and love for beauty.

I was inspired by it all, fed by it all.

Most of all, I just took in the abundance this friend has to offer in her season of life: the abundance of gentleness, motherly care, perceptive eye, listening ear. I soak in the peacefulness of a woman whose roots have gone deep into the Lord, whose surroundings speak of contentment and thankfulness, and who freely gives out of a deep acknowledgement that God has made her to nurture.

I find such beauty in the seasons God brings us to.

Every day, I look to see the beauty of this, my season — and it is everywhere. It is messy, perhaps, and there are tears and sorrows and sin that mar the image, but even there, beauty grows in the form of the gospel.

I see my mother’s season, I see my friend’s season (and other friends whom I am privileged to know), and there is so much beauty there, too. There is the visible beauty: perhaps a tidier home, more time to create order (and less to disrupt!), new freedom to explore gifting and talents and see them flourish in new ways. To say that I am blessed by every opportunity to sit in such environments would be an understatement. But more, the beauty that emanates beyond artful homes and beautiful gardens is the graciousness with which they continue to give, recognizing that their season enables them to reach back to women who are now where they were, and give a drink of water (as it were.)

They inspire me to sow well where I am. Plow with the future in mind — knowing that the path of the righteous shines brighter and brighter. They inspire me to be the kind of woman I aspire to be: generous, gracious, grounded, God-centered.

“Older women . . . may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

August 18

We had a birthday.

I’m not the best party-thrower, and we aim for simple around here, but it is so good to stop the usual and celebrate the fact that God gave us the gift of each other.


making cake together


last hug for her 4yo sister


first-thing presents from neighbors who love her


coloring at the picnic table — the big event that held their attention for over an hour!


I love Fiona, quietly taking in every nuance of these big girls


getting ready


ready!


soaking it all in


“It’s just what I wanted!” I wish I could have captured her face. Perfect.


best big brothers

We are really thankful that God gave us this bright, perceptive, loving, joyful little lady.

August 16

“Children tie the mother’s feet.” — old Tamil proverb

I read that in Amy Carmichael’s biography — the story of a young single woman who, through no plan of her own but simply because she followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, became “mother” to hundreds of abandoned and abused Indian children. Elisabeth Elliot says, “It took rather a long time for the truth of this Tamil proverb to dawn on Amy… …that she must allow her feet to be tied for the sake of Him whose feet once were nailed.”

*****

There is a pervasive lie in the water that we all drink, and it is this: if you do everything right, you can have it all. It appealed to Eve, and it appeals to us. At least, it appeals to me. It entices me and draws me in, and subsequently wraps me in the chains of discouragement and discontent.

*****

I remember reading in “Loving the Little Years” that it’s okay to have a baby and consequently look like you had a baby. It’s okay to bear in your body the marks of sacrifice. In fact, it’s kind of weird to yield your body for the creative work of forming an entire other person (or two, or ten), and then wanting to erase all traces of that. Go back to your 20-year-old figure, as though that pre-baby body was your “true self.” Yes: steward your body, keep it in good health, realize it’s the only one you’ve got and it needs to now serve your adult children and their children, and maybe even their children — but for heaven’s sake, stop trying to erase all traces of childbearing from your tummy and thighs. Your body is a tool to use, not a museum piece to put on the shelf. You are a living sacrifice, and just may look a bit like one, too. You can’t have it all.

“One of the greatest testimonies Christian women can have in our world today is the testimony of giving your body to another.”

If you have a Mom-body, it may because you are a mom. That’s not just okay; it’s a gift from God that we don’t need to do penance for.

*****

Somehow I can feel like a truly successful mom is one who hits a home run every day in laundry, cooking, cleaning, and schooling and is involved with every other thing, too, in church and community. And beyond this unseen force that pressures me to stop being a loser and start doing something with my life, there’s of course the desire in me that every once in awhile makes me really really really want to do ALL THE THINGS. The fun things, the important things, the things that SOMEBODY has to do. There are so many things. Shouldn’t I be able to do them, too?

Because if you’re really good at being a mom, those kids will barely be a blip on the screen of your go-go-go and productivity. Right?

*****

We want to have the kids, be a good mom, and have none of that leave any impact on how we look or run our lives.

We want it all.

And yet, shouldn’t there be a mark? Shouldn’t there be an obvious impact? Shouldn’t our lives look like they are being sown into the field of our children’s lives?

It’s okay that your children “tie your feet.” It’s okay that their need for the gospel in word an deed requires every ounce of your energy and creativity. It’s okay that the fearful and wonderful design of them left your belly wrinkled and squishy — with no sign of ever returning. It’s what we were made for: to lay down our lives for these little ones.

If Jesus can stand in eternity, bearing the marks of sacrifice in His hands and feet, I think it’s probably okay to expect that our sacrifices may also leave their mark, on our bodies and time and energy.

We can’t have “it all”. But we can have ALL of the abundant life we so desire as we follow our Savior. And the best part? Chains fall, and we run freely into joy and peace — soft tummies and all.

August 15

That weekend sort of killed my daily writing thing.

But today is feeling all sorts of fresh week and new day-ish. Maybe because the first thing I saw was the chubby baby in bed next to me wide awake and beaming at me with so much love and joy — that’s a hard start to beat.

The weekend was:

— a few new bouquets from my (meager this year) August flowers — and such things used to be as “daily” as brushing my teeth, but this summer, remembering to cut flowers is suddenly an event to be celebrated!

— food, of course, including my new obsession: banana with salted cashews and unsweetened coconut. It’s almost as good as Kettle Cover salted caramel ice cream. (I’m such a liar, I know. But I’m pretending, okay?)

— an oldest son deciding to build the hand-me-down playmobil castle, which meant gluing pieces, finding directions online, and getting creative when pieces were missing. He literally spent all day working on it, and it was the best rainy summer day thing to do. It was all set up, at last, at nearly 10pm, and he was proud.

— being absolutely smitten by a delicious baby who is suddenly so old (for instance, sitting and playing in the family room all morning without any need for me!)

— being thrilled to see the rain clouds moving in, watering the thirsty earth. But catching some lovely sunshine here and there, too.

— deciding to just do it: empty the incredibly awful corner of chaos formerly known as the school cupboard, and start sorting. Three (3!!!!) huge trash bags later, we’re starting to make some progress toward an orderly beginning to a school year. (How do you just, you know, have three bags-worth of garbage just hanging out in your house??)

Okay. Photos are dumped; back to my regularly scheduled writing tomorrow.