peace and joy

December is here. Most of it hasn’t looked quite this white and peaceful, but I loved this moment. I returned from my morning walk and couldn’t help but walk through a yard of new snow. I stopped and listening to that unique quiet that only a snow-covered meadow brings and heard the Holy Spirit speak to me, on the first day of that crazy week between Thanksgiving and Christmas concert when my to-dos are a mile long, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Peace on earth. If that is the message of the angel, perhaps it should be a theme of our rejoicing?

And so we decked our home (rather quickly, without too much creativity, which was just what we needed this year!), made gifts and cards, and prepared for the season’s kick off, the CFA concert.

We got our tree and decorated it, and after kids were in bed Ryan said, “That was kind of easy,” and we realized together that (for better or for worse) the days of us being outnumbered by very small excited children are over, and we’ve moved into a season of more order. Slightly more order. Still enough craziness to know there are five kids decorating a tree.

I took this picture last Sunday, as boys watched football and the girls colored and I tidied the kitchen before starting a new mess for dinner prep. It doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas or December, per se, but it was a moment that I felt so thankful. Blessed to have a home, a husband who loves our home and who loves us, children who are happy to be together, regular old life that is lived together.

But most of this week has looked like Mom with a tummy bug, then Mom with a head cold. The school basics got covered, and plenty of super easy meals and fending for themselves. Normal life, made a bit more special because there is the sense of Christmas all around us. Challenging for me, because I had such high expectations for what we would get done on this last week of regular school, how many gifts I would wrap and get organized, and all of the other things this Type A always has running through her head. Ironically (or not, because the Holy Spirit knows what we need), William’s prayer during devotions on Monday morning was about how even when the day isn’t what we plan or expect, we can just live for the Lord and “move the ball down the field.” (I love that he speaks football to God.) As my stomach churned and warned me that I was being taken down by a weird bug, I knew that prayer was for me.

Because Joy to the World was another message of the angels, and it should be another theme of this season. Joy isn’t something we find in ourselves, when we are satisfied by our own goodness and kindness (which is what so many spend this season trying to do.) Joy is a gift from God, through the salvation offered by His Son, that goes deeper than our circumstances or our own goodness. Joy is knowing that God so loved me that He gave His only Son, and in humbly receiving the news of my own brokenness and HIS sufficiency, I also receive unending Joy and Peace.

Peace isn’t thinking happy thoughts toward strangers. Joy isn’t pushing aside negative thoughts about your husband and kids and hoping positive thinking (and enough holiday cocktails) will somehow get you through these weeks of “happy.”

Peace and Joy can be real and lasting and transforming. Peace and Joy are in knowing Jesus, the God-Man who came to dwell with us and know us and redeem us, whose birth we celebrate with awe and thanksgiving.

May He come and bring His peace and joy to you this season.

making home

IMG_0070-1
Mulligatawny Soup — a comforting favorite!

Did you know that “homemaker” isn’t just a placeholder on an application for people whose lives are so lame they don’t leave home? It actually is an occupation — and more, it’s a calling. Homes, in fact, don’t just happen; they are made, and someone has to do that making. It is a gender specific calling for the wise woman who will give herself to the task. It is a calling that fosters the building of people, of families, and of culture. It is way more than a placeholder.

This atmosphere that we’re called to cultivate (first in our own souls, and then by extension in our domain) will look unique in each home. Isn’t that beautiful? I love the many expressions of God’s Kingdom that erupt in the earth as homes are established to His glory. Because I am the homemaker here, our signs of “home culture” may look a lot like reading aloud together, listening to classical music in the morning and classic jazz in the evening, ethnic food and Dutch oven meals, flowers in the summer and candles in the winter, and pretty things here and there. That’s me. But I remember a friend’s home from my childhood, a place of incredible joy and warmth and togetherness — full of mountains of mismatched tupperware dishes that we took turns washing our way through (because there was always, always at least one visitor), loud laughing and boisterous play, and an evening of fun looked like making candy and pulling the sticky ropes halfway across the kitchen in our buttered hands. I don’t remember a single candle or any bouquets, but I remember knowing that my friend wanted to be home with her family more than anywhere else in the world.

The expressions will differ, but the mandate remains the same for women throughout time and the world over: to build a place where people find the flavor of heaven, and where souls are ministered to through their physical needs. Our five senses absorb life, and as homemakers, we touch hearts through the sounds and scents and scenes and food (don’t forget the food!) we provide.

Some things won’t differ. All of the above things, in and of themselves, are so empty. Even Miles Davis is a clanging cymbal if there isn’t love, I guess you could say. First and foremost, there is Jesus. He has a culture that doesn’t bend, no matter where or when it’s being expressed. The Kingdom of Heaven is righteousness, peace, and joy. Our homes need to be places where right living is upheld and repentance is a well-learned skill; where peaceful living and peaceable living mean turning from worry and stress, and saying a hard NO to strife in our relationships; and where joy is sought and cultivated. Those things aren’t natural for any of us, but they are for the Holy Spirit, and He has come to make His home in us. We don’t have to settle for less, although those things will be a lifelong pursuit.

We establish those gospel things as non-negotiables, but then we allow the talents, giftings, and tastes of ourselves (and our husbands) to shape the form it all takes.

It’s a worthwhile task. Nations are shaped right here in our kitchens.

Some places to get started:

The Little Book of Hygge — a totally secular book, but with lots of practical ideas for how to cultivate a sense of being present, and making home a place of enjoyment.

The Hidden Art of Homemaking — a classic that I just love. She touches on every aspect of home, the biblical importance of what we do, and lots of practical ideas for how to do it.

The Life Giving Home — if the previous title is a bit dated for your taste, this book says many of the same things in a more updated setting.

The Little House books — because honestly, Ma is my hero. She makes home and hygge in a dugout on the side of a hill. Ladies, we can do this!

a purposeful home

In August, I made an impulse purchase. I judged a book by it’s fabulous cover and bought it. This week, it made its way to the family room, where I’ve been perusing its contents (while nestled under an afghan, sometimes by candlelight, because of course.)

It’s that time of year. My kids say lots of great things, but something William said a few months ago made my heart happy: “My favorite time of year is winter, because it gets dark early and there are candles and music and we’re all together.” This from my boy who is out playing football as often as possible. Who knew the regular rituals I’ve attempted to create, in order to craft “homey” out of a time that could just be cold and dull, were making a clear impression on him.

Of course, that freshly inspired me. It’s not always easy, being all together indoors from 4pm on, keeping hearts and hands occupied, trying to convince myself to not just send us all to bed because it’s pitch black, after all. It helps to remember that the quiet music or the fun board game or even the “everyone get a book and sit quietly at the fire until I say” is doing more than just keeping us sane; it’s making memories. It’s making home.

Back to the book: hygge is a Danish word and concept, and so here you’ll find the makings of the unusually happy Danish culture (according to statistics.) Lighting, food, furnishings, friends… all of the elements that add to a slow, cozy enjoyment of the moment — especially the dark ones.

But I couldn’t help but think, as I read with a pink-cheeked baby sleeping in the crook of my arm, that I didn’t see all that much about babies. About making this culture for others enjoyment. I did a quick check, and sure enough, the Danes seem to be missing something crucial.


And not just Denmark; it is an overarching problem in many countries.

This made me sad, but it also was a very powerful reminder: candles, warm bread, an emphasis on friendship over productivity, and sheepskin on every surface rings a bit hollow if it’s all feeding a need for my happiness. That just can’t be the point. And I know: toddlers knock candles over, kids grimace at the slow-cooked stew, your favorite afghan is in the wash because someone escaped the table with banana hands, and late night game nights with friends are tough when the baby needs to be nursed to sleep. This investment costs something.

But home is meant to be created as an investment in the next generation. That’s the whole point: homes as a safe, welcoming place of ministry.

This is a good reminder for me. Home is a tool, the end to the means — not the end in itself.

november.

November 1st.

Darkness greets me as I open my eyes, and the soft murmur of furnace faithfully warming house.

Coffee drips steadily, body slowly warming to awake as I push through today’s core work, sitting to read John and sip that warm brew, finally breaking away from the lure of Christmas shopping online to don coat and hat, and: still dark.

Clean air greets me, albeit cold. Swinging arms to fight cold, weaving on and off road to stay away from cars that don’t see me, pulling hat lower over ears: my winter morning routine has begun.

Warm breakfast from oven, candles lit. Sunlight spills glorious and bright, then just as quickly disappears in a cloud of brooding gray. At lunch we pause, listen, and then sit with mouths agape as tens, scores, a hundred or more? geese wing overhead. By late afternoon, windows are wet with drizzly rain and darkness creeps in again, already, hemming us in. Scent of pumpkin pie wafts, piano is practiced, and we grab books and gather close to one another.

I love November.

True, leaves are gone. No one schedules a trip to the Adirondacks now, as every last vestige of beauty and life has been ripped from limbs by wind and turned to mush by autumn rains. Bare gray branches stand exposed against the sky, and corn fields quiet to a soft gold. Everywhere, a palette of steel blue, chestnut brown, spun gold, faded green. It is alternatively gentle and austere, changed in an instant by the drama that unfolds moment by moment in the late autumn sky.

Our flurry of first days of school have calmed, and we have settled into how this goes. A few more weeks, and the steady routine will begin to fall apart as we anticipate and plan and create for the coming holidays. Beef stew and buttermilk biscuits, applesauce and roast chicken — these are novel again and fill not just tummies but hearts. Board games are rediscovered in the evenings, and throws and blankets don’t stay folded long between use. Favorite books are pored over, made all the more enjoyable by the flicker of firelight.

I love November.

*****

Goodbye, lovely October. You were beautiful, too.


Taken on the morning of the first frost.

Taken on a hike last week.

Taken in our backyard.

Taken on a Sunday morning just because.

new baby.

“Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
the fruit of the womb His generous legacy?”

And in the midst of school starting and birthday celebrating, weather cooling and leaves falling, we found out a new baby is coming.

four sisters
Me with my three also-expecting sisters

Some of the first joys have been the other children’s responses, especially Beatrice. She is so very excited, and also so very thoughtful toward me. Another joy is the provision of a new midwife to our area.

Most of all, looking around at the five faces who gather at our table for each meal (and who all follow me around all day long!) and trying to fathom how blessed we are to have these gifts in our lives. Five people God has used me to usher into the world, and now another soul to love and be blessed by.


A short walk last month

Of course the front end brings with it the immediate challenge to give and be stretched, as I balance upset stomach with need for food NOW, and the non-stop waves of exhaustion that bring my days to a screeching halt, sometimes only a few hours in. Life is pared down to most needful (which ends up still being a lot these days, I’m finding) and so school isn’t fun and flashy. Just basic. Diligence is the name of the game. Autumn is slipping by and I’m not out there, walking down leaf-strewn trails and seeking new adventure with my brood each afternoon. Silly, but that’s hard for me, and an opportunity to say firmly to my soul, “Another year. The kids are fine just playing in the yard, and you’re saying YES to a whole new person.” It’s worth the loss of a few tromps in the woods. More than worth it.


Naptime with Cecily

So here we are, already 1/4 of the way through a season of expectation that will culminate in the arrival of Baby #6 next May. I am so, so thankful.



Mornings are mostly still “mine”, with quiet time, walk, and exercise. Sometimes it all goes downhill from there, but I so enjoy the start of the day!


Pretty little girls!


Afternoon snack and read aloud — a [mostly] daily highlight.


Ten weeks. That’s a pro-level bump. Ha!

over a decade with my baby.

There was a birthday celebrated in September that must be recorded: my eldest, Jameson.

He was just born, wasn’t he?, and yet no. There is over a decade’s worth of memories crammed into the treasure chest of my heart.

He is growing. He is tall, yes, but he is growing. A quieter heart, a new confidence, the incredible perception and awareness he’s always had growing into wisdom. He’s still just a boy, but this older boy I’m just sort of observing and marveling at.

I can’t believe how much my heart is just wrapped up in him. My beautiful boy.

I blinked, and suddenly, we’re here:


First morning as an 11yo, drinking coffee and chatting with Cecily, who just adores him.


Perfect freckles.