the march of time

I drove him to the town office, where he knew all the answers and had all his paperwork, and I simply stood by, wondering when he got old enough to manage so well on his own. I walked beside him, aware of his height and confident stride, as he showed me the hunting blind he and my dad worked so hard at preparing. I heard the shot that belonged to him, and took the phone call minutes later when his deep voice proudly let me know, “I got a deer, Mom.” Just yesterday he was a baby. My baby.

She came out crying, clearly upset and needing Mama. Ryan gave up his spot, and she quieted right down in my bed. I could have stared at her little lips, her little nose, all night. Her sweet hands, her quiet breath. The littlest one, with so much energy and personality, who has captivated all of us for over two years. About to become an older one, the baby no longer. How did that happen so fast?

Jesus, my portion, + photos

O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.

My life, made by Him and for Him, is not my own. Not that such yieldedness comes naturally — oh, no. Far from it. We come into this world grasping and grabbing, and we grow into goals and certain assumptions. Clinging to days that we know slip like sand, the idea of letting someone else dictate our moments can be frightening, maddening, unclear.

And yet, there is this treasure to be found: life in Him, for Him.

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

He calls us to Himself, calls out of us gifts and purposes, calls us into abundance.

Life seldom goes exactly as planned — by us, anyway. What freedom and peace to understand that His plans are good and His path firm.

Day after surrendered day, threaded together. Moments faithfully lived, stewarded and not hoarded. And suddenly, instead of being a statement of sheer faith, you look back and exclaim, “the lines have fallen to me in pleasant places!” Not always easy places, but oh, full of His presence and blessing. Joy and sorrow, mountain top and valley, tribulation and triumph — all made pleasant because He is our inheritance.

And so, more than ever, I declare that my boundaries — the lines of my life — belong to Him. He expands them, time and again, a greater territory than I feel up to. Responsibility, testing, even blessing — can I do this? Can we do this?

Yielding to His boundaries, and not clinging to my own life, is only the beginning of the faith He calls me to. Now there is a vast field, a harvest to come in, a wealth of treasure to steward, and there is little old me. Trust Me, He whispers, as I wake each morning to nothing fancier than a pencil and paper turned to to-do list. It is I who work in you both to will and to do for My good pleasure.

Will it always look the way we anticipated? Turn out exactly the way we assumed? Will His timeline for fruitfulness match our estimation? No. But our lives are yielded to Him, not to a formula. And so this yielding isn’t just about His plans and purposes on the earth, but about us knowing Him, trusting Him, loving Him. What fellowship He invites us into! This notion of losing our lives in Him — it truly isn’t about loss at all, but gain. Great, great gain.

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

He stills the tumult

This morning, as we add “fever-pitch fight over empty Supreme Court seat” to the uproar that already is 2020, I am settled by the profundity of this thought: Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

A promise.

And our God is a promise-keeping God.

As my soul churns afresh, I glance up to see the first traces of pink lace the sky. Within minutes, there is brilliance bursting from the horizon, a yet-hidden sun declaring its coming. I am struck: He is able to oversee all the affairs of men. He graces my life with perfectly formed flowers, the warming nourishment of wholesome food, the knitting of a form within my womb, the growing of young men, moments alone with my best friend and a man I so deeply admire, candlelit mornings, distant Adirondack peaks breaking through fog, and mornings gloriously shouting of new mercies and omnipotent reign.

“By awesome deeds You answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation,
You who are the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea;
Who establishes the mountains by His strength,
Being girded with might;
Who stills the roaring of the seas,
The roaring of their waves,
And the tumult of the peoples.
They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs;
You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.”
(a portion of Psalm 65; go read the rest!)

take my moments

September. Such a month of beauty and change.

Dark begins to hem us in, bit by bit. I sit inside at 6am, because I need a light to read. We are tucking girls into bed by 8pm because there’s no sunshine outside, anyway. And I love the wild, free hours of summer, but I love this drawing in, too. More often than not, I am in the rocking chair in the little girls’ bedroom every nap time and bedtime, reading to a sometimes captive and sometimes not audience. A month ago the routine looked more like a tick check and washing feet and hurrying them onto their pillows before I turned into a pumpkin, but now there is time, space, slow. I am torn between missing the late night sounds of dribbling and swinging, and loving the lamplight on sweet faces around me. That is life, is it not? Torn between missing and fullness?

We are finding familiar rhythms, tweaked for this year’s needs. Mornings hum with activity and the day’s preparations. Heads bend over books, eager to finish and get outside. Afternoons give way to quiet and rest before another round of humming begins. It is full. There are people of every size everywhere, coming and going. There is the outline of Mama’s routine, but with older children employing self-discipline and goal-setting to see where they can be more efficient. Big girls to teach one-on-one, little girls to entertain and train. A running list of errands, phone calls, people who come to mind, thoughts from Scripture and national situations that take up space in my heart. Meals to plan (and then actually make). Temperatures dropping and suddenly I remember these kids can’t wear shorts all year — time to figure that out, too, I guess. Full.

Life, hurtling forward, and yet, given to us a moment at a time. We are not victims but stewards. This is our time to serve the Lord, our generation in which to shine. And a moment at a time, the serving and shining may not seem especially spectacular, but that is not my concern: faithful obedience to the Word of God, yielding to the call of God on my life is my role. I don’t need to try and shape my life into something I think is worthy of the word “legacy.” He shapes me. He molds me. And it is His legacy I want to leave, anyway. This is both a relief and a challenge: my moments count. My attitude counts. The way I think needs to be transformed by the Word of God, and my heart needs to come under His Lordship.

Today is what I have to give. This moment. And then the next. One foot in front of the other, with eyes fixed on Jesus.

school plans

[Because it always is so much fun for me to hear your homeschool plans, I thought I’d share mine and the tools I have ready for this year. Feel free to comment or link or share a photo of your plan!]

The cupboard got overhauled last week, leaving an empty shelf for the 2020-21 school year’s books. And this week, all but one of those have arrived, I’ve thought through routines and chores and who practices piano when (gah!!!), and the clipboards are all ready to receive new checklists for each child except Enid — who will probably want a checklist, too, now that I think about it.

I was having a hard time getting into school mode this year, but God helped me along by sending a wave of cool, rainy days. In case I was tempted to continue summer break forever, and spend the rest of our lives just swimming and eating watermelon, I am now convinced that wouldn’t work out well, anyway. So, school it is.

Jameson is going into 9th, William into 7th, Beatrice into 4th, and Fiona into 2nd. Cecily will be a very eager pre-schooler and, I suspect, will begin her K year well ahead of the game.

We’ll start our learning each day with Circle Time, a lovely catch-all name for our time worshiping, praying, memorizing scripture, and then whatever else I throw into the basket that year. The boys will lead us in some songs, and I hope to add Beatrice to that mix as well. Sometimes I take over while we learn a hymn, but most often it’s our favorite choruses. After working on a memory verse (they’re each slowly filling their own spiral bound 3x5s) and having a prayer time, we’ll rotate these three books:

History will mostly happen right in Circle Time this year, with lots of read alouds as we follow world events from the beginning of the Cold War through the Persian Gulf War. I’m using the last 20 or so lessons of Mystery of History Vol IV as my spine, helping me to keep things in order, but we’ll go very slowly, digging deeper and following bunny trails as they appear. (For instance, we haven’t even started, and already the kids have been asking questions about the Bolsheviks and the Romanovs, and suddenly I realized “The Start of the Cold War” is going to look a lot like weeks of Russian history!)

For math, the boys will continue using Teaching Textbooks, while the girls do Bob Jones. I’m considering letting Beatrice make the switch to TT and will make that call at some point. Does the visual impact of a book help her learn math concepts? I’m not sure. Every kid is a bit different, but these two programs have worked for us so far!

I’m very excited about Language Arts this year, and am hoping we can spend a chunk of our time honing writing skills. Jameson will be doing Learning Language Arts Through Literature: World Lit, and William will be using their Green Book. (Jameson will read Cry, the Beloved Country and that may or may not be the sole reason I chose this particular course for him! I so love that book!) Beatrice, along with Bob Jones English, will be using a Creative Writing notebook by The Good and the Beautiful. I bought one for Fiona, too, and it’s the one thing she talks about constantly, so I guess she’s excited, too! I’ll also have her do Bob Jones Spelling, as we beef up on basics.

Handwriting will continue for William, Beatrice, and Fiona. The older two are using cursive books from the Handwriting for Learning series, and Fiona will use Getty-Dubay Italics. Jameson will be scrutinized by his mother, but at this point has proven that he can write a neat sentence. The older three will also do typing — and at the moment, my plan is typing.com unless I hear that there’s another amazing program we should try!

For science, Jameson will branch off on his own to do Biology, including a 3/month class with labs and such. Meanwhile, the rest of us are going to study human anatomy, which never fails to be fascinating!

All the extras will look like piano lessons for all four, guitar for William, computer programming for the boys, cooking for Beatrice, and plenty of “yes!” when Fiona asks to paint. There will be plenty of reading done by all of them, but sitting together to hear me read will be a daily “big rock” that I don’t plan on ever forsaking. And Tea & Poetry will continue one afternoon each week — another chance for us to sit around a table together and chat and smile and build memories. This post is already long enough, but the goals of our investment must be clear in order for the tools to serve and not derail us, and loving one another and fostering good thought and character and conversation is right up there with whatever details Jameson may retain about amoebas.

So yes. I’m excited. Yes, I’ve spent hours praying and thinking and observing and researching and wondering what would be best for this year. I sharpened pencils and tossed the duds from our pen jar and made sure there are spiral notebooks ready for copious notes. I have kids who are as excited as I am, and I know it will be so much fun. It will also be far more chaotic than I ever remember, Enid will be more challenging than I am prepared for, and cleaning up from breakfast will, inevitably, take f o r e v e r some mornings and I will be ready to blow my lid before 9am. Some of these books will be the perfect fit, and some of these will get traded in for a new plan. I know these things because I’ve been around this block a few times. But what I most know is that being home with all of these kids is one of the greatest privileges of my life, being together all day is an amazing gift that we all recognize and enjoy, and being able to receive fresh outpouring from the Holy Spirit each day and serving out of that abundance is the key to it all.

Pencils ready, let’s go!

Sunday reflections

8:00, Sunday morning. Ryan and I are sipping coffee and eating breakfast by lamplight as rain pours down. Kids are all asleep, and I’m wondering how long I can let this quiet continue before we risk being late for church. Good for now, I decide.

We were both awake early. Enid came into our bed at some point and always nestles right up against me — or maybe she’s trying to oust me and take over my spot. She talked in her sleep, and I tried to ignore her and find my way back to slumber, but this belly and restless legs and a baby kicking me from the inside while another pushed against me from the outside… And a million things racing through my brain. Calls to return. Projects to move forward on. Curriculum to buy. Birthdays to prep for. One more week till school. Growing children to make room for, spread banquets for, lay hold of Jesus for. And so I tiptoed to the kitchen in pitch black, lit candles and brewed coffee, and did a brain dump.

Sunday. What has been one of the most predictable days of the week my entire life has this year become a roller coaster of phases and mandates, with my thoughts and emotions following right alone. I miss being all together. Some people I haven’t seen in nearly 6 months. The ones I see now are half hidden by masks, our conversations cut short by kids who wander and need to be re-masked. It’s been strange, for sure. But the rumbling thought in the back of my mind is the solid promise of God: I will build My Church. This isn’t a social club we’re desperately trying to hold together. It’s not a government program we’re hoping will survive. It’s a move of God that has continued for over two thousand years, regardless of persecution or war or famine or peril, no matter which kingdoms rise and fall.

And so this morning, even as we rally ourselves for another strange Sunday, I am reminded that where two or more are gathered, He promises to be. He dwells in the praises of His people. He will pour out His Spirit on all flesh, filling out sons and daughters. And I can be glad, very glad, when they say to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord today.”

Lastly, some pictures, because August has been full: