settling in, waiting, soaking up sunshine.

That sums up the last few weeks of life, I suppose.

What started to certainly feel like a long 11 (or so) weeks without our usual rhythms has resulted in a beautiful, open kitchen that feels so grown up and real and like me. How amazing it was to see the elements of cabinetry and collected antiques get put into place, exactly resembling the drawings and ideas I’ve been concocting for so long.

I feel above and beyond blessed. I just keep smiling.

The cupboards are arranged (at least, for now!) and I have almost broken the habit of going to the garage for refrigerated items (where the fridge was kept since February!) The wide expanses of windows that we missed so very much are freshly appreciated as we gather around the kitchen table for meals, and enjoy the family room’s views.

And just in time to watch the world magically and suddenly turn to vibrant green right before our eyes!

Such a long winter we had, with no real hints at spring. April cold and gray, windows shut tight and not even a thought for summer clothing switches. But then, suddenly, it all changed. Better late than never, and certainly received with extra thankfulness and enjoyment, spring has arrived. Trees that were only in bud a week ago are unfurling leaves. Lawn is emerald and lush and scattered with the sunniest dandelions. Daffodils went from tentative little shoots to full blown flowers in only a few days. Bird song fills the morning. Cheeks and shoulders are pink at the first suggestion of sunshine, after months and months of sweaters and snowsuits.

We soak it in and pinch ourselves and try to find the sunscreen.

And we also are waiting. 40 weeks and 5 days, waiting. Keeping up the balance of walks and exercise and crossing off to-dos while guarding rest time each day, collapsing into bed each night. I’m feeling so good this pregnancy. I feel pregnant, but good, and I’m so thankful for that. The kids are so excited, and how fun to be living in an atmosphere heavy with expectation.

I’m feeling less prepared for the actual delivery than I have in the past, but learning even there to lean and trust. What ifs can creep in, and certainly life is uncertain in so many ways. But this is true: Strength for today, a favorite lyric from a favorite hymn. He knows the way I take, and He has promised to never leave or forsake.

Courage is the word on my heart this time around — at first, a reminder to myself to take heart and have courage, but as I mulled that over and prayed for a fresh dose, the deep assurance that God will not just give me courage; He will be my courage. I don’t need to keep it together and hold on; I can fall on Him and lean on Him completely, and He won’t let me down.

This morning, a spring rain that began so gently I don’t even know when it came, and now strengthening into a thoroughly soaking downpour. Even this is lovely and calming, as gray settles in around spring greens. We will take this day slowly, quietly. We will know that His name is near, and how that changes everything.

first things first

I really do love the homeschooling life. In fact, I wish I had about three more of me to go around, so one of me could dedicate all day every day to exciting and fun learning pursuits.

Combine that natural enjoyment with a heavy dose of regular “Am I doing enough? Is this working?” doubts and fears, and it’s the perfect recipe for curriculum-discontent and grass-is-greener issues.

This article today reminded me of how good and simplifying it is when the right things stay in focus.

See, we aren’t school teachers. We aren’t really even homeschooling moms. *gasp* We are mothers and we are wives, and we are raising children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Probably, most likely, this is why most of us are homeschooling — we feel it best serves the vision of discipleship that we have. But that word there — serve — is so important. The math and the language, the field trips and the journaling, the classical approach and the unschooling persuasion: they all need to serve this much higher, much broader task of teaching our children about the love of God for them and of how they might live lives of love toward Him.

I loved how, in that article, the mom would realize after reflection that the true goals and hopes for a new year often had little to do with curriculum and much more to do with character growth and personal development. There may be reading struggles to address, or the realization that this year’s choices just really aren’t suited to your personal style — but our eyes are also lifted to higher goals, and we can hear creative ideas spoken by the Holy Spirit as we jot down things like, “connect with each kid,” “see growth in personal responsibility for Johnny”, “more orderly start to the day,” etc. I think it can be easy to feel the lack in areas such as those, but get caught up in the shiny new math curriculum because isn’t it easier to admire glossy pages and hope for change than it sometimes is to stare face to face with our lack as home managers or our children’s sin issues?

We can’t allow the mission to get compromised by forgotten priorities.

I also love discovering what does work for our family, as this mom says. Sometimes I get a little itch to add something new, and sometimes that itch is worth listening to — but once I’ve evaluated what’s worked and how the past year has gone, and where we’re lacking, “new” often looks less like a whole new expensive curriculum and more like a new art project to tackle, a commitment to doing the science experiments, purposing to cook together more often, or taking a walk somewhere new a few times this next year. (And maybe for you and your family, other amazingly fun and creative things the Holy Spirit lays on your heart.)

There may be real learning struggles to address and research, or tears over academics that you really think could be avoided with a new approach — and how wonderful to have the tools we need so readily available to us, and certainly, equipping each child is part of what we’re called to do, with diligence and resourcefulness. But each spring, each October (when the new ideas turn out to not be a shiny and fun as I’d been hoping), each January (when the return after Christmas can sometimes feel a bit dull), I remember: evaluating how we’re doing is important, but it has to be done in light of the high call this homeschooling thing is serving. And suddenly, each time, I see clearly again and feel vision return for the what and how and why of it all.

Jesus first.

Family and character next.

And the rest can take a number.

a record of moments

This little family journal is in need of an update, although my memory isn’t nearly good enough to recall every moment worth preserving. But, a bit of a try:

There have been the smallest moments that pile up into absolute treasure — William leading our worship times with his guitar and repertoire of about 5 chords, with Jameson sometimes playing along on piano; Beatrice devouring “The Saturdays,” while standing right at the doorway to the kitchen, hoping against hope that Daddy might need her for something; kids rediscovering the woods now that the snow isn’t overwhelmingly deep and coming back with muddy boots and stories of what they found this time; sitting a bit like sardines all together in “the den” to watch a movie on a Sunday night; nap times and bedtimes with me sitting in a rocker, reading to the girls until Cecily is asleep or at least settled, quickly finishing “Understood Betsy” (so darling! — a favorite), and now onto the Shoe books; packing up ingredients, kids, math and piano books, and heading to my mom’s kitchen for a few afternoons of baking in an oven (what a treat!); walks in warm spring sunshine with Cecily on my back, and walks in winter wonderlands the very next day as the North Country reminds us all of its impossible unpredictable nature; crockpot meals and hamburgers coming out our ears, and soooo many bagels…

There have been less mundane moments, too —

Ryan walking away with just a scratch from quite the crash at Whiteface, and how thankful we all were; the three big kids preparing a performance of “Anything You Can do” for Grandparents’ Day that demanded they do and give a bit more than their natural comfort level; Easter weekend plagued with a tummy bug, keeping us home on Good Friday (where we all did our sardine routine and joined the CFC service online — perfect) and that meant after much excited preparation on Saturday evening, Ryan and I ended up staying home all day Sunday sick while the kids happily celebrated with grandparents and aunts, uncles, and cousins; me getting to spend a solid week of time laying floors with Ryan while our kids [mostly] happily tended to each other — not exactly the weekend getaway I’d been hoping to squeeze in before this baby, but maybe even better.

And the slow and steady progress of life in and around us: Boys working to prepare for another year of NYSSMA involvement and growing in their musicianship. Cecily talking more and more. A kitchen ready to be painted and have cabinets installed this week! Number Six baby continuing to wiggle and grow and drop and all that end-of-the-line kind of stuff, and me marveling that we’re already here, a few weeks away from meeting them. And yes, me trying to focus on the “meeting them” part and not get too uptight about the “delivering them” part.

There have been ups and downs in the last 6 weeks, sometimes just the normal life kind of stuff, and sometimes much bigger. His hand is there, leading, in both mountain and valley. There have been “I’m gonna snap!” moments, and there, too, His grace is always there, correcting and realigning and sometimes just giving rest. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask… and suddenly that’s there, too — seeking hearts led, souls taught His ways.

The wheres and the hows of life are sometimes fun, sometimes interesting, sometimes disappointing — but the Who that we find Him to be in all those things: that’s the treasure. That’s the golden thread we hold onto, that we delight in each morning. Great is Thy faithfulness, we sing, but we truly know that as we simply live. Each morning, waking up, asking, “Will you meet me in this day, too?”, and discovering that the answer is always and forever yes.

from yesterday:

It’s Sunday, and we are Sabbath-ing here at the Dunphey house.

The daddy sent everyone to their beds as soon as our dinner table was cleared, and quiet reigned for a couple of hours, interrupted only by a crying 2yo who needed to finish her nap with Mama.

Rest is good, and it is a gift. Rest is different than leisure — a posture that says, I was made to work but I was also made with limitations, and so I pause despite the ongoing garden tending and inevitable entropy that never pauses. God will supply what we need.

*****

House in renovation mode for two weeks now, and the excitement over a project moving forward fills our days — but most of all, for sure, the joy of Ryan calling for a son to help, of inviting a daughter to join him on a dump run, and pouring out appreciation and affirmation on them as we gather for dinner each evening. They are all working hard, even if it’s simply by playing happily in the “den” (our small guest room-turned-living room) with the few toys Mama left out. This is an “all hands on deck” season, and isn’t that the best?

Jameson is rising to the occasion with a big project happening. He loves nothing more than donning work clothes and old ball cap in the morning and jumping right into work mode with Ryan. He’s climbing into the attic and doing small jobs unassisted, learning about electrical, helping to keep tools organized, and just generally an enthusiastic assistant who makes long and late nights more enjoyable for Ryan.

William is steady and dependable. He’ll spend several hours carrying debris out to the truck, sweeping floors, and holding lights. He cheerfully does house cleaning even if it’s not the most exciting task happening. He notices when the girls are getting needy and jumps right in to create a game for them or read to them or just keep them happy so the gears can keep turning. He does his best to stay up with his big brother but once in awhile disappears to his room, where he can be found fast asleep.

Beatrice cheerfully chips away at her school and chores and piano practice each day, doing better and better at remembering all of those things on her own. She reads voraciously and plays her favorite piano pieces incessantly, and is always always cheerful. Our spring thaw last week meant bike riding began, and she somehow managed to be the only kid to tear or stain two pairs of pants in epic crashes. She’s tender and loving and flighty.

Fiona still lives most days in her own happy little world of make believe. She has doll babies to care for and ballet classes to go to and church services to lead. Generally quiet, she will suddenly come to life at the meal table and regale the other children with stories of “dreams” she had and imaginations that grow with the telling. She is up first or second every day and “reads” her Bible stories quietly alongside me.

And Cecily — jabbering away continually and thankfully even beginning to include some English in the babbling. She loves to play with Fiona, be in the middle of all of us all the time, go places with her Daddy, and if she’s ever grumpy or sad, a clementine or two will cure her. She has officially moved out of our bedroom and joined the girls’ room in her own twin bed. It’s been a learning process, as I think she was more attached to her basket and her Mama’s proximity than my other 2 year olds. The boys, especially, dote on her continually (which probably contributes to her lack of English. Why bother? They bend over backwards to get whatever it is she’s crying for.) She loves to be the center of attention and will pull some antic at dinnertime if she feels the conversation has excluded her for too long. We all laugh all day long, thanks to her, and she’s never lacking for someone to hold or hug her.

*****

Meanwhile, I’ve passed the 30 week mark with this pregnancy. It’s flying by, partly because I’ve been feeling really good. Tired, but good. Soon, very soon, I’ll need to think seriously about names and mental preparation for labor and figuring out what we need. But for now I just try to keep up my daily stretches and walks, while enjoying the increasingly strong kicks and flutters from within.

Despite the massive disruption of washing dishes in a bathroom sink, making meals without stove or oven, and carrying laundry outside and through the garage and to the washing machine, I’m doing my best to keep the essentials in place: short moments of prayer and Bible together, math and piano and reading, systems for clean clothes and [decently!] healthy food, and most of all, attitudes of thankfulness.

Because we are so, so blessed, especially in the common things that could so easily go unappreciated:

Girls who giggle together far more often than they quibble.
Boys who are best friends.
Child laughter all the time.
Chores that get done fairly well (ha!) and cheerfully by helpful children.
Repentance and forgiveness that flow all day long.
An immoveable Rock beneath us, giving stability and peace to the ebb and flow of life.
And so much more.

all is well

Yesterday I found myself alone at home, Ryan having taken all the children to do errands (something about him that I find amazing.) I stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes, slowly making headway through a long list of to dos.

And my heart felt heavy. So heavy. Why? Oh, it could be a hundred things. Things as small as I’m so tired and will I ever not feel this way? all the way to What does it feel like to buy chocolates and Valentines for your child, only to get a phone call saying they’ve been shot and killed in a senseless act of violence?

The gamut. Sorting it out in a muddling sort of way, trying to just push through, find my footing, whisper prayers…

Then I knew what I needed to hear, and maybe you do, too. I found the video of my beautiful, beautiful boy singing words that are the essence of Good News:

Darkness fell
Into the dawn
Of Love’s light.

And I know it’s a Christmas piece, and there are poinsettias on the stage, but it’s more than just Christmas, and that’s the whole point. All is well now, today, in this moment, and it will be forevermore, because He is our Redeemer.

“Christmas is not an armisticedivinity runs much deeper than a day…”

purpose and place

Order.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Not just as an anti-clutter policy. As a theology.

I read Psalm 104:

“He appointed the moon for seasons;
The sun knows its going down.
You make darkness, and it is night,
In which all the beasts of the forest creep about.
The young lions roar after their prey,
And seek their food from God.
When the sun rises, they gather together
And lie down in their dens.
Man goes out to his work
And to his labor until the evening…”

(But pause for a moment and go read the whole thing. Such beautiful poetry and praise!)

I saw not just a lovely description of Creation, but purpose and place. Everywhere. The nests in trees, the rivers in valleys, the animals of prey roaming at night, men coming out to work by day — order.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Genesis 1 and 2 are full of such things — the cosmic version of what I do most evenings with the duplos and board books, play kitchen food and baby doll accessories. Except I do it because I see it all around me, modeled in Creation; God did it because it was right and good. He didn’t learn it from a book or a blog. His heart is for each element of His design to flourish and prosper in the purpose and place for which it was designed.

I am reinvigorated to maintain His kingdom standard in my little domain (and so continues the endless separation of dessert fork from dinner fork, dark towels from white…) I realize afresh, with new energy and authority, that He has put me here to discover purpose and place, in the environment I steward, the culture I create, and the people whom I am shaping.

And — oh, what peace and comfort! — I sink again into the certainty of knowing that I was created for a purpose and a place, and that I can find it (and re-find it, and return to it over and over) in Him.

You were created with purpose and place in mind. There is wholeness and freedom for every person who yields to that design. In His mind’s eye, He sees you flourishing and prospering, a tree planted by living streams of water, strong and alive. He sees you that way, and He sees me that way. What a beautiful promise and hope.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”