marking time with celebration: Beatrice is 7

Beatrice turned 7 on Friday.

She cried the night before, as she usually does. This girl feels deeply and is uniquely aware of how precious and fleeting childhood is. Of course I want to cry, too, but someone has to pull her out of her melancholy and so I remember for both of us: Every new morning, every new year in God is a blessing. Being alive and serving Him is a gift! We can be thankful for what He’s done, and let that shape our expectation for what’s to come. Ephesians says that before we were even born, He had good works planned for us. And so she finally slept, that sweet girl of mine.

And no more tears upon waking! She eagerly dressed and as soon as we could, she and I slipped away for a special breakfast outing and errands. I had asked her the night before (during our pep talk) to share with me three things she loved about being six and one thing she’s looking forward to. And so without any prompting, she rattled them off as we ate: working on the renovation with Daddy, watching Enid be born, and being part of the ski program at CFA. And she’s looking forward to 2nd grade.

A simple day of hanging out with siblings (inside, due to rain), and even a movie in the middle of the day! Big treat. Finally a couple of friends arrived and they played something silly and fun with teepee and play food. Tacos for dinner with Nana and Papa, too. Brownie with ice cream and whipped cream and sprinkles made her day.

We shared some of what we love about our Beatrice as we sat around the music room. She’s so easy to appreciate — the list is long, from dimples and freckles to quick forgiveness and tenderheartedness.

And then just like that the day was over and she was officially launched into her next year of living.

*****

Stopping to celebrate, even simply, helps us to communicate and cultivate value. We are not happenstances. There is a beautiful design in us, and worth we can’t quite imagine. (The cross tells us so.)

And as my children grow older, I become more thankful for these simple days when I can make a special effort to prepare their requested dinner, find a gift I think they’ll love, and look in their eyes and echo the words of their Creator: You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are loved with an everlasting love.

the busy and lazy and timeless days of summer

Here we are, August. August! I cut a bunch of echinacea and rudbeckia and couldn’t even believe it. What happened to the peonies? Scratch that. Where are the daffodils? How are we here already?!

But oh, we have filled these days. Some filled with the nothing that summertime begs for, some filled with much anticipated activities. Soccer camp, swim lessons, and musical theater camp — far more here and there than our usual summer schedule, but it has been so much fun and just right for this year.

What hasn’t happened this year is much [any] gardening. The grass is growing quite well between hardy perennials, despite the fact that hot and dry weather has left the lawn looking brown and crunchy. I’ve never experimented with total neglect, and I can’t recommend it, but a new baby in May has bumped weeding and pruning waaaay down the totem pole. The good news is I haven’t lost anything, and hopefully that will still be true next spring. There’s a time for everything, I guess.

Last week I decided on and ordered our books for the coming school year, so that means this week will see us purging and tidying the school cupboard once again. I’m both excited about all we’ll learn and dreadfully sad that our summer days will end in a few weeks. There’s a time for everything.

*****

Old familiar tasks done in a new beautiful kitchen.

Evening walks in nightgowns and pjs.

Mama’s rug in my room.

Learning croquet.

Wagon full of beauty.

Three soccer players!

Enid’s regular activity. (Some days.)

Up bright and early every swim-lesson morning! So proud of just that, never mind the swim progress.

Cousins made it even more fun.

Sister love.

An early NOT swim morning by myself.

Donning ballet slippers.

Constant companion, growing and changing and more loved every day.

mother by design

Summer is the time for bumping into friends you haven’t seen and asking, “How have you been?”

In case you’re wondering, this is how I’ve been:

She is my constant companion these days, as I read to the kids or stir a pot or oversee play or email and call — she is most often in my arms. There is something about these fragile baby days that astounds me. She needs me. Life and death, no exaggeration, needs me.

As I serve her and her most basic needs, putting them above my own desires or needs, I am serving Christ. ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

As I serve her, showing her gentleness and love in my manner, I am showing Christ to her. I am shaping her first ideas of what love is, and her own worth.

And as I serve her, I am struck by how I am perfectly designed to meet her needs. Uniquely qualified. This is a physical truth I can see with my eyes that speaks to shades of doubt that lurk in my heart. I am a nurturer, a life-giver. I am called to strength and courage, kindness and gentleness. On my own, I am not all or any of the things I need to be. But my belief in Intelligent Design grounds me, and my faith in the Holy Spirit equips me.

As she looks to me, I am reminded again and again to look to Him. He is all — everything — we need.

the magic of home

A magical thing happens every day, all around us, and probably without much notice:

A once-empty house, four walls and a roof, becomes a home.

Thanks to my mother, who taught (and continues to teach!) so well the importance of making a home and creating a haven where life can gently be nurtured, I am somewhat aware of this magic taking place in my own house, which I saw as empty with my own eyes 8 years ago, and which we have filled with much life and living every day since. I have worked hard and labored daily to make it so. I have waved my magic wand of dishcloth and Oxyclean, kisses for boo-boos and bed time stories, Christmas carols and paper hearts and lazy summer picnics. But I don’t think I really believed the same thing happened at my childhood home until last week, when I walked through the door and saw the topsy-turvy chaos of a home being packed up and moved out.

I didn’t really believe it could possibly have ever been an empty shell, because the magic happened there so fully, so deeply. It seemed that perhaps we had grown up in a truly magical place, where the haven of love infused with the energy joy had simply always gone on and on.

How strange to see with my own eyes the emptying of rooms, with price tags attached to memories.

(How glad I am that the house will not long stand empty, but will be promptly filled again with the magic of another skillful and loving mother and father.)

And so, a house is just a house, and we take the magic with us — that greater-than-its-parts thing called family.

But.

And here I pause these days, taken aback by how strongly I am feeling that “but.”

It was just a house, and we all still have each other and the memories that live on in our hearts and in the stories told and the inside jokes laughed loudly at over family dinners. But it was our house. It was part of us. We were never young sisters apart from that gabled room, and the best play happened on those pine boards. That pile of gravel and sand still belongs to us, our scraped knees and Mama scolding us again about playing in sand. No one else will enjoy the open kitchen but know deep in their hearts that what it really wants to be is paneled and small with red lace curtains. My mama’s cool hands on my feverish head belong to that house. My daddy came home to that driveway, and we waited eagerly for him on hot afternoons, on the porch with our swimsuits on and sunscreen applied and towels ready to GO! I suppose my birthdays would have happened every year no matter where we were, but the fact is, we were always there, in that dining room. I learned to cook there, to rock a baby to sleep up in that little nook, and those gardens growing are planted in the soil that I turned, one spade at a time, under the hot summer sun. My dad told me to rinse the dishes with cold water so I wouldn’t cook the traces of egg yolk onto the surface, and we stood side by side at the peninsula. He sat by me on the piano bench and taught me how to play “Celebrate Jesus Celebrate” in the key of F while Mama called from the kitchen, “I want her to read music, too, Ricky!” And speaking of music, won’t we always just laugh and laugh at how Jamie and Julia would stand on the porch and practice their fife tunes, serenading the entire town.

In that front room, we had evening devotions and I watched my mom and dad sing with enraptured faces to the Jesus they knew so intimately, and I wanted that, too. Up in that bedroom, I knelt by my bed and asked Jesus to love me, too. I remember a lunchtime when my mom and dad were at odds, and I remember so well my mother standing by the telephone on the wall and saying, “I’m sorry, Ricky,” and him kissing her and all was well again. In that downstairs bedroom I met a brand new brother, held a birthday-gift sister. A chubby baby girl arrived there, too, fast and dramatic. In that house I cried with my mother over miscarriages. Then there were wedding showers and baby showers, and six wedding mornings when the house was filled to bursting with preparations and joy and gowns and flowers and togetherness. We bore sorrows together, we dealt with sin together, we weathered storms and persevered through growing and stretching and learned to hope in God together. And all under a red roof that was home.

I’m not sure how you say goodbye to something that is a part of you. I’m surprised by the layers of emotion that overwhelm me these days. But this I am sure of: Not everyone grew up with a house jam-packed and overflowing with the blessing of a family who loved and grew together in the atmosphere of the Holy Spirit’s presence — and so I count even my tears as a blessing. And I also know this: the magic that happened there was a bit of heaven itself, the Kingdom of God being worked out in our hearts, and what I really and truly long for is the home that is awaiting us in eternity. Music and food and parties and quiet and joy and fellowship will abound there, and we will at last be satisfied.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

one month and thirteen years

On Saturday, we celebrated one month of life with Enid.

Beatrice is trying to grasp concepts of space and time, and causing plenty of amusement along the way. (Looking at a map’s scale: An inch is the same as a mile??? Upon hearing a movie was made when Nana was a little girl: So it’s like 3,000 years old?) She gently caressed Enid’s soft head and got contemplative when I said, she’s one month old — eleven more times, and it will be a whole year. Even little Beatrice knows, too fast. They debate almost daily whether she’s small or big. Still so tiny, getting so big. Her legs are filling out and her wrists have a heavy dose of rubber band going on, but curled up in a ball with her legs and feet folded in that newborn way, she still fits right on my chest.

Yesterday, Monday, we celebrated 13 years of marriage. Over a third of my life, Ryan commented. It doesn’t seem that long, not at all, but then again, what a lot of days we’ve lived together, built together. So much laughing and crying and fighting and forgiving and child rearing and meal sharing and traveling and moving and house renovating and people loving and business building and “can you grab a gallon of milk?”ing. And learning to do all that as an expression of our Jesus-loving.

Favorite, richest things about life with Ryan: his incredible wisdom, prophetic insight, and clear vision for life in the Kingdom of God. This hand-to-the-plow, gets-lost-in-the-furrows girl needs those things, and God has provided them. For a couple of first-borns, we make a good team. Oh, sure, there’s plenty of tension in the yoke many days, when we have our headstrong tendencies and they’re not the same. That only makes it all the more amazing to realize we’re finding a rhythm together, and it’s really good.

We spent an afternoon and evening together, and I took these awesome romantic photos of it. Oops. Guess I’m not always the best photographer.

Happy 13th to my best friend. A day spent with you has long been my favorite kind of day. How blessed are we to have been given so many to spend together.