july.

Time for a photo dump, as apparently it’s now August, July is somehow over, and except for pictures I’m not even sure I would remember what we did!

Somewhat in order, with huge gaps because I did a horrible job remembering to take pictures this month, July was:

taking the kids to Norwood Lake (my one and only effort at “I’m going to get the kids to the beach this summer!”);

celebrating the 4th with no parade due to heat + humidity, but an enjoyable discussion of the Declaration around the breakfast table, and a long and lovely afternoon in Carina and Ricky’s backyard;

a trip to Maine where cousins are always the highlight, but beach trips and ice cream and pool time and baseball games are fun, too;

summer evenings of frisbee and reading and learning to do the slide by her 1-year-old self and somersaults and mosquitos;

starting the brain dump of school planning (if you follow Brietta on IG now is the time to laugh at her table of books vs mine. We all laugh over our kids and how “different each one is.” That never stops being true. My sisters all amaze me in so many ways!)

swim lessons that cousins did, too, and the fun day they stayed with us and we rocked the van all the way home to the tune of Newsies;

playground visits with a toddler who’s way less scared of heights than her mama;

waking up one morning to a lawn full of the tiniest, prettiest mushrooms;

slipping away from this one each afternoon (that we’re home!), and making myself pause to notice her sweetness — it’s always so tempting to rush to the list of things I hope to do in the one hour when everyone is napping/resting/reading!;

the summertime pleasures of juicy fresh fruit, free bouquets along the roadside that are yours for the picking, and a freckled daughter getting older by the moment;

a last hurrah with cousin Margaret before their big move, and laughing at all of her wild imaginations and antics and brilliance (they really are all so different, and I get to see that up close times 24, almost 25, make that 26… plus 4 on the other side… so many nieces and nephews to enjoy!)

Not pictured at all is my sister Camilla’s stunning performance in a community theater production that was so far beyond community theater quality; lots of work with Ryan as he keeps the ball rolling with his company; a church picnic that was lovely; play days with friends; lunches after church; lots of walks after dinner; chess obsession for the boys; Shakespeare camp; goodbye party for the Gilchrist’s; and beautiful sun-drenched mornings sitting with my Bible and journal on the side lawn, serenaded by a thousand birds and wishing it could go on forever.

July is over. Time to go inside and flip the calendar. A whole new month, another month of summer, although my thoughts are turning… Here, the past photo on my phone:

An invitation to fill those empty spaces with all the new hopes and plans for a year of learning and growing.

anchored hopes

I am sitting under the shade of an umbrella on a picnic table here in our side lawn. The fantastic blue of the sky is mimicked by the plastic blue of our inflatable kiddie pool, where two little girls in navy and pink splash and play. Their happy blue island is surrounded by wide open green.

It’s a familiar scene, a comfortable rhythm. They know to wash their feet in the rubbermaid tote before getting into the pool, and I know that we’ll enjoy our little side lawn resort more if I remember water bottles and a snack and some books.

Today the littlest splasher is new to the scene but is figuring it all out quickly. She won’t be left behind, our little Enid Catherine.

This is my favorite, and I feel so thankful to be a stay at home mom who can sit and lifeguard for an hour or four, depending on the day. And yet I have to tell myself all the time, this is it. Stop the engine that’s always hurrying to the next thing, because this is it. Being right here: this is it.

Last week was completely consumed by a mystery virus that overtook me. By day 5 I finally gave in and put myself to bed while the kids fended for themselves for the day. A fever blurred the days, but I was aware of them spending hours with one aunt, another beautiful afternoon with another aunt, a whole day away with a friend. The sun was finally shining and summertime had arrived, and I had a sneaking suspicion that just beyond my window view, my peonies had come and gone. That beautiful longest day of the year came and went without any sunset walk with my kids, without thrilling them with permission to stay up late with the sun.

When a second lovely Sunday passed and I wasn’t with it enough to enjoy it, I wanted to cry. “But — but we live for the summer, and I’m missing it!”, I wanted to complain.

But just as quickly I felt a wave of such deep relief: no, no I don’t live for the summer. What a disappointment that would be! Even in a year of perfect health, I find these days slip like sand, are either full of summer work or summer play but never enough for both, are either riddled with discontent or overflowing with thankfulness — and even the thankfulness has to acknowledge beginning and end and a yearning for more.

I’m so glad: I don’t live for summer, or Christmas, or when the baby sleeps better, or my house to be project-free, or my gardens to be complete, or cherry pie, or spontaneously precious moments with my kids or husband.

I get to live for Jesus, and He is the joy that is the more. He frames the summer sunset and the fevered nights. He delights over family ice cream cone runs and He soothes my soul when bickering has frayed every nerve. He invites me into each moment with Him, and suddenly the soul-ache we all know becomes a joy-anticipation of Promise.

So here I am, full-circle in my thoughts, I guess, soaking in the beauty of a hot June afternoon, watching daughters play, knowing that right here, right now, He is Emmanuel. And He is enough.

a short thought on work

We finished school two weeks ago, and this week the kids found their summertime groove. Monday was warm and summery, and I just sort of soaked in all of the smiles and free time that resulted in sibling play and enjoyment. Flowers blooming are the icing on the cake.

There are many things to do right now. The list is long — and when I get through with it, I could always do more laundry. Or glance at Ryan’s list and realize how many hours of help he could use. Just always the next thing.

But sometimes the next thing is cutting peonies because the won’t be here forever; they’re a “this moment” gift. It’s reading to a baby who suddenly wants to hear all of the animal sounds. Going slow enough to give many hugs to growing sons who so clearly crave my affection, even if they don’t fit on my lap anymore.

Sometimes the next thing is just giving thanks, rejoicing, not letting those lists stop up the flow of gratitude for has been, what is, what is promised to be.

Today there is work to be done — but I want to work deeply (to borrow a phrase from Ryan), and not just skimming the surface of a checklist.

spring growth

What a slow spring we’ve had.

And even as I type that, I realize how many things we can learn from observing the course of nature. Sometimes promised seasons of vibrancy and fruitfulness are slow in coming — but they come. Lilacs two weeks behind, peonies nowhere to be found, furnaces getting a break for the first time since October — this is a northern spring, for sure. And yet, green is bursting forth in all of its June glory, shade upon shade, dazzling and sumptuous, rejoicing to take its place on the stage of time.

It comes. He makes all things beautiful in its time — and somehow, in a soul-deep way that you and I both know but perhaps can’t quite understand, that beauty and marking of seasons makes us aware of the eternity set in our hearts. We long for more, for what the New Earth will be.

Snow melts, grass grows, but more amazingly: legs stretch long into girlhood, muscles grow hard into the density of manhood, babies forsake infancy and begin the efforts of talking and interacting, new skills are learned and workloads undertaken. Grades completed, books finished, fresh horizons are scanned in the continual longing of children for tomorrow.

There are springs when the heat comes before I’m ready, and I find myself scrambling in a panic to get ahead of weeds and voracious perennials that have enforced their dominance while I was unprepared. I am feeling a bit like that in this garden of motherhood. Gorgeous new blooms are ready to burst alongside the mayhem of weeds and untidy borders and pruning (and did I miss my chance? Is it too late?) Sometimes I wonder if I’ve turned a bit more sod than I should have, and if the garden dream has outgrown my reality. In this garden of motherhood, I’ve always been in over my head. Shape a person? Love them well, teach them well, train them well? Me??? I can fumble around with fertilizer and cuttings outdoors without too much fear of messing it all up (there’s always next year.) But what about this? This immense task of nurturing people?

It’s more than I can do. It’s what I was made for, and at the same time, it’s a calling that demands I do things I simply cannot do on my own.

But you know what? It’s not my garden. There’s a Master Gardener at work here, with a beautiful scheme in mind, and He’s asking me to work and learn alongside Him. My work is like 2 fish and 5 loaves — which is to say, not much at all in the face of the enormous calling — and He does miraculous things when instead of hiding that, or putting a limitation on it, I offer it all to Him.

The sun is shining hot this morning. Rain is forecasted for the next [as many days as my weather app will load]. But today, soaking in the warmth and and joy of gardens growing by leaps and bounds and the sound of children laughing and running and blooming.

three and one.

Enid turned ONE last week!

But before I try to wrap my head around that, a pause for this amazingly wonderful little girl who brightens our days:

She is full of energy and affection and attitude, and as much as we sometimes want to tear out our hair, we all so often find ourselves exchanging amused smiles over yet another too-adorable moment from our Cecily Anne. My favorite recent quote was at dinner when she looked at me with a very serious face and declared, “I just realized I don’t like this [asparagus].” If you’re emphatic enough, she figures, grown ups will move out of your way. Or if you just smile with sparkling eyes and chubby pink cheeks and give the sweetest hugs and kisses.

Three is so fabulous. God had a lot of fun coming up with the idea of three year olds!

And then, all the while she’s been growing, so has another little one. Somehow, my brand new baby quickly and quietly learned to walk, jabber, inhale cooked carrots, and make her desires clearly known. How does one year change so much?

motherhood + seeing worth

I will never be able to say enough about what an honor it is to be a mother.

And what I mean by that is not that I feel I’ve attained, as proven by the maternal status achieved. Or that I am now elevated in my womanhood because children have been born to me. Check that box, cross that off, on to the next level of achievement.

No, I don’t really mean that in any sort of me-focused way at all. What I really mean when I say that is that babies are a miracle, and that investing in people who will go farther and reach wider and live beyond me is more than just worthwhile: it is everything.

Woman, whoever you are reading this: people are everything. Are you young, old, single, married, mother many times or faced with barrenness? No matter the “when” of your season of life, you can step into this amazing honor and begin to see people — all people — as worth the gift of life. Your life.

I spend a lot of time and thought trying to be a better mother. But here’s something we have to get right, before we figure out how and when to feed or train or prod or protect: every life is valuable because every life is created by God. These children here in my home: they’re not worth loving because they came from my womb. No, it has nothing to do with me. They are worth loving because they bear the image of God.

This is humbling. It is awe-inspiring. It awakens my soul to see beyond these 6 here in my home, and to begin to see this beautiful collage of humanity as valuable. As delighted in, sung over, bled and died for — by God.