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.

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.

another month

I get busy — busy with my time, but busy in my mind, too — and suddenly it’s been a month and there are only a few pictures on my phone, nothing written here, and life has just slipped by again.

A month ago, the boys were off skiing with Ryan on an epic (to them) three day tour of three mountains, thanks to tickets Ryan was blessed with. Today I’m looking out rain-spattered window panes to a new color — one that sprang up overnight, as pouring rain drenched the earth and awakened dormant life. Green. Green is hard to even remember in February, and by the end of March I’m wondering if it really ever will come, and then suddenly it’s here. Robins are here, leaf buds are here, crocuses are here, kids in mud boots laughing and running and rediscovering are here — it’s all here.

Can I be honest? I was sad to watch the sledding hill melt. The path they walked every single afternoon and the trails they had carefully established for their sleds were the last to go, and I took a few deep, shuddering breaths that bordered on sobs as they caught my eye day after dwindling day. A whole winter gone. I love these warmer days — love to watch them scatter this way and that, dribbling balls and riding bikes and exploring in the woods and carving out new “houses” under bushes — but they scatter, and in the winter, they are a little tribe of playmates, always together, always inventing games they all can play, helping one another and laughing together and being my little brood. And so I sigh each year when it ends. Happy for the warmth of sunshine and hours of fresh air and ready to dig into the work and maintenance of summertime, but there’s a special quality of being hemmed in that winter brings. And now we have said goodbye to another year’s snow and are hurdling headlong into the outward days of summer.

A month looks something like:


Skiing!


Snow disappearing.


Three days away with Mama and Daddy for a work trip.


Five weeks of a Bible study and sometimes her cousin came to play.


This one on the go, but also wanting me so much still.


William calling me from my task of switching clothes from winter to summer, and finding this waiting for us. Wow!


She’s off and running, about 6 months ahead of the Dunphey standard.


Neighborhood games of “box ball”.


So eager to try some carrot.


This one! I could write a book about her.


Naptime every day looks like this. It will be gone before I know it, but for now, she nurses and drifts off every afternoon.


This week: Easter preparations!


Flowers!


I gave the hydrangeas a serious pruning. I love working outside and watching kids play!


My littlest and biggest. He loves her so much!


Every chance they get, long into the evening.

enough

It’s 7:04am, even though my mind and the sun think it’s only just after 6. Daylight savings is not a joke.

I am showered and dressed, have a worship set list ready, and now I should go wake up my kiddos, who are happily unaware of the way we stole an hour from them somewhere in the middle of the night.

Five minutes more. We all need five more minutes.

Yesterday was long. Hard. No real reason. Just a very mommish kind of day. Only one day before I had thought, as we headed out the door dressed and ready for CFA at 8am, “We finally got this. Look, I’m even taking 2 minutes to find and apply lipstick!” Fast forward 24 hours, and I’m feeling like a failure every which way I turn. Taken in the positive, I could say that yesterday supplied me with several months of new goals for parenting and training.

My husband would probably say yesterday I was just tired, and the worst version of my melancholy idealist self comes out with a vengeance when I’m tired.

Either way, today is a new day. And, graciously, the grumpiest day I’ve had in awhile was shortened by an hour. The whole time zone conspiring to say, “Get that girl into some new mercies, quick.

*****

Here’s what I think often these days, and it brings strength just through the confessing:

I’m not doing this because I’m up for it.
I’m not doing this because I have enough to go around.
I’m not doing this because I’m a natural.

I’m doing this because HE has called me and promised to be my supply.

Do you know what that means? It means that since it’s only ever been about Him and His sufficiency, I don’t have to worry about my lack. Every single morning, every single moment, He is everything.

He’s all my husband needs.
All my kids need.
All the world needs.
All that I need.

*****

Oh my. I want to cry that she’s growing too fast, but who can cry when she’s growing into this absolutely fun and sweet sparkly-eyed person?

l o v e

Valentine’s Day. Clear, beautiful. Heaps and heaps of fresh snow, beckoning children to play (and their mamas to walk!)

Space made in our week for card making and crafting and cookies. Sometimes we have squeezed it into the cracks, but this year I wanted to take the chance to reflect with our time that people are important, and that appreciation needs to be communicated.

Some children are more creative than others, true, and while one boy had all of his cards made and stashed by Monday at noon, others are using every available minute on unique creations that I marvel over (because of course they have to show me, eager for my smile of affirmation, or to make sure I laugh at the clever joke.)

Cookies baked and frosted, despite my dismal failure with the buttercream. I try so hard to make it about being together, more than anything, and of course, that togetherness means more barbed comments than kindness, grabbing than sharing, laughing at instead of laughing with — and I have to take a deep breath. This is what we are doing: we are learning love. That means we don’t already know it. It means we are lacking. We are un-learning instinctive responses of envy and selfishness and pride, and putting on empathy and gentleness and humility. And I am the mother: I am on duty at all times, and shouldn’t be surprised when a table full of cookies and bowls of pink frosting ends up being an opportunity for me to be gentle in my correction. I am learning, too.

Our littlest love. She spends so much of the day caught up with her siblings, finding me when she’s at last tired, or hungry. Nighttime she nestles in my arms, and I’m glad for those hours when she’s mine. What a sweet treasure.

life with #6.

This little one! Oh, but she makes us smile. And laugh! So much laughter because of Enid and her antics. So many older siblings who will drop everything to comfort her, do anything to get one more smile from her. Only 8 months old but somehow so fully aware of how she belongs to us, and that we belong to her. She is curious, energetic, happy, playful, and (no surprise) happiest in the middle of a lot of hubbub. No, really. The very middle of everything.