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.

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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.

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.

tending gardens (or, mothering)

Large family realities: Here, Cecily has dug a cantaloupe rind out of the garbage and is happily gnawing off every last bit of juicy melon. And I am just sitting and nursing the baby and glad it was at least from the top of the garbage.

I know I’ve already said it, but investing in my older children is beginning to pay off in ridiculous dividends.

It’s not just the actual work they do, although that needs to be mentioned and applauded. The environment of our home, while far from perfect and in daily (moment by moment?) need of realignment and repentance and renewed vision, is rich with cheerful energy and joy and a general spirit of friendship. Like a garden, the weeds continue to pop up like crazy if left for just one day unattended, but the plants we so vigorously guarded and hoed and watered and pruned and watched over and shooed pests away from day and night for so long — they are growing taller and stronger and bearing fruit.

“Invest” sounds like such a great idea, but I wonder if it sounds easier than it is to the one seeking help as they stand in their disaster of a kitchen surrounded by crying babes and temper tantrum-ing toddlers. Investment in those little years isn’t quite like throwing a few thousand dollars into a mutual fund and hoping it all goes well. Not quite.

There is so much work, defining the goals of your family, the standards you feel the Lord calling you to, and then daily digging in and working toward that end. I looked at my children on Sunday morning, all standing and singing nicely as they’ve been taught — even the 2 year old — and I thought, it wasn’t always like this. Not all of my 2 year olds just stood and clapped and sang and then sat down politely. The first couple had to be taught — every single Sunday, week after week, and with lots of practice at home in between. But now my little girls are growing up in the shade of these strong young men we’ve raised, and they just do what they see them doing. (They don’t seem to always notice that those young men stay in bed when we ask them to. Still working on that… among other things!)

But that particular moment, I realized, was a direct result of all the Sundays that Ryan and I did not throw up our hands in frustration and either just let the boys do what they wanted to do, or decide what’s the point, let’s just skip church for a few years.

It’s hard work to “invest”. But that initial breaking of ground — turning sod, picking out rocks, working in fertilizer, and maybe only then finally planting the seeds you now must protect and cultivate — that doesn’t happen over and over. At some point, a garden begins to grow, and it’s a wonderful, amazing thing to stand back and observe. Take a deep breath and savor the moment as your eldest son makes the burgers and the next son organizes a game for the younger set and your daughters set the table nicely, and you just think, wow. This was not my life when my third and fourth baby were born.

This past week I stopped to take pictures of William, who is hitting a great growth edge this summer. He’s taken up the task of mowing here at home, for the most part, and this week even ventured across the street to mow for my father. Blessing us, blessing others.

He woke up early on his first morning of appointed breakfast duty (a new twist to our summer routine) and learned how to make pancakes — and then, because it’s his personality, he did it again two mornings later in order to perfect the art.

And so many moments in between, he’s quietly working away at his assigned [boring, monotonous, done-it-a-million-times] chore. Bonus in this shot: Beatrice singing away as she vacuums, learning to cheerfully chip in just as her brothers do.

(And bonus-bonus: Jameson took this photo and my heart just melts. What sweet days these are, with a little baby girl curled up in my arms, wanting absolutely nothing in the world except to be near my heartbeat.)

sunday thoughts

Church two weeks in a row, new baby in arms.

Check.

I’ve learned to not respond to unnecessary pressures (as much as I used to, anyway. Still a work in progress.) Somewhere along the way I somehow wrote a rule for myself (which I’m good at doing) that went something like this: You may miss two Sundays after a baby [and no more]. My husband is very good at seeing my rules as ridiculous and telling me to respond to the right things. And the Holy Spirit has really dug deep and rooted out a whole bunch of Type A, melancholy idealist/perfectionist, first born, goal oriented, works-based — whatever you want to call or label it — stuff in my heart and taught me about rest.

And so I went to bed on these last couple Saturday nights knowing that if the baby was awake and fussy in the morning, and getting myself showered and dressed and ready would mean a screaming baby, I just wouldn’t. No pressure. That made so much of a difference.

We don’t need more pressure. We serve one Master. Following Him doesn’t mean strawberries and cream and pedicures after a nap every day, and sometimes there’s a screaming baby involved — but what it does mean is learning which yoke He’s in and getting in step beside Him. That is a place of purpose and rest.

There’s my thought for today. And now, pictures from yesterday.

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