turning thirty-eight

Thirty-eight felt like arms wrapped around a giant pile of blessings, more than I can carry. Certainly goodness and mercy are always my portion, but for whatever reason, when I paused to reflect (for two seconds, before the loudness that is my life took over!) I was overwhelmed by how rich I am.

Thirty-eight looks like waking up with a sweet, small baby in my arms, a baby who nestles close to me as we sleep and whose nearness is all joy. It’s slipping out each morning before that baby wakes, leaving her to slumber on next to her daddy, matching peace on their dreaming faces.

It looks like older children who sincerely greet me with hugs and happy birthdays, and smaller ones who clamor to join in. I leave them behind in the morning as I walk, and they keep things moving, so that I come home to kids dressed and happily (noisily) emptying dishwashers and minding baby and making breakfast. It’s more chaotic than that sentence portrays, but the bottom line is I leave, and nothing falls completely apart.

It sounds like a house full of people. Not grown up people, who keep their thoughts in their heads, whose impulses are slowed by age and wisdom and a sense of place, but young people who babble and chatter and share their ideas in a general sort of way, unaware of who may be listening or already talking. They hum whatever song comes into their head and make whatever sound they just felt inspired to make. My brain starts to smoke, processor on overload, and just as I am about to wish for silence, I stop myself. We can learn to talk in turns, and maybe walk through the hallway without sound effects, true. But I think about silence and grown people and how quickly that will be my life, how quickly this zoo of childhood is slipping by, and I plunge back into the moment, determined to hear what Fiona is chattering non-stop about, and smile at the way William is zooming the baby around as Cecily giggles, watching, and piano is being practiced in the background. It is so loud. It is full of life.

Thirty-eight is waving goodbye to my husband as he pulls out of the garage and I return from my walk. It’s being overcome by thankfulness for a man who has grown into a place of wisdom and authority, and wasn’t it just yesterday we were getting married and didn’t know much at all? I smile as he roars through the house and little girls squeal in mock terror, dissolving into piles of giggles and kisses. Sons who perk up the minute they see his car because they love their Mama but they have so much to tell their Daddy. He understands their worlds, their thoughts and ideas and interests. How many, many evenings he comes in from a day of feeling the weight of responsibility for a business, livelihoods, people, only to happily engage with a table full of shining eyes who have been waiting for this big moment: when Daddy gets home from work.

It is learning to manage a home but also learning to function in it before it’s perfect. There are still things laying around that sort of kill me, but it doesn’t chafe my soul the way it once did. For better or for worse (am I growing, or just giving up, I sometimes wonder with a wry smile to myself) we are living in this space, filling it to every corner with life. It is the roof over our heads, the place we all gather, the shape of our daily traditions and special rituals, but it is not us. We learn character as we take on the task of stewardship, but even in that, it becomes something for us to use as we grow and live. I am less weighed down by failure at perfection. I am feeling blessed more than burdened.

Thirty-eight is still feeling as young as ever, but seeing the face reflected in the mirror beginning to change. It is walking through life and finding I have more wisdom to share, more experience to lean into. It is finding the circle of influence growing, expanding. It is learning how to hem myself in one day and be stretched beyond previous capacity the next.

It is looking around and seeing adult siblings who are best friends, surrounded by dozens (almost!) of children that belong to us. It is laughing with friends who’ve now passed a decade or two alongside us, and the laugh lines and tears and child rearing and business decisions and burdens borne together have made us softer and stronger.

And so thirty-eight is an armful of blessings. Not an armful of comfort and ease, but of blessing. I’ve walked enough path to know experientially what I’ve always clung to tenaciously by faith: But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day. (Proverbs 4:18)

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?

small things, done well.

I took this picture early this morning. Doesn’t the snow look like fluffy eiderdown, wrapped around the post of the mailbox? Just lovely.

And the sight of that mailbox made me smile, because twice in the past couple of weeks, our friendly mailman has stopped his usual routine to congratulate Jameson on his diligent snow removal and rewarded him with a bag of Smarties. Jameson comes in beaming from those encounters, feeling so affirmed and confident.

That same mailman calls out his window on summer afternoons, “Good job having them outside, Mama! I love to see kids playing outside. Not enough of that these days.” And I feel bolstered.

Smiles and waves and a lollipop here and there, delighting my children.

And I thought of those things this morning, as the mailbox grabbed my attention. Delivering mail may not seem grand, spiritual work, but that man leaves encouragement whenever he leaves, and I am reminded: Do small things well. Do all to the glory of God. And see the people you encounter. They are worth your time, investment, and kindness.

keep learning!

If there’s one thing I think every homeschool mom says, it’s that we’re learning all of these amazing things that we didn’t get a chance to the first time around. I love that! In fact, my excitement about what I’m learning sets the tone for everyone’s attitude about knowledge. So, Mama, don’t just wait for a new piece of info to grab you. Press into learning, right along with your kids! Watch, read, ponder, research… even if they don’t think everything you’re awed by is amazing, they’ll see your awe.

Last fall we studied the Underground Railroad and the Abolitionist movement. As with much (all?) of human history, this left all of us quiet and sober and righteously angered many times. I had several documentaries and movies in my queue that I ultimately decided we weren’t quite ready for, given how upsetting it all was. Some stories and research left my William grappling in a deeper way with faith, and he woke after one sleepless night with his first original worship song. Learning is so real. It should be. For me, I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin for the first time and was so, so moved — so many moments had to pause as tears made the words blur, and I had to stop, silent in the face of such evil. I was moved by the book itself, and moved by the idea that this woman (Stowe) was a trailblazer, a champion, a trumpeter on the wall in a culture largely removed from the heinous issues of the day.

We’ve moved onto the Civil War, and I just finished Gods and Generals, as well as Killer Angels. Wow. Forget the didactic books on leadership; grab these and draw your own conclusions. My kids are used to my far-off gaze suddenly ending with a comment on character being what it all comes down to, or the question of those signatures on the Declaration and what that all meant, or was there another way? We put ourselves in those shoes and we ask the questions men and women faced in the past, and we recognize that there is nothing new under the sun and courage, righteousness, and bold decisions will be required of us all.

So I keep learning. All of life is school, and wisdom is calling to be found.

Learn to work hard…

learn to play hard…

learn to love hard.

So many ways to grow, so much to learn — and I am helping to set the pace.

Show me Your ways, oh Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.

New Yearing


Highlight of the Dunphey year!

I know that’s not really a verb, but it’s kinda what we’re still doing over here. My planner had “school!” written on January 2, and I decided to cross that right out. We’re going to start Monday because we all needed a few more days of the soul rest that vacation can bring. When my kids were younger, back to routine sounded most restful; now that they’re older, and things don’t fall apart quite as much without the constraints of routine, a few days off can actually feel like a few days off.

So we’ve been New Yearing: washing light fixtures and purging closets and spending way too long trying to get the impossible to reach spots of my shower door clean, along with hours of outdoor play and lazy mornings and staying up kinda late because you can. (Them, not me.)

And meal planning: here we go, meeting January with another Whole30 and mid-winter is just not always an easy time for that. The cookie intake was real, so real, and that first day of no sugar left me feeling more than lost. Day 5, settling in, grabbing apples and cashews left and right to keep up with that nursing baby. Even heating up a quick afternoon snack of pot roast. Who eats pot roast for a snack? Answer: a mom on whole30.

Clearing out some space: Not just in our closets (and ugh, that reminds me that I still haven’t gotten to mine. Maybe in 2020…), but also in my heart and mind. Putting my phone in airplane mode so I can take pictures and not much more, and I can already tell what a challenge that is going to be. How often I turn it on without even thinking, only to remember there’s nothing there to “catch up on,” to distract me, to pull me away temporarily from this demanding or quiet moment. Mothering is always a 24 hour task, even with just one little babe, but now those 24 hours are being pulled in 6 directions, and it’s too easy to retreat into manager mode (which can also feel like survival mode) instead of investing fully. I can’t really give 6 people everything they need — in fact, I can’t even give one person everything they need — but I want to give what I can to the people God’s asked me to serve, and these six rank pretty high on that list. Talk to them, listen to them, connect with them, pray for them — I need the help of the Holy Spirit, and so here I am, offering Him all of me.

It’s a new year, and there are some fresh starts, but really, I’m in year 13 of a very long mission (mothering). I’m not at the bottom of a mountain, rested and ready to tackle the unknown. I’m somewhere deep in the thick of the woods, out of breath, slipping down the steep rocks, a bit muddy and blistery and worn. But this new year is a chance to stop and stand still, lift my eyes, and watch the fog drift away to reveal that high peak, my destination, the goal. Fresh vision for the steep climb ahead. Time to shift my pack, retie my laces, and forge ahead.

****


Matching olive jackets


Growing boys


Nights with Mom = learning to play solitaire.


They love my hot chocolate


Such a joy.

A week in December

Here we are, one week gone. A week of tree mornings, cookie making and eating, Christmas piano duets, concert prep and trying so hard so focus on school work when what we all want to do is make more cookies and wrap presents! Let the best time of the year begin!

But Christmas isn’t really magic. A string of lights, few candles, and Michael Buble in the background does not, in actuality, deliver us from our sin nature. Hardly. And so we find ourselves in the thick of attitudes and selfishness and Mama running on fumes and all of us in actuality needing Jesus.

And that, my friends, is what Christmas is about. It’s what the angels declared back then and the echo of that declaration still resounds: Jesus came to bring peace between us and a holy God. Through Him, we can find ourselves falling short of the glory of God and then repent, confess our sins, and enjoy fellowship with a loving Father.

So, if in the midst of trying so hard to make lovely memories you find yourself instead confronted with a mess of human nature, instead of yelling, “What’s wrong with you kids? Don’t you know this is supposed to be special??” — realize that this is it! This is why He came! We need Him and we can have Him in all His fullness. Pause. Guide hearts to prepare Him room, to usher Him in. Leave a few “magic” things undone and don’t worry about it so much. Turn, instead, to the miracle. That we, the people who walked in darkness, have seen a great light.

Amazing. It gets me every time. He saw my need — and became the answer.

*****


Christmas is here when the scent of nutmeg and butter fills the kitchen!


Plaid. Everywhere.


Tree. Such a beautiful tradition!


Concert night. 5,000 photos and we’ll settle for this one.


Still, still, still — you can hear the falling snow.