august 31: a bit of a ramble

August 31st.

Somehow we have plowed our way through an entire summer and, though I think we have absolutely stuffed ourselves silly with the sunny activities and evening romps and easy living, I still have room for a few last savory summer morsels. In fact, I think I could do this for a few more months, if we could just pause for a moment for me to catch my breath.

This summer I avoided the sun more successfully than I ever have before. My redhead complexion fares best, apparently, when there’s a brand new baby to keep in the shade. I also avoided my gardens almost completely, save for one good weeding a couple weeks ago. My faithful perennials did their best without me, but I’m a bit itchy to get back to it.

But all of that did make more time for me to park myself under the picnic table umbrella and simply watch as my kids splashed in a kiddie pool, threw baseballs, chased butterflies, and asked for freeze pops because HOT. Wow, was it ever hot this year.

Jameson grew inches. His pants are a joke and I’m sort of dreading the bottom line of this fall’s clothing needs. The others are not far behind. I guess, despite the new baby, they all were fed and cared for just fine.

Summer hasn’t always ended up being my favorite time of year, thanks to no routine and trying to keep up with inside chores on top of outside play and work. It has often seemed unmanageable and more chaotic. But somehow that wasn’t how this summer played out. This team has really come together in the last year or two, and a good locker room pep talk really does the trick when it comes to laying out a game plan and executing. These kids are turning into all-stars. No trades happening here!

This summer has had its share of upheaval and craziness, as my parents prepare to sell their house, my nephew prepares for a bone marrow transplant, my husband looks ahead to the next needs in our business, and my sons begin to stretch and grow towards teenage changes. Other things, too, and suddenly a new baby, toddlers feel a piece of cake. I know how to do this.

But only doing what we know could also be called walking by sight, and that’s not what we were made for. The mustard seed inside us grows to maturity each time we step forward into what sure seems to be an abyss of nothing, trusting that when our foot comes down, it will land on the Rock that never moves.

So I flip the calendar page. I sharpen pencils and fill school drawers with new books. Plans are penciled in. We are strengthened by His faithfulness and filled with hope because we know His lovingkindness.

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.

*****

settling in, waiting, soaking up sunshine.

That sums up the last few weeks of life, I suppose.

What started to certainly feel like a long 11 (or so) weeks without our usual rhythms has resulted in a beautiful, open kitchen that feels so grown up and real and like me. How amazing it was to see the elements of cabinetry and collected antiques get put into place, exactly resembling the drawings and ideas I’ve been concocting for so long.

I feel above and beyond blessed. I just keep smiling.

The cupboards are arranged (at least, for now!) and I have almost broken the habit of going to the garage for refrigerated items (where the fridge was kept since February!) The wide expanses of windows that we missed so very much are freshly appreciated as we gather around the kitchen table for meals, and enjoy the family room’s views.

And just in time to watch the world magically and suddenly turn to vibrant green right before our eyes!

Such a long winter we had, with no real hints at spring. April cold and gray, windows shut tight and not even a thought for summer clothing switches. But then, suddenly, it all changed. Better late than never, and certainly received with extra thankfulness and enjoyment, spring has arrived. Trees that were only in bud a week ago are unfurling leaves. Lawn is emerald and lush and scattered with the sunniest dandelions. Daffodils went from tentative little shoots to full blown flowers in only a few days. Bird song fills the morning. Cheeks and shoulders are pink at the first suggestion of sunshine, after months and months of sweaters and snowsuits.

We soak it in and pinch ourselves and try to find the sunscreen.

And we also are waiting. 40 weeks and 5 days, waiting. Keeping up the balance of walks and exercise and crossing off to-dos while guarding rest time each day, collapsing into bed each night. I’m feeling so good this pregnancy. I feel pregnant, but good, and I’m so thankful for that. The kids are so excited, and how fun to be living in an atmosphere heavy with expectation.

I’m feeling less prepared for the actual delivery than I have in the past, but learning even there to lean and trust. What ifs can creep in, and certainly life is uncertain in so many ways. But this is true: Strength for today, a favorite lyric from a favorite hymn. He knows the way I take, and He has promised to never leave or forsake.

Courage is the word on my heart this time around — at first, a reminder to myself to take heart and have courage, but as I mulled that over and prayed for a fresh dose, the deep assurance that God will not just give me courage; He will be my courage. I don’t need to keep it together and hold on; I can fall on Him and lean on Him completely, and He won’t let me down.

This morning, a spring rain that began so gently I don’t even know when it came, and now strengthening into a thoroughly soaking downpour. Even this is lovely and calming, as gray settles in around spring greens. We will take this day slowly, quietly. We will know that His name is near, and how that changes everything.

a record of moments

This little family journal is in need of an update, although my memory isn’t nearly good enough to recall every moment worth preserving. But, a bit of a try:

There have been the smallest moments that pile up into absolute treasure — William leading our worship times with his guitar and repertoire of about 5 chords, with Jameson sometimes playing along on piano; Beatrice devouring “The Saturdays,” while standing right at the doorway to the kitchen, hoping against hope that Daddy might need her for something; kids rediscovering the woods now that the snow isn’t overwhelmingly deep and coming back with muddy boots and stories of what they found this time; sitting a bit like sardines all together in “the den” to watch a movie on a Sunday night; nap times and bedtimes with me sitting in a rocker, reading to the girls until Cecily is asleep or at least settled, quickly finishing “Understood Betsy” (so darling! — a favorite), and now onto the Shoe books; packing up ingredients, kids, math and piano books, and heading to my mom’s kitchen for a few afternoons of baking in an oven (what a treat!); walks in warm spring sunshine with Cecily on my back, and walks in winter wonderlands the very next day as the North Country reminds us all of its impossible unpredictable nature; crockpot meals and hamburgers coming out our ears, and soooo many bagels…

There have been less mundane moments, too —

Ryan walking away with just a scratch from quite the crash at Whiteface, and how thankful we all were; the three big kids preparing a performance of “Anything You Can do” for Grandparents’ Day that demanded they do and give a bit more than their natural comfort level; Easter weekend plagued with a tummy bug, keeping us home on Good Friday (where we all did our sardine routine and joined the CFC service online — perfect) and that meant after much excited preparation on Saturday evening, Ryan and I ended up staying home all day Sunday sick while the kids happily celebrated with grandparents and aunts, uncles, and cousins; me getting to spend a solid week of time laying floors with Ryan while our kids [mostly] happily tended to each other — not exactly the weekend getaway I’d been hoping to squeeze in before this baby, but maybe even better.

And the slow and steady progress of life in and around us: Boys working to prepare for another year of NYSSMA involvement and growing in their musicianship. Cecily talking more and more. A kitchen ready to be painted and have cabinets installed this week! Number Six baby continuing to wiggle and grow and drop and all that end-of-the-line kind of stuff, and me marveling that we’re already here, a few weeks away from meeting them. And yes, me trying to focus on the “meeting them” part and not get too uptight about the “delivering them” part.

There have been ups and downs in the last 6 weeks, sometimes just the normal life kind of stuff, and sometimes much bigger. His hand is there, leading, in both mountain and valley. There have been “I’m gonna snap!” moments, and there, too, His grace is always there, correcting and realigning and sometimes just giving rest. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask… and suddenly that’s there, too — seeking hearts led, souls taught His ways.

The wheres and the hows of life are sometimes fun, sometimes interesting, sometimes disappointing — but the Who that we find Him to be in all those things: that’s the treasure. That’s the golden thread we hold onto, that we delight in each morning. Great is Thy faithfulness, we sing, but we truly know that as we simply live. Each morning, waking up, asking, “Will you meet me in this day, too?”, and discovering that the answer is always and forever yes.

all is well

Yesterday I found myself alone at home, Ryan having taken all the children to do errands (something about him that I find amazing.) I stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes, slowly making headway through a long list of to dos.

And my heart felt heavy. So heavy. Why? Oh, it could be a hundred things. Things as small as I’m so tired and will I ever not feel this way? all the way to What does it feel like to buy chocolates and Valentines for your child, only to get a phone call saying they’ve been shot and killed in a senseless act of violence?

The gamut. Sorting it out in a muddling sort of way, trying to just push through, find my footing, whisper prayers…

Then I knew what I needed to hear, and maybe you do, too. I found the video of my beautiful, beautiful boy singing words that are the essence of Good News:

Darkness fell
Into the dawn
Of Love’s light.

And I know it’s a Christmas piece, and there are poinsettias on the stage, but it’s more than just Christmas, and that’s the whole point. All is well now, today, in this moment, and it will be forevermore, because He is our Redeemer.

“Christmas is not an armisticedivinity runs much deeper than a day…”