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.

a morning’s rambling

I wish I had a picture from yesterday’s scene outside my windows — children bundled in all sorts of colors, laughing and tumbling after each other across the backyard, exploring every familiar corner because suddenly it was transformed and enchanting by our first real snow.

It is one of my favorite things to see, I’ve realized. A rainbow in the sky, peonies bursting into bloom, ocean’s swell crashing against rocks — all outdone by the joy and magic and brightness of a snowy playday. I could stand and watch forever.

I know it’s been said here in this little corner of the internet so many times, but my, how the days do fly by. I feel it in my soul as I manage this particular season of motherhood. There were so very many days when playing outdoors had to mean mittens and boots for me, too. Not so much anymore. They all run out to dress and play on their own and this year there’s a baby whose needs dictate my availability. It used to be that train tracks needed my expertise, and Candyland could only be played with my assistance. Piano practice required me to be standing nearby, and every single meal depended upon me.

That was an exhausting and demanding season that required so much prayer and Holy Spirit.

But just as I knew they would, those days flew by. There was a last time that Jameson needed me to lay near him as he drifted to sleep — and it was long, long ago. I did my best to be fully present and not wishing away any of those weary yet joy-filled days, and still

They go.

Now there are new demands with new joys to go along. There is the beginning of the craziness that is newborns + older children, a combination I’ve long marveled at and wondered at and have vague memories of my mother doing so well without missing a beat — but how?? My new favorite thing is laying in the dark nursing a baby to sleep (and drifting there myself!) and suddenly hearing tip-toe footsteps as Jameson quietly comes to let me know he’s home from whatever evening activity he had and to tell me how it was. He’s off doing his own thing more and more, but without me ever asking, he still comes to let me know how it all was. I know how that goes: there’s a security in knowing your mom knows.

*****

We are mapping out the next 45 days. Every one needs to count, as we approach the whirlwind of activity that is “the most wonderful time of the year.” I ask the kids each year what their favorite part of the Christmas season is, and while one might anticipate answers including parties and concerts and tree decorating and the like, the most consistent answer is, “I like all the cozy nights by the tree when you read stories and we’re together.” That is the most precious answer they could give, of course, and I am so blessed to know those quiet evenings have mattered so much — but oh, what a challenge as well. Those simple memories require one thing: TIME. Time at home, and not hurried and exhausted time at home, but slow and routine time at home. So like a tenacious guard I scan the calendar and count out the evenings and decide with determination that this many we will give, and the rest will be protected, given to them, my precious children who want nothing more than to hear a favorite book while gazing at a favorite ornament, surrounded by their favorite people.

And as I carefully map out school, cookie baking, outside commitments, shopping trips, prayerfully prioritizing, I am suddenly feeling like Elijah on Mount Carmel. As familiar as I may become with managing our days together, as skilled as I may get a figuring out what should fit where, there is an element to our days together that I am desperate for but cannot bring myself: the fire of the presence of God. So my prayer has been renewed with each glance at the calendar: Lord, would You visit our home. Engulf our hearts. This is meaningless without You. How silly is a stone-cold altar and untouched sacrifice. The whole point is You.

living life.

There is so much activity in the fall, isn’t there? After a summer that always feels full enough, I am suddenly launched into that same fullness, but with the addition of school for x number of kids, birthday parties, church routine in full swing, teaching CFA, field trips and fun trips and scrambling to be outside for one last hurrah — and all to the tune of shortening days.

This October seemed especially so, with every week requiring a planning strategy of its own, as I did my best to keep the essentials and be flexible with everything else. Some weeks or months or seasons are just like that. (Perhaps most are?) Our house has seemed extra-full, and that is my favorite kind of busyness.

But through it all, in it all, under it all, a sense of peace and provision and daily bread. Pressing needs that keep us all thinking about the faithfulness of God and praying in faith for His touch. We are busy each day but there’s also a unifying waiting, carrying happening in our hearts, down to Cecily. A text comes in with new numbers for Jack and we all stop, hearts in their eyes as they wait for new news. An email from the church prayer list with heavy news, and they all pause quietly, letting it sink in. A man they all know from church gets answers that aren’t answers from doctors, and they begin to ask for a miracle. And more. They are learning to carry one another’s burdens.

We are learning to do our chores well and to be more careful with math problems but we are learning far more.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing it right, this thing called life, this task of raising up people. Most of the time I’m too busy just doing it these days, though, and have to cast even those cares on Him, trusting that He is my Shepherd and that He is their Shepherd, and He will lead us through every hill and valley.

*****

twelve; seasons; pray for Jack

This past Saturday, that adorable little boy turned 12. Twelve! There’s such a strange tangle of emotions as he grows, because I could just weep buckets of tears with sadness of the precious days I’ll never have again with a sweet first baby and a sparkly-eyed toddler and a helpful 5yo and every other day of this always-by-my-side firstborn’s life. And I most certainly would weep those buckets if I wasn’t so busy being filled with delight over the young man he is today, and how much enjoyment there is as his life unfolds.

He spent the morning of his twelfth birthday completely engrossed in writing and presenting a play with his siblings. This isn’t an everyday occurrence; most of his ideas these days have less pretend and fewer sisters involved. To say, then, that the younger set was in heaven would be an understatement. He couldn’t have planned a more special morning for them if he’d tried. What a blessing of a big brother!

Then an afternoon of playing some video games with William and two friends (oh, the hard decision of two friends! Whose idea was it to limit the birthdays in such a way? Oh yes, mine…) Ryan brought them into town for a couple of hours, and then we girls joined, carrying bags of gifts and picnic baskets of food and dishes, and of course, a chocolate cake! We closed the coffee shop a bit early and took it over: “Closed for a Private Party” — yup, that was us! Bagels and soda for the kids, salad and water for the grown ups. Gifts — such kind and thoughtful gifts those two friends gave! Again, the joy of watching young boys grow into thoughtful young men! — and voiced appreciation. Cake and milk.

Twelve.

And while it’s still just a warm-up to those [regularly regarded as infamous but difficult doesn’t need to mean bad] teen years, in our church and social circles, twelve is a pretty big milestone. Two days later, he scrambled through his dinner clean up and put on clean clothes and got himself ready for a first in our family: youth group at church. Ryan and I were one big jumble of emotion — in disbelief that we’re already here and wanting to put him back in kindergarten just one more time, and full of so much expectation for how God will meet him in these coming days.

So he joined this tribe of young men and women, and launched into a new season of life.

And in so doing, launched me, too. Here I go. Laugh-crying all the way.

Appropriately, his first night at youth, many of them wore their “Jack’s Army” t-shirts, a visible representation of their spiritual support of my nephew, Jackson Paladin. This morning, as the sun rose, so did my prayers for the nephew I love so dearly. Today that port he had installed on Monday will carry the first doses of chemotherapy to his body. This is hard for me to think about. This whole procedure of a bone marrow transplant has made me feel as I do when I’m boarding an airplane and everything in me is screaming to turn around and run from that little tiny plane that will bring feelings of claustrophobia. But there is nothing for it but to press forward, buckle in, and know that the destination is worth the difficulty between. And so this morning dawns with that same sensation of me wanting to bundle us all up and just run the other way — but no. Forward, resolute, and knowing that God is in this place. He will deliver and is delivering, as He stands guard over Jackson’s body every moment and speaks His nearness to His heart with every breath.

Pray for Jack, if you will. There is a great destination of health and strength awaiting him on the other side of this journey.