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.

from yesterday:

It’s Sunday, and we are Sabbath-ing here at the Dunphey house.

The daddy sent everyone to their beds as soon as our dinner table was cleared, and quiet reigned for a couple of hours, interrupted only by a crying 2yo who needed to finish her nap with Mama.

Rest is good, and it is a gift. Rest is different than leisure — a posture that says, I was made to work but I was also made with limitations, and so I pause despite the ongoing garden tending and inevitable entropy that never pauses. God will supply what we need.

*****

House in renovation mode for two weeks now, and the excitement over a project moving forward fills our days — but most of all, for sure, the joy of Ryan calling for a son to help, of inviting a daughter to join him on a dump run, and pouring out appreciation and affirmation on them as we gather for dinner each evening. They are all working hard, even if it’s simply by playing happily in the “den” (our small guest room-turned-living room) with the few toys Mama left out. This is an “all hands on deck” season, and isn’t that the best?

Jameson is rising to the occasion with a big project happening. He loves nothing more than donning work clothes and old ball cap in the morning and jumping right into work mode with Ryan. He’s climbing into the attic and doing small jobs unassisted, learning about electrical, helping to keep tools organized, and just generally an enthusiastic assistant who makes long and late nights more enjoyable for Ryan.

William is steady and dependable. He’ll spend several hours carrying debris out to the truck, sweeping floors, and holding lights. He cheerfully does house cleaning even if it’s not the most exciting task happening. He notices when the girls are getting needy and jumps right in to create a game for them or read to them or just keep them happy so the gears can keep turning. He does his best to stay up with his big brother but once in awhile disappears to his room, where he can be found fast asleep.

Beatrice cheerfully chips away at her school and chores and piano practice each day, doing better and better at remembering all of those things on her own. She reads voraciously and plays her favorite piano pieces incessantly, and is always always cheerful. Our spring thaw last week meant bike riding began, and she somehow managed to be the only kid to tear or stain two pairs of pants in epic crashes. She’s tender and loving and flighty.

Fiona still lives most days in her own happy little world of make believe. She has doll babies to care for and ballet classes to go to and church services to lead. Generally quiet, she will suddenly come to life at the meal table and regale the other children with stories of “dreams” she had and imaginations that grow with the telling. She is up first or second every day and “reads” her Bible stories quietly alongside me.

And Cecily — jabbering away continually and thankfully even beginning to include some English in the babbling. She loves to play with Fiona, be in the middle of all of us all the time, go places with her Daddy, and if she’s ever grumpy or sad, a clementine or two will cure her. She has officially moved out of our bedroom and joined the girls’ room in her own twin bed. It’s been a learning process, as I think she was more attached to her basket and her Mama’s proximity than my other 2 year olds. The boys, especially, dote on her continually (which probably contributes to her lack of English. Why bother? They bend over backwards to get whatever it is she’s crying for.) She loves to be the center of attention and will pull some antic at dinnertime if she feels the conversation has excluded her for too long. We all laugh all day long, thanks to her, and she’s never lacking for someone to hold or hug her.

*****

Meanwhile, I’ve passed the 30 week mark with this pregnancy. It’s flying by, partly because I’ve been feeling really good. Tired, but good. Soon, very soon, I’ll need to think seriously about names and mental preparation for labor and figuring out what we need. But for now I just try to keep up my daily stretches and walks, while enjoying the increasingly strong kicks and flutters from within.

Despite the massive disruption of washing dishes in a bathroom sink, making meals without stove or oven, and carrying laundry outside and through the garage and to the washing machine, I’m doing my best to keep the essentials in place: short moments of prayer and Bible together, math and piano and reading, systems for clean clothes and [decently!] healthy food, and most of all, attitudes of thankfulness.

Because we are so, so blessed, especially in the common things that could so easily go unappreciated:

Girls who giggle together far more often than they quibble.
Boys who are best friends.
Child laughter all the time.
Chores that get done fairly well (ha!) and cheerfully by helpful children.
Repentance and forgiveness that flow all day long.
An immoveable Rock beneath us, giving stability and peace to the ebb and flow of life.
And so much more.

packed up, put away, and looking forward: january.

There are a very few houses still wearing their Christmas colors, warm colored lights greeting me in the dark mornings as I walk. I’m sure their owners are cringing at how behind they are, and when they will ever find the time, but I wish they could see me smile as I walk by — wistful already as I recall the days of December, their warmth and memories, how they sped by far too quickly, how I wish we could just do that one more time before moving onto the rest of the year.

December passed in its own unique way, as it seems to do each year — this mother and home manager whose heart is full of ideas and plans, who learns every single year to hold such things loosely as real life topples day dreams, only to find that the actual gifts of a Good Father are perfect for us.

Piano performances, choir practices, movie nights, early to bed nights, colds and upset tummies, cookies that taste like the memories of a hundred Christmases past, school winding down and play winding up, first snow, quiet days at home instead of the usual bustle of play dates and get togethers (because viruses), gifts purchased and wrapped and rejoiced over, choral performances that made this mama cry, books read aloud, and suddenly the blessed days of rejoicing and celebration and tradition are upon us, and we revel in it all.

Then it’s over, and we happily let the days slip by as we embrace vacation mode, staying long in PJs, playing with new toys for hours while Mama tries to create some semblance of order. The end of the year purge, making room for new things, getting rid of the broken and unused.

Cold snap. Temps plunging way, way below zero, keeping children inside when frostbite seems to truly threaten. Boys shoveling fast and furiously, coming inside with eyes full of hot chocolate hopes. (Yes, of course yes.) The few days in the 20s and 30s feel like a heat wave, and the play time goes on for hours as they shovel their way through the backyard, creating their very own North Country Roxaboxen.

House projects. Laundry room upheaval, and us short a bathroom, but who cares when there’s long term gain? Slowly we watch it get put back together, and finally the weekend comes when we can vacuum and mop and organize and move in and smile as the washing machine hums its familiar hum.

At last, that means, school.

Fresh starts and new energy escaped me this year, I’ll confess. Oh, those long and often intense days of schooling sounded just like that: long and intense. All I could remember was Cecily up to no good and loose ends left undone every evening and a general feeling of “are we having fun yet?” True story: this happens. It happens to me. Deep in my soul, tentacles of discouragement wrap and bind and pull me down.

But hand to the plow, shoulder to the grindstone, and most of all, heart set on promises: He has never failed me yet.

New routine thought through, fresh pencils, and without any more to-do (because no excuses; that’s what I told myself) we started. To the tune of an unending snowstorm and boys shoveling half the day, and I had to laugh at my carefully laid plans.

You know what?

It was peaceful and fun and synergistic and good.

He has never failed me yet.

So, off we go: into a new year, on a path winding forward, heading towards the rising sun.

peace and joy

December is here. Most of it hasn’t looked quite this white and peaceful, but I loved this moment. I returned from my morning walk and couldn’t help but walk through a yard of new snow. I stopped and listening to that unique quiet that only a snow-covered meadow brings and heard the Holy Spirit speak to me, on the first day of that crazy week between Thanksgiving and Christmas concert when my to-dos are a mile long, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Peace on earth. If that is the message of the angel, perhaps it should be a theme of our rejoicing?

And so we decked our home (rather quickly, without too much creativity, which was just what we needed this year!), made gifts and cards, and prepared for the season’s kick off, the CFA concert.

We got our tree and decorated it, and after kids were in bed Ryan said, “That was kind of easy,” and we realized together that (for better or for worse) the days of us being outnumbered by very small excited children are over, and we’ve moved into a season of more order. Slightly more order. Still enough craziness to know there are five kids decorating a tree.

I took this picture last Sunday, as boys watched football and the girls colored and I tidied the kitchen before starting a new mess for dinner prep. It doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas or December, per se, but it was a moment that I felt so thankful. Blessed to have a home, a husband who loves our home and who loves us, children who are happy to be together, regular old life that is lived together.

But most of this week has looked like Mom with a tummy bug, then Mom with a head cold. The school basics got covered, and plenty of super easy meals and fending for themselves. Normal life, made a bit more special because there is the sense of Christmas all around us. Challenging for me, because I had such high expectations for what we would get done on this last week of regular school, how many gifts I would wrap and get organized, and all of the other things this Type A always has running through her head. Ironically (or not, because the Holy Spirit knows what we need), William’s prayer during devotions on Monday morning was about how even when the day isn’t what we plan or expect, we can just live for the Lord and “move the ball down the field.” (I love that he speaks football to God.) As my stomach churned and warned me that I was being taken down by a weird bug, I knew that prayer was for me.

Because Joy to the World was another message of the angels, and it should be another theme of this season. Joy isn’t something we find in ourselves, when we are satisfied by our own goodness and kindness (which is what so many spend this season trying to do.) Joy is a gift from God, through the salvation offered by His Son, that goes deeper than our circumstances or our own goodness. Joy is knowing that God so loved me that He gave His only Son, and in humbly receiving the news of my own brokenness and HIS sufficiency, I also receive unending Joy and Peace.

Peace isn’t thinking happy thoughts toward strangers. Joy isn’t pushing aside negative thoughts about your husband and kids and hoping positive thinking (and enough holiday cocktails) will somehow get you through these weeks of “happy.”

Peace and Joy can be real and lasting and transforming. Peace and Joy are in knowing Jesus, the God-Man who came to dwell with us and know us and redeem us, whose birth we celebrate with awe and thanksgiving.

May He come and bring His peace and joy to you this season.

a purposeful home

In August, I made an impulse purchase. I judged a book by it’s fabulous cover and bought it. This week, it made its way to the family room, where I’ve been perusing its contents (while nestled under an afghan, sometimes by candlelight, because of course.)

It’s that time of year. My kids say lots of great things, but something William said a few months ago made my heart happy: “My favorite time of year is winter, because it gets dark early and there are candles and music and we’re all together.” This from my boy who is out playing football as often as possible. Who knew the regular rituals I’ve attempted to create, in order to craft “homey” out of a time that could just be cold and dull, were making a clear impression on him.

Of course, that freshly inspired me. It’s not always easy, being all together indoors from 4pm on, keeping hearts and hands occupied, trying to convince myself to not just send us all to bed because it’s pitch black, after all. It helps to remember that the quiet music or the fun board game or even the “everyone get a book and sit quietly at the fire until I say” is doing more than just keeping us sane; it’s making memories. It’s making home.

Back to the book: hygge is a Danish word and concept, and so here you’ll find the makings of the unusually happy Danish culture (according to statistics.) Lighting, food, furnishings, friends… all of the elements that add to a slow, cozy enjoyment of the moment — especially the dark ones.

But I couldn’t help but think, as I read with a pink-cheeked baby sleeping in the crook of my arm, that I didn’t see all that much about babies. About making this culture for others enjoyment. I did a quick check, and sure enough, the Danes seem to be missing something crucial.


And not just Denmark; it is an overarching problem in many countries.

This made me sad, but it also was a very powerful reminder: candles, warm bread, an emphasis on friendship over productivity, and sheepskin on every surface rings a bit hollow if it’s all feeding a need for my happiness. That just can’t be the point. And I know: toddlers knock candles over, kids grimace at the slow-cooked stew, your favorite afghan is in the wash because someone escaped the table with banana hands, and late night game nights with friends are tough when the baby needs to be nursed to sleep. This investment costs something.

But home is meant to be created as an investment in the next generation. That’s the whole point: homes as a safe, welcoming place of ministry.

This is a good reminder for me. Home is a tool, the end to the means — not the end in itself.

november.

November 1st.

Darkness greets me as I open my eyes, and the soft murmur of furnace faithfully warming house.

Coffee drips steadily, body slowly warming to awake as I push through today’s core work, sitting to read John and sip that warm brew, finally breaking away from the lure of Christmas shopping online to don coat and hat, and: still dark.

Clean air greets me, albeit cold. Swinging arms to fight cold, weaving on and off road to stay away from cars that don’t see me, pulling hat lower over ears: my winter morning routine has begun.

Warm breakfast from oven, candles lit. Sunlight spills glorious and bright, then just as quickly disappears in a cloud of brooding gray. At lunch we pause, listen, and then sit with mouths agape as tens, scores, a hundred or more? geese wing overhead. By late afternoon, windows are wet with drizzly rain and darkness creeps in again, already, hemming us in. Scent of pumpkin pie wafts, piano is practiced, and we grab books and gather close to one another.

I love November.

True, leaves are gone. No one schedules a trip to the Adirondacks now, as every last vestige of beauty and life has been ripped from limbs by wind and turned to mush by autumn rains. Bare gray branches stand exposed against the sky, and corn fields quiet to a soft gold. Everywhere, a palette of steel blue, chestnut brown, spun gold, faded green. It is alternatively gentle and austere, changed in an instant by the drama that unfolds moment by moment in the late autumn sky.

Our flurry of first days of school have calmed, and we have settled into how this goes. A few more weeks, and the steady routine will begin to fall apart as we anticipate and plan and create for the coming holidays. Beef stew and buttermilk biscuits, applesauce and roast chicken — these are novel again and fill not just tummies but hearts. Board games are rediscovered in the evenings, and throws and blankets don’t stay folded long between use. Favorite books are pored over, made all the more enjoyable by the flicker of firelight.

I love November.

*****

Goodbye, lovely October. You were beautiful, too.


Taken on the morning of the first frost.

Taken on a hike last week.

Taken in our backyard.

Taken on a Sunday morning just because.