spring growth

What a slow spring we’ve had.

And even as I type that, I realize how many things we can learn from observing the course of nature. Sometimes promised seasons of vibrancy and fruitfulness are slow in coming — but they come. Lilacs two weeks behind, peonies nowhere to be found, furnaces getting a break for the first time since October — this is a northern spring, for sure. And yet, green is bursting forth in all of its June glory, shade upon shade, dazzling and sumptuous, rejoicing to take its place on the stage of time.

It comes. He makes all things beautiful in its time — and somehow, in a soul-deep way that you and I both know but perhaps can’t quite understand, that beauty and marking of seasons makes us aware of the eternity set in our hearts. We long for more, for what the New Earth will be.

Snow melts, grass grows, but more amazingly: legs stretch long into girlhood, muscles grow hard into the density of manhood, babies forsake infancy and begin the efforts of talking and interacting, new skills are learned and workloads undertaken. Grades completed, books finished, fresh horizons are scanned in the continual longing of children for tomorrow.

There are springs when the heat comes before I’m ready, and I find myself scrambling in a panic to get ahead of weeds and voracious perennials that have enforced their dominance while I was unprepared. I am feeling a bit like that in this garden of motherhood. Gorgeous new blooms are ready to burst alongside the mayhem of weeds and untidy borders and pruning (and did I miss my chance? Is it too late?) Sometimes I wonder if I’ve turned a bit more sod than I should have, and if the garden dream has outgrown my reality. In this garden of motherhood, I’ve always been in over my head. Shape a person? Love them well, teach them well, train them well? Me??? I can fumble around with fertilizer and cuttings outdoors without too much fear of messing it all up (there’s always next year.) But what about this? This immense task of nurturing people?

It’s more than I can do. It’s what I was made for, and at the same time, it’s a calling that demands I do things I simply cannot do on my own.

But you know what? It’s not my garden. There’s a Master Gardener at work here, with a beautiful scheme in mind, and He’s asking me to work and learn alongside Him. My work is like 2 fish and 5 loaves — which is to say, not much at all in the face of the enormous calling — and He does miraculous things when instead of hiding that, or putting a limitation on it, I offer it all to Him.

The sun is shining hot this morning. Rain is forecasted for the next [as many days as my weather app will load]. But today, soaking in the warmth and and joy of gardens growing by leaps and bounds and the sound of children laughing and running and blooming.

three and one.

Enid turned ONE last week!

But before I try to wrap my head around that, a pause for this amazingly wonderful little girl who brightens our days:

She is full of energy and affection and attitude, and as much as we sometimes want to tear out our hair, we all so often find ourselves exchanging amused smiles over yet another too-adorable moment from our Cecily Anne. My favorite recent quote was at dinner when she looked at me with a very serious face and declared, “I just realized I don’t like this [asparagus].” If you’re emphatic enough, she figures, grown ups will move out of your way. Or if you just smile with sparkling eyes and chubby pink cheeks and give the sweetest hugs and kisses.

Three is so fabulous. God had a lot of fun coming up with the idea of three year olds!

And then, all the while she’s been growing, so has another little one. Somehow, my brand new baby quickly and quietly learned to walk, jabber, inhale cooked carrots, and make her desires clearly known. How does one year change so much?

motherhood + seeing worth

I will never be able to say enough about what an honor it is to be a mother.

And what I mean by that is not that I feel I’ve attained, as proven by the maternal status achieved. Or that I am now elevated in my womanhood because children have been born to me. Check that box, cross that off, on to the next level of achievement.

No, I don’t really mean that in any sort of me-focused way at all. What I really mean when I say that is that babies are a miracle, and that investing in people who will go farther and reach wider and live beyond me is more than just worthwhile: it is everything.

Woman, whoever you are reading this: people are everything. Are you young, old, single, married, mother many times or faced with barrenness? No matter the “when” of your season of life, you can step into this amazing honor and begin to see people — all people — as worth the gift of life. Your life.

I spend a lot of time and thought trying to be a better mother. But here’s something we have to get right, before we figure out how and when to feed or train or prod or protect: every life is valuable because every life is created by God. These children here in my home: they’re not worth loving because they came from my womb. No, it has nothing to do with me. They are worth loving because they bear the image of God.

This is humbling. It is awe-inspiring. It awakens my soul to see beyond these 6 here in my home, and to begin to see this beautiful collage of humanity as valuable. As delighted in, sung over, bled and died for — by God.

power of thanks.

We have one long hallway in our single-story ranch house, with bedroom doors on either side. Narrow, functional, efficient — which, I suppose, are the guiding principles of this house design — and for the first several years of life here, it really was just a way from here to there. Then a couple of winters ago, I turned the blank white walls into a family album of sorts, moments of time captured and framed in black or white. A nod here and there to where Ryan and I came from, but mostly, days we’ve shared with our kids. Two smiling boys in matching PJs in sunny California. Beatrice and her dimples sitting on a blanket in our green yard. Ryan surrounded by five beaming kiddos on an Adirondack hike. Strawberry shortcake about to be devoured by freckled, sun-burned, grinning kiddos. A few were taken on family trips — sisters in Battery Park, a quiet moment enjoying Trout Lake — but for the most part, these aren’t commemorating spectacular vacations or events. They just celebrate moments of joy, relationships, regular life that we are blessed to live together.

Recently, on a rather gray, Eeyore-ish day, I was walking down the hallway alone when the photos caught my eye. I stopped and instead of just straightening them (as is my usual habit), I looked at them. Photo after photo, moment after moment, gift after gift, and suddenly I was overwhelmed by the richness of grace in my life. If those 20 pictures represented the only wonderful days in my life, it would still be so much more than I deserve. It wasn’t a cliché moment; I was sincerely struck by how I, lost in trespasses and sins, have not only been delivered from death and brought into sweet, daily fellowship with Jesus — He has also given me 20 moments of beauty and joy and relationship and so many more besides.

How entitled I can become. How deceived I am, not seeing the goodness of God in my very breath. Fixated on the wrong, the “lack”, completely missing the abundance and grace. A soul, fat with blessing and overflowing with gifts, somehow seeing itself as shriveled and underfed — what a strange delusion to live in. And so rivers of blessing, meant to gush with generosity to those around us, become stagnant ponds of cynicism and comparison and complaints.

And how good to lift eyes to heaven, to a Father who gives every good and perfect gift. To begin to utter thanksgiving, and find the dam of ingratitude bursts apart and that river of life-giving water flows to every part of your soul and overflows to every aspect of your life. Faith, hope, love — they come to life again, joy empowering it all.

*****

This photo-wall moment has taken on greater impact, thanks to the book that arrived in the mail after I’d forgotten all about even ordering it (gotta love the surprise factor of shopping used books + slow shipping speeds!). Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy has already (only several chapters in!) given me so much to ponder and repent of. The Word of God, which this book is full of, is a mirror, helping us to see what’s really in our hearts — and living and powerful enough to work change as we receive it with faith.

*****

Blessings all mine with ten thousand besides:

another month

I get busy — busy with my time, but busy in my mind, too — and suddenly it’s been a month and there are only a few pictures on my phone, nothing written here, and life has just slipped by again.

A month ago, the boys were off skiing with Ryan on an epic (to them) three day tour of three mountains, thanks to tickets Ryan was blessed with. Today I’m looking out rain-spattered window panes to a new color — one that sprang up overnight, as pouring rain drenched the earth and awakened dormant life. Green. Green is hard to even remember in February, and by the end of March I’m wondering if it really ever will come, and then suddenly it’s here. Robins are here, leaf buds are here, crocuses are here, kids in mud boots laughing and running and rediscovering are here — it’s all here.

Can I be honest? I was sad to watch the sledding hill melt. The path they walked every single afternoon and the trails they had carefully established for their sleds were the last to go, and I took a few deep, shuddering breaths that bordered on sobs as they caught my eye day after dwindling day. A whole winter gone. I love these warmer days — love to watch them scatter this way and that, dribbling balls and riding bikes and exploring in the woods and carving out new “houses” under bushes — but they scatter, and in the winter, they are a little tribe of playmates, always together, always inventing games they all can play, helping one another and laughing together and being my little brood. And so I sigh each year when it ends. Happy for the warmth of sunshine and hours of fresh air and ready to dig into the work and maintenance of summertime, but there’s a special quality of being hemmed in that winter brings. And now we have said goodbye to another year’s snow and are hurdling headlong into the outward days of summer.

A month looks something like:


Skiing!


Snow disappearing.


Three days away with Mama and Daddy for a work trip.


Five weeks of a Bible study and sometimes her cousin came to play.


This one on the go, but also wanting me so much still.


William calling me from my task of switching clothes from winter to summer, and finding this waiting for us. Wow!


She’s off and running, about 6 months ahead of the Dunphey standard.


Neighborhood games of “box ball”.


So eager to try some carrot.


This one! I could write a book about her.


Naptime every day looks like this. It will be gone before I know it, but for now, she nurses and drifts off every afternoon.


This week: Easter preparations!


Flowers!


I gave the hydrangeas a serious pruning. I love working outside and watching kids play!


My littlest and biggest. He loves her so much!


Every chance they get, long into the evening.

an opportunity for love

Next to learning to love God with our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, what is the second most important thing we pass on to our children?

Loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.

“Who is our neighbor?”

The super obvious answer for so much of our lives is: your family. Your spouse, your children, your siblings, your parents. This is neighborhood living at its finest, up close and personal, where all good intentions melt like the sugar facades they are in the heat of real life and all of its friction and need and opportunity.

Here is where love puts on skin, finds an audible voice.

That sounds so obvious. Of course we’re to love one another. We’re a family! But it’s amazing how distracted from that main goal we can become. So busy doing as a group of people, pushing the older ones along, dragging the littles behind, snipping at the spouse as we accomplish school and work and housekeeping and extracurriculars and church. We can forget! Love your neighbor.

This remembering requires a shift in perspective and approach. If building relationships, and teaching how to appreciate differences and resolve conflict and work as a team — if those things really are important, it changes how I see life and how I do things.

I alluded to cookie decorating with the children. As tongues got out of hand and fingers got grabby (and I was already tired and not terribly excited about frosting to clean up), it would have been easy for me to put the kibosh on the whole thing with a harsh lecture about behavior, The End. Instead, thanks to the Holy Spirit’s reminders, I realized that this wasn’t a bad turn of events, but an amazing opportunity. Of course I would love for us to gather together and have there be nothing but laughter and love, but in order to get there someday, we need to practice it now. So, deep breath, I corrected the words. Instructed us to share. Reminded us to affirm. I put on a smile and even scrounged up a laugh. And most of all I refused to feel like the whole event was a flop. God can turn our most human moments into an opportunity to see and repent.

Recently I’ve followed the patterns of a friend and started adding some sibling time into our daily checklists. I’ve found what I’m sure you’ve found: certain siblings connect easily, and others are oil and water. Instead of avoiding the oil and water, I’m determined to put them together as often as possible and see them grow! Sibling conflict doesn’t have to mean failure; we can see it as an opportunity. I recognize that God put us all in one house for a reason, and it’s that we would grow in love, in breadth and depth of appreciation for all sorts of people, and I believe that my children will leave knowing how to work and play and live in love.

Maybe the atmosphere of your home feels overwhelming and a million miles from love. May I encourage you to pray and believe God for some wisdom and strategy? But most of all, believe God. Don’t believe lies of cultural norms where siblings are allowed hate and the future looks like decades of dysfunctional Thanksgiving dinners. Press into the will of God for your family and each of your children. This I know: when we ask for help in this area, God will pour out nothing less than the full measure of His power and grace. He is on our side in this endeavor, for sure.

Teach them to love, and they’ll be world changers.