september 19: jameson turned 10

September days are always nostalgic for me. I am instantly brought back to the days when I was awaiting my first baby: more tired and achy than I ever imagined possible, growing in excitement, feeling my mind and emotion become incredibly focused on one thing. I love the expectancy of the end of pregnancy!

This year, as I walked past our first apartment early one morning, and heard the whispering leaves that lulled me to sleep many afternoons of that late pregnancy, I tried to wrap my mind around a decade.

And I can’t.

*****

We celebrated him and loved doing so. We were able to bless him with a few special extras, like the fire and s’mores he requested, and even an overnight with two friends. Altogether, three days of birthday partying. We laughed and asked how that happened, but he was blessed and affirmed and so thankful. He’s growing up, and we are so proud of, and thankful for, the young man he’s becoming.


an amazing older brother


thrilled to share his special day with Patrick


That picture shows my favorite part about him: the crinkly laugh lines around his eyes. He is so cheerful, so attentive, so caring.

He is a gift.

september 9

My Jameson and I took a turn going out this week.

“I’m really excited, Mom, aren’t you?” he asked that afternoon. That made me smile.

My two boys, best friends and yet so different. William just loves the pizza and ice cream; this one loves the experience. I knew he was expecting a real “date” kind of request for dinner, so that’s what we did.

He ran to his room to get ready, door closed firmly shut, no peeking. Emerged in shirt and tie with jacket, because that’s who he is. I expect nothing less!

We held hands as we drove and chatted, and I couldn’t help but be hit by waves of nostalgia, remembering so vividly the baby who made me a mama, snuggled in my arms on our little second-story porch as I sang to him. Wasn’t that yesterday? Or did it ever happen?

He was my sole focus for two hours. We ordered our food, and of course he wanted to try something new, because that’s who he is! Calamari because it’s his favorite, crab cake because he’d never had one. He tried my gazpacho and liked it. “I like new flavors.”

He is tall. Capable. Articulate. Excited and hesitant, all at once. Loves people but happy to be alone with his own ideas, too.

And he loves me. It was so good to just spend two hours alone, saying in words and just in the silence of being side by side, “I love you.”

My 9 year old boy, almost 10. More dear to me than I ever could have imagined. Thanks for holding my hand.

september 6: starting school

Yesterday, we jumped back into the full swing of things.

Something about this year has my head swirling, nervous and excited, and I’ll confess that I had a hard time sleeping in anticipation of the First Day. Would it go okay? Did I think it through enough? Would they like it? Would it go hilariously awry or be tragically disastrous? (“Hilariously awry” is a pessimist’s attempt at positivity.)

It was great.

It’s a lot of work, isn’t it? It was after dinner before I caught my breath, and then wondered how on earth I ever fit anything else into life — including basic things like returning text messages! I did, however, get to shower before evening, so I’ll count that a big win for me. Jameson was, of course, excitedly pushing through as many math lessons as possible before I finally noticed he was still awake last night and sent him to bed. William loves a checklist and excitedly crossed almost every item off (I may have some pie-in-the-sky hopes for what we can do in a day. That will get reevaluated this week as we see how our rhythms really flow best.) And Beatrice, of course. “I can’t believe this is really my first day of kindergarten!” Then last night, getting ready for bed: “I can’t believe tomorrow will be my second day of kindergarten!” I wonder how long she’ll be keeping track?

And, in true homeschooling fashion, the boys even spontaneously spent the afternoon helping my dad with a project. Rocking real life is the name of the game, joyfully looking ahead to each day with a willingness to bend and bow and weave learning into the fibers of real moments.

We got to the end of our day, and they all played basketball and frisbee with so much joy for a few minutes before bed, and I felt so soul-satisfied. It is good to work hard, with abandon, at the will of God. One can’t measure success by “soul satisfaction,” of course, but there is fruit. It is deep calling to deep, echoing, “This is right, and this is good.”

Sirens, a rare occurrence in my part of the world, woke me long ago, and so I am up meeting the day, admiring lingering stars, savoring quiet. Maybe some of you are up, too, maybe getting ready to begin school at your house. Send students off for the first time. Or maybe there are no little pupils in your life yet, or anymore. No matter the season, this day is written in His book for you: Seek His face, say yes to His will, and therein find delight and fountains of life.

August 16

“Children tie the mother’s feet.” — old Tamil proverb

I read that in Amy Carmichael’s biography — the story of a young single woman who, through no plan of her own but simply because she followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, became “mother” to hundreds of abandoned and abused Indian children. Elisabeth Elliot says, “It took rather a long time for the truth of this Tamil proverb to dawn on Amy… …that she must allow her feet to be tied for the sake of Him whose feet once were nailed.”

*****

There is a pervasive lie in the water that we all drink, and it is this: if you do everything right, you can have it all. It appealed to Eve, and it appeals to us. At least, it appeals to me. It entices me and draws me in, and subsequently wraps me in the chains of discouragement and discontent.

*****

I remember reading in “Loving the Little Years” that it’s okay to have a baby and consequently look like you had a baby. It’s okay to bear in your body the marks of sacrifice. In fact, it’s kind of weird to yield your body for the creative work of forming an entire other person (or two, or ten), and then wanting to erase all traces of that. Go back to your 20-year-old figure, as though that pre-baby body was your “true self.” Yes: steward your body, keep it in good health, realize it’s the only one you’ve got and it needs to now serve your adult children and their children, and maybe even their children — but for heaven’s sake, stop trying to erase all traces of childbearing from your tummy and thighs. Your body is a tool to use, not a museum piece to put on the shelf. You are a living sacrifice, and just may look a bit like one, too. You can’t have it all.

“One of the greatest testimonies Christian women can have in our world today is the testimony of giving your body to another.”

If you have a Mom-body, it may because you are a mom. That’s not just okay; it’s a gift from God that we don’t need to do penance for.

*****

Somehow I can feel like a truly successful mom is one who hits a home run every day in laundry, cooking, cleaning, and schooling and is involved with every other thing, too, in church and community. And beyond this unseen force that pressures me to stop being a loser and start doing something with my life, there’s of course the desire in me that every once in awhile makes me really really really want to do ALL THE THINGS. The fun things, the important things, the things that SOMEBODY has to do. There are so many things. Shouldn’t I be able to do them, too?

Because if you’re really good at being a mom, those kids will barely be a blip on the screen of your go-go-go and productivity. Right?

*****

We want to have the kids, be a good mom, and have none of that leave any impact on how we look or run our lives.

We want it all.

And yet, shouldn’t there be a mark? Shouldn’t there be an obvious impact? Shouldn’t our lives look like they are being sown into the field of our children’s lives?

It’s okay that your children “tie your feet.” It’s okay that their need for the gospel in word an deed requires every ounce of your energy and creativity. It’s okay that the fearful and wonderful design of them left your belly wrinkled and squishy — with no sign of ever returning. It’s what we were made for: to lay down our lives for these little ones.

If Jesus can stand in eternity, bearing the marks of sacrifice in His hands and feet, I think it’s probably okay to expect that our sacrifices may also leave their mark, on our bodies and time and energy.

We can’t have “it all”. But we can have ALL of the abundant life we so desire as we follow our Savior. And the best part? Chains fall, and we run freely into joy and peace — soft tummies and all.

August 15

That weekend sort of killed my daily writing thing.

But today is feeling all sorts of fresh week and new day-ish. Maybe because the first thing I saw was the chubby baby in bed next to me wide awake and beaming at me with so much love and joy — that’s a hard start to beat.

The weekend was:

— a few new bouquets from my (meager this year) August flowers — and such things used to be as “daily” as brushing my teeth, but this summer, remembering to cut flowers is suddenly an event to be celebrated!

— food, of course, including my new obsession: banana with salted cashews and unsweetened coconut. It’s almost as good as Kettle Cover salted caramel ice cream. (I’m such a liar, I know. But I’m pretending, okay?)

— an oldest son deciding to build the hand-me-down playmobil castle, which meant gluing pieces, finding directions online, and getting creative when pieces were missing. He literally spent all day working on it, and it was the best rainy summer day thing to do. It was all set up, at last, at nearly 10pm, and he was proud.

— being absolutely smitten by a delicious baby who is suddenly so old (for instance, sitting and playing in the family room all morning without any need for me!)

— being thrilled to see the rain clouds moving in, watering the thirsty earth. But catching some lovely sunshine here and there, too.

— deciding to just do it: empty the incredibly awful corner of chaos formerly known as the school cupboard, and start sorting. Three (3!!!!) huge trash bags later, we’re starting to make some progress toward an orderly beginning to a school year. (How do you just, you know, have three bags-worth of garbage just hanging out in your house??)

Okay. Photos are dumped; back to my regularly scheduled writing tomorrow.

an overview

The snow is long gone, though lingering days of cold have made the spring feel slow. No surprise, then, that I can’t quite wrap my mind around May. Well into the fifth month of this year that I thought just started.

Even more shocking is to look recently for a blog post I wrote a little while ago — only to realize it was 2.5 years ago already. And reading it over to realize, sure enough, there’s been a significant shift in this little [growing] family of ours: a shift from all littles to most definitely young men. Sleeves are still rolled, and I’m up to my elbows in the very real work of shaping young lives, but already there are glimpses of what will rise from these foundational years. I am, in very real and very practical ways, enjoying the fruit of days and days of digging in dirt. It’s happening: they’re growing up. Not just getting bigger — although oh my, the length of those legs and size of those feet! — but shoulders are broadening and starting to carry weight. Hearts are awakening and needing shepherding in deeper, slower, tender, firm ways. We have five children. Five! We are moving ahead. I think part of me always thinks life will settle back down and we’ll get back to “norma” — where my boys are forever little, stuffing pockets with who-knows-what and imagining themselves to be heroic explorers as they head off with a big stick and tri-corn hats. Where Beatrice never outgrows missing Rs and little girl cuddles.

We’re not going back to that. We’re not.

I could cry buckets about that. Knowing it goes fast, treasuring the moments, doesn’t slow life down. And it doesn’t mean you’re not sad to know those moments are gone.

But the path of the righteous shines brighter. We look ahead, not because it’s the only way to look, but because that’s where our hope lies. The morning sun dawns, and there is for that day an amazing promise of the presence of a faithful God. He leads us on paths of righteousness that are going somewhere. We live on this spinning planet, watching folly after folly unfold, knowing with King Solomon that there is nothing new under the sun — and yet, we are rescued from cynicism and fatalism by the Savior who has come to redeem. Now, tomorrow, and then. He is redeeming and making beautiful.

I see it in my growing sons. I see their minds growing and their words forming, their hearts widening and softening. I see it in my Beatrice who catches herself mid-sin and chooses to repent and turn — all on her own, because the Holy Spirit is her Shepherd, too. I see it in our marriage, blending us and tethering us and already forging something that could never be separated to the two parts we were ten years ago when we began. I see it in our lives, not because every day is easier (ha!), but because the light that leads us into the gathering dusk of this Age becomes more steady, more brilliant, more sure.

*****

It’s always easier for me to look out and see redemption than it is for me to look in. If I catch a glimpse of my soul, I am quick to say, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” And this will be a mountain I’m sure to circle again, a familiar foe. But becoming equally familiar are the truths the Holy Spirit equips me with to fight the good fight. Is it a coincidence that Philippians 1:6 was a favorite verse in my early childhood? No.

And He continues to pour truth into my soul.

*****

We are running outside, soaking in life-giving green and the vast blue above. We are squealing at daffodils, celebrating bleeding hearts, dancing through dandelions. We are wearing sundresses and wool sweaters.

School books are nearly done, to be gladly replaced by more trail-blazing and swamp-searching, Huck Finn-reading, and Four Square-playing. (All that diligence in February pays off in the spring!)

Family came, playgrounds were visited, bagels consumed.

Meals have expanded beyond the early postpartum options of Main Dish Salad, Spaghetti with Meatballs, Repeat. Bread is made! –even if it is just the quick cheat kind, more often than not.

Colds are nursed, fevers tended to. Laundry is continually washed and dried, although less often folded and put away (got to figure out a better system for that.) Books are read, perhaps not on the couch cuddled under an afghan (as my idealistic self requires), perhaps while little girls sit in the tub, or while pb&j is being consumed. Correction is given, obedience required, kindness cultivated, anger and malice put aside. (Mine and theirs.)

And all the while, wrinkles appear on my face. Is it possible I’m this old? I’ve been too busy to have time to get older, but I guess that’s one thing that happens with no effort or intent on our part. Suddenly noticing that my hands don’t look 18 anymore — a quick reminder that life is short. Carpe diem. Give it all. This is my only chance to live, and give, today.