life in June.

Oh, June. How we love you.

Even this year’s variety of June, with cold rain that drives us to turn on the furnace just to rid the air of freezing damp — still somehow wonderful.

We closed out our school year on June 2 (well, 3rd; I woke Saturday morning at 6am to find Jameson already at the table, finishing up his last two lessons of math. June is motivating!) I have to say, we all seem to truly love our school days and routines, and my children are, generally, a joy to teach, but by the end we are itching and squirming and ready to just wake up and go. Go play, go read, go sit by the window and stare. Anything.

And so here we are, ending our second real week of summer vacation, and well on our way to a fun, eventful summer. Eventful in the sense of you never know what may happen; one day you’re happily living life, and the next, your backyard is torn up because there’s a septic issue. Time to stock up on paper plates and quarters for the laundromat.

*****

One thing I am finding about mothering many children, more and more of whom are of the school age variety, is there is a shortage of time. (You can laugh, I realize that’s the most obvious realization a girl ever made.) Consequently, during the course of a school year my linen closets and medicine cabinets and kitchen drawers and freezers deteriorate into some chaotic semblance of their formerly organized selves. For the last few months I have just gritted my teeth, put the band aids away, and closed the door on the rest of the mess, saying to myself, “Someday.” But when? When is the “someday” that no one needs me and I tear the house apart and do some good old fashioned spring cleaning?

I’m not sure. It eludes me.

And so I did a brain dump. That always, always helps me: get it all down on paper. I have a list in the back of my “planner” (a Mead college-ruled notebook, because I am that organized) of all house projects, and another of outdoor/garden projects. This means that on any given day, when a snippet of time presents itself, I don’t have to wonder where to start (which ends up in me doing nothing); I can flip to the back of my notebook and select a project that fits the moment. AND THEN CROSS IT OFF. Is that not the best feeling in the world?

*****

There are aspects of summer that have always been challenging for me. Namely, the lack of routine and quick spiral into disorder of our hearts and environment. I am slowly learning our family and our particular brand of needs, and maybe, just maybe, getting better at this summertime thing.

June 6th, we began our summer days with this pinned to the wall:

We have a couple of chunks of scripture we’ll memorize and discuss this summer, beginning with Proverbs 3. Taking our time with one passage means great discussion, with time to ponder layers of meaning and application. It also means I’m not in a hurry to cram them full of all my thoughts at once — we can just take it line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.

I’ve selected two books to read aloud (maybe three; we’ll see how far we get), and began with Winnie the Pooh. Because no, we have never read it in its entirety, but this year it is perfect. My boys just love dry, British humor, and we find ourselves laughing all the way through each chapter. And the girls love the stories. Throw in an inordinate amount of rainy indoor days, and there you have it, the perfect start to our morning routine.

*****

Summer mornings means I feel less hurry in my own morning ritual of coffee, Bible time, and a walk. I’ve been slowly going through Nancy Campbell’s “The Power of Motherhood” in the mornings, and finding it amazingly rich. So, so much to think about. Very highly recommended.

*****

And pictures. I love summertime pictures.


Playing with cousins;


Beatrice’s graduation from kindergarten, and the aftermath of her little party;


waking up early to play with Beattie’s new toys;


breakfast at the picnic table turned into a morning playtime — my favorite kinds of breakfast!;


out with the old and in with the new;


gardening with Beatrice;


beautiful evenings spent as a family;


and our most current event: learning about how septic systems work. Or don’t work.

*****

Lastly, listening this week to a series my father preached. It is really, really good. He is easy to listen to, keeps things very simple, and yet communicates principles that are truly life changing. If you’re on your way to work, or getting laundry going, or slipping out for some exercise, give it a listen.

Happy Friday!

Sullivan, on motherhood.

Excerpts from a sermon by Rev Edward Taylor Sullivan, on the generational and future impact of mothering:

“I am taking a text this morning from President Coolidge . . . ‘The destiny of America lies around the hearthstone.’ . . . ‘If thrift and industry are taught there,’ he said; ‘if the example of self-sacrifice oft appears; if honor abide there, and high ideals; if there the building of fortune be subordinate to the building of character—America will live in security, rejoicing in an abundant prosperity and good government at home, and peace, respect and confidence abroad . . . Look well, then, to the hearthstone; herein all hope for America lies.’

“But the hearthstone is an emblem. Beside it is enthroned the mother. The Creator lays the next generation in the lap of the mother; and we have high warrant for the belief that ‘the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.’

“When God wants an important thing done in this world, or a wrong righted, He goes about it in a very singular way. He does not release His thunderbolts nor stir up His earthquakes. He simply has a tiny, helpless baby born, perhaps in a very obscure home, perhaps of a very humble mother. And He puts the idea or purpose into a mother’s heart. And she puts it in the baby’s mind, and then—God waits!

“‘The great events of this world,’ says someone, ‘are not battles and earthquakes and hurricanes. The great events of this world are babies. They are earthquakes and hurricanes.’ Oh, the secrets that lie all about us, hidden from our eyes! We glance at a tiny child, and we do not see, we do not know, what a thunderbolt of the Almighty is wrapped up in that little child.

“‘I walked down the furrow in the field,’ said a humble mother who lived on a New Hampshire farm; ‘I walked down the furrow with the Governor of New Hampshire in my arms, and the Governor of Massachusetts clinging to my skirts.’ She said that afterwards, long afterwards, in her old age. For she knew not then, and no one knew, that her two baby boys would be governors of two New England states.”

*****

I love that picture of a farm wife. If she had known, would she have done anything differently? If I had a glimpse of the future, would I do anything differently?

Truth is, I do have a glimpse of the future. I see what God is doing and that He is returning, and today, I can sow into my children knowing they are men and women of destiny, whose lives (whether they be “earthquakes” or the quieter deep bedrock faith) are meant for impact. I can lay aside every selfish motive and short-sighted distraction, and invest into them for the long-term.

“I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.”

home inspiration


Beatrice’s latest cutting, so simple and pretty.

Where do you get your homemaking inspiration from? And by homemaking, I do not mean home renovating or home perfecting. If ever a generation of women has been inundated with perfect images of what a home should be, it is surely ours. It can be overwhelming.

While I certainly have my hopes and plans for improvements here, and keep a list and a few pinterest boards of ideas, those things are sometimes a bit far off. Meanwhile, we’re living here today, and this is my opportunity to make home.

I don’t always feel it, though. Sometimes I just get tired out and it’s so easy to just settle into a rut. And that “sometimes” gets more and more frequent, as I find I must actually make time for cultivating a home environment that comforts and nurtures and functions and inspires.

So I look for regular boosts of inspiration — and I often find it on the pages of children’s books! We gave Fiona a couple of Angelina Ballerina books for Easter, and I am in love with her home. Warm, inviting, pretty, full of the things they actually use, and even — quelle horreur! — signs of being lived in. I also have foxglove envy, if I’m honest. Ha!

What inspires you? Don’t get weighed down by unrealistic expectations or images that don’t really suit you and your family culture. Ask who God made you to be, and what qualities you can cultivate simply through creative care of your home. If you’d love to read and learn more about the subject, I highly recommend Edith Schaeffer’s The Hidden Art of Homemaking.

I need Thee every hour

This picture makes me laugh. So much personality in this split second, which, now that I think about it, is consistent with every other split second of my life: SO MUCH personality.

My house is full of people, not just kids. People. And some of them are 18 month old babies determined to make a statement and show me who’s boss, while others are nearly my height and beginning to straddle childhood and mature responsibility.

My head spins. It really does.

And there are moments of calm, but here’s the thing: I can’t just go into survival mode between those moments, because my real, actual life and their real, actual lives are being lived all the time. I love sitting at my picnic table for a few minutes, just listening to the birds, but God hasn’t really called me to be a bird-listener. He’s called me to mother these children. The often loud, sometimes chaotic, always active, full to overflowing life is where I’m to pour myself out.

And I am a leaky bucket.

I try to create systems and patterns and habits that keep us all moving together in harmony, but it’s easy for me to go into autopilot, never stopping to notice how I’m not really heeding the admonition to be filled with the Holy Spirit — or be being filled, which I learned is a more accurate translation. Constant, never stopping. Because our hearts are leaky vessels and we always need more of Him. He gives me wisdom and strategy, but He wants to be with me in each moment as we flesh it all out. I need Him. So much and so much more.

These are my thoughts tonight.

chats with Beattie

I’ve been stitching the last bits of decoration onto costumes for the upcoming musical, and yesterday as Beatrice and I sat, her working on an embroidery project, me sewing another band of gold ribbon, she said,

“You don’t sew very much anymore, do you, Mama? That’s kind of true, isn’t it?”

I smiled. “Yes, that’s true. Not very much. I have five children, you know!”

“Yes, Cecily is number five and she keeps you very busy.”

Thoughtful pause.

“But that’s good that you’re very busy, Mama, because that means you are always taking care of your children.”

Heart melt and attitude check all in one instant. Out of the mouth of this babe comes the sweetest encouragement, and the startling reminder of how I am shaping her value system and ideology by my example.

She sees that I’m busier than ever with the care of these beautiful children. Does she see that it brings me joy, and that my service is prompted by sacrificial love? I pray so.

life and peace.

I think so often about being the one in my home responsible for setting tone, atmosphere, soul-aroma. Like it or not, that’s who I am as the wife and Mama. (And if I go on strike, that action has its own aroma. Or stench.) This home culture — it’s my domain.

I’m painfully aware of how often my heart is churning out fumes of annoyance, frustration, worry, anger, envy, discontent, judgment… Need I go on? Ugly. Poisonous. If our eyes could see the thick black smog those things produced, wouldn’t we just be horrified?

So I am continually crying out to the Lord to continue to do in me a deep heart-change, not just for my own sake, but for the sake of those breathing in my soul-fumes!

And oh my, is He ever. Such a deep down, turning things upside down, helping me to get it kind of work.

Rest. Peace. Work. Grace. It is finished. These are the themes that suddenly are everywhere, grabbing my attention, showing me clearly my brokenness, illuminating a path of freedom. Old patterns, dyed-in-the-wool weaknesses, things I’ve limped along with and thought maybe I’d just get better at limping — He’s able to address it all and make me brand new. That in and of itself is life giving. Wow.

This week’s verse for meditation is Romans 8:6, and oh, how it has struck me in a whole new way.

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”

What does that mean?

It means that when our mindset is one of “do good, earn favor; do wrong, you’re a failure,” we are living under a construct that can only mean death. We can never do enough good. I will live my whole life under pressure that will never let up; I can never satisfy the gaping void between my best (and I’m rarely at my best!) and the holy God whose approval my soul craves! And that pressure breeds anxiety, stress, anger, resentment, envy, jealousy, pride, insecurity, hatred, selfishness… Death.

When my mind is set on the flesh, and we don’t have a “good” school day, the poisonous fumes of failure are the result.

BUT.

But.

In Christ, there is the most beautiful but.

When my mind is set on the Spirit, I realize that my worth is found in Christ. The deepest things my soul craves and is tempted to prove through my best efforts — value, meaning, goodness — are fully satisfied in the Cross. That to-do list is completely crossed off.

Done.

And now, I wake up and work and do my best each day as wife and mother because it’s the work my Loving Father has given me — not with an underlying drive of needing to finish, complete, perfect, produce.

The fragrance of that is life and peace.

I love the smell of a good scented candle, of freshly baked bread, and just-shampooed babies wrapped in clean towels — but the homiest fragrance I can bring to my family is the one that comes when my mind is set on the Spirit, and I am working to bless, not to prove.

For more great insight into Romans, the law, and the Spirit, listen here.