memories

Mid August.

The sun changes, the air cools each night. And the scent. I love the subtle changes of scent as summer blossoms, then matures into autumn.

Nostalgia.

As this 30-foot long row of hydrangea bursts into bloom, its powdery scent filling the yard and wafting through open windows into the kitchen, I’m taken back to my Augusts of expectation, nine months pregnant with Beatrice, and then Fiona. I hear the bees buzzing, morning till night, in these sun-drenched blooms and am transported to those days of waiting, anticipating, and finally of bringing a swaddled newborn outside to see the hydrangeas for themselves.

On this day six years ago, I awoke still pregnant, overdue for the first time in my life, and I started to know what hope deferred felt like in a physical manifestation.

I listened to bees buzz and smelled the hayed fields and Queen Ann’s lace and brought in new bouquets of hydrangea, and waited.

This morning it all comes back to me. And I know the best is yet to come, but these memories — they are my most precious treasures.

July memories and musings.

My mother wrote about the nature of July, and I certainly couldn’t say it any better. It starts out with flag-waving, kickball-playing, pie-in-the-sky hopes.

But those last two weeks sort of fizzled out, with me trying to figure out a plan each day, but mostly just pushing through till bedtime while fielding emergencies and everyday humdrum in the meantime. This summertime thing can really be my nemesis — me, of innate idealism and high expectations, who can’t help but try to measure productivity and purpose, floundering through days of loosey-goosey summer. I start to chafe for September, when I know what the goal is and what’s expected of me.


I had to laugh at this one. Someone snapped a picture of me at my best. Desperate moments call for desperate measures.

But Jesus doesn’t need September. His constant work in us doesn’t depend on chore charts. Isn’t that great?? And He doesn’t need magical summer afternoons to work His magic. In fact, it could (hypothetically) rain almost every day (just imagine with me), and He can still count the day a win!

I love that. It isn’t always magical. Sometimes it’s just putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes it’s doing what you ought to do because you ought to. It can look a lot like breath prayers and confessing dependance on a strength greater than your own. But you know what is magical? The way He appears, with gentle peace, with fresh joy, with quiet conviction, with water for a parched soul.

“Let us press on to know the Lord.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.”

*****


So much baseball.


Lymes and antibiotics. Thankful for catching it quickly.


Ballerina buns, every Wednesday.


An evening walk, a summertime gift.


Bookends who adore each other.


Amazon boxes are awesome.


A morning walk that was less exercise and more flower picking.


This baby doll.


Dinners that conclude with “run around the yard”.


Three Sunday morning princesses, one of whom will not stop reading. Ever.


Because sleeping with Mama chases all the bad dreams away.


Dinner for two.

null
Bedhead.


“Mom, can you take a picture of us in age order?” (Someone didn’t cooperate.)


The late summer flowers beginning to take over.


A special wedding weekend.


Last July hurrah: a picnic lunch with plenty of cherries.

do less, be more.

Do less.

We have the amazing blessing of living in a land of opportunity. We really do! It’s amazing. And in this great land of opportunity, the little corner in which I live boasts a multitude of fabulous people to share fellowship with, streams and trails and woods to discover, church activities to assist with and participate in — and the usual library events and music lessons and clubs and museums and nature centers and… Whew.

It’s a lot.

The privilege of opportunity brings with it the responsibility to guard and protect priorities. To keep margin and space as a valuable part of our lives. I was reminded of two big reasons for this recently: First, I find that if I am wound too tightly and have too many things crammed into my agenda, I have no time or grace for a child who falls ill. I don’t want to be so committed to the outside world that when my children need a bit more of my slow attention than usual, I’m not free to give it (because it’s already been committed elsewhere.) Second, especially in the summer months, space in our days (day after day) is what finally, at long last, will inspire new explorations and discoveries. If I let us unwind from the school year for a good solid month, the children tire of bikes and basketball and eventually begin to remember the many other things there are to do.

Lately, there hasn’t been so much of this space in my life. Well, there is — and that space has been taken by house projects and sick children and new shops and the things that are precisely why I need margin built into my life! But there was a Saturday a few weeks ago that was a gift, the exact sort of day I look forward to all year. Unplanned berry picking, kids spending long amounts of time making up electric guitar solos and playing piano together, jam and pesto making, cake-just-because, Daddy home for dinner and playing. Happy, tired, sticky kids on a summer evening and parents who are exhausted and full of blessing.

I savor these moments and let them refuel my soul for the work that comes with next morning’s sunrise. And I let them remind me: saying no to busy for busy’s sake is worth it. Say YES to what truly matters.

(And most years, by the way, scheduling in berry picking is exactly the kind of “busyness” I just don’t do. …in case anyone sees strawberries and feels that awful uptick in your blood pressure as you think, “Oh no, I didn’t fit in berry picking!”)

*****

finding peace at home

It’s an interesting thing, to have the kingdom of heaven in your heart while you walk around on planet earth.

All day long, we are cultivating an inner awareness of who God is and learning to value what He values. We are listening, more and more closely, to His voice and growing more and more enamored with eternal things.

And all day long, we are walking on earth, relating to people, cleaning up the messes of entropy and pushing back the decay and dust of this mortal life.

We do both, and it’s not by accident. It’s on purpose, because His plan is to bring glimpses of eternity to this realm through us. We represent Him and His original, beautiful plan for humanity. We declare Him and His redemptive, glorious promise of a New Day.

And so the spiritual gets “skin” on it as we express it in our daily lives.

But sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in that “skin” and forget it’s supposed to be merely an expression that is anchored to a powerful inner transformation. Somehow this very simple thing, that I certainly knew, hit me over the head in a deep, liberating way last December. I remember sitting in my chair by the fire early on a Sunday morning, feeling the havoc in my soul of having tried to cram too much, push too hard, and now feeling a failure. I’m not sure it was audible, but clear as a bell spoke the Holy Spirit, challenging and correcting.

I wrote, “I am always working so hard to “make home” and this week feeling the crushing weight of failing (in my eyes.) Suddenly saw how I can fill my home with warmth and order and beauty by being those things. And that is possible always. Even on days when the house seems to be falling apart, there can be order and beauty, warmth and life. Jesus, make Your home in me.

It’s not that the temporal, earthly doesn’t matter. I don’t get to watch my world fall to chaos and just shrug and walk away. But all of those things I so desire to impart to “my” world, God wants to first impart to me.

And I’m not perfect at this, but I’m slowly learning to remember: when there’s a big chore list, or Monday calls for a radical return to routine, I can get a jump start by tuning my heart. Long before the afghans are draped just so and bathrooms smell fresh, my spirit can be welcoming and clean towards my children. They can catch a glimpse of what “home” looks like as the kingdom of heaven gets worked into me.

This is challenging news: it means that there is no excuse for a lack of warmth and peace in my home at a heart level. Sin and selfishness on my part is the only hindrance. But it is good news: it means neither my family or me has to wait for everything to be in smooth working order for us to experience the beauty and warmth our souls were made to crave.

We are workers at home, so let us work well: but let’s never forget, this is meant to be an expression of the living Word of God at work in our own hearts.

Jesus, make Your home in me.

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.”