building my house

It feels like yesterday that I wrote this post about laying foundations, the first step in a wise woman’s quest to build her house.

And, pinch me, but I’m already seeing strength rising up where there was a deep muddy chasm only a few years ago. It’s pretty amazing. Little things: I put dirty clothes through the cycles of washer and dryer, and then TA-DA!, it’s folded and on my dresser the next morning. I make dinner, serve it, and then sit on a couch to read a book with Fiona while the kitchen is put back together. I say, “Oh dear, Daddy is coming home right now!”, and the ten minute scurry that ensues actually results in a tidy home — usually while I just continue to cook the dinner or mind the baby.

Today, I noticed it after lunch. I picked up a book and the baby and said, “Finish lunch, clean up, get each other dressed, and go out to play. I’m going to go lay Cecily down for a nap.”

I sat in the armchair in my bedroom and snuggled the baby, while snippets of laughter and song and conversation — always so much conversation! — wafted through the closed door from kitchen. She fell asleep, I laid her down. Walking down the hallway, I paused. I heard William singing happily, “God’s not dead, No!,” while his sisters laughed and tried to sing along. Swish, swish, the sound of snow pants, and then quiet. A few minutes later, I saw the foursome parade through the snow, smiling and running.

(They are the most joyful children. I am struck by that almost daily, challenged by it.)

I finished showering and dressing, and came out to the kitchen. It’s not quite perfect — four pairs of shoes helter-skelter, wherever the wearer happened to kick them off, down the center of the kitchen. But it’s pretty close. Amazingly close.

Just a little moment, but fruit. They are growing in work and ability, in love and care for one another, and I sometimes get to just sit, watch, and marvel.

I matched those little shoes with a smile.

connecting our work to His

This afternoon, as the clear sun streamed in our windows, warming us despite cold outdoor temperatures, I looked up from my book to see little Cecily sitting, smiling at me.

My heart melted.

I had just been reading about work: about how God is the Master Craftsman, so to speak, and made in His image, we also are made to work. After looking for awhile at Genesis and the model set forth by God and then Adam, the author said, “So whether splicing a gene or doing brain surgery or collecting the rubbish or painting a picture, our work further develops, maintains, or repairs the fabric of the world. In this way, we connect our work to God’s work.”

That thought fresh in mind, I looked into sweet blue eyes. And I was struck again by what a rich calling motherhood is. For each time I do something as basic and “insignificant” as wiping this baby’s nose or changing this baby’s diaper, I am:

Investing in the development of this person. Her sense of value and worth is strengthened each time I cheerfully and gently attend to her needs.

Maintaining in a very real way this person. Sometimes it occurs to me, Where would these children be without someone to wipe noses and put on clean diapers? I am here, standing between them and disease and disorder.

This embracing of my calling is my part of redemption. In a world of brokenness where mothers sacrifice children for all sorts of things, even to the point of death, I am living out redemption — sin, repentance, grace, and all.

And that’s just changing diapers!

How much we are doing, dear mothers. We are an extension of the Kingdom of Heaven, touching lives. Don’t despise the mundane, the insignificant, the seed dead in the ground-ness of it all. See your work for what it is. And in this way, “connect [your] work to God’s work.”

january: convalescence

January was going to be a great return to scholastic endeavors and household industry. It was going to be fantastic! We would be hemmed in by snowstorms without, and gathered near around great books and warm fires within. Can you picture it? I could. I thought it was a grand idea.

And then one week in, and I was on the couch with strange aches. Nearly three weeks later, I have cared for all of the children and currently am still on that couch, holding a feverish, napping baby.

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination.” — C. S. Lewis

This little bit of a flu is hardly a trial worth even mentioning, but it is nevertheless just that: a trial. And the nature of trials is to tempt us into a poor response. We encounter the unpleasant or difficult thing, and are faced with the decision: how will we respond? Will we take the bait and fall into temptation, doubting and fearing (or just petulant and whining)? Or will we recognize the opportunity to grow in obedience and faith as we walk through the less than ideal?

*****

Weeks ago, maybe even months ago, I read a paragraph in “The Lifegiving Home” that struck me as an area I needed to grow in. I mulled over it and prayed about it quite a bit at the time, I recall. A few days ago, after many hours of snuggling children and planning ways to bless them in their sickness, I remembered reading this and was again refreshed in my care for these babies of mine:

In our hurried age, we have little time for frailty of body or soul. Sickness is an inconvenience we resist with the popping of pills and the forcing of will. . . What we rarely consider is the value of convalescence, the gentleness we sometimes need to offer ourselves and those who are weary and worn around us. Sickness is a space in which the uneasiness (dis-ease) of the body alerts us to the need for margin, rest, and special quiet.

*****

I’m reminded, too, as these fevers and runny noses have hemmed me in and curtailed almost all outside activity, that my YES to being a mother has a cost. It requires me to reaffirm that yes regularly, and to say no to much as a result. But I’m never so glad for those boundaries and focus as when my children suddenly need so much from me. It is so important to keep the commitments of life as simple as possible, able to quickly adapt to the constant and changing flow of needs. That’s not just for me as a mother, but I think in general. Certainly, whatever one’s calling or season in life, when Christ says, “Come,” we don’t want to be bogged down with unnecessary commitments and entanglements.

*****

Most of all, I marvel at the way learning to not fret about days gone awry, but instead pressing harder and harder into trust and obedience, has yielded peace and productivity. Oh, we may not have done all I’d envisioned us to do this month, but you know? Pretty close. And with more smiles and fond memories than if I’d pushed us through the rigors of my plans.

Yes, this month, with its fevers and tears and long nights, has also given me movies with my boys, books with my girls, hours of cuddling with my usually-on-the-go baby, easy mornings that gently unfolded, afternoons of quiet table work, and three proud school kids who are turning out reports and drawings and projects for their history deadline (while I hold that baby and read to my toddler.)

*****


Fiona’s newly discovered talent: drawing people!

*****

But just before it gets too grass-is-greener over here, I am exhausted. Ha!

birthday reminiscing

Today we celebrate a whole year of Cecily Anne’s life.

Our celebration may look small — in fact, the small celebration we will have has been scheduled for Thursday, because birthdays are flexible, right? But this morning, sitting quietly watching the morning dawn, this mama’s heart is flooded with waves of memory, melancholy and joyous mingled together. How can it have been a whole year? And can I go back for just a moment to that newborn babe? And how thankful I am for this year, for the chubby, happy girl who has grown right before our eyes. Marveling that the little bundle of pink skin and soft fuzz has become a laughing, singing, peek-a-booing person, an irreplaceable member of our little clan.

Her siblings are ecstatic about her birthday. They love her so, you know. The boys keep saying, A whole year? How can that be? They are already learning how swiftly time flows, how quickly people grow, and how precious life is.

I’m remembering this morning the exhilarating feeling of those newborn moments (the ones after I collapse onto the bed in exhaustion!) Who can describe the joy that floods the room, shared by every person? The tears, the laughter, the cradling, the sense of communion as we share all of those feelings?

And I’m remembering that before that celebration begins, there is this:

Hours and hours. Counted in minutes. Sometimes seconds. Sometimes you can only manage one second at a time.

But you handle the seconds because you’re looking ahead to the end. You stay in that painful moment, doing your job the best you can, because there is a promise to be fulfilled, and your heart is set on it. You are given to bringing it to pass by playing your part.

Today I remember this beautiful moment God gave to me, this birth of Cecily Anne and the part I was chosen to play. And I also remember the call He’s continuing to put on me in the lives of my children. There is a promise to see fulfilled, and there are hours, moments, and sometimes painful seconds to be faithfully endured. Lord grant me grace to stay the course, to play my part, to labor in the painful moments, because there is a promise and an end:

“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…”

serving in strength

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

That verse has been on my counter for the last couple of weeks, catching my eye, realigning my heart.

Some days I may wonder what “special gift” I have received, but other times it’s quite clear: these are days of service. Laying my life down and spending my moments and days in cleaning clothes, preparing meals, organizing home, giving instruction.

There is always more to do than I’m up for. I get tired sooner than the mountain is moved. I lose heart before the task is accomplished. Many, many times, I simply forget that I’m serving, and elevate my feelings of “I just don’t want to” to a place of consideration. Selfishness is incredibly strength-sapping.

But when my eye catches this line, the one that goes, “serve by the strength which God supplies,” my heart is renewed. There is a source of strength that is endless! Endless.

That doesn’t mean I don’t head to bed early these days — I do! — or pause long to sit with the nursing baby — I do! But it does mean my attitude doesn’t cut off the flow of strength that comes from the Holy Spirit in me. I can smile. And when I don’t, and the excuses start to flood my complaining heart, I can know that my feelings are out of line and there is a better, abundant, strength-giving truth available to me. Repent and get back into the flow of strength.

And when all else fails, I can at least be thankful that my serving is generally done with two feet firmly on the ground. This guy handles the roof problems.

october 19: say yes

“YES!”

Every morning, I wake up to the chance to say Yes.

Yes to putting Jesus first. Yes to receiving fresh mercy for this unknown day. Yes to valuing my children as God’s treasures. Yes to stewarding them according to His will. Yes to honoring my husband. Yes to love, hope, joy.

That is a LOT of Yes! My cup overflows.

But there is the underside of Yes, an underside that others see, looking in from the outside. An underside the enemy loves to trip me up with, drawing my focus away from the abundance of my life.

The fact is that every Yes, every single one, is also a No.

You know those diverging paths in the wood? You can’t take both. Whichever one you decide to say Yes to, you’ve said No to the other.

That’s an awfully simple concept, but it can haunt me at times.

You’re stuck at home. You’re not doing anything fun with your life. Ha! You can barely play through a Chopin waltz! You’re always saying No to people — don’t you think they have a low opinion of you?…

And so on and so on.

But I am learning, and it is this: Every time I am haunted or taunted by all of the “NOs” in my life, I remember — those are simply the result of a huge, resounding Yes!

Stuck at home? I take that upside-down view and flip it back into focus: I am saying Yes to an amazing opportunity — a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — to mother these children.

Saying no to outside opportunities? I am saying Yes to fully investing my talents and energies in educating five people. I’m sorry. Can we just read that again and let it sink in? I am shaping five people who will be men and women. That is a HUGE yes!

And true, giving myself to those things means saying NO to other things. That’s the way Yes works, after all. I say, “I do” at an altar to Ryan Dunphey, and I am also saying, “I do not” to every other man on the planet. I say Yes to Jesus, and I am also saying NO to living for myself.

And I guess the point of all this, fellow mamas, is that we have the opportunity every day to reaffirm, joyously, our Yes to the Lord in this season of investing. Don’t let the haunting “NOs” steal your joy. Don’t let the temptation to say Yes to the wrong things at the wrong time infringe on your first and foremost callings. (Because remember: every Yes is also a No!) Protect. Cultivate. Give yourself completely. This opportunity won’t be here forever. These children will grow and be gone. Today is the day to give yourself fully to this amazing Yes.