at the seaside

Growing up, the ocean was always a part of summer for my family. We buried uncles in the sand, strolled the boardwalk of Jones Beach at dusk, learned to ride waves with my dad, and collected too many shells that never made it home. My kids have grown up much the same way, visiting their Papa every summer, walking through his lawn to the rocky coast of Maine, smelling the roses and the salt, occasionally driving to a calm harbor to swim and find hermit crabs.

But it’s been a few summers now, thanks to the shifting sands of life. I was ever so thankful when we rather spontaneously decided to make the trek to the shore to spend time with family. The weather was perfect, the family time ever so wonderful, and the beaches were perfect. Thank you, God, for the roaring waves and the steady tide and the colors of sun setting over an endless horizon.

And yes, the ocean is not nearby. We all pile into the van and drive for many hours, and traveling with this crew of kids is one of the easiest things I do. Our drive home was eleven solid hours in the van, and guess who was the only antsy one, as far as I could tell? Me. Yup, my four year old’s contentment challenged me to take a deep breath and just settle in for the long haul. And we made it. And it was so good.

His faithfulness and ours.

Great is Thy faithfulness, and oh, is that ever true! A rock, a narrow path, a guiding light appearing in my soul’s night, a vine full of life-flow, a consuming fire. Captain of the hosts, Intercessor, Shepherd, Father, Word alive forever, Peace, Truth. Defender, Deliverer, Lamb silent before the slaughter. Righteousness like mighty mountain, Love like depth of ocean. My rest, my hope, my salvation.

He makes me stand firm. Makes my arm strong so that I can bend a bow of bronze. Makes my heart soft and my tongue lie still.

His love becomes truer. Is this the reward of the man who perseveres under trial? Truth becomes knowing.

This is how my life goes right now: soul deep in meditation, hands and feet and lips busily serving the precious people God has given to me to steward.

Great is Thy faithfulness — change the sheets from last night’s accident. Oh God my Father — scramble to find red ribbons for 4th of July hair. Search me, oh God, and know my heart — dive into sewing lessons for four eager daughters. Purify in Your refiner’s fire — grab chubby hand for an impromptu adventure in the woods.

Yesterday for a brief moment, I had only two little girls. They were dressed in flowy summer dresses from our outing earlier, and we prepared lemonade with mint and big red strawberries and a vase of flowers, and we sat out under the umbrella and chatted while waiting for our guest. It was special. And they tumbled about a bit while Guest and I talked of things that are heavy in adult hearts but are lost to little girl minds.

God is able to stretch us, to give us hearts to serve by trimming little toe nails and watching “cool tricks” while also entering into the labor of hard spiritual warfare. Faithfulness is a great weapon of ours, and the action of one foot in front of the other is an offensive attack on an enemy whose great aim is to sideline and isolate us. Great is Thy faithfulness — and because He is faithful, I, too, can be faithful. It is my act of worship, warfare, and a declaration of trust.

my seven wonders.

There’s this idea in my head that I need to write more, as writing is such a large part of my life processing. But something about my current reality — the one where the limited time I have to my own musings is mostly consumed with Bible reading and prayer, and tackling actual life management strategies — comes crashing in to burst such bubbles.

Still. I wish I was keeping a better record here of words and pictures. There’s so much to make me smile and sigh and be thankful.

Today, as the cold nips my nose with the furnace cranked and fire blazing, a quick oldest-to-youngest sort of glance at the month so far. Perhaps when I’m finished, I will have mustered the courage to greet the sub-zero air head on for a brisk walk.

The boys and Ryan skied a new mountain this week, and I got this amazing photo from them. Ryan kept exclaiming to me that it was too amazing to even seem real, the stunning beauty all around them. Last night they arrived home late after four solid days of exertion, and they were a laughing, talking, inside-joking trio off MAN that made me smile. Life at home with the five younger ones had been simple and special, quiet and full of conversation relevant to my girls, but we missed these tall, loud, leave a wake wherever they go boys of ours.

Of course, they left the week we finally got real snow, and so I spent quite a few hours shoveling. Beatrice poked her head out the door: “Can I help you, Mom?” And so we shoveled together in the gathering dusk, watching the white snow turn to blue, pausing for conversation now and then, suddenly not minding how long the task was at all. I love her so.

And having left them home one evening, I returned to find this vignette: a girl and her baby. He’d been hysterical and she patiently held him minute after long minute until at last, he surrendered and slept. What a capacity this girl has for leading and caring with understanding. And so tender — ready to burst into tears when I got home because his sadness had broken her heart.

Cecily is growing before my eyes. Helpful, aware, conscientious, and the biggest eyes and ears as she takes in the world. She loves to get a laugh out of us and is generally successful in her humor. And oh my, she loves babies at a whole new level. Everywhere we go, she finds a baby to hold and love.

And this one? There are no words. She is non-stop, independent, always thinking hard and would prefer you to NOT get in her way. She sleds and plays as hard as any of them, tumbles and spills her way through life without skipping a beat. She’s sweet and sincere and so thoughtful, despite how impetuous she seems.

My baby and me. I don’t know who took this picture, or when, but I love seeing us together from someone else’s perspective. He runs now, and his top speed makes us just laugh and laugh. He loves his siblings and is another happy, loves-to-laugh kid in a long line of them. He’s losing his crazy chub but still is so fun to hold, when he allows that. Fortunately, although he’ll eat bowls and bowls of curry and rice, he mostly just loves to nurse, so for now… he’s my baby. We adore him.

summer’s end

Before I could properly get my hands around it, summer was gone. Right from the start, it was flying away faster than ever, wildly dashing in a hundred directions, every day leaping from my grasp. And so I settled for making sure there was food and sunscreen and a smiling mama, and did my best to keep up.

And in the busyness, I realize how much life we lived. No, it wasn’t the life of other years, when days stretched long and kiddie pools kept everyone hemmed in and entertained, when young skinny boys didn’t notice mosquitos and forged their way into the woods for hours, when the house paused with the heat of every afternoon for a book and a nap. I had to look that twinge of sadness directly in the face and say Good bye, time for you to head up into the attic of my heart with so many other precious memories.

This summer, with the plates spinning, was the one God was serving up this year, and like my kids faced with the dinner I put on the table (which, generally, is perfectly good eating), I have to decide that I may as well learn to enjoy the flavor of the season because it’s “what’s for dinner,” so to speak. And turns out, the flavor of this new season is wonderful in its own way. It truly is.

Before hurdling along to a full school year, a quick recap:

Flowers at church and flowers at home.


Strawberries with my two big girls.

Visiting Richville many Sundays and getting to lead worship with my two boys on the team.

The first of two visits from my grandparents.

An anniversary get-away to Saratoga Springs.

Summer nights spent playing frisbee (the boys) and playing in the park (the girls and me.)

A wonderful 4th of July with friends.

Ice cream outings.

A trip to Watertown together.

Ten days at Higley Flow, full of swimming and boating and jet skiing and tubing.

Garden gift for a garden party.

A second lovely visit from my grandparents.

A couple of busy weeks culminating in a show and Jameson’s percussion debut.’

A Saturday overflowing with extended family visits.

Beatrice’s tenth birthday party — a wonderfully special evening with friends.

Fiona’s “friend party” and her long-desired Victoria Sandwich.

Two weeks in one of our favorite spots, Trout Lake — where we relaxed, swam every single day no matter the temp, read tons of books, kayaked, paddle boarded, s’mored, fished, celebrated Fiona’s real birthday, and enjoyed an almost non-stop flow of friends and family.

And suddenly, we were home and the page needed to be turned to September. Candles needed to join the morning ritual, books needed to be sorted and pencils sharpened, and we found ourselves diving into a brand new year of school. But that’s a post for another time.

Today’s is simply to look back on three months bursting with beauty, prayer, walking through highs and lows with friends, big events and thousands of moments — rich and wonderful and threaded through with flowers. Because aren’t flowers the best part of summer?

joy in repenting

Following Jesus is choosing a life of repentance. Truly, it is one and the same.

But what does that look like? Maybe you immediately assume that is an ongoing sense of pietistic self-abhorrence. Or, in plain language, walking through life feeling bad about yourself and mumbling, “I’m sorry; forgive me,” under your breath at every turn.

Oh, it’s so much deeper than that. And so much better.

It looks much more like this:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding.;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,

and He shall direct your paths.”

The way our hearts are wired, and the way His Spirit leads — well, those are in direct opposition. And as we simply trust in Him, and acknowledge Him with each step, we are in so doing “repenting” and following. Repent, really, means to turn and walk the other way. The impulses of anxiety, pride, envy, selfishness, anger, jealousy, hatred, malice — those things are repented of, moment by moment, when we continually choose to acknowledge Him instead. A continual turning of our hearts toward Jesus means, of course, turning away from the impulses that seek to rule us.

“What is Your thought on this, Lord?”
“How does Your truth change the way my soul responds right now, Lord?”
“What are the words You are speaking that I can echo?”
“What is important to You in this moment of overwhelm?”

“…because I trust You, Lord.”

Suddenly a life of repentance sounds much less like self-flagellation and much more like turning your face toward the sun on a perfect summer day. It sounds like joy.

June, and making it count.

June is over. This one, anyway — the one where Jameson was 14, Percival a baby, and the others fell somewhere in between. We’ll never get to do that one again, and oh my, isn’t that sobering. You only get to live this day once, and what comes to your mind as you think that? Perhaps, like me, the first mantra is, “…so make it count.” But that can be so ambiguous and so misleading. Make it count for what? You? Me? Them? Warm fuzzies, checklists, Instagram? Run yourself ragged fitting in all the things?

Yesterday morning my wonderful mother, never flagging in her focus on the Kingdom of God, was commenting on just this thing — June being over — and her instant response was to the idea of only getting to live this day once was, “So let’s do it for Jesus!”

Y E S

Yes.

That is clarity, simplicity, and truth. That is a burden I can bear, a yoke I can in.

How can I honor Jesus today?

I read Galatians this morning: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” If you were brought to life by redemption through the blood of Jesus, and His Spirit breathed into you, then walk every day by that Spirit, following hard after His leading. Don’t go back to futility! It’s His life we are called to, in every moment.

What an amazing invitation. Today. Let’s do it for Jesus.

*****