Red flowers, rain-misted; I have always loved the brilliant colors and starkness of branches against grey days, against twilight- falling, shining in the rain, flaming in the almost darkness
Hot “trimmy” tea; Pu-erh or Oolong with a bit of Great Lakes gelatin
My hand in his
Sunlight after So much Rain
How she spontaneously thanks me in her little voice… and kisses my cheek
Gathering round the table, everyone sharing, and how I suddenly realize how full and rich my days have been… so many good things. So hard to pick just one. (So I don’t!) Building richness each relationship at a time.
Their eager workbook requests and diligence
Stories, with her, tucked in my lap, under my chin… and O! how I need it, how much I miss full arms. So, I pull them to me. Working toward rhythms that will enable me to tuck that sweet head more often. My sweet Melodee.
Just rocking, my little blondie girl. The day after a day when she just… really struggled. And when her tears began… again. I just scooped her up. Scooped her into my arms and we rocked-on the brown chair- where we rocked for hours and hours when she was so small… those first six months… my feet pounding the floor in a unrelenting rhythm… and I tucked her there, tucked round with her well worn pink blankie, and a wee little pink bunny clutched in her hand. I rubbed the bunny between the ears with my thumb. She loves the little things and the Mamas and the babies…And we rocked and I whispered to her of those days when she was small… and her heart was soothed… and mine was, too.
Answers to prayers…
The day I took a call at noon. The day I found out heart- safe news about the house and…that our children could get the bunny that they’ve saved for these last three years. How some of us cried with happiness and some of us shouted with glee and some of us high fived and fist bumped! How all through that day… and now forever… the whispers ripple down through…”We can get the bunny!” What a day!
Todd in the kitchen, garlic in the air, sizzling pans on the stove, Matt Maher from the speaker
She shares her treasures with me… and I am so surprised by how much I am in them… little things we made together. She’s kept. For all these years.
The utter grace of a new friend… first friend I have ever had with my same personality type- and O! it almost feels like we commune rather than just share thoughts. Heart to heart. A sister in Christ. And so much to learn… so good.
Another sweet sister in Christ, who answered my cry for prayer email with comforting Scriptures that gripped round me in the darkness. And held me there.
How, even though my mind swirls round, and my heart rests unsteady… ultimately, I know I am circled round, underneath, above, round about, held together.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
Trusting and resting in God’s kindness to me in Christ Jesus.
Counting Grace Gifts,
Photo credits- myself and small children 🙂
This year, my girl was almost vibrating with anticipation for her special day. I am happy to say that I think she felt loved and appreciated in all the ways I hoped.
A Birthday Interview when Twelve
1.) Favorite color- Dark Green
2.) Favorite animal(s)-Golden retriever, goldfinch,cardinal, bluebird
3.) Favorite food- Chicken Nugget gallery (her words- our big family spread with nuggets, tenders, fries, etc…all the fixins’)
4.) Favorite Song- Restart by the Newsboys
5.)Favorite Hymn- O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing
6.)Favorite Scriptures- John 3:16 and Psalm 23
7.)Favorite places she’s been- North Carolina and Pennsylvania- Ama’s
8.)Favorites things- Photographing birds, building Legos
9.)Favorite School Subject- Personal Reading
10.)Favorite Books- Beloved Rascals, Robby, Cricket in Times Square
11.)Favorite Day of the Week- Saturday
12.) Favorite flowers- roses and rhodendron
Bonus one to grow…
13.) Something special she loves…- Daddy’s Brunches
Happiest birthday, my daughter!
2 Peter 1:2
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
My Joshua turned eight on Mother’s Day this year. So precious.
His interesting perspective and original remarks add such color to our lives!
We had quite the extended weekend of celebrating with the cello recital, his birthday, Mother’s Day, and Abi’s birthday. 🙂
Eight year old Birthday Interview
1.)Favorite food- Chocolate Cake 🙂
2.)Favorite book- Redwall
3.)Favorite Hymn- Come Thou Fount…
4.)Favorite Song- Restart by the Newsboys
5.)Favorite color(s)- Gold, Red, Blue
6.) Favorite day of the week- Sunday
7.) Favorite instrument (this seems to change frequently! this interview took place right after he had enjoyed a visit with his cousin who plays this instrument. grin.) -Trombone
8.) Favorite animal- bunny
And one to grow….
9.) Favorite place he’s been- Ama’s house!
God bless you, my son.
Second Timothy 2:1
You therefore, my [a]son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
Last week, I was driving down the road with a small passel of my children. My girl, picking up a thread of conversation we have all had time and again asks ,
“Do you think a bird will ever sit on my hand?”
To which, I give my standard answer, “I don’t know, Abi…”
There was some mingled chatter about her birthday bird feeders and getting them set up. Some remarks possibly made about Abi being out and about in the yard, amongst the birds. Van conversation, music playing, windows open. Vents blowing. Little girls in their row. Boys behind.
Then suddenly, from the back of the van, I hear one son firmly direct some advice to Abi-
“You’d better keep your mouth closed!”
My ear twitches. Did this child just say and mean what I think he did?
So… tentatively, I ask…
“Why, why must she keep her mouth closed?”
To which- he earnestly replies, “So they don’t see her teeth and get scared away!” They being the birds as I suspected!
Oh!! Immediately an image pops into my mind of Abi, canines bared. The laughter just ripples through me.
The Things They Say. Joshua.
Tonight, I had the fun of finishing the movie Lassie with my oldest girl. Just the two of us. She was quite dismayed, however, at how different the movie was from the book. This past year both she and Jonah read Lassie as required literature reading. She emphatically remarked to me that they ‘skipped’ over this entire part and that was ‘totally’ different multiple times. 🙂
Later, we were downstairs in the kitchen… moving on toward the end of the evening. We were together with Todd and Jonah. Sharing our happy news, details of our girl time, and how cute the ending of the movie was… to which…suddenly, Jonah, amidst the clatter of the dishes he is diligently putting away declares,
“The movie was nothing like the book… I was outraged!”
During his most recent illness, he caught up on a lot of movies, including Lassie.
I laugh. And state, “And that’s why you read the book before you watch the movie!”
Todd and I. The outrage. We laugh. I rumple that lovely, buzzed blond head.
The Things They Say. He’s Ten.
I am sharing some thoughts from my heart as I begin to gear up and plan for next school year. I have been blessed and benefited so much over the years from other homeschooling writers who have “let me in” through the window of their words. It can be a lonely road. I give a little peek of what it is like for us, a large family homeschooling with high schoolers heading toward higher education- so, in that spirit, I share here. And the truth is, writing it out helps me lay the burden down. And in that laying down, there is peace and rest. God be praised and I bless His Name.
The good man out of the treasure of his heart brings forth what is good;…
My heart is all in a flutter. It is. I would not be writing in truth if I pretended it wasn’t. I am school planning for next year.
How did these babies get so big to start Kindergarten!
Kindergarten. I am having trouble wrapping my mind around it. Now and again, the realization pops like a balloon in my mind. They are starting K in the fall.
As we stretch into high school, deeper and deeper, and our life shifts and changes to meet the special needs of this important season of life… I find myself- sometimes panicking. (truth here) There is so very much to care and attend for. So very much. And, O, how I sometimes want relief. Relief from planning, attending, teaching, financial burdens, and I grasp at straws. I do. Straws that look like this: what if I just put them all (all 8) students in such and such cooperative? What if I just kept them all at home? What if I just put them all in everything? What if I just quit everything? Or, if only I could afford x,y,z. Sigh. Struggling with all the feelings that the this choice or that choice is “better”…
I think it is the heavy weight of responsibility and just of life. It is just like a rock on my chest. How does this align with what I know to be true in Matthew? Where is the easy yoke? I am missing something.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)
Ah, blessed words. Rest for my soul.
And here is a truth I have learned in the Rough. In the Grit. In the Dark Days. In the Light.
The miracle of the loaves and fishes. Jesus multiplies what the disciples have as they offer it in obedience and it is more than enough. Matthew 14:16-21
My loaves and fishes. They are enough. They are more than enough. And I am stretching out in faith to believe it- because this journey is no where near complete. It is no where near finished. Several months ago, cradled ( for a moment) in sense of relief, I almost posted a happy facebook status. My oldest son has done so so well in all his classes this year and in his writing! O, I was feeling relief and assurance. And then I realized, I have eight more students…. when all those students have performed as well as he- well, then I might have something to say. Not before. And I humbled myself and closed my proverbial mouth. Truth.
As I look in and as I look ahead. I want to choose the Good. And for me, choosing the Good has never been about panic, ease, or escape. It is not about running away. Or not shouldering the calling the Lord has given me. I need to come under that gentle, easy yoke and walk in unity with my Lord. The Good is about walking in the will of God as personally revealed to me.
The Lord always seems to hem me in and guide my choices, my commitments by my sheer inability. Then He SO graciously confirms it in so many settings. Thank You, Lord. Please help me.
I seek the Good.
So- what is the Good? And what is The Lord’s Best for me, in this season, in this life, in these days?
I always circle round to this: The Good is found in me. In me. There is no escaping this reality. And what do I have to give? and how can I give with more excellence, diligence, grace, beauty, and love? Perseverance. O, it is hard. And investment. I think I am finally in the season of life where I can not only recognize but act. Invest in my own heart, soul, mind so that I have something to pour out and give.
When I feel overwhelmed at how vast the ocean of need and how small my little drop of ability, I remember the meager offerings. I am the dirty declared beautiful, forgiven much. I am the poor, unreserved giver.
I am the miracle made enough.
I love Jesus for sanctifying meager offerings as holy, beautiful, beyond price. Again and again and again. I am the woman breaking the ointment jar, offering my fish and loves, putting my mite in the offering. My broken jar, a sweet, rising fragrance.
Next year, my high school students are going to stretch wings and fly. They are going to be busy in academics, in music, in sports, in life. There will be outside classes for both. Essays. Sciences with Labs. Languages. I will have the PSAT times two, and the SAT. I might have Drivers Ed? I will have Service Learning Requirements and Credit Hours and Transcripts.They will stretch out on their path toward Eagle and make some important advancements. They will be challenged and I will be busy. Busy caring for their souls. Busy driving them to their places. Busy carrying a lot of life and burdens as I seek to raise them well and struggle with the realities and practicalities and deep heart connections of life.
I have to keep my younger students dialed back and I desire to keep them rich in books. Once, a long while ago, I wrote, “Childhood should be rich in books.” Yes. I still, wholeheartedly agree with this. Now, I just need to order my days, our days, so we are living it. Living rich in books, in love, in relationships, in diligence, in work ethic. And trust, that all the rest will follow as it has in the past. And I need to choose each subject ( and there are eight! required for each student). Right now, I am consciously seeking to pursue that which will lead to peace and bear peace and what will work in the realness of my days.
Our year has been upended by so much. 4 bouts of pneumonia alone… enough said. I am learning from this year and making conscious choices for the Good. The Good fleshed out in the reality of my everyday and what life looks like with two in high school. Two in middle school. Two in elementary. And two babies starting K. And trying to preserve myself so I can run this race with endurance.
It has been a messy run. But, O! It is so good.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (ESV)
I will be taking a deep breath as I plan for each precious student and investing in my own spiritual practices so that I have something Good to give.
Homeschooling Mama, how will you offer your loaves and fishes this day, this season, this upcoming year?
Note: My children read this blog and they love to look back at our memories. It was specially requested that I record this treasured event.
One day, in November, I sat in on Nathanael’s Cello lesson. He had a new teacher for this past year and she was defining some of her teaching strategies. She asked him to consider preparing for a Solo recital that would stretch his performance skills and would involve memorizing every song in Suzuki Cello Book 1. Around this time, he was facing the end of this Book and eagerly looking forward to moving ahead to Book 2. Choosing to perform a Book 1 Recital would mean his Spring semester would be deeply focused on Book 1. Ultimately, this decision led to a deep perfecting of his technique which will benefit him in every way going forward- but we didn’t realize that at the time! After mulling it over in his mind for a week or so, and with some discussion from me, he agreed to the challenge.
With guided help from his teacher and a lot of focused practice, he succeeded in memorizing Book 1. He played Minuet 2 for the Spring Recital which is the last piece in Book 1.
Several weeks later, it was time. First Solo Recital. A 25 minute event. He was ready. He would play 17 pieces from memory, accompanied by his Cello teacher. His recital took place on May 7, 2016 at 3 p.m. It was held in our home.
I have been completely captivated by the beauty and artistry of the strings and it is something that has taken me completely by surprise. I had no idea I would love it so. Life takes some alluring turns, walking hand in hand, with children.
We shopped together, the Thursday before, for pretty flowers and other things. I planned a cookie reception. I had delighted little girls helping me bake. Helping Micah, too, as he made one of the recipes with one twin on each side of him.
We honored the day with special clothes and tablecloths, candles, and flowers. We rearranged furniture to accommodate the two cellos best.
A happy amount of people were expected to attend.
Nathanael was the first student at his music school to perform a Solo Recital. He was also the first person in our family. He paved the way and now more students are getting ready to present their own special recitals. They created a new award for First Soloist and unexpectedly presented it to him at the finish- adding more honor and specialness to what was already an amazing day.
The day was full of grace. The music, so beautiful. The conversations afterward, so enjoyable.
And we were so filled with a joyful delight in the accomplishment of our son. All the effort, time, and diligence he invested… it was truly a delight to behold and I could barely keep from crying again and again.
To our family, who came in from out of town, you crowned the day in a way so special, I don’t know if I can accurately define it.
To Nathanael, I hope you know a little of how proud we are of you! The beauty and life you bring fill our hearts with overflowing joy. Cello was completely unexpected, and O! how beautiful the surprise.
If you are getting this in email…click over to the blog for a minute and a half (or so) sample of his music. 🙂 I don’t think the link shows up in email. And then there is also a link to his performance of Minuet 2 at recital.
I was out on my deck today. A hot tea steaming on the table. My flower pots awaiting me. I took a little time to fill and plant. With the promised hope of my mug nearby. And, although, in truth, I had to drag myself out the door to start-so worn in body and soul am I, once there, warm sun beating down upon me, hands in dirt, flowers happy. I was soul satisfied.
Self-Care. It is something I have been pondering a lot lately. The concept first lay hold of me through the writings of Elizabeth Foss. Her book Real Learning (sadly out of print and so expensive on Amazon, I am not even linking it!) has a famous chapter on battling back from burn-out. She also sometimes refers to Self-Care on her blog. Caring for your own well: physical, spiritual, emotional, so that you have something to give to those in your care. I have also taken Sally Clarkson as a personal mentor and she often mentions taking care to fill your own heart. My sister once (not too long ago!) told me that I needed to find my “thing” that was like running to her. We both thought it was writing. My thing that centered me soul, quieted my mind and heart, gave me rest.
It has taken me many years and a three year old til I have finally been in the place to desperately, thirstily start practicing this.
I know what it is like to have a day so full of homeschooling and urgent life matters, a husband/Dad with a career that often requires me to just be the one at the helm by myself, and now children reaching out to young adulthood so that our lifestyle takes two parents just to get it all done. So. If this is you. Hugs to you. And, I totally get it, dear Mama, if you cannot even do one of these things for five minutes. Yes. I get it. Because the truth is, life is hard. And there are so many things that can overthrow the best of intentions. And we are frail…just made of dust. And God knows that- better than even we do. And for so many years, hearing the condemning voices in my head- let me be a voice of hope and grace.
But- a list… If this provokes your heart to yearn… join me in the challenge to list the things that nourish and fill your well. And then take five minutes and practice one or at least make a little plan for one…
(Note: I drink tea and coffee every day and I often “take a minute” with a hot mug or as I am going about my duties. So, I didn’t list that here…but it is certainly a major part of my routine! )
1.)Prayer, Scripture Reading, and Christian Resource reading (i.e. Bible studies and growth books like Doorposts 30 Day Bible Studies, Girl Talk, Raising Real Men, Desperate, The Life Giving Home)
2.)Writing and Journaling
3.)Refreshing my music skills (I started taking a little time to practice under the tutelage of my oldest son and it has been so good for me.)
4.)Working with my flowers outdoors
6.)Novel Reading (for me, almost anything by Lucy Maud Montgomery seems to settle my mind, edifying Christian fiction, Elizabeth Goudge, etc.)
7.)being present enough and centered enough to photograph my children and working on Photobooks and photo projects
8.)time out with Todd: coffee dates, dinner dates, weekend away dates 🙂
9.)Lighting candles and having pretty flowers about. I love carnations because they are inexpensive, so pretty, and long lasting.
10.) Coffee times with friends
Extra Bonus items:
Naps. Sometimes I consciously force myself to try to rest. I have been having trouble sleeping and I can just keep going going going and then. It is not going well!!
Bubble baths or hot showers with no time pressure hustling me out the door:with all the care of grooming, lotions, and lots of hot water
Baking – my Dad once astutely noticed that I bake when I am happy and I bake when I am relaxing. I have also found myself baking during a time of horrible care and concern for someone I loved. The happy aspect of chocolate chip cookies and the soothing mindlessness of ingredients lined up on the counter- it helped.
Conversations with my people about everything under the sun
Taking care to order the home so that it presents a pretty and clean face to mine- this soothes my soul like no other- but getting there is sometimes SO hard.
How can you fill your own soul with what is beautiful, good, worthy of praise?
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
I often hear the voice of condemnation. Strong disapproval. In my mind. In my heart. In my life.
I was caught on a Tuesday. Caught deep , spun round in grace. Like an arm around my waist, caught close. Like a rain of warm water, welcomed. Washing down through my soul. Unmerited, rich, blessed love, life in God. When this verse lit up in my darkness like a flame of brilliant light. Always golden. Brilliant White.
On a Tuesday, mid-day, after a slow start morning. Slow and steady, moving forward. In which, I made special breakfast, like I had purposed to do, even though we were 30 minutes to an hour behind our normal schedule.
In which, on my counter, were arrayed a large amount of cooking dishes that had been gathering, as I struggled to catch up from a weekend when the men were all away. A weekend that came- after a week, dealing with illness and other urgent life matters that pressed my chest with stress and sleep eluded. And O, how frantic I sometimes feel, amidst the jumble of chores that encompasses my workaday life.
As I stood at the sink, in the afternoon, warm water running, sponge in hand. I was suddenly aware. Romans 8:1-2. There is now no condemnation. No condemnation. I am dealt with in love, in compassion, in mercy, in a greater understanding of my own self than I can ever possess of myself. In a recognition of my weakness, my smallness, the frailty of my flesh. Oh! How the love and life just circled me round.
You see, earlier that day, I had the happy joy of a visit from my Mom. Dear, beloved to me, and renowned for her kitchen cleanliness, work ethic, and duty. And I was struggling with a lot of guilt and condemnation. As I tried, discretely, to hide the stack of dishes awaiting me. (Truth Mom. But I know you saw them anyway. 🙂 ) As we moderately frantically tried to put laundry away. As I sighed relief that I managed and remembered to potty everyone and patch glasses, too.
So later, when I was standing at that sink,feeling relief that I was finally getting this dirty work, done.Often for me, I am not sure how certain things will manage… I just have to trust that they will. And they do and when they do, I feel surprised and relieved. And I was standing there, feeling for the first time, caught in that warm embrace, that I was loved and favored. Not strongly disapproved. Realizing deep down, free and clean, that my clean kitchen wasn’t my righteousness or lovableness, goodness, or favor. That dirty or clean, I am accepted and beloved. And I can lean into that favor. Lean into that grace that sets my soul free.There is a fragrance here. A pure, clean, lively fragrance blowing free.
But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
There is Life working in me.