Endless Gifts #59 – #86

Breathe. Begin counting. Write it down. Cup the days.

59. The first step is always to begin. Begin again, and again, and again.

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60. A custom hot cocoa made by a rapidly growing big small son, crafted just for me

61. The moment when I realize that the “little voice,” the “insistent thought that wouldn’t leave,” “the direction” to hop on the rower to rehabilitate my knee (and possibly my life) is actually and truly a real, a very real thing. In some ways, it was an awakening.

{actually hop is not exactly what I do, I realize, as I read this over- it is more like gingerly place myself and position the sore knee(s)}

62.And the difference is… I commit. Thinking on that long and hard… the commit. And how sometimes, no matter how much I want to, I can’t- and sometimes, no matter how much I don’t want to, I do. Is it timing? Is it Grace? Is it Will? In some ways, it is. But I know when there is no going back. 

63. Rowing to recital video clips (rowing in general) ( the music, a silver lining to a broken monitor with no replacement in sight because of coronavirus.) {Can I just say it again? The erg. Truly, an endless gift (during a pandemic)}

-and-

64. years of Opus recitals, and I remember again why it is all worth it

65. orange ginger mint tea, hot and steaming, again, again, again

66. the building of a life-giving morning routine; I read, I research, I take a small step; I journal, I row, I tidy (a bit); I struggle with myself- and then I realize it is a big thing, and it takes time. One small layer at a time. Do not despise the day of small things.

67. days to sleep with nowhere to go

68. the sweep of the fan on the heat of my skin

69. the reading life, how I love it

70. the way a rough little poem sprung out from the dark, literally

71. working from home

72. the first blooms on the lilac from my grandmother’s plant, and the promise of their grace on the poetry party table

73. a poetry party in which we all participated and all the poems shared from an original work to funny to valiant to serene to dramatic to serious (but I forgot the lilacs… so will have to bring them in for something else!)- and in which I learn a day later, that there were actually *two* original works performed at the party; there is more than one parent poet in this family. 🙂

74. pick-a-party diversions

75. the peaceful hush falling over the house during the rainy afternoon when the children are happy because they’ve participated in something meaningful and so they play in harmony

76. A DUO call with my mom; I watch her face across my screen. There is one moment where I see her: I see myself, I see my sister. We are in the turn of her face, the glint of her eye, we are in the crispness in her laugh as she and I share a moment of solidarity in COVID frustration. Confessions of less than perfect moments where we admit we have been found to talk aloud to phones and screens, to tvs, and computers “shouting” an opinion or a dissenting view in the face of all the pandemic unknowns, shifting news, and so on.  It just bubbles up and out, and in that, we laugh together, indignant and commiserating. We are not alone. Even more, we are in comraderie and in relationship. The realness of the moment captures me. Her brown eyes sparkle, her face- animated. I imprint her face on my mind, her laugh, her animated expression. I miss her.

77. a morning I wake up full of every negative thought racing through my head like a river and… in the bathroom, literally stopped short by a counter melody singing out to me:

 78. “I will build my life upon Your love, it is a firm foundation; I will put my trust in You alone, and I will not be shaken.” The words don’t turn me around, but I keep them close. I keep them through the day. I listen again, and again. I listen while I row. I listen while I type. I think about that great Love and what it means, and what it is…

79. On a day, I admit a struggle- a day I reach out and let the lowness be known, and am answered swiftly with prayer and Scripture and solidarity and grace and comfort and hope

80. On the same low day, there is a knock at the door; there is a doorbell ring. We all freeze. We aren’t expecting anyone. Anyone at all. There is my brother on the doorstep. Masked and all. And in his hand, masks for us. I can’t stop looking at his face, listening to his voice. All week, I had been thinking about how I was feeling desperate to see faces and had pondered standing at the edge of his driveway to call to him on his front stoop. Especially when  I saw photos of my PA family social distancing while “visiting.” And there he was. In the flesh. We talk. We talk awhile. We can’t stop talking. We both talk about said PA family and how we felt seeing those photos and stories. Same. I don’t think I will EVER take in-person visits for granted again. There is something about the physical presence of a person, their warmth, their life, the look on their face, the lift in their voice.

(note, I miss you all- you know who you are)

81. And what is the lesson for me, on my low, low day- with my hair in disarray and my wreck around clothes? I ponder. There is a lesson, and I am thinking hard on it

82. my darlings, who need me, and in whom is so much rich treasure and joy

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83. these days with all my children at home and they way each view the world from their own unique perspective- what they bring to my life; what they bring to us all! I watch the photo slideshow on the big screen (years of our family, a minute a time) and my heart hurts- the way it is often wont to do. How much changes and so very fast? I gasp. What is a family, I wonder? And these children who take so much of us, our very life, to grow up and outward and on. I see the face of the man who has changed along with me, along with all these rapidly growing children, over all these years, and suddenly I see us, a family. He and I. My hand in his.

84. The way I find myself lost, only to be found in Him. Blurry vision comes into focus, and I am grateful!

85. art lessons with Nana; these are a gift

86. This song:

 

 

 

 

 

Pick a Party: Stay-At-Home diversions: Notes from Quarantine #3

The days are getting a little bit thin here at times; no where to go from each other and days on end of enduring. Overall, every single person is still going strong with school and work and lessons- so, it is not really that we are at loose ends…

But, some days have been hard; it is easy to feel low. I forgot what day of the week it was earlier this week; Todd got VPN back after a couple weeks of trouble, and announced it to me suddenly and out of the blue when I peeked in at him in the home office. I stared off vaguely into space; he looked wild-eyed and alert. What are we coming to, we wondered. The random blurting made us laugh.

I took a Coronabingo Challenge: I “bingoed” two whole rows and some additional squares. Sadly, cleaning was NOT one of those.

This week I also stayed up almost all night reading a book. An act I do not intend to give way to again. I rued the day. It was partly a combination of very good, page-turner book and partly my driven OCD where I just needed to finish the book. I didn’t finish it. It was over four hundred pages. I almost did. I am not proud of this escapade. But I note it here for posterity and the journal of these unusual days. In some ways, for me, it was a true COVID-19 experience. I do love the Kindle App on my phone.  I stumbled through the next day (obviously), confessed to sundry and all, went to bed normally the next night, and woke up the next day feeling much better.

Overall, I think this week laid me low a bit; I think it did some others, too.

In our house, tax season just “ended” — note: strangest ending we’ve ever had- and not really ended yet- perhaps, just a pause? Who can say. Yet, the days are beginning to take a different shape.

One hard thing for me, that marks this Covid_19 season, is my knee. Actually, both knees. I have an injured left knee, and I have fallen twice on it during this shelter at home season. Both times, on wet floor while wearing my sneakers. Both times, where my foot just skidded out from under me, and I couldn’t stop the slide. Both times because of coronavirus cleaning procedures. The most recent time was this past week, and it was a doozy. Plus, I have very painful arthritis that “acts up” in both knees. My injured knee is much worse right now, and I am icing it while employing heat for the dreaded arthritis. It stinks, and I think it is definitely making me sad.

In other news, among the many children and adults sheltering here: some of us are, sometimes, fractious. Actually, as I reflect, that might be too generous a word. We are all feeling a bit of interpersonal strain right now. It is a good time to remind myself to love well and generously; be extra patient and kind; watch for the one who is struggling and/or hurting.

Friday, the irritability factor was rising, and I, ever so much NOT a doer, and instead a dreamer, was at a full stop; the seeping paralysis was  weighing me down. I struggled to engage. As the unhappy discontent began to swirl more and more rapidly,  I begain brainstorming out loud. How could I create a “friend party” at home? We didn’t really land on anything. I am not sure how to maximize Zoom.  But then I thought: we could make a list of at-home parties and choose. Pick- a- Party was born!  Together, we brainstormed ideas and  made our list. Some of these ideas came directly from my little girls with no help from me! I snipped them and folded them, placed them in a hat, and decided to have a child pick out of a hat. We will pick two a week until Quarantine ends OR begin the list again.

These simple ideas have brought a lot of excitement, joy, and diversion to our home and family.

Friday, we had a Chalk Pastel Art Party, and tomorrow afternoon we will have a Poetry Party. Word has it we will have a personal recitation of an original work titled “A Lament of Physics.” I can’t wait!

General notes: Tidy up the party area and decorate a bit (wildflowers from the yard; a pretty platter; make lemonade).

*Some of these party ideas are more suitable for young children (i.e. my 7 and 8  year old daughters; others are suitable for all (including my college-age children).

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Party Ideas:

Chalk Art Party

Set up art supplies. Gather at the craft table and choose projects 1-3 projects (we did two) from chalkpastel.com. Afterward, hang them up in the family room. Enjoy a pretty snack platter and lemonade. Discuss the art. Have everyone pick their favorite piece from their own work. Parent picks their favorite piece for each child.

Dress-Up Party

Set up party reception snacks. Everyone picks a character and creates a costume from whatever can be found around the house. Come to the party dressed up; guess the characters; enjoy snacks.

Game and Snack Party

Set out snacks all along the counter and create game stations

our list: Mario Kart; Minecraft; Arms; Mario Odyssey; Forbidden Island; Labrynth; Rocket League; Boggle; Barton card games

Rotate through game stations. Enjoy snacks!

Holiday Party

Pick a Holiday or Season: Valentine’s Day, Harvest, Winter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Easter, Spring, Summer

Prepare matching holiday snacks and drinks and crafts (hearts, pumpkins, snowflakes, sparkler art, etc); Gather holiday storybooks.

Enjoy seasonal food, crafts, and stories.

Music Concert Party

Prepare the concert room. Set out cookies and lemonade. Everyone dress up; everyone bring a piece to play on their instrument for joy for all; low-key and fun; anything is allowed but all available are invited to participate.

Pamper Princess Party

Set up “pedicures”; paint toe nails, brush/do hair and makeup; use hand lotion.

listen to soothing music

Picnic Party

Set out a large blanket in the backyard or a large room in the house (if raining/bad weather). Bring snacks, little sandwiches, drinks, and stories. Hang out together at the picnic, enjoy the company and change of scenery.

Poetry Party

Set out cookies and lemonade. Tidy up family room and set out flowers from the yard to create a nice atmosphere. Everyone brings 1-3 pieces of favorite poetry to share with the group (does not have to be memorized). Enjoy the recitation and then the reception!

Popcorn and Movie Party

Put a big blanket on Mom’s bed. Bring a big bowl of popcorn and setup a favorite movie. Hang out and enjoy!

Relax Party

Everyone chooses their favorite snack or drink; everyone heads to the family room to relax with a movie, book, game, etc.

Tea-Time Party

Mom gathers favorite illustrated poetry books. Children set out their tea set and snacks. Play soothing or classical music. Enjoy a refined tea time!

 

Maybe you can think of some party ideas to change it up at home a bit? We all need a diversion from time to time. 

I’d love to hear them,

Rebecca

Notes from Quarantine #2

 

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Celebrating our 21st anniversary, at home, behind closed doors on April 18th. Thanks to my sister for the sign idea and to Melodee for crafting it!

These Quarantine Notes are combined as I never finished what I started last week… As I write (and finish this post), Andrew Peterson is reading aloud to us and his warm, familiar voice is a comfort as we hear tales from Tennessee and tales from the Wingfeather Saga; we laugh with joy and delight-it is grace!

Week three of Quarantine (Palm Sunday) found us all gathered round the table again for Sunday dinner- and expressions of gratitude abounded that we are all together. It’s true. While there is so much uncertainy and upheaval (especially for the college boys), it is a gift to live this time out together- something we are all grateful for during despite loss of routines and face-to-face friendships for some-

and I am also incredibly grateful for two things: 1.) the fact that all my children can be home under our roof at this time.  2.) the fact that I do not have a senior  in any level of schooling; it is tricky with the junior (high school)- he doesn’t have an SAT(all cancelled); didn’t get to visit colleges like we hoped; doesn’t have all his courses set for next year yet; and so on. I was on a Zoom call with my sister who also has a junior. Zoom- first for us! But so good to see her face to face. We talked about the AP exams and the SAT and of course much, much more. I shared with her some information from an email I received from the College Board. She eventually found hers; it was hiding in the SPAM file. I wanted to cry as I read through it; so much is at stake. I wonder what Asher’s college admissions season will look like next year and what additional hurdles we will navigate.

But still- grateful to have a whole more year with him and not facing the loss of all the end of a senior year entails. Yet, no matter what I or anyone else is facing during this current season, I know that we can find courage to walk forward into the uncertain future.  Things look very different, and they might continue to look different. We will walk through it together.

My older boys still have plenty of time ahead to build relationships on their college campuses and make good progress in their programs. It is strange how much has changed and shifted during this time. They are able to keep in touch with different friends and study partners. I am glad. Having the rigor of college under this roof is an interesting dynamic. I am, of course, as always- proud of them.

Does this unusual time and the pandemic find you gathered together or are you scattered?

We finished out the long drawn-out bout of illness with the last member getting sick and finally better by the weekend before Easter.

Then it was Easter and Micah’s 20th birthday. 20. It is amazing and hard to believe. The strength of love never eases; it grows and shapes just as the child man before me! We started our poster tradition the year he turned 7. Taping a banner across our doorway in North Carolina. 13 years strong.

It was a different Easter, and I missed some things that are dearly important to me- mostly the way I try to craft beauty around my Easter table. We had a lovely dinner that was part Micah’s birthday dinner and part Easter celebration. There were empty tombs for breakfast for the children; there were baskets of chocolate for their delight. Even Todd and I had a basket this year. That was a happy provision, and I was surprised by how much it filled my heart. I will be continuing with baskets for me and him from now on.

I combined photos and there is Easter hair and chalk pastel art; birthday and read aloud photos; dance workout online;  finishing To Kill a Mockinbird with Abi- it was a victory!!;Easter Sunday; Golden Light; music practice; a wee black dragon tucked in to bed being sung to dreamland sweetly; life with all 9 under this roof; March blooms; and April’s golden light; Catan; and more.

 

And now, here we are: the third weekend in April. The urgency of news reports has slowed a bit, but still, there is something new every week. On Saturday (April 18th), masks were mandated in all public places in Maryland starting at 7 a.m.  Today, I sat outside with my son. A neighbor working with some men at the house next door was wearing a mask as were the men. I thought to myself how strange these times are and how I never would have imagined such a time as this. I wonder what it will be like to be at the store masked along with everyone else. Within a few seconds, Micah remarked about it, too- and we pondered the way of the world as it currently is. I am grateful for the masks! I feel like it is an important safety measure; but it is still such a different world than just a short time ago.

We have been making use of grocery delivery and contact-less pickup. It has been going okay for the most part. We plan ahead. We often do not get everything we order. We are stocked up on frozen vegetables and frozen berries. I am grateful.

I feel very distrustful of many things. We are washing and wiping down groceries; we will mask; I consider this virus airborne; I do not think that we are in a safe place (as far as virus progression) in my state – and ready to open anything up yet; and more.

These are different and unusual days. I am eager for online classes to be over. Just about a month left for one of the college boys, a bit more for the other. A few weeks more for most of the online high school classes. I am hoping there will be some relief with the shift this will bring. I think about how we stay inside the four walls of this house day after day. It is remarkable the amount of learning, online streaming, and activity going on in each and every room. It can feel constricted at times. We all feel it. How could we not? We are a busy hum of activity and learning. It is good, but it is challenging. Everyone is on Vitamin D; there are some people who do not see the light of day outside this house regularly. It is hard to believe, but it is true.

We started a weekly Duo (new technology for me!) storytime with Ama. Wonderful time for the little girls. Very thankful for it. Along those lines, I do not feel like I am doing a good job at all connecting with people or keeping in touch. I am not sure what to do about it.

This is the week I also felt impatient. Very impatient with varied online instructors needing particulars with this and that. I feel tired. I feel like I do not want to engage. I press on.

This has turned into a very lengthy epistle. I will try to keep it much shorter from now on. It has been a challenge to try to compose the words with so many interruptions.

I realize how I must battle to pay attention; to apprehend the grace and goodness; to walk in peace; to cup the days.

Day by day,

Rebecca

Notes from Quarantine #1

We are ending week 2 of Social Distancing to protect against Coronavirus in Maryland.  Pictures show stacks of books I have high hopes to imbibe.  Republic of Tea for days at home and – I have since learned- for doctoring up with Vitamin C for sickness immunity boosters. A family favorite chicken soup recipe to nourish sick ones, including me. The view from my bed where I rest as my son puts a mug next to him on his bed. A family that has fallen sick by ones, twos, and threes in a very unexpected way considering that we have been basically home and no where else.

 

Week 1 found me scrambling to adjust to one son going online for college while another was home on a slightly extended spring break. Decisions were being made with literally lightning speed and changed rapidly from one day to the next. On one memorable Thursday, life was changing every two hours until I collapsed into bed just before midnight and learned my homeschool review was postponed (it was supposed to happen the very next morning) just as I was getting ready to try to go to sleep. Before the end of that day, we also knew we would have both our college boys home with us for the duration.

In the midst, it seemed like almost every activity we participate in went online at all different times, and I found myself off-kilter trying to keep track of it all.  Very off-kilter. I got times wrong. I even forgot one lesson altogether. With my smaller children, the Zoom life requires a lot from me. However, with older children, I have all different people zooming in different rooms in different classes and on, on. It makes for very unusual times. It makes me laugh, but it also makes me sigh.

Suddenly, I had all of my normal responsibility  plus much more.

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In general, I gather around myself reading material to nourish my mind, my life. As public activities began to shutdown, I gathered more choices, secretly feeling a delight that I might get to immerse myself in ideas and words and life-shaping thoughts. Then, I couldn’t figure out how to get a bit of reading time regularly partly due to responsibilities/partly due to stress/partly due to anxiety.

I wonder- is it merely the presence of books- or their content that brings me comfort? Because I have certainly gathered a mass around myself, and yet, in the past week, I have struggled to have the centered headspace for the quiet concentration needed to read. Ultimately, I realize it is the words themselves. I am better for time spent with a poem, a chapter, a verse. My mind settles and calms and centers. I find the deep stillness that is at the heart of my soul, that I need so desperately and am for which need I am so often oblivious.

Why is it so hard for me to know (and validate) what I need? Is this an Enneagram 2 thing?  Note: I don’t even know if I am a 2-

Sometimes, I wonder.  

Week 1. I began a practice of three poems a day.  O, how it settled me. Lingering in the language and allowing the beauty to fill me and permeate my mind-  I had hopes of tucked in days building a rhythm, reading, homeschool days, more rest, relationships, Yet, I began a battle with anxiety that scattered my mind and my focus; it has been a dark tunnel and a very much UNwanted companion.  Todd, still going into to the office and working long, long hours. Trying to maintain the normal routines of our homeschool family with the addition of new routines. It was a bit of a bobble.

Week 2. Week two arrived and with it a surprising illness stealthily slinking through our family.  My practice (three poems)- while not entirely by the wayside, certainly fell to inconsistency, as I myself got sick- and to bed, I went with a brain too fatigued to handle much of anything. At this time, we are pretty sure we are merely traveling through a spring virus, but it is no small thing to journey through illness during a pandemic when you have hardly been out of the house and can literally count the days patient zero could have been exposed to anything.  We have been so healthy this year- hardly sick at all. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we went down with so many children with fevers and congestion. O, March. You are definitely putting February to shame.  Todd, now working from home as precaution with illness at home. More changes in the day -to-day routine.

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Grocery shopping for our family of eleven has been an interesting experience. Our most recent venture (just yesterday) was more hopeful and comforting than prior trips as we were able to get produce and frozen veggies and so much – pretty much everything- we need. Keeping two weeks’ worth of food in stock in a huge task with our family size.  We buy giant bags of Mahatma rice at BJs, and we have not been able to find them for a few weeks there. We have never before considered even having more than one of those huge bags on hand at a time, but these days, I think we would have a spare if we could! Especially as we watch the bag on hand diminish each week.

It took us about the two weeks to adjust to the amount of food we need to make for our meals with our two grown sons home full-time, too; I think we’re good now.

One day at a time, for us, right now. The hopeful words of my mom as she reported on her shopping provided the wherewithal for Todd to try the stores again, and it was a good venture. Today, it looks like two or three children will be recovered by tomorrow; hopefully me, too. We have been riding the waves of tax season and with all the new legislation into effect because of the pandemic- the power of those waves has picked up a bit.  With this, there are a lot of unknowns- an extended tax deadline and more.

I try to take time every day or almost every day to tune in to Sarah Clarkson on Instagram Live. I never catch her live. Instead, I listen later when I can. She reads a poem and a psalm for Lent. I feel like a small child as I soak in the absolute beauty of the ten-minute respite her reading provides. She teaches me about beauty and about hope. She teaches me how to analyze poetry and apply it to my day-to-day life; she uncovers inexplicable meaning and beauty. I adore it. This is, I think, the second year she has offered poetry readings for a season. She shares glorious photos, too. Her brother Joel Clarksonalso uses Instagram to witness beauty and truth. His photos and words are a treasure not to be missed. Such grace.

We (me and the children; Todd when he can) have also been tuning in to Andrew Petersonevery night with unabashed delight as he reads aloud from Volume 1 of his Wingfeather Saga (which we all love so much). What a gift this is!

We enjoyed The Gray Havens unplugged Thursday night, too. They streamed from YouTube and Facebook Live, I think- took requests and answered some questions. Such fun and delight to enjoy their music live. These are precious gifts in these unusual and sometimes difficult days.

My older children are experiencing large adjustments and transitions. I am trying to be intentional in my care for them: supporting their learning; acknowledging their adjustments, feeding! them enough and regularly; speaking hope into their futures.

Speaking hope into all our futures: our hope is in Christ, and He is Enough. The days are dark and scary. They are, and it is not foolish to regard it so.

My only centeredness is found in Him; I hope to settle in more fully. With more intention. With more love, joy, and peace. And, I won’t minimize. I won’t minimize the worry or the struggle or the pain or the fear. It’s real; yet, Christ’s power is real, too. I look for Him in the midst of these dark, constricted days.

I spoke to a son about creating rhythms of rest and delight in his daily routine that now involves only home and nowhere else. Build a routine that enriches and delights to provide breaks from the monotony and the feeling of walls closing in.

I need to, too.

Some poems for comfort:

Wendell Berry: Peace of  Wild Things

Cowper: God Moves in a Mysterious Way

If by Rudyard Kipling

My mind has scattered out like the tumbled pieces of a puzzle. But little by little, I can build it back again. One step at a time…

 

There is a sense of wholeness when the pieces all align.  I can build myself back to wholeness through Christ. We have had some drizzled days of gray and even a rocking, wake- from- sleep Thunderstorm. Days of sun are coming; Easter is coming. As everything changes and roils without, Christ remains, and He provides what I need to “dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness” (Psalm 37:1-6 NASB)

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and [a]cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.

It is His goodness I want to celebrate.

How are you finding grace in these days?

-Rebecca

The Things They Say: Maryland Edition

Maryland in My Heart- The Things They Say

Sometimes the words don’t work; they don’t work in my mind; they don’t work in my mouth; and they certainly don’t work as I try to etch them across the page – all power and beauty,

or not.

On a dark drive home, a grown son asked an unexpected question:

“So, how are you doing in Maryland?”

Poor son; I don’t think he was expecting the answer he received as I tried to grapple with the different thoughts that spun out like reflecting colors from a prism. I felt a lot of guilt and uneasiness as I tried to lasso the reflecting light- the colors are dark. It is not all golden glimmer for me; it is not- as some close to me say: “rainbows and ponies”-

but in this moment, as I recognize this, I ponder:

Our family. We make our own rainbows.

They spin across our kitchen reflecting off the prism hanging in the window- and dance on the ceiling, floor, and walls. Courtesy of a Christmas gift a few years back for a little daughter who is the most out-of-the-box, colorful, brilliant ambassador of creativity and color. Because of her: Brilliant, bouncing shafts of every color in the world held in one lit reflection all over the room.

Another day, the rainbows flicker off a sequined headband and streak across a music school classroom. Diamond light lit against a canary background. My daughter points them out with a cry of delight as she realizes the rainbow light is coming from her.

Later, rainbows surround us in the car as the light hits the layers of an irridescent sequined ballet bag and spins magical textures all over the car’s interior.

Three little girls are growing up full-out Marylanders. Maryland is all they have ever known; unlike the rest of us.

I sit at the table with one of them who is valiantly learning to read. She is sounding out words with heroic effort. I am leaning over her, trying to assist. She doesn’t want any assistance.

She looks at me over her shoulder, clear-eyed and determined, and she says:

“I’ve got this!”

(Maryland, baby)

-No need to help, Mom. I’ve got it.-

Another day, I am again at the table with another mighty reading warrior at hand. Barton Level 3 Reading System is spread out in front of us. A delightful, determined little girl is next to me- and she says:

“Bring it on!”

(Maryland, baby! (again)

And then she conquers her way through one dyslexic challenge after another in that day’s lesson with aplomb and determination.

I drive down the road and every (single) day experience car aggression. I am cut off, honked at, given the finger, passed on the right at high speeds, cursed at, and more. The day comes when I know the offending opposing driver is definitely 100% in the wrong; I lay on the horn and all the Maryland in me rises up.

And I think to myself: Am I fully Maryland now? I don’t like who I am.

Another day, an older child reaches out with a question or a text- and I answer:

“I’ve got you.”

(It’s Maryland, baby)

Somehow, well- really, by providence, my freshman ends up tripling for next year on his campus. Serendipity. Every one of the young men is from Maryland. Three Marylanders rooming together. He tells me they talk of hanging the flag on their dorm door and putting up some Maryland swag. I feel the full on joy of it all.

And I have one of the moments where I see the carve of grace and the line of light in the path. I am glad for this son for whom all that he gained in Maryland has paved such a way into his future. I’m grateful.

But sometimes, sometimes-

I am not glad.

I think about my life over the years; I think (a bit) about this blog.

I tell the son who asked me so unexpectedly:

So, how are you doing in Maryland?

Honestly, right now I am not sure,

but this one thing I know;

the writing heals.

 

November into December Endless Gifts #17- 57

I am keeping grace gifts with intention – the gifts that startle me alive and I cup my hands to Him as receiving a gift and as an offering…a regular practice of Thanksgiving…

17. side by side with Nathanael, calculating semester grades over Thanksgiving break- and now just days before he is home with his first college semester under his belt!

18. earnest talks with Micah, hoping to impart all that is grace and good, and I write words. I write words and I share them. For him. For always.

19. darling Lanie on the doorstep, and texts with Courtney all the while

20. a bit of lovely sleep

21. Asher, 17- and some good time together (in my favorite- the big white van with a soda for him and a coffee for me)

22. more twinkle lights than ever before and how I love them: on the mantle, on the cube; around the nativit(ies); on “baby ficus(es); on the banister

23. Todd and his patient work with the artificial tree lights; the decoration boxes; the banister; the front door; and more!

24. the gorgeous anticipation of the 2020 powersheet planner; all the cultivate products are so bright they bedazzle my eyes- but then I find myself infused with motivation! I have hopes for transformation. Step by step and day by day.

25. haircuts for boys; haircuts for girls

26. Christmas candles flickering in the windows

27. driving home from a Saturday tutoring session and feeling all the searing pull of conflict in  myself- and letting gratitude rise as I reorient to let each session fuel me to always give the best of my mind, my heart, my attention, my intellect to my own children (the students under my very roof);I need this reminder; I need this fuel. (and as days go by, I actually need to figure this out- and how to do this. It could be that I can’t.)

28. recognizing that it is perfectly okay to honor limits within myself and boldly stating that is true even when my limits make no sense to people around me (now I just need to figure out how to practice this in the day-to-day)

29. the cold slant of sleet and the glow of lights and warmth and hot mugs cupped

30. my littlest daughter: such a bright spark; and us, in the most extroverted circumstances causing such deep cringe for me and the strong desire to escape- and then-

a look down to the small girl at my side- blue eyes aglow, pony-tail a quiver, taking in all the excitement and ready to take it all by storm, too. And the way she stands- confident- violin tucked under her chin, bowing with finesse and plays in a varied ensemble before her very first crowd.

31. a set of quiet time (Bible time) resources that feed my soul with truth and beauty

32. realizing that if I don’t plan for it- it won’t happen – and renewed plans for homecoming and exiting foods for weary students. Have to up the breakfast game around here…

33. taking a moment to appreciate the tiny, beautiful boxwood Christmas tree bedecked in lights and red trinkets at the Festival of the Trees… and then the added 12 months of bouquets from The Cutting Garden that was included in the auction. Swoon. I can only imagine the beauty. The little tree was an ornament of living beauty in the midst of much (very creative) artificial tree offerings- and its life was a breath of joy to me and a promise of hope and a welcome feast to my eyes.

34. the struggle with weight and body; is gratitude the first step to turning around?

35. reflections on the Eagle Scout journey and the way it helps me breathe more deeply and look up and out

36. my oldest two (at home) out to a Christmas concert with dear friends; their happy faces and hearts and the warm memory of it all knit deep for them (Courtney, Lanie, Erin)

37. preparing for a winter recital- and my twinnies each playing two songs on an instrument- and it is such a twin moment for me, I take joy.

38. Aymee’s love notes and all that they are speaking to my heart; help me listen, Lord

39. Todd- and an outpouring that I had kept in and he says, “If you need to externalize to let it go, by all means, do so!” and I could cry with the relief of those words, because clearly, keeping it all inside didn’t achieve that end. And also, just knowing he is open to listening and helping me unpack all that I can struggle with…it is relief.

40. the golden, glory moon on 12.12; I wrote a bit at 66 books about it, but it doesn’t do justice. Also, my two college boys were unable to see it due to cloud cover and the way it was rising. And, I think on my ability to behold and be stunned in the luminous pink and gold rising: O Maryland, you nestled a bit into my heart. I still feel the yawning ache in my belly when I close my eyes and see that holy, huge orb rising with every flaming color and gold.

41. the first work Christmas party with Todd and a pondering; enjoying him and then the next week preparing a platter for the office of all our Christmas goodies. Happily, well-received.

42. tucked in with Little Women on Amazon Prime

43. his fruit salad and her way of helping me get it “all” done

44. the realization that just because it is hard doesn’t mean it isn’t right- and that focus and determination and hard work are worthy companions toward vocation goals and desires; I watch my young adult children face challenges- and I realize it is not in the giving up; it is in the hunker down and forward press- and I am speaking to myself, too. I am changing my mindset about a lot of different things.

45. a winter performance with Opus for small girlies and with bigs and my mom and Nathanael home for winter break, I mark the day in my heart

46. Winter Solstice and Summer Mummers Winter Version (a casual, friendly performance where anything goes: tin whistle, recorder, violin, viola, piano, whistling, ukulele, flute, vocals, drama, and more) and it is the most blissful, perfect night of fun and joy because it is free and relaxed, and I shake my candy cane colored jingle bell so hard a bell flies free across the sanctuary: we’re the mummers- and we cheer!! Abigaile and I can hardly breathe from laughing so hard and keeping quiet.

47. and the way Mummers creates space for me to play music with children; a cello duet; a flute duet… and I breathe deep and feel it all through my body. I want to play more with these children. It’s time.  It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. It doesn’t have to be pretty to be worth it. I’ve wondered long why these children struggle to play together… and I wonder if part of that secret ingredient might just be me. Help me, Lord.

48. My boys home from college- O! the gladness of this heart and the unending grace of hugs. Final grades post and they breathe relief.

49. Christmas Eve and Christmas morning joy and cozy days tucked in and Disney Plus (a gift that keeps on giving from grandparents and all the movies of childhood)

50. a word for 2020: AWAKE and Powersheets prepped and ready and (so dear to my heart) friendship support;

51. “Mock” New Year’s Eve and my annual Lego Hobbit Game Playing with Asher; and Elenorah and Asher playing soccer with controllers- and she gives him SUCH a run for his money! She just barely loses. At one point- she’s winning. How we laugh and cheer! Group Minecraft where they all play together on a world- and Mellie- she’s here; she’s there; she’s everywhere.  And Catan. Catan forever…and toasts all round and the youngest man (11) says, “to the next decade! 2020!” Indeed! Some love the sparkling grape juice; some hate the sparkling grape juice. O, the memories!

52. the clean kitchen and the way it greets Todd and I in the morning: a gift- and the son who offered it: the best gift.

53. a first driving lessons for two boys at one time; and Todd takes them; and they all come home- and I watch the three as they regale me with the (hilariously) funny stories of this first attempt- and really a milestone; and I think back to all the years ago- with those darling babies- that first Christmas with Asher just under six weeks old. And here we are now- and O, the personalities flame so bright. And the joy of the full-bellied laughter. Nathanael on one side; Todd in the middle; Asher on the other. One (apparently) careful and cautious; one- the methodical, organized teacher; and one, foot on the gas/hand on the wheel- away we go! SO funny. Starting off in a school parking lot on a Sunday afternoon. The best. My boys. Mom of boys forever.

54. two dance/ballet performances at a nursing home and I think of all the stories embodied in each wheeled resident: all the loves, the hopes, the dreams, the real-life dramas, the sorrows, and the pain. Their faces are all so different, and I can’t help but wonder about the lives that led to this place. It speaks to my heart; and it speaks to my life. I watch how much joy the dancers bring, and I especially watch the joy the little children bring. I know the gentle elderly remember their days of ease and energy; I wonder what memories are held in their hearts and minds. I ponder what kind of person I want to be when that time comes for me. How they enjoy the dancers: the holiday spirit is infectious.

55. Time with Todd for Christmas: a dinner out to make plans and talk- I bring issues/ I bring thoughts; and another day- a Christmas movie, us two- and it’s Little Women (at my earnest request/appeal)- as I dig in deep to enjoy one weekend off from working (sort of). The best gift for us. Time together. {I think} And for us, there are still always so many surprises with each other…these moments where I realize: he never knew. He really never knew. Or where suddenly, this full-fledged understanding dawns for him and after missing the mark of each other- suddenly the arrow zings home- and there is clarity and connection where there was a foggy, great divide.  That happened this Christmas, and in my heart- I laugh with joy. There is no bitter sting, only joy and some incredulity. In the best way.

56. surrender and receiving; the way I am going to walk it out this year

57. Barnes and Noble with my boys; and hot tea and talks; and Spotify

58. The night I woke up and found him (at 4:30 a.m.) navigating physical difficulty all on his own; I must have heard him; and with a mother’s unerring instinct- I went. And then awake, I can’t sleep. I sometimes still watch him breathe.

58. This song:

Anchor of My Soul by Josh Garrels- Deeper Well

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Things They Say (and do)

Note: the rapid pace and change of technology takes my breath away. My little children do not know a world without AI (in the form of Google, Echo, Alexa, and more);  they can ask for music, jokes, weather, and more… it is such an interesting world.

You have to tell Google “Good morning!” when you go downstairs tomorrow- a dear, tech-savvy son informed me. He had an impish grin on his face. “You’ll get a surprise!”- he said. This son has been tech-savvy for years, and this morning, I pondered all that he brings to us with this ability and gift. He has always been my “go-to” person for anything computer related and even machine related.

So- sure enough, when I came down, I got ready to greet Google. The first thing I actually did was tell Google, “Merry Christmas!” because I knew he had set it to greet us back with “Merry Christmas” and play “The Boors head Christmas Carol” which is a comedic delight for my children- which it surely did when I asked. And Jonah and I, who were the two in the kitchen at that moment: laughed and grinned. Nothing like a face-splitting smile on a foggy, cold Monday morning threatening to overwhelm with December.

But then… I called to Google (who has often complimented me on my nice way of asking! too funny) “Hey Google, Good Morning!”

Google then proceeded (programmed) to greet my son (who was not home- away at co-op) by name, call him a handsome devil, and inform (in detail) of the weather, the temperature, and more. Might I add that Google speaks in a lovely British accent! Oh my, how we laughed and laughed. And then…

(which I knew was coming, but still nothing can prepare for the impact)

Morning Has Broken (one of my favorite hymns and a song that has followed me from my childhood) began to stream out of the speaker. It truly is my favorite morning song.

I sat on the chair and cried. I cried because I suddenly felt the impact of all those years and days of Morning Time when I shared my heart; I shared poetry; I shared stories; I shared songs- and now– they are (sometimes) sharing them back to me.

I cried because the song is so precious to me and ministers to my heart, mind, and soul in every way.

I cried because I have been struggling, struggling so greatly in this season to remain faithful to something so simple as Morning Time where I share my heart; where I share goodness, and beauty, and truth; where I share the life-giving words and music that the children will take with them out in the world they will enter. It is so important, and I feel such an intense battle for its place in my day and our life.

I cried because of how much I love this son and the way he brings humor to leaven the day along with (one of) my favorite song(s). I love him so! I cried for the laughter and the beauty and the fierce battle and the loss and the gain. For it all.

And he is handsome- but I wouldn’t call him a devil! (ha ha ha ha!)

Morning Has Broken forever, and this dear son in my heart. And just a note- that this joy combined with Jonah in the kitchen making pumpkin bar for our family- which was also incredible to come down to and find in the kitchen!

HOW BLESSED I AM!

-The Things They Say And Do!

Eagle Scout Mom

Eagle Scout Mom Part 1 

(part 1 because I may revisit this again some day!)

Face- to – face with Todd, his earnest blue eyes connected with my own troubled ones. I was disturbed- and could feel the worry written all over my face. Actually, I felt frustrated and (of course) a little stressed.

Todd and I were having a private conversation in the home “office”- one of the places we go for quick meetings of import. We were convening to discuss the status of our current son’s Eagle Project and the difficulties that were being faced.

“It’s not about the actual project.” Todd was seriously informing me. “It’s about the whole process and everything the Scout learns along the way. It is about the growth that the Scout gains as they navigate the process. It is why the Project book is so important. It contains their proposal and their estimate of what everything will entail, and then the Scout has to fill it out afterward and reflect on the actual project and their experiences compared to what they initially proposed. It is the journey that matters and all the challenges are just part of that process.”

I would think I should know this.

Two times around this track- and now mid-way through the third. But, I needed those words. It’s true.  If I’m honest, I think the full comprehension of the journey and the project book finally, truly dawned for me.

And, then I took a needed deep breath.

Later, I was reflecting about my journey as an Eagle mom and pondering all that each son (so far) has encountered and learned through their own journey. And, it has been different for each one.

Son #1 had a very compressed time frame. He had a timeline for his project and to make the rank that was sifting like sand in an hour glass. The pressure was on. He had the experience of visualizing a project that was initially too large for the scope of his resources and time frame. So, he learned through flexing with his project idea and changing the scope while still participating in a project that was very meaningful for him. He also had a benefiting organization (city government) that he had no prior, personal experience with and learned a lot about professional communication.

Project: improve a half-court basketball court at our city park.

Son #2 had a challenging experience with his district representative. He experienced multiple delays in his timeline and time frame that were out of his control. He learned how to maintain his time frame (to the best of his ability) while working with other peoples’ delays. He also was called back again, and again, and again regarding his project book and fixed different aspects over and over. Ultimately, his rank was delayed several months beyond his initial goal through no fault of his own, but still happened within BSA time frame guidelines. He endeared himself to a district representative who handles many, many Scouts and their journeys and managed to maintain a positive attitude in what were often very frustrating circumstances. He also ended up with an additional work day needed for the actual project that he did not anticipate when planning. He graduated high school unable to officially claim the rank because of delays with his district representative, but in the end, it all worked out. He entered college as an Eagle and the benefits of that rank continue to bless his life.

Project: beautify our local non-profit music school and install a sculpture made from the inside of a grand piano.

Son #3 is deep in the project stage. And as always, there have been bumps in the road. The challenges he is facing surround the project itself more than any other son so far. He has experienced multiple orders for his project having to be changed. Example: ordered an item online after hours of research (very difficult to find item with specific specifications from the benefiting organization)only to learn (from the company) that they had not updated their online website to reflect their stock- so he had to change the item color- but such changes always require benefiting organization approval. He also ordered an item and was sent the wrong one. So, the company (a different one from prior) had to resend the item and that now requires that he schedule an additional work day. He also ran into season/weather concerns and has had to rework and navigate various aspects due to changes in planting and mulching seasons and so on. Already, as I reflect on where he is at this time, I see that his actual project will differ the most from what he initially proposed. He will schedule at least one additional work day. He is also experiencing a lot of communication needs due to various delays and issues. And (I hope!) he will learn a lot through this aspect of professional communication.

Project: improve the entrance to the local non-profit music school and enhance the project his brother completed

He is still deep on the trail- and of course, it is a bit easier to reflect when all is complete and the momentous Board of the Review – a success.

However, taking a few moments to reflect, helped me to see how each son experiences his own transformative journey- and how important the bumps are (for the learning process)- even though I tend to find them very challenging. And- it also helped underscore Todd’s message: that is not actually about the project- it is about the journey itself and the whole process. 

 I have told son after son- it is not for nothing that people say it is hard; you earn it, and you feel it. It is a steep ascent; it is a challenging climb.

It truly becomes the Scout’s personal journey on the trail to Eagle.

Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.

While the rank of Life Scout is a much-coveted one, and deserving the extreme credit, the Eagle trail does not end there. It still leads on and on. Toward the summit, its pathway narrows and steepens considerably as it winds along narrow ledges. Mile by mile, it becomes tougher and more trying. Many things have to be done in order to conquer these last miles. Before the highest summit along the Eagle trail can be attained, many additional merit badges are needed, some of them are pretty tough and in the meantime, leadership and service to others is not forgotten. Only those with greatest amount of persistence and courage are able to gain the thrill of victory that comes while looking down the trail, from the very top of the Eagle summit.” – National Eagle Scout Association (from the official ceremony booklet)

The thrill of victory indeed! The summit is sweet, and it is worth the climb!

On, on,-

-Rebecca

Lean in

It’s getting close. Just days away, really. I’m sending another son away. Times, they are a changing. It hurts to think how different things will be around here.

Truth is,

it is going to hurt when things are so different around here.

It doesn’t mean it isn’t right; it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t go; and it certainly doesn’t mean I shouldn’t acknowledge the change. It is the beautiful juxtaposition: joy and pain.

I have to keep a forward gaze, while also being present at hand. I have been thinking often- about this post, I wrote so long ago. Embrace the Day

The crux of it- that maybe isn’t really fully articulated in that actual post- is that peace and life (of which Jesus is the Source) are found in being present in the unique day at hand (with its own challenges, needs, blessings, and struggles). Embrace the day- where I take an inward deep breath, settle in, and receive what is, walking by faith in that “now” and trusting as I walk forward into what will be.

The trust I learned as I walked each season with each new baby; as I walk each new school year with these, my students; as I release and let go to turn around and focus on those here with me; — that trust is serving me now- as I realize the Spirit-filled walk of faith is calling to me-  the same trust and faith expressing itself in each different, changing season. It looks different but the heartbeat is the same.  It looks like heart to hearts with teens; texts, phone calls, video calls-  and the strong support backing young adults growing into themselves; it looks like believing in choices for children; it looks like table time with little girls and the disciplined choice to read, read, read. It looks like us (all of us) hand in hand and heart to heart.

I have to take hold with both hands that which is right in front of me.

I also have to lift up my heart and focus heart and energy forward into the good. (This means I think about all the good this next step is for this son I am letting go; this means I look around at the darlings before me and choose love; this means I step bravely forward into this new year)

I am uncomfortable with all the changes. I feel like the journey of my life has been traversed on the undulating waves of adjustments and change. Repeat.

The best tactic for me is to focus one laser-focused, clear eye on what is in front of me and give my whole heart.

I think back to pregnancy; to days cupping infants; to the days when I had more children who needed to learn to read than I did who could read- those days are definitely over.

I have been filling days (making memories) with my soon to be leaving son, and I am looking forward to welcoming home another son who will have been gone for seven long weeks. I can’t wait to see his face and hug his neck. I can’t wait to wrap a hug around him and let him know how deeply loved he is.

I have felt a rising panic as I strive to get ready for our next, upcoming school year. A year that will surely be different. Just as they all have been and will continue to be. But, by faith, I know that there will be wonderful opportunities for rich soul work in the hearts under this roof. All the hearts.

I am… leaning in. One day at a time, one change at a time.

Won’t you lean in, too?

The Things They Say (Food Allergy Edition)

 

A very special allergen safe restaurant One Dish Cuisine is most likely closing (and we are so sad).

 

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Just a couple weeks ago- on the twins’ birthday actually- (before we knew the restaurant would most likely shut down), we ventured out and fulfilled what has been a long time wish- to go to One Dish. Asher ordered a Burger and Fries freely off the menu- and enjoyed it wholeheartedly; I bit back tears. I did. Something so simple, yet truly so profound. To eat freely.

So, I made an effort to get there one more time, and he ordered pizza and a coke- to go. Something he had really wanted to order and experience.

He received it and brought it out where we were all waiting. It smelled amazing. It looked amazing. So many years eating daiya– and NEVER eating melted cheese outside a restaurant with Todd alone- I can’t tell the difference. Or- maybe it was inner panic. I don’t trust myself. That’s the thing about food allergies. You can’t tell by looking. Cracker A and Cracker B. They can look the same, but one be fatal. This is real life.

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After observing the delicious pie, I went back in just to double check with the staff that it was truly safe and dairy free. The restaurant has two menus- a blue menu and a green menu. Dairy is part of the green menu but handled very carefully. They do make dairy cheese pizzas. He ordered off the blue menu- but compulsively- I had to double check. I actually triple checked. The (dairy anaphylactic) owner had made it herself. She confirmed, but she was a little vague- and they (the staff) said things like: if we handed it to you and said blue menu, you’re good. Well, they didn’t hand it to me, and he didn’t remember if they said blue menu. And he ordered himself. However, he did state clearly blue menu, and we were very clear on no dairy for the other things we ordered. So, there you go.

Then we got into the car, and I realized I actually felt nauseous as the (wonderful) smell filled the van, and he got ready to enjoy his first piece. Pizza. (Pizza equals death) All the children were like: It smells amazing! Can’t you smell the daiya? I couldn’t tell.

Asher is eating it, and I am checking in. I am struggling mightily to just be chill and “cool.”

He remarks wryly, “This is exactly the paranoia that keeps us food allergy people alive. However, in this situation, I think it is okay to dial it back a level.”

I laugh. I grin. I love that son so much. O, I love him!

He also notes astutely, chewing a delicious piece- (aware of his own body and reactions thanks to Johns Hopkins’ careful handling), “I would be reacting already if this was dairy.”

Indeed, I realize he would have known at the first bite.

Lord, forbid! The responsibility is unrelenting.

Keeping the food allergy people alive

(and it is true).

The Things They Say

P.S. He finished that large pizza today, and it was delicious!