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!

 

Because cuteness

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she created octopuses all by herself just from seeing a photo

-her original knitted one even has eight legs-

and she drew the sketch

in her quick, creative way

that illuminates

my mind

with delight-

and asked me

to write the words across the top-

(we had a brief debate: octopuses/octopii- in the end

we went with octopii – ill-spelled and all)

she has an entrepreneurial heart

it has shown itself in

more ways than just

this

octopus

with hearts.

Endless Gifts Summer Edition 2019

this spun out longer and longer (than I even intended) and one thing I know for sure is the effectual ability of this habit (of gratitude) to change my life (for the good) and so I didn’t hold back- but let it loose- to roll and lift here/ so much said and so much unsaid– endless gifts… 

the blank page, cursor blinking promise

a dozen (or more) wool bunnies with jaunty hand-made tails

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Coffee with almond whip cream and cinnamon

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the boy who greeted me at the Scout camp pickup with words from Dickens. He said: Let me start by saying: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” – o! my children thrill me.
a trip to OneDish and a burger and fries for my boy
Goldie- the new to us car from Todd’s grandparents, and Micah’s quick and direct recognition of God’s faithful provision
safe trips to Pa, and my family: despite a harrowing drive one journey, and more traffic than I’ve ever encountered another; despite stress and summer heat (of all sorts); I’m left with all the realization that I want to make the most of this one life
for all the beloveds who are opening arms to Nathanael as he moves three hours away (into (what feels like) the arms of our family and friends!) for the coming year- o, my heart.
Nathanael, Lehigh, and everything this is, and all I need to learn (and all I need to understand about myself)
Maker girlies and chains of finger knitting

Simply Classical, and tears, and more tears- this book!

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a tidied bedroom, purged (almost all the way purged) bookshelf, and new, soothing bed linens (and my mom who got the linens for me- thank you)
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the realization and seeking understanding that true rest is of the mind and soul and comes from faithful endeavor (Mystie Winckler) and how can I apply this more to my life and practice it?
tea parties and little girls- and especially one particular little girl- who sets the table with flowers she finds in the yard, and sweets, and water with ice- she is the treat
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trying to squeeze in some lasts with Nathanael- and make it count. Am I?

The little girl who told her sisters they weren’t actually 8 until they were blowing out their candles on their cake(s)
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fruit kabobs
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Blueberry picking in Pennsylvania around the fourth of July. No blueberry ever tasted so good as those luscious, large berries. They went so fast. They were gone in a blink.
phone calls with Micah and a reminder of all that he is
plans for a new school year; plans for two young men at college-
an encounter in the library parking lot with Asher’s Eagle Coach- and I tell Todd- she is inspiration in the flesh-  so uplifting, refreshing, and motivating- so thankful for her
The Barton System- and progress- and most of all the fact that everything I dreaded is NOT true
darlings who love to talk with me and share their thoughts; the one who persuades me out for “soda times” and proceeds to bring such life and creativity with him! #thewritinglife
Reading All the Light We Cannot See— and then reading it again
The Lamplighter Reading Challenge and Todd
SummerMummers at Courtney’s
emailing friends for Abi
Jen and Andrea. Everything their very names mean to me- my sisters in Christ. I want to be more intentional.
car talks with Ali and the realization of God’s provision and promise in her life and the kindred commitment to excellence and drive we share
a date night out with Todd, and long conversations, and the deep-seated recognition of how needed it was
the last CHSF Steering meeting and all the vibrant, soul-filling life there
a reminder that ” All I need is here” (Wendell Berry) 
poem writing, and the life it brings to my soul and…. longing
a cry in the night, in my soul- to “Awake! Awake!” and I pray, help me, Lord. Awake.
one small step in the right direction

Endless Gifts

After {Graduation 2019}

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From this morning

It is the night after Nathanael’s graduation culmination-

all the ceremonies; the after-party; the celebration complete with confetti scatter and balloons; photos and music and words

-bitter words among us and sweet co-mingled to create pain and joy- He (God) makes the bitter sweet. I need this.

I can’t sleep. There are a variety of factors that could be the physical cause of this– but perhaps it is just the deep need to place words in this place from my heart. To be alone in the quiet and let myself feel the weight of it all.

It is the after. This year, when I walked a path in which my own footsteps were still fresh(2018)- and the going was more difficult, and that was hard-

and now, as I face an ending, and a new beginning

and it is all so recent; and now– so not unknown- which is its own kind of hard. For me.

I have to remember as I look into his face that he is his own.

I wondered how I would muster 2019 with the same exhilarated joy as I did 2018. But, somehow, I did.  We did. It is and it was.

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And I sit in the glimmer of lamplight with an apt tribute all around me{his graduation display before me; my computer resting on 2019 confetti; remnants of covered sweets -a tribute of love and celebration; gold balloons gleaming; his face before me}. What feels like the remnants of a life… I try to take a moment to acknowledge all it is and was. My earnest endeavor laid out for this child, now man, whom I love and am so deeply proud.

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selfie before celebration

It is a mighty endeavor. Home Education. And, for a lot of it, I have done it alone. With Todd. It is an endeavor of heart, soul, mind, — faithfulness. It is the daily in and out over and over. It is knowing I will wake up and do it all again times 7 more souls, Lord willing- and O, Lord- help me.

I must choose hope. As I have done again, again, again, again – with each hard growing pain of life. And this is one of them.

This year felt hard. And, it felt slow. It felt like everything (including graduation, party, celebration, college admissions- everything) was just more than I could muster. And, somehow, muster, I did.

And there is the deep inner pang when I glance ahead to August. I want to do better next year {2019-20} than I did this year. I want the walk to be smoother; not hurt quite so bad; not feel quite so lopsided. I don’t know if it will.  Truth is, most likely it won’t. It will feel empty. It will feel like loss and grief. It will be hard as I lean into ministry and support of college-aged children while devoting attention to children at home with pressing needs. There will be grace; there will be blessings; there will be a lot of hard change.

I lean into the moment, and the people here in front of me. Some of whom are hard to love right now. My field is always before me, and I must not neglect it.

I will keep on loving. When it is hard. When it hurts. When I am unseen. When I am alone. When I am misunderstood. When I am rejected. When I am despised.

And, I will not be ashamed for the choices I make for the good of my family and my home. They are what they are- and often- intuitive- where I see the good much after.

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I will not be ashamed for being true to myself and who I am and who we {this family} are in each decision made. Live and learn; and on, on.

I will recognize that paths diverge and that does not mean my path is wrong.

I feel the burden of being alone.

“Things” are not finished. O, no. All I have to do is look one day ahead on my calendar, and my list wavers blurry and becomes shockingly clear right in front of my eyes. So, I have to choose to find rest in this moment. This one moment of completeness and culmination. Where I battled for joy and goodness and truth and honor. Because I did.

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Where I had to recognize weakness and frailty and the inability to get all the things done.  And it was what it was- with that. And, I did. Where I learned never again to decide to make the upstairs “off-limits” when hosting plenty of guests. O, no.

Where I felt exhausted and alone and at odds with this and that. And, I was.

Where I pause and acknowledge a deeper sweetness in marriage and joy in our love that is comfort and passion and friendship and {past and future} all woven together. I am the creative cacophony, and he is the order, service, and lines. As it always has been.

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It is the end of the day {literally and figuratively}.

I am the grateful mom of a homeschool graduate, and I take just a moment to acknowledge myself as educator; college admissions coach; guidance counselor; at-home Eagle Scout mentor; supervisor; and discipler. I finished high school well with this child.

I close my eyes. I see all their faces before me; precious, treasured. It is time to sleep. There is work to be done in the morn.

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-CCS Graduation Reception                                            We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Hebrews 6:19

 

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

Lenten Hope, Lenten Joy

i

40-day journey to the cross.

I posture my heart.

I posture my soul.

Face down- yet

lifted

(high)

ii

I clasp hands earnestly

and beseech

for joy and hope

at the table gathered

with children.

In the morning.

I pray.

iii

Later.

It is afternoon.

And, I am jolting

forward. stop. forward. stop.

hurtling jaggedly home

two cello players car (in)side with me.

and suddenly...

I am deliciously

captivated by the

word

incandescent-

incandescent... distilled to me from a moment

in a beautiful song. 

(I would never have found but for the son by my side)

iv

We are almost home- and oldest cellist and I study quickly

to gain the full understanding

of this lovely, lovely word:

it speaks to me.

  1. adjective incandescent: 

(of light) produced by incandescence.

glowing or white with heat.

intensely bright; brilliant.

brilliant; masterly; extraordinarily lucid:an incandescent masterpiece; incandescent wit.

aglow with ardor, purpose, etc.:the incandescent vitality of youth.

God, I love this song.

“Magic Mirror”

 

O, profound song. Speaking to me.

 

Inside, I weep.

And-

I joy.

v

Later, (on the road again) I ponder how that word

incandescent

thrilled me to the toes

and how

for a brief

whiff

of time, I felt so joyfully alive.

And, I’m grateful.

I think on… what makes me feel alive.

vi

I find myself stepping

into Target.

Target, of all places,

and… once again-

the joy is

rising.

a glimmer, found for me

among little girl dresses

with unicorns

and spring themed

garments hanging like

hope

in pinks, greens, purples, sky blue

and of course,

(silver and gold)

sparkle

for some reason

I am happy.

 I am happy among the spring themed atmosphere of Target.

I tell my son, and we laugh.

Target can do that to a lot of people, we ruminate.

As we walk out, the smell of coffee fills the air, and I fill my lungs.

With that good smell.

vii

In the car,

I realize

that I prayed,

in the morning

I prayed

for the reality

of joy

and the reality

of hope

and that we would ponder the way to the cross

and 

the joy of resurrection.

 

The truth is-

it has been a rare day that

I have felt the free joy

I found today.

I don’t take it for granted.

I am grateful.

O sun, O spring, O-

thankful for hope

and

feeling

for

goodness, joy, and life.

And knowing it is true.

viii

I am looking for Spring.

I am looking…

I am looking for my Savior,

lifted high.

I am looking

in the faces of the

ones around me-

and I am remembering,

to

pray.

Face down

yet lifted

(high).

 

Cookie Day 2018 and Filled Snickerdoodles

 

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Sugar cookies

We recently had our very first “Cookie Day” with my brother’s family. It was utterly delightful, and I am so glad I said, “yes!” when the idea came to us both in “relatively” early November. I struggled a bit with some aspects of the implementation and am thankful everyone worked together to make this day a sweet success. At the end, the little ones each got to fill a plate with six cookies- knowing that all the rest were going to head to Ama’s for Christmas Day and the days to come.

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I fell completely in love with cookie stamps! I found an Irish claddagh. It is a beautiful, stoneware cookie stamp that is even dishwasher safe. Cookie-making with these stamps was so, so fun!

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I was so happy to stumble upon a big sale at Michaels. It can be tricky finding safe sprinkles. The choices are limited. 

We set up three stations for the little ones:

decorating sugar cookies

cut-outs

cookie stamps

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Ever grateful for my husband who handles the cut-out station to perfection (orderly, organized, calm, fair, and so on!)

Ryan had the fantastic (cozy) suggestion to have crockpots of chili.

He brought a venison mango/sweet potato chili with a spicy kick. We made our turkey salsa/black bean chili.

While three adults manned the stations, my older kids were able to complete almost all of the rest of our Christmas cookie baking. Nathanael and Asher made their traditional peppermint cookie bark, and Abi made filled snickerdooodles.

We have gotten a lot of requests for our filled Snickerdoodle cookie recipe. These cookies are becoming holiday favorites for our teachers and other people we share them with at Christmas-time. They are definitely a festive treat!

I am sharing the recipe below! Merry Christmas, friends!

Filled Snickerdoodles
Cookie:
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup dairy free margarine or coconut oil
2 eggs
2 3/4 unbleached white flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
3 TB cinnamon
3 TB sugar      {for rolling dough balls in}
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Mix first six ingredients into a dough that forms small balls in your hands
Mix cinnamon/sugar mixture
Roll dough into balls and then in the cinnamon/sugar mixture.
Place on trays and back for 8-10 minutes.
Notes:
we prefer our cookies slightly soft so we choose the shorter cook time
we have found that baking these cookies on stoneware creates the absolute best cookie
coconut oil has a softer, richer texture than dairy free margarine
Filling:
Best Vanilla Frosting
1 stick dairy free margarine or 1/2 cup coconut oil (softened/melted)
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups confectioners sugar
Water or Vanilla flavored dairy free milk such as almond or rice milk
Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl and whip together
Notes:
we use our basic vanilla/white icing filling or sugar cookie icing
the icing made with coconut oil seems the most delicious- but it is the trickiest to make. If not careful, you can end up with a lumpy mess that is hard to salvage.
Let cookies cool completely. Fill with a light layer of frosting. Place in freezer or refrigerator until ready to give away or serve!
Note to my children: remember to make the cookies on the small, thin side. 🙂