on birthdays and finding joy

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My birthday last week was a fairly ordinary “workday” for me, and also not the easiest day with the children.  I found myself scrubbing toilets and floors, folding laundry, settling sibling disputes, feeding hungry mouths–all the usual work that fills my days up to the brim.  Of course there is a part of me that wants to just rest and be free from all work for a day (unrealistic), but then I also don’t mind taking care of these little ones that I love so much and this home that keeps us all together.  I share my birthday with my mom, so my gift to her this year was to buy a few skeins of yarn for her to choose from so that I could knit her a shawl.  She picked the color I had had on my mind for her, a rustic-y soft light red called Bergamot, and helped pick out a shawl pattern.  I wanted to wind up her yarn on our birthday and cast on.  I realized as I began knitting it that I was knitting this exact pattern just about this time last year on a road trip to upstate New York with Brandon’s family as a commissioned shawl for a friend.  How funny and coincidental to be knitting it again at the same time a year later.  It’s such an enjoyable pattern–all knitting and yarn overs and no purling!

I had planned on making a yummy dinner for my birthday since Brandon would be working a normal work-day and since we never really eat out with Phoebe and her dietary needs.  I wanted to make Against the Grain’s Pesto Prosciutto Chicken with a GF pasta on the side, and creme brûlée for dessert, which is my favorite.  The dinner took longer than I expected and once I got it in the oven, the kids and I and Brandon decided to go for a walk while it baked.  It had been raining and we had felt a bit cooped up.  The kids splashed in all sorts of muddy puddles so B bathed them quickly when we got home while I finished up dinner and it was late and nerves were a bit raw by this time.  My dinner didn’t look at all like the lovely cookbook’s pictures, which is always annoying, but it was still delicious.  I had made a creme brûlée earlier in the afternoon and infused it with culinary lavender because I love love love lavender especially in desserts.

We lit candles and I turned on french music because somehow everything felt like a french sort of dinner, and we ate at nearly 8pm.  I had some cards to open, and then B put the finishing touches on the creme brûlée, the kids sang happy birthday to me which was the best part.  The fuzzy photo of me with phoebe is the only such picture I snagged on this day, but its worth including since this is me, turning 33.

I had received word in the afternoon that Brandon’s grandfather had died.  He had been in the hospital after some falls and other health issues so we knew it was coming, but it still felt so soon.  Sadly we weren’t very close with him, but it’s still surreal and strange to consider death on your birthday.  Probably quite healthy.  Really that’s what we’re all marking–here’s another year, gone.  Another year comes–bringing me closer to my own end.  Time is passing, time is coming.  Let’s stop and celebrate and remember and pay attention.

We quickly got the kids to bed, then got cozy for a movie of my pick.  We watched “Florence Foster Jenkins” which was so interesting and funny and also a little sad (based on a true story).  I cried and cried at the end.  I don’t want to spoil the movie for those of you who may want to see it, but I will say I commiserated with the protagonist (Meryl Streep).  She loved music and in her mind she had a beautiful singing voice, but in reality her voice was terrible.  She pursues singing and her husband tries desperately to protect her from the truth of her real performance.  It makes you wonder: Is this reality that we know of ourselves the reality others know of us?  Aren’t so many of us afraid that maybe everyone is really laughing at us and about us behind our backs?  What if we are really quite terrible at the things we think we’re good at, at the things we most love?

I’m sure it was the combination of watching that movie, it being my birthday, and also processing the news of Brandon’s grandpa’s death.  It made me think and wrestle a bit with life, with the things I love and spend time on, with my role as a stay-at-home mother.  I sometimes wrestle with this blog.  I don’t know why, it seems so silly in the light of day.  I love sharing our little life here.  It helps me keep track of things, our lives little record for now.  I’m not sure if I’ll do it forever.  It’s important to reevaluate frequently what I give myself to.  I enjoy taking pictures and capturing these fleeting moments.  I’m thankful to have a space to write and share with you whatever God seems to lay on my heart.  I’m not trying to “make it big” or be somebody, I’m not making an income doing this.  I don’t mind it being mostly small and personal and shared with those few who happen to find this place on the internet and with whomever it resonates.  I leave it to God to use it as He chooses.  But then sometimes I doubt myself.  Are my motives wrong, self-serving?  Is this a huge waste of time and a distraction?  Is it too personal to share our family life so openly in such a dangerous and dark world?  My blogging has brought occasional criticism, but mostly I feel it from my own inner critic.  Brandon is relentless in support of it, which is always so odd to me because he is so anti social-media-anything.  Anyway, for whatever reason this is where my mind went after watching that movie.  Wrestling with the silliness of my spending time photographing, knitting, writing words, creating.  Who has time for all of this when you have little ones and when the world is full of pain and need?  Am I spending my life on what really matters?  Are my little endeavors to bring beauty and joy and even occasionally to write words–are these small endeavors mattering?

I crawled into bed and picked up my book and opened to these words.  (The author was sharing about finding a little resale boutique in her neighborhood, a beautiful little gem and yet she went in and found herself to be the only customer.  She imagined being the store owner, the way the woman had attractively laid out her wares, rearranging and bravely taking a risk to run this little business that wasn’t really garnering that much attention.  She wondered if the woman got discouraged on the days when there was no business.  What makes her think things will work out?  Why does she return to it day after day?):

“She returns to what she loves to do, because she loves it and she can’t not do it.  She goes back to the joy of pursuing her passion.  Because its not likely that anyone is coming in and exclaiming, ‘I’m so glad you’re here!  I’ve been waiting for you to sell secondhand clothes in this space all of my life!’  It’s not likely that anyone is affirming her passion or holding her hand through those moments of sheer panic.  I’m also pretty certain people aren’t stampeding to her door to say thank you or to make spirit tunnels for her to run through at the end of the day after she’s vacuumed the floor and locked up for the thousandth time.

This is what I’m getting at: joy isn’t in the response of others based on what we do.  Joy is in doing what God created us to do and has given us to do.  Joy is in pursuing with faith and abandon the passions God has laid in our hearts, and doing them in his honor.  We serve for the smile on his face.

And joy begets joy.  When we serve God with joy, we in a round-about way encourage others to serve God with joy.  Artists appreciate another’s art, joy is derived from another’s joy, and passion feeds off and grows from another’s passion.

So whatever you’re doing–homeschooling, event planning, cake baking, medical research, substitute teaching, diaper changing, coaching, putting words out into the world, or yes, running a small boutique–do it with joy as unto the Lord.  Don’t look for appreciation from others or a spirit tunnel at the end of the day as an indicator of whether or not you’re on the right track.  Look to God, who created you to be a creator that flings tangerine passion and joy into the world.  He is smiling as you do what you do for him.

There is no mold, no one right way of showing Jesus, for where the Spirit is, there is freedom.  He has made us each different, combining us all to make a collage, a collage that when you step back and look you suddenly see: it’s Jesus!

Different mediums.
Different brushes.
Different strokes for reaching different folks.
You there, with your unique talents, passions, and gifts.
Go in freedom.
Tell them about Jesus with your life.
Do it with grace and tangerine joy.”

-Christine Hoover, From Good to Grace

Isn’t that so sweet of God, to speak right to what I was struggling with at the long end of the day?  He affirmed me, affirmed His love for me, affirmed my freedom in Him, affirmed His smile over me.  What more could you ask for on a birthday?  I hope you are encouraged, too, dear reader.  Whatever you do, do it for Him, do it as unto Him, do it with joy and gusto and don’t worry about the response or affirmation or notice of others.   Take risks.  Live boldly.  Be brave.  Be a pioneer.  Follow where He leads.  When we get our eyes off of Him we get into all sorts of trouble, don’t we?  It’s His good-pleasure over us that we’re after, it’s His approval alone that matters.

At the end of the Florence Foster Jenkins movie, after criticism about her singing voice, Florence on her deathbed said:  “They can say I can’t sing, but no one can say I didn’t sing.”

So, sing, friend.  You go on singing, and I will too.  His ear is tuned to hear our voice.

 

 

 

yarn along

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I cast on the Antarktis shawl for my mom in Fibre Co. yarn meadow, color way Bergamot. Ive wanted to knit with this yarn since seeing Ginny Sheller’s shawl last year, and my mom happened to pick the same pattern, so that is fun!  It’s my second time knitting this pattern and its fun to see how much I’ve grown in my knitting since the last year.  I’m really enjoying this knit and the yarn is just perfection.  Super soft and airy, yet rustic.

I finished From Good to Grace last week and loved it to the very end.  Its one of those that feels like it was written just for me.  This one, Mere Motherhood, is deeply engrossing.  I have a hard time putting it down when I do find a few minutes to read before bed.  She’s a bit rougher around the edges than I expected, and I’m curious to see where the book goes.  I love memoirs.  The kids and I have done something similar to her “morning time” in the past and I’m curious to implement something a bit more in-depth this next school year.

What are you reading or making lately?

Joining up with Nicole of Frontier Dreams’ weekly Crafting On.
Affiliate links included.

this cup

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Well, we are starting to feel like summer is here.  Last Friday we celebrated our last day of school for Phoebe’s kindergarten year.  I still want to continue reading and writing work with her over the summer to keep things fresh, but really, our homeschool co-op starts up again in August so we only have a few weeks (!!!) before we’re back in the swing of things again.  I think both of us need to feel like we finished before we start up again.  I need time to plan for the next year, order books and resources, make a calendar of sorts and have a plan in motion.  There’s a big homeschool book sale here this weekend so I’ll be pulling together my list in the next couple of days in preparation for that but I know I will need some time to plan out the next year as well.  Beginning “first grade” feels a bit more serious than kindergarten!  There are so many directions we could go in, and I feel that pull as a homeschooler to try to do everything and go in a hundred directions, but I know I need some time to seek the Lord and His plan for us for the next year.  There is a lot of freedom in homeschooling and so many worthy approaches that its almost overwhelming for me, someone who likes to be told the rules so that I can follow them!  Its a good challenge for me to stay small, simple, focused, and dependent on God’s leading.

Phoebe has been listening to audio books constantly on the little music player in the sunroom, coloring and having tea and flying through the Little House series.  She’s relistening to the Penderwicks book because I haven’t checked out the next one from the library yet.  Her last day of school she cried a bit, saying reading is just so hard for her.  She failed her eye exam at her recent physical and she goes to see an eye doctor next week to see if she needs glasses, which may explain why she gets super tired/frustrated when we work on reading.  She loves books and being read to, and she is starting to read everything she can around her, but she says it is her least favorite subject.  Who knows, I’m not too worried about it because she has been a book lover since she was 6 months old.  I do want to cultivate her continued love of it though and not frustrate her.

We celebrated our end-of-year with a yummy skillet chocolate chip cookie and a batch of coconut ice cream, and we all cheered as a family for the way each of us worked hard this year to make school happen.  Noah and Philippa were huge helpers to me, doing their best to stay out of the way while we did work, and a really close friendship developed between them as a result.  I plan to have more activities ready next year for them to engage in so that they can be included if they want to be.  Brandon supports me hugely, encourages me when I feel like I’m not doing enough, and helps out sometimes in the evenings with Phoebe’s work.  He and I both get excited thinking about him taking on some schooling in the future, too–teaching skills, doing field trips with the kids, or helping by reading or listening to Phoebe read books.  Homeschooling really is a family venture!

Summery things are blooming in the yard, butterfly bush and the last of the poppies, and our little garden is starting to produce.  A robin family built their nest in the tree by our porch so we’ve had fun peeking at the little blue eggs.  We have a huge rosemary bush by our mailbox so I’ve begun drying clippings from it to store up for the winter, which makes Phoebe extra happy since “it is just what Ma would do,” she says.  So we enjoy these little things, the markers of time passing, the liturgy of the ordinary, small shifts and small moments.  Life.

I’m knitting away as usual, and trying to squeeze in reading always.  I’m working on a hat for a loved one.  I have some “homeschool mom enrichment” books to read this summer, as I’m calling them.  A few things I want to refresh on as I look ahead and plan.  I have been wanting to read this book, Mere Motherhood, for a long time, and I’m excited to dig into it.  I plan to review The Well-Trained Mind again, as well as Teaching From Rest.  I hope to also read A Charlotte Mason Companion.  There are so many other good ones out there, but a few is probably all I will realistically accomplish.

It’s my birthday today and it’s been mostly a usual sort of Wednesday.  When you’re a momma with little ones underfoot, there isn’t much of a break from the daily tasks.  Spills and messes still happen, children squabble and need parenting, dishes and laundry pile, meals must still be made.  I really don’t mind, though.  I’m happy right here.  I mean, I’ll take a stack of books, a long bath, some knitting time, and a good long run on a mountain ridge any day, don’t get me wrong!  I’m learning to lean into the fray a bit more instead of just trying to survive it until the break comes.  I realized last night and this morning that I kept humming Sara Groves song This Cup.

How many hours have I spent
Watching this shining tv
Living adventure in proxy
In another person’s dream
How many miles have I traveled
Looking at far away lights
Listening for trains in the distance
In some brilliant other life?

This cup, this cup
I wanna drink it up
To be right here in the middle of it
Right here, right here
This challenging reality
Is better than fear or fantasy

So take up what we’ve been given
Welcome the edge of our days
Hemmed in by sunrise and sunset
By our youth and by our age
Thank God for our dependence
Here’s to our chasm of need
And how it binds us together
In faith and vulnerability

This cup, this cup
I wanna drink it up
To be right here in the middle of it
Right here, right here
This challenging reality
Is better than fear or fantasy

What if my whole world falls apart?
What if my life could be different?
What if I sat right here and took you in
Without the fear and loved you whole
Without the flight and didn’t try to pass

This cup, this cup
I wanna drink it up
To be right here in the middle of it
Right here, right here
This beautiful reality
Is better than fear or fantasy
Is better than fear or fantasy
Is better than fear or fantasy

We’re all hemmed in by sunrise and sunset, our days all have edges, our life is limited by bounds.  Another year passes, another year comes.  We can fight our limitations, grumble about our reality or surrender to what God has given us and say, this cup I will drink.  To be present, right here in the middle of this moment–that’s what I want.

yarn along

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It took Brandon a little while to decide on a hat pattern for the yarn that he picked out, but we finally did and I cast on for it a few days ago.  He is very particular, not wanting anything slouchy or “trendy,” and likes more classic simple hats, but with some kind of a bit of interest.  So I think what we picked will be good.  This yarn is nice to work with so far, I’m still learning how variegated yarns knit up.  I can’t quite foresee it until I start knitting with it.  This one almost looks camo-ish to me as it knits up, so I’m curious to see how the end result will look.  It’s very bright and the blue is dark enough that in the evenings it’s hard to work on it because I can’t see my stitches super well in low light.  I’ve been working on some gift knitting as well, always a few projects on the go.  I’ve had a little idea too, something I’ve been praying about and thinking about, a way to share some of my knitting with you folks, too.  I’ll share more about it soon!

Still reading From Good to Grace (affiliate link), not much time for reading these busy days, and I’m enjoying this one slowly.. hoping I really digest it versus speed read through it and it not sink in.  Are you tired of seeing it’s cover yet? 🙂 🙂  Maybe next week I’ll be onto something new.  Maybe.

What are you knitting or reading lately?  I always love hearing from you and getting ideas for new books and projects!

Linking up with Nicole of Frontier Dreams weekly Crafting On.

 

yarn along

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I finished Philippa’s socks a few days ago and she has happily been wearing them here and there when its chilly enough for socks.  I cast on a pair for Noah on Sunday and am ready to turn the heel on sock no. 2.  It’s fun how the yarn faded into a deeper blue on the toe of his first sock.  I hope they don’t look too mismatched, but for kids socks, they are super soft, bright and cheery, and I know my children are happy with them!

I’m still reading From Good to Grace, but couldn’t take a pic of it for this post, since it was in my room and Noah is napping in there.  Below are a couple of pictures of Philippa enjoying her sockies.

Linking up with Nicole’s weekly Crafting On post.

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beginnings + endings

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It’s the shoulder-season time of year, things beginning and ending.  Schools nearing their finish, spring bursting into summer.  Pools are opening, farmers markets are filling with first fruits.

Phoebe had her ballet recital a few days ago and did so well!  We were so proud of all her hard work and focus, and truly amazed at how much she has learned this year.  I don’t know that we can afford to keep her in classes going forward, but it was a joy to see her complete a semester.  She was way too grown up in her makeup (gag, though–sort of hate seeing kids in makeup.  Luckily she hated it too and couldn’t wait to get it off) and she was enamored watching the rest of her dance company do their performances.  So fun to watch her.

We gave Phoebe a violin for her birthday in December but had to pack it up rather quickly since we were moving shortly thereafter and I had no idea how to tune it, so she hadn’t really been allowed to try it out.  I felt a bit like a horrible mom for giving her a gift and then basically putting it away for months.. so we found a little local music store and went this week to get it tuned and learn a bit how to hold it.  I’d like to start her in some lessons soon.  She is eager to learn and has been pulling it out and playing often now that she’s allowed.  I want our home to be filled with music, even though the beginning process of learning and instrument feels a bit painful.  I know older moms whose kiddos play and sing together (even my own siblings and I) and the sacrifice in the beginning (of more noise) is so worthwhile in the end!

I do some photography on the side (very little! very amateur!) for my dad and husband’s remodeling business, taking “after” pictures of their work for their website.  I was out at a client’s home in Fairview and stopped by a little self-serve farm stand nearby to pick up fresh flowers and fresh strawberries.  These berries are the best.  Everything from that farm stand is impeccable, and I’m rarely out that way so I stop there whenever I am.  Anyway, I knew we had to make a strawberry pie with those berries, and fresh homemade vanilla ice cream.  So Phoebe and I got to work on that in the afternoon, after wrapping up some school work while the other two were sleeping.  It’s fun to bake with her but also messy and sometimes I’m not up for the extra work.  Our pie was pretty good, but not quite what I was imagining.  Anyone have a good strawberry pie recipe (gluten free/paleo)?  Brandon loved it, though.

We’ve had a lot of rain this past week and the last couple of days have finally been dry and warm and sunny, so we checked on our little green growing things.  Our garden is a bed of hope for me, a reminder of so many precious truths: seeds will produce fruit, hope begins in the dark soil but eventually bursts into reality.  Great bounty comes from small endeavors in faithfulness.  We grow whatever we feed + nurture. Weeds come easy and choke out the good plants, while the good plants take more effort to grow.  Putting hands in soil, watering daily, watching and waiting–it somehow teaches me on a deeper level than just reading about seeds and soil.  Physically toiling in it preaches.  It reminds me of Jesus’ giving us the gift of the Lord’s supper: bread and wine.  Physical elements that we are meant to regularly handle, touch, taste, see, smell.  It preaches the Gospel to us in a different way, a physical way.  Every time I take the Lord’s supper, the experience of it itself preaches, brings new understanding, new enjoyment of God, deeper worship of Him.  We are busy growing things aren’t we–all these beginnings and endings, these little indicators that seasons are passing, time is moving, children are growing right before our eyes.  Time is slipping away, pushing forward whether we are ready for it or not.  We can’t hold a single day down.  We can see it and receive it and enjoy it and then it slips right out of our hands, making room for the next day, the next beginning.

I’ve been reading in Ecclesiastes for the past couple of weeks as I study through the Old Testament (using Nancy Guthrie’s Seeing Jesus in the OT series, which I highly recommend!) Anyway, I’ve been reading about toil and meaninglessness and vanity and living for the moment.  It’s been a bit depressing for me at times, because in some ways I find my cynical self agreeing with the hopelessness of the author at times.  Does any of this matter?  All this toil that seems to produce so little?  Yet we have a hope that the author didn’t yet have, the hope we find in Christ who reversed the curse when He rose from the dead and who gives value to all of our work, telling us that whatever we do for the least of these in His name will last.  It’s a mystery to me still, but yet I plod onward–learning to do small things with care and love and with eyes fixed on Jesus, finding Him and worshiping Him in all the little beginnings and endings.  It’s part of why I blog here–to see the ordinary, holy moments in my days, to mark the passing of time, to savor the things that I so easily miss, to look and hunt for beauty in the bread and in the wine.  To see that He gives everything, and everything I have is somehow a gift from Him, even the hard things.  All is grace.  He withholds no good thing from us.

yarn along

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Still reading From Good to Grace by Christine Hoover and enjoying it so deeply.  Highly recommend.

Knitting philippa’s second sock.  She seemed completely disinterested in these until I tried the first sock on her and she started wiggling her little toes in it.  Now she is so excited to see me knitting the second one.  It amazes me every time, how excited the children get when I’m making something just for them.

What are you reading or making lately?  Linking up with Nicole’s Crafting On. ❤