On growing up

 

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We were gathered at the kitchen table over breakfast, and I pulled out the bible for our morning family reading time.  As we were discussing that day’s reading, I asked the children something and Phoebe’s response was, “Well, I just don’t read my bible that often.  I don’t find I really have a use for it.”  Words that made my heart sink.  Is that what she sees in us, I had to ask myself?  Does she not see her father and I clinging to God’s word, making USE of it in our daily lives?  Where are we exemplifying it’s practical use and purpose?  I’m thankful she was being real and honest, and I think if most of us are honest, we don’t feel too much differently than she does.  We don’t read our bibles much because we don’t really see the use, right?  What good is it anyway?

But then the hard days come.  The shock of bad news, the financial burden, the unexpected need.  The broken heart, the anxious nights–and those of us who are Word-people find that only God’s Word breaks through these hard life realities.  Only God’s Word helps, soothes, and brings hope.  I hope I can show my children that there is nothing like God’s Word, like hearing truth that divides so perfectly (Heb. 4:12) and brings light (Ps. 119:130) and literally imparts strength to the listener (Ps. 119:28).

It’s been a hard few weeks around here.  I don’t only want to share the good in this little space, because of course you know it isn’t all good!  I’ve been feeling increasingly frazzled and stretched and overwhelmed lately, trying to juggle more than I ever have before and feeling at capacity, if not beyond.  I dropped and broke my camera which is a source of joy and also income for me.  It will cost as much to fix it as it would to purchase a new camera.  I was planning to open a little etsy shop this month but now can’t photograph the items I want to sell (I can use my phone, but it doesn’t do the same job as my DSLR).  One of the children had lice, resulting in a total house scrub down and a billion loads of laundry.  A few days after that discovery, the vet informed us Rose (our kitty) has fleas and so the house underwent another big scrub down, and despite my great dislike for the use of any chemicals, a terminix guy came to resolve the issue.  It seems to take a lot for me to break down and cry lately, but I cried a good bit that morning from equal parts exhaustion and discouragement.  Fleas + lice make one feel like a domestic failure (and I hesitate to share it here because it feels so yucky/shameful)!  Also, I think because “home” is so important and special to me and also my primary place of work, it hits hard when home is infested, you know?  Couple all of that with a baby who hasn’t been sleeping well and my own little bouts with insomnia lately, and you can imagine the toll that that takes.  Because of the cleaning and flea resolution, we had to cancel another family camping trip attempt.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about growing up, what it feels like to realize you are a grown up when all the while you still feel like that same child.  Our spot of earth is tilting away from the sun and my soul needs the reprieve, the wide open space of barren forests and quiet land.  Autumn comes and I hear the strain of the familiar song — geese crying out against an iron sky.  Leaves turning from green to ochre, rustling dry on the limb.  Hearing the geese, it makes me sing that song from my childhood by Michael Kelly Blanchard every time — A view out the window is just a piece of the sky.  The song triggers a memory and suddenly I am driving out with my family to Burnsville area as a child, hiking the Roan Mountain bald and drawing it in a notebook, trying to capture that fall glory with my 8 year old hand.  There’s the ache and longing to just be that child again when life was simpler and felt safer.

A few weeks ago I went to bed fighting anxiety and overwhelm over some pressing needs with our children.  I picked up my current read at the time, Rebecca Reynolds book which I recently shared on this blog, Courage Dear Heart: Letters to a Weary World.  I just so happened to be reading a portion that evening about watching our children walk through their own underworlds and rebellions and not trying to manage or methodologize life for them but to hang in that liminal balance of trust.

She writes,

“I wish I knew how to help kids understand desire for the Lord without also learning what it’s like to fill their bellies with husks left for the pigs.  I don’t want young people to take King Solomon’s approach, plunging into one futile experiment after another until they are finally exhausted enough to declare, ‘Vanity, vanity.”  If I could choose for them, I would give all young believers the way of Enoch, that dear old man who walked small and honest beside God until he woke up one morning and found that he was walking in his eternal presence.  What a beautiful way to spend life on earth!  ‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be Enoch, and his is the path I’d want my kids to take if I held the game controls of their lives.

Yet fear and compassion drive me to that desire as much as faith.  As much as I hate spiritual disaster, I know God can work with it because so many of my favorite writers have been there.  Lewis was an atheist, and he was likely immoral for years.  Dorothy Sayers had a child out of wedlock.  Chesterton left his childhood faith only to grow madly in love with orthodoxy in the end.  Bad choices can leave ugly scars I don’t want my children to have; however, God is a master of chasing wandering souls through terrible decisions.

This idea that darkness can be commandeered for good stands fiercely against most of the books I’ve read on raising kids right, and doing marriages right, and living life right.  Method manuals have filled me with guilt and fear, and some have nearly driven me mad with self-doubt.  But as much as I love my children, as much as I’m willing to give to help them, I’m not strong enough to be their savior.  God didn’t make me their choreographer; he made me their mother.  So whether they live robust, trusting lives, or whether they wrestle the Lord until he wins their hearts, I still need the living God to complete what he began in them.  If that involves a journey into the underworld, I have to trust the Father to chase them into the valley of the shadow of death.

My husband keeps reminding me that the fatal flaw of most writers is trying to make sense of things before they have come to their proper end; rushing a story is the dark side of the creative nature.  But when we try to jerry-rig the natural progression of events God has planned–either in our lives or in the lives of those we love–we aren’t trusting him.  We are trying to pull the moth out of her cocoon three days too early and then command her to fly when she cannot.  We are trying to compress billions of nuances of grace into six tidy paragraphs.  We are skimming over our first, giant, reptilian sins; rushing the crude lines of our faith’s first cave paintings; reading the CliffNotes on our early renaissances; bouncing over our nuclear winters of backsliding; and jumping straight into ‘They lived happily ever after.  The end.’…

When we are willing to depend upon a God who lives, forgives, redirects, and upholds, we begin to realize that we don’t have to frantically strain to rewrite the meaningless seasons of our lives.  We can cling to grace at the center and learn to preach the gospel to ourselves in small, honest ways.”

I had a small moment of panic in realizing I’m the adult care taking for these four little souls and yet feeling very much so like the child who still needs her own parents.  My dad brought me creme brûlée recently, just out of the blue because he knows it’s my favorite dessert, and later that evening after I put the kids to bed I realized I hadn’t really thanked him for it.  I found myself crying again, feeling seen and loved in a season where I don’t often “need” my parents like I used to, but then realizing actually I do.  Does that make sense?  I’m an adult now and things have changed yet there’s still this child in me who feels just like I did as a little girl.  I was once dependent and carefree, hanging in the trust that my parents would always come through and take care of everything.  Now I’m an adult with my own children and I’m supposed to provide that sense of security for them.  They view Brandon and I in this way, and yet I know the reality of how fragile our financial and emotional well-being is at times!  Sometimes when life presses in, I still want to run to my parents to bail me out, but it’s not their place any more.  We are grown, and our help is in the Lord.

I woke the next morning to these words by Emily Freeman in her podcast, The Next Right Thing, and was struck by the timeliness of them.  I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them:

“So what does growing up feel like?
It feels like torn lace, like smoke, like wedding mints melting on your tongue,
like distraction,
like worry,
like chasing but not quite catching,
or trying to remember but seeing only through foggy panes.
It feels like wider hips and thinner lips,
and laugh lines starting to show up around the curved edges.
It feels like sorrow and joy.
It feels like courage, and sometimes regret.
It also feels like freedom.
We are still growing, even though we’re grown.”

We are still growing up, even though we’re grown–and it is hard to feel like we have much to offer another who is growing up when we feel impossibly like we are still that small child ourselves.

I don’t have a tidy way to wrap all of these thoughts up into a neat bow or happy ending, but it’s just what I’ve been processing lately and I thought maybe someone else out there has been thinking about the same things.  About how hard it is to grow up and be an adult sometimes, how the load of it is far heavier and weightier than we ever imagined as children, and yet nothing has really changed–God is still the same God as He has always been and will be.  He will carry us all the way, and our children.  So here we are, going on from day to day, depending on God, looking to Him as a child, receiving from Him, growing as we go.

outing to the reservoir

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Not much time today for words.  It is October and we mostly spend our days out, if we can.  These pictures are from a couple of weeks ago, the first official week of fall.  We took our school work and went on a little field trip to a nearby favorite area from my college years.  We focused on noticing, listening, looking, enjoying.  They ran and laughed and played, and I had a few moments to be quiet and reflect.  When my soul is overwhelmed it usually helps to get outside and remember a bigger world at work in a hundred million ways without my  involvement or attention.  I am so thankful for these three little ones, the bond growing between them, their hungry curiosity about the world, their freshness and innocence and unguardedness.  I learn so much from them.  These days are tired but so achingly happy.

odds and ends

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We did a little walk last week in our neighborhood, which is a regular occurrence for us.  I called it a nature walk, so Phoebe brought her nature journal and crayons, and we set out to look for things that were interesting, new, and to take note of what is happening in the woods around us during the month of September.  We found a massive spider web (can you see it in the picture above with the building behind it?) which she sat down to draw, while the little ones played bubbles with me, then we all headed to the nearby playground.  It was the first time it felt like one of our “fall” walks, and my heart skipped a beat.  I live for fall in the mountains of NC.  Something in my sort of wakes up, and I would say I am most inspired by fall and winter.  The mornings feel just a little bit cooler, there is the first hint of that distinctive smell, the first scuttle of leaves across the pavement.  We hear acorns constantly dropping on the metal roof of our neighbors house.  I plan to be outside pretty much every day, since the mosquitoes will finally leave us alone.

I finished knitting my first sweater for my nephew and am sending that off this week, and planning knits for each of the kids for their birthdays.  I hope to make each a sweater, but Brandon tells me I’m probably being too ambitious.

School so far has been going really well.  Phoebe seems to drag her feet in phonics, though I think it’s because the book I’m using to teach her is mostly geared toward auditory learners, and she seems to be more hands-on.  She loves math and asks to do it constantly, mostly because of the math manipulatives I think.  She is so incredibly bright and quick to memorize and I’m finding that doing school together gives us just some mother/daughter time that we both are enjoying so much.

Our ordinary days together at home are so full of learning opportunities.  We cook together, talk about odd or exciting things we see out in the world.  We observe the changing seasons, we talk about heart matters as we live alongside one another and sometimes treat each other harshly.  We read scripture and recite memory work.  After nap time a few days ago the three children wanted snack on the porch and I stood at the doorway and watched them all squished together on one side of their picnic table, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they could be more spread out.  But there they were, all squished on one bench, munching and giggling and playing.  It was a happy moment and made me so thankful for this chance to home educate and have Phoebe here with us.  The younger two would really miss her.

A few days ago Phoebe turned to me at dinner and asked, “Why don’t we ever give our food to the poor and needy?”  I was taken aback by her question, quite happily, and we talked about it for a few minutes.  She was thinking, then she bent her head and folded her hands spontaneously and prayed “Dear Lord, thank you for this lovely dinner.  And we pray for all the needs, and the poor and the hungry that you would give them food.  And we pray for all the mean and the selfish an the bullies, that you would help them and that you would take them away and that we wouldn’t have to see them again.  In Jesus’ name, amen!”  My heart was melted (even as I fought laughter over her requests for all of the “mean and selfish.”  Thank the Lord He is more merciful than we are.)  Needless to say, we are cooking a meal this week together to drop off of at a local homeless shelter.  “And a little child shall lead them,” right?  😉

I don’t have particularly spectacular things to say about all of these random odds and ends, but these are the little moments that I don’t want to forget, these are the things of “now,” this is the good stuff that I treasure.

let the children play

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“There is a little danger in these days of much educational effort that our children’s play should be crowded out, or, what is from our present point of view the same thing, should be prescribed for and arranged until there is no more freedom of choice about play than about work.  We do not say a word against the educational value of games (such as football, basketball, etc.)… But organised games are not play in the sense we have in view.  Boys and girls must have time to invent episodes, carry on adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges and carry forts, even if the fortress be an old armchair; and in these affairs the elders must neither meddle nor make.”  -Charlotte Mason (quoted in For the Children’s Sake)

“There are many reasons why children have been reduced to a point where they don’t play with joy, initiative, and creativity.  Often so far as their personality is concerned they are wheelchair cripples, too disabled even for crutches.  Restorative actions means scheduling time, time which is not obviously “improving.”…Certain factors encourage play.  It is often easier home-based than institution-based.  There should be space, and lots of free time.  Children need to be outdoors (for hours).  They need to make noise, mess, and to have access to raw materials (old clothes for costumes, hats, tables to turn into camps, etc.).  They need privacy from intruding adults, but they need interested support in quarrels, thinking of another way around a problem, providing food, and, at the end, bringing the children tactfully back into the world where supper is ready, the camp has to be packed up, children are tired and ready for the soothing routine of evening stories.”
-Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children’s Sake

Our home days are my favorite days, “home days” meaning the days we aren’t running around doing errands, restocking our various shelves or visiting with friends.  We love all of that, too, but we always try to have some uninterrupted hours outside, too.  One rainy days, we go hunting for puddles and momma gears up mentally for a tub full of muddy, sodden boots and clothes for laundering.  There are things that matter far more than a perfectly tidy home.  I heard a quote on the radio this week that a perfectly tidy home is a sign of a life misspent.  Maybe I’m just comforting myself with those words, but it is a comfort.  Of course, I dream of a perfectly kept home, and there is a great value in a tidy and relatively neat home for providing structure, refuge, and sanity for the family.  But there are more important things at stake than a handful of stray crumbs, cheerios stuck to placemats, laundry heaped clean in a basket.  Children are growing up day by day.  They need affection, affirmation, encouragement.  They need eye contact.  They need to be unhurried.  They need spontaneity, curiosity, exploration, dirt and discovery.

And the reality is us adults need all of that, too.  Having children is a very good thing for us “grown ups.”  It is helping me to be a child again, to remember what a world full of wonder we live in.  It is bringing laughter and silliness again, where once maturity and sensibility was so prized.  It is teaching me, as C.S. Lewis wrote to his goddaughter in the dedication of his book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, that I am “finally old enough for fairy stories again.”  And I’m so glad.

I’m only learning, though, and often regress.  I’m thankful for these words from For the Children’s Sake, and find myself reminded that children are born learners.  Its often our systems and programming that bore them to death and teach them amiss that learning is a tiresome, bothersome endeavor.  The reality is that if we take them out into the natural world, which is so full to the brim with curiosities, beauty, ugliness, creativity, function, pain, and philosophy, they are sure to find things that spark their wonder, and we can stoke the embers of that wonder into flame.  We do that by getting down with them, exclaiming with wonder over their discoveries, asking questions and prompting their thought, finding books and videos that explore the matter further.

The geese on our nearby pond are nesting, and we just happened to check out a book from the library all about geese families.  We have been checking the geese every day if we can, whether walking to the lake, or hoping on our bikes after dinner in the dusky evening to see if any goslings have hatched.  I am learning wonder again, over things so small and things that didn’t matter much to me before.  I am learning to notice again, to wonder and to find ways to see the glory of God on display in these small and simple things He has seen fit to fill the world with.

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,
in the things that have been made.”

Romans 1:20

spring things

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We were enjoying mornings and afternoons on the porch last week, snack outside, making mud pies in the sandbox.  Temperatures plummeted this week and we expect another frost tonight potentially.  We’ve had our foretaste of spring and we’re ready for it now!  We get used to the quieter, whispered beauty of winter and then spring comes and the earth is bursting with glory and color we nearly forgot existed.

It’s amazing how much can change in one week!  I’ve been watching this beautiful white cherry tree outside our living room window, taking pictures of it every day, watching the buds burst open and the tree fill with blooms in the matter of a few days.  The red buds are flowering, the cherry trees, the daffodils and crocuses, pansies sprinkled around front doors.  When did I become one of those people who is fascinated with buds and blooms, birds and children playing, finding such beauty in all these small things?  The smallest, the things most trampled underfoot in our busy rat-race pace.  Yet here they are, day after day, quietly doing what they are supposed to do, echoes of a far country.  It’s holy week this week,  my sister and her family is in town from British Columbia for my youngest brother’s wedding this weekend in Virginia.  We will be caravanning up there mid-week and heading back home to North Carolina on Easter Sunday.  The cousins are having the best time together, Phoebe and Jericho are practicing being brides all week, although they will have to settle for being flower girls come wedding day.  It is so achingly wonderful to be all together and to see cousins enjoy each other.  Our minds and hearts are busy with all that comes with wedding prep, and my soul is meditating on how beautiful it is to be celebrating a man and a woman covenanting in marriage around the time of year that Christ suffered and died for His beloved church.  There is a tangle of meaning there that I have yet to extricate.

I finished my first kerchief/mini shawl which seems the perfect size for Phoebe and she loves it.  I guess I can share it with her. 🙂  I’m pretty proud of it, already working on another shawl and a couple other knitted projects on the go.  Brandon says my knitting stuff is now everywhere, taking over the whole house and I cackled with glee.  I wouldn’t want it any other way right now!  Books and skeins of yarn scattered everywhere!  Also, Brandon let me splurge and order a skein of yarn from one of my favorite bloggers and natural yarn dyers, Ginny Sheller, and it arrived last week.  I love it so much.

I hope you’re enjoying your first week of spring!

 

spring projects

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This is what March is like around here.  One day it’s snowing, a few days later you’re planting pansies and soaking up the sun in your front yard.  I’ll take it all, but it really did feel pretty wonderful to be outside almost all day Saturday and Sunday, watching the kids zoom around the yard on their bikes, or playing on the swing and sandbox.  I don’t know quite what got into Brandon this weekend, but he went to town on a few projects for me/us.  He made small planter boxes for me (his own design, which I love!) so that we can have a scant amount of veggies, at the very least.  The ONLY place in our yard that has light is our porch, so I plan to have a few containers this year of the barest essentials: herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, greens of some sort.  It’s just the best growing food with little ones.  They are so excited to see the whole process and I do believe it helps with better eating when they’ve grown and tended the plants themselves.  For us, it helps some financially and nothing tastes better than our own produce.  I really miss our bigger garden space but I’m thankful for at least a little square of sun.

Philippa was attempting to “help” me go through and sort clothes earlier last week, I suppose, or at least making the job easier by dumping all of Noah’s wardrobe contents on the floor.  She is for sure the most mischievous of all the children so far, at 15 months old.  I literally clean up one disaster, walk into the next room and find another one.

We filled up our bird feeder this weekend and rehung it and it’s been really fun watching at the windows and from the porch, spotting new cheery visitors.  The warm sun made me crave getting my fingers in the dirt and seeing some bright new life, so we planted a few pansies.  I was amazed at how interested Philippa was in planting flowers.  She surprises me with how much she understands and how eager she is to do “big kid” things.  The older two were busy rowing their “boat” through the wild seas, so she had the dirt and trowel all to herself.  She filled up the little pot with dirt very slowly and plunked purple pansies down in there, smooshing them in sideways.  Watering everything was another adventure which completely fascinated her.

Earlier in the afternoon on Sunday Brandon told me he wanted to make me something, a surprise.  I took Phoebe on a mommy/daughter date to pick out a craft she had been saving her spending money for (an “Anna” sculpture/piggy  bank to paint) and when I came back Brandon surprised me with an Amish yarn swift!  I felt so so loved!  I put it to use right away last night and it is so much easier to use than the other methods for winding skeins that I had been attempting.  Mostly, it just meant a lot to me that he came up with that idea and figured out how to make one.  He honestly supports me endlessly in all my little endeavors, even when I constantly doubt myself, and it means so much.  I don’t know why he seems to believe in me, but he does, and in this great big world full of critics and naysayers, one of the greatest gifts is having someone who is always, always on my side, someone who is for me, cheering me on, pointing me always toward who + what is best.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect and we butt heads often, but ultimately we are each other’s biggest cheerleaders and defenders in a world full of opposition and difficulty, and for that I am grateful.

 

new things

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I wound my first skein of yarn by hand into a ball and could finally cast onto my first shawl!  This yarn is truly dreamy to knit with, as so many others have said, but I’m not sure I’m crazy about the colorway.  I’ll see what I think when I finish up.  In some light, it reminds me of the ocean on a gray day, or of Phoebe’s little sleepy eyes, which makes me love it.  I finished up a little baby hat this week in that gorgeous super soft deep pink yarn.

Philippa has been really into pointing out all the “no-no’s” this week, walking around (or climbing on my desk) and pointing and asking, “no-no?”  As if she doesn’t know.  She is definitely going to be our craziest little one so far.  Last night after I pulled her out of her chair after dinner, I took off her pants which were covered with food.  Normally we bathe the kids right after dinner.  I was going to let her wander for a minute while I finished eating and next thing I know I see her naked bum walking around carrying her cloth diaper in the other hand.  She yelled “da-tye!” (bath time) and went running and squealing for the bathroom as I chased her.  She is hilarious and I have NO idea how she got her diaper off.  She is into everything, and she loves throwing laundry in the toilet.  Sigh.

The kids and I tidied up the backyard and the sandbox this morning, resurrecting it.  Phoebe is pretty excited about it being mud pie season again and I hope to add a few more things to her outdoors kitchen.  These past few days have been warm and sunny in NC and even though I didn’t think I was ready to see winter go, these warm days are so pleasant that I’m starting to dream up little spring projects for us.  Philippa loves being in the backyard and is content in the sandbox for quite a while.  We might see some snow again this week, but we’ll enjoy whatever we get, whether sun or snow or just drizzly cold.  It’s all a season, it all comes and goes, and each day bears its own gift and its own rub.

We met with a new nutritionist for Phoebe last night, a specialist in our area for Celiacs.  It was probably the first time I’ve felt like we really have an advocate who is able to help us, who is knowledgeable, compassionate, practical, and seems to really care.  We’ve met with a few others, and this was the first time it felt right.  After looking at what Phoebe is getting calorically per day, she was pretty mystified as to why her weight is dropping, even after 6 months on a gluten-free diet.  In some ways that made me feel better, but it also concerned me.  We should see and hope to see growth SOON.  One thing I really appreciated was the fat folder of resources she gave me for local restaurants with details about each one, best grocery resources, flour recipes, coupons, etc.  She encouraged us to give up oats for the next 6 months as there has been controversy recently on the processing of oats and unintended cross-contamination.  We also talked about trying to diversify the grains Phoebe is eating beyond mostly rice products, so I’m really excited to have some recipes to play around with millet, sorghum, amaranth, and some bean flours which are new to me.  I keep taking it a step at a time, a couple new changes at a time, which saves my sanity and makes it more manageable.

This week has felt like the first hints of spring, and I have told the kids to be looking for the very first buds on the branches.  Whoever spots them first will get a little treat of some sort, so they have been looking every day.

 

winter rains + change

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Last week was a terribly busy and stressful week with more doctor appointments than I care to recall.  Everyone here is okay, just some appointments following up on Phoebe’s growth and progress since her diagnosis, a first-time visit to a brand new support group for kids with Celiacs, and some appointments for myself.  I had heart surgery a number of years ago, and have been mostly doing fine, but lately have had an increase in palpitations/skipped beats, so I’m following up on it and wearing a heart monitor for the next month (its so fun to be a tangle of wires).  It was strangely gratifying to have the doctor tell me it’s probably mostly the fact that I have three kids five and under.  Sleep deprivation and stress can do crazy things to a person!

A drizzly cold rain is spitting outside as I type this over a steaming mug of tea.  Every day it seems we hear more and more birds singing, and February is nearly over.  We try to get outside and run and explore as much as we can.  Spring is on its way, though I can’t say I love spring as much as I do winter.  I am still hoping for one more good snow in March!  In fact Phoebe dressed all in white the other day and told me she was a snowflake and then proceeded to chant “We want snow to come our way” all morning.  God gives special attention to the prayers of a child, right? 😉  I don’t want to let go of the early mornings huddled around the fire, everyone gathered over books, tangled hair and blankets.

We went to SC over the weekend to help Brandon’s parents do some work on their house to get it ready to sell.  While the guys worked outside all weekend, my mother-in-law, kids and I spent time together inside and out exploring some nearby parks.  We are always grateful for time with them and that they offered to pay Brandon for the work, which is unnecessary but a huge blessing to us in this season where finances are tighter than ever.

In other random news, Phoebe had her first loose tooth last week.  She got up from nap one day with a terrified expression, like she thought she would be in trouble, and announced that she wouldn’t be sucking her fingers anymore because her tooth felt uncomfortable.  All week she tilted her head to the side while she chewed (it is her front bottom tooth) and yesterday morning during breakfast, it just came right out.  I think she was surprised that it really didn’t hurt!  She had a note and $1 from the tooth fairy in the morning, which she promptly put in her little wallet.  Noah thinks the whole thing is so cool and he can’t wait for his teeth to fall out.

Meanwhile, Philippa has been getting molars and has been miserable the past few days.  Also, I have begun officially weaning her.  She nurses only in the morning and at night before bed, but because of some of my own health reasons, I need to wean her.  I’ve been delaying it because she still loves it and so do I.  I kept hoping she would sort of lose interest.  She cried pitifully for it this morning and I nearly caved, but it’s one of those times that necessity must rule over emotion.  I will hold onto the night feeding a little longer and then in a few weeks we will both have to let go.  I have loved nursing my babies so much, and I never know if God will choose to give us another, but I have also been nursing and pregnant nonstop for the past six years and my body is letting me know it needs a rest.  If it was up to me I would probably hold onto these years forever, but God finds a way to help us let go, even when our fingers have to pried off of the thing.

I love being a mother so much, I count this the most privileged work of my life.  I hate the letting go parts that come with it, and I know I will fight it at every stage.

I’m so thankful that in it all, all the changes I don’t love, my God remains changeless.  I love that the same words that soothe my soul and bring me peace and comfort are the words that have comforted and satisfied countless thousands of others for hundreds of years.  Changeless.

When my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
(Psalm 61:2 ASV)

 

grief surprises

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Last week I went with a friend and all our kiddos at our local Nature Center.  It’s such a fun outing for the kids with a lot of space for them to run around and explore, a nice interruption to our usual Monday activities.  I think my friend and I both came pretty exhausted and spent, we didn’t cover much ground in terms of sharing updates or our hearts.  We just sat together and barked occasional directives at children.  It was simple, it was good.

*

When I got the phone call back in June of 2015 about Phoebe and her diagnosis with Celiacs disease, I was literally just getting the kids ready to walk about the door for my dad’s 60th birthday celebration.  I was supposed to pick up balloons and was hurrying to get the kids and myself dressed and ready in time for the 30 minute drive to nearby Black Mountain for the family gathering.  The nurse told me the diagnosis, and I could tell in her voice there was the sorrow of having to give bad news.  The words hit like a punch and then like a wave, washing back and forth over me again and again.  I wanted to cry but it was like everything inside me just froze and I had to press hold on it all so that we could go to my dad’s celebration.  There was a swirl of emotions, even excitement and joy because we finally had an answer that made sense.  After that, I never could really seem to get to the sorrow I felt.  Over the next few days, I went into “go mode,” immediately researching, placing holds on every book about celiacs at the library, visiting many different grocery stores in our area, cleaning out cabinets and getting rid of food, washing and replacing kitchen utensils.  There wasn’t time for anything else yet.  Tears came here and there, but never a good deep cry, never the feeling that I was able to “get” down to the buried emotion.  There was mostly anxiety and a tightness in my chest that just wouldn’t go away.

That was six months ago.

A few days ago I had a really difficult day at home with the children.  It was “one of those days” (all the mommas said amen), everything going wrong, with lots of yelling and failure, and it felt like a heavy hand just trying to push me down flat.  We stopped and prayed many times throughout the day, the children and I, but the heaviness just wouldn’t lift.  After the kids were in bed, Brandon and I were talking about it, I was crying, confessing, he was listening.  Then suddenly it was like something in my soul cracked wide open and it finally spilled out.  All the grieving.  All the fear, the terror, the exhaustion, the sorrow.  The sweet release.  The letting go.

See, grief is not something we manage.  It isn’t something we are in control of.  We want to hurry our souls through our pain — but it cannot be wrangled and managed as easily as our calendars or our laundry piles.

Grief surprises.  It lays dormant for all these passing days, then suddenly it breaks open over us and we are caught in the downpour.  We process it as it comes.  We are not in control here, we are carried on this journey.  The way of the heart is a mystery.  Grief cannot be packaged, hurried, tamed.  It can be silenced — but it will have its way, eventually.

Partially I think what triggered this surfacing of my grief is that most of Phoebe’s symptoms have stayed exactly the same, even with the gluten-free diet.  We are in conversation with her pediatrician and we will continue to pursue whatever options necessary to help her, but it has not been as easy or as simple as most of the books and doctors have implied.  A simple change in diet has not really made much difference at all, at least not yet.

It’s not spring yet.  We are still in a winter.  Others might think us silly for mourning so deeply something that, compared to other’s suffering and pain, is relatively minor.  I even think myself silly and frequently catch myself scolding my own soul.  But I am learning: grief cannot be controlled, managed, bossed around.  Silly or not, it must be acknowledged and allowed its time.

Our God knows.  He knows the way He has made each of us to work, He knows how sensitive we are, how slow or quick we are to process, how weak or strong.  He knows exactly what He’s doing, even when we do not.  That can make me angry, or it can be the greatest comfort.  When He seems to apply a pressure on me that is far greater than I can stand up under, when He carves a wide open space and leaves it empty — I want to be angry with Him, and sometimes I am.  But I also believe Him.  I believe that He knows best.  I believe His ways are higher.  I believe His plan is perfect.  I believe He is good, that He is light and in Him is no darkness.  I believe He loves me.  He loves me.

He loves you.

He is a safe place for our grief.  We can lay it all out before Him, piece by piece as it comes, and trust Him to carry us through it.  To show us why it hits so hard, why it hurts so much.  He is patient with us, suffering long with us.  He abounds in mercy and steadfast love toward us.  He goes with us, never retreating from our sorrow, never trying to hurry us on without bandaging each hemorrhaging part.  If we are really confident of His love for us — if we truly believe that nothing we can do can ever diminish His love for us, or increase His love for us — then we are free to come before Him in truth, without hiding.

It wasn’t coincidence, it couldn’t have been, that on Sunday as I worshipped with my church family, I held my Phoebe close as she stood on the chair next to me, singing out the words to the song “Oceans.”  The words took on new meaning, as I couldn’t help but think of the Scripture the Lord put on my heart for the year 2016.  I couldn’t help but think of the Scripture I had read just that morning only moments earlier in the car on the drive to church, the one I scribbled in my journal:

Let not the flood sweep over me,
or the deep swallow me up,
or the pit close its mouth over me.

Psalm 69:15

I couldn’t help but think of the lyrics:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

What if the great and deep unknown He asks me to walk in isn’t some romantic call to overseas mission work, or women’s ministry, or a cute etsy shop business, or any other venture that I might find thrilling and appealing, but the hard, daily, and exhausting grind of learning how to feed my daughter, nurture her, and trust Him with her health even when it is terrifying and uncertain?  What if the place “where feet may fail and fear surrounds me” isn’t the wild poverty of Africa, as I once assumed it would be, but is the place of sickness and disease in my own home?  When I pray the prayer “take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,” what if He answers that by taking me through a deep grief?  When her growth is declining rather than improving after being on a gluten-free diet as a family for six months?

“When something breaks down or does not go as planned, we are given a glimpse of our great need.  Like a vast emptiness.  We pray for solutions, crying out for immediate help, but God desires to give us more.  To give something real.  Something we can see with our eyes and feel on our skin.”
(Christie Purifoy, Roots + Sky)

God sometimes carves open a wide yawning space within us and leaves it, seemingly, empty.  As if He is content to leave us aching, hollow, and groping.  We cry out for answers, we are hungry for His voice, we wonder how this can be the abundant life He promised us.

When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace.  
For I am Yours, 
and You are mine.

If you are grieving a loss of any kind today, know that I’m praying for you. Spring is coming.  The seasons always ebb and flow, like the ocean waves coming and going on the shoreline.  A wide open space is hungry ground, open to receive seed.

Behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone.  The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come.

Song of Soloman 2:11-12

all this light

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The heavy snows of last weekend lingered all week, now just piled in soggy clumps here and there.  We have played so much in it, the kids bemoaning the sun and the melting each day.  It’s been an ordinary sort of week around here, lots of cleaning and tasks and bills and such.  The sun was so inviting this morning we were out for a bike ride and jaunt to our little neighborhood playground, but it was still so freezing out!

I found myself battling against some heavy dark of soul this week.  I don’t know how much more to share of it here, but only do so because it seemed to be a theme this week between the Lord and I, and I see it reflected in the pictures above, the favorite snapshots from the week: dark + light.  I found myself scribbling in my journal yesterday afternoon, “Thank you, Lord — the night can be so dark, black as coal, but the light falls so sweetly this morning.”  I found myself cheered by the afternoon light pooling on our dining room table, slanting across my journal laid open, dancing across the snow.  These children bring so much light, so much laughter.  Life with them is good–I’m so thankful.  Could it be that He wanted me to notice?  Could it be that He wanted me to see?  Could it be that He wanted to preach to me the light of the glory of His grace to me in these ordinary earthly realities?  To let the light slant just so in beams across my path, to remind me:   The light always overcomes the dark, always.

I’ve needed to preach the truth of the Gospel over my soul this week, leaning hard into what the Word says is true rather than what I feel.  I found particular comfort in these words:

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit…

You are a hiding place for me;
You preserve me from trouble;
You surround me with shouts of deliverance…

Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.”

Psalm 32:1-2, 7, 10

I am blessed, not because of any other glad or fortuitous circumstance, but namely because I am one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  This is the happiest circumstance of my life, and it is permanent, unchanging, unswerving, though the enemy of my soul would often try to convince me otherwise.

Maybe you needed to remember, too.  If you are in Christ Jesus, your sins are covered.  All His ways to you are grace.  He is your hiding place, your secret place.  His steadfast love is your shield and buckler against the enemy, your promise that in the end, no matter what comes, it will be well with your soul.  I hope you see His light this weekend, and His steadfast love surrounding you.