eastertide

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If there’s anything Easter teaches us, it’s this: there can be sorrow and still there can be joy.  There can be life borne from death.  What a victory!  In fact, the greatest joy I have tasted came out of death.  First, His death.  Then the resurrection.  If there’s anything Easter teaches us, it’s that we can be adrift on the waves of pain and loss while also rejoicing in that unshakeable Hope.  There is a future coming for us that will far surpass our imagination.  Indeed, there is a weight of glory.  I was struck by these words on Easter:

“It still feels like Saturday to me – the loss of a best friend’s youngest son this year, Rachel still in a coma, the Sri Lankan bombings this morning, other sadnesses of this year, and the weight of the world’s longing still feels as present in our sanctuaries as the fulfillment of those longings. Maybe even more so. I’ve cried off and on all morning, unable to rouse my usual celebrations or rituals… As we sang a hymn together at the end, I was struck by the line, ‘Break the bread of new creation where the world is still in pain.’ In the brooding longings of our Saturday world, we feed each other, we pray, we remind each other of all that is beautiful, true, and good; we feast, we ‘drink the wine of resurrection, not as a servant but a friend.’ Perhaps that is what Easter can be today for us, too – bread and wine, hope and each other, even when the world is still in pain.” (Sarah Bessey)

There were bombings in Sri Lanka and the loud headlines.  There was my own broken heart.  There was the unexpectedly cold Easter weather, the children with coughs and runny noses.  There was a broken family held together and holding together in the midst of it by this Savior who takes the failures and the doubters, the deniers and the deserters, and restores them.  Resurrects them.  Sometimes I can hardly believe its true.

This Easter we surprised the children with little Easter baskets in the morning with a new naturally-dyed hair bow for each of the girls, a new hat for Noah, a small simple journal and some new coloring supplies for each.  We worshiped together with our church family, came home for a very cold Easter egg hunt, naps, and then dinner and another Easter egg hunt at my parents house nearby with my brother and his family.  I hope I didn’t bore you with my millions of photos of a bonneted baby looking a bit like mother hubbard shuffling around in her linen dress.  Every first is so fun with a baby.

I hope it was a blessed Easter for you, and that you were able to catch a glimpse of the Risen one and the glory once again that awaits us, too.

wren is one

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Our wren wren.  How can it be?  This year with you has been so sweet.  Also, spicy.  As you grow you are learning to exert yourself, learning what you like and what you don’t.  One thing you became very attached to early on in your life was your bunny, a gift from a family friend.  Nothing comforts you like bunny.  So we thought your first birthday should be a bunny themed day.  We can’t believe you are one and we’ve said so a million times.  You are a joy to us all, everybody’s baby, and you make us all laugh with your silly faces, grumpy eyebrows, bunny love, toddling walk, and excitement for life.  Happy first birthday, sweet little very.

A little bit about her day:

Friends (and my mom) came over the day before her birthday (Saturday) for a cookout, bonfire and play time.  We didn’t make it about her day persay, but we did have carrot cake in her honor and a couple of gifts.  On her birthday, it was just us.  After church I wanted to take photos of our girl in her special birthday dress + crown, just as she is now — walking, exploring, loving being outside, chasing our kitty Rose, and keeping up with her siblings.  It was good that we did because shortly thereafter it began to rain and pour for the rest of the day.  When she woke up from her nap and saw her presents by the fireplace, she picked them up and started right in on them, knowing just what to do.  Each of the children helped her open a gift.  She opened her birthday sweater that I knit for her and she immediately bit it, as she does whenever something is soft and snuggly.  She held onto it and didn’t protest a bit when I put it on her.  It’s so sweet because whenever she saw me working on it she would grab the yarn (and generally she is very into my yarn anyway).  We got her a bunny book and her cousin-twin Silas sent her the sweetest book about a bird named wren which made me tear up to read.  Its perfect.  We also bought her a pair of boiled wool overalls which will be so nice for her to wear on all her adventures outside, with the reinforced knees and bottom.  They are very big on her but they will fit her throughout next winter as well!  My mom bought her her first baby doll (wren can’t say her “b’s” yet so she calls it her “day-dee” instead of baby).  Her big gift from us was a little piano of her very own.  She is obsessed with our piano but can’t reach it or play it unless someone helps her up and then sits and makes sure she doesn’t fall off the bench, so this little piano is just her size.  She has loved it so much, which is always a delight.

For her cake, I made a vegan + gluten free carrot cake which was literally maybe the best carrot cake I’ve ever had, and I topped it with new little bunnies in honor of her bunny day. 🙂  She has never had anything like cake before and she’s our first child to absolutely dig in and love her first birthday cake.  It was a very special first birthday, just perfect in so many ways.  And I tried not to cry and be sad about her growing so big so fast, or the fact that it might be the last first birthday we celebrate, and instead just enjoy all that is now and all that will come.

 

 

happy birthday to daddy

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His birthday always comes quietly amongst all the hubbub of the Super Bowl.  Not that we are sports people (we’re not) and we don’t watch a single other game all year long (unless olympics are on or occasionally the world cup), but he likes to watch the Super Bowl.  We went to church as usual on Sunday, and I encouraged him to go do something fun that afternoon — go fly fishing, mountain biking, running, or whatever would be refreshing to him.  He decided to take the older two kids mountain biking, while I stayed home so the younger two girls could nap.  It ended up being perfect as he ran into a few friends on the trail, including phoebe’s best friend, which made her day.  She also got to pet a horse that was at the trail head too.  They came home just before dinner and I forgot to snap a photo of them.

I made his favorite dessert, cherry pie (using this crust recipe and the filling recipe from this one) with homemade ice cream, and his favorite food ever, pizza + caesar salad for dinner.  I always use this recipe for our favorite pizza crust and topped this one with spinach, pepperoni, and local grass-fed chorizo and it was amazing.  We watched the game while eating dinner and intermittently taking care of kids, singing happy birthday + blowing out candles before wren went to bed, and opening his gifts.  I got him this book on fly fishing, always trying to stoke the flames of his passions for the sports he loves and has so little time for.  The children wrapped up paintings they had made for him, and their handmade cards were the highlight of the evening.  I also gave him money toward a tool he’s had his eye on.

I think it was simple and fun day, and we really enjoyed being home together.  It’s hitting me that he’s getting closer to turning 40 and that just seems so odd.  I still feel like we are in our 20s.  Maybe that never really changes.  We are really thankful for this guy who works very hard to take care of us and pour his love out on us.  He loves fiercely, steadily, and often quietly, and we love spoiling him when we can!

an imperfect, happy Christmas

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“My discomfort with the gifts was a result of the circumstances that rendered me impotent to deal with buying them.  By the very nature of things, there was a limit to the time that could be expended in acquiring them and an even greater limit to the money that could be spent.  While the season’s moralizers will always claim that the amount spent is not important (“It’s the thought that counts”), intelligence and simple observation militate strongly against that position.  The thought behind a standard boy’s bike and the feel of a ten-speed racer under that same boy are very, very unequal to a fourteen year old.  In 1984, they were also very unequal to my checkbook.

That year, the inequalities and loss of time were multiplied by children, children-in-law, grandchildren, grandmothers, and godparents.  The real issue, however, was that children need to experience the security and the largess of having those this-world things that help them fit easily into the patterns and flow of their own lives, both social and domestic, private and public.  For fourteen year olds in a farming village, that meant ten-speed racers…

Gifting is a way to demonstrate love.  It requires that we study another so intensely as to perceive his or her unspoken desires and meet them.  It means to startle with the unexpected, the perfectly chosen.  For our children we had always seen it as a way to form a thankful and satisfied adult, to create a readiness for generosity, the early habits of appreciation, and a sense of blessedness.”

I read these words by Phyllis Tickle in her short book of stories from her farm called What the Land Already Knows early in the month of December.  A small little book, yet multiple times in the dark night while I would be reading it, tears would prick my eyes.  Yes, to feel overwhelmed with the December things–the gift buying, the desire to bless our children and hope to provide them with hearts that understand what it feels like to both receive and give generously.  The desire to spend our affections richly on the One to whom the seasons is all about, Jesus, the babe in the manger.  The tug and pull of gatherings, pageants, birthdays, meals, Advent readings, the gift buying and wrapping (which largely falls on me and it can bring such weariness even though it is a joy).  The questioning of ourselves–are we spending ourselves (both our time and money) well in this season?  Are we giving our children too much?  Too little?

Her words brought freedom and the reminder of what it’s like to be a child–to hope for an item and to receive it.  To anticipate the good gifts of Christmas morning, to work through the ungratefulness and dissatisfaction in our hearts that can sometimes follow.  Her words helped me as a mother to wrestle my own guilt and frustrations with myself down–we are finite, limited.  We have so many pressures in these years with little ones and so few resources.  We cannot hope to dance through this season perfectly, we will mostly limp through it held up by the gracious and loving arms of the babe who came to save us.

This Christmas morning began with a child who wet the bed and then a screaming baby woken up too early.  I had slept quite poorly and had a hard time being in a good mood until well into the afternoon, unfortunately.  I apologized multiple times to everyone and was mostly very grateful that Brandon was unusually chipper and unaffected by my grouchiness.  Three different loved ones gave me products intended to help puffy, tired eyes this year and I do so hope these products do the job! 🙂

We had filled the children’s stockings with dried fruits from nuts.com, chocolates, a stainless steel cup, pencils, a couple of small toys, as well as a pair of knitting needles.  Yes, everyone got needles because all three older children are asking now for knitting needles and yarn. 🙂  Phoebe wanted her first pair of circular needles, which I had told her she would receive if she stuck with a knitted project and finished it.  (She has mostly done that).  Wren received some new rubber bath toys, her first glass sippy cup, new spoons, a rainbow stacker and a ball.  Each child got a book, one smaller item they wanted, and then one larger item.  Grandparents had sent along new pajamas, dried mangoes, books and such, plus one larger gift: a trampoline!  Both Brandon and I had gifts from secret santas (my family drew names for Christmas) and we both got each other a few things when in previous years we haven’t simply because of inability.  He bought me a beautiful pendant necklace (theres just something so romantic and lovely about a man giving jewelry to his girl).  He treated me to way too many bath salts, lotions, candles, as well as a new ball winder which feels heavenly to use.  I treated him to some new tools and carhartt overalls, a new belt and hat.  He spent the remainder of the day putting together Phoebes bike and the trampoline and we had a simple dinner of veggies/hummus, cheese and sandwich meat with a little bit of sushi (my favorite!) from our favorite local spot.

After baths and reading together the children treated us to a surprise performance of the nativity while they requested I play “Silent Night” on the piano.  It was so precious and sweet and it blessed me so — yes, when it’s all said and done and they’ve been inundated with far more than they really need by way of material items, they do understand what this season is all about.  We’ve been remembering the waiting for the Savior and what it’s like to hang in the long dark waiting for His coming and then to celebrate His arrival, Immanuel, God with us.  How we need Him!  What a miracle it is, God wrapped in such small, frail human flesh–given to us.

It was a Merry Christmas filled with the usual interruptions, bad attitudes, apologies, forgiveness, snuggles, joy and laughter that typically fill a family’s day.  All this holy wrapped up and tucked into all this ordinary.  I hope it was a Merry Christmas for you too, dear reader.  May these days leading up to the New Year be filled with sweet reflections, peace, and joy!

ps. I’ll pop back in here soon with photos from both Noah’s and Phoebe’s birthdays. ❤

fresh mountain air

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Ps. Wren is wearing a sweater knit and gifted to me by Natural Earth Farm.  They make beautiful things and she has similar baby sweaters in her shop right now for such an affordable price, if you’re interested!  She gifted me some of her hand cream too and it is the nicest I have maybe ever used.  Also, wren’s hat was gifted to me by Ruby.  Knitters are such generous folk. 🙂

 

no big plans

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Quite a few people have asked me over the last few months if we have any big plans for summer.  I was sitting in a dentist’s chair last week and she asked me about summer plans, and when I said no, not really, she looked truly puzzled and like she maybe felt a little sorry for me.  Any big summer plans?  Fun trips scheduled?  I had hoped to make a checklist on our kitchen chalkboard for our summer goals, but really we don’t have much on the agenda and I think that’s the point.  I feel a bit small and a bit simple but these are our big summer plans: being home, watching things grow.  Having time together.  Swimming at my parent’s neighborhood pool or in a river nearby.  Hiking, camping.  Catching fireflies.  Trying out the pop-up camper in our backyard, then taking it out on the road.  Enjoying the afternoon storms.  Watching tomatoes ripen on the vine, swiss chard push up from seed.  Reading together.  Yarn, pulling through fingers.  Quieting.  Regrouping for a new school year.  Letting there be long stretches of unplanned day, enough time for some boredom even.  Don’t such fascinating discoveries and creativities come out of a little boredom?  Also, the not-as-fun essentials of some medical appointments for the kids, learning about some changes we will have to make in our schooling with phoebe, working on house projects that are neglected during the busyness of school.

A homeschooling family of six on one income makes for tight years (financially) especially with the special dietary and medical expenses we face.  Truth is, we are happy to make the sacrifice to be together and enjoy these little years and raise our brood.  It is the main reason I homeschool: time together.  It is costly in the sense that we do have great limitations, but I do so hope and believe we can still make great memories together with our family even with our simple summer of no plans.  (Of course, don’t misunderstand me.  We are so imperfect and the proximity can often cause us to grate on one another.)

Brandon is working some Saturdays to help pay for the new AC unit we will have to soon buy, so it was a bit glum this weekend without him.  Then he called on his way home Saturday and said he wanted to put up the pop-up camper and have the kids sleep in it for the first time.  It was stormy and cool and the perfect evening to do so, and the kids had such a blast.  I opted to sleep inside with baby wren which was a bit of a treat for me, too (a quiet house!)

I read the other day that the word Sabbath literally means “to stop,” and so we try to plan some time into our weekend where we cease.  Where the work sits untended, the laundry stays in the basket and wrinkles, and we allow ourselves to just be.  To rest and to even be a little bored and agitated with the slowness of the pace and “unproductivity” of the day.  It reveals to me how much I mix my sense of accomplishment with my sense of worth, how much I need to produce in order to feel worthwhile.  The permission to rest is so wise and kind of God, and I have to tell my soul and my God over and over in those moments of tension (when I fight rest) that He is our provider and the One who carries us, not our own work and effort.  When we “sabbath,” or cease from working, we fast from reliance on our own strength + work.  We remind our soul that we are dependent on a good and faithful Provider.  We say to the world that our confidence comes from whose we are, not the work of our own hands.  Maybe summer could be sort of like the sabbath of the seasons?

Anyway, I feel a bit ramble-y and scattered but hopefully you are encouraged, as I am, to rest a bit and enjoy the slow and even boring/mundane parts of summer instead of needing it to be big and flashy and busy.  May you find in your limitations a wise and kind boundary set by your God.  I have thought often of Psalm 16:6, which in my earlier meditations of it always seemed sweet to me when my boundaries/limits were easy.  But it is a hard thing to thank God for (limits/boundaries) when they are difficult and truly limiting.  It presses us to cast our eyes beyond what is temporal to the delightful inheritance that is being kept for us.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord,
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Psalm 16:5-8 esv

Ps. Refrigerator pickles recipe pictured above from Allison Little on Instagram, and they are truly the best pickles I’ve ever had.

twelve years strong

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We sat rocking on the porch, a constant cool breeze tinkling the tines of the wind chime hanging nearby and it sounds like a hymn.  A pair of mourning doves cooing over and over in the branches right beside us, near enough to touch, flying back and forth together to their nest.  Over and over, the cooing song.  We drank steaming mugs in the warm sunlight.  And I almost missed it, the significance.  It didn’t settle over my soul until today,  the symbolism of the dove.  A symbol of peace.  Peace, my word for the year.  Peace, the word God has been speaking to me repeatedly in scripture at the outset of 2018.  I came across these words today:

“Mourning doves represent peace of the deepest kind, soothing and quieting our worried or troubled thoughts, enabling us to find renewal in the silence of the mind.”

Did you know mourning doves mate for life, raising their brood together with devotion?  Did you know mourning doves typically symbolize the presence of the Holy Spirit, hope and peace?

What a kindness from God, to remind us that in this season of marriage and parenting which is so busy, strained, loud and tired, that He offers us peace.  There is peace to be had in Him even in the midst of these busy, blessed years.  That He is with us and desires to be more with us.  He has brought us through some very great difficulties in the last 3 years specifically, some things we couldn’t have anticipated walking through.  It’s taken a toll on us in some ways, but in others it has drawn us closer together.  We’ve had a lot of rich discussions about what it means to be a Christian, and we’ve leaned into that conversation in ways that make us both uncomfortable at times.  We’ve had to extend way more grace to one another than we knew we would need, and we’ve seen our own sin and ugliness more clearly.  But, I always recall the words of Eugene Peterson: Our sin is never meant to be the main event, but God’s work on our sin, His work which covers our sin, is the main event.  All of our brokenness has given us a deeper understanding of His love and unfathomable grace.  I feel held by Him and seen by Him.

Brandon and I went away for the weekend, our 12th anniversary weekend, to a cabin in the mountains a couple hours away from home.  We went there last year as well and had such a sweet time we wanted to return.  Our lives are a lot noisier than we could have imagined not that long ago.  Neither of us realized how much quiet we had in our lives before, and how much we need regular doses of it to be able to think clearly and calm.  Brandon even remarked that his job is constant noise, working in remodeling with tools all day long.  We so love this season of raising a family together, but both being introverts does make it very taxing at times, to have so little retreat and rest.  When we’ve gone away to this cabin or make any measure of space for alone time together, we always feel like we’re taking a deep breath after holding it for so long.  It’s necessary, essential somehow to our makeup.  And we remember each other, how much we enjoy being together.

These cabins that we escape to are meant for spiritual retreat.  I’ve gone away to this place before alone for a solo retreat, which was so incredibly healing.  Still, it doesn’t feel wrong to use this place as an anniversary retreat.  It’s something holy, this being married, and we need to remember that.  We need to remember one another, and we need to re-member: to be put back together again after so many of life’s trials and difficulties and distractions pull at us all year long.  We need to do this work before God, in a sacred place, and it is so beautiful and sweet to do so.  These little cabins feel like sacred ground, and every time I have gone I’m afraid God won’t meet me/us there again like He did last time.  But He does.  In that holy hush, He speaks.  There is nothing more that we need to restore and reconnect with one another than first reconnecting to God as individuals, and then seeing each other again with fresh eyes.  We find our way back to God and to one another in the particular and peculiar quiet of creation, drinking deeply of its abundance, and in words and reflection.

 

It felt like it was a huge process getting to the cabins, with a lot of traffic and stops along the way, but when we made it, we got right out into the woods for a few miles of hiking to a gorgeous waterfall.  It made the shift into a quiet weekend more immediate, getting out into the dusky quiet woods, seeing deer, many birds, a ring snake, and the usual squirrels and such.  We lose our sense of being bound to time without children and their schedules and demands, and we just did what we felt like doing rather than keeping an eye on the clock.  When we got back to the cabin from our hike it was dark and we were starving.  In the morning we took our time, lingering long over coffee and books and quiet, then went to the Wataugua River for some fly-fishing.

Our little wren-bird came along and is so sweet.  She was a bit fussier than usual, but still very easy to have along with us and mostly quiet.  I didn’t get as much knitting time as usual because she was in arms more often, but I did a lot of reading.  The cabin had the book by Lauren Winner, Wearing God, that I’ve wanted to read for some time and had forgotten about.  It was fascinating and I read a good chunk of it, and now have it on hold at the library so I can finish it.  I must say, though, it is really one I want to buy and have on hand.

B and I have taken to gifting each other a traditional anniversary gift (using a list like this one here).  Last year was represented by “steel” (and B gave me a steel knitting needle).  This year was linen and silk.  I struggled a bit for what to give him in that category, but had felt prompted to revisit our vows.  Brandon and I wrote our own vows rather than saying traditional vows, which was special.  However, I don’t remember this many years later what it is we wanted to commit to specifically.  I felt like we need our vows to be visible, a regular reminder of what we have purposed and promised.  So I decided to paint our vows on a couple of canvases (linen, sort of?) to hang in our bedroom.  They turned out pretty close to what I imagined and I’m really happy with them.  Brandon appreciates gifts like this, so I think he was happy with them, too.  It took a lot of digging to even find where we had our vows stored away.  Reading over them again sent me in a tailspin of memories.  Oh, to be a new bride with all the naiveté and infatuation!  Yet I can’t help being grateful to be waayy beyond that now, with 12 hard-won years under our belts, and to still love each other a great deal, and a great deal more honestly.

Brandon gifted me with a couple of skeins of yarn (I’m wanting to try a brioche shawl, and am thinking the Marley Shawl by Andrea Mowry), a driftwood Lykke circular needle (I’ve had my eyes on Lykke’s for so long!  I can’t wait to cast something on!), and a new pair of lululemon leggings, which I so desperately need and love.  He said he forgot to check what year 12 represented on the gift list, but I wasn’t complaining.

We also decided to attempt to invest a bit more intentionally in our marriage this year, and came up with a “12 for 12” list, a bucket list of sorts for this year, with 12 dates or things we want to do together before our next anniversary.  We haven’t quite finished the list but we are trying to do some bigger goals and some smaller, more feasible things: run a benefit 5k, go to a concert, mountain bike at Tsali (where I’ve wanted to bike since high school), read a book together (this is actually something we’ve never managed to do!), camp out at a favorite mountain bald, build something for our house together, etc.  I’ll share more about this list as we go, I think.  I’m hoping we continue to make time for it, for each other, for our marriage and investing in FUN together because life can be bleak and exhausting if we don’t intentionally plan in some fun.  If you have any ideas or suggestions for us, let me know and it may make the list! 🙂

It’s true what they say–the older I’ve gotten, the less I feel like I know.  But if I’ve learned a few things about marriage, one nugget is this: it really does get better with time.  Are you in a hard season, friend?  HANG ON.  It gets better.  Are you in a good season?  It gets better!  Of course, there are exceptions to that rule, of course there are circumstances that can end or alter a marriage irreparably.  But in the usual sense, in an ordinary marriage that has seen and survived hard days, I am astounded time and time again how good it can be!  How it can keep getting better, sweeter, richer.  How the time invested and the obstacles overcome seem to give us such a depth of intimacy I couldn’t have imagined.  We’ve seen so much road together, it’s been so unexpected.  No one on earth knows me and my interior like Brandon does.  He holds so many of my secrets, and I his.  So many people say about their spouse, “If I had to do it over, I’d marry you all over again,” and I’ve honestly felt like I don’t know if I can say that.  That sounds horrible, I know, but it’s because I’m such a big chicken and I’d be too dang scared of the hard things we’ve faced together in marriage!  I’d selfishly want to protect myself and probably be a hermit somewhere.  But, oh, what I would have missed out on!  As C. S. Lewis says, “to love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements.  Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  To love is to be vulnerable” (The Four Loves).

Don’t be afraid to commit to love.  It is terribly inconvenient and challenging, but there is no greater avenue to experiencing and understanding God than to love another person and give up your life for them, to both receive and extend forgiveness time and time again.  To be made into the image of Christ together with another, as one.  There’s nothing like it.  Many of you know exactly what I mean, right?!

May God root our marriages more deeply in Him.  May He make this year sweeter than all the rest.  May we not be afraid to give ourselves to love, true love which lays down its life for another.  May we find Him in each other and through each other in ways that continually surprise us.  May we never grow weary of the good work of love!  And may He hold us together when we are falling apart.  He is able.