sweaters and sunny days

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We recently had a string of sunny, incredibly warm and spring-like days.  It was in the 60s and 70s and everyone in our home wanted their skin in the glorious rich sun.  So we spent as much time as we could outside, playing, picnicking in the yard, trying to soak it up.  I love winter so much and I don’t mind the cold and gray days, but it was a gift to have a short reprieve and remember what is soon coming.  The air held that smell of warming soil and all of us began to think about planting and growing things again.  Buds are forming on the trees and some of the bulbs we planted in the fall are beginning to send up shoots.

Phoebe set to work on planting a little “garden” in a corner of the mulch of their play gym.  She transplanted various weeds and onion grass from the yard and I even overheard her singing to her little plants.  I kept walking through our little garden plot, thinking and planning.  I’m excited for those planting days that will soon be upon us, but I know how much work it adds to our plate as well.  Also, I’m just not quite done with winter yet.  I’m still hoping for a few more snows!

I finished up Phoebe’s flax sweater (with a good few modifications).  Despite my best efforts to modify the neckline and ripping it out a couple of times, it still turned out quite large.  She doesn’t mind it but I wish it wasn’t quite so boat necked.  I shaped the arms a bit more drastically than the pattern called for and also cropped the sweater.  She has been wearing it constantly in rotation with her other hand knits, and I so love that about Phoebe.  She is always so grateful for anything I make for her.  The yarn is some rustic farm yarn from our recent visit to a local sheep farm called Bovidae Farms.  The yarn is dry and toothy and very lanolin-rich.  I loved knitting with it, it’s incredibly warm and every time she wears it she smells like a little lamb.  She’s also been wearing the sweater inside out and it looks just a good worn on the wrong side!  I hadn’t blocked it before taking these pictures of her wearing it and it looks a bit better after blocking, of course.

It has been back to feeling like winter again, as it should for just a bit longer.  We have days of rain ahead of us in the forecast so we are missing that warm sun but we know it’ll be back soon.  In the meantime, we’re happy to have woolen sweaters to snuggle up in.

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.

happy may

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Fairy houses in the nook of the great big maple, sprinkling of flowers in the new grass.  Shade beginning to dapple the yard once again.  Skeins of wool snuggled next to one another in a row, projects ready and waiting for time.  Already a couple of weeks have gone by since these photos were taken, our property bursting with blooms and bright green.  I feel like if you listen closely, you can nearly hear shoots breaking through soil, leaves fluffing out on tree limbs, everything eager to live.  The weather this week has been downright hot at times.  I’m trying to wrap up our school year and make garden plans, going through the kid’s closets and organizing clothes for the warm season.  May and June are fun months, with some celebrations sprinkled in, and everything feels buzzing with busyness, plans, and activity.  I’m trying to be gentle with myself as I try to keep the plates spinning.  My mind is tired and I have a good bit of work ahead of me today, so I will leave it at that.  Just wanted to pop in and say hello, and happy May.

the little white house

I stumbled on this song months ago and knew it gave words to our one-day new home.  I knew we would probably end up with an old home, a fixer upper, and I find beauty in that.  In living new fresh life in old walls.  Consider playing this song as you scroll through these pictures.  It’s somewhat of a blessing I’ve been humming over this new home.

These pictures are from our first time showing the kids the house, after we had keys in hand.  We didn’t want to show it to them at all until it was officially ours, because the process had been difficult for them when offers on previous homes had fallen through.  We opened the door for the first time, they ran in squealing.  Brandon carried me over the threshold.  It was a sweet, sweet moment after a long wait.  And how appropriate that we closed on the house and took the kids to see it for the first time on the first day of Spring!  I kept thinking of these words:

My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
    and come away,
for behold, the winter is past;
    the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
    the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
    is heard in our land.”
Song of Solomon 2:10-12

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And so, we get to move in and watch everything come to life, turn green, blossom and shine.  We feel full of hope for what is ahead, seeing God provide this home for us in His own time and way through miraculous means.

Brandon and I have been working all week getting things ready and clean, and we emptied out our storage container yesterday into the home.  I took the kids this morning and began unpacking a few toys for them to play with as I set up the kitchen.  They were so excited, seeing our things again and seeing the home begin to take a bit of shape.  The furnace decided not to work the day after we closed, so we are still working on getting that taken care of so we can move in officially.

Our last home had the numerical address 23 and for a long time now I have been clinging to Psalm 23.  As we’ve walked this journey with Phoebe and her health battle, as we’ve admitted to ourselves that we have a chronically ill child, as I’ve fought gnawing fear in the dark of night, Psalm 23 has been a constant companion and comfort.  It was always familiar but now it is personal.  Now it is like a sharp sword in my hands against the darkness.  When I saw that our house number on this new little white house was 623, I thought immediately of Psalm 23:6 and looked it up.  How fitting it is.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

This is His promise to us in this life, isn’t it friend?  No matter what we are walking through, whether joy or pain in our current circumstances, surely GOODNESS and MERCY are gonna follow us everywhere we go.  AND?  We might have just bought our first home, but our hope isn’t wrapped up in these walls, thankful though we are for a place to call home.  We are always a bit out of place in this world, always a bit left longing for the house of the Lord.  Always pilgrims until we make it there one day.  We are gonna make it there one day, friend.  We are going to dwell with Him in HIS house forever.  If the joy we feel in buying our first home is only a foretaste of that joy, oh what great joy it will be!

I can’t wait to share more of our journey as a family in this new little home with you, readers!  Let the years we’re here be kind, be kind.  And may our hearts like doors open wide, open wide.

ps.  Thank you to so many of you who have prayed with us and for us as we walked out this long journey and as we continue to face battles and uncertainties ahead.  We couldn’t have done it without you!  Specifically our families, our parents, my parents for letting us live with them in the interim and bring a whole lot more noise to their lives, as well as our church family and specifically our life group.  Kim + Time, Heather + Chris, Kevin + Mary Lynn, Tessa + Rod: you guys are OUR PEOPLE.  You have blessed us with scripture, prayer, encouragement, meals, muscle and brawn.  You are teaching us what it means to live as Christ’s hands and feet here and how beautiful it is to live knit-together lives.

 

Falling Free

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You guys.  I am so terribly behind on posting a review for this book and I feel awful about it because IT IS SUCH AN INCREDIBLE BOOK!  It deserved a really great, lengthy, shining blog post a long time ago.  I received it last fall when it released and read it within a week or so.  Honestly it was maybe in my top five favorite reads from 2016.  It was one of those books you finish and want to immediately purchase copies of for everyone you love.  I highly recommend it!

Shannan Martin’s book Falling Free: Rescued from the life I always wanted came into my hands in the middle of our house search.  In a sense I was resistant to reading it, since Martin’s book is a memoir sharing about their leaving behind the life they thought they always wanted for something that seemed far riskier, smaller, and challenging.  Its good to read something like this while in the midst of your own home search.  What Martin was leaving behind–a cute farmhouse, a mini homestead, a comfortable community–these are some of the things my husband and I are looking for and dreaming about.  And not that there is anything wrong with having a farmhouse or a homestead or a wonderful church community.  But Martin sure does challenge our notions of what we need, what we expect, what we feel entitled to, what we think God would have for us, what we think is safe, what we hope for.  She brings perspective.  She gives courage to truly abandon your life to the faithfulness of God, even in the face of the risk and discomfort involved.  She holds out the glory of Jesus and the life of following and obeying Him as higher and greater than our small dreams, our small hopes for a comfortable, safe, monochromatic life.

An author I have loved, Emily P. Freeman, has highly recommended Martin’s writing, which is what led me to check out her first book. I was not disappointed!  She is at turns hilarious, witty, and yet poignant and insightful.  She can turn a phrase like few authors I’ve read, bringing fresh insight and conviction to our typical American way of life and thinking.  And her taco recipe has become a regular staple in our home.  (Thank you, Shannon.)

I can’t tell you more about it because I simply can’t decide what to emphasize most.  Just go read it.  If you at all feel bound up, go read it.  If while you have most comforts and pleasures accessible at your right hand yet can’t shake the niggling sense that you’re missing something, go read it.  If you’re hungry for the kingdom of God, go read it.  If you’re hungry for more of God, go read it.  If you’re just plain bored, go read it.

Read at your own risk.  Prepare to be perturbed, disturbed, challenged, convicted, awakened, and set free from the life you think you want to the life God would have for you.

Thank you to Book Look Bloggers for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

 

 

 

keeping rhythm

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Only two weeks now until we say goodbye to this little house and move on out.  We have been spending the last number of weekends packing in big spurts, then trying to keep life going normally during the week.  We packed the books on Saturday and our home feels a bit colorless and empty without them.  There is so much to do, as anyone who has ever packed and moved knows well.  But in the middle of it, life goes on, and I try to keep some semblance of normalcy going.  Our daily and weekly work–cooking, schooling, reading, cleaning, outside play, trips to the library and grocery store, knitting for me in the evenings after the kids are in bed.

Thus, my random smattering of photos.  The children spread out on the floor watching movies.  Finding Philippa after nap time on top of her bookcase, having colored all over her hands and dress in colors that actually coordinated her dress.  Kombucha batches brewing on the counter, catching the afternoon light.  Children playing and snuggling and reading books on my bed.  Little random moments that make my heart happy and light and keep me grounded.

I feel that I can share with you now that we are under contract on a home, but won’t close until the end of March.  We are excited but also trying to keep our emotions in check until everything goes through.  It has been such an up and down journey, certainly not what we ever would have expected.  Since we have about a month of limbo between this home and our new home, a sweet friend has offered for us to live in their new home in the meantime.  We will put most of our stuff in storage and live fairly minimally during our time there, so I’m not sure how diligently I will be blogging.  Be praying if you think of it for the children, that they handle this transition well.  I think they are mostly excited and will be resilient in the midst of it, and I’m guessing it will throw Philippa off the most, as she has only lived in this home and has a strong love for being home, not usually sleeping well anywhere else.  I’m hoping by keeping some of our family rhythms going, we can provide a sense of consistency.

All this upheaval and change in the midst of our ongoing battle for Phoebe’s health and the uncertain future ahead has me so thankful that we make our home in God alone, wherever we are wandering on this earth.  He is our home, He is our security.  He is our constant in a wild storm.  There really can be peace in the midst of the tumult.  Why do I forget this every time?  Sometimes every day?  I am thankful also for that sense that wherever Brandon is, wherever my children are, that is where home is for me.  What kind of walls hold us and who owns them doesn’t matter too terribly much.  Trials of any sort always pare life down to the basics, the simple and small things that matter most.

In Him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)

all things new

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January slips by quiet.  The world is all in a rage, my head spins with it all.  My own little world hidden in these four walls spins, too.  We begin packing.  We are moving from this rental because our landlord plans to sell it to a friend next month.  We plod along with schooling, with work on Phoebe’s health.  It seems most days I can barely keep up with the demands.  The kids and I have been sick for the last couple of weeks with a bad respiratory virus.  We’ve been inside and home more than usual, letting them rest and heal.  On the sunnier and warmer days, we’ve been out, walking our usual routes in the neighborhood.  I’m saying goodbye in my own slow way, imprinting things in my memory, detaching, shifting.  I’m thankful for some time left to do that.

For many years, since college really, I’ve leaned in close and quiet at the beginning and end of each year.  Many people make goals and dream dreams, and I’m all for that, and often have a few quiet goals of my own.  But the passing of each year heightens my awareness that time is slipping by, speeding onward.  My life is being spent faster than I realize.  What interests me most in the reflection on that is what the Lord is doing in these days.  In the last weeks of December, I’m prayerfully asking Him to direct my steps in the coming year, specifically in the Scriptures.  I seek a word form Him, usually a theme for the coming year, something He is going to teach me from scripture, something He wants me to attend to.  Last year He led me to Psalm 93.  He seemed to say that the coming year (2016) was going to feel a bit like being in a tumult of rising waters, but He reminded me that He sits enthroned above the waters.  He is sovereign and mighty to save.  That scripture ministered to me over and over again in the year as we faced one of the hardest years of our married lives.  I think it’s what kept my head above water.  I felt a bit of trepidation asking Him again this past December what He would say to me about 2017.  The week of Christmas we received some of the worst and scariest news yet about Phoebe’s recovery/health and also flooded with medical bills we have no way to pay.  At the same time, our landlord called to inform us we had two months to find a new place to live.  I have cried a lot of tears.  I have been brought low, back to the painful and sweet place where I remember that my God is sufficient, He is all I need, He is my strong refuge, my reward, my shield, the lifter of my head.  It’s that place where whatever my heart is set upon gets sifted and my soul remembers its true end.  I am made for God and nothing else will satisfy.  Not even a secure home to live in.  Not even the basic finances we need, or the health of my child.  He is able to provide these things, and I am confident He will take care of us.  But my heart cannot be set on my changing circumstances.  They are fickle and uncertain.

In the tumult of these emotions and the quiet place of just being laid bare before the Lord, He spoke to me Revelation 21:5:  “Behold, I am making all things new.”  He kept speaking it to me everywhere I would turn, though my heart resisted it.  Resisted hope.  Hope is painful!  It’s easier to brace for disappointment.  It’s part of why it’s been hard for me to write about it on the blog–there’s a part of me still afraid to hope.  What does He mean that He is making all things new?  Will we see our girl finally turn a corner this year and truly and fully recover?  Will we find a home that we love, a place to raise our little brood, a place to set down roots and live out the kingdom?  Will we find some rest this year from the onslaught of difficulty?  I can’t say.  Maybe we will be made new, even as our difficulties continue.

We walk quiet through the familiar trails, children happy to be in the sun and fresh air.  Everything seems colorless, bleak, brown.  Winter.  I breathe deep.  It’s bleak and barren now, but spring is barely a whisper on the wind.  It will burst into color soon enough.  One way or another, all this death, destined for a resurrection.