a happy Easter

Easter Sunday was extra special this year. Last year we didn’t gather with family or friends so the celebration that we felt this year was even greater. What a joy to be with other believers celebrating the risen Lord Jesus together! We joined my brother and his family at their church for an outdoor service because my niece, Athaelia, was going to be baptized. It’s just hard to beat that kind of joy, friends. It was a very sweet and memorable day!

After worship we gathered at my parent’s house for Easter lunch and the kids did a small egg hunt. My parents always do such phenomenal meals, this one was no exception. Roasted lamb with a citrusy fresh salad, roasted parsnips and potatoes. I made a gluten free carrot cake for dessert for the kids and my mom made creme brûlée. So delicious! Best of all was the reason for our gathering and the freedom to do so.

“May this shared meal, and our pleasure in it,
bear witness against the artifice and deceptions
of the prince of the darkness that would blind this world to hope.
May it strike at the root of the lie that
would drain life of meaning, and
the world of joy, and suffering of redemption.

May this our feast fall like a great hammer blow
against that brittle night,
shattering the gloom, reawakening our hearts,
stirring our imaginations, focusing our vision
on the kingdom of heaven that is to come,
on the kingdom of heave that is promised,
on the kingdom that is already,
indeed, among us,
For the resurrection of all good things
has already joyfully begun.”

(Excerpt from Every Moment Holy, A Liturgy for Feasting with Friends)

With full hearts, we headed back home where we had our own little egg hunt planned for the kids per usual. My favorite is when they sit on the ground afterward with all their loot and sort through their goodies. We snapped a quick family picture which I will treasure. The brilliant hues of new growth, the persistent reach of vibrant blooms, the smell of fresh grass and lilac on the warming breeze. It is so good to revel in these spring things.

From last Easter till now the Lord really has done a great work in my little family, and continues to bring new life to places that needed reviving. Truly,

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad. (Psalm 126:3)

Happy Easter, friends. He is Risen! And no matter what else we are facing, no matter what else is true in our lives, this is true. Death is defeated, we have hope and life because of it.

rainy Palm Sunday hike

Last night the wind howled around and shook our home for most of the night, even bringing limbs cracking and crashing to the ground in the dark. March certainly didn’t go out like a lamb. The temperatures are frigid this morning. So goes spring in the mountains, the tug and pull of winter and warmth.

When spring comes the parkway opens back up and I have been craving to visit our favorite places. Spring green creeps up slowly from the valleys to the mountaintops, so it is still more brown and wintry there than where we live. On Palm Sunday, though the weather was dreary, we still attempted to go for a hike since often we can get above the clouds and rain. Not so this time. It was absolutely wild up on the ridges, wind nearly knocking our children off their feet. Though we didn’t last long, it was still refreshing to be there and get out of the house for a bit. We packed a lunch and a thermos of hot chocolate and enjoyed hanging out nonetheless, despite some grumbling and complaints.

Also, I took the opportunity to get a few photos of my recently finished Stoker Shawl. I’ve been wearing it daily since finishing it and I really, really love it. It’s incredibly huge and warm. I think it’s a fairly simple design but I appreciate the details of texture like the bobbles down the spine, the tassels, and lace edging.

three years

After watching all her siblings’ birthdays come and go this past winter, Wren has been wondering and asking regularly when it will finally be her turn. A few weeks ago as I was getting her dressed she begged, “Momma now can you make my buth-day? Because I’m bigger!” She has randomly asked me to make her “buth-day” a few times and I eventually came to understand she was talking about her cake. More than even her presents, she was excited about that cake. 🙂 The big day finally came last week. It’s hard to acknowledge that my little baby is really not a baby anymore, but a chatting, funny, mischievous three-year-old who is eager to keep up with her older brother and sisters. I sweetly reminisced on her birth, what a joyful and quiet time it was enjoying her arrival. She has brought such laughter and fun to our family these past three years in part because the older children have been old enough to really enjoy having a baby to carry around and take care of. They have enjoyed all her stages of growth and development just as Brandon and I have.

She wanted cereal for her birthday breakfast, and she was excited to see the balloon and bunny decorations. Afterwards she opened her gifts before daddy went to work. Her birthday sweater was the first thing she opened! I had stayed up until almost midnight the night prior finishing the last sleeve, weaving in ends and sewing on the two buttons. No time to block it, but she wouldn’t notice. (Now that I have blocked it, it looks better!) She wanted it on right away and has worn it most days since then. Very sweet girl to her mommy and very knit-worthy.

We gifted her a new backpack since the one she has been using isn’t very big or useful for hiking, and she’s starting to want to wear her backpack like the older kids when we go for hikes. We gave her a small journal with beeswax crayons in a little tin for her backpack travels. The best gifts are the ones they want to start using right away, and true to form she cracked open that tin and started coloring right away in her journal. We gave her The Story of the Orchestra: Carnival of Animals book because she loves this series so much. She was truly delighted! We also gave her the Our Little Adventures book set because it is beautiful, simple, and has bunnies and other forest creatures in it. She also received a new dress (called the wren dress), a sweet bunny pillow that I couldn’t resist from Target, a wooden animal/alphabet puzzle that she has enjoyed (and the other kids, too!), as well as a toy dragon (because for better or worse, all of my kids are obsessed with these dragons). Brandon’s parents gifted her with a sit-and-spin also.

My mom and the little guy she nannies (who is now a good friend to my kiddos) came over later in the morning and we made a trip out to Carl Sandburg to see the goats and go for a little walk. It was beautiful there and just starting to feel like spring, but we were bummed that the goat barn was still closed. Even still, it was a fun outing! Later, Wren finally got to have her cake. I made the same vegan carrot cake I’ve made every year for her so far (though this year I didn’t make it vegan) and it was delicious.

So it was all in all a very fun and happy day and I was sad to see it go. She is so proud to be three and bigger now, and I’m missing her little baby self but so grateful for the delight that it is to watch her grow.

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a snowy beginning

In the fall a friend told me that the acorn load was particularly heavy which suggested a harsh winter was ahead of us. Isn’t it a wonder how God would orchestrate the operations of nature to ensure that extra food stores are provided when especially needful? He looks after the birds, surely He will look after me.

And so a wonderful snowy winter it has been. If memory serves me well, last winter was crazy mild around here and my snow-loving, Rocky-Mountain-girl heart was aching for a real winter. I remember spring coming upon us suddenly and feeling a bit like we had just skipped ahead. Am I remembering correctly or was that the year prior? I’m not sure now. Last year honestly feels like a strange time warp. Personally, it was one of the hardest years of my life for reasons I can’t share here. Suffice it to say, I felt incredibly disoriented all the year through.

We explored a new-to-us area on New Years, a very beautiful and brutally cold day. The rocky bald at the top was stunning and very similar to the place where Brandon proposed to me some 16 years ago now. I surprised the kids with sparklers which was a fun treat before heading back down. Philippa got very quiet after that and I realized she was crazy cold, but was refusing to put on extra layers she had with her. I think she may have been mildly hypothermic because after bundling her and requiring her to wear Brandon’s coat, she perked back up and was herself again. These sorts of excursions into the quiet and empty spaces of nature calm and reorient my soul in ways I’ll never quite be able to articulate. I suspect if you read along here, you might know what I mean. We were made for creation, and creation was made for us. It speaks endlessly to us of our Creator and His character. He uses it as an avenue to restore our souls and commune with us.

The rest of the snowy pictures are from two separate snow days, one in January and one earlier this month. There have been a lot of other days with flurries too, and it has truly blessed my soul. My heart sometimes need to see the landscape made new and soft and bright with snow. We have enjoyed snowy walks, snowball fights, and the kids have found a special fort in the bamboo “forest” nearby that really comes to life when the bamboo is bent over with the weight of snow.

Though I never really feel hurried about winter ending, I do feel like this year may be the first time I’m getting ancy for that warming soil smell and the excitement of seeing new life sprouting up around us again. Gardening has really changed my enjoyment of the warmer months that I typically just endure. Today the children and I went for a walk at a favorite park and nature area though the temp was somewhere around 29 degrees. We don’t go walking there as often in the wintertime but it was still beautiful and hearkened to me of memories of warmer days. Still, I plan to savor whatever is left of winter that I can.

So this new year has been off to a gentle start. We have mostly been carrying on as normal with our homeschool, co-op, and music lessons, and the normalcy has been a gift. Brandon had shingles a few weeks ago and that was brutal to watch him undergo, but he rode it out with the toughness and endurance typical of him. We celebrated his birthday early February and now preparing for Wren’s birthday coming very soon. Any good ideas for a girl’s third birthday? I have a few ideas but need to get cracking on it. I hope January and February have been sweet months for you, and for all the parts that maybe haven’t been sweet, that you have known the comfort of the Spirit.

catching up on Christmas

Hello!  

I didn’t mean to be away from this space for so long.  I have continually struggled to find time and energy to post lately.  I hope you can bear with me as I try to catch up on sharing a little of our Christmas day with you.  The best surprise of Christmas was waking up to snow!  If memory serves me well, the last white Christmas we had was when we brought Phoebe home from the hospital 10 years ago.  Our Christmas morning was sweet and always a little chaotic too, as children try to contain their excitement.  As I looked back over these photos, it made me smile seeing how they enjoyed one another.  We bought a book for each child and one toy item, as well as stocking stuffers.  We focused a bit more on family gifts this year, gifting them all a slackline kit, a special bird feeder that hopefully brings the birds a bit closer to our view, a rubbery road set to add to our trains/blocks collection, and a couple of puzzles. Everything was well loved.  I gave Brandon a drone, and he gifted me a sweater’s quantity of the loveliest rusty red yarn to knit a sweater I’ve had my eye on.  It was a treat to have some time to knit Christmas afternoon after all the children trotted off to add their toys to their rooms or take them outside to play.  

The Christmas season seemed to fly by even more so this year, a year where it seemed everyone wanted to hold onto it as long as possible.  We still have a few fairy lights and bottle brush trees around our house to brighten the bleakness of winter.  We have much to be grateful for even despite the tumultuous year behind us.

noah is 8

This year the kids requested having their birthday gifts hidden around the house for them to find. It was really fun for all! Noah received some new carhartt bib coveralls, his knitted birthday sweater from me, the book My Side of the Mountain, and a couple awesome gifts from grandparents. We also gave him a Bruder John Deere tractor he’s had his eye on for some time. Probably the most special gifts were the handmade rifle and pistol Brandon made for him, though. He inscribed each gun with a scripture. Noah’s favorite song is Psalm 46 by Shane and Shane and without remembering that, Brandon happened to pick a portion of Psalm 46 to inscribe on the rifle. It was a sweet moment. He will treasure those guns for sure!

Noah requested that we go for a hike to see some waterfalls, and it was so good for us all to be out in nature for a bit. The waterfall pictured is High Falls at Dupont State Park. Only moments into our hike Noah fell hard and hurt his knee, and we almost turned back but he decided to try and keep going. It was peaceful, quiet, chilly and lovely in the woods. We left there and drove over to a favorite pottery place that does an open house in December where you can pick out a free cup and enjoy cider. Then back home to make the birthday boy’s dinner request: pizza. His cake this year wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped it be, but I did manage to make some semblance of a fish on it with candy and sprinkles I happened to have on hand. I think he loved it. 🙂

Noah, as daddy often says to you, you’re a good man. And you are! Kind and strong, tenderhearted and sweet. You care so sweetly for your sisters. Sometimes its hard to be the only boy but you carry it well. You’ve grown up a lot this year and we’re so proud of you, your hard work, diligence in school, love for reading, your excitement about nature and love for exploring. Thank you for all your eagerness to work and help, thank you for your laughter and energy, and the way you invite us to play. It is easy to celebrate you! Happy birthday, son. You are so loved. May you continue to grow in your love for God as you journey through this next year!

December festivities

Forgive me while I catch up here on all the December happenings! It feels like I haven’t had a free day at home to do so all month. Today is the day before Phoebe’s birthday and I have wrapped all gifts and plan to make her birthday dessert today so that tomorrow can be a little less stressful.

The first two weeks of December were busy with wrapping up our last bits of school before taking a nice long break. Phoebe’s choir had a Christmas concert (done safely with social distancing and masks where needed) and it was something special to hear their beautiful voices and various girls’ instruments after such a year of isolation. A few days later Noah and Phoebe had a piano recital, their first one in person after a zoom spring recital. What a good experience for them to play their pieces in front of a (small) audience! My camera was acting up and I didn’t get many photos of Noah playing sadly.

The first weekend of December I threw a very small joint birthday party for Noah and Phoebe. Not one to usually do parties, I’m so glad we did. It was very sweet for them to have three of their close friends over (that we already regularly see). Phoebe wanted to have an American doll tea party, and I wonder if this might be the last year she is into dolls? She did all of the setup, made little place cards and assigned seats, while I prepared a few little snacks for the girls to enjoy. I think it was really fun! Meanwhile, Brandon met Noah’s friends at a nearby mini golf course and they played a round of mini golf together and had cupcakes there. I was bummed to not be able to be there, but the point was to give the kids some time with their friends and there was no other way to make two parties happen this month! I’m pretty pleased with how it all went.

Meanwhile, Brandon and I have started just a small update on our tiny master bathroom. We haven’t done anything to it since buying the home three years ago and it is quite an eyesore. I will share better “before and after” pictures once we finish this first phase of updating (these are all “before”). We hope to eventually remodel the bathroom entirely, but in the meantime I had a can of paint leftover from painting our front door and I felt that it would make a big difference just to repaint the wall above the tile in bathroom, change the mirror and light fixture and vanity. It’s going slowly because theres just not much time this month for working on it, so for now our bedroom is in a bit of a state of disarray. I don’t mind so much because it is so exciting to see improvements!

It has been good to have quieter, simpler days at home, free time to do crafts or adventures and stay in our pajamas all day. I’m still hoping to make some Christmas cookies together and get to organizing some closets and our school room before our break is over. Tomorrow is Phoebe’s birthday and I still need to share photos from Noah’s birthday. Busy, busy. If I don’t post before then, I pray your Christmas season is merry and bright, rich in love, peaceful, pierced with a particular joy that comes from slowing down, savoring God’s good gifts. I pray you can gather with a loved one or two and that whomever you spend Christmas with, you enjoy the gift of each other’s presence.

respite

Ever since we visited this beautiful, quiet lakehouse last year we’ve been anticipating and hoping to return. We saved and planned, then held plans loosely as life came with interruptions and the world faced a pandemic. So we felt especially grateful and blessed to return to this place. This time we knew what to expect, how wonderful it would be. Did I mention how quiet it is? How good it was to ease into a different sort of rhythm, early sunrise mornings on the dock, late starlit evenings there, too. The peaceful sounds of crisp leaves and lapping water. Long stretches of time together without the usual bustle of schoolwork, activities, and work vying for our attention. We savored swimming, playing, fishing, knitting (for me), canoeing, exploring, reading, resting. It was a sweet and needful time of reconnecting with God, with each other, in the beauty of creation. It felt like summer’s last hurrah, the last of the sunscreen slathered on. The water was icy cold and yet it was refreshing when the sun was blazing. One night we had wild winds and freezing temperatures, which gave us the most stunning misty sunrise on the lake the next day. I couldn’t imagine getting back in that freezing mountain lake water then but by mid-morning it was toasty warm again. Such is fall in the mountains. Noah and Philippa fished and fished, and I was so disappointed for them that they never caught anything. Brandon caught the only two fish of the trip.

Still it was a happy time together, many sweet memories made in the sweet month of October with beautiful leaves changing all around. It couldn’t have been more needed after a year like this year, and I know so many of you understand. I hope you have been able to find respite, too. When Brandon and I paddled all around the lake with the children in the canoe it seemed so strange, all of us tucked neatly into this one little boat. All this love and noise and life contained in this one little vessel, so small in the world, Brandon and I carrying us forward, directing, safe-keeping. Their easy trust and childlike dependence, such a precious gift. Brandon and I, too, looking in dependence to our Father as we make our way in this wild world, hoping to do some good for Him in it all, carried by His grace.

beside still waters

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Hello friends.  How are you all doing?  I hope you’re ok, not just in body but also in mind and soul.  We’ve been ok.  We are all healthy and for that I’m grateful.  These are challenging times for us all, and I have felt quite overwhelmed.  All of our usual extra curricular activities have been cancelled and we have been home for many days.  I’m thankful for a big yard and sunny days when they come, it lifts the heaviness and helps us not to feel so cooped up.

However, in anticipation of a “shelter-in-place” ordinance, we decided to get out on the parkway this last weekend for a proper hike.  The more popular areas were packed with cars and we decided to avoid those. We found a trail we haven’t hiked before that ended up being so beautiful and peaceful, and we really only saw a handful of other hikers.   There are few things that are as restorative as the wilderness for us.

At the beginning of the “social distancing”, my pastor shared this quote from C. S. Lewis with us and it has stuck with me throughout these past two weeks.  Lewis was writing this as they lived under threat of the atomic bomb:

“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

C.S. Lewis, On Living in an Atomic Age

I admit that in these last many days, it has been challenging for me to keep to the basic activities of being human.  I’ve had to be intentional in still lighting the candles at dinner, snapping photos of sweet moments and pretty things, folding the laundry, scrubbing the bathrooms, reading good stories, setting out the next day’s schoolwork in the evenings.  Sometimes these things feel so meaningless when facing such imminent health and economic threat.  Yet I have also been anchored by these same human activities; kept from endless scrolling of headlines, worrying and fretting.  The activities of being human help me to continue on being human.  And it is essential in times like these that we don’t lose our humanity.

Being outside in the sun, having moments of stillness, carrying on with normal work as much as possible, knitting, music, connecting with friends virtually, reading scripture–these are some of the anchors.

Be well, friends.  It may be quieter here on the blog, it may not be, I’m not sure.  I hope you are well, I hope you are finding the things that anchor you, too.  A song we sing often at church is this one, and it feels more appropriate now than ever before.  Sending you warm hugs, friends.

xo
Martha

 

 

a bunny turns 2

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Little wren-wren,

It’s hard to believe you are two.

Up early before the sun, with everyone rushing you to wake.  You are at the happy stage where you sort of understand birthdays after celebrating all of your siblings birthdays in the last few months, and yet you are easy and happy-go-lucky without any expectations.  Except that you definitely wanted us to sing happy birthday to you. 🙂   You were practicing for days ahead of time.

Everyone else couldn’t wait for you to open your gifts so they could play with them see what they were.  It is a joy to watch you so carefully open each thing and enjoy it for a few minutes without rushing onto the next gift.

We gave you a Poppy and the Orchestra book since you have loved Philippa’s Poppy/musical book so much.  You were delighted!  Bunny also wanted to give you a gift that had a bit of an ulterior motive: she bought you a basket for your bike so that you can carry her along on all of your adventures.  Boy, have you both loved this new addition to your favorite toy.

Mommy + Daddy gifted you a kitchen all your own with a few new food items, pots and pans, and a lovely little enamel pot that matches your older sister’s tin tea set.  I think you really love this, but your older siblings definitely do.  Thank you for sharing it so kindly with them.  Mommy knit you a happy yellow sweater, but it is much too big and so we will tuck it away until you are three.  I’m so glad though that when you opened it you put it right on.  Sweet girl.  Now mommy has to get busy making you something that WILL fit. 🙂  Also, you got a sweet birthday dress which you really love and looks so, so sweet on you.

After all the morning fun, we carried on with a regular old school day for the older kids (which they were quite disgruntled about) but we had a surprise visitor mid-morning, your BFF Liam (and Rainey).

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He brought you a sweet gift and stayed for a little bit to play and have a birthday lunch together.  So sweet.  Bunny was very tired at this point and had to have a nap, so you went with her.  After nap, the sun came out (it had been a very rainy morning) and bunny couldn’t wait to try out her new bike basket.  What fun!  It was just right.  Meanwhile, Mommy baked a carrot cake, the same one I made for your first birthday and I had fun making it simple and pretty.  We Facetimed with far-away family.  Then Rainey + Grandpa came over for one of your favorite dinners, spaghetti.  You were so happy to see your birthday cake and have everyone sing to you, and you clapped with glee when it was all done.

We all adore you, sweet baby Wren.  Maybe not so much a baby anymore, but still you will always be our little baby.  I am so proud of the way you are growing and learning.  You are a delight to us all, my sweet girl.  Happy birthday and always remember how much your momma and daddy adore you, how God adores you even more than that.

Love always,

Mommy