Be Encouraged, Mamas!

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I recorded a little voice memo for myself not long after my husband bought me an iPhone.
“Be encouraged. The work you are doing may be hard, and you’re in the thick of it.
But you are doing GOOD WORK.”

I often think about the good works God planned long ago for me to walk in.
Ephesians 2:10
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Good work of doling out cough medicine when little chests are croupy.
Good work of a shopping trip through the grocery store with four little ones in tow right at naptime.
Good work of getting everyone up, dressed, fed, pottied, and out the door by 8am for sports camp or VBS.
Good work of saying yes to park playdates with Auntie & cousins.
Good work of saying no to too many other playdates or too much martial arts practice.
Good work of washing diapers, wiping bums, changing sheets, washing towels, serving Goldfish & blueberries for afternoon snack.
Good work of disciplining little wayward hearts.
Good work of practicing self-denial and self-control on my own part.
Good work of admitting faults and asking forgiveness when I too give in to my own wayward heart.
Good work of planning dinner for tonight, even if fruit salad and tortellini is as far as I’ve gotten so far.
Good work of kissing booboos and covering owies with bandaids.
Good work of providing reading material, piano books, math facts worksheets, and audio books.
Good work of praying with my children, even if I feel like it is a wrestling match just to quiet them for giving thanks.
Good work of running errands, driving kids to events, fellowshipping with others, washing dishes, unloading groceries, and having an afternoon cup of coffee to ensure I make it through playtime, dinnertime, and bedtime with open eyelids.

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I may not be on a short term mission trip in Africa, evangelizing people who have never met King Jesus.
But I am on a long term evangelical mission right here in my own home, discipling little people who do know King Jesus and who desperately want to serve & love Him better.
I am in the business of Good News sharing, Gospel living, Kingdom expanding work.

I am in this for the long haul.
I’m doing my best.
My little disciples spend some days as faltering as Peter
and other days as unassuming as James.
I try not to spend too many days as doubtful as Thomas.

This is the work God has given me to do.
Right now.
Right here.
For this is the time and the season for it.

Oh! It is hard work. But it is GOOD.
And sometimes, I just have to remind myself of that.
God Himself prepared these works for me to walk in.

I spend a lot of time and energy and heart being an encourager.
I write notes of encouragement all the time.
It’s something I am known for, and it’s just because of Jesus’ grace.
Being an encourager-of-others is a good work God has called me to.
Of course my children are one of the main groups where I pour myself out in encouragement.
My husband also needs my encouragement, and I seek to find the ways that best encourage him.
I am continuing to grow in this skill.
I want to hone this good work to which God has called me!

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But I admit that there are too-often times where I feel a lack of encouragement myself.
Where is my report card?
Where is my annual review?
Where is my own to-do list all neatly checked off & squared away?

There are days when nothing is as sweet as a kind word of encouragement while maneuvering a large unwieldy grocery cart…
You know the moment…
The moment when I think the cart is so top-heavy and overloaded that it might topple over at the next aisle corner…
The moment with one on my back, one in the cart seat, and one on either side of me (“at their station” ~ which phrase may only make sense to those other young mamas who have read much Rachel Jankovic!), but all four making conversation with me in a simultaneous cacophony…
The moment where I’m so hungry I might pass out, the baby smells strongly of spit-up, the big kids ask if they can break into the container of blueberries, and suddenly the three year old declares they are in imminent need of a potty break.

That is the moment when, recently in my experience, an older woman with grace and joy and kindness (and smile lines!) simply said to me, “you’re doing a good job, mama.” I thought I heard the angels singing.
She smiled, I said thank you, my kids smiled at her and tried quickly introducing themselves all in the same breath, and we continued on.
Not four aisles over, an older gentleman with life-worn hands and the passage of time spilling from his eyes touched my arm gently with his hand, saying, “you’ve got good kids. They must be loved very much.”
I responded, “oh yes I do and yes they are! I can not even tell you.”

Like a cup of cool water.
The reminder from been-there-done-that perspective of older, wiser folks.
The encouragement that this is good stuff.
It may be hard, it may be heavy, and there may be moments where I wonder if it’s all truly going well.

Weeks later, I am still lifted up and encouraged by the words of those two people that day.
In the interim, I have been able to dip my own ladle in and share some of that cool water with others.
A cranky looking pregnant girl who had that familiar look of large discomfort – I simply told her she was beautiful.
A mom with little children acting like monkeys, who looked like she was about to totally lose her cool – I smiled at her understandingly and said, “I get it. I would offer you some chocolate, but I don’t have any! I’ve got gum!” She didn’t want the gum, but she appreciated the laugh and the moment to catch her breath.

Be encouraged, mamas.
Encourage one another, too.
Walk in the good works God prepared for you.
And when you can’t see the goodness, just believe it.
It takes faith.
But that’s encouraging too.

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Enjoy It

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What is one of the first, last, and most common things that an older & wiser woman tells a young mama? Enjoy itEnjoy these days, because they go by all too quickly.

Oh! Don’t we know it!

I do not begrudge the sentiment by a long shot, nor do I hold it against the throngs who have thus sought to encourage me. (And, yes, I too have said it to others!)
But what I would really love to know is HOW ~ how do I enjoy it? What are the secrets to embracing the chaos with joy? Where do I uncover secrets for how to capture the beauty in the mess? When will someone explain to me exactly how to soak up life in its moments rather than being pummeled by its speed?

I know that I should enjoy this.
And in all honesty, there is nothing I enjoy more than motherhood.
Nothing!

But there is also nothing harder.
Nothing challenges me to the extent that motherhood does.
Nothing else pushes me to these limits.
Nothing makes me long for quiet moments lying between cool cotton sheets like the chaos of four children, homeschooled by little old me, in a big house in the country.

I enjoy cooking. And baking (yeah, especially baking).
I enjoy a tidy, ordered home.
I enjoy washing dishes and putting away the laundry.
I enjoy dressing my children.
I enjoy undressing them and bathing them and watching them splash in bubble baths.
I enjoy reading books together and having educational aha moments.
I enjoy being the one my husband comes home to.
I enjoy being the woman who makes his lunches, irons his shirts, listens to his thoughts, and entwines my legs with his at night.
I enjoy waking up to the sound of “moooooooommmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!” through the monitor.
I enjoy answering questions, especially when I know the answer.
I enjoy planning outings and projects and schedules and parties.
I enjoy homemaking.
I enjoy turning chaos into order, mess into beauty, strife into peace.

But in recent weeks, I have wondered: “Do I enjoy MY LIFE?”

What a strange thing. Individually, I can not say that there is honestly any single aspect of my life which I do not enjoy.
I count myself among the blessed few in God’s wide creation that truly enjoy each thing He has called me to do.
But collectively, when it is all shoved together into the short 24-hour windows that He has allotted for me, I find it very hard to enjoy life.

I struggle with feeling like I deserve to enjoy my life.
I feel guilty if I find myself enjoying it fully.
I’m always thinking of twenty other things I should be doing rather than sitting still and enjoying a moment.

(Tell me I’m not alone.)

When I am on my deathbed, if I am coherent at the time, would I say to anyone, “I wish I had vacuumed more regularly? I wish I had cleaned my home on a schedule? I wish I had stuck to a meal plan? I wish I had sent my children away from me each day to be taught by someone else? I wish I had spent more time on the computer?”
I sincerely, highly and deeply, doubt it.

I will, God willing, look around at my descendants and those who I love most, and say, “My only regret is that I did not put aside futile things more to enjoy each human soul God put beside me each day.”

Thirty-two years already into this life, and no clue how many years yet the Lord has written into my story on earth.
But I am trying to get a handle on this thing called life.
Learning how to walk and drink ~ the basics, really.

Does it matter how many dust bunnies are found beneath my couch?
Does it matter what size my jeans are?
When I am older and grayer, will I look back in my memory banks or gaze through photo albums and simply critique the flabby abs of my thirties or the dog hair & country dust on my wood floors?

I should hope not!

These flabby abs were hard to fight for.
Damnit if I allow myself to succumb to peer pressures which make me think I’m less-than because I am no longer a size two.
This body brought thirteen more eternal souls into God’s Kingdom.
I spent nine years giving my body to the work of fattening heaven and earth with children ~ I will not give up my remaining years to agonizing over the evidence they left behind.

These wood floors in my country home are a tool for our life, not the point of our existence.
Phooey on me if I give in to the false assumption that cleanliness is next to godliness because my home doesn’t always sparkle and smell of white vinegar & lemon verbena.
This home is to be used for a blessing, a haven, for those who live here and those who visit here.
Rather than wasting my days scrubbing this place for the sake of appearance, I need to drive Matchbox cars on these floors, crawl alongside my baby through the dust bunnies, and have tea parties on the rugs. Rugs which, by the way, have a clever skill of hiding immeasurable imperfections.

I will enjoy this life.
I will enjoy these children.
Not only the individual events but the collective gathering of people and tasks and weeks.

My personal weakness is to find fault and focus there. To feel guilt over embracing blessings.
But what has God called me to do? To be faithful. To enjoy Him.
May He grant me the daily and hourly strength to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him.
May the God of heaven and earth reach through my weak flesh and grab hold on my faltering heart, causing me to fully enjoy what He has given me to do in this life He has called me to live.

Amen.

Photography Challenge, Week Twelve

Week Twelve: Artistic, Transportation

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Each week, I find myself trying various ideas
and trying to be particularly artsy…
but then I find myself back in my “real life mama” rut! :)

So this week’s artistic interpretation of transportation,
is simply a picture of all my babywearing gear.

That’s how my littlest kiddos
are transported around.
And it’s my favorite thing right now.

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Life in the Weeds

I was gritting my teeth through the morning… two crying in one room while two squabbled in another… one wetting her pants while another filled his diaper… two boys throwing up hands because of math problems while the baby throws up milk because I didn’t pat out his burps while I want to throw in the towel at the sight of a dog tracking in mud-and-who-knows-what… costumes and matchbox cars and crayons and sippy cups strewn all over the house…
I am smiling though my body aches and my soul is stretched, because I know there is no other choice.
But there is a struggle going on while I nearly drown myself in self-doubt and self-loathing. Yes, this day feels like an exercise of futility. But does that mean that it is not valuable? Deep in my heart I know that it is invaluable, but that is an intangible & invisible price tag.

Then at noon my phone rang. It was my husband, calling to check in on my day. When I heard his voice, it felt like a drink of cold water when you are really thirsty. I needed that. And when he asked how my day was going, I said, “tell me about your day” – to which he said, “that good, huh? tell me how things are.” I sighed and walked to the bathroom. It’s funny how a bathroom can become a place of refuge, of comfort and quiet. The rest of the house may be a busy, noisy, bustling, messy place ~ but my bathroom? I can close out everything else, even if just for five minutes. So I did. Well, except for the kids calling me from the other room, and the sleeping baby strapped to my chest. But you know. That is basically the same as being alone. 😉

I poured out my thoughts (anxieties, fears, self-doubt, struggles, frustrations) to my generously listening husband. I emptied myself.

And then he poured his thoughts back to me, seeking to fill me back up.
I may have cried while he did.

He encouraged me, it is hard to see the fruit when we are still planting.

And, it is hard to see when you’re in the weeds. You have to be able to step back and see where you came from.

My husband took the time amidst his own busy workday to encourage me in mine.
I don’t get graded or adjudicated or reviewed to find perspective.
But my husband can see my emptiness. Especially when I am not too proud to lift the veil and let him see it.

Sometimes all I see are the weeds that need pulled out. And when the plants are still small, the weeds and the seedlings can actually be hard to distinguish. I need a fellow gardener sometimes to give me perspective and remind me that I am still planting, still watering; the harvest at this point is in tiny portions. Someone else’s eyes may better see the good growth while surveying the land, while I am on my knees in the furrows, hands covered in dirt and eyes focused on the weeds.

My job isn’t to wonder how great the harvest will be. Not yet.
It is to keep planting good seeds, keep watering, keep fertilizing, keep plucking out the weeds, to let the sunlight in, to patiently wait while the tiny plants take root.
Someday it will be easier to see the work that has been accomplished.
Right now, all I need is to be this empty vessel, this diligent planter, this person who takes five minutes to cry “alone” in the bathroom and then gets back digging into the dirt.

I need to remember that only eyes of faith can see the beauty of future fruit even when life feels lived in the weeds.
Oh Lord, help Thou my unbelief.

Life as SAHM is (More Than) Enough

I praise my King, that He and His grace are sufficient
(which means not only enough, but completely and totally filling it up to all the corners!)
even for the moments where I muse about the following…
where I wonder about myself and my work…
where I ask Him, is it enough?
and am I enough?

I can feel like I run around all day trying to just keep little people alive, fed, clothed, and moderately happy.

And is that enough?
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough.
There are moments where my brain says, “I’ve HAD enough.”
And there are moments where my heart screams, “This is enough to fill me up for six lifetimes!”
But there is a tug of war going on inside myself.

Is it enough? What I do? Who I am? How I do it?
I spend all day every day just trying to keep our world going. To keep bellies filled, house clean, home havenly, children tended, errands run, bills paid, prayers said, minds educated.

“Just.”

As if there were anything JUST about it.

For today, while yet another ellipses claims my thoughts and my time, I will leave you with a wonderfully long missive that G.K. Chesterton said about the massive duty of motherhood, for which it could never be said to have “just” as its adjective.

Supposing it to be conceded that humanity has acted at least not unnaturally in dividing itself into two halves, respectively typifying the ideals of special talent and of general sanity (since they are genuinely difficult to combine completely in one mind), it is not difficult to see why the line of cleavage has followed the line of sex, or why the female became the emblem of the universal and the male of the special and superior.

Two gigantic facts of nature fixed it thus: first, that the woman who frequently fulfilled her functions literally could not be specially prominent in experiment and adventure; and second, that the same natural operation surrounded her with very young children, who require to be taught not so much anything as everything. Babies need not to be taught a trade, but to be introduced to a world. To put the matter shortly, woman is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there aren’t. It would be odd if she retained any of the narrowness of a specialist.

Now if anyone says that this duty of general enlightenment (even when freed from modern rules and hours, and exercised more spontaneously by a more protected person) is in itself too exacting and oppressive, I can understand the view. I can only answer that our race has thought it worth while to cast this burden on women in order to keep common-sense in the world.

But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean. When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean.

To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it.

How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.

-What’s Wrong with the World by G.K. Chesterton

Life in Ellipses

I know there are lots of jobs that dictate a life and routine with a rinse & repeat nature. Truly, that is how God created the world. Even He seems to live within a refrain ~ times and seasons, which are necessarily repetitious. It clearly does not mean that a repetitious, cyclical job is not fully useful. Just because something is cyclical does not mean it is futile. Read Ecclesiastes to see that truth right in front of your eyes from the incomparable wisdom of Solomon.

But it does mean that I can only live so linearly. Even a description of “two steps forward, one step back” doesn’t always prove true when one’s vocation is cyclical by nature. Round and round I go. The nature of my cyclical jobs are domestic, but I realize that it is not the only one that has a cyclical form.

But I don’t think it is simply the repetition that has forced me to go without a checklist.

It is my vocation. Motherhood has caused me, little by little, to give it up.
To have open hands for each day.
To live in a moment-by-moment mindframe.
To accept that my entire world right now is controlled by the tyranny of the urgent.

For example, in the forty minutes it took me to write the simple, short thoughts above… I have changed a diaper, switched the laundry, refilled a cup of milk, taught an English lesson, stoked the fire, sipped my coffee, and nursed the baby.

Whew. No wonder my thoughts rarely seem to flow smoothly anymore. My life is filled with punctuation. But it isn’t always periods or commas. It is most often ellipses. What we describe as dot dot dot. Meaning, to be continued. Or this is a lapse. Or fill in the blank.

I try to multitask, for sure. Just ask me about the crazy things I have done lately while breastfeeding my son. I may have sat in the rocker to nurse and a read a book with my firstborn son and called it multitasking. But that is nothing compared with talking on the phone, wiping a 3 year old’s bum, teaching a piano lesson, and nursing the infant… and no, I’m not making that scenario up. Ask many a mom, and they will tell you the same. A big part of our career is multitasking, definitely & no question about it.

But more often and more definitely than even multitasking is my life of ellipses. Stopping and starting. Fits and spurts. Interruptions of all kinds, sizes, lengths, reasons.

Whoever coined the phrase (it seems to be a man named Charles Hummel in 1967, at first glance google), “tyranny of the urgent” had to have some major inside scoop on motherhood.

I can start sixty things from a checklist in one day, but I don’t know how many months it would take to check them all off as “complete.”

And that has been a big struggle for me, in all honesty.
It is a new thing for me (eight years into my motherhood journey!) to embrace life without a checklist.
It’s only recently that Mommy decided I live life better, more fully, more joyfully, more completely, more God-honoringly when I am not beholden to a piece of paper covered in bullet points.

And it is amazing to me that things are still getting done.
They are even getting done on time and in a routine way.
And when things don’t get done (or done on time, or done in a predictably routine way), none of us are worse for the wear.

The things that really matter in my vocation can not be described or defined on a checklist anyway.
Most of the things that happen in my day to day life can not be predicted or put on a timeline.
The people that I manage, and those who I report to, do not adhere to checklists.

So I am learning joy in flexibility.
I am learning to embrace the ellipses rather than clinging to a desire for checkmarks.
I am learning to find encouragement and fulfillment without relying on a completed checklist for my sense of value in God’s world.

Life Without a Checklist

If you know me very well, you probably know that I am often classified as type-A, verging on OCD, very list oriented. I love to know what is expected of me, to perform to my utmost, to achieve success, and to cross things off my to-do list. As a child, I even wrote down my daily to-do lists with a schedule down to the minute. That’s right. At nine years old, I was scheduling my days like a corporate CEO. I don’t know why or where that tendency came from. But there it is.

College life suited me well. Being told before classes even started what books I needed was fantastic. Getting a syllabus for the whole semester on the very first day of class was like opening a gift. I always kept ahead of the game. No last-minute late night cramming sessions unless it was completely and totally unavoidable. I was never honestly surprised by good grades; not because I thought I was super smart or overly clever, but because I knew that I was planning and following through. Organizational skills and a dedication to checking things off my list was serving me well.

And then life happened. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree and got married seven days later. While I was working as a medical secretary and piano teacher part time, I quickly headed down the avenue to motherhood ~ my son Gabriel being due on my first wedding anniversary.

The whirlwind of married life, motherhood, homemaking, and housekeeping has never slowed down ~ in fact, as you probably well know, it never will. Life doesn’t slow down, and I find it doesn’t even seem to maintain speed. It picks up momentum as we go along, and before we know it, we will be realizing we have to turn off the cruise control because our exit to heaven seems to be glinting down there on the horizon, and I just don’t feel like I am done with the here & now.

The checklist continues to grow.
But I hardly have time to keep an eye on the checklist now.
And if the truth be told, I don’t even think my life is conducive to crossing things off a checklist anymore!!

Have you ever tried to be finished with the laundry? the ironing? the dishes? the meals? the housecleaning? the diapers? the bums to wipe? the boo-boos to bandage? the books to read? the times tables to repeat? the pudgy bodies to snuggle? the situps to crunch? the bills to pay?
Not to mention the music to play, the photos to take, the scrapbooks to make, the things to sew and craft, the gifts to buy and wrap and give, the coffee dates to have, the friendships to pursue, the little souls to nurture, the people to prioritize?

It never actually finishes.
None of it.
I can’t ever actually check anything off.
As soon as I do, it gets put back right on at the end of the list again.

So how do I live my life without a checklist?
How do I love living in a rinse&repeat career?
How do I learn to encourage myself when I don’t have quarterly school grades or managers giving me yearly reviews?

Stay tuned. I have more thoughts coming.
But for today, maybe I will just go ahead and check “blog something” off my to-do list!

Adventing Still

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What a glorious time Advent is! And I’ve been too caught up in the business of Adventing that I haven’t been taking the time to write about it. Of course traditionally (so we have been hearing, especially, in the Anglican tradition) it is a season not unlike Lent. Advent prepares for Christmas like Lent prepares for Easter. The two glorious hallmark holy days of the Christian faith are preceded by seasons of waiting and anticipation, preparation and repentance. So we don’t party like it’s Christmas until Christmas. There are no flowers on the altar at church. The word “alleluia” is suddenly absent from some of the liturgical texts in worship, and the eucharist liturgy is actually altered a bit during this season too, with an emphasis on sin and repentance ~ and, praise the Lord, plenty of grace to soak in.

It is good to be children sometimes,
and never better than Christmas,
when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.
— Charles Dickens

In our family, we remind our kids of the waiting and the anticipation by giving them tiny tastes, little sips. They get one chocolate each night, and one tiny glass of wine at each Advent dinner (which we’ve been doing on Saturday nights, and we love this tradition!). I ask them questions (“what does Advent mean?” “who is coming?” “what does Emmanuel mean?” and more…). We sing songs (they’ve got O Come O Come Emmanuel memorized, and most of O Come All Ye Faithful). We read little books that are toddler friendly to remind everyone of the real Christmas story, and I sometimes ask the boys to fill in the blanks to see what they can recall (“what did Herod want done?” “what did the angels tell the magi?” “what did Mary say when Gabriel told her about the baby Jesus?” “what did the angels sing at Christ’s birth?” etc…).

And the kids are eagerly counting the days until Christmas. Every morning (and probably half a dozen more times throughout the day) they declare the countdown for everyone to hear. They love their Advent calendars in their rooms to help with this endeavor.

Most notably, the children know that Advent is about anticipation, hope, looking back but also looking ahead. While they only get one chocolate each evening of Advent, Christmas will soon be here ~ and on Christmas, they can have handfuls of chocolates if they want! We get a sugary, gooey breakfast with rich drinks. We get a big brunch, and a beefy dinner. There will be wine and cookies. And gifts ~ oh, there will be gifts!! I have put some under the tree already, because the kids were begging… but they are ones that can not easily be peeked into, haha! or they are ones not for the kids. :) Although even our two year old seems to be embracing obedience about the tree, the ornaments, and the gifts all being off limits for touching. We are thankful for that!

When the kids wake up on Christmas morning, the rest of the gifts will be under the tree, and the stockings will be full. Breakfast will be baking in the oven and coffee & hot cocoa will be steaming. Music will be on, candles lit, fireplace roaring. Gifts and games and laughter and singing and rejoicing will fill the day. And, Lord willing, it will overflow into the days yet to come afterward. Which is just what grace should be like. It should fill  you up, then overflow you. And one of the best ways of showing that to children is by the tangibles. For that matter, it’s a pretty downright good way to remind us adults too!

Thanks be to God for being the perfect Father, the giver of all good and perfect gifts, so that we know Who to imitate! Now… may He give us the grace to joyfully imitate Him with vigor, and the mercy to grow closer in our imitation accuracy year by year.

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“Man’s maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey;
that Truth might be accused of false witnesses,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.”
― St. Augustine of Hippo

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Celebrating Life with Hope

We are continuing to celebrate life! Simeon’s lungs filled with oxygen 36 days ago. Yesterday Simeon’s head was covered with water and oil. He has always belonged to Christ, but yesterday he was officially welcomed into the Church by receiving the sacrament of baptism. He is officially a son of the covenant, heir of God’s Kingdom, full participant in the body of Christ as a member of His bride. Hallelujah! What hope! What a perfect thing to celebrate on the first Sunday of Advent, where we lit the candle of hope. Please rejoice with us and celebrate the life of Christ in our little son.

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For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off,
everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.
Acts 2:39

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them
 in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, to
 the end of the age.
Matthew 28:19-20

Creating Memories, V

CREATING MEMORIES, V
looking forward & back

It’s Mother’s Day! And I am in the blessed scenario of both having a mother and being a mother. Do you know, when I was a young child, my grandma had the pretty unique blessing of both being a grandma and having a grandma?! Yes, we had five generations alive at one time—all the way until right before my ninth birthday, when my Great Great Grandma died, still sharp as a whip. A lot of my childhood memories hold a lot of old people—my great granddaddy James (who lived with us for a while, right before he died), my great great grandma Martha, my great grandpa Willard, my great grandma Van, and all four grandparents (two of whom lived with us for a while) for a good bit of my childhood. And oh, how I wish there were some way to harness more of those memories—there is just nothing like generational blessing, and I so desperately wish I could cling to those times with my older relatives with more detail in my memory. It is one thing that makes me long—on the other side of the coin—to give my children as many opportunities with their grandparents and great grandparents as possible. It’s one piece of why my heart breaks at the thought that my children may never see my grandfather again—and their great grandparents on their paternal side never really knew them—and even their paternal grandparents are so far away… Knitting generations together is a beautiful tapestry, and sometimes it is hard to weave (sometimes impossible, because heaven is a long way away…), but it is so worth every effort. Every memory I have of my parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and great great grandma are treasures. True treasures.

My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle…
Remember that my life is a breath…
Job 7:6-7

Peek around at our intro, part I, part II, part III, part IV, quotes and Scriptures and thoughts of grace.

And now as we finish up our conversation on creating memories, I am looking forward as well as looking backward. I am recalling some more little things from my own childhood. I am thinking of some more little things that I wonder if my children will remember when they are grown. And ultimately, I pray that my children will have the incredible blessing of knowing faithful generations on both sides of their own stories, and have treasure troves full of memories that these relationships weave through their lifetimes.

Remember how short my time is!
For what vanity You have created all the children of man!
Psalm 89:47

 

Looking Back

~I remember my childhood church, and filling a really long pew in the balcony every week with five generations. I remember the Sunday School building, and how Pastor Flood had a gumball machine filled with jellybeans where we could spend pennies for the goodies, and a couple of my friends didn’t like the black ones so I always got extra. I remember going to Thursday School in a far back building on the church campus, where we did neat projects and I felt like a big kid because one day I week I got to “go to school.” I remember the children’s choir—originally called the New Creature Choir, where I learned how to play recorder. I remember musicals, dying to play a lead part, and singing with all my heart. My family didn’t do Awanas, but sometimes I got to go with a friend—we didn’t regularly do VBS either, but I remember going with friends one summer and being totally overwhelmed by the puppet show. I remember weddings and funerals there. I remember the big grass field where we played games, and the area of trees that bees flocked to and stickinesss covered the ground—I’ve long wondered what kind of trees those were. I fell in love with Jesus there, I fell in love with singing there, I fell in love with piano there, I made some of the best friends a girl could ever ask for there. I have very fond memories of my childhood church.

~I remember my childhood home, where I lived & loved from 4 to 14. I don’t really remember the little house we lived in before that, except for little snippets that have been largely aided by photographs I have seen throughout my life. But I remember my bright pink bedroom in our big house on the hill. I remember loving the swimming pool in the middle of the hill and the creek at the very foot of the hill. I remember the horse corral, and wishing it were not a dilapidated fence just to play around but rather a real paddock where I could run my own real (rather than imaginary) horses. I remember the blackberry bushes and the poison oak. I remember the tall grasses. I remember my brother finding pinecones to harvest pinenuts from like an Indian. I remember learning to dive in our pool. I remember friends staying in the poolhouse, which was our guesthouse. I remember my mom sponge painting the two changing rooms on the side of the poolhouse. I remember having a hot tub that never got used, until it was removed one year so my dad & brother could build a crazy computer room in its place. I remember where the little old television was set up downstairs, and the ceiling-high set of shelves covered in VHS tapes. I remember my brother sat in the oversized chair on the left, and I would sit with my dog Goldie on the grungy couch on the right. I remember having friends over to “play prairie” with me in the backyard (especially after my dad and brother built me my prairie house with the triple bunks, the window with shutters, and the fold-down table), and then we would eat mac & cheese and drink Diet Coke for special lunch treats.

I looked on child rearing not only as a work of love & duty
but as a profession that was fully as interesting & challenging
as any honorable profession in the world
and one that demanded the best that I could bring to it.
~Rose Kennedy~

~I remember going to classes. I remember ballet—I remember loving Miss Tammy to pieces, and wanting to be a ballerina forever. Later I remember another teacher, Mrs. H, poking my tummy and telling me I was getting pudgy—and how that has plagued me for over twenty years now. I remember going to art class, and adopting my teacher, Miss Carmel, as another grandma. I remember doing a writing class. I remember a group of us homeschooled kids getting together to put on a production of Anne of Green Gables. I remember literature classes, logic classes, a class on the Civil War. I remember piano lessons—I had three teachers in California, one teacher in Washington.

~I remember falling in love with writing. I remember creating my Little Women’s Society magazine, and meeting hundreds of young ladies across the country (and a couple internationally as well) through my publication. I remember spending hours writing, compiling, typing, formatting, honing computer skills, printing & collating & stapling & addressing publications month after month (every other month for a long time, eventually quarterly, and then by the time I was in college, I had to give it up altogether). I remember sharing my life on paper with friends and strangers alike.

~I remember having fifty penpals at one time, and I regularly corresponded by hand with each one. I loved these long distance friends keenly. A few, I got to meet in person when traveling, and some I actually moved to live near. I still know many of them. And there are a couple (Joanna in the midwest and Samantha in sunny Cal!!) who I still communicate with long-distance but have never (yet) met in person.

~I remember Sunday evenings at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Five generations, usually at least a dozen people in attendance, gathered in my grandma’s house every Sunday evening. I remember Grandma and Mama cooking, Aunt Wendy washing dishes. I remember watching America’s Funniest Home Videos after it was all cleaned up. I remember helping my little cousins take baths, playing Duplos together, teaching a cousin to play Go Fish.

You were and are mother to my father—
the tree from which apples fell and grew
from which apples fell and grew
from which apples now fall and grow.
You are gone from this orchard, but [we] […] will grow on,
pointing toward the Son you showed us.
We will live—and we will die—in Christ,
thankful that He placed us downstream in the river of your human grace.

~N.D. Wilson, Death by Living, p169~

~I remember my parents dressing up to go the Civic Light Opera, dropping us off at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for dinner and sometimes a sleepover. I remember trying to spin in the leather-plastic chairs at the dining room table with my brother (they must have been from the 70s but they were spinny and fantastic fun when nobody was looking!), but getting Grandpa’s stern eyes—the same eyes we’d get if we put our elbows on the table or got too wild. I remember Grandma’s frog cookie jar. I remember spending nights at my grandparents’ house sometimes—I would sleep on the floor next to my grandma, and my brother would sleep in their walk-in closet. I remember an entire shelf of cereals in their cupboard, and how my grandparents would mix different cereals and then pile a mountain of various fruit on the very top before drizzling a little milk over it all. I remember Great Grandpa’s woodpile and workshop. I remember how he built me a Victorian dollhouse by hand after he cut off all the fingers on his right hand with an electric saw (when he was about 90). I remember Great Great Grandma’s stiff chair with the doily on the top. I remember my noisy uncles always causing one raucous or another. I remember Grandpa and his avid gardening, especially the tomatoes and the roses. I remember making chocolate chip cookies with Grandma, and playing board game after board game after board game. I remember her trying to convince me that math was fun because it was just like a game, and the right answers were always “the win.”

~I remember going square dancing with my grandparents, their weekly date night out. I remember hearing about how my parents met at ten years old at a square dance in my other grandparents’ basement across the country. (I regret that I have never learned to square dance, and I hope better for my kids somehow.)

~I remember the parties my mom threw—St. Patty’s, July 4th, swimming parties, tea parties, Thanksgiving extravaganzas, Christmas parties of all sorts—kid parties where we made things with painted macaroni, or elegant evening parties with candlelight and classical music. I remember the food and the decorations. I remember how she worked hard but how she lived it up. She may not have had sparkly high heels on, but she wore aprons with pearls.

Oh, Marilla, I thought I was happy before.
Now I know that I just dreamed a pleasant dream of happiness.
This is the reality.
~L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams~

~I remember trips. I remember spending Halloween weekends at Disneyland because all the costumes were fun princesses and silly characters. I remember going away for three weeks at a time with my parents and my brother on road trips around various corners of the United States, with our maroon minivan packed full and our grey plywood car top carrier full of suitcases. I remember little tiny bits about going to Michigan when I was five, with both sets of my grandparents. I remember my granddad buying me a purple bike at a garage sale so that I could ride around Mackinac Island with everyone else. I remember my grandmother’s basement—the way it smelled, the cement floor and the fun toys, and imagining the square dances they used to host there. I remember the hot air balloon festival in New Mexico, and buying my own pair of moccasins near the Grand Canyon in Arizona. I remember staying in Las Vegas, all the bright lights and the fancy hotels, and my parents having fun with nickel slots one night. I remember traveling back east with our best friends, going through all the Colonial hot spots we had studied together in history, seeing it all face to face and reenacted. I remember driving around in a rented motorhome one time, falling in love with people and places, lying on the bed in the back with my dad while we drew pictures of future dreams while Mama drove us around and Colin manned the maps.

~I remember uprooting and starting over with my family, moving from city to country. I remember watching my dad put pieces back together. I remember him starting churches. I remember God’s hand at work in my parents. I remember testing their faith. I remember old dreams and new dreams. I remember my dog dying in my arms. I remember knowing what joy was. I remember learning what grief was.

You make the best choices you can at the time with the information you have,
and then you deal with the consequences,
and that’s the part where your life happens.
Every major decision we’ve made involved prayer and advice from wise people,
but that was no guarantee that it would turn out the way I wanted,
with a little white house and a picket fence.
~Myquillyn Smith, The Nesting Place, p39~

~I remember so many little snippets, just little sprinkles on the icing on the cake… and I don’t want to forget. But I do, and I will. So I want to enjoy the memories while I have them.

 

Looking Forward

~I wonder if my children will remember how hard we worked to grow our family, how we prayed and cried and kept trying again. I wonder if they will remember standing in the bathroom with me while I put shots in my tummy and they take turns counting to ten for me while I inject. I wonder if they will remember life before and without one another, if Gabriel will remember his years as an only child when he cried & begged & prayed fervently for a little brother or sister.

~I wonder if my children will remember the schooling we give them—if the books, facts, lessons, tests, fieldtrips, and experiences will sink in deeply and take root. I wonder if they will have loved their educations as much as I did mine.

~I wonder what my children will remember about their grandparents and their great grandparents. I wonder whether it is the big memories like the family vacations or the big holidays they will remember most, or the daily ins and outs of living life together that will be the monuments in their minds.

The childhood shows the man
As morning shows the day.
~John Milton, Paradise Regained~

~I wonder if they will remember me asking their forgiveness when I have lost my temper or otherwise sinned against them. I wonder if they will remember me saying yes more often than no. I wonder if they will look back on their childhoods with delight instead of regret.

~I wonder what trips will stick strongest in their memories, and which birthday celebrations or holiday traditions will maintain monuments in their minds. What will be the traditions that our kids, once grown, will want to cling to and come back home for? Will any of our kids remember their lives here in the country so fondly that they too want to build on the family land? Will I have grandchildren who know me, love me, remember me?

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not;
remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.
~Epicurus~

~I want my children too to remember little snippets that will be the sprinkles on the icing on the cake. I want them to enjoy the memories they keep, and I want us all to enjoy making the memories in the meanwhile—by God’s grace and for His Kingdom.