My Pumpkin Patch

So it’s not looking like we are going to make it to a real pumpkin patch this year…
but the pumpkin Gabriel picked out at the grocery store a couple weeks ago is pretty cute…
and I have my own little patch of coppery punkins!

I love them.
They sure are sweet as pumpkin pie!

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Big Kid Joys

I love babies. My mom might smile and tell you that’s largely because I’ve had “easy babies.” But let’s be honest: to at least a certain extent, babies are babies, and babies are also honed by the hard work of their mama. So while God definitely did give my babies their blessed personalities and natures, He also has used the hard work of my hands, my time, my tears, my discipline, my prayers, my tactics… It’s not like they have grown up into “easy kids” in a lot of ways. So I think it might be safe to say that I’m GOOD at babies. I’m not quite so good at the preschool season. Not yet anyway. I am praying for grace to get there! 🙂

There are lots of joys that I can easily place my fingers on when it comes to my baby. Each one of my four children has brought me immense joy, and there is nothing I have loved (yet!) more than their babyhoods.

Perhaps that is one reason that I struggle emotionally with having the baby years closing behind me. In another couple of weeks, my baby will be a year old. That is, officially speaking, the end of infancy and the beginning of toddlerhood. This is the first time I’ve come upon a child’s first birthday without being/having been pregnant again. It will be the first time I have celebrated a child’s first birthday without the huge shadows of grief & fear. (I was pregnant with Promise on Gabriel’s 1st birthday, and had just miscarried Glory shortly prior; I was pregnant with Evangeline on Asher’s 1st birthday, and utterly terrified; I miscarried Heritage just two days before Evangeline’s 1st birthday, and was grieving immensely the death of her baby sister.)

Now the only shadow I sit under is the unique heaviness I feel upon knowing that this is the last time I will celebrate my child’s first birthday. (Praise the Lord for the hope of grandchildren!) I have had so much joy with my babies.

But here’s the thing I want to emphasize: there are going to be so many big kid joys in the future.
And this is one of the things I am just now discovering.
Perhaps it is because my friends’s kids, and my nieces & nephews are largely younger kids too. With a couple of rare exceptions, the folks we tend to hang out with on an intimate level are either in the same season of life we are, or are even a step or two behind us on the path.

And I need to know that the biggest joys of motherhood are not exclusively behind me.
Because, in all honesty, that is one of my big temptations, one of my big fears.
The baby years are familiar to me, they are joyful and comforting and deliciously sweet.

I am only barely beginning to see what some of the future joys may be.
The challenges of the older years seem to express themselves more easily.
I know there are hard times ahead. (Oh boy. It looks like menopause may intersect with puberty… that will be fun.)

So I need to start writing down the big kid joys as they come.
I need to look ahead with happy hope.
I need to laugh at, rather than fear, the future.

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I need to remember that resurrection follows death, in God’s economy.

Live the gospel in the things that no one sees. Sacrifice for your children in places that only they will know about. Put their value ahead of yours. Grow them up in the clean air of gospel living. Your testimony to the gospel in the little details of your life is more valuable to them than you can imagine. If you tell them the gospel, but live to yourself, they will never believe it. Give your life for theirs every day, joyfully. Lay down pettiness. Lay down fussiness. Lay down resentment about the dishes, about the laundry, about how no one knows how hard you work.

Stop clinging to yourself and cling to the cross. There is more joy and more life and more laughter on the other side of death than you can possibly carry alone.

~Rachel Jankovic~

Yesterday, my 8 1/2 year old (who is, by the way, beginning now to show me lots of big kid joys!) came grocery shopping with me. Now, that’s not unusual. But the unusual factor is that we did not have the 4 & 3 year olds with us. Simeon rode around the store strapped to my chest, I led the way with list in hand, and Gabriel took the initiative to choose a cart & push it along behind me. He was very intentional about letting others go first, about being a gentleman, and about jumping in when he saw an area to help. We talked about math a lot while we were shopping; figuring out which were the best mozzarella and parmesan purchases to make, based upon price per ounce, for instance. We did a good bit of math in our heads but also pulled out the calculator on my phone to help us with minutia.
But the biggest joy to this mama’s heart yesterday hit hard when he pushed the cart into the checkout line for me, while I ran back to the baking aisle to pick up a bag of powdered sugar. When I came back to him, he explained that he did not want to load the groceries onto the conveyor until the older woman in front of him was out of the way, because he wanted to give her space; but then he did not want me to lift a finger (except for the 17lb pumpkin…) because he wanted to do the heavy lifting. 🙂

He did not wait to be asked to help. In fact, he did not even ask if I wanted him to help.
He simply saw an area where he could help, and his servant-heart jumped into gear.

There also was not a bagger at our checkout line, so Gabriel helped bag things and placed every single bag into the cart.
By the time we reached the car, and it was time to buckle in his baby brother and help me put all the bags in the back of the Pilot, I was bubbling over with happy, humble thankfulness. To God and to my big boy.
I told him so.
And then when given the option of two “rewards” of a sort (two different reward systems we’ve got going on currently), he chose the option that would also affect his siblings, rather than the option that would only affect himself.

These are good things. They are big deals in the moment. (Sure, I understand they are not huge in the grand scheme, but my prayer and hope is that they will lead to huge good things in the bigger picture of our future.)

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There are also big kid joys like bowling league. Ballet class. Kids following their daily activities lists without me needing to micro-manage every hour of their day. Kids who basically fight over who gets to help Mommy set the table or wash the dishes. The joy of being able to play Carcassonne with my son, rather than always needing to play Chutes & Ladders; of being able to play real Monopoly, rather than always the Jr. version. The joy of watching my son both tithe & serve in a worship service with a happy countenance and willing heart.

Oh. And losing teeth. That’s a uniquely big kid joy, too. 😀

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There are definitely joys behind. These moments and memories will remain dear to my heart.
But knowing that there are joys ahead is a huge encouragement & blessing to me.
Experiencing the firstfruits now gives me hope for the future.

I so truly love the season of life where my sweet little branches develop beautiful, strong buds.
But now I am beginning to see the beauty of the buds opening, and the petals beginning to open little by little.
And I have hope that when the blooms are fully open, the true fruit will begin to show itself.
And someday, oh someday… those fruits will come off this tree… and I want to have joy & thankfulness about it…

So cheers to the future! Watch me embrace the next phase, as we move into big kid joys.
May God be my strength and establish my roots,
so that the sap is flowing thick & sweet for nourishment all around.
The roots are deep.
The buds are beautiful.
I can’t wait to taste the fruit.

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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.

Fancy

There is something about children mixing with elegance that just makes me smile from ear to ear.

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Out celebrating in elegance the beloved parents and grandparents of this joyful group,
and their marriage of forty years & counting!

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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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Introducing Simeon James

Sweet Teen’s rainbow has burst forth!
We joyfully welcome our precious son
~…~…~
Simeon James
~…~…~
~the Lord has heard, and supplanted our grief with joy~

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born on Sunday, October 25th at 4:06pm
5lbs 10oz ~ 19 1/2 inches ~ pumpkin fuzz atop his head

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Blessed be the Lord!
For He has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to Him.
Psalm 28:6-7

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I waited patiently for the Lord;
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:1, 3

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This is the Lord‘s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:23-24

Nine Treasures, on PAIL Day

Today (Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day)
we are remembering our darlings in heaven,
the nine siblings of our treasures here.

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While this day does not cut so acutely into my heart as it once did, it is still a day that bittersweetly blesses and affects me.
In addition to treasures of glory, of Christ, of spiritual hopes & faith ~ we have nine treasures in heaven.
Little treasured people whose bodies I held within mine… and in my hands…
Boys and girls, my sons and daughters, who were beautifully created and wonderfully knit by their heavenly Father.

~…~…~…~

Covenant Hope, Glory Hesed, Promise Anastasis, Peace Nikonos
Mercy Kyrie, Victory Athanasius, Hosanna Praise,
Heritage Peniel, Fidelis Se’arah

~ oh, how we love you. I think of you all the time and imagine what life would have been like if you had stayed here with us. Your brother Gabriel talks about you a lot. And even Asher and Evangeline are starting to know your names, to remember how your lives have been entwined with theirs, to acknowledge that our family is much bigger than what meets the eye. ~

~…~…~…~

I am so happy, blessed and honored and privileged, to be their mommy. And I look ahead with joyful anticipation to holding them again (or if I don’t get to hold them, at least being with them and seeing them and singing with them) when I join them on the other side of eternity.


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It’s a Boy!

The Lord has heard our cries, and granted us a healthy little son. A third brave knight to protect our princess. 🙂
The mercy of our God just humbles & astounds me.

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from Deuteronomy 26:7-11
Then we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. And the Lord brought us out… and He brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. …and we shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord our God has given to us and to our house…