Summer at our House

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It’s officially summer.

And I am blogging from my phone while I sit at the park that is just around the corner of my house. We brought the cousins along today, and the boys are making up all manner of variations of “jackpot”.  I’m pretty sure the rule-making takes up more time than the game?!

Its a perfect summer day. A little humid, a little overcast, but lovely to relax in my lawnchair and knit and blog.

We have a new puppy, and his name is Trigger. He is the cutest thing ever, other than the fact that the chewing on all manner of things has commenced. I’m trying not to think about it. And what is likely to get destroyed in the process.

My boys and man planted a row of cosmos in our garden this year, and I couldn’t resist going out Saturday and picking the first few blooms. A couple of them were pretty ragged, but to think! Fresh wildflowers from my own garden on my counter! I don’t know what is going on with my obsession for flowers and just all of nature’s beauty recently. I have always loved our mountains here, but lately it seems that everywhere I look, the landscape explodes with beauty. The way the light lands in a stream through the window, vibrant purple cosmos, fresh dill’s smell and it’s soft, bright green needle-leaves. The way the mountains rise up blue toward the sky, and the way the trees are leafy and blow lazily in the breeze. I’ve never been so aware of it all.

Every morning I have been taking my coffee, Bible and journal to our front porch. I watch the sun light up the field and paint it golden; the drab, tan leftover wheat turned shining and bright with the sun’s brushstrokes.  The birds are already singing when I walk out, tiptoeing so as not to wake any sleeping munchkins… and it somehow seems that God Himself has orchestrated the bird’s chorus and beauty in my front yard just for me. A “good morning”, of sorts.

So I whisper “good morning” back, and smile at the truth reminding me that all this Creation, all this I see wouldn’t have to be there. But it was created for me to enjoy. It was made with me in mind. It’s almost too much to comprehend. The love He has for us, shouting out from Creation, telling us in the most glorious way that He longs for us to see Him clear, to know Him well, to see just how good He is.

We went to an antique tractor (thing? Day? I don’t know.)  at a recreation park near here last Saturday.  There was lots of stuff there.  Blacksmithing.  A chainsawing competition. Homemade doughnuts and pork BBQ sandwiches.  And an antique tractor pull.  There were auctioneers and hit and miss engines and all manner of tractors and farmers and old men (and young) in overalls and an atmosphere of festivity.  There was a wood turning demonstration and the ones doing so were kindly making tiny little tops and tiny little containers for the kids watching.  And the doughnuts.  Did I mention the doughnuts? Oh, oh, oh.  The doughnuts. Words kind of fail.  But I’ll try.  Huge, hot, glazed and poofy.  I had one, and it was amazing.  Hot and fresh.  Then later at home I had another, cold, and it was amazing in a whole different way.  Slightly deflated, a bit crunchy and the solidfied glaze crumbling instead of oozing, the you-better-lean-over-your-plate kind of thing.  Sheer doughnut bliss.  

But I digress.  Back to tractors.  There was a tractor pull, and we got all excited to see which one was going to go the furthest, pulling the weight down the run.  I had my eyes set on the gorgeous red Farmalls, (I know next to nothing about tractors.  But I really think the Farmall tractors are so pretty.)  But there was a shiny Oliver and the John Deeres’ did well too.  See, I even know the names.  

It was a good day.  Tired and sweaty children, happy and full of all the sights and tastes and sounds of the day.  

I’ve been knitting a beautiful lace shawl lately. The pattern is easy so far, and the lace (read: exciting part) is just beginning. It’s been a thoughtful knit.  A knit that while mindless, has also been a time for me to pray for the friend who will receive it.  I love to take the time to think about the person who is the recipient of my knitting, hoping for them, praying for them, thinking of them, and desiring that they would be filled to the brim so much with truth, and Jesus, and joy through whatever He allows.  Sometimes it’s hard things.  Sometimes it’s happy things.  But regardless… that no matter what, that they/we wouldnt ever be shaken from the truth that He sees us and knows us and is for us.

I’ve also been making Greek yogurt lately.  Ahhh.  So yummy.  With berries, stevia, and maple flavoring for me.  With vanilla, raspberry jam or fruit and a drizzle or three of honey for the kiddos.  I’m always amazed at how much more mild it is than store-bought yogurt.  Eating it plain isn’t what I do, but it’s not inconceivable with the way this stuff tastes. I really need to make granola now. 

And speaking of berries, we have been getting some black raspberries from our wild bushes.  Mr. J picked about a cup and wanted a pie, and so I combined the rest of the blackberries I had in the fridge, along with some of last year’s blueberries from the freezer, and voila! Triple berry cream pie!  It did not last long enough, but oh, it sure did taste good with coffee that evening.

It’s another day now, and it was yesterday when I was at the park phone-blogging.  My house is cool and it’s overcast while the quiet of afternoon napping and boys reading the Mandie series I collected every birthday and Christmas when I was their age. I love when they love books.  It brings back so many memories, and it also reminds me of the bliss of reading a good books.  I haven’t been doing much of that lately, what with knitting and other things that occupy my attention while I’m sitting down.  Although.  There is a book I got the other day on my Kindle that I’ve been perusing in my spare moments.  Actually I’ve been devouring it.  Have implemented several ideas and we are seeing some absolutely lovely results.   Oh, trust me.  The getting there isn’t always lovely.  But bit by bit, sometimes in small ways, and other things that are huge and amazing, some of the things that we know would have been diagnosed with all sorts of capital letter combinations are disappearing.  

That being said, I must add a disclaimer.  I am a firm believer that the Lord is the number one Leader and Guider of parental instruction.  I believe also that when we ask His guidance, He does provide it.  And I’m ever so grateful He has done so in the form of this particular author.   It’s good, old-fashioned advice that cuts through so much of the physcobabble of today’s parenting and adoption experts.   Best of all, it confirms much of what I’ve already believed at the back of my mind, the things I’ve felt to be true for a long time.  And when something confirms, it is ….really confirming. 

How’s that for profound? = )

My afternoon coffee is nearly drained, and the munchkins are up.  There is a puppy-training session going on on the front porch and I’ve got a bucket of green beans to snap.  Yay for fresh green beans, fresh squash, and leftover chicken and rice cassserole for supper!

Whatever May Come + Mother’s Day Reflections

Take a listen.  It’s highly recommended.

10,000 Reasons
Yesterday was  Mother’s Day.

And I have a lovely purple orchid gracing the antique chest in front of our window.  There were wide grins and excited hopping around and lots of happy shrieking as one of my children brought it in this morning.  We had a potluck at church today and in honor of Mother’s Day, the men brought the food.  

There was a lot of meat, unsurprisingly.

The smoked sausage biscuits Melvin made were superb, and I’m pretty sure there weren’t any left. 

There was also a lot of dessert.  I even had to wonder if my brother-in-law got on Pinterest to find the gorgeous creation he made that was brownies topped with fresh strawberries and bananas and drizzled with a chocolate sauce. It was amazing.  Definitely Pinterest worthy. 

I had a lovely nap in the afternoon and that was also amazing. 
But if I’m completely honest, this has been a hard Mother’s Day.

I am in the middle of one of the most sanctifying journies I’ve ever known.  This past month has been so, very, very hard.  I won’t go into detail because that’s not important.  What I’m walking through is something that so many mamas have seen, and a variation of it has been known by probably every mother out there.  
When your child is stuck in a place that is unexplainably, constantly, not good.  When they refuse to respond.  When they are stuck on themselves and no one else. Picking fights, angry, frustrated, and underneath it all, a deep, deep hurt that seems impossible. And I know there is trauma and the fact that he didn’t get to be at our house and get snuggled and loved on from his first moments.  I know there were things seen and experienced that no child ever should.  I grieve that I didn’t get to carry him in my womb, and rub the skin on the stomach that shielded him underneath.  His heart didn’t beat beside mine, and my laboring for him is an excruciating journey that wasn’t over in 24 hours.  

Yet isn’t this what all mothers know?  That we labor in our hearts for our children.  We never stop knowing that there is so much we don’t know.  That we can’t fix.  

No matter how they come or what they have seen, their sin nature is the same

It’s just like mine, and its not overly complicated.  

We all need  healing, and my son is no different and no worse.  He is walking a journey I wish he wasn’t choosing/didn’t have to walk, yet at the same time knowing without a shadow of a doubt that my Good Father is using and weaving and orchestrating.  I know that I know that I know that God doesn’t allow pain and awful without being able to use it for something so much more beautiful than I could ask or imagine.  So much abundantly above anything I could think of.  All the poor choices and yucky circumstances our God is more than able to redeem.

So as hard as this Day for Mama’s has been, I think it’s also the reality of what is.  What is life, sometimes, what are humans, what happens when we let go of the fairy tale  in exchange for abundance of heart and mind and soul that only our King can fill us with. 

I am a mother, given grace by a kind Creator, parenting children that I am being used to help mold, yet I’m only a vessel.  I’m not the one who is ultimately responsible for my children’s choices, and I don’t need to try to figure out how to parent and strive and stress over the details of what has been and what might be. My job is to press hard into Jesus and thank Him for the wisdom and grace and ideas He provides, every minute, and love my children with the love that only He could give in the face of a lot of chaos and lashing out.  I don’t need another parenting book (though many have lots of good thoughts), I need the fresh and reviving Word of God.  And it makes me giddy to think of the possibility and hope that comes from pressing into a God that knows my child so much better than I do, resting in the fact that He sees all and knows all and does all things well. 

A dear friend sent me this verse this morning –

For God has not given us the spirit of fear,  but of power and love and a sound mind.”

Oh, friends.  Dear mamas.  I may be walking a hard journey.  And my mind has went to so many places that I have to immediately take captive.  Because this.  This truth. 

ANY time there is a whiff of fear?  It’s not ever from God.  Ever.  Ever.  Ever.  

I used to fear all the time what my children would become.  All the time.  My mind was taken captive by the future I nearly thought was inevitable.  And trust me, it wasn’t good.  

No longer.  When fear comes to my mind, I am learning to thank God for what He is doing.  For how He is working in beautiful ways I can’t see yet.  Every time the awful thing happens or the unthinkable enters my mind, I’m thanking Him for the beauty He brings from ashes and the deep love that He has for me and my littles. I thank Him for His love and care and that everywhere I am or am not, He is.  I thank Him that there’s nothing He will allow to be wasted.

And you know what? As much as parts of this journey aren’t something I would choose – I’m finding out that the refining process and the sanctifying work that God is doing in my heart is so much preferrable to the bland and hopeless and fear-filled existences from before.  It may never have been this bad before in our house, but this is a beautiful place to be. I’m not praying that it would go away for my sake, but that He would give me strength and grow me like crazy and that I would SHINE, along with praying that my son would be healed and choose life.

If God can do this work in me, when I’ve long been so defeated as a mama, I know without a shadow of a doubt that He can do the same for my dear child. 

He is the God of redemption, 

the God of healing, 

the God that has the power to raise His Son and our hearts from death and destruction. 

If, in fact, this is the God we serve, let’s stop with the fretting and the exhausted striving.  If He truly is this God, and we establish that in our minds, then may we not lessen the impact of who He is by allowing the adversary to fill us with fears of who He isn’t. The one who kills, steals, and destroys is certainly not our God.  But the lies, oh, they try to swoop in and steal our joy and our hope with thoughts of a God who might not come through for us.

Let us let Him fill us with impossible hope.  Amazing joy.  May we get alone with HIm and begin to, like Abraham, 

believe against hope.  

Let’s take an honest look at what we see, and stop walking by sight. Walking by faith means we take into account what we have not observed yet, and we begin to thank God for the impossible and the exciting and the wonderful that He is doing and will do.  And also, for the hard journey.  And that He makes it possible to have a grin and know truth and pray hope and grow like crazy in the thorny unsee-able places. 

Faith, not sight. 

And for any mamas who read this and identify with my story, will you join me?  Let’s raise our hands and thank our Father for all He gives.  And for all He does.  And that He isn’t the author of fear, but that He has given us the spirit of power.  Of love.  And of a sound mind in the face of everything.  Mothers who mother by God’s power, with His love, and whose minds are sound in the truth of a Good God and His reigning power over every event of life can laugh in the face of fears and call them out for what they are.   

We can thank God for what He has done and what He is doing.

We can hope against hope.

We can thank Him for growing us. 

We can thank Him that there isn’t any circumstance that’s able to steal our joy.

We can thank HIm for simply being who He is.  

Appreciating, adoring, worshiping and letting our praise fight this battle.
Whatever may come and whatever lies before me,

Let me be singing when the evening comes:

Bless the Lord, Oh, my soul.

Oh, my soul!

Worship His holy name – 

Sing like NEVER BEFORE, OH MY SOUL,

Come worship His holy name!

{crafting on} yarn/books/spring


I met my friend for our weekly early-morning Starbucks meeting… (well, weekly as in we meet when we aren’t too tired or other stuff comes up.  We are very relaxed about it.)

I knitted and we talked homeschooling and sewing and laughed and drank our coffee.  We meet at 5:30 am, and let me just say, it’s always hard to get up and drag myself out of bed.  But it is so worth it.  We run the gamut of topics.  Encouragement to not lose heart when homeschooling is hard.  Reminding each other who we are in Jesus.

It’s good stuff.

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I’ve been under a quilt since I got home, with my second cup of coffee, and the girls ar/e stomping on bubble wrap and playing with kitties.

Last week was really, really busy. Not much time for knitting, and there were things going on every day and in the evenings too.  Mr. E came down with a case of impetigo, and so I have been sanitizing and lysoling and washing hands like a crazy lady.   I think it’s clearing up after a round of antibiotics and lots of various home remedies.  I’ve been (still am) rather paranoid about everyone else getting it.  I didn’t even know what impetigo was.  Now I do, for sure. I’m pretty sure the collective amount of times we have all washed our hands in the last 4 days would be – A LOT.

Mr. E  has been reading “Banner in the Sky” about a boy who climbs the Alps in honor of his father, who died attempting to do the same.   Mr. J is reading various books in the Childhood of Famous Americans series.  (I scored big a year or so ago, when I found about 40+ of  books in this series for $1/each at a used book store near here). Yesterday he came up and couldn’t hardly catch his breath as he told me all about what he was reading.  I was thrilled.  And surprised.  And yet not surprised.  I continue to gently lead him and not push too hard with reading, and I’m pleasantly surprised with how well it is working.  I want to display a feast before my children of literature, reading to them, giving them good books to read, listening to audiobooks with them, and using all these books and the things they are interested in to spark their love for learning.

                                           

>>>>

The other day when I went to the yarn shop to knit, this beauty caught my eye.  I am in love with sock yarn.  Especially striping sock yarn.  Especially rainbow striping sock yarn.  So, it came home with me.  And I’m dreaming of the socks it will become.  Basically,  I’m dreaming of all the lovely and exciting things that are going to happen when I am finished with knitting pink wedding shrugs.  Mr. J got all excited about learning how to crochet, so I taught him how, and he thought it was quite fun to crochet shamelessly in front of me, while I knitted away on the Eternal Shrugs.   No one seems to have sympathy for me, not even my dear aunt – (who has crocheted loads of things, including Miss A.’s beloved and ragged blankie.  Blankie has been a constant companion since she was about 11 months old, and has taken the phrase “Security Blanket” to a whole.new.level. . – and I seem to be taking run-on sentences to a whole.new.level as well.).  – who had the nerve to send me a picture of the sweet granny square she was crocheting (even knowing my crochet angst) because she “just thought I should know”.   I glanced longingly at my hook, and dutifully continued knitting.  (Don’t worry, knitting, it’s not anything personal, and it’s certainly not that I’m leaving you behind.  I’m just expanding my horizons.)

 


And here is another thing that’s been catching my eye.  This post from Attic24 blog on the Granny Stripe Blanket….  I’m going to begin on that, I think, when the shrugs are finished. …….  Just google pictures of granny stripe blanket.  See if you aren’t drooling over all the beauty.  Oh I can HARDLY STAND the waiting. This is a great way to use up the odds and ends of yarn… or come up with stripes of lovely colors that go together.  The possibilities are endless. 


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It’s a beautiful day here, my girl has on her mismatched boots (it’s amazing when we find matching shoes around here), the grass is absolutely, unbelievably green, and there are pillows of white fluffy clouds framed by a blue, blue sky.  I’m entranced by the beauty of spring in a way I have never been before this year.  All the color is a riot and first on my agenda today is to go cut some blueberry branches to brighten and bless my kitchen table and countertops.  And who knows? Maybe the living room and my bedroom, too – why not? 

Joining Nicole from Frontier Dreams

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{yarn along}: when all you want to do is the new project








Oh my.  I have a new love.  

I’m still a little surprised, because for some reason, as a pompous knitter, I thought crochet was lesser somehow. 

I mean, people would talk about crochet, and I would think, yeah, well, that’s nice.  And sometimes I would be very impressed with what people made.  But surely it couldn’t be as spectacular as knitting, could it? 

I was very naive.  

Very.

Now a year or so ago, I decided I wanted to learn how to crochet, because I thought I really ought to be able to master it.  So I started following some basic instructions, and learned how to chain, and single crochet.  But I didn’t get very far and chalked it up to the fact that sure enough, I was right, crochet just must be something that wasn’t for me. Ah well, I was a happy knitter. 

Then.  I noticed a few things that knitting just couldn’t accomplish. 

Namely the granny square. 

And oh, me oh my, I fell hard.

  

Yes, this is something I needed in my life.  Must have granny square blanket in vintage colors. 

My determination was renewed. 

And fortuitously (that’s just a great word, isn’t it?) we had a babysitter here the other night (which was a whole ‘nother blessing in and of itself – my dear hubby and I got to go out to eat and indulge in chips and salsa at the new Mexican restaurant – my steak tacos were amazing – and get my glasses fixed and go to Sam’s and Walmart and lots of romantic things like mattress shopping) and when we got home — I remembered that she crochets! So I whipped out my crochet book, yarn, and hook, and asked for a few tips, and got started.  

And so guess what.  Shrugs are nice, and pretty, and fun.  But they are not my mustard yellow cotton granny square.  My beautifully fun crocheting.  I’m sensing another rabbit hole.  I even enjoyed a few stitches along while sipping coffee from the lovely, vintage mug-that-matches-my-yarn that was gifted to me by an equally (well, much more so, really) lovely friend. 

But alas, there are shrugs to finish and school to teach, so I shall restrain myself and do the adult thing and work on my knitting. (Oh man, I feel almost like I’m betraying my first love.  But it’s like children.  There is always more love in the heart for more than one.) But come a month from now, I’m going to be crocheting to my heart’s content, yes ma’am.

In other news, shrug #2 is on it’s way nicely to the finish line.  One half a sleeve left and it will be as good as done. Yay! 

Tonight for supper I made a copycat version of Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana soup..  It was a low carb version, as in I switched out the potatoes and used cauliflower.  This honestly is my family’s favorite soup. And I’m always surprised by this, just because at first glance it doesn’t exactly sound kid-friendly.  But every single one of my children lap it up.  Even the 2 year old who completely fell apart at the thought of having to try one bite of very unsophisticated broiled tilapia last night.  

Basically, I don’t even use a recipe… I just put water and as many bouillon cubes as makes it taste broth-y, browned sausage (tonight I put minced fresh garlic and an onion in to brown with the sausage-YUM), a couple bags of frozen cauliflower, frozen or fresh chopped kale, red pepper flakes to taste, salt and pepper, and then at the very end, some half and half. Voila’ – yummy soup. Oh, and I baked some bacon (if you haven’t ever tried this, go do it. Now. Lay bacon on a baking sheet lined with foil.  Bake at 375 for about 15-20 minutes.  Done. Very little mess.) and chopped it up for us to top the soup with.  So it sort of felt like we were gourmet tonight except it wasn’t hard or time consuming.  Yay!! 

I’m still (if I’m honest, I’m barely beginning) reading the Insanity of God and wow.  This book is so raw, it’s hard to describe. I’m going slowly, partly to savor and partly because that’s all I’ve had time for.  The author has just went to Somaliland and observed the devastation there… describing it from the viewpoint of a middle class American who is walking into a war-torn country in the early 90s. He describes the land mines. The fact that children can’t go out to play.  The lack of food and shelter.  The utter devastation of a country.  My heart was in my throat as I sat in my comfortable chair reading what’s a reality for so many people. Today.  Tonight.  This past week. 

I think of Syria…. and Aleppo and all I want to do is find a way to help, to pray, to somehow make a difference.  And reminded, once again, to not take my blessings for granted.  We can’t fix the world’s many problems.  But we can love each other well.  We can pray.  We can educate ourselves on what is going on outside our familiar circles. And God will show us how best we can be a blessing to those around us and those who are in need. 

Blessings to you this week as you knit, crochet, and love your people! =)

Joining Nicole from Frontier Dreams 

{yarn along} tulips + all the sickies

Joining Ginny from Small Things

       







I’m sitting here with a sick one on my lap… we have been a sorry lot for the last week and a half.
We got home from California, and within 4 days my eldest got some sort of short-lived fever and cough which triggered a relapse with the kidney syndrome he has. They are usually a 1-2 week ordeal, with large doses of prednisone to get his kidneys back to working properly. I have a love/hate relationship with prednisone. It does help him, so much.  But the side effects?  They are awful.  Last week there were many sleepless nights, as well as some rough days. It appears Mr. E. is over the worst of it since the weekend, which is awesome because the Man got fever and chills and all manner of yuckiness that he is still fighting off. And for two days/nights my two little girlies both had fevers. (Notice the pictures are of them sleeping peacefully? Yeah.  That wasn’t the whole story.  I just took the pictures because a.) they are so sweet when they are sleeping and b.) it was such a sweet relief to see them resting peacefully.)

Like I said, we have been a sorry lot.

On Wednesday, I left to make a Walmart run while the girls and my hubby slept.
As I drove out the driveway I realized I had been out of the house just once during the day for nearly two weeks. I felt like flying as I drove through the sunshine and all the blooms and green-grass glory beside the roads.  First stop was Dairy Queen and a mint oreo blizzard. Self care while being nursemaid was a high priority. Walking through Walmart was pure luxury. And I did not hurry. 

That was when I spotted these. I’m pretty sure they have healing properties….!


They now grace my counter, the table beside my chair, and my windowsill. Such happy, beautiful things they are. Tulips are one of my favorite flowers. I rarely buy flowers, but I’m thinking I may need to make more of a habit of it. Seriously. They aren’t that expensive, and some days (read, weeks with sick children) just call for a little extra brightness. 

I decided that we needed chicken noodle soup, and I’ve heard that bone broth is excellent for healing. We had a couple chicken thighs leftover in the fridge… so I threw them, along with celery, carrots and onion in a pot and simmered it all on low over night. In the morning,  I took the bones out, added some more chicken, and some spinach that was soon to be headed to the chickens if not used, and some spaghetti noodles.
Oh, goodness. It was goodness in a bowl. It got rave reviews at lunchtime from my boys who ate at least 3 bowls each, and I do believe we will be having it again for supper. This is where I don’t think we will be having too much of a good thing.
Peppermint tea, honey, apple juice, Motrin, lots of baths, emergen-C, toast, chicken noodle soup. Tulips. Warm quilts. Lots and lots of sleep. I’ve got my arsenal and I’m ready to keep on nursing my lovelies back to health. We have so much to be thankful for. I’m hoping for sleep tonight… thankfully  fevers were gone last night, though one of the girls was complaining of an earache. I’m really hoping we don’t have an ear infection on our hands.  
Not much knitting done lately, but when I can I am working on the shrugs. I’m making progress, probably halfway to 2/3 done with shrug #2. As for reading, there are a couple sweet children’s books that we have read aloud lately. Mrs. Mack by Patricia Polacco made me cry, and is a true story from the author’s childhood. New Shoes for Sylvia by Johanna Hurwitz is a sweet story that every little girl will love. I love to watch Ms. A enjoy books…. she wants to hear the same stories read over and over. 
I have been reading Love Him Anyway by Abby Banks. Wow… this book is the true story of a brave mama whose baby boy wakes up paralyzed one morning and her decision to find joy and allow God to work in her life in spite of the hard. The author is real and raw and details their journey beautifully. I highly recommend this book. It’s not long, and I’m seriously inspired. I want to go through this life and deal with everything God gives from a place of surrender and joy. I don’t do this nearly like I want to. I mess up regularly when it comes to dealing with hard things. Yet I’m moved and motivated as I read this book, knowing that I can know God is working and equipping me for all He has called me to. As I heard in a sermon the other day… 

We aren’t here to just survive the storms, we are here to SHINE.


I will say when it comes to knitting, I’ve got a hankering for a lace project. Something light, and maybe with nupps. Mmmm pointy needles, wispy yarn… I think I’m gonna start looking for patterns. Maybe a shawl or heirloom baby blanket in the Shetland tradition? Something square or round. Lots of lacy goodness. I’ll be dreaming of this while I finish shrug #2 and shrug #3…. 

of the mercies of the Lord

It’s her favorite song.

For as long as I can remember, and I’m thinking for as long as my dad can remember too.

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever – 

I will sing, I will sing….

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever,

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.

With my mouth, will I make known  

Thy faithfulness, thy faithfulness

With my mouth, will I make known, 

Thy faithfulness to all generations!

She was wearing green, fuzzy socks. The ones that keep warm the feet that do not walk anymore. The ones that Miss E declared as “pitty socks!”, while running her tiny hand over those old, grandma feet…

She stared at me, and I didn’t know if she knew who I was, those bright and snapping brown eyes, the ones like my own. I thought surely there was a sparkle of recognition, and I leaned down and tried to hold that sweet, clenched hand. Her arms and hands moved involuntarily, all over.  Her eyes wouldn’t stop looking up and around, over the ceiling, across my tribe of sober and not-sure children, who only get a chance to see her once a year.

My youngest wanted to hold her hand, and did so as we sang..

Blonde ringlets framed the sweet 2 year old lips that leaned in to kiss this old cheek that contorted and constantly moved around.

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord, forever…..

Oh, Parkinson’s.  This disease has ravaged her body and mind, and yet…..

and yet.

We began to sing and her voice began to hum the tune of this favorite of hers. We sang Jesus Loves Me, and when we got done, she immediately said: “Oh, that was pretty.”

I will sing.. I will sing…

We sang again our current family favorite – “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and she began to sing the words with us.  It was so beautiful. My sweet grandma’s old voice blended in a harmony that was better than perfectly in tune with my slightly off-key 2 and 4 year old little girls, and  9 and 11 year old boy-voices. We took a few pictures, and sometimes she would focus back in on me, and I told her that it surely wouldn’t be long before she was able to be with Jesus, and walk around without her wheelchair and be able to run and dance and sing and talk with abandon.

With my mouth, will I make known, The faithfulness….

She hummed about His faithfulness to her even as she wasn’t able to get the words out.

To all generations.

Tonight I laid on the floor between my two girlies and the questions began to flow.

“Mommy, will grandma Mildred die? Will she go see Jesus?

And the pretty angels?

Mommy? Does grandma have an ouchy body?

Why will she die?

How will she get up to heaven?

I answered as best I knew how, thinking to myself about singing about His faithfulness to all generations as I spoke truth-words to the next one down. These girls are three generations from a Parkinson’s ridden woman who has endured hard, hard things.  A grievous and untimely death of a husband.  The loss of a daughter in law to cancer.  The death of a second husband.  The slow and agonizing death of a functioning, healthy, hard-working body into paralyzed muscles, shaking hands, and the inability to speak coherent sentences.

And what she has left is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.

She has so much left.

She sings, in as strong of a voice as she can muster of the faithfulness of her Father to every generation.  Of His mercy.  She sings in her geriatric chair while suffering the indignities of aging that she will sing.

She will sing, yes she will.

Forever.

Of His mercy.

joy choice, joy-reasons.

It’s always a choice. 

That’s just the long and the short of it.

Somehow, it’s easy to forget this truth.  Joy is simply always a choice.   There is always, always, ALWAYS joy to be found in every scenario.  No matter the chaos surrounding, or the grief that wants to overwhelm, or the unknown-ness of future or the wreckage in the world.

I get to choose what I focus on and what expression molds my mouth.  Is it smile? Or is it grimace? And what is it that my children and husband see on a regular basis? What would they say at the end of this day would be the characteristic of my attitude?

We flew on a plane Saturday to California.  The first thing I noticed, the thing I always notice when I come “home”, is the brilliance of the sunshine.  I never used to notice how sunny it is here… I just took it for granted.  And yet, the blinding brightness of the sun gripped me in a beautiful way Saturday afternoon as we taxied into the runway.

My parents picked us up from the airport and I hugged them hello…. I never used to pay attention or truly value their hugs.  But twice or three times a year doesn’t come around nearly often enough, and  I can’t help but be grateful for each hug I experience from my mom and dad.

We went to In ‘n Out for lunch and once again, something about experiencing something not often makes it taste that much better.  Never had a burger and fries tasted so good.

We were tired Saturday from a 4-hour night the night before, and so when at 11 pm that night I heard the unmistakable noise of throwing up from the next room I was less than thrilled.  Then it turned into two children …. then three.  All taking turns while Mr. T.  and  I tag-teamed with washcloths and fresh pajamas for those who needed it, and cleanup.  And yet, somehow, in the middle of the night as he stood holding the littlest who was the most sick of all, I had to give him a kiss and tell him I wouldn’t want to be doing this with anyone else. It was a rough night, lasting until about 6am, when the 2 year old and I mercifully fell asleep on the recliner.

The next day we all stayed home from church, and everyone felt much better.

Yay!

Yesterday I was sick.  Not fun.  But today I sure do appreciate being well.

There are almond blossoms to see here, old friends to renew acquaintances with, fresh laundry all folded, ice water to sip, mint tea that tastes good on a weary stomach, the 4 year old falling asleep during an audiobook, beautiful camellias in my parent’s backyard that now grace the kitchen island and the kitchen windowsill.

There is going back to the old home where I grew up, walking through the backyard and smelling the weeds and bright grass in the spring that is oh-so-familiar.  There is the oranges and their juiciness that rivals any dessert you could spend hours preparing.

There’s my mom’s baking powder biscuits and cheeseburger soup.  There is watching my children make new friends, and meeting a lovely niece for the very first time.

So.  Many.  Things.

Oh my, there have been loads of things to irritate and frustrate.  But truly?  It’s a choice.   I get to choose whether joy or annoyance is my focus.
Today, this moment, I choose JOY.  What do you choose?

Choose joy, then write it down.

Writing it down = experiencing that original joy twice.  And that’s a beautiful thing.

Sunshine, oranges, happy smiles, mint tea….

Jesus, grace, husband-friend, a mom-hug, friendships old and new..

Children, snuggles, audiobooks, Bible verse encouragement from a friend, delving into a good book, bubble baths….

Jesus.  Jesus.  Jesus.  He is the true Joy-Reason.  Amen?

miscellany. and what’s worthy of praise.

Well, I didn’t exactly intend to take a 3 month break from blogging, but it just wasn’t the season to write. It’s been a season of many other things, and my mind has been whirring around since August around with post ideas, but the long and short of it is that it is now January.  January 2017.

A few miscellaneous things…

I want to clean out all the cupboards and closets, and yesterday I completed The Epic Pantry Purge. I’m attempting to ask myself what I want to keep, rather than what I want to get rid of, and it’s a surprisingly simple and helpful exercise. In the process I’ve been aghast at the amount of stuff I’m surrounded with. And the excess.  It’s really no wonder our houses are cluttered.  They sort of can’t help it. A book on decluttering that I’m reading maintains that the only way to fix the problem of a messy house is to get rid of stuff.

 

We had a family picture taken. By a very dear and talented friend. For the purpose of Christmas cards. 5 days before Christmas. To be fair, we had scheduled it several weeks before and it was raining. There aren’t words to describe the hours preceding. I could have written a whole Christmas letter about the utter joy of herding 4 children into nice clothes, finding shoes (they all seemed to disappear?!?), the whoosh of relief that escaped my lungs as we were driving out of our driveway (late, of course) with everyone safely shoed and buckled, and realizing halfway there that the road we were on was closed due to road work… turning around… going a different direction, hoping that we wouldn’t miss the light for pictures, and …yeah.   We arrived, took the pictures, it all went relatively well, and managed to get a few where everyone was at least looking at the camera with mostly pleasant expressions on their faces.  Pictures are worth a thousand words, and let me tell you, in between the pictures was many words.  Of (gentle, of course) encouragement to not stick out tongues. Or make wide-eyed scared faces.  Or perhaps maybe the 4 year old could avoid curling up into a ball or hunching over near whichever person she was standing beside? The important thing was, they actually turned out pretty well.

I got the flash drive, and while looking through them, thought many thoughts about how truly blessed we are, what Christmas looks like now with 4 children and how I used to wonder what a rowdy and laughter-filled holiday would be like.  There was even a good shot of the 2 year old by herself.  Sun glinting off the blonde curls, sweet smile, and yes, life’s good, and problems are temporary and Thanksgiving lasts through Christmas and longer  when you see through eyes that look for blessing.    The 2 year old got ahold of the flash drive within a day and it’s nowhere to be found, but that’s the way it works and I’m pretty sure we can get them from my friend again.  We won’t be sending out Christmas cards this year, but that’s ok too.  Because there’s plenty to be glad about besides whether we accomplished that particular task or not.

 

Speaking of being glad,

I’m listening to two girls play with their babies and sing a happy mixture of Christmas carols and hymns, and they are pretending to pray for devotions in front of the fire in our living room.

There’s baby kitties in the shop again, and they are loved on as much as possible. Miss E says “Niiice kitty, Awww…”  There’s five, and so each are claimed by  except one. They are rocked, petted, snuggled, and adored by all..

There’s a warm home, firewood, new soup recipes (and old favorites!), quilts strewn on the floor, fresh eggs found in the cat food and brought carefully in by Miss A – who always is so proud and excited when she finds one.  There’s new hope, Scripture that comforts when the tears come, and friendships that reflect the love of the One who loads us up daily with all these benefits and more.

Above all, there’s the truth that came to me this morning.. none of His love for me relies on my performance or getting it all right… and I’ve been repeating the truth of “You love me!” on a regular basis for the last few days.   It’s so easy for me to forget the simplicity of the Good News-Gospel.. that He came to save and not condemn.  Save.  Rescue. Sweep me up and off my flesh-feet in the most romantic and blessed Rescue Endeavor ever known.

Praise.  And more praise.

 

 

 

 

 

receiving, not trying.

Good words, these:

“That’s what’s awesome…. because before? It’s “just who I am, I can’t help feeling so discouraged”,  and how do you deal with this thing.  These feelings.  That trial.  The misbehavior. The unkind word.

Now – it’s not about figuring out how to deal with the thing.  It’s  –

“How do I rememember who I am?”

It’s a different war!  You don’t have to figure out how to treat this thing, whatever it is, you have to figure out how to remind yourself that this isn’t you.  And how to PRAISE.  So your concentration moves from trying to deal with all the feelings and trials and problems, and FIXING YOURSELF, to the truth… that you’re fixed.  Praise Him that He already fixed you.   Then it is that He gets the glory, and before… it was man and self that got the glory.

….

This is what I need on the days that I wake up late and I didn’t have any time to sip coffee in quiet before the rucus begins.  This helps me know that I don’t get mad at myself because I didn’t get up any earlier/get mad at kids because they are tired and why didn’t they sleep in more than they did/etc. etc.  — I just simply say Thank you Jesus for a new morning.  Yay!  No mental flogging, no irritations.  Irritation isn’t who I am.  Irritation is who I was before Jesus came to die and save me from it.  Saving me from myself and my natural inclination to anything that isn’t of Him.

This is what I need when faced with big decisions and all I can see are the negatives or the hard of either option.  Because God doesn’t lead or direct us through fear or anxiety or negatives – He leads through calmness. Rest. Through His Word.  When we are awake to the whisper of the Spirit and it moves us to rest in Him and rely on Him for all our needs … the knowing that He has us.  And it’s not even up to us to TRY to understand, because He promises that He will make known to us all the things He wants us to know.   Then it is that we will have a quiet knowing of the path we are to take.

We just need to be in a position of receiving. 

So often my arms have been folded tightly together, trying, trying, trying with all my might to do right. Be right. Feel right. Say it right.  Trying to be excited about what I need to be excited about.  Trying to be joyful.  Trying to not be mad.

And I’m not saying we should be asleep, and slothful.  Oh, no, no. 

Far from it.  What we are is open.  Willing.   Eyes lifted. Heart open.  Ready and willing to receive all that He would give us and all that He is guiding us into. Ready to walk fervently in the path that He lays out before us.  Ready to move into action with purpose and joy when He motivates us by His Spirit to make that call/write that letter/hug that child when you really want to punish/deal with that behavior when you really want to ignore it/say I love you/breathe life and truth into a friend of her beauty and worth in Jesus/smile the smile you used to smile at your husband when he walked in the door from work when you were first married – regardless of all the chaos and misunderstandings that tend to crowd in.  You name it.

You see – trying so hard to get it right all the time will naturally place the focus upon ourselves.  But when we know who we are – no longer orphans, no longer alone – but God is our Daddy, and we are a joint heir with Jesus….  it causes us to come into the inheritance we were meant for.  This inheritance means that we are indwelt with something completely Other than us.  And when we know this in our heart of hearts, the knowledge is transforming.  Our minds get renewed in truth = we are transformed in the way we operate.  Honestly? I’m thinking it’s possible that trying = filthy rags.

It’s not just about a destination that is heaven.  It’s that He’s made us new.  Totally different than the people we were before He started living in us. We aren’t irritated, not ok, frustrated, angry, and hurt all the time anymore.  That’s not us!  And if we feel those things, it’s only a lie that the father of them dangles in front of us to see if we will forget that there was Holy Blood that bought us.  You see how it’s in the renewing of our minds?
It’s in taking captive every.  single. thought.   How?  By measuring it against truth.  Do I feel hurt by something someone says?  It’s not mine if I don’t grab onto the lie.  Because in Jesus, salvation means I don’t have to walk around hurt anymore.  I don’t have to try to not be hurt, I just have to remember who I am – God’s daughter. And if the power that raised Jesus from the grave dwells in me, then being hurt by something someone says is kind of ridiculous.  And He made it possible for me to not live wrecked.

Anymore.

And I didn’t even have to try to be the kind of person Jesus would want to save.  {Whaddya know?!}

I’ll have to admit.  That’s some really amazing grace.

Laugh out loud, joy-bubbling, freedom-flying grace.

Once lost, now found. 

Once blind, now see.

 

 

 

 

a slow end to summer. – or maybe not an end at all.

We didn’t have a start – back day to school this year. In July I began easing us back into a school routine. (Any of you who read regularly will remember that I posted a couple non-posts that were cryptic in their shortness regarding our starting back to school.)

We did a few days of school in July, then started again towards the middle of August,  and I would say that at this point we are about 6-8-ish weeks into the school year.  Which is kind of funny because I really have no idea how far we are. The boys started working on the math books they were doing at the end of last year, and some of the concepts are super easy, so they are breezing through those. If they consistently understand the concepts and get at least one-two lessons completely correct, they are allowed to skip one lesson. A motivation also for them to not be careless.

It’s very easy for me to question, at times, whether my “new and improved” way of homeschooling is good enough.  But after digging in further the past few weeks and beginning to settle into our routine a bit more, I’m slowly gaining confidence.

Collective gasp here — I’m not using an actual science and history curriculum. And at the moment, our language curriculum is a conglomeration of several things, not an actual curriculum.

You see, I feel like I’ve been defining curriculum a little ignorantly for awhile now.  Rather than say I’m not using a curriculum, I should actually say – we’re doing our own curriculum.
Because – curriculum is just the thing you teach, right?  And I’m definitely teaching.  And also – teaching them to learn on their own as well.  Which is totally exciting to see.

When your 10 year old is telling  you about what he has learned about sharks/Paul Revere/Abraham Lincoln, and your 8 year old is telling you what he has learned about blacksmithing — all from the books that are readily available, (ha! if you saw my house…) …and spread everywhere.  Not kidding.  There are books in every room of the house.  Bathroom.  Living room.  Dining room/School Room.  Kitchen – the ones waiting to be put away. Each bedroom. They are EVERYWHERE. Oh! And there are usually some in the vehicle as well, because it would be a crying shame to actually have to be in the car for longer than 15 minutes without something to read.

In the living room occasionally I put away the stacks that have accumulated, and spread out a new “feast” before their eyes.  And they dive in again. Which I just absolutely love to see.

Now that I’ve revealed that shocking truth, that I have not shelled out cash for a prewritten curriculum,  I will tell you what we do.  This week, I told Mr. J, when breakfast chores were finished, to grab a book that was interesting to him, and pick out something to tell us about.  He picked out one of our big books on Animal Wildlife, and found the water buffalo.

So, we read some facts about water buffalo. (Longest measured horns were 13 feet, tip to tip, who’da thunk it?)  Well, while we were reading, one of the boys spotted a bird on the bird feeder that was different than we had seen before.  (Can you imagine my excitement to hear them saying “HEY!! LOOK!! A NEW BIRD!!”  -I know, I know.  It doesn’t sound that exciting.  But they are completely, in a child-like way, awake to the environment and science happening all around them.That is exciting, folks.  Much more so than seeing rote answers on a piece of paper.)

We took a couple pictures, looked it up, and decided it was either a house finch or a purple finch.  We can add it to the list on the board up in our dining room, now.  Ok.  Back to water buffalo.   I had one child read about the water buffalo, then both boys got out their composition notebooks. (Using those for EVERYTHING.  They’re cheap.  They don’t lose pages or come undone like spiral bound.)    For Mr. E, I had him copy about 4 sentences about the water buffalo in cursive in his notebook. All had to be VERY (I’m a stickler) neatly written, only one mistake allowed unless you want to redo it….   And Mr. J had to write two sentences.     So far, we have gotten science under their belt, studying two animals, and then connecting it to English by practicing writing complete sentences with good capitals and punctuation.   For spelling, I do Dictation. A year ago I had heard that word, but didn’t have any idea what it meant.  Basically,  I choose a sentence or two for them to study, pick out words they may have trouble with, study those in particular, writing each one down.  When they are ready, I read the sentence out loud, and they are to write it down with perfect spelling.  If they miss any words, they are then required to write those words several times.  The next day we do the same sentence(s) until they do it perfectly.  Then we go on to another sentence.  I’ve used sentences from the main read-aloud we are doing,  a book they are reading, a Bible verse, a verse from poetry, you name it.

So in the last several weeks we have done lots of different things.  Our read-aloud along with the history we are learning is Johnny Tremain, set in the time period of Paul Revere/John Hancock/American Revolution etc. and it’s about a young boy who is a silversmith apprentice, learning some hard lessons about himself and pride.  They have also been reading biographies about Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere – and Mr. E is working through writing out “Paul Revere’s Ride” for his copywork each day.

Today I decided to read to them about the history of a hymn.  We read about “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, its author and the inspiration, and listened to a beautiful accapella version of it online.

I’ve also been having the boys each read from the Bible as we begin our day, with one reading a Psalm and one a Proverb.  Is there any better way to get reading practice?  Sometimes I or they will read a poem on other days.

Each day looks different.  We have identified a snake, several spiders, some birds, a luna moth caterpillar, an eastern newt, among several other things. I bought sketchbooks, which is pretty much where all their drawings go.  In them are drawings of state maps from books we have read, a map of the original 13 colonies, drawings of some of the animals/insects we have identified, drawings of animals we have studied, pictures drawn from books we have read…. and the list goes on.   and it is just so much fun.  One big place to put everything – science, history, etc. And even this far into the year it’s exciting to look back in their composition notebooks and sketchbooks and see how much their drawings show and how much their handwriting has improved.

The goal?  Truth. Goodness. Beauty.  And every day doesn’t look like the ones I described. Some days are an exercise in patience. A battle to get everyone settled.  But it’s ok! Because there isn’t any rule book that says you are supposed to complete every subject every day.  The other day they all had migrated outside and were playing and imagining and building so many wonderful things that I was hard-pressed to ruin something so beautiful.  A day in the week previous found my boys switching tires from bikes and making new creations from some old rusty things that had previously been deemed dump-worthy.  How could I interrupt that?  I want them to learn to use the imagination and creativity that God gave them – whether it be in building a fort, a new bike from something old, or a story about hunting The Big Buck.

After all, there are only so many summers in a child’s life.  And who says that the freedom of summer must be abandoned once September comes?  And the joy of lit-up eyes, the wonder that comes from discovery of wild and furry creatures, naming them and knowing who they are, might be a little taste of the Eden that Adam experienced when God gave him the delight of naming them.    This is a science curriculum couldn’t satisfy me more.