Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Good Place

Every once in a while, you find yourself in a good place. A smooth place. I know it doesn't last for long, so while it is here, I am lapping it up with gusto.

We are in a time of smooth relationships, little shifts here and there as people grow and change. I notice it in how my oldest and middle boys start doing everything together, despite their 6 year gap. The oldest seems past that big kid need to distance themselves from "babies," and my middle guy is just plain thrilled to be included in everything. It's warming my heart to watch them playing soccer out in the back yard together during the day, or working on projects together in their room. It is a precious time, and it feels like a gift. My oldest will be 13 this summer, and I know that we are in for a lot of big changes. Good things. Growing into a man - things. But this holding space of childhood and brothers bonding is doing my Mama heart good.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm doing enough, preaching enough, lecturing enough about how we are meant to live. But then my sons bring me a coke they bought with their own little stores of quarters, or my daughters surprise me with picking up one of my chores and completing it beautifully for me, just because - and I see how life is teaching and growing them in a lovely, natural way. I see them reaching out beyond themselves in generosity and I'm so humbled by the people they are becoming.

We are in a time of smooth schooling. Our co op is over for the year, and I'm grateful to be able to just focus on what we do here. We've gradually switched everyone over to Saxon math (formerly we did horizons) and I am absolutely loving it. I was able to skip two of my kids a complete grade up. We are still opening our days with daily bible readings and prayers from my Laudate app, and our read aloud is "Calico Captive" by Elizabeth George. The littles draw, play with blocks or cars or the play kitchen or have older siblings fold paper airplanes for them while I read. It isn't quiet, but it is us, altogether. I'm soaking it in.

As the days get warmer and brighter, I'm trying to ease out of some of the patterns we found ourselves in. I had fallen into the habit of turning on a show for the preschoolers first thing in the morning to give me time and space to caffienate and get my head on straight. Today, I avoided it. And we didn't miss it one bit. We are taking on more projects and slowly adapting our little house to the large family who lives here. This weekend we moved out the boys dressers and replaced them with an ikea shelving unit, which more than doubled the available space in their room. I'm ordering this table to serve as a desk for my oldest. Amazingly, this little home still manages to work for us as our family grows. Not perfectly, of course. But I'm so very thankful.

It seems impossible, but in less than 2 weeks our little Magnolia blossom will be 1 year old. I know we always say "children are blessings!" but never have I felt that to be more true than with our 7th baby, who came to us during a dark desperate time in our family. God did that thing of His - that seemingly backwards way of His that doesn't make a lot of sense to the world - and He gave us the gift of love when we needed it most. Who gets pregnant in the midst of job uncertainty, relationship crisis and and financial instability? God's ways are foolishness to men. During the "worst possible time," God gave us the best possible answer. She is our crowning jewel. I'm knitting her a little birthday dress and getting in as many baby cuddles as I can.

"...God chose the weak things to shame the strong." 1 Cor 1:27

The whole of our lives makes little sense to the outside world. But I'm finding that really is meaningless to me. I'm here, every day. And even through the rough times, we are so abundantly blessed.

So, a good place. A smooth time. Grace, grace, grace and more grace. Thank you, Jesus.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Some Kind of Wonderful

Peter slips on his shoes (or not) and heads out the door right after breakfast. I catch up with him around lunch and push a peanut butter sandwich into his hands before he's gone again, tooling around the back yard on that hand me down big wheel, squatting in the dirt and poking at bugs with a stick or working on his pumping technique on the swings. At dinner, he begs to eat outside.

We've had maybe three 70 degree days total so far this year, but you can't convince this guy it's not summer. He has moved into sandals and shorts and refuses to look back, even when the temperatures plummet into the 50's and freezing puddles form in the driveway. To this 4 year old, summer is here and our little yard is calling him, the magnetic siren song more than he can resist. He's out the door first thing in the morning and dragged in reluctantly at dusk.

Having kids is sometimes the reminder I need that the world is a wonderful place. I'm prone to sad spirals of hopelessness, but their enthusiasm is infectious. The reminder to look up, breathe deep, embrace the grace - it's a message my kids deliver to me like a fistful of dandelion blooms on that first warm day of spring, as comforting at the gentle roar of the lawn mower two houses over. When my insides are all tempest and trouble, it's the invitation to step out of myself for a moment, away from fear and darkness and into the sunshine.

It's a sermon that is best taught by accident, unintentionally. It's how lives lived wild with love, gratitude and peace pierce those around them with tender hope. Not because it is lectured, shamed or bidden, but because it is effortless. Free.

It's preached in her laugh when her sister pushes her on the swing. In the sidewalk chalk drawings that welcome daddy home. In young minds with vibrant imagination and days long pretend play.

Springtime with my kids is alive with Gospel truths when nothing is further from their minds. Life is good. Love wins. All is grace.

Like a four year old barefoot in the driveway, chucking rocks into a rain puddle for the sheer joy of watching the ripples they make.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Weight of Trust

Under my bare feet, the ball shifts. My muscles adjust, automatically, without a thought, and that familiar burn takes hold. I remember - breathe. Breathe.

I'm 32 and it has become a daily practice of mine. Move. Sweat. Lift. Breathe.

In this season of life, I'm thinking a lot about trust. 3 job losses in 18 months, 7 kids who need me and the future up ahead ever so uncertain - it's just too easy to fall prey to fear. To forget that trust requires a little bit of weight bearing, muscle building.

Ask anyone looking to change their body and they'll tell you - muscle is hard to build. It's quite a bit easier to diet and cardio your way to small than it is to build yourself to strength.

That's the way of balance. It's only when we adjust and adjust and adjust, catch it a bit more before each fall, each attempt - that we grow stronger. The fiber of our muscles knit, deep. Each time, a bit more automatic. A bit more time before we just can't anymore.

Lack of effort only yields atrophy, but repeated attempts - yes, even those that leave us wounded, with scraped palms and bruised egos - yeah, they are what breed strength.

Getting distracted by the pain and effort is the surest way to miss out on the benefits. The way I'm changing, sculpted in grace, strengthened in trust.

For all the times I almost fell - but didn't. For all the times I reached out in the dark and still found solid footing. For all the nights I went to bed in doubt and woke again to a new day of mercy.

It isn't a guarantee that life won't hurt, that people won't disappoint, that you won't fall. But it is the surest way I've found to getting back on your feet faster, ready to start, try, to live again.

The miracle here is something we always have known. That with patience, practice and persistence, tearing down and building back - we can grow. Couple that with the nourishing Word and I can feel it - strength returning. Sharpened. Sure.

Trust is a muscle built with reps. I'm counting them out, and counting on Him. And I'm never let down.

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