ornament on white tree

I don’t know how to write this post, but have to do it for my own heart’s sake.

I walked my 7 year old daughter to bed tonight with a grateful heart; it was the first time in days that the effort to walk up the stairs didn’t wipe me out.  It’s been a holiday season like no other at our house, one I hope is never repeated, one that I think would be impossible to repeat.  I didn’t think it could get much worse and then I got hit with a fever and a new round of the flu on December 23rd.  Whatever holiday trimmings I thought I’d managed to hang on to were quickly added to the pile of sacrifices already made.  My pride gone, we literally survived the Christmas holiday.  But even me being sick didn’t ruin it completely.  I guess that’s part of the magic of Christmas.  I know how I will remember this year, but I have a feeling most of my children will remember it as being like most others (thanks largely to online shopping and two day shipping!).

In November the hard drive on my laptop suddenly died.  It’s been looked at by several different people and no one can find a hint of data on it.  Two years of pictures – almost half of my youngest daughter’s life – gone.  I’ve done a terrible job of posting this year – because I was trying to be a better mom.  I’ve done an even worse job of printing photos – because I was busy being a mom.  Journaling?  None of that.  And all those photos are gone.  It’s been a month since it happened and it still makes me cry.  I’ve been so mad at myself for not backing it up, but there’s nothing to be done about it.  The parenting part of my daily life has been especially rugged for the past 2 months and I know it’s tainted how I feel about the entire year.  I’d like nothing more than to look back at pictures of our trip to the beach, our trip to Arches, at any proof there was that I’m doing a good job and actually enjoying this motherhood thing.  It’s all gone.  The last year with all 8 of our children living at home.  So many last things.  And no record of any of them – them or the year before them.  And the thought that being so consumed with trying to be a better mom caused me to slack on the “nonessential” task of blogging, or printing, or doing ANYTHING with those memories makes me want to scream.  How could I have let motherhood rob me of THIS?

We got to re-create two science fair projects in one day.  They were done, on the laptop, and then they were gone.  Lots of scrambling and stress and frustration.  So many things I’d prepared in advance so December would be manageable just didn’t happen.  I find it almost funny how much I converted to digital this year only to lose it all.  There were changes in my responsibilities at church in October that brought beautiful opportunities to serve but which also threw the moving parts of daily life into disarray.  We still haven’t recovered, and the stress of trying to run faster while not managing my home well finally started making me physically ill.   I’ve been getting up at 4:45 a.m. to get the family going on time before school, but waiting up till 11 or 11:30 for my son to come home from work, when he hangs out in our bedroom playing a game on his phone and finally starts talking about his day, his life, his friends, his thoughts.  Such an important event to stay awake for, but man, it’s hard.  Lack of sleep has certainly taken it’s toll.  A couple of my children need an awful lot from me right now, feeling like full-time jobs in themselves, and the worry never goes away.  I’ve missed doing things I love to do. They are good things, and they keep me balanced.  I’ve reminded myself over and over again how happy I should be because I am anchored in Jesus Christ, and deep inside I am, because I have a game plan thanks to Him and I understand what needs to be fixed thanks to Him.  Because of Him, all the big things are already worked out.  That’s why we celebrate Christmas.  I’ve worked very hard this year to conquer all negativity – and come a long way – but suddenly doubt and fear loomed large simply because I’m completely worn out.  No one thing that’s happened has been so awful, but the mix of everything was well tailored for me and my weaknesses.  As I’ve replayed it all in my mind from my position on the couch this week it makes perfect sense that I crashed.

And yet, it turned out the crash wasn’t all bad.

I’ve never spent Christmas laying on the couch just watching my children.  I’ve always been hurrying around, cleaning up the mess, preparing the dinner, making sure the next phase of the day is ready while everyone else enjoys the flow.  This year I hardly moved.  Instead I observed them.  I watched movies with them.  My youngest two girls came dozens of times to check on me and snuggle for a while.  We took naps together.  They talked and talked and talked while I tickled their backs.  I watched the children serve each other, play together, build relationships and make memories.  I felt grateful for their patience with me, for how graciously they accepted the meager meals we had in place of our traditional celebrations.  My husband and I have sat next to each other more than we have in months.  It’s not fun being sick, but it caused me to be fully present.  It was the only thing I could do.  And it was actually quite a gift.  A gift and a profound learning experience for me.

I’m typing this post from the new laptop my husband surprised me with for Christmas.  I am terribly blessed.  My heart aches about the pictures, but I have my children.  They are strong and healthy, full of potential.  They are trying to be good.  We all are.  So much living goes on under this roof every day – it’s no wonder there’s a mountain of worry and work to keep me company.   I’ve been reminded that I’m a mentally, spiritually and emotionally healthy person when I properly protect the daily habits that nourish my spirit.   I’m starting to get better.  I am SO ready to close the door on 2014, but grateful for how my year-end challenges have honed my priorities and clarified my vision.  I am full of hope and excitement for the new year.

And there is my summary of the last quarter of the year.  I’m praying that the sweet, happy  memories that I know I lived will come to my memory and I’ll record them as they do.  It’s been a good year, a year of learning and stretching and trusting and trying.  I knew that having everyone in school would be a good test of all my organizational powers and I was right.  My only priority right now is to get the rest I need so I can carry it all again come January 5th and do it with more joy and confidence than I have for the past few weeks.  And if I’m lucky I’ll get the house cleaned back up and maybe even squeeze in some sewing.

Life is good.

Cup of Contentment


The temperatures are slowly dropping.  My beloved cherry tree is, at last, shedding its leaves as the wind curls around its branches.  We wrapped up five soccer seasons and a football season on Saturday.  I baked a pumpkin dessert on Sunday.  My fall-ish quilts have been unpacked and tonight every one of them was wrapped around the body of a child as they snuggled together on couches and the floor listening to their Dad read aloud to them.  He read all of them to sleep except our almost 16 year old daughter, who sat laughing at the story.  She was dubious when we began, but now insists the book should be hers for the night so she can finish it.  Her obstacle is her father, who won’t surrender it to her keeping because he, too, wants to read ahead.  I’m soaking it all in – the sight of quilts everywhere – quilts I made – warming them all.  The sound of my littlest’s gentle breathing as she sleeps curled in a ball on my lap.  The feeling of being warm and safe and nourished while the dark and the cold deepen.  My husband’s voice as he reads aloud to his family.   Who cares about the shoes scattered all over the room?  This is heaven, right here, with my family.  A sentence from a book I’m currently reading came to mind:  “They were cups of acceptance.”

I feel like a cup of contentment.

Contentment has been a foreign feeling lately, at least where family management is concerned.  The last couple of months have been an exercise in survival with far too much time spent in the car driving children from practice to game to lesson to school and everything in between.   I cannot count the number of times I’ve tried to compose a paragraph – or even a sentence – that captures what it’s been like with all of the children in school, each of them experiencing their own life challenges and battles; me trying to be the glue and the cook and the housekeeper, the taxi, the secretary, the everything for all of them and still maintain some sense of my own personhood – without rambling on and on like a lunatic.  The only words I have to describe it somehow make it sound trivial, or like a badge, when really it represents the greatest effort of my life.  It’s my greatest effort at consecration, organization, humility and love; the very best I have to offer.  So it’s hard when it sounds so ridiculous, because I am giving it everything.  Of course, my everything is badly flawed, but it’s all I have to give.  I believe in the power and importance of the family.  I choose motherhood.  It brings all sorts of hidden costs I didn’t know I was choosing as well, but I do my best to take them in stride, make peace with them, and keep working.  And praying.  I’m praying my way through every single day.   Life has felt totally out of balance and the ironic thing is that every time I’m desperate for wisdom to fix it, on my knees praying to know what we can cut, the Lord usually gives me something more to do.  This month has been no different as a new assignment at church has come my way, pushing other worthy things aside.   My patience has been tried by coaches who change schedules without warning and by the occasional child who refuses to work with the schedule at all.  I have prayed for help and strength more times than I can count and repeatedly seen the Lord take 20 minutes of my life and expand them to fill far more than seems humanly possible.   I testify that His grace is, indeed, sufficient for the day.  Amazingly, He faints not and is not weary, and miraculously has a fresh supply of forgiveness for me every morning.  I have felt stretched, drained and empowered all at once.  I like knowing I have the capacity (with God’s help)  to do all of this, but hate the price it comes with.  I’m being more honest with myself in the tally this year, and there is much to consider and weigh.

Tonight I am asking nothing more of myself than to live in the moment.  Forgetting the unfinished tasks of motherhood, ignoring the piles of clutter.  A couple of weeks ago I had the strong feeling that we need to re-enthrone family read-aloud time in the evenings so we chose a new book and began.  It feels SO good.

Tomorrow’s demands are already at the door, clamouring for attention.  But tonight, I choose contentment.  And it’s glorious.

So Many Things


I’m loving so many things lately.  Spring does that to most of us, I believe.  The light in the mornings when we leave for school, the tulips in my yard.  It’s that time when everything happens quickly.   All of a sudden the trees have leaves, the grass is green, the weeds are everywhere (in my yard, at least) and it seems appropriate, for that’s what happens inside our house as well.  It’s the season when you don’t want to blink because you’ll miss something wonderful!  The world of nature and the growth of my children seem to be pacing each other, transforming into newer versions of themselves so quickly its like I’m watching a time lapse video.  Just as there are blooms today where I saw only stalks yesterday, so also freckles appear on noses and new words show up in vocabularies.  In a few short, frantic weeks we’ll bid farewell to this year’s school teachers and my children will essentially be pronounced one year older.  I look around me and see that we’re all experiencing age and stage appropriate growth, opportunities and challenges.  Who they’re becoming is such a discovery and yet they’re more “them” every day.  I love trying to abandon myself to the joy of it, but quiet moments occasionally bring a stabbing sense of loss.   Sometimes “time” feels so unnatural.

Today has been much quieter than usual.  An over-booked week and family movie night last night left us all tired.  Even the younger ones slept in this morning,  a rare thing, and also a reminder that we’re moving into a new stage as a family.   My oldest son, who now stands six feet tall and is heavier than his Dad, is getting close to his 17th birthday.  I looked at him today, on the other end of the church pew, and marveled again that someone so big could be my child.  How strange it seems and yet how my heart swells with love as I watch him bump into unexpected corners of the adult life he’s fast approaching and do his best to deal with it.  My oldest daughter also seems so grown.  This afternoon I heard her confidently and decisively discuss her academic plans for high school and beyond with another adult and for a moment she took my breath away.  They will be gone so soon.  On the other end of the family I’m treasuring every second with my youngest daughter, holding her precious face between my hands more often as we talk to one another.  She’s the last one with traces of chubby fingers and round cheeks.  I look at my youngest son, eight years old last month, and want to jump for joy.  Kindergarten and first grade were so hard for him, as he simply couldn’t read the words on the page in front of him.  We found an uncommon vision problem, got glasses, and in the last 8 months he’s improved his reading by more than 60 words per minute, now testing at the expected level for exiting 2nd grade.  His teachers and I can’t stop talking about it, smiling about it, marveling at him.  I look at that boy and see a miracle and think that for this blessing alone I’m forever indebted to the Lord.   Like he’s been rescued.  Like I’ve been rescued.  Which we have.   Last week I was helping in the classroom with my six year old when it was her turn to be the song leader.  I looked through her school papers and saw the change in her handwriting – straight, confident, neat.  She’ll be in first grade next year and it makes me want to cry.  I TRULY never thought I would be HERE.  I thought I’d have little ones at home forever, and now I’m a few months away from a couple of hours of quiet each day.  It scares me a little.

As I type this, the middle group runs around upstairs instead of getting ready for bed while our youngest sits on Dad’s lap to listen to Winnie the Pooh stories.  The oldest two wandered into the room and stayed to listen, and are now laughing hysterically at the dry humor of A. A. Milne.  I don’t want tomorrow to come.  I wish I could freeze this moment and keep us all here, safe and happy, a little longer.

The middle ones are keeping me grounded.  Somehow watching all of them makes me feel like things will turn out, and like my heart might even make it out in one piece.  My thirteen year old son suddenly gets up from the dinner table and does the dishes at night without being asked, even volunteering to do them alone sometimes.  He’s made choices lately that make me proud and I’m excited to see the young man he will become.  My nine and eleven year old daughters get prettier every day.  I love that they let me dry their hair in the mornings; I watch them get taller as it gets longer.  They are all so much fun right now, quick to laugh and run and play, daily creating new worlds of imagination to inhabit together.   Oh, how I love the “together” they’ve created for themselves.  It is one of my greatest joys.  I don’t know how I’d handle the bittersweet of the oldest and youngest ones without the safety of the middle group right now.  They’re my anchor.


Our days are full of end-of-year reports, shots, registration for next year’s everything, soccer games, book reports, school programs, working out the summer calendar.  I forgot some things this week and felt foolish; I remembered so much.  The frequency with which my eyes fill with tears sometimes alarms me yet I’m grateful to feel alive and sensitive.

In the past six weeks I’ve felt a yearning for home that is strong.  It’s not a yearning for anything I have here on earth, and not homesickness, but the yearning of a little girl who wants to run home for a quick hug.  It washes over me unexpectedly, as if to remind me of my true identity and purpose as a daughter of God.  I miss Him.  It’s nice to be reminded that he misses me too, and understands that even as I try to oversee the journey of my children, I’m still experiencing my own, complete with things I’ve never faced before.  He understands and loves me anyway, or perhaps, because.

Life is good.  Moving at lightning speed, but good.

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