Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Eleven Years

I woke up to the strong possibility of rain.  As I watched the sun position itself eerily behind a cloud, and moments later heard the distant rumble of thunder, it became evident.  April 26th would once again be filled with rain. 

As our four little ones gathered at windows, uniting in the familiar melody of "Rain, rain, go away..." their arms wrapped around each other swaying to the measured beat, I was both grateful for their innocent voices, reminding me of all that I have in the present, and for the heaviness of the rain, a reminder of what I have lost in the past. 

Eleven years have passed since their uncle left this earth.  A man who is known only to them by the pictures so lovingly placed, and the stories so thoughtfully shared.  And, yet he is known.   He is loved by those that never had the opportunity to meet him, because he is loved by us. 

Today, the rain brought comfort.  The gray skies and heavy droplets an invitation to be tender, to admit that not all of life is sunny and bright.  And, so I parked our van in the rain, allowing our littlest the joy of watching diggers at work while I sat, content to watch him, to be quiet, to have no plan while the rain blurred the windshield.    

As one dear friend so eloquently summed it up, "April blows."  There is an ache that fills my chest as I watch my loved ones remember and live with loss.  But, there is also the promise of hope, and the most tender of mercies that are new every morning for those who live by faith in Christ.  Even now as I type, the sun is once again finding its way through the clouds, darkness turning to light.  I am always grateful for the light, but there are days when the rain seems more fitting. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Four and Seven

When our little man held his younger sister for the first time four years ago it was love at first sight.  Each picture that we took of the two of them captured his strong affection for her: her tiny features, full cheeks and baby blue eyes that resembled his.  He has always known what a treasure she is, and she is learning what a treasure he is as an older brother, protector and encourager.  She makes him laugh, and makes him sigh.  He brings out her playful side, and exasperates her like no other.  They are the perfect compliment to one another, our little ones separated by three years and one week. 

This year we gathered as a family to celebrate this dynamic duo with a taco party, chocolate Oreo cake, and gifts celebrating their current interests and loves.

  For our littlest lady, it was the year of shoes.  She marveled over each pair that she received, smitten and delighted.  From blue sparkly high heels to pink cowboy boots, each pair represented a different side of our gal who had been counting down the days until she turned four.  Over the past year, her imagination has taken off and she can be found throughout the day chatting with "friends," creating pretend YouTube videos, and being "hard at work." She particularly enjoys the opportunity to wander off into her sibling's bedroom while they are at school, and can easily occupy herself quietly playing with their treasures.  She is quick to speak, and often slow to listen, having many thoughts and opinions on life. She is affectionate, often planting surprise kisses on her daddy's cheek or asking to kiss my arm.  She is amusing, endearing, and so very clever.   I've come to appreciate our afternoons filled with creative play, chatter, meal prep, music and podcasts.  She has quickly become the entertainer of the family, and our days are more lively because of her. The day after her party, she announced that she couldn't wait to turn five and... twenty-one. 

For our little man, who is quickly outgrowing this term of endearment, it was the year of markers and sketch pads, science experiments, nature books and binoculars, safety boxes, and LEGOs.  He continues to be observant of the world around him, pausing to admire or question.  He spends his free time constructing LEGOs, creating, tinkering, and has found great pleasure in drawing, often leaving one room quickly to put on paper what he's seen on television or a scene he's created in his imagination.  He is tender and thoughtful, and learning how to express himself.  He is content to sit back and watch his sisters fill the dinner hour with chatter, but more often than not has something interesting going on in his head.  He's expressive and animated, serious and shy.  He is loyal and appreciates friendships, often greeting buds with a bear hug that lifts them off their feet.  He makes his top bunk in the dark before coming downstairs, but needs several reminders to put on socks for the day.  He appreciates people taking the time to explain things to him, and I'm learning how to be patient for him. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Kindergarten & Second

"Our goal with our children is to first be making people who live in a state of art appreciation - worshipping the God who painted them into a masterpiece."
~ Rachel Jankovic

My mother often retells the story of my first day of kindergarten, a memory that is more vivid for her than me.  I walked confidently into the classroom and never looked back to say good-bye.  Now that I've experienced the first day of kindergarten for two of our children, I understand why this is such a significant memory for her.  The weight and release of sending our little ones into a classroom for the first time unlocks a treasure trove of memories affirming just how quickly time has passed and just how much has already been accomplished. 

I had many assumptions about the kind of school year we would have as I resumed my role as co-teacher, implementing lessons plans within our home two days a week.  Just like with so many things in motherhood, I soon realized it is near impossible to predict the final outcome of things when it comes to children.  And, I'm slowly learning that it is in this middle ground that the sweetest of tensions exists - one of knowing your child intimately, but admitting that there is still much to learn, be surprised by and inspired by.  I learned also, that part of my role as mother and co-teacher is to make space for this growth to occur, to sit back, admire, observe, and wait for their individual gifts and interests to emerge. 

Second grade (with the little lady) was a mixture of growing independence, interests and passions defined, and the realization that while her plans often take her outside of our home, the comforts of home are what bring her the most joy, security and love.  Math challenged, science intrigued, and she found the greatest satisfaction in preparing for and presenting her ideas aloud.   She tenderly worked through her first peer conflicts and together, she and I learned the value of creating space to listen, talk, and be vulnerable.  It was during this year that I realized how seven quickly becomes eight, and then nine... and sixteen.  As she learns to confide, I am learning how to respond with grace, humility, and love.  Just as I hope to inspire, motivate and encourage her young heart, she continues to help refine and shape me as a mother. 

~ Reading the Happy Hollisters and note taking
~ Studying space and visiting UW Space Place
~ Portraying Mary in the Christmas program
~ Recorders in music, sculpting in art, and playing Glinda, the good witch in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
~ Carpool with friends
~ Staying late to help clean up after the Art Gallery and Bard Cafe
~ Backyard discoveries with Joey

Kindergarten (with the little man) was a sweet blend of discovering new strengths, exploring new curiosities, growing in patience and acceptance, recognizing his own voice and learning that his ideas have value and are worth being shared.  In all honesty, I anticipated more rough patches knowing both his strengths and weaknesses and the many ways that he and big sister differ.  He surprised me with his desire to be accurate and precise, his willingness to try again after a little encouragement, and his ability to transition between school and satellite classroom well.  Watching him read for the first time and make corrections on a final science project independently were a highlight for me as both mother and co-teacher.  Observing him as he helped occupy his younger siblings during lessons and the joy he felt as he interacted and played with his older sister were a gentle reminder of how big his heart is, and how tender. 

~ The study of plants and mammals
~ Proper English tea party
~ Making new friends and playing on the playground
~ Music class and making instruments
~ Losing his first tooth right after the Christmas program during refreshments
~ Proudly displaying his lost tooth to friends and teachers
~ Reading Aesop's Fables

Friday, April 1, 2016


When I was your age, I spent most of my free time pretending to be one of three things: a teacher, an entertainer, and a mommy.  The garage was my classroom and I taught everything under the sun, with the exception of math as it was my least favorite subject.  The laundry room was my stage, with concrete floors echoing the staccato of my mother's high heels and old water pipes serving as dance partners.  During the warm days of summer, I was a farmer's wife, a dozen oversized water balloons my bouncing babes. 
I watch you escape to your room after a particularly inspiring day of school.  At your door I overhear the beginnings of an animated art lesson as you instruct your pupils, art books covering your floor.  You queue up music around the house and dance, movements strong, rhythmic and intentional.  You position yourself in front of the large blank television screen, one of the few places in our home where you can see your reflection while you bend and sway to the music. While your options are limited, you arrive downstairs wearing a favorite pair of black high heels from my closet.  As you gracefully walk around our hard wood floors two inches higher I know something special is brewing; you are officially in character.  You are seldom found with a doll on your hip, but you can often be found toting Everett around like a rag doll, tending to the needs of June, or mothering Joseph. 
In the days leading up to your eighth birthday as we collaborated and gathered supplies to pull off your "Under the Sea" themed birthday party I was struck not by the idea of you turning eight, for in all honesty many (including myself) think of you as much older, but with the idea that I've been a mother now for eight years.  Your arrival eight years ago was the realization of a dream that began in my own heart as a young girl.     
When I look at you I see how similar we are.  I didn't see it at first, but over the past eight years as I've observed and taken careful note, I've realized we share many of the same strengths and weaknesses.  In many ways you have become a reflective surface upon which I am able to see the many beautiful and flawed aspects of my personality as I move about my days.  I underestimated how much I feel things, am moved by experiences, and value the sentimental.  When you freely open up your heart to another, respond in generosity, or stash another handwritten note from a friend in one of your many secret places, I see it.  When you quickly enter into another's joy or sadness, empathize or attempt to problem solve, I see it.  When you make your brother's bed because he is in tears, take the time to listen to another one of June's requests, or linger by Everett's highchair just to make him giggle one more time, I see it. When you struggle to understand and the inner turmoil of not getting "it" right the very first time brings you to silence and tears, I see it.  When you hide away in your room, face buried in your pillow, finally releasing all of the emotions, I see it. When you speak in haste and immediately regret it, I see it.   

When I look at you I also see the many ways we are different.  You rise each day, ready to embrace every possible social interaction with enthusiasm and delight.  Your spirit of hospitality has taught me to balance my need for quiet with that of genuine interest in others, and be open to the possibility of last minute dinner guests.  Your mind is sharp, you prefer math to every other subject, and you write freely, quickly putting your thoughts into words.  I avoid numbers to this day and overthink my words more often than not.  It is a privilege to watch you use your gifts in these areas as both co-teacher and mother.  You by nature are loud, your laughter, chatter, and singing easily heard throughout our home.  I am soft-spoken, and find that repetition is the key to communicating within our active home.  Dancing is clearly your thing; playing sports was mine.   

Over eight years ago, we created this little space on the Internet to announce your arrival and document our family's journey.  Each year of your life has marked significant growth in my very own.  What a privilege it has been to watch you grow, to learn along side you, and observe our many similarities and differences.  It is my prayer that we will continue to refine and inspire one another.  I know that one day soon, I will see your many childhood dreams becoming realities. 
It is with joy that we celebrate you, Charlotte Marie. You continue to be one of the most colorful people I know.  My life is more beautiful because of you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

On Lent and Cravings

Pressing in and pressing on is pushing against the tide of sin and disbelief, and pushing towards what you've made a habit of clinging to in calmer waters: that Jesus is enough.
Ruth Chou Simons

We are in the final days of Lent.  Four more days of meatless meals.  As I type my mouth is watering for a morsel of steak.  Within the last two weeks commercials featuring beefy sandwiches have prompted us to switch channels.  Recently, whilst ordering an Americano I was visually assaulted by an advertisement for BBQ Beef Brisket on Sourdough, which apparently Starbucks is now offering.  I have ceased scouring the Internet for "fun-family-friendly-vegetarian-recipes-that-satisfy." I have hit my black-bean-as-an-alternative limit.  In fact, we ordered take out twice over the weekend to avoid the final "Delicious Black Bean Burrito" recipe that promises they are "soooo good you'll want to have them every night."  I'm sure they are.  But. We. Just. Can't.  Days ago, I told Jeff that I actually feel the absence of iron in my blood.  Perhaps I should have considered iron supplements.
The more I have considered my sudden obsession with meat consumption, the more significant the act of giving something up has meant to me.  Previously I have given up, among other things, bread (a sixth love language), potatoes (a comfort), television (a favorite pastime), and secular music (a source of entertainment).  While I have missed each of those things throughout the forty days, I do not recall feeling the absence of them so distinctly.  These cravings have illuminated what it means for me to long for something.  While being confronted with my ever increasing desire to consume a triple cheeseburger, which in all honestly seems embarrassingly trivial, an even greater realization has taken shape in my heart and mind.  So often, what it is I'm longing for is temporal. 

The season of Lent is about anticipation, remembrance, slowing one's pace, engaging, embracing the ache, awaiting the promise of all things renewed.  We give up in order that we might be filled - filled with His Spirit that stirs our souls, filled with His love that satisfies the deepest longings of our hearts, filled with the knowledge that He is making all things new, filled with hope for that which is unseen and yet to come. 

This past Sunday, as the lyrics for "Hosanna" were projected and I sang the following I was overcome with an ache to live out my days with greater clarity and purpose.

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me

Break my heart for what breaks yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom's cause
As I walk from earth into eternity

May my eyes look beyond the many temporal cravings and temptations before me, may my heart break for that which breaks His, may I catch a vision for that which is greater than what my eyes alone can see, and may I savor the flavor of the perfectly grilled burger that awaits me Sunday.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Lent 2016

Psalm 51:16-19
The Passion Translation
For the source of your pleasure is not in my performance or the sacrifices I might offer you.
The fountain of your pleasure is found in the sacrifice of my shattered heart before you.  You will not despise my tenderness as I humbly bow down at your feet!
Because your favor Zion, do what is good for her.  Be the protecting wall around Jerusalem.
And, when we are fully restored, you will rejoice and take delight in every offering of our lives as we bring our every sacrifice of righteousness before you in love!
This is the first year we are participating in the Lenten season as a family.  After several family discussions, we decided to give up meat for Lent.  We are now half way through the forty days and the family discussions continue.  Why are we choosing to eat vegetarian?  Is it okay to eat meat if it is served for us at someone's home?  Daddy, did you know this is chicken?  What is grace? We have tried countless new recipes, rated them, broken down their ingredients, highlighted favorites and decided that is okay not to love every new dish that is presented at the table. There have been honest emotions, tears shed (over the fact that Chick-fil-A would not be an option for forty days), and vulnerable hearts.  The act of giving up a favorite food (we are raising little carnivores) has resulted in many opportunities to reflect on what has {already} been done on our behalf.  "...but God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
A few NEW family favorites to savor:

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