Monday, July 11, 2016

Fear is Like the Daddy Long Legs

I just observed a daddy long legs--a big one--crawling off the rail to thes side of me as I sat on the front step at Hidden Hollow Homestead (which is seemingly our summer home). He came out from behind my coffee cup and gangled his awkward strings of legs up over the white wood rail, moving the sharp mouth-pincers about in a nervous way.

He looked a fright. Those yellow pincers, sharp; and would they inflict a bite, or poison into the skin? His ghastly overlong legs shivering through space. How they would feel on the back of my neck... He looked like fear itself.

And then I realized: fear itself is exactly like this spider. Shaky, ugly, inducing the shivers. Hungry yellow mandibles, and looking like a formidable adversary. And yet--afraid himself, with very little power--no power, in fact, to do damage to me. The power of fear is only that which is given to it by those that actually do have power--the children of God. And when we forget that we are the powerful ones, the "most frightening things in this place" (paraphrase from Robinson Crusoe, a passage of literature that has changed my life), that's when we look at fear and get all a-shiver. How ugly it is! How menacing! And how, then, we cower before something that is nothing but an ugly, impotent spider, that knows in its very body that it is meant to die, and exists only to get a last meal in the shadows before it is found out and ultimately smashed.

Fear is nothing but a fear. I will not fear a fear.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Golden Evening Experienced Through Real Eyes

I have to write this down, because it is a momentous day. Pippa learned how to correctly pronounce "girl." She has called it "GORE," ever since she learned how to talk. It is a bittersweet moment. We keep teasing her, "No, it's gore!"
"No, it's not, it's 'girl.'"
I tell her, "Who told you?! Who taught you about girls?!?"
Pippa, without missing a beat, responds, "God."

Silver was adorable personified today. She was trying to jump in the living room with Silas this morning. It was like a beautiful slow-motion indie video. In the filtered morning light in the brown room on the humble wooden floor, she danced. Up went one leg, bent knee out, up went her hands as she tried to use them for momentum. Then down. Then, deliberately, carefully but enthusiastically, UP! And softly back down.

This evening was unearthly beautiful. The air was saturated in golden light radiating from a sun setting in a splendor of heavenly marigolds. The clouds, a moody mixture of dark gray and orange, split here and there to reveal a brilliant crystal blue above. Everything seemed clearer, sharper, and unreal.

The light hit the maple and lit up all the leaves for a few minutes, turning it into a fantasy tree of quivering gold and green geometry. We lay there, on the picnic blanket, getting lost in the dizzy hugeness of the sky from this perspective. It was surprisingly cool outside. The breeze blew a steady, gentle freshness whole scene. At one point it started to rain. Silver drops coming down and blessing us like showers of jewels.

The children saw the first fireflies of the season, and chased them with awe and delight until well past the velvet dusk, naming them things like "Glow-Glow, but Glow for short," and Harold, and bringing them to me as I sat on the front step, drinking in all the visual poetry with every part of my being.

Silver, dressed in nothing but jeans, found Silas' brown John Deere baseball cap, put it on, and tottered over to me, saying, "hat, hat!"

For once, I let the camera lie still in the house. I needed the moment, I needed to lock in on it with my soul, experience it undiluted instead of through the eye of the shutter.

Yesterday, I also took my moment. I have been trying to slow down again and breathe moments of beauty as used to be so easy to me when I was younger and not so... responsible. Worrying about the bills isn't going to pay them. It seems helpful to worry about them, but it's really counterproductive. I still get to slow down, I still get to enjoy, I still get to be a presence-person. God said He would provide all our needs.

I had been to an exercise class after 3 or 4 days of feeling very dizzy. When I came home, Thomas had built a large fire with thick parts of the trees he's been cutting down in the yard. The fire pulsed and popped and sparked like some live alien trying to communicate a fierce message of love.

The children had roasted hot dogs and marshmallows already and were inside, but I stole a moment and slipped outside with four marshmallows, and squatted by the fire, my old familiar place, the smell bringing me back to 27 years ago, to a tiny adobe village in the Albarradas mountains of Mexico...

And tonight, as I sang "How He loves us, Oh," and played on the guitar, Silver sang with me, "Let it go!!"

Close enough.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pippa's Fourth Birthday

Pippa,
You're a little genius.
Pippa,
You're strong.
Pippa,
You're original.

Pippa is a combination of rainbow and TNT. The girl has ideas. The girl has energy. A lot of energy.

We were awestruck that this little thing is turning four already, and celebrated it at home with much gusto. Pippa celebrates everything with gusto. Gusto is her middle name.

I love the way she dresses herself.






I love the way she does manual labor in a princess dress.



And her bravery of deciding to get her ears pierced. The girl was determined AND decided on her course of action. Perhaps a little surprised, when she found the first side hurt, but she still went through with it and is as proud as ever.


















I love the way she loves butter.

Why yes, that is whipped cream on top of a butter stick. Happy birthday.





















And... the Mahnkens came over on her birthday! Boom. Seven extra children makes a party if I ever saw one. I love that Veronica took on the trip right before their huge California road trip. And it was the first time she had driven their behemoth van such a great distance, and the first time she had come over without the hubs. I salute her. Bonfires and park days and Old Navy trips galore! (Just kidding. It was two days. There was only one instance of each of those.)









So we made the froofroo cake, and happy-birthday-ed and these slappy hand-thingies we had purchased and given out made us wish there had been no party favors at all, and I still see them or pieces of them on my floors every single day but can't bring myself to toss them because as gross as it is, the children STILL play with them and love to do it, so...





Anyways. Pippa. This firecracker birthday girl.

Always look up to Jesus. He is excited about you. He is close to you. He will never leave you. He has great things for you. You will lead people with your voice. The way you love to recite scripture and sing is just beautiful. Your voice has power to effect change in the earth. You know that! Proverbs 18:21 is one of your favorites, and you committed it to memory really quickly. Your voice is a special gift that was notable from the day you were born, and I can't wait to see what happens with it as you hone it, as you use it in the presence of God, as you bend and discipline your will for the purpose of power and love and a sound mind. You've got this! God's in you! I am so blessed to be your mommy. You have made me an extra level of rich.

Love, Mama

Not a perfect picture of either of us, but we're both in it!
















Here's Pippa reciting Proverbs 18:21, just before her fourth birthday:



She's going places. With Jesus!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Silver's First Birthday

It has been four months since the event, and this mama is determined to get back into the family record-keeping aspect of blogging which is why she started this blog in the first place.

So better late than never.

Silver's first year was crazy and wonderful. She wasn't crazy. Our circumstances were sometimes crazy. She was pure wonderful.

A couple of milestones:

Birth: January 9th, 2015

Loved by all siblings. Came home January 11th to all four siblings, a dad, and grandparents from Germany who were there specifically to welcome her into the world.

For months she just slept and nursed, slept and nursed. Sweetly, so sweetly.

Around three months she started batting at the hanging toys over her bouncy chair. glory of glories. There is always great rejoicing.

There was turning over, then rocking, sitting up, and crawling.

First solid food, around six months, in the upstairs room of our friend's house where we were staying in between houses... Her first solid food was squash from our friend's garden.

She first stood up at seven months.

We moved into our first home (that we owned!) when she was just over seven months old. Her first real home.

Took first steps around 12 months.

It took til 13 months til she was really walking.

She is a gorgeous little being, sweet and excited.

In the winter, Thomas found an old tiny little Elmo in our attic of our new home. He brought it down and I just nodded toward the trash can. It was cheap and dusty and of questionable origin. But Silver! I remember she was wearing green flannel footie pajamas handed down from her brother (with trucks on them, thank you, she's the fifth child...) And she just flipped over love for this elmo thing when she saw it! She screamed with such energy when Thomas threw it in the trash, that we fished it out, cleaned it, and now it is one of her most beloved toys.

Oh Silver.

Her first birthday was spent at home with the siblings. I made her fruity muffins in the morning, then we bought her a beautiful fruity cake at Whole foods to have with dinner that night.

Silver--how God has blessed you. How He has blessed us in giving you to us. The perfect addition, a spunky, sweet, and amazing being that brings more laughter into our home every day. Thank you for being you and showing us more of God.

You are my earliest to attempt to sing.
You are my earliest to attempt to dance.
You are my earliest to start kissing us!
You are my only one to care about fashion so young. Haha! When I put a new outfit on you, you parade down the hall proudly to show the rest of the family and are all smiles under their praise.

We love you, Silver. All my heart, Mama




Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sparrow's Tenth Birthday

My girl, the one who made me a mother. She was ten this month and I'm still trying to catch up in my mind to the fact that I am a mother at all, still trying to grasp how my love of another human being, my husband, could have made this new thing, this whole person with a huge everlasting soul, and she tells me she is already ten, and could she please buy a Kindle with her birthday money this year. She's the one who cries over disappointments but also with compassion, who flares up quickly and then loves you so passionately the next moment that all is forgotten. There is so much of me in her. So much of her in me by now, it's impossible to think of another path for this journey I call my life.

And she? How is her life? is it joyous and hopeful and exciting? One hopes that in God's mercy she is remembering the evenings snuggled on the bed reading, the impromptu trips in the car, the friends invited over for bonfires. One hopes that the mother's stress, the oft disappointments of things we have to say no to, the recurring frustrations as we work out chores and habits in an ever-changing family, will be gently erased off the essence of her memories.

She is awe in a capsule. Her ability to see another's trouble, to quickly repent, and her love for her sisters and brothers... they are extraordinary. Her insight into people and sensitivity to their intentions and desires... make her a constantly interesting person to talk to. I like her AND I love her. Her love for Shakespeare and chemistry--yes, even at ten--they make me stand back and attempt to take a breath and hold on tight because she's a tangled ponytail in my house one day, but will be changing the boundaries of  the earth tomorrow. She will yet teach me more than I know. My ceiling is her floor.

Last night, as I was walking through this old house...

I go from the front to the back. Checking on the party of girls who have come to gather to celebrate her life. In our home. There they are, gathered around. Friends. They giggle, playing the yucky jelly bean game and filling these halls that were empty for three years with the untainted laughter of youth. That youth that thinks it will live forever. Or knows it will. Outside, the embers of the bonfire are glowing their last warm glimmers. It starts to sprinkle. A cool, Virginia spring rain, giving magic food to the budding irises. Walking through the kitchen, the sink is clean, because I have wiped it. Because it is mine, and there were all those times when we didn't have a sink. I remember washing dishes in bath tubs, and in borrowed rooms. I love my dominion in the kitchen. I pass under the festive birthday flags and down the hall, to peek in on the baby in the large nursery with walls of blue. The lights of the star lamp are scattered all over the ceiling and walls, casting over the room a glow that sings its own kind of lullaby. Her dreams will be joyous and unmarred. She sleeps in the crib we have used for the last four babies and brought with us from across the country. Her sheets smell fresh because I washed them today. I remember too, years without washers and dryers. Laundry is my joy. I pass into the back room, where Thomas has fallen asleep with the middle and the elder little. They are pressing into him one on each side. The four year old has her hand across his chest, she knows she takes care of us all. He is completely blissful and breathing like a steady tide. This is what he always wanted. Redemption. I pray with them and kiss them goodnight. As I turn away, I can't recognize the odd feeling I have, here, on these old wood floors, and suddenly I know it: it's the feeling called being home.

Even in these tattered walls, paint half done, insulation so-so... Even in this unremarkable suburb, where things are close by, but communion with nature is further away than my childish soul would like to remember... we have come home.

And Sparrow? Here you are, growing into a lady before our eyes. You are beautiful. Thank you for always being more than willing to help. I trust you for many things, and you are through and through a delightful and trustworthy girl. You are learning so well. You are loving so well. Your intentions are gold. I love your fun-loving ways, your humor, how we can share and appreciate stories together. I love to watch your eyes, pure and innocent. You have such a strong sense of duty, and I want to tell you that I appreciate that so much. It is going to grow into good friendships, good wifehood, and good motherhood (if you choose to get married of course!).Your heart is being held by God, and I pray you know that fact more deeply than anything else you know about yourself. Your purpose is to be yourself in God! Can't wait to see what you do this next year! So excited we get to be here with you, watching you!

This past year, let's think about some of the fun stuff we did:
-Lived with the Stroupes for two months
-Visited the Mahnkens a LOT of times
-Went to Busch Gardens in the summer
-Celebrated Cow Appreciation Day
-Moved into our new house
-Went to Maymont in the fall
-Went to Ikea with Miss Genie
-Went to the Smithsonian in Washington DC with Miss Genie
-Sang at the church talent show
-Had our first Christmas at our own home
-Planted flowers in our own yard (you got snapdragons!)
-Planted strawberries and blueberries
-Read "Twelfth Night" together
-Got a King-sized bed and had many reading evenings on it!





















Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Golden, on her Seventh Birthday

I love that little Golden is seven. She came out in four hours start to finish, and stole my heart right from the beginning. She is subtle, graceful, a little shy. Hilarious. She makes up the craziest dances! Her humor comes out like surprising little rainbow-colored bubbles, escaping from a pool of serene thought and beauty.

The feeling I have when thinking about Golden is a deep feeling of joy in my chest and stomach. It is calm. It makes me want to cry. She's a treasure and she's true to her name.  I'm feeling from the Holy Spirit that Golden's destiny is to be a wellspring of wisdom, soothing those in her presence. She brings otherworldliness onto a room, but with a compassionate grace. She elevates. She lives in beauty. Her childlikeness, and her appreciative nature, cause others to see the present moment as a drop of treasure and to value the life they are in.












Monday, January 4, 2016

Unexercised and Unshowered

You know, for somebody who wakes up early and spends the morning hours working, and doesn't turn her attentions to home and family until 9:30AM and then is starting from scratch...

And puts things like "exercise" and "shower" on her to-do lists...

And then finds herself at 3PM still unexercised and unshowered, perhaps I should just lower my expectations.

Maybe my to-do lists should say things like "brush teeth." And "get out of pajamas." Then little victories might snowball into great ones.

You might tell me "get up earlier."
"Just exercise first thing in the morning."
or
"For God's sake, give yourself a break and get some help."

You get up earlier. You do it first thing in the morning. You get some help. I am more than willing to hire a housekeeper... after we get all our bills covered. I've noticed that if I leave the work,the work that pays actual money, for any later than first thing in the morning, it doesn't get done. Too many variables. And by variables I mean children.

"Can't your husband help?"

No. He can't.

It's really all on me. I just don't know how to do it all. It's more than one person can humanly do.
Bear the children
take care of the children
feed the children
educate the children
work
take care of the house management
take care of bills
clean
cook
shop
and take care of self.

Too much. I quit. Stuff is gonna be dirty, y'all.
I am not doing it all. I am not going to be on time. I am not going to apologize. Y'all can ask me to be on time when you come over and help me get my stuff done. When you babysit my five children. Sure! Ok, ok, enough with the cynicism. That's enough. In 2016, I'm going to continue planting and cultivating my little seeds:

My children are the most amazing people on the planet.
We are called to be a sign and a wonder.
We are here to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
He loves us.
I am a writer.
My words have the power of life.
I can do this.

So scratch what I said about not being able to do it. I mean, I can't do it all, not all THAT. But I can do what's MOST important.
And that includes breathing.
And laughing.
And changing the world.
Hang the fact that there's dust under the bed and I haven't unpacked from the weekend trip.

I taught Golden a math lesson IN BED today. Cause we can. Cause it's cold.
I took care of the babies and fed everyone twice.
And did my morning work.
I did not do it all with style and grace but some of it did come off well. I never thought I'd say this. EVER. But math was the funnest part of my day.

Then I--FINALLY!--got in the shower and tested God in His Malachi 3 promise. I think I shouted til I was hoarse. So we'll see what happens with that. I also asked Him to prevent me from hitting actual insanity. And prayed for some people who are dear to me.

Now off to finish making the dinner. And finish the home school. And wash the breakfast dishes.

I love my life!