the end of the beginning

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I remember well a quilting frame as much a part of my grandmother's house as the sofa. One year for my birthday my parents took me up to my room and there, all set up and dressed in a quilt, handmade by my grandma, was a canopy bed. I felt like a princess!

She could also knit and crochet. While she was able, for my first 3 babies, she crocheted them each a blanket and knit them many a sweater. Now, four years after her passing, I would love nothing more than to sit by her side and learn all she knows. 

I have, for the last year and a half, been somewhere in the process of making quilts for my three girls. The beginning part was such fun. This is the choosing of the fabric! Next you prepare it by washing and drying it, and then comes the cutting. Since these were my first quilts I went with a simple square pattern. I then laid all the squares out on the floor and put together a plan. Not too much of one color next to the same, intersperse patterned pieces and plain (repeat this step after your little ones find such fun in walking through all your hard work, kicking squares and giggling up a storm). Then comes the sewing together of the squares. No matter how precisely I cut and regardless of all the time spent measuring, some corners just did not line up. I had to let this go. It was around this time that I simply lost steam. The quilt tops lay folded up in a tidy pile over the course of the next year. 

We have for the last few years been making the Christmas gifts we give to our children. Each November Darren and I decided what we want to make and get to work. The children have followed suit and now every Christmas it feels like Santa's workshop around here. We have too much fun, crafting and whispering, building and hiding for and from each other. 

As Darren and I talked about what to do for the 2 older girls, those quilt tops came back to my mind and I knew it was time to pull then out. They would make the perfect partner gift to our plan. So out came the tops and the safety pins. My sweet sister-in-law and I went to the church, taped quilts to the floor and for hours we pinned. 

Ready to sew tops, bottoms, and in-betweens together, I had grand ideas of hand-stitching each one. After a few hours of this I realized that as wonderful as that would be, if I wanted to get them done in time I would need to use the machine. So with a cute stitch I sewed and sewed and sewed - everything sandwiched together, ready for the final step.

I went to the fabric store to find the perfect binding. I do not recommend this. It can be quite a dangerous thing to do. You see after a year and a half of looking at the same fabric, one can get to the point of loathing. I fell in love with so many fabrics, none of which went with my quilts. I had visions of scrapping them and starting all over again. I could not find anything I liked that would go with what I had already chosen. So after an hour I walked out of the store empty handed. With one hope left I went across the street to the quilting shop. When the sweet lady quilter behind the counter asked if she could help I said, "Yes! Please! I need you to help me fall in love with my quilts again." Like only a grandmother could she told me to go and get my quilts from the van. Within 2 minutes I had the most perfect fabric, three of the most perfect fabrics, with which to bind (as all of the quilts are the same I wanted to bind each quilt with a different fabric for each girl). She did it. I fell out of loath and back into love, and I am happy to report that even though my little one was not changed out of her jammies all day I am finished. 

I like to imagine that my grandmother is pleased. I thought about her more than usual, every stitch of the way. I am now an official quilter, through and through, hooked for life. So even though she did not teach me to quilt, I imagine my love for the thing as come from her. Thank you Grandma.

The only problem really is that I neither have enough children nor beds for all the quilts I want to make!

a turning

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Life is hard. Challenges come, and go...... but then come right back again clothed in different colors. When  life seems as bleak as the late November sky, heart knocks against chest and I wonder.....

As seasons have come and gone, prayers have changed from those of relief to that of acceptance. In the acceptance of what is offered there is hope. I pray for the best, hope for the best, but embrace whatever comes. There is something in those dark days for us to learn.

This becomes obvious to me as my little man sits filled with sadness curled up in a corner. Life is this moment for him. He does not see past the present. This is all that exsists in his world right now. This shortness of sight, what we cannot see is that this, all of it, is part of our path. It is not the beginning, nor is it the end. It is not a detour, as we attempt to get back on the right road. This is our road, all of it making up the miles we travel.

The path closes in around us. It is dense and thick, but what we cannot see is that just around the corner, the trees begin to thin and the sky opens up. Here - we have made it and now can see past the stumbling blocks that once stood in our way, out across wide sky.

How did I not see it before. Maybe I was not ready. Lessons needed learning so that once I got to the top they would no longer be the focus of my attention. I view again those things I thought were holding me back, those stumbling blocks which tripped me up and brought me to my knees. And I am grateful - for all the ugly, which when wound together with skillful hands with all the beautiful become just that - beautiful - through eyes of the heart. The view never changed. It was I who could not see what was waiting for me at the top. Of each new mountain I am asked to climb, I have the hope of a vista bathed in grace awaiting me at the end.

Children grow and I begin to understand. I have an immeasurable role here as mother. It is to love, most of all, and to teach, and train, and never give up on sweet souls. But it is not to change hearts. That role has been filled, long before, by hands much more capable than mine. How often do I try and fix it all? How much more often should I turn troubled children back to the Lord. My heart hurts for the aches of these little people, these pieces of my very soul. I want to sweep them up in my arms, and kick all trial out the back door. I try to fit pieces back together. In frustration, when I cannot seem to find the answers, my heart is hushed and I am told that they are old enough now. Never stop praying for their sake, but don't pray for answers that belong to them to find. What could be more important? Of all the things I teach, from nouns to fractions, this is the most valuable lesson of all. Teach them to come to Him. Teach them to listen. Teach them that only He can fix broken hearts and just how much He wants to do so. Teach them that they have endless potential, and through the grace of only Him, it can be reached. Trials cement character deep in young foundation.

A weight lifts from sagging shoulders. Turn them back to Him. He knows the way when one mom cannot see past crumbs and chaos. These are the wings we are to give our fledglings which will enable them to soar. On the updraft of one who will never tire or lead astray, at moments when one mom's flesh is weak, He will lead them on.

hurry up and slow down

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I walk into a lamp lit bedroom, pull covers up, tuck toes back under blankets and soft hair behind small ears. I pause. The first of the day. I marvel at the little nose on the face of a girl. She has her grandfathers nose, has since birth, though hers is fairy-kissed with freckles. I touch dream-filled heads. These people, my little people, how obvious it seems to me in the stillness of night, that I am anything but still. I rush about trying to keep just one step ahead of my responsibilities. Don't I though, have a responsibility to these children? And isn't it the most important one of all? How often do I add them to my agenda? They are, of course, with me all day, everyday, but most of that time is spent going through the motions of an overfilled existence. I kiss checks and turn out the light.

Children so naturally know the art of stillness. It is well disguised in the busyness of little bodies running through the house, but they know 'still'. They teach me this everyday. They see through the lists and schedules. The clock is not a ticking task master - taking, taking, taking. In the asking for one more story, in the dawdling of little legs, in the world of imagination which sweeps them in as chickens are feed and early morning chores await, they teach me. And in the stillness of the night, as I tuck them into bed they ask without words that I be still and listen to their hearts as they speak. They can so easily see what is important and those things that matter most.

Why all this rushing? I think I am filling my bucket. Actually, I am turning it on end and pouring to empty.

I know what I should do.

But I am afraid.

I am afraid of being left behind, of missing some grand adventure. I am afraid that my children will miss out, not be as happy as they could be with a long list of accomplishments. I am afraid that I am simply not doing enough. Enough helping, enough learning, enough serving. Somehow the things I do become who I am, and I feel like I am simply not enough.

I need to learn to say no. And the person I need most of all to say no to is myself. I need to trust that these children need me, not a thousand distractions. They need time to just be and play and pretend and discover who they are, not what they can do. There is a place for that, but it is not first.

What am I teaching them? That happiness is found in the "badge" of busyness? Outside of us, of who we are?

We are not our list of accomplishments. We are not the clothes we wear, the things we collect, or the miles we run. These children have my love because they are mine, alone, that is all.

I want to lock away the world, close my door to the many things that vie for my attention. Days blur together into weeks. Children turn another year older. And still I rush. This rushing, it is aggressive, intrusive, unwelcome. How do I jump off the roller coaster? 

I close my eyes and pray for help. I pray for balance. I pray for guidance. I pray most especially to lose the desire for the praise and approval of the world. And He whispers that I am loved. His is not a love given as a 1st place ribbon. He loves not for the talents I have or the many things I accomplish. He loves me because I am His. There are no requirements for His love. And I yearn for understanding.

I long to live life on purpose, intentionally in each moment.

I turn off the computer. The cell phone is put away. I forget the outside world, if even for a few hours each day, and give to my children what I am blowing to the wind. I fear sometimes I cannot possibly give them everything I think they need. Then, when I still myself, I realize that although it is true - I cannot give them everything - I can give them all of me, that is all I have. If I am divided and frayed, that will be my offering to them, these precious children. Life is busy, but what am I busy doing?

I take sacred advice from one I admire. I will not wear busyness as a badgeAs children run circles around my legs and pull on my sleeves and heartstrings for the one thing they need the very most, me, just me, plain and unprepared, I can be still. I can live life in that moment and learn from little wiggling limbs the art of stillness inside. I long to develop a heart that can capture the wonderment each moment this beautiful life has to offer, as they so naturally do. I need, in all my Martha like anxieties, to learn to be like Mary and just be in each moment.

There in the stillness I discover more is not what is asked for. Less of so many of the unimportant things in life - that is where I need to start. In that place of less there is more, so much more. With less I see clearly. I discover me, who I truly am. The more beauty I see around me. So much less is occupying those sacred corners of the heart. And I am filled with so much more to give. 

October's end

Saturday, November 3, 2012

 By the end of October we seem to be settling deep into fall. 
The whether is changing, the daylight decreasing.
We fall father into books, the handi-crafts come out, and we begin to embrace winters arrival. 

With the help of some videos, the kids and I set out to perfect our bread making skills.

Fresh bread and warm soup is had for dinner.

A stack of wood awaits. Christmas is coming. 

Tate helps Darren set up a quilting frame. 

Egg production is slowing down. Chickens settle in for winter.

Leaves - everywhere I look, are gathered by children, and pressed between the pages of books.

Lights are turned off and candles lit. Warm drinks are poured and board games pulled out.

And on the very last day, dad ends it all with a bang, as is tradition. 
Fireworks are launched for wide, excited eyes. 

Summer has faded long ago. A new season begins. 
And we welcome all the gifts it offers.

turn the page

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

There comes a time when, no matter where you have come from, no matter what you have been through, you must simply learn to turn the page. I spend so much of my days wishing I could rewrite the past. I need to remember that I have the power to create the kind of life, the kind of home I would like to have. The squabbling of children, the selfishness displayed cannot alter my vision. As hard as it sometimes seems, it is, and always will be, up to me to decide, every minute of every day, what kind of home I will create. This work is never done.

Not only must I not be weary in well doing, but I seek to find that joy that periodically evades me. It is there somewhere, even in the midst of disaster, if my outlook is tuned into my vision, if I maintain focus.

I have been abundantly blessed with powerful, gentle, strong, soft, righteous women in my life. I look to their goodness and examples. I cling to their coat tails. Through my association with them I am strengthened.

But there are moments of weakness, fatigue and self-doubt.

She is everywhere in many forms. She is up and baking muffins before the first of her wee ones tumble downstairs in warm, wrinkled jammies. She is eternally optimistic in life. She is a spiritual giant. She is accomplished. She is dedicated. She is educated. She runs marathons. She joyfully makes dinner for her family, everyday. Her hair is always perfect. Her clothes are always cute. Her children always behave. She never tires. She never angers. She is all. And I, I in comparison, am so weak.

And that one word - it is the seed of destruction. The door is left open only a crack and in it comes, an unwelcome guest. And, yet, I welcome him in, open arms. I don't see him for what he is, for he disguises himself as friend. But he spills his poison like black ink on clean parchment, until I no longer see what is good and right in me.

I cry as I watch. My children gathered round me, some on my lap, some at my sides and even my feet. When wondering faces question wet eyes I tell them of the good message in the movie just watched, ask them if they heard it. Darren smiles and says, "You find the good message because you look for the good message." I? I look for the good message? Yes....... I do. Why, then, do I forget to look for the good message inside, my good message?

My tummy is rounded from 5 babies. My hair rarely is let loose from its daily binding. I haven't exercised in weeks. My oven sits empty and cold. Yet I have a good message. There is so much I do. There is so much I am. There is not time for wasted days in the company of comparison. He is no friend. And she, she does not exist.

My eyes open to the joy that is there, awaiting my discovery. I focus on my strengths, the things I do have, the person I am, not what I lack.

So when my life does not look the way I envision, and I fall short of spectacular, I will not despair, nor entertain comparison. I will seek the good message - the vision is up to me. And then I find myself rising to the occasion of possibility and potential. But not hers...mine.

It is time to turn the page. 

It is dark. The house lay sleeping, safe roof over sweet cheeks and soft hands. I wake before sunrise and tiptoe down stairs, pull out the cookbook and begin to compile ingredients. My smallest early birds sense my wakefulness first and pad on down, rubbing sleep from wide eyes, under dream tangled locks. We mix batter and fill tins. My oven is warm, my heart even more so. This morning I bake muffins for those I love, not because I need to be like her. I bake muffins because I can. I become the mom I want to be. 

I hope that I will always be in the becoming.

{link below: Beautiful and inspiring - for all mother-hearts} 

10 Point Manifesto for Joyful Parenting

measuring up

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I half listened to children and husband today as they talked at me, a caged bird wandering around in the dark recesses of her own mind. I wanted to lock myself away. I wanted peace and quiet. I moved furniture around the house as if somehow that external shift would shift the inner workings of self, only to add to the confusion. Nothing felt right. Where did this all begin? 

"She is slow, awkward. She doesn't participate. She doesn't fit in. She can't keep up." I was dumb. Those words, like searing summer sun to the tender, parched sprout of my 4 year old self, spoken by a person most adore - the Kindergarten teacher. Those words, or more so the lack of believing, the limited vision of one who should have been a blessing, turned harshest critic, formed my basic belief, the foundation someone else poured for me, upon which I built my house of straw. They became the tape that would play time and again in my mind. That was my introduction to life outside the home and the beginning of my educational experience. Over the years I would become conversant with soul aches such as this.

Those old wounds fester. They have never fully healed. Those scars are my place of default. They are where my mind retreats. No matter how much good I do, it will never be enough, and so I run faster, I push harder. I am abundant with weakness. And I hate it.

We don't talk about this, my parents and I. Among many other memories on that long list of unmentionables it is not brought up often, and when it is, I shrug it away as if no big deal. I don't go there. It is too painful. I try to preserve my heart as well as my parent's. I know that unrelenting ache when one of my children hurts. So it goes down, for my sake and theirs. Down into that deep cellar, where all pain gets stored, buried under these 30 years of experiences. Hidden away for none to see, especially me. Maybe if I forget it is there, it will be as if it actually never happened. I will heap more and more on top of those dusty boxes. I hide them away. I reject the pain. It sears hot.

My dad asked me not long ago if I chose to homeschool because of........

That is as far as he had to get. I knew where he was headed. I know that path well. I walk it day by day. 

The question.... Do I home school, at least partially, because of my experiences in the public school system? 
The answer.... YES. 

The scab is ripped off, and I am left to feel things I buried long ago. Did I really think one could escape such pain? These words that formed my basic beliefs, did I actually think I could outrun them? The fear lies not in the words alone, but the worry, what if they were right about me?

The tape plays - Thirteen. She walks into the girls bathroom and discovers her name among foul words written for all to see in thick black. She is cast aside by those she called friend, mocked and discarded. She wanders halls amid whispers and cold shoulders. She fears today might just be the day those threats leave her bloody and bruised. Teacher, after teacher, after teacher sees only broken, unusable bits of what is left from what was once girl. She packs more and more boxes and pushes them down and locks the door. But when it all becomes too much, she wishes she could just cease to be.

Like dead fish floating to the top, always floating back to the top, I curse those memories. I will them away. I do not see them for what they are, mere words. It was I who gave them power, each time I buried them, each time I pushed them down, I told myself that they were true, over and over. I can see now that their continuous reappearance is actually a gift. They will not go until I set them free, and I cannot set them free until I acknowledge that they are there, real and raw. I cannot move forward, not really, until those fears have been looked at in the face and that little girl is allowed to weep for what was lost and baggage that was carried for too long by shoulders too small to bear such burdens for so many years.

He, knowing the weight of such things, presents me with this 'gift' over and over. And over and over I push it away. I am not ready. Its repulsive appearance offends. I do not want it. Take it back. Take it right away.

I am learning, very slowly, that He does not offer bad gifts.

A heart that yearns to hold loved ones close and allow them in, cannot, because she is juggling too many boxes, taped up tight. She must not risk discovery. She will not be hurt again. And so she fakes competence. She pretends she is strong. She works hard to disprove that demon which holds her bound to a lonely existence, where no one is really friend, most especially herself. She blogs. And she feels like a fraud. She has so far to go. Do they know that her words are not sermons to the masses, but sacred prayers of self-discovery to that one heart that aches to be healed, her own?

Where do I fit in?

I read this and the flood gates are thrown open wide with realization:

"If the word 'inspiration' is to have any meaning, it must mean that the writer is writing something that he does not wholly understand." T. S. Elliot

I write. I find healing and hope in the words that these fingers type. Like the pearls strung on a silken strand, I string words. I do not always know what I am going to type when I sit here. But the words always come. He is trying to teach me. He is trying to heal me. He is giving me the tools I need. Could it be that we can write words come from Him that we don't even fully understand, yet understanding comes as our fingers type? These words wrap as bandages.

This is the gift I reject. Healing. I must acknowledge, accept. I must, so that I can ask Him to heal those old wounds. Wounds leave scars, like the scars on His hands. They remind us of those fiery furnace moments, the ones too valuable to forget. How could I have not seen it sooner? These are the stepping stones that will bring me father along the path, deeper into understanding, closer to Him. I prefer to imagine my path much prettier that it actually is. I omit those things I will away. Yet, those are the very things that have brought me here, to this place. I cannot forget, or I forget the help, the hope, the healing. I forget His hand in all things. I harden heart where flesh should be made soft.

I have, for so many years been trying to climb these prison walls of self doubt, seeded in a young, tender heart. They took root, and never weeded out, have dug deep in soft flesh. I did not realize that instead of burying memories I was burying myself alive, box by box.

The straw house built upon faulty foundation must be brought down in order for it to be built up again according to the master architect's design. Brick by brick, on firm foundation, laid gently in soft mortar. Time will set that mortar until it becomes a part of me. I must trust. These are the trials He knew I would face, and for a greater purpose in Him I have been asked to endure. I cannot live life in-between exiled memories.

He has felt my pain. He knows my losses. And I ache for that. But there is hope. And I wait for inspiration. It will come, it always does. I need to be willing and honest and listen. I need to open those hidden closets and let Him in, even there, into that dark, ugly place. And I will be made whole, better than whole, I will be made, from those thousand broken pieces, into a window of beautiful stained glass, for He knows what to do with shards. And He will fit me in. I will fit in. I do fit in, into the hands of my wee ones, clinging to me, as I cling to them. I fit into the heart of my husband as he loves without limits. I fit into this house that I keep for the care of my family. I fit into this skin that is wrinkling with wear. And I fit into the hollow of His hands. This suffering, did it bring me even here? I am filled to over-flowing. The mortar of one more brick sets.


Monday, October 22, 2012

The invitation. Come. See.

It is more than a desire to share what is waiting to be shown, it is a request from a place of deep need. Come. Be with me. Show me that you care. Tell me that I matter. Come, come and be with me.

I go. She shows. She smiles. My heart smiles back, as well as my lips. That is it. It only takes a moment, usually no longer.

Just a moment. These are the words I say to my children all too often. But when I finally turn around ready, they are gone. That moment, the opportunity to speak so much more clearly than do words as to the worth of my children's souls - gone. I missed it. I miss many of them. How much more effort and time would it take to just go - drop what I'm doing and go? So much less than the heartache that follows neglected moments. So, I tell myself, go... go when they ask, the first time they ask. That will never be regretted - only cherished.

I pray daily that my children will feel my love. How much more likely are they to feel that love through the things I do, the time that I offer, than that of mere words. All too often I offer lip service, terms of endearment. They, sincere and heartfelt, can accompany my actions, but they are certainly not nourishment enough to fill that vessel that is a child's soul. The invitation of come must be accepted when delivered, otherwise we will miss the occasion of touching spirit to spirit with our children.

tick, tick, tick

Friday, October 19, 2012

I find myself wishing for more time. More time for myself, without taking away any from them. I hurry faster, maybe in this way, since I cannot add minutes to the clock or hours to my life, maybe I will somehow be able to pack more into that which I already have. Until my tank runs empty. I forgot to fill it up. And so on it spins, like clothes in the spin cycle, all the moisture is being pulled from me.

I read chapter 4 of this book a friend placed in my hand..... I understand. And yet, I wonder why I didn't see it before. 

"Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing... Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away." 
Mark Buchanan - excerpt from 'One Thousand Gifts' by Ann Voskamp

I do not need more time. I need less hurry, less running, less get-up-and-go. I need perspective. Sometimes the answer could be simply that I need to do less with the time I have, and be present in the moment. But the phone will ring again, and someone will have to be somewhere, and there will always be another deadline to meet - that is part of this life too. How I meld the two, there-in lies the challenge.

Hurry will have to happen, but it must not a way by which I orchestrate my life. It does not have to be the rule I live. It can be the exception.

So, I take those moments for myself. I need them. I let go the guilt that I am not with them. I fill back up, and then I am ready when I step back in, even when chaos crumbles at the front door.

I am realizing that when I do less I feel more. Wouldn't it be better to do a few things really well, than a thousand things mediocre? I also need to be aware that there will be seasons of my life. I do not want to rush through to summer realizing I have missed my spring, while children grew. Don't rush. Enjoy. There will be plenty of time for all that I want to do, or, maybe, there won't. Maybe if I slow down enough to listen to God, He will direct my ways. His way for me can become my will. And then, in that sense, I will have used this time doing all that I was created to do. Isn't that enough?

So this day, I wrap tight my arms around every child and challenge that comes my way. This is my life, there are lessons to be learned, and joy to be felt right here, right now. I mustn't step on tippy toe looking above and beyond my very life. I need to live it.

the party

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Today was Nya's party. 
The men of the family went off together, while my big girls helped me out. 
I don't know what I would do without them. 
They cooked food, served children, decorated banners, 
frosted cupcakes and played with the wee ones.
Thank you girls - you are such a blessing.


 To our dear friends: Thank you for sharing this day with us!