Mama to boys

To this mama whose childhood was filled with only sisters, raising boys is all sorts of wonderful and wild.  What they bring to our family table, our family story, is vibrant and valued.  Full of surprises they are.

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Like last week for example:  Out of the blue they put this tea table together for themselves and then made a place for me at their table!  I told them tea tables, even for boys, meant delightful polite conversation.  So they made sure to keep it that way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
They often take risks and like to push the envelope sometimes.  Like seeing just how far away they can be from the water dispenser.  Sometimes risks equate to emergency room trips which we’ve had our fair share of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
One boy can’t go to sleep at night until he finds me and prays for me.  He also writes the sweetest notes.  Like the one above.  “Do not forget that I love you”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Possibly one of my most-treasured sights is seeing older boys and grown men snuggling with and loving on babies.  I love seeing big boys holding their little siblings’ hand but its a rare thing these days.  There is a paradox in it I suppose.  A great contrast.  Strength woven in with such tender newness.  A couple months ago a friends’ husband came to pick her up and our youngest jumped into his arms.  They’ve moved on from babies, as most of our friends have.  I watched her heart melt as he toted her around on his hip.   There is something I think most women find a little bit intoxicating about it.  Our oldest son has learned great patience in dealing with his toddler sister.  It certainly has its challenges.  But they are worthy and good that is for certain.  She loves to say goodnight and crawl into his bed for a quick book read.  And he has learned to love her love.

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And I am learning, still with every passing day, to bask in all their love.  Six very different varieties of it.  All beautiful.  All a treasure for today.

An epiphany on food

I am all over the place when it comes to food and menu planning and grocery lists and all that important stuff.  There are eight eating people in this house.  And since we school at home, they eat here.  Nearly all their meals.  Which adds up to a dizzying 21 meals per week in this kitchen of mine and at least two snacks a day too!  If the belly is growling and wanting, it is terribly hard to learn and focus and engage in learning.  But preparing food is only one of a great many hats mamas wear.  This is my recent new insight on the matter, after sitting down and making a list of our favorite 31 meals, thinking we could just rotate through each day of the month.  (insert smirk or giggle here) Yes, I really did think it a good idea.  But I am learning to simplify and more importantly realizing that having 31 meals to choose from is a “first world problem” – meaning, the majority of the world would be grateful simply to have one solid meal a day.  Let alone three.  Let alone a wonderfully organized list of 31 great dinners.  My life needs to work for me and I need time to be spent where it matters most.  Researching the latest food trends and reading food blogs and color coding my dilapidated recipe binder are not how I choose to spend my minutes right now.  Having a vast array of meal choices is in fact not helpful for me at this current life stage.

Enter theme nights.

It all started with Mission Mondays, where we eat a very simple meal of brown rice and lentils and practice gratitude for our bounty and provisions while remembering how most of the world eats, meagerly.  Then came Taco Thursdays and Make your Own Pizza Fridays.  We don’t have it down pat yet.  But the general idea is, each day of the week is narrowed down a bit.  Crock-pot meals on Tuesdays when we have a quick dinnertime turn around.  Soups on Saturdays.  Salad bar or our beloved Garden Hash on Wednesdays when I have time in the late afternoon to chop a bunch of veggies.

This is our general outline:

Mondaylentils and rice
Tuesday – Crock-pot something (like this roast-terrible photo but a delicious meal served over mashed potatoes)
Wednesday – Garden Hash (recipe below)
Thursday – Tacos of any kind – lots of ways to mix it up each week like this insanely delicious pork taco recipe
Friday – Make your Own (pita) Pizza – kids love it and its a wonderfully fun way to end the week
Saturday – Soup or Stew
Sunday – whatever is left or needs eating up (if nothing else, apples and popcorn, I ate that every Sunday night growing up!)

The underlying premise for me behind this simplifying for this season is this truth:

Food is intended to sustain and nourish us so we can get to the all important tasks of living and loving.

It isn’t meant to be a daily showcase of our mad kitchen skills or be catered to one persons picky tendencies.  It doesn’t need to impress my kids or have five different items to serve up every night.  What matters far more is the cultivating of “family” that happens when we gather together to share a meal.

Though summer is quick becoming a memory and it is pouring rain at the moment, I’ll still share what is probably one of our family favorite meals.  It’s my own creation and is ever so flexible and might not be an exact science since we already established my extra time and energy are not spent imitating Ina Garten or Rachel Ray.

Garden Hash (serves 4, we double or triple this):

Saute in a skillet 1 lb ground beef and one onion chopped.  Add a clove or two of crushed garlic. Once the meat is cooked and broken up, add whatever garden bounty you like.  We love a head of kale or rainbow chard chopped up real small, several carrots grated, a zucchini or even a peeled, chopped sweet potato are delicious too. Really, the sky is the limit.  Salt and pepper the hash.  Let the kale or chard wilt, the potatoes simmer till soft, all in the one pot.  Add water if needed for the simmer, but also add the all important ingredient, tamari or soy sauce.  How much?  Well, I’d just say several swigs and then taste after five minutes, if I had to guess, maybe start with 1/4 cup?  We usually eat it in a pile on a plate and its ugly so I don’t have a photo for you.  It can also be served over rice, quinoa, steamed greens or roasted diced potatoes.

On crazy busy life and “The Best Yes” by Lysa Terkeurst

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a review.  While I have certainly read some good books, I haven’t managed to sit down and write about them.  But this one requires passing on, The Best Yes, by Lysa Terkeurst.  Our flurried, broken, overextended-in-every-way American culture is a living, breathing example of many examples of “you reap what you sow”.  Instead of breaking down that reality, may I just say that despite very intentional efforts not to live inside the crazy…sometimes it seems impossibly hard to step back, step aside, step OUT of the continual myriad of activities.  Nearly all of them GOOD things.  The amount of extracurricular options is staggering.  Whether you are married with kids or without, single, young or old….there is nary a shortage of ways you could spend your time and energy.

One particular aspect of this that I find it difficult to navigate is the mentality that if you don’t offer your children a plethora of options, be they flute lessons, karate, a spot on the baseball team, chess club, horse back riding lessons, 4-H, drama class, choir, soccer, art lessons and tickets to a play or five at the local kids theater, that somehow they will be cheated of a “well rounded” and “rich” upbringing.  The array of “good things” here is at best mind-blowing.  And at worst, well, I don’t know.  I suppose I would just venture to say that this way of thinking is a plague in our culture and in fact, learning to have some white space or margin in your life is perhaps one of the very best tools parents should empower their kids with.

It sounds easy right?  But its not.  Even having moving out of the city into a more rural area, there are so many things one can do!  I have done much quiet thinking about it this past year, a year that left me gasping for breath and feeling like I could not, would not possibly be able to continue on the same path.  A wise mother said to me just last Tuesday while listening to me wrestle out loud with the too-many-options dilemma, “I have come to a place where I honestly believe, if my child has a very exceptional, genuine kind of gift at playing piano or baseball or something….that talent will well up and emerge regardless of my ability to provide copious amounts of lessons and instruction in its realm.”  I breathed a sigh of great relief.  And my heart agreed.

If I believe that God’s plans for the lives of my children will not be thwarted by my inadequacies and imperfectness as a parent, then I can instead invest in loving them well, building strong, healthy relationships, providing a solid, vibrant foundation for their lives. Which I’ve come to believe MUST include having a weekly schedule that has room in it to breathe.  I absolutely must, as a mother who seeks to walk in wisdom, learn how to make thoughtful decisions for our family and for my own life that reflect a measure of having ‘counted the cost’ of each and every spoken and unspoken YES in my life.

This is where the book by Lysa comes in.  I ended the summer feeling terribly unready for the year ahead.  Still struggling to bounce back from last year.  When I read the tagline under the title, Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands, my head just nodded and I clicked ‘place my order’ before the book had even been released.  It is practical and so well breaks down the reality of every “yes”.  Yes to one thing means a no elsewhere, this is the part I hadn’t learned to think through very well.  I just kept on with yes’.  I would liken it to writing a check on an empty bank account, eventually the debt is in your face and you have to deal with it.  Lysa  breaks down, wonderfully well, various ways to learn to cultivate this sort of wisdom and also delves into why it matters so much.

I am learning to weigh my yes and to really sift through all the implications it will have.  Slowly, albeit, but learning nonetheless.  Just yesterday we were at the pumpkin patch, having great fun with my sister as we have done every year for at least 8 years in a row.  I started to get anxious being there, knowing that in two weeks our homeschool group is going on a group trip to another pumpkin patch.  I feel obligated to go, my mind had already relinquished to having to go.  But as I thought more, talked it out loud a bit, it was so clear.  Yesterday was my “best yes”.  Two weeks from now will be my wise “no”.  And in that, I get to practice something I am not good at, giving grace to myself.  Grace to say “one pumpkin patch trip with my six children is all that I can manage this year and that is okay, more than that, it is wise and good”.

If life feels a bit over the top and you aren’t sure how to proceed or how to grow in this aspect, this book is an excellent, very worthwhile read.  Really, just about everyone I know fits into that description in some way!  My copy is heavily highlighted and written on, which is one of my best measures of good books.  Beyond that, my life is incorporating the practical wisdom from the pages and that is surely the best part.

Here are a few snapshots of our one and only wonderful pumpkin patch trip this weekend:

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Finn's pumpkin
Lib and mama
Lib Oct 2014
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three girls
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Update – Missions Mondays recipe

I found my recipe to share with you!  If you want the full story, scroll down two posts to read the original Missions Monday post.  Here is the way I make the meal packets:

1 cup brown short grain rice

1/2 cup brown lentils

3T chicken broth powder

1/4 tsp garlic powder

a pinch of salt

Store in glass jar or ziploc bag.

With each packet, these are the cooking instructions – for our family of 8 we make two at a time:

Put 1 Tablespoon olive oil in medium saucepan.

Dump in “meal mix” (whole bag), saute for a minute on low/medium heat

to warm and awaken the spices.

Add 3 1/2 cups water, bring to a boil,

cover, turn to low, simmer 45-50 minutes until most all water is absorbed.

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Loving our kids well

The room is bright green now and it’s been so long since I lived in it, I can’t remember what the color used to be.  I remember being royally annoyed at the pitter patter of feet above in the kitchen.  There must have been no insulation between that floor and my ceiling.  I remember sneaking out the ground floor window one night at 17, not to go anywhere, simply to say I’d done it.  No one needed to know I only sat in the cold bark for a while right? I laid on my bed in that room for hours upon hours talking till sometimes 3 AM to a boy.  It was eons before texting and email.  It was the days of the face to face or at least the real talking over a phone, probably one with a cord.  I have no clue what we spoke of all that time or how we got up the next day for school.  But somewhere in the talking, in the time spent, love unfolded and twenty years later, here we are – still unfolding.

How we have an almost twelve year old, I don’t know but I knew this summer I wanted some face time with her before the hustle and bustle of fall took off.  I shared with her some of my thoughts and worries from that age, told her why it was wonderful to be a girl and to get to grow up into a woman.  How we have this incredible opportunity, to get to be givers of life through our attitude, heart, words and eventually our body.  Something amazing happens when you get to be alone with just one child and with the only intention being time together.  No grocery list or agenda.  No phone on the table beeping or buzzing away.  No other siblings to share the time with.   No distraction, only purpose.  As they nearly always do, they know.  They sense that the time is set apart and they enter in in a different way.

Once I was back home, we were talking one night about how to facilitate depth of relationship with each of our children, how to be keyed in to every one and building something solid so that as they grow and the stakes are ever higher, the losses greater and the dreams bigger – they know we’re right here.  We agreed there really is only one way to do that.  Time.  Shared time, set apart with the purpose of listening and loving.  Our six are wildly different.  Unique and one of a kind.  So naturally, it wouldn’t look the same for each one.  We decided to each take an hour a week and each rotate through the oldest five kids.  Sounds small?  Well maybe.  But let me tell you it was hard to find a regular one hour spot to set aside weekly where the other of us would be home to be with kids.

Our third born, he’s a dreamer, an artist and the most easy going kid of our brood.  His name means peaceful and while he may be all boy and energetic as the rest of them, it really does describe his demeanor.  He’s very different from me.  He’s not book-crazed.  He is meticulous with his pencil but not with his room.  So when I asked him tonight for his choice of a spot for our hour, he said McDonald’s.  And I fought every urge to say “Gross, no!”.  I simply said yes and off we went.  He asked if he could splurge and have two $1 cheeseburgers, I said yes.  Then he asked if we could sit outside by the (dumpy, old) play place.  Again, I was like really, are you kidding me? but I said a smiling “sure!”.  He told me where to sit so I could watch him slide.  I left my phone in my purse and sipped my smoothie.  He was over-the-moon happy to have my undivided attention while he played.  No one else was out there, so I thought I’d see if I could fit in the tunnel.

Oh glory.  If you haven’t squeezed yourself through the play tubes at McDonald’s for decades, it’s about time.  He shrieked “I can’t believe you’re doing this mom!  I can’t believe it!’.  He led me around and told me the best way to go down the slide.  Upside down and backwards.  Alrighty then, of course I want to do that.  He said he’d catch me if I was going to fall off the edge.  So reassuring.  Once I was safely down the slide, my eight year old darling of a boy literally jumped up and down squealing in glee.  He then did three somersaults on the padded floor to further express his delight.  I laughed out loud and climbed back up for another round.  Why in the world not?

We headed for the library to get his books on hold and he grabbed my hand in the parking lot and said with great fervor, “I llllllllloooove you mom.  So much.”  Mission accomplished.  Though it didn’t look like what I expected, it met his needs and filled his love cup right up.  And that’s the whole point.

Building meaningful relationships with my kids doesn’t have to be complicated or involve ten steps or a how-to book or an agenda.  It really only hinges on one thing.  Am I going to show up?  Like really show up…put the phone away, turn the mental to-do-listing off, pay attention, listen with the heart, engage completely in the time spent together.  When we do that, the dividends are beyond measure.

One year beautiful

It makes me choke just a bit when I answer people’s frequent question, how old is she?  Because I want to say she was just born, fresh and new and perfect but the truth is her birthday was two weeks ago and I can hardly wrap my mind around it.  Wasn’t it just yesterday we were walking in the warm sun with popsicles and flip flops awaiting her soon and imminent arrival, not sure if she was a he or a she…if she would tip the tide to four sons or even it up with three sons and three daughters?  Could I have known it would be the year it was?  That everything would feel hard and that we would never really fall into a groove that felt workable and that we would do so many “great” things that we were plum worn out and worn down?  How a little pink bundle would be this beacon of all that is lovely and wonderful to this tired mama on so many dark nights?

To my Liberty Grace on your first birthday,

Freedom and grace.  Two of the most critical, valued pieces of our faith, our family, our life.  Your name holds such weight for me.  It is a never ending reminder of truth that I need constant reminding of.  One year.  You are walking and waving everywhere.  You have perfected the princess, parade wave and you grin a mile wide for everyone you meet.  I never have the heart to tell them, be they a friend or a waiter at a resaturant, that you do this for everyone.  They think they are exceptionally special based on your warm waves and smile.  You have to be the happiest baby ever.  At least certainly the happiest one I’ve known.  Sometimes I hold your siblings back a bit, telling them it’s too much or give her space.   But the reality, your reality, is you are covered, sewn in from every side, with love.  So much love.  They each adore you in their own sort of way.  You draw something unique, something special out of each one of them.  The softness that I don’t often see in the big boys, a gentleness from Finn that is wildly uncharacteristic.  And a comradery, a sisterhood with the girls, that I know will only grow with age.

It’s been a long year for me.  Your brother Finn has required a sort of mental energy that no other child has.  The way he thinks and experiences life is momentous, fantastic really.  And I’ve no doubt he will change the world, his world, someday.  Another brother started the year with a major physical injury that made the school year extra hard and frustrating.  It took six months before he was fully restored.  It hurt my mama heart more than I can exxpress to not be able to help him, not be able to fix it and make life feel okay for him.  There were so many hard days, not days that I would trade or give up for anything, but hard nonetheless.

And then there was you.

Beaming bright beautiful you.  You have to know there were many nights, I would be awake nursing you that I wept over your precious little face.  Hopelessly in love with your little self.  Over the top thankful that you were there for me to hold.  You gave hope to me time and time again.  You are a simple, in-the-flesh continual gift that I feel like I receive day after day after day.  A gift I don’t take lightly and one I am keenly aware I could have missed had the baby I carried the months prior to your conception been carried to term.  There would not have been you, one of a kind wonderful you.

You can’t possibly imagine how treasured you are little girl.  You just can’t.

All my love,

Mama

**a few snapshots of your first year, favorite summer naps in the swing or with big brother, showing goats with sisters, rides in wheelbarrows and horse carts:

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girl cousins 2014

Grace upon grace

He left the dinner table quietly, no big to-do.  Just abandoned his favorite piece of meat to sit there and get cold.  When there are seven people at the table, too many of them talking at once, its easy for the easily overwhelmed to want some space.  We keep trying to use the metaphor of a car and when too many cars go at once you have one giant wreck.  Same sort of thing with dinner conversation – but its not sinking in too well.  We’re a work in progress.  I quickly cleaned my plate, not taking the time to be thankful for this beautiful roasted chicken that we raised ourselves or the crunchy cucumbers that grew just outside the back window despite my dismal lack of weeding and forgetting to water them half the time.

I run upstairs and peek inside his door.  He’s laying on the floor with pillows.  I ask him why he left and what’s wrong.  Its been another bad day – he tells me.  I fight the urge to list all the reasons why it was actually a great day…we painted the barn, we got a new goat, and so on.  I listen.  It’s just always another bad day.  I ask what makes it not good instead of disagreeing with him.  I lay down on the floor and wait.  He thinks about it.  Because I do what I don’t want to do and I get in trouble, again.  And my heart hurts and I slowly explain that he’s not the only one.  He may well be one of few boys his age who is so tremendously, keenly aware of this.  I tell him that his mama laying on the carpet there struggles the very same way.

Why? He asks.  He wants to know why its so hard to not get upset when things don’t go how he expects.  Why its so hard to respond well.  And before he gets one step further and thinks he’s the only one this is hard for, I lay it out real clear.  I want to love you well, love you perfectly, never let you down, never get mad at the wrong moment in the wrong way, lead you in wisdom and lavish you with grace, I tell him.  But I mess up all the time, I’m never going to get it just right and there are plenty of days where I feel exactly the same way…its another bad day and I can’t get anything right.  He turns his head and looks at me and sizes me up like ten year olds sure can and he’s hearing every word.  I hope beyond hope that he actually hears my heart oozing through my words and knows that I mean it.

The verse I read this week in John and got tripped up on and can’t seem to read past but can only read again, and again, is this:

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. – John 1:16

Just a few words, but honestly I can’t get to chapter 2.  If the way of Jesus is grace upon grace then my way at home with these half a dozen kids is meant to reflect that.  And this year here has been tough and I’m bone tired from not one solid night of sleep in just about exactly a year and I wonder where the grace went some days and how I could love so insufficiently when the love God gives is so complete and perfect and enough.  He loves me well.  Every single day.  His patience with my imperfection and inadequacy is chock full of grace while at the same time beckoning me forward with his truth.

We talk about grace on the floor of his room and we both cry as we realize the common ground of our faults and how much we want to grow.  We pray.  And he sits with his head on my shoulder for a long time.  Hoping, even if tenuously so, that this year will be a more gracious one.

Pressing on

She picks pieces of clover and sits while I talk.  Her wordless tears had told me that all she wanted was to stand at the fence next to the goats.  So I set her there and turn over a water bucket and sit down.  As she chews grass I pour out my full, raw heart.  Earlier today, when I looked at the calendar my heart started to panic.  I’m not prone to panic.  Or worry.  But it feels like suddenly two thirds of summer is gone and I don’t know what happened.  Well, I do.  June happened – septic pump failure/back up, ruined floors, repairs and the week at a motel and so on.  Life happened.

There are so many moving parts and so much love and much talking and bursting LIFE in this home.  Every day.  And the sum total of laundry and hungry tummies and shoes left everywhere, its staggering some days.  But those are superficial, really.  It’s the deeper things that I’m spilling out with quiet tears on the lawn next to the pasture at dusk.  It’s a quiet prayer for peace.  It’s a plea for wisdom for hard choices.  It’s a tender request that says please take care of my heart. 

New things are on the horizon for our homeschool plans and schedule for fall.  And there are areas of life that aren’t working well and need a course correction.   But new is hard.  With a half a dozen kids in the mix, two of whom have required great lengths of attention this past year, it is easy to feel daunted.  Even for me who usually feels courageous and optimistic.

I say it all out loud again, as she plays in the grass.  She watches a bumble bee and reaches toward it as it escapes her chubby, too-slow fingers.  She fingers the clover again and does what she does most of the time…

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She smiles at me while holding my leg.  Her life is simple and marvelous and her every need is met.  She abides in love, she is covered with love from every angle.  All the time.  And my heart catches a bit just thinking about it.  The sibling issues and family challenges, I could probably sum up a good deal of the root of them in that one thought.  Not abiding in love for one another.  And the sting that comes quickly is, I see my part in it.  My weary heart that’s stood up under much heartache and struggle this past year.  A heart that hasn’t always been able to abide in love the way I’d like.  The mama sets the tone for the home, at least for the bulk of the days when most of our day together is spent with me at the helm.

No matter how far we get, we aren’t “there”.  No matter how much we grow and change, we’re not done.  Thank goodness.  But in certain seasons, it can feel discouraging.  I read this tonight on the front porch in the dark and said out loud “YES” as it resonates so deeply as to the bigger picture at hand:

Thank God for everything up to this point, but do not stop here.  Press on into the deep things of God.  Insist upon tasting the profounder mysteries of redemption.  Keep your feet on the ground, but let your heart soar as high as it will.  Refuse to be average or to surrender to the chill of your spiritual environment. – A. W. Tozer “The Root of the Righteous”

I’ve struggled to welcome the God I love into this imperfect and sometimes chaotic place this year.  I’ve wanted to come in an orderly fashion, quiet and early with perfectly brewed coffee and a warm blanket.  The season hasn’t been very orderly and certainly not quiet.  There has been much coffee but not sipped slowly during prayer, gulped instead before it was cold so that I could see straight enough to make breakfast.

God doesn’t want orderly.  He just wants everything.  He wants all of my heart.   It’s okay if I come with hair that’s still in yesterdays’ pony tail, teeth that aren’t brushed and a to-do list twenty things long and a heart that feels defeated or not enough.  He wants me to remember this truth in the darkest, longest day:

Not since Adam first stood up on the earth has God failed a single man or woman who trusted him.  -A. W. Tozer “The Root of the Righteous”

He hasn’t.  And I know this.  So when I wonder how to move forward, when I ask what can give so I can gain a little bit of margin in my life, when I dare to hope for breatkthrough in the places I need it desperately and wonder how we’ll all fare at something new this year…He wants me to remember.

He has never failed me.  He is always (more than) enough.

 

 

Coming to terms

I’d intended to write a cute post about how we came around to renaming our blog “A Place For Little Feet”.  About the plethora of little feet that surround our life here, be they animal or human, there are many.  But this post is all I could come up with and it may not be cute but it’s honest and honest is all I have to offer right now….

Last Wednesday found this mama of six in a mess of a kitchen trying to uncover some counter to make lunch for the hungry.  There wasn’t a square inch available.  Of the counter or of the mama.  There were dishes and the various random somethings that inevitably get left out when eight people live in a home together and live a full, big life together.  And there was the heart worn thin from ragged survival-mode days that take more than you think they do.  The cumulative total effect of a year that was harder than the past several on many levels finally coming to be counted.  Like it was time to pay the piper and the debt is always more than you think it is right?

Somehow, I’d been trying to keep up with my five-kid life pace despite having now six.  Trying to fit in, accomplish, DO everything I deemed necessary and good and crucial whilst the reality of the half a dozen sweet things that call me mom was in the clouds and posed no limitations.  Never mind the well-meaning “Well, I guess once you have a few, it really doesn’t make a difference adding more right?”.  Words like that rang in my mind as the months ticked by and I kept doing and kept keeping up with my (many) friends who have two or three children.  I made sure to say yes whenever it was humanly possible and worked hard to make all the moving parts of our life somehow keep moving.

Where things got off course, I don’t really know.  Well, I have some ideas but that really is a whole other post.  Though Liberty is a sweet thing of a baby, has been from Day 1, she is still a person.  She requires attention and care and mental/physical energy.  She is absolutely, unequivocally a profound gift that we are incredibly thankful to have been given and wouldn’t trade for anything.  But to operate without any adjustments when someone new joins the family, is foolish.  No matter how much like super mom you might feel like.   When my wise friend (and mother of eight) up yonder says things like “I just don’t know how you’re keeping up with this pace….” I should do a little inventory and assess just how we are keeping it up.  Instead, we just kept on going.

Until last week when we were one day away from going on vacation and I said I couldn’t go.  Friends, if you get to the point you can’t handle going on vacation (albeit with the entire extended family which, though crazy fun, also requires a certain ability to function) then perhaps you can’t handle your normal life either.  That same day I was in my (disastrously messy) kitchen a woman walked into my backyard.  Not living in a neighborhood but out in the country this was highly unusual.  I looked closer through the window and recognized her from church.  I walked out on the deck and said as calm of a hello as I could muster and asked what she was doing here.  She smiled and said she was here for the meeting, the VBS planning meeting that I’d offered to host.  She walked into my lived in, things-all-over living room and I just tried to keep breathing.  The fact that I was hosting a meeting and hadn’t a clue, was again evidence of the debt and the time had come for some re-evaluating.  She told me how coming in to my house in this condition was like a warm hug, because how often her own house looked the same.  I silently wished I could just have given her an actual, real warm hug instead of endure sitting through the meeting wondering how I was functioning this poorly.

I called my husband at work and told him I could not possibly go on vacation.  He graciously offered to take our five oldest with him and left me at home for a couple of days.  I would join him if I was able.  And I had serious doubts about just what I was able to do.  I had been trying to keep up with too much for too long.  Something had to give.  And the reality was, something had given.  Me.  Every day of the week, every hour of the night, living, breathing, giving.  To a degree that was far beyond was was intended for any person, whether they have six children, a slew of animals and all sorts of people with needs (and brokenness) interwoven into their life…or not.

About at that point, I read this post.  I sat shaking my head at my computer, which I only sit at every few days even, no time to read.  Planned neglect.  It sounded strange, how could neglect be a good thing, but then it all made perfect sense.  I’d said yes to so much good and tried to be faithful to so many great things and needs that I’d missed out on doing the very best things excellently.  My kids paid a price, as did I.  The mom they had two years ago was more focused, more intentional, most aware of her own need and thus more dependent on grace to come through.  The mom and dad they had two years ago did not have their hands in so many different things and they loved each other patiently, kindly.  They did a few things and did them well.

There are so many great things.  But we weren’t created to do them all.  We were made with limitations and needs that God alone can meet.  We were designed each to give and love in certain circles and to learn how to say yes and when to say no.  I do know this, but I absolutely have not practiced it.  The pie was sliced in so many pieces that the ones who matter the most, who are my first calling if my priorities are right, got less than best.  My practical husband who often has short, simple and clear wise answers to life’s challenges heard my heart last week and agreed with my “state of the union” assessment.  And he knew better than to give a quick easy answer.  When a significant course correction is in order, there isn’t a quick and easy five steps today and we’ll be good to go tomorrow sort of way forward.

So, I guess that’s all today, just coming to terms here with the reality of my life with all these little feet.  And its a beautiful reality.  A treasured, blessed one for certain.  One I need to make count every day, in the all the right ways.

Andrea Laurita Photography

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When people come to our home, one of the first things they comment on is a set of four square canvas prints on our living room wall.  They almost always ask for the story behind them, which I never get tired of sharing.  Our friend Andrea of Andrea Laurita Photography is a talented photo journalist.  She has woven her gifts with the lens into a variety of jobs over the past decade or so, allowing God to use her in all sorts of places and ways.  The four prints we have are of beautiful children in Sierra Leonne, Thailand and Afghanistan.  They are a constant reminder of the world around us, far beyond what we see every day on the farm.  They help me remember.  And if the photos weren’t enough, Andrea used the proceeds from them to help fund a college education from a girl she met in Liberia.

Currently, this darling young friend of ours lives in Portland.  She is spunky and gracious and flexible.  Exactly what I think makes her a fantastic professional photographer.  All the photos you see on our blog, header and side bar, are accredited to her.  And can I just say anyone crazy enough to take on a photo session of a family with six kids is downright brave!  We’ve never been disappointed in her work.  She has wonderfully captured our family several times now.  If you live within a couple hours of Portland and are even considering doing family photos or are getting married or have a new baby, check this girl out!  She is willing to drive to the Seattle area, especially if a few people want to book a session the same week or weekend.

Here are a few favorites from this last session she did for us, which we decided to do at home this time instead of traveling somewhere “photogenic”:

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