Driving through sun soaked countryside,
meandering, journeying, questing,
we think it will never end.
Hill after rolling hill,
cows and sheep, horses and dogs,
we are enthralled by each new sight.
Little churches dot the hills,
their steeples raised in praise to God,
our hearts and voices lift in response.
Creeks tripping over rocks,
bridges and barges and asphalt and arches,
rural merging into urban seamlessly.
And then, unexpectedly,
the clouds start turning pink and orange,
the sun making its steady descent to the horizon.
It lights the earth on fire,
thrilling, exhilarating, enchanting,
the silhouette of trees against the blazing sky.
Our hearts start to sink with the sun.
Because we know.
The departure of the sun means the advent of darkness,
and so we begin pursuing, speeding, chasing the sunset.
We can’t bear to see it end,
we can’t let go.
Yet it continues to slip out of our grasp,
our chasing unsuccessful.
And then, our hearts revive.
“What is this we see?”, our thoughts thunder,
as the super moon emerges through the trees.
In our chasing, we almost missed the beauty, the enormity, the immensity,
of the other hanging light,
the promise of life eternal.
When darkness threatens to overwhelm,
the light shines brightly still.
In our hearts, in our memories, in our legacies.
Every time I have written in this space of late, I have had to apologize for my long absence. I would like to get over that by writing more frequently. Does it matter to the world if I write? Probably not. But it matters to me.
It matters, because I have four pairs of eyes that watch me every single day. They watch to see if I mean what I say. Writing is important to me and so I need to write. I am raising children who I pray will pursue their passions despite the naysayers and the critics in their life. I pray they would be the unique individuals God is making them to be. Doesn’t it then follow that I would pursue my own passions and seek to be who God has made me to be?
Today, I had coffee with a dear friend and as we talked, I was reminded of why I write. And then I asked my friend to hold me accountable. Turns out, she is really good at that. And so, I am writing this post, because she has challenged me to do so. It’s a “taking stock” kind of post- one where categories have been given and the expectation is to write whatever comes to mind. Random. This is good. This is my life right now!
Thank you, Cass, for always inspiring me, always challenging me and always loving me.
Making : Right now I am working on an advent calendar for my kids. Last year, our Christmas season was incredibly busy as we moved into our new home on December 12th. I am so excited about the opportunity to do our advent calendar tradition again this year. Each day in December, leading up to Christmas, my kids will open up an envelope that contains a Christmas activity, event or service project that we will do that day. It is a lot of preparation, but the rewards are exponential.
Cooking : This week, my kids have helped with the meal planning and preparation. Lindsay made lasagna rollups, Ethan made meatloaf and Gibson picked a taco bake recipe that I actually ended up making, because he was busy raking leaves and playing with his little sister. I love involving my kids in cooking! It wasn’t until I put the shopping list together that I realized they all chose something with ground beef in it! As a result, we will also be making a fish dinner this week.
Drinking : I can’t stop buying apple cider every time I go to Wegmans. And pumpkin spice lattes. I am fully embracing all things Fall- at least for a few more weeks!
Reading: I finished reading “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty in two days. It is my current book club book and not a book I would recommend to everyone (some mature issues and swearing), but I love books that tackle hard issues in a fun way. Moriarty nails this genre. I am currently reading “Life Creative” by Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart. It is about inspiring moms to live out the creativity God has worked into their lives. I’m only a few chapters in, but I’m feeling inspired already. I am also reading “Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World” as a resource for the Sunday school class I am teaching on Biblical Femininity. It is written by Carolyn McCulley and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand what the Bible really says about women and their role in society.
Wanting: My daughter asked my husband what he wanted for Christmas this year and he said, “Peace on Earth”. More than ever before, this is truly what I want. I am so saddened by the division in our world, in our country and in the Church. I know it is naive to think we could all get along, but reconciliation seems so unattainable. There is so much hate, so much discord, so much condemnation. And so, I continue to pray for truth in love, unity of spirit, and genuine compassion.
Looking: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about fixing my eyes on Jesus. I am tempted to look in so many other directions and then I wonder why I am anxious, bitter, frustrated and angry. I need to look in the right direction and keep my eyes focused there.
Enjoying: It might be completely unpopular to say this, but I am enjoying having my kids with me all the time. There. I said it. I love seeing them when they are at their best. It’s a joy to watch the excitement in their eyes as they learn something new. And rather than feeling overwhelmed without a moment to myself, I actually feel the opposite. My oldest is able to babysit her siblings freeing me to go grocery shopping alone. Or meet a friend for coffee. And my older ones read to, play with and take care of the younger ones. It’s awesome. When they are at their worst, I know why. I know if they are tired or struggled with a concept. I don’t have to worry about them being misunderstood or getting into a fight with friends. I’m there to mediate these things and I know the hearts of my kids better than anyone (except their Daddy- he knows them pretty well too!). I am able to confront sinful behavior and witness the joy of reconciliation (clearly, I could write a whole post on this subject alone!).
Waiting: I’m waiting to hear good news after weeks of not so great news. Waiting is HARD!
Liking: I’m liking the feel of Sadie’s fur as she snuggles up next to me. This puppy has been a lot of hard work. But she is also a great joy. Even when I don’t like what she does, I still like her an awful lot.
Wondering: What will our country be like after next Tuesday? I have always had a strong dislike for politics, because it brings out the very worst in people. I struggle to understand how wonderful people (generally) can be so venomous and speak with such hatred towards others. Do we really love our country? If we do, then wouldn’t we be seeking unity rather than a system that further divides and alienates anyone who disagrees? The strength of America has become its weakness.
Loving: I am loving the vibrant colors of Fall. I watched a leaf fall today, gently carried by the wind and I was left wonder struck.
Listening: My little ones are in bed, their siblings are at youth group. I am listening to the whir of the refrigerator and the occasional sounds of my husband’s saw as he works on a bench/locker system he is making for our mudroom. I miss seeing him as often as I would like (he has been working every spare moment to complete this project!), but I am so grateful for his ability and his passion. We are the lucky ones who get to enjoy his hard work in his shop!
Giggling: I find myself laughing every single day over something Ainsley will say. The other day, Lindsay said that she felt really good about being able to memorize the definitions for her science test. Ainsley said, “You’re one smart cookie!” She saw “the gum tree” at a college we visited and said, “Free candy!” And often when she says bye to her Daddy, she says, “Bye, Buddy! Hope you find your Dad!” She’s funny, she’s witty and her vocabulary is ridiculous for a three year old. Yep. She makes me giggle.
Celebrating: I have a friend who turns 40 tomorrow. And one thing I have learned for sure in the past year and a half is that 40 is worth celebrating!
Embracing: I forgot to mention that I am in a Bible Study that is working through Priscilla Shirer’s book “The Armor of God.” It has been so good. Lately, my life has felt like a series of attacks and rather than fighting back, I am learning to recognize the enemy at work to distract me or to level me. But while I am recognizing these things, I still find myself falling into the same patterns of wanting to please everyone or feeling like I have to change in order to be loved and appreciated. And so, I am choosing to embrace the truth of scripture. This week, the kids memorized 2 Timothy 1:7 and I will leave you with this…
The Lord has not given us a spirit of fear or timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.
When I was pregnant with my fourth, I started watching the show “Parenthood”. While there was a lot of dysfunction between the four adult siblings, I loved the camaraderie that they had and the way they were there for each other. And then I found out that my fourth would be a girl, making our total 2 boys and 2 girls, just like the siblings on Parenthood.
I began to contemplate how to be deliberate about raising my kids in a way that would encourage them to love spending time together as adults. This was especially important for me because there is a decade between my oldest and my youngest and so I wanted to make sure I did all that I could to help my kids truly enjoy each other.
Thus began my quest and my mission…
How do you raise siblings who enjoy spending time together?
1. Encourage them to appreciate their siblings’ differences. It’s easy when my kids are all enjoying the same thing, but what about when one wants to read and another wants to play games? Or one wants to ride his bike around the neighborhood, but his little sister can’t keep up? I am seeing how important it is to encourage my kids to enter into their sibling’s interests and to spend time doing things that might not be their first choice in activities in order to appreciate and show love to their siblings.
As I have been encouraging my kids to practice appreciating each other, I am seeing how this is important for their development in all relationships. It’s really about loving others well and living selflessly, valuing the interests of others. Sound familiar? Check out Mark 12:30-31 and Philippians 2:1-4 . What better place to start than with their siblings?
2. Show them how to be there for each other in the good times and the bad. My youngest recently had a doctor’s appointment, a follow up to a series of appointments and surgeries she has had to endure in her young life. Now that we are homeschooling our kids, all of her siblings came along. As we waited for the doctor to come into the examination room, I watched as my older kids played with their sister, pushing cars around a board and showing her their uvulas. It was the best appointment my sweet girl has ever had. She calmly allowed herself to be examined.
These same siblings cheer for her when she pirouettes around the living room. They go to the recitals and concerts, the Taekwondo testing and competitions, because we want them to be involved in each other’s lives. The world will never revolve around one of our children to the exclusion of another. We fell into that a bit last year which was a strong impetus to homeschooling. All of our children are important, because they are each unique individuals created in the image of God. If we want them to enjoy each other, we must not allow environments where they have reason to resent one another.
3. Take every opportunity to make memories together. The more memories you make with all of your kids, the stronger their bond will be. When they are old, they will be able to say “remember when…?” and share the memories. My kids have already started reminiscing about past memories we have made and it is incredibly sweet. I love hearing their perspectives. They are determined to make memories with our younger ones who don’t remember any of the other places we have lived.
Not all memories will be great ones, but even in those, you can show your kids how to find the humor in them. “Remember when we lost the keys, Mom?!!” or “Remember the time we got stung by hornets?!!” And I remind them of the relief we had when we found them and the compassion we were able to show to each other, because we genuinely understood the pain we experienced. The more memories you have made together, the more you want to make. And so, we are making lots of memories, because I want my kids to never stop sharing experiences together!
4. Do not allow unfair criticisms or put downs of siblings. We have strong personalities among our kids. A couple of their personalities clash. When this happens, my kids can be mean to each other. We don’t let it go. We challenge it every time. At times, this is exhausting, but we know that are faithfulness in this will pay off. We are already seeing results of this. The clashes we have expected in homeschooling have not occurred as often as we expected. Our kids are learning to be kind to one another.
Kindness is integral to enjoying each other. Of course, they will not always see eye to eye, but they can always be kind. There will be times when they will hurt each other, but our prayer is that as we challenge them to be sensitive to each other, that they will be able read those times and be quick to apologize and not hold on to bitterness.
5. Have fun without constantly comparing or competing. I am convinced that the only way to enjoy spending time with siblings is to be content being with them, not always longing for other or better experiences. There are 10 years between my girls and 4 years between my boys, so there are times when the older ones want to do big kid things and the younger ones feel left out. But we work hard at bridging those gaps, allowing our kids to have their own things, but imploring them to be fully present with their siblings when it is brother time or sister time. The results of this have been delightful.
We have the privilege of watching our kids truly enjoy each other. It’s not perfect. There are challenges and it takes work, but the results have already been worth our efforts. Our prayer is that they would continue to enjoy each other more and more.
What do you do to encourage your children to enjoy each other?
We are 6 weeks into our first year of homeschooling and I can officially say that it has been the best decision for our family. But as amazing as it has been, I have also had moments where I have felt incredibly isolated.
Our decision to home school our four children was made surprisingly easily. It was surprising, because overall our kid’s 21 combined years of education have been excellent. Our kids have been blessed with some great teachers along the way and they have excelled academically and socially despite some early speech delays, focus issues and shyness that they have had to overcome.
In spite of the goodness of their schooling, our lives had become increasingly more frantic. I felt like I was constantly forgetting something- after school practices, signed permission slips, spelling test reviews, initialing home assignments, filling out practice records, making lunches, keeping track of three different start times and bus schedules. By the time our kids came home at night, they were almost as tired and grumpy as I was, but they still had to complete their homework. The worst time of the day was when I needed to be making dinner. Consequently, when my husband arrived home, we were often all stressed and unhappy.
We knew that something needed to change.
We spent the summer preparing for the home school year; choosing curriculum, purchasing new furniture and supplies needed to do school at home, preparing the kids for this transition and reading everything we could. By the time our first day of school came around, we were ready to begin.
I knew in my head that this was going to be good for our family, but I didn’t expect it to be great. It has been. There are times in the day when I feel absolutely giddy. I get to read books to my kids that I want to read to them. If I think they need to write a review, I get to choose that. If they are tired, I know why and taking breaks are at my own discretion. I can make up art projects that coincide with what they are learning in history. I can have my son make banana bread and double the recipe when he is working on doubling in math. If it’s a beautiful day, we might decide to go on a hike and look for fairy houses or go to the beach in the middle of the day.
The kids love that they don’t have homework, but the amazing thing is that they do work in their free time without even realizing it. As I am writing this, I am sitting with my sons who are playing Minecraft and building spaceships and lunar landers complete with the command modules and heat shields, the result of studying astronomy in science and watching NASA documentaries. My daughter is working on a notebook that she is making for a friend. She has spent hours on this project and it is quite elaborate and imaginative. The fact that my kids are using their free time in these ways is amazing to me.
Incredible as all of this has been, I have also experienced feelings of isolation. I haven’t quite figured out how to balance everything in my life. While making dinner has become in many ways dreamy, laundry and housecleaning continue to be haphazard and overwhelming. Faithfulness in my part time job is challenging, because I am adapting to a new schedule, one that isn’t even close to the flexibility I used to enjoy. My interactions with friends have changed. I find that I forget to respond to texts and emails. Phone calls, while difficult before homeschooling, are nearly impossible now! One night, I completely forgot that I had signed up to bring dinner to a new mom. So, while the school mom pressures have been taken away, I have a new set of pressures that are weighing me down.
I think the hardest part in all of this and what leaves me feeling isolated is not being able to talk freely about it all. If I shared every moment that has been amazing or all of the things we have been able to experience, I know that I would very quickly annoy everyone (including myself!). I want to be careful with the information I share, especially as my kids are getting older and are more sensitive to things being said about them.
But I am an extrovert! I love being able to share experiences with people I love and as a result I am feeling a bit… well, isolated! In my attempts to not be annoying, I am feeling shut off.
And so, I think I might start sharing a little more here. My blog has been pretty quiet of late and as I talk to many of my friends in the blog world, this seems to be a general trend. In some ways, I am thankful for this quietness, because it gives me the freedom to share here without worrying about the whole annoying-the-masses thing.
If you have made it this far in all of my ramblings, thank you. It’s not good for an extrovert to feel isolated for too long and so I am thankful for this place to share what is on my heart. While choosing to home school our kids feels like a huge shift, it is also the natural progression of our lives. I would love for you to stick around for this crazy ride!