Monday, August 29, 2016

School Again

It was the first official day for the boys. They groaned when I woke them this morning, but they were happy by the time we pulled out of the lane. We really do love summer vacation best, but we've enjoyed it well and school is a must. We may as well be happy for it.

8th, 6th, and 4th grades~

We are hybrid schoolers now, not traditional public-, private-, or homeschoolers. The boys have elective classes at our charter school (ex. computers, speech and debate, writing, science lab, sports, VAPA, etc.) and we homeschool for the core subjects. Michael takes live, online history and writing classes through the publishers of our classical curriculum. Olivia is taking Chemistry (+lab) and Fitness through the charter high school, independent study English with weekly one-on-one teacher/student discussion, French at the community college, and the rest through independent study at home (our choice of curriculum) but under the supervision of the charter school. She is blazing through her HS requirements, and it's been fun to think how she can use her last couple years of HS. There are so many options available to us, and we are very thankful for the freedom to pick and choose each year based on the needs of our kids and the desires of our family.

For the first time in 15 1/2 years of mothering, I have found myself with a kid-less three hour block each Monday! I've obviously never been the type to count down the days till I could put my kids in pre-school, or when they would start kindergarten, or head back to class at the end of the summer months. I haven't chosen to homeschool only because I am greedy to be with my kids all the time (although that did factor in!), but I have been keenly aware that all too soon the day will come when I will long for more time together. I know the years will come when getting together may not be very frequent. I pray that my heart will be ready for that time, ready to let them fully go and do what God calls them to. So for now, I am super grateful we still spend so much time together.

And yet, three hours per week sounds great! Today I did some birthday shopping, I made a quick stop at Marshall's, and worked on some laundry, dishes, emails, and birthday plans. Olivia is home for much of the day on Mondays, so we spent a tiny bit of time hanging out between her study time. Three hours has a lot of potential for me, especially when I am mindful that I only have three hours. I'm sure I'll end up spending it on errands and chores, but perhaps there will be occasional lunch dates with Jon, and maybe some time for blogging or exercise or reading.

We gathered around the living room yesterday evening. It was a time to talk about the coming year and to keep conversations open and honest. Jon and I desire to come along side each of our kids, to enthusiastically guide and encourage them, and to be compassionate toward them in their struggles. Last night we talked about issues of character, holding high the bar but explaining that we are here to help and encourage them. We talked about relationships and accountability, respect, self-control. We shared some of our struggles, too. Jon prayed for us, acknowledging that without the help and blessing of the Lord, we are all doomed for failure.

Today, at one point in my three hours of quiet, I knelt by my bathtub and prayed for my kids. I prayed that they would each be sensitive to the Spirit. I thanked God for His presence with them, and I petitioned Him for His blessings on their lives.

Tonight, I smile because I know that God loves them more than I can comprehend, and that his ear is toward this mother's heart. He delights to be entreated, and delights in being made known in our lives.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Monday. Check.

Many people have already returned to school, but not us. It didn’t feel like a summer Monday, though. I began to feel tightening in my chest and throat, that feeling that tells me things are about to get crazy busy again. In some ways I like the feeling of maximizing my days, squeezing the life out of it, and doing as much as I possibly can. On the other hand, I don’t like the focused, get-out-of-my-way, forget-to-smile person that I become. It’s not the kind of wife and mom I like to be, so I must look for ways to balance it all out.

This morning was marked by figurative loads of school related admin, and actual load of laundry. The afternoon was marked by learning about work permits, online class orientation, guitar lessons, Costco (and being late to pick up from lessons by 15 minutes), gas fill-up (no time, but I’d get stranded otherwise), appointments at the orthodontist, drop-offs/pick-ups of people and things, more orientations, and football practice. While at practice with Jack, Jon called to see if he could help out with dinner. I love him. He is understanding and doesn’t make me feel bad for not having dinner ready before he heads out for evening meetings. He works hard too, but is always so willing to help me. Tonight was more laundry, a workout with some of my kids, a long discussion with one of my sons, and the beginning of reorganizing and preparing the school room. I didn't get our bedsheets back on our bed till nearly 11:00, and now here I am.

I’d like to say that we got it all done, but it looks like tomorrow will be a similar repeat of today. It’s a mix of trying hard each day, getting things done, winning, failing, trying again. Also, coming along side each other as often as possible.

Sigh. The art of balancing it all as a wife/mom/homemaker is something I strive for. It’s really just learning what’s important and what’s not, when to say ‘no’ and when to say ‘yes,’ that people are more important than projects and goals, and that smiling in the busyness doesn’t take extra time. I am reminded just now that peace and joy, self-control and kindness, and also gentleness are fruits of the Spirit. God is here to help at all times, whether they be times of crazy or times of calm.

My goal is to work extra hard at the outset of the week and reserve some days to soak up a few more care-free summer days. Balance, right?


Last week the kids and I returned to our newest surf spot. We were late leaving in the morning, and disappointed when we discovered a long line of cars to get into the state park. We decided to wait it out, never expecting the holdup to last over an hour. When we finally entered, we found out there was some sort of Volkswagen convention. VW's everywhere.

Waiting. Looking.

Cool, yes?

The little rose caught my eye in this one...

My favorite picture of the day: Olivia and her friend, and Jack as we headed back to our truck after a satisfying day.


Thirst. It has been on my mind for more than a week now. In particular, a verse from the passage of scripture that was read in church two Sundays ago has been heavy on my mind.

"On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink."    
John 7: 37

Jesus cried out and made this invitation! It grabbed me and made we wonder, do I really thirst? Do I have an honest desire for the Lord, the kind that yearns for him relentlessly? The Psalmist said, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God..."  I have been challenged to search myself and ask if I have a true craving for God, or if I find satisfaction in the temporary gifts He has given me here. Do I desire the Giver or just the gifts?

I decided to look a little further. Jesus said in Matt. 5: 6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." Yes! This I understand. I have been satisfied! This comes through seeking God's righteousness rather than striving for my own. My satisfaction has come through receiving a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. In this way, I am fully, 100% satisfied.

Yet, if I have a relationship with God, there should certainly be a continual thirst, so to speak, for Him. This kind of thirst should be persistent, unrelenting, and only quenched temporarily while in communion with Him, and fully quenched someday in glory. I want this thirst!

But I am left with the fact that I'm fickle and easily distracted and often satisfied by that which doesn't truly satisfy.

So I'm telling God about it and asking Him to give me a greater passion for Him. It seems so backward, even weak and silly: My worship to God is humbly telling Him I have a hard time desiring Him and asking Him for help. But this is how needy I am for His help.

The end of God's Word, in Revelation 22: 17, tells us, "The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost." 

Imagine that! This is the invitation to you and to me! No cost, just come! This is the summation of God's desire for us, "Come," that our thirsty soul would be quenched.

He is so worthy of it... of my hunger and thirsting and worship and my all. And I come with nothing but He still beckons me to come, and to keep coming again.

We sang THIS song in church just shortly after the passage from John was read, and it helped me to realize that the quality and depth of my thirst for Him will never match what God deserves, nor could it ever come near to reaching the end of His limitless supply for me! Tonight I am also reminded of a lyric from Sara Grove's song, Open My Hands, that says, "Thirst is no measure of his faithfulness,
He withholds no good thing from us."

It's a wonderful thing to think on as I head to be tonight... er, I mean this morning!


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Provider, Protector, and Our Anniversary

August for us has been nice. July was marked by travel, heavier family involvement in VBS, and for me, preparing for and teaching a two-part Sunday School class for women/moms. August, on the other hand, screams out that summer is passing. I sense an urgency to do all the summer things remaining on our annual "Summer List" which is compiled and maintained by Olivia. I sense an urgency to just be with my kids-- doing fun things, yes, but mostly just being together. We've especially enjoyed the beaches and sleepovers with friends, amidst all my preparations for a new school year. The boys are all gearing up for another season of flag football as well. Over all, we hesitate to think much about fall. We are thoroughly enjoying the present.

Jon was out of town last night, so the kids and I slept out under the stars. Camping, or anything that resembles camping, is not Jon's thing. The rest of us, however, have slept in the open air for at least one night for 6 straight summers. We chose the roof-top this year (an almost-flat portion of our roof) and I'd say it was the best year yet. There were few mosquitoes, we stayed relatively dry, and comfortably cool. In addition, there was a predicted meteor shower, the marine layer was minimal, and the moon was bright. Once settled in, we listened to about two hours of The Hiding Place (Corrie ten Boom) on audio as we enjoyed some of Olivia's fresh chocolate biscotti with milk, and kept an eye out for meteors. We only spotted one before our eyes felt too heavy to care, but I imagined that the stars danced through the sky as I slept all cozied up with my very favorite kids. If anything, the stars twinkled as they normally do and the presence of God enveloped us. Of this I am sure.


August also marks another year of marriage for Jon and I. We think it's pretty amazing, not because we've actually stayed married this far, but simply because it has been 18 years. How is that even possible? Our 10 year anniversary wasn't too long ago, so how could we be at 18 already?! The ring he gave me for our tenth still seems new on my finger!

I don't question if we'll "make it." I really never have. Long before we were married, there seemed to be a right-ness to us being together, like it was so obvious that we'd spend our lives together. From the very beginning, just after I had turned 16, I felt safe with him, cared for, and loved. It wasn't like any other relationship I had ever experienced. At times I feared that he would realize I wasn't what he thought me to be, that he'd realize I didn't measure up in any area whatsoever. And there have been many times since that I have been crushed by the reality that I can't live up to what I'd like to be for him. And yet, he has loved me still. His determination to love me well from the very beginning-- and then through the years-- has been remarkable to me.

The first chapters of my life story are perhaps unusual. Few people have any idea, and most people close to me would likely be surprised. For the first time in any friendship, I shared a bit with a good friend this summer. She marveled that I've turned out "normal!" It's a complicated story to unpack, and of course difficult to retell because I am not the only character. Simply, it is a history marked by both beauty and suffering. When I am asked about my childhood, or when I want to recount my experiences, I have chosen to remember and to convey the beauty only.

Jon obviously knows more of my story, but still only as much as he can observe and imagine. It isn't possible to comprehend fully; only to gather information, to attempt to understand circumstances, relationships, and events, and to listen to me as my heart bleeds out stories and recounts pain. Likely, too, he has felt the effects of it come out in ways I am not even aware of. After all, the first chapters of one's life sets a stage, and the foundation of our stories play out our entire lives.

Jon has been my rescuer. He has been a provider and a leader in ways most can't understand.

But I haven't always seen it this way. In fact, I've resented it and felt guilty for it. I had wanted to be rescued from a difficult situation but felt responsible to stay in... and to not leave and cleave like I should. I've felt guilty and have been made to feel guilty for leaving, and I've struggled with this for years. Jon has been right in it all, strong for me even when I was resistant. I am only now beginning to see the extent of what he has done for me.

It wasn't until recently that I even considered the fact that ALL of my story is God's story for me. Ironic, eh? The theme of this blog-- of most of my life-- is that all of my days are ordained by God. This summer God used someone to help me see that every part of my story is lovingly purposed by God. I hadn't realized that I'd been denying this is some respects. But nothing is/was outside of His will. It's the path that led me to Him, that continues to lead me closer. His story for me has always been purposeful. All of it was intentional and I praise Him for it.

I am now beginning to see some of how God has faithfully protected and provided for me in ways I had not understood previously. And some of this came through Jon.

"My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day, 
for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.

"O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.

"You who have made me see many troubles and calamities 
will revive me up again."

Ps. 71

Our stories are meant to point to God. He intends for us to see His handiwork in ALL the parts of our life, and it ought to be our delight to proclaim His mighty and righteous acts. Otherwise, we live and suffer and rejoice in vain. I pray that my life would not be in vain...


Jon and I enjoyed a short and sweet night away for our 18th. It was absolutely beautiful!

This was our best attempt at a selfie with my bulky camera and zoom lens! It's the best of the bunch: the others looked like my hand belonged to someone else coming from down below, or else I looked like I am going bald!

My favorite person ever


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Boy Stuff

My pool is full of boys right now, and all of my own boys are not even home. They are making fun of Shark Week... the fake blood and far-fetched stories. I'm not sure about their assessments, and I have no opinion. I don't watch things like Shark Week because I prefer to swim in blissful oblivion.

Boys are a ton of fun. I really do enjoy them immensely. And to think I struggled with the reality of another boy each time the ultrasound technician pointed out the "part!" A boy for sure, they said. And I wondered how I would deal with the noise and dirt and, well, boy-ness that would be inevitable. But I have loved it. I would have liked more girls, too, but God knows best and gifts us accordingly.

I know I will never be able to remember everything that captures my attention and humors me about the boys, but I try. Here's to my attempt at trying to remember them well:

This is how I found Jacob, just moments after his shower. He said he wanted to be an Indian. His face paint was some powdery stuff that came from a mushroom he found, which he had crushed up in a nutshell. 

Proud chief-boy

Then there's Andrew. He's been spending hours- days, actually- in this tree.
Jon bought him some rope and a few pulleys, and he used some leftover wood to build some platforms.

He wakes up with plans in his head everyday, and works persistently to accomplish his goals. I won't complain about how the tree looks because this is a million times better than playing video games.

The buckets are filled with rocks and bricks, perfectly measured out so that he can lower himself out of the tree at a smooth, steady pace.

And this note? It was Andrew's way of letting me know I needed to give him a haircut!

Michael is growing at an astounding pace. I went into his room to wake him (never an easy task, probably because of all the energy going into growth), and noticed that his bed is getting small. It won't be long and he'll be needing a size 13 shoe. Remember, this boy is still only 13 years old. Should I be worried?

Since I started this post, I've dished up some ice cream with the some chocolate bars I brought back from Canada. I did it Cold Stone-style. Now there are three younger boys out in the lane way with their bowls of ice cream and they are doing handstands on the concrete. Just moments before they were getting passing drivers to honk. 

The older kids are on the back deck, acting a little more civilized except for odd sounds here and there...


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Just Regular Summer Things

I'm sunburned and water logged.

I'm tired and content, too, because doing things with my kids all day will result in both.

I did a quick research of beaches last night and decided to take my kids to a surf beach we haven't explored so far. It was one of the best yet. It wasn't the easiest to get to, but so worth it. We will definitely be exchanging our local surf place for the extra half hour drive. We parked right on the beach among every imaginable surfer vehicle: VW vans, Jeeps, beat up kidnapper vans, small campers, Mercedes vans, pickup trucks and SUVs. Only people who love the waves seemed to be present, as the beach was not at all crowded, but the water was speckled with surfers everywhere. We picked our spot carefully since I know surfers can be territorial (even though I read this beach is considered more friendly to outsiders).

My kids were in the water before we'd finished setting up. I called my most impulsive kids back in and tried to apply sun screen over wet, sandy bodies. This was a fail. I'm trying to remind myself that sun exposure is actually good for the production of vitamin D as I look at their more-than-rosy faces tonight. Alas, I did what I could. I even had them reapply during our lunch break. I caught one or two of my boys in passing during the afternoon and smeared more sandy, watered-down lotion over water logged skin as they inched back toward the water. As for me, I don't think I waited long enough for the lotion to set before getting in either. And I forgot to reapply at lunch time because I was busy passing out food and lotion to others. So now I'm burned.

The older kids had surf boards, the younger ones had body boards. Shortly after arrival, I watched for a while: Michael and Olivia were doing great on the waves, but overall I was getting uncomfortable with how far out everyone was getting. Jack is little. So is Andrew. Especially when I considered the fact that they were way out with a bunch of well conditioned and experienced surfers (who were possibly the territorial types). So I grabbed the spare body board, the one with a missing leash, and began to paddle out. I paddled and paddled like never before, seriously feeling out of my league. Normally when I body board with the kids, it's the normal variety that sends us up onto the beach. Not this. I kept telling myself, "Keep going! You have to get to the kids! Keep going!" Wave after wave, I felt like I was making no progress. Or maybe my kids were just moving further out to sea? And how on earth did Jacob make it past those waves?

Finally, there they were. I could see them grinning at me past the crashing white. All was good with the world again. It actually seemed much safer out there. Enjoyable, actually. So we stayed and played until we were hungry for lunch.

'Course, I didn't relax after lunch either. I spent my time counting heads passed crashing waves. And, evidently, grilling my skin. I remember thinking about the sunscreen, but only with regards to the kids, and about wanting my kids to always be safe. I wondered how many things we as moms try to get right all the time. Try as we may, life just happens. Maybe the best of experiences in life involve a certain amount of risk. I'm not going to beat myself up about all the ways I don't get it right. I wonder if a life well lived comes to the one who always gets everything right anyway.

Once home, I just had to go swimming with the boys in the pool... just for the fun of it and also to cool my skin! Tonight, Jon brought our older two to youth group, and I sat on the roof with the little boys till it started to get dark. Jack was wearing a muscle shirt, his little dark body looking super cute. What can I say? It was a day well lived, and we will all remember it fondly.


A few recent pictures:

Jack, doing his VBS worksheet out in the lawn as he waited for me to cut his hair.

It's the season for green beetles, which means tons of entertainment for my younger boys.
I know I've shared this before, but they tie a thread to the body of the beetle. When it flies away, it is essentially on a leash. (A beetle-kite is another way to describe it.)

Getting it set to go.

It's hard to focus on a flying beetle, so here it is on just a few inches of "leash."

I love the creativity...

Jon and I celebrated our 18th anniversary on Monday with our kids. Some of my kids set up a fun little hang out place for us on the roof. After dinner, this is where we enjoyed our crêpes and ice cream drizzled with Olivia's raspberry sauce. 

These next two pictures were taken in the afternoon as some of the kids played chess in our little spot.

Dinner time was getting late and the marine layer blocked out the sun. 

Eighteen years of marriage seems crazy. Lately I've been realizing just how much God has protected and hedged me in through my husband. He has been a shield and a deliverer from people and situations many times over. It's hard to describe, really, at least in a few words on a public blog. 

I love him immensely for it. 


Friday, July 22, 2016

Just a July Post

July is just a good month, and we love summer a whole lot around here. The pool and beach have been amazing this week, especially with this heat wave hanging around. I use the term 'heat' loosely though, as our coastal heat doesn't compare with most other places. Our fans are humming and the windows are open, and we will sleep quite comfortably with just a light covering tonight.

The weeks of summer are going quickly, and it makes my heart sink just a little when I think of it. If only we could have summer longer.

Last Sunday I had an impromptu party for Jon's birthday, which meant that my birthday was the day after the party. This was perfect: People for him, and satisfaction for me! I've always loved the day after hosting a party or get-together, when there are traces of a good time had with friends with conversations and moments to be remembered.

My birthday was mostly a normal day, though I did enjoy my first experience with birthday wishes on Facebook. I woke early with Olivia because she had an early morning rehearsal to attend, enjoyed some devotional time, then had breakfast with the boys. I've already forgotten the rest of the morning, but I'm sure there was housework and errands (did I shop for VBS costume materials on that day?), then pickup from church, lunch with the kids, an orthodontist appointment with a certain boy who lost his retainer in Canada, drop off/pick up at guitar lessons for Olivia... and some enjoyment intermingled throughout. We all went out to an early dinner and a chocolate treat before Jon's meeting with the other elders at church.

Later, I decided to run 8 miles. Eight for my 38th.

I'm not sure what most women do on their birthdays, but this was very satisfying for me. Actually, the fact that I didn't mind my birthday was a first in a very long time, so maybe this is why it was so satisfying. I've lamented the fact of getting older since I was 10. Maybe that's odd, I don't know. This year I was simply content with what is, aging and all. I just felt thankful to be alive, thankful for the years I've walked this earth. It's a gift, really.

Maybe I am finally growing up a little.


Tonight we finished dinner at 6:27. We decided to work hard for 33 minutes (till 7:00), then head out for a walk in town. {Jon used his chain saw to cut some logs for the wood pile, Olivia folded laundry, Michael vacuumed, Andrew helped me in the kitchen with dinner clean-up, and Jack tidied up the yard and pool area.} I've always preferred to reward work with play. No, actually, it's more accurate to say that summer and years and life are passing quickly, and we need to make sure we get out and enjoy it... the work was just bonus.

On the way to Starbucks with their gift cards...

We still like to act like kids

My main squeeze

An outtake, because the two extra faces make me laugh...

Make the most of your days...