Six sweet years old!

This little girl’s birthday is always so momentous for me.

She’s been six for over a month now, but I’ve found myself thinking of her birth and all that she changed in my life, every day since we celebrated.

I feel like I look at her and I see pure life.  She has always been that way.

Her light has brightened all that has come since.

There is something so rare in such a gift.  A new volume in my life began the moment she was finally placed in my arms.

(We spent her birthday with some of our favorite friends…the bears and their keepers.  She always seems to stand out a bit. :) )

Her life marks where the pages in my life crease and a new story begins.  It was her healing comfort that I held to as I learned to let go of all that I wanted, all that I saw myself as, and turn completely to God and a new path.

There can be no change or transformation without pain and sacrifice.  But she has taught me that there is also indescribable joy.

(Her song is a mashup of the girls’ two favorite songs right now…seems appropriate!  Her video shows a fun day of feeding bears and watching wolves up in West Yellowstone.)

Priorities

You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside.

— Stephen R. Covey

I’ve been thinking a lot about my life and my priorities lately…my life over the past few years has felt more and more rare.  Time feels too precious to waste.  Our family has progressed through so many interests and activities, but deep inside, a deeper Something has burned.

I’ve lost my taste for rushing.  I just can’t do it anymore.  Hurrying all the time made us weary.  So we have left it behind and have come home to the woods, where we have found ourselves and God and a new depth to our lives that I could never have imagined.

As I watch my children lie on the ground and look up into heaven, as I watch them dance in the smoke of a campfire, as they dig their snow tunnels, as they learn the call of each new bird that is starting to come back… As I walk through the woods at night with Matt, as I go down to the river to just listen, as I whisper hello to the trees each morning… I know that what we have chosen is right.

A slower, more deliberate life has become a priority for us.  I am constantly surprised at the worry people feel about this choice, at those who try to convince me to start a busier life again.  They worry that our children, or even that I, will not have the “enriching” we need.  It’s so sad, really…people have forgotten how to rest and to think and to become.

A life in the woods isn’t what is in store for everyone, or even what is desired.  But don’t be afraid to know your heart’s desire…don’t be afraid of your priorities.  The world will try to snatch them from you.  Let that burning inside carry you on, courageously.

Thanks Chantile, for the reminder tonight. :)

What we’ve been up to lately

I used to carry my camera everywhere, anytime I stepped outside.  For the past few months, though, I’ve stopped doing that as much.  I noticed that sometimes I was capturing moments, but not living them as much as I wanted to.  Instagram has been handy…snap a picture with my phone and post it later.

The girls and I spend a majority of our day outside.

This means snow caves, campfires, and marshmallows.

The girls have started to prefer to eat outdoors.  They love to be out in it as much as possible.

This has led to us cooking our meals outside once in a while, too.  (A couple of the kids are really getting into this.)  :)

We’ve had a few sick days…

…and lots of snowshoeing, especially for Matt and I.

And lots and lots of snow!!

Life has been very, very good lately.  I’m woefully behind on my blog, though…so more posts to come.  Of particular note is the birthday of a newly-minted six-year-old!

See you soon. :)

Dear Body,

I’m writing to say I’m sorry.

You and I have been at odds for a while now.

In the past year, I have eaten more and eaten healthier than I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve felt happy.  I’ve hiked mountains and I’ve waded streams and I’ve done all of this while carrying a baby on my back and with many children scrambling and laughing alongside me.  But in the past year, I’ve also stopped nursing and have gained weight…a lot more than I hoped to.

So, when I should have been loving you every moment, I’ve loathed you.  I’ve secretly hated you.  I’ve been embarrassed to be seen with you.  Why?  Because I’ve bumped up a couple of pants sizes and my belly has gotten poochy.

You probably already know this, Body, but I am finally coming to grips with the fact that I have a problem.  Somehow, long ago, I allowed myself to believe that at least some of my worth was attached to the size of my waist.  I’ve been through many roller coasters with that battle in my life, and though I thought it was over, I’ve recently realized that it wasn’t.

I’ve hated you.  I’ve punished you.  I’ve starved you.  I’ve overfed you in despair.  I’ve tried to trick you.  I’ve said cruel things about you.  I’ve done anything and everything but love you.

Even when you were giving me everything I could have ever dreamed, I never just loved you.

When did I stop seeing all that you’ve done?  When did I stop seeing all that you are?  When did I stop noticing all that you give me?

When did I forget what true beauty was?  Did I ever know?

I guess this is also a thank-you note.

You’ve carried six beautiful, darling babies.  You’ve delivered them safely to my arms, in spite of all that you had to face in doing so.  I’ve cursed my pooch and my love handles, all the while forgetting that each roll, each stretch in my skin, each new layer to my ever-softening belly was a reminder of my six beautiful gifts from Heaven.  Thank you.

You’ve nursed abundantly and fed six little darlings.  I didn’t realize until recently what a gift that actually was.  So many women would give anything for a body that would do so much.  I’m sorry I complained about how you looked when nursing.  Just thank you.

You have strong, steady legs that have carried me miles up mountains, and a strong, straight back that has carried a large, healthy baby along with me.  Though I cursed you for never having the slender, twiggy legs that I always wanted, I should have thanked you.  You have long, strong arms that have held hands and carried children when they were tired.  Instead of crying about “bat wings,” why have I never thanked you for arms that can hold so much?  Thank you.

The other week, when my little five-year-old was laying on my lap, she said, with all the sweetness  and contentment and love and innocence in the world, “Mom, I’m so happy that you’re fat now.”  You remember?  I went into my room and cried and hated you more than ever.  I felt that if even a five-year-old was noticing, I must have a bigger problem than I thought.  And this brings us to the day I started to change.  Her perfectly innocent comment struck at the ultimate loathing I had for you: my tummy.  I’ve been doing so many of my tried-and-true tummy flattening poses, more than ever.  But somehow, Body, you’ve been responding so much slower these days than you used to and have decided that you’re going to be better friends with gravity than you are with me.  And you know what?  Thank you.  Over the past few weeks, as I’ve tried to stop hating you, I’ve noticed something.  My children don’t just hug me these days.  They hug me and stay.  They sink into your softness and they feel peace.  Because my daughters aren’t looking for a supermodel or a six-pack to hug.  They are looking for a warm, gentle, soft mother.

So I’m asking you to forgive me.  I’m sorry for thinking that my value as a woman was in any way connected to a number or a letter on a piece of clothing.  I realize now that so much of my value has been tied up in you all along, but not in the ways that I thought.

I’m not over this yet, but I’m going to try hard to finally get over it, and to love you.  I will exercise because I feel happy when I do, not to try to achieve a smaller dress size.  I will eat plenty of good food and give you what you need.  I will enjoy the sweet abundance of the earth…the sweet fruits, crisp vegetables, and dear, abundant grains.  I will not be afraid to let you be happy.  I will climb mountains and splash in rivers and I will love you and be grateful that you are healthy, alive, and able to do all of it.  And most of all, I will hold my husband and my babies and let them fold into my new softness, because giving them that joy is the greatest gift of all.

Love,

Me

On ceasing to rush.

Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.
- John Muir

Each time I step out into the woods, each time my feet reconnect with the ground and my hands brush the bark of the trees, I am renewing vows.

Remaking promises with myself, the trees, and God.

When my youngest was born, I changed.  I became a new and different person.  Finally I saw, truly saw, what I had, and I vowed to quit rushing.

Mountains know the secrets we need to learn.
– Tyler Knott Gregson

It took some time for me to learn to let go of things that aren’t as important.  It took longer for me to learn to not worry so much about what other people might think if we stopped or didn’t do something.

It’s been two years now, and gradually, we have changed everything.  We’ve left things behind us and we’ve slowed down.

A few weeks ago, I was out in the woods , walking down towards the river, alone.  One of those rare, Saturday moments that a sweet husband is able to give me once in a while.  So many things have changed in our lives since moving here.  It’s been exhilarating and at times disorienting as I’ve tried to figure out what God truly wants for my life now.  I kneeled in the snow and prayed, and when I stood again, I had my answer.

Since then, I’ve focused on slowing down and letting go even more than before.  I’ve given my heart to my kids and I’ve stopped hurrying.  I’ve stopped worrying about being somewhere or getting things done.  I’ve just given myself to them and their dreams and their little everyday wishes.  It’s so incredible what they have time to do and to become when they aren’t rushed from one thing to the next.  (And I’m not talking about having time to practice the piano for 12 hours.  I’m talking about the soul-searching, whole-being development they have had time to explore.)

I’m wildly happy, for the first time.  I’m focusing on the few things in my life that I know truly matter.  And though there are good and dear things I’ve left behind, I know that, right now, I’m doing what is right for my life.

I’m quiet and I listen.  I’m watchful.  We still work hard.  But we’re quiet and more and more, only have time for things that really matter.  There was a time in our lives when we didn’t have time for snow.  That makes me sad.  I watch my girls in the trees, lost in dreams, and I can’t imagine telling them to stop getting wet or dirty so that we can be somewhere in an hour.  I just don’t think I could do that to them ever again.

One of the nicest things to realize is that, sans pine trees, I could have had this life all along.  I just had to have the courage and faith to stop worrying, stop pushing, stop rushing.

In ceasing the rush, I feel like I’m finally discovering things I’ve waited so long to discover.  I see my children.  I see others.  And more and more, I see myself.

Lie down among the pines for a while, then get to plain pure white love-work … to help humanity and other mortals and the Lord.
- John Muir

A long-awaited birthday post: Along for the ride

My darling babe, my little Love, has turned two.

It’s been almost a month now since her birthday. I’ve been in deep denial.  Maybe that’s why I haven’t posted about it yet.  :)

There is something so tremendously special about this little babe.  There’s something magical about her love.

Though two means coming into her own and discovering all the frustration of not being able to communicate all she is feeling, I wouldn’t trade it for a second.  She is an angel and a miracle in my life, and one of my greatest blessings.

Being the sixth child, I think she often must feel that she is just “along for the ride” on this Richmond train.  (Hence the theme of her birthday video.)  She may be in the thick of her terrible twos, but at the end of the day, she’s everyone’s favorite little buddy and they want her along for the ride.  As she gets older, though, she’s making her own “ride,” and it’s thrilling to watch.

(A day of fun in West Yellowstone, MT…one of our favorite fun places.)

Also of note is the birthday we just had this weekend, Matthew’s.  It consisted of a horse-drawn sleigh ride under the stars along the river, speaking in church, backhoes, and getting stuck in two separate snowbanks in two separate cars.  It was a really fun weekend, actually, and though I didn’t get one single picture of the sweet birthday boy, I Love him dearly and I loved every second of celebrating his birthday.  Certainly a birthday we’ll never forget. :)

(This is after getting dug out a bit, before getting pulled out.  You can see our suburban in the front, and our neighbor’s car stuck on the opposite side of the road in the background. Helpful friend’s truck in the middle, ha ha!)

Two square feet

Today, I cleaned off two square feet of counter space.

I’m sitting in the dark, the remains of the fire crackling.  The children are in bed.  The evidence of our day is strewn in chaotic strands around the house.  The evidence is everywhere.  Dirty clothes.  Dirty socks.  Boots.  Oh, the boots.  Dishes.  Thread and scraps of fabric.  Scraps of paper.  Markers with mismatched lids.  Tonight, in a literal spare minute, I hurriedly cleaned two square feet of counter space.  I wiped the crumbs and straightened the cookbooks.  If you walked in right now, you might be tempted to think that I am disgracefully incapable of cleanliness, and that the two square feet is a mockery to housewifedom.

sleddinghill

Today, I also loved.  I loved these girls of mine and I gave them all of my heart and I shut off my phone and I sat near them.  I helped them.  I played with them.  I taught them.  And I only had time for two square feet of anything else.

Tonight, I’m okay with that.  Today, I just loved them.

How to spend a perfect day

West Yellowstone, MT

It’s hard to swing in deep snow, even though the sunny sun has melted over a foot of it this week!

Burying oneself is better. :)

Blossoming.

I may have died a little.

And a little more.

There is nothing better than sisters.  And a big hill.

Snowcoach tour of Yellowstone.

Magic.

If you look closely, you’ll see an elk cow near something dark on the ground.  It is the carcass of her calf.  This has stayed with me and left me humbled. 

Pardon our long johns.  :)  The snowcoach was warm and we removed a few layers.

A thousand windows into heaven.

Topped off with a dream come true.

Perfect.

Upside-down

Living in this pure, cold place has changed me.

I feel so much nearer to God.  I also feel turned upside-down.

I feel upside-down and inside-out.  I feel so utterly exposed to myself: all my faults, all the things that I want to finally finish and change.  I am shocked and at times disheartened at all I still have yet to do.

This is the year, though, that I have prayed and longed for.  A time to finally truly endure the change that I so long to undergo.

I love to walk in the deep snow.  I leave the paths skied out by others and I plunge into the depths joyfully with my happy snowshoes.  Matthew knows me well enough to give me that time every once in a while.

I love to lose myself in the trees and the snow.  I love the work and the effort of sinking into snow that deep.  I love the pounding of my heart and the cold, crisp air and the whispers of the pines.

I love the prayer and the reverie.  I feel washed clean.

And even though I feel absolutely upside-down and sometimes confused by the things going on in my life and heart, I have this hope that I hold on to: that one day, one day, I will become what I was meant to become.

“And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

- Luke 1:45

Christmas and onward

It’s always so hard for me to move on after Christmas.  I love Christmas so much.  It makes me so glad, that everything after seems duller somehow.

But somehow, this year, I feel changed by the Christmas season, more than usual.  Moving on has been easier, as I have felt the new, better person that I know I can be.   I feel so glad, so grateful.

Christmas, everything about it, is a gift.  Christmas means everything to me.

This year, Christmas has reminded me that a new life and a new self is truly, truly possible.  And for the first time, I think I truly believe it for myself.  I’ve always known that becoming new was possible for others.  Somehow, I have partially denied it for myself.

No more.  Merry, merry Christmas.  Blessed are we!