Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives September 2016

Life & Faith / Motherhood

Surprise Summer

The summer, warm and healing, arrived without fanfare, and established a comfortable presence without drama or angst or the always striving that pulses through my veins. Like usual, I was planning to take summer by storm, muscle my household into order, and make the most of every day with some very specific expectations. I didn’t quite expect the peace. I certainly wasn’t looking for it. I was on a road with a heavy load over my shoulder — the responsibility to mother six little people and fill them with whatever good things I could scrape up from the bottom of my own barrel. Summer came, and I don’t know how it circumvented my tight grip on the possibilities for these months, but I found myself seated in a collapsible camp chair in the shade of a big tree, watching my children climb and run, play and discover without me for hours on end — my burden laid down and peace sinking in. We did a lot of nothing that was delightfully everything; hours in open spaces playing, jumping, running, in neon park shirts so mama could spy them from a distance while nursing a chunky love of a baby.

Bright and mild June days set the stage for a summer full of connection, drawing deep from a well of peace, and countless tiny realizations that amount to a total awakening within my heart to a pace and a life that I would never have chosen off the shelf, but embrace with all my heart now that I understand. Some things don’t make sense until you’re holding them. Babies. Ideas. Life-callings. Wholeness that I never thought I would experience quite like this. Every time I think I’m at a whole place, I discover yet another layer of sweetness that comes from trusting God with every detail and every day, relaxing into the reality that so many things I want to control are ultimately up to Him and not me.

We spent many days out of the house. I have always been the stay-in type, probably because I made outings more complicated than they needed to be, and also because many small children of a certain age are quite a challenge to herd in the same direction. I developed a system that involves a kit of items that stayed in the car all summer: 2 strollers, a collapsible wagon, 5 collapsible camp chairs, and a zip-up beach blanket. Every time we went to the park, I would unfurl the above campsite, invite friends to join, and play/chat/eat for sometimes 4 or 5 hours on a given day. It was comfortable, easy, restful. The mobile kids wore their neon park shirts, and all I had to do was count the dots around the park every few minutes and dish out the food when they came around with grumbling tummies. The other part of our system relied on a packing cube that I refilled daily with diapers, clothes for the baby, and sunscreen, and a large packed lunch with water for everyone that could last us all day if we wanted it to.

We did nature walks in various places — intentionally taking notice of plants, wildlife, insects and other natural things, and the kids sketched things on drawing pads with colored pencils. We visited the library a dozen different times and picked up whatever books interested them, and they read on everything from soccer to crochet to adventurous classics. In the hottest months, we went to splash parks and wading pools in the area, and the kids would come home and make projects from the recycling bin, draw, and play. My two older boys caught the sewing bug from their oldest sister and spent hours stitching different haphazardly cut out fabric pieces together to make bags, and stuffed animals, and other randomness. Both are eager to start using a sewing machine, which I won’t allow them to do until they have achieved a level of mastery with hand-sewing that warrants such a promotion. That yet-out-of-reach reality keeps them both experimenting, tediously stitching, and gaining skills that are not typical of boys these days but make me smile.

It wasn’t until part way through the summer I realized I set everything else down to be fully present with the kids. It wasn’t on-purpose, but more of a grace that landed on me. I didn’t write. I didn’t take pictures with my big camera. I didn’t jam our schedule full of urgent things that weren’t important. Instead, I sat still at the parks and pools while they played, watching, listening, pondering, and privately processing the transition into this new season of having six kids in my care. I am in love with them. They are the sweetest, dearest children I can imagine knowing. My desire to be faithful to this mothering task has grown as my heart swells with love for each of them, and I recognize that there are many, many things that threaten to clutter the precious years we have together.

With the arrival of every new baby, I have learned that our family enters a new season that is full of unexpected turns and surprises — some unexpectedly challenging, and some unexpectedly wonderful. It is like we, as a family, are all new again. As a mother, I am all new again. I’m learning that to cease striving does not mean to cease doing. There is plenty to do, trust me. I am doing all the doing, but with a deep understanding that faithfulness is all that God is calling me to. Be faithful to slow down. Faithful to simplify. Faithful to be present and engaged in these years that are very short and will be gone before I know it. Be faithful to do whatever needs to be done without complaint because whatever challenges I face in the day, they are signs of the great an abundant blessing I have received and are worth every ounce of effort I put toward making this life beautiful for those God has entrusted to my care.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

1261. unexpectedly restful summer, 1262. close-to-mobile baby with a sweet personality, 1263. sunflowers and what they mean to me, 1264. loving new-to-my-repertoire vegetables, 1265. fruitful book and bible studies with friends, 1266. figuring out how weekly rhythms really work for me, 1267. charlotte mason education and the lovely philosophy of protecting the wonder of childhood in learning together, 1268. provision for every need, 1269. sweetness of friendships, 1270. new vision for fall and forward