If Every Night I Did This

Last night I sat on the porch swing alone and took in a breath of serene. I had nothing in my hands but rest. The fireflies’ intermittent glow was mesmerizing, as I listened to the cicadas’ serenade. My thoughts came to rest on goodness – even my weariness is a daily reminder of my dependence on God. I sighed a short prayer. My Father’s good pleasure allows me the lives of these babies that I so delight in!

In the clear air above me the stars hung low. I felt small, but not insignificant – the day had been a sacrifice of love. Everyday, it seems, my life is imperfectly offered to others. My body was a chair, my body was a cradle, my body was a soft and gentle comfort. I am used, fulfilled, and content.

It was not that yesterday was harder than other days. There was nothing exceptionally draining about it. I craved the tranquility and stillness of that porch-swing moment – the quietness to pray and reflect. Evening solitudes help me get my heart and mind ready for the beautiful mess of the tomorrows.

On that swing, my heart overflowed as I continued to pray for the children – for the moments of the day that they probably will never even remember. I pray for the big one who needs to lean on God to overcome, for the child that didn’t listen to instruction, for the boy who asks questions and tells jokes, for the one who was unkind and needed discipline, for the girl that can’t sit still long enough to eat her breakfast, for the little one that had a difficult time smiling at a kind stranger with a complement. They may never remember these days, but the moments shape me and make me grateful. Mine certainly isn’t an extra-ordinary life, but a life filled with Extra-ordinary Grace.

May my children know today how deeply they are known by God.

with love. Damaris

…for love is strong as death

The fragrance of the wedding lilies and the echoes of the bridal pearls flood my senses. This day. Fifteen years in covenant.

My Love,

Yesterday I looked through my twine-wrapped bundle of daily letters sent from you and your shoebox of letters from me. I read how two souls longed to be poured out and lovingly received. I had visions of when our story began – We spent every minute we could together, then so soon we vowed. Our covenant words still clear: “I will do you good and not harm all of the days of your life.”

These golden fifteen years have transformed us together through the delight of God, and He has bountifully blessed us by the gifts of seven-fold.

Your hand and heart give out blessings to us and others, and you never cease to minister comfort, joy, help, healing, strength, and safety. We are satisfied in your unselfish kindness.

The verse still etched inside my ring:

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm,

for love is strong as death.” – Song of Solomon 8:6

with unending love. Damaris

Sharing Life…not Just a Roof

photo credit: Daddy

Spending time with all the children is a such a delight to my soul, and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to be home with them. I’ve found that, just like any other relationship, spending time together fosters closeness. Over the years, I have found different approaches which have helped enable getting to know each child better.

Even though for the past…seems like forever…years we’ve had a baby, a toddler, and a couple school aged children; because we homeschool, spending individual time with the older children has not been difficult. We’ve worked on reading, memorization, writing, etc. on a regular basis and often in a different room focused from the other children. Of course, the way homeschooling goes, this time was often more than just schoolwork and would include conversations, prayer, instruction, and yes, correction.

In addition, one rewarding activity that I have grown to love is playing a board game on my bed with one child at a time. When Nathan works in the evenings on this old farmhouse’s aches, I invite one school age child to pick their favorite game. We play on my bed, where it’s just us, but only on the nights that Daddy’s working and usually for about 30-45 minutes.

With the toddlers, there is always much time spent daily in discipline or instruction. These times of correction are spread throughout the day and require my undivided attention. These are not always “happy” moments (as you can imagine), so I have always loved dedicating some moments for sitting on the floor in their room with them on my lap, reading board books just before laying them down for afternoon nap. As parenting goes, most of them may never remember these moments, but the joy is mine, and I cherish the memories!

I’ve always been able to nurse our babies, and one benefit I’ve enjoyed, is that I get to spend lots of restful times sitting and holding them and talking or singing while I change them. My babies have usually had their last feeding after the other children are in bed – this has worked great for Nathan and I to get special one-on-one time with the baby and enjoy this fleeting stage of togetherness.

I’ve left my most favorite family time for last! For the last several years, Monday night has been family read aloud night after dinner. We have read through poetry books, kid’s classics, but most often Nathan reads Christian biographies. Mostly I fold laundry while he reads; curled up in their pajamas, the children hang on every word!

with love. Damaris

Special Visitors

Being born and raised in Spain with all of my relatives still there, there are many ocean miles which separate my family! Although this wonderful technology allows us to talk regularly to my parents, my aunt, and my cousins, a visit from my parents is a celebratory occurrence. A couple of weeks ago, my dad and mom spent several days with us. Here are little snippets of happy days:

We celebrated my mom’s birthday simply, but not without enjoying a delicious carrot cake. Carrot cake has been her favorite as long as I can remember. No one can decide if it’s the butter cream frosting or the moist spice cake…or both…that they love the most – I’ll have to share the recipe with you soon!

Nathan and I went to dinner and a stroll through town on his birthday. Yayo and Yaya (my children’s names for my parents) put the kids to bed early so when we came back from our date it would be restful and quiet. Isn’t that so sweet and thoughtful?

The more time I spend with my parents, the more I realize how I sometimes underestimate their deep genuine care for their adult daughter. Sometimes I’ve wondered if I crazy love my children only because they need me so much now – will it always be this strong? I know it won’t fade when they no longer depend on me, though, because I’ve seen it in my parents.

How grateful I am for their commitment to persevere and grow in their marriage! They’re blessed to share 45 years together. Even though they’d acknowledge many mistakes along the way, with that time comes many insights as well, I’m sure.

I love to see Yayo and Yaya’s enjoyment of my children! Although many months go by between visits, everyone’s excitement, and love so obviously abounds when we’re together again. The kids need not a minute to warm up and pick up where they’d left off.

Before my parents left, my Dad encouraged me to take a few minutes daily for myself. “It will help you these days and in the future if you have 15 minutes of quiet and alone time.” His advice has helped me look for moments to light a candle, read a Psalm, add prayer requests to my prayer notebook, or make a new simple scone recipe without little floured helping hands.

Gracias, Yayo and Yaya!

with love. Damaris

Mercy Triumphs

Biblical principles are not the same as practical methods…but this is a trap I can easily fall into!

You know, we all have something in common – we like to be appreciated and commended. Even if you are not a conflict-phobic person like me, condemnation or criticism (or even just the perception of these) can still be really hurtful.

Sometimes this ‘condemnation’ doesn’t come from anyone other than ourselves – the lure of comparison. This can happen even between sweet Christian friends. It seems we so quickly become consumed by our lacking when we compare our worst to someone else’s best – and isn’t that the way we always compare ourselves, our worst – their best? The truth is (and we know this deep down) all of us are unique creatures with varying gifts and interests. Our varied natures are why we have different ways or “methods” for pretty much anything and everything!

Our value is not found in these distinctions, like organic gardening, essential oils, natural foods, or homemade bread baking. Yet, our practices (especially culturally en vogue ones) can make us feel superior. The reality is that these are methods, not biblical principles. While the Bible certainly is explicit and thorough in laying out God-mirroring principles for daily living for fulfilling our purposes, the Bible doesn’t go into the micro details or “how-to’s.” It is explicit (and wholly sufficient)concerning all areas of life including parenting, family planning, finances, relationships…

How about this example: a biblical principle is that parents are responsible before God for their children, so a mother should feed her baby. We’d all agree to that, right?! But breastfeeding or bottle feeding, scheduled or on-demand? Now things get sticky…but these are just methods to obey a principle.

How about you? Do you keep a grocery list on your phone, do you keep an ongoing list on the whiteboard in the kitchen and take a picture of it before heading to the store, do you have an app for grocery shopping, or maybe just pen and paper? Maybe you use a delivery service? The same questions can be asked about our chore lists, house cleaning routines, or cooking from scratch.

If we’re not careful, we can be vulnerable to feeling criticized when we hear, “Can you believe she still has to get up in the middle of the night with her 10 month old? Why aren’t you homeschooling? Why are you homeschooling?” I need to remind myself that if my words begin to sound like this, I’m in danger of damaging, causing stumbling, or encouraging defensiveness to those I care about.

Our culture’s practices and opinions change, but we must be so careful to distinguish between principles and methods! Here’s another principle that is worth remembering…

Mercy Triumphs over judgment. every time (James 2:13).

with love. Damaris

And I Miss Him

photo credit: Eva

Moms with little ones understand that days can be long and nights far too short. Days are so full, and nights too brief to feel revitalizing. This is a reality that many can identify with (and some of you are identifying with as of last night!)

When the children were little, Nathan and I took for granted our freedom to converse during dinner, then enjoying each other’s company the rest of the evening. As many of you can appreciate, time and life have changed this dynamic…ever so slightly – Ever since we’ve had a table (yes, there was a time when all we had was a countertop!) Nathan would sit at the head, and I next to him. Now at our long farmhouse table, it’s that way, and it’s been this way since the beginning. These days, however, even though I’m sitting comfortably at my place beside him, I feel the need to raise my hand to have a chance to ask him how his day has been – and I miss him.

When people ask me: “What’s the hardest thing about having seven children?” I don’t really have much to say, although if forced to answer, my reply would probably shock them – not the laundry or the diapers or the grocery bill.

“I miss my husband.”

Sometimes it’s only a couple of trite questions I want to ask, and sometimes it’s truly a deep concern I need to share; but when Daddy’s walking in the door, all the little people long to see him as much as I do! I will wait while they cheer, jump-on, hug, and kiss – and I miss him.

For a long time now, Nathan has been encouraging me to let the children do dinner clean-up – and not me. He insists that they can do it, that it will be fine, that they have to start somewhere, that they’ve done it before, to get out of the kitchen! But I’m just not good at it. Slowly, I’m realizing that I’m not good at it, because I haven’t completely shifted out of the day’s hustling, yet. And I can’t quiet that little voice in my head that nags me to check for empty milk cups that might somehow have ended up in the fridge, or for shrimp left-overs safely stowed – in the pantry (both of these are true events – grrr!)

Since the evenings have been warmer recently, we have been eating supper out back under a massive maple. We sit al fresco on benches at the pine table. Tonight I am resolved – I will sit with him on the bench as usual, but I will allow the minutes to linger while I cherish the moments of slow. The busyness will be for the children (they have the energy, after all!) and mine will be the cleansing, not of the kitchen, but of the days’ pesky stressors. We will talk about vision and inspiration and just relax. We will have time to think and to listen, to breathe in the air and breathe in each other’s presence. I will be present, honest, and renewed.

My prayer is that this new habit will be recreated again and again!

And that’s my prayer for you too, no matter what your presence-plunderers may be.

After all, while our children have graciously become our overflowing joy and bounty….Adam and Eve were alone-in-the-garden!

with love. Damaris

She Called Me Beautiful

She is always pleasant and a good listener. My friend is not agreeable just to get along. Neither is she a flatterer. And yet the other day she called me beautiful. Although it was my home my friend was entering, I felt welcomed. “Hello, Beautiful!” she greeted, as she let herself into my house through the kitchen (she always does – and I want her to). Her name for me was warm, sweet, and sincere.

Photo Credit: Daddy

For days my mind kept pondering over this word. Why couldn’t I stop hearing it in my head? Maybe she has never called me by any name other than my own. Why today and not another? – I know it’s more than that. She spread her friendship over me with her quick word, and it proved to be a balm to my soul.

With her gracious words, my friend brought sweetness to my week. She was seeking to encourage, and that she did. The Proverb says that our speech should be like the honeycomb. Not flattery, but genuine words that give value, appreciation, respect, and esteem. “Honeywords” for the hearer’s benefit and good.

“And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, …” I Thessalonians 3:12

with love. Damaris