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A Day Wrapped in a Bow

Today offers us an unexpected gift. Just to be home, the three of us girls. Little women with braids and pig tails color in the kitchen and take imaginary day-trips to make-believe ice-skating rinks along with well-loved baby dolls. I let anxiety rise over this very lived-in house and wonder why I just can’t seem to catch up . . . wonder why I spend so much trying when I never seem to succeed. Little voices call “Mama!” from across the house and I roll my eyes as I mop the Pine-Sol and shower water currently dripping down my arm. I mutter, wondering when they’ll ever learn to seek and find me, rather than yelling across the house. I smirk now, remembering my mother wondering the very same thing.

 

I wash and change bed sheets and vacuum dust out of wall corners . . . add a few things to my resident Good Will bag sitting in the closet, for some reason feeling this great need to organize and freshen and live in peace. And even though days like this make me feel a bit restless and I mutter and complain, wishing I could just be left some quiet in order to complete my tasks in a timely manner, I realize that this is what makes a home. Little ones underfoot. Taking a few minutes to potty train and read a book, clean the shower, color on the kitchen floor, scrub a toilet, look for a missing doll, vacuum dust bunnies out of the corner, change a diaper, fix some lunch, make another mess, wipe crumbs from the kitchen counter.

 

This is peaceful homemaking at its best. I will enjoy the day.

 

The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.

~Thomas Moore

Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

~1 Corinthians 10:31

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Hope and Stay

Sometimes discontent and discouragement come barging in through all your long-closed (or so you thought), barricaded doors and they tear you down and they beat you up and your bruises affect the way you love. And you wonder how these not-so-very-nice guests ever came in at all til you realize that you secretly invited them in. And of course, they eagerly and voraciously took you up on your whispered invitation.

 

Light the candles, wipe the counters, fill up every corner of your house with vicarious worship via Pandora. Some days you have to fight the discontent, the ugly, ungrateful, peering-over-the-fence heart with every dusty weapon you can possibly pull out from your arsenal. It doesn’t have to be like this.

It can’t go on like this. It has to stop.

 

Just to be still in all He’s given. In all He’s giving. In all this right-here, around-me beauty.

#729 matches aflame

#730 flickering light, reflecting in the dirty panes

#731 mulled cider, pumpkin spice

#732 golden leaf, fluttering in the cold wind, clinging to the life it knows

#733 letting go

#734 The solid Rock on which I can stand

#735 my neediness and how He can fill it, if I just wait and seek

#736 two little girls pretend-fighting over whose mama I am

#737 clean tubs

#738 sweet, though unnecessary, thank-you notes

#739 truth-filled lyrics

#740 not getting everything I want, when I want it

#741 waiting for his leading

#742 that He knows how to live the in-between

#743 new words

#744 honesty and forgiveness

#745 a reflection, realizing what I’ve been

#746 a Helper, to restore

#747 surrounded family

#748 learning to truly love

#749 that I have One I can follow

Deep Breaths

No offense to whoever came up with the term “Home Manager,” but I’ve never really cared for it. Maybe it’s because I never wanted to go into management as a nurse? Maybe it’s because I prefer to be a follower, not a leader (Should I be ashamed to actually admit that? Oh well. It’s true!). But more than that, I think I dislike it because aren’t we *more* than merely managers of our homes? We chauffeur and plan schooling careers and weed through extra-curricular activities, we work, we clean, we cook. But we also care for more than just the outside activities coming *onto* our families. We notice when one of our children is quieter than normal, or their little eyes get that tired-kind-of-glazed look in their eyes. We take note when our husbands need a little encouragement, or maybe his favorite snack waiting for him after a long day at work. Our eyes roam like hawks when our kids are on the playground and we help them navigate the crazy kids and the tall, looming, “oh, it’s FUN!” slide.

 

We are LIFE facilitators.

 

And sometimes, facilitating life means giving yourself grace. If your husband’s working late for two weeks? You are going to need grace, my friend (I’m there!). Give yourself a break. Maybe your kids would like a break from the meat and potato dinners and simply love a little mac n’ cheese. Take the time to soak in the tub and read your favorite book for a few nights. Because YOU, my dear, are going to need extra energy to keep yourself in a good mood. TRUST me. 🙂 Let the laundry get backed up. Go outside and play with the kids. Will the house get on your nerves? You bet it will. But I’ll bet you a million bucks that you’ll stay more sane by getting through the “this-is-a-bit-stressful” times of life by taking some really deep, tangible breaths of refreshment than by running yourself ragged, trying to keep up with your normal appearances.

 

Because you, you wonderful mama friends, YOU are the fragrance of the home. When you gasped for breath and sweat beaded your brow and that little bundle let out its first cry? That was only the beginning. You continue to be the giver of life in your home as your family grows.

 

And aren’t we glad that we have an even Greater Giver of Life? To help. To guide. The Grace-Giver.

Whimsy Prayers and Fleet-Footed Answers

There have been times in my life, really the majority of my life, where money was tight. I grew up the oldest of eight children, so you can imagine that I grew up on hand-me-downs and learned not to ask for much. But He still always provided through our hard-working father and through people who truly loved our larger-than-average family and I never wanted for necessities. I grew up and Jonathan and I walked down the aisle, arrived home all giddy from our honeymoon and suddenly panicked because we thought we didn’t have anything left in our newly joined bank account. We thanked God as we found $500 automatically deposited from my one-week-behind nursing paycheck. Our first week home, together, and we breathed thanks to the Provider of all things.

 

Then we were DINKS. You know? Dual Income, No Kids. So, we went to the movies a lot and ate out way too often. But 2 years passed, and oops, we were going to have a baby! We saved, saved, saved every penny we could so that I could stay home with our baby girl when she arrived. She came and I stayed home and we survived on one income while simultaneously trying to become debt-free (that ‘s a whole other story!). We didn’t buy things like fabric softener or extra snacks. We stayed home from the movies and my daughter wore wonderful hand-me-downs (I’ll *always* love hand-me-downs!). I learned as a fairly new wife and mother that there are a lot of things we think that we need to run a household, but really don’t. But now, our season has changed and God has provided. Now the fabric softener makes it into our grocery cart, but still rarely actually goes in with wash. 🙂

 

Before, there were things I thought we needed, but learned we didn’t. Now there are things we don’t need, but have anyway.

 

A girl can get lazy in asking her Provider to provide when He’s already providing more than she’s used to.

But I’m about to dare you.

Low on our priority list of “needs” has been a children’s table for our girls.  With two little budding artists and no current kitchen table, the only place the girls have had to draw is at the dining room table (which the littlest one has a tendency to crawl on top of -gulp-), or the kitchen floor (which is, as I’ve mentioned before, a linoleum parquet and creates little rub-on indentions into their artwork -grin-).  So the girls are often in the dining room, eating or drawing alone, while I’ve gone about making the morning coffee or unloading the dishwasher. Either that, or their guilt-ridden mother has placed two little, good-natured girls in front of their breakfasts and they’ve eaten their cheerios off the kitchen floor (Out of a bowl, out of a bowl!) .  So, for awhile now, I’ve been on a rather low-key hunt for a children’s table, but I just hadn’t found a good price on one and with each morning that passed, I was a little bit saddened that my children were left eating in the other room.

(Side note: Do you really think the girls cared about this?!)

Could I just have gone out and bought a table? Sure! But as I’m sure you know, there are lots of purchases in this young-parenting season of life and a children’s table was pretty much at the bottom of my priority list.

But one day I just casually told God that I’d really like to find a table for the girls. Would He help me find one? Of course, my caveat slipped in and I added something about how, of course, He knows what we truly need, so you know. Whatever. 🙂

Yesterday, one of the young neighbor girls knocked at our front door. We greeted each other with smiles and she said,

“My mom and I were just wondering if you could use a little table for your girls? I’ve outgrown mine and we can’t find a place for it in the house and we just thought your girls might be able to use it.”

You better believe I snatched that table right up! And I can’t tell you how THANKFUL I am for that little table. Yes, because now we have a nice little nook for the girls to eat and draw, but even more because it was simply God’s gift to me. How often do I not ask Him for things simply because I can just go out and do it, buy it, or manage it myself?

But I’ve asked for things on whims and He whizzes right in and in His non-fumbling way, just gives. 

There are some really large things looming in my life and I’ve been knocking on His door about them for quite some time. It is easy to grow weary. Apathetic. But when He answers our “little” prayers, He gives us the gift of hope. It is almost more humbling. That He the Master and Creator of the Universe would supply something so insignificant to one who merely asked on a whimsy.

So, I dare you. I dare myself.

Let’s ask and just see what he does.

Because He dared us first.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:7-11

 

So today, I am thankful. That God hears my “just-talking-out-loud” prayers. That He shows me He’s our Provider in all things. He gives me courage and builds my faith.

 

And I ask for more.

 

#620 summer sunlight, drying the wooden, freshly hosed highchair

 

#621 sidelong, wry smiles over their heads while watching “movies” that only little girls would want to watch

 

#622 homemade pizza

 

#623 unexpected lunch with a friend

 

#624 the way she loves us and the way we all love her

 

#625 long, hot baths

 

#626 the way words stir the soul

 

#627 day-in, day-out, just being with them

 

#628 barefoot girls, running to welcome their daddy home

 

#629 lemonade

 

#630 cucumber blooms (finally!)

 

#631 fresh, flavorful, local tomatoes

 

#632 hence, lots of homemade salsa

 

#633 this messy house

 

#634 celebrating new babies with old friends

 

#635 our littlest one’s initiated night out

 

#636 spontaneity

 

#637 rocks, ages old, right here

 

#638 coffee with a friend and having to be hinted at by the staff to leave

 

#639 Target runs

 

#640 sitting down, playing the keys

 

#641 giving myself grace, which is really HIS grace to me

 

#642 making it through his hard-working week

 

#643 a new, just-for-them table

 

#644 that HE HEARD! that little, barely spoken prayer

 

#645 that He’s just so unexpected

 

#646 How He must love to delight His children

 

#647 and how He must be hearing those big prayers too

 

#648 fuel for hope

Click here to read of more thankfulness!

Apron Ingenuity

Remember all those Jane Austen movies you’ve seen? You know the scenes. The ones where Eleanor, or Emma, or Elizabeth, or maybe even Fanny, happen to see some dashing young man, at a neck-breaking pace, flying up the dirt road, dust billowing behind his gallant post? The ones where all the women scurry to hide their embroidery, shimmy out of their aprons, take deep breaths to calm their beating hearts and stand serenely, waiting for the gentlemen to be ushered into their sitting rooms. I’ve never understood that. Why this hurrying need to look like they’ve nothing better to do than stand at graceful attention?

 

Regardless of the seeming unnecessary hypocrisy of those Austen-esque moments, I’m a bit sold on those aprons. And maybe a bit on the hypocrisy! Because motherhood has opened my eyes. Am I the only stay-at-home mother out there who is constantly walking around with yogurt hand-smears down the side of her skirt, or who looks in the mirror after talking to drop-in company and notices a blob of snot down the back of her shoulder? In a Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Katie was able to protect her daughter from a child molester by hiding a gun under her working apron. She didn’t even have to reveal the gun! She just shot a hole, right through that apron. On Little House on the Prairie, Caroline was able to carry eggs from the barn to the homestead in her calico apron’s pockets. They just seem so practically ingenious! You wear the apron, take care of all your child-rearing, housecleaning, cooking tasks and then when company drops in? Wa-la! Untie your apron and you’re good as new!

 

In fact, while we’re at it, could we make our children wear them too? Because yesterday, when we were outside playing with the neighbor children and I had a chat with my wonderful neighbor, I noticed that Little Dove had watermelon drippings all down her shirt and Firefly had ink stains from another one of her drawings all over the front of hers. Wait, maybe that’s what bibs are for.

 

So, if you happen to drop by and I’m in a gracefully attentive sort of stance, don’t move any sofa pillows when you sit down to chat. You just might happen to find a yogurt-stained apron hiding in amongst the cushions. Don’t worry about sitting on any needles though. I don’t have time to embroider.

 

 

 

Why I Thought I’d Failed the Counting

If you’re a regular around here, you know that my Multitude Mondays have been a little . . . ummm . . . lacking. I haven’t even been able to put my finger on why, but I just. couldn’t. do. it. I couldn’t formally count. I’ve found little things to be oh, so thankful for over this course of thanking-silence, but I just couldn’t come to this space and actually number them one by one. I thought I had failed the counting.

 

Looking back over the last few weeks, I’ve realized that it wasn’t that I’d failed. But it WAS that I was being ungrateful. While there have been AMAZING blessings in our lives over the last few months (and I’ve been extremely thankful for those), I was silently resentful toward God because of my perception that He’s been holding out on me. You see there’s something I’ve wanted for a long, long time.

 

Our own home. You’ve heard me speak of it before.  This quest to stop renting, to buy our own house, one where we could settle and make our own home . . . life . . . became my greatest want. I lived and breathed it.

 

I could think of hardly anything else. And although, yes, I can’t deny it, I’ve grown weary of our, ahem, vintage bathrooms and linoleum parquet, it hasn’t been so much the house that I’ve been so desperate for. It was the feeling of certainty. The assurance that we were free to plant good, solid, long-reaching family roots. Yes, for me, but even more so for our daughters.

 

And while I knew in my head that a house could never provide true security or certainty, inside my heart was pinned to the floor with the suffocating, relentless, false weight that we had to have this house to make us a truly rooted family.

 

We’ve been working toward it. We’ve looked at enough houses that I feel pretty bad for our realtor. 🙂 I have every zip code in the area memorized. If you showed me a picture of a house anywhere in our hometown (in our price range), I could probably quote you the listing price (Isn’t that pathetic?! I’m thinking maybe I should become a realtor?). But we just weren’t finding the one.

 

Then, Jonathan and I jointly decided to make a large family purchase and much of our savings needed to be put toward it. We decided this together. I watched him write the check.

 

But, I grieved. Because I knew, this was putting our home on hold. Just on hold, mind you. I guess a friend was right in dubbing it the “death of a vision” because for a few days, I was in tears. I had a hard time functioning.

 

But I am so thankful. That God wrestled me to the ground and one by one, released my fingers’ death grip on my self-made idol. He pulled my hip and rescued me from my false footing…. And in pleading with him to “bless me” with what I thought I wanted or needed to provide our security, He blessed me with something else . . .

 

Release from a misplaced passion.

 

A freeing demolition of my self-elevated idol.

 

Because it was an idol. When He didn’t seem to be giving me what I wanted, or thought we needed, I doubted His goodness. Even more than doubting His goodness, I doubted His good work in me. I wondered if I was doing something wrong, or if He wasn’t pleased with me or if I didn’t deserve a home.

 

Writing this even now feels so silly. So American. So often, I’ve reminisced over shacks I’ve touched in Peru. Dirt floors. Children drinking water in which I could see things floating. Women begging on street corners, holding borrowed babies, hoping to make a dollar or two. And here I’ve been in a nice home, in truly the best neighborhood I could ever imagine, and in a beautiful community — all gifts the Lord has freely given me — and I’ve wanted to throw it all away.

 

For something I could call mine.

 

Do I still want that house? You bet. But in the meantime, He’s teaching me to trust Him. To be content, right where He has me. To be used. Right. where. He. has. me. And He gently opens my eyes to the truth that I can’t be truly thankful for the “smaller” gifts He gives . . . the birds chirping in the trees, little pitter-pats down our long hallway, mocha frappuccinnos . . . if I’m also resentful that He hasn’t given me something greater. And neither can I be truly thankful for the greater gifts, if I’m flippant in my gratefulness for the smaller. He says to give thanks in everything. Yes, and now I know why. Because there is no distinction in what He’s given or what He’s not given. He gives good gifts. And what He withholds is also His goodness.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8

I have tasted Him. In this refuge.

 

Again . . . taking up the count . . .

#614 His withholdings.

#615 Because He is a good Father and knows how to give good gifts to His children.

#616 What He gives is good.

#617 What He doesn’t give is good.

#618 That He rescues me from myself.

#619 That He loves, even me.

 

Giving thanks in all

Making Time To Be

Posted on

So, I’ve really been mulling some things over lately. And let me just say from the start that this post is just me thinking out loud, not some prescriptive mandate for myself, or anyone else for that matter. If you have any thoughts of your own, I’d love to hear them!

We’ve had a busy couple of weeks. Graduations and ballet recitals. Company and *being* company (I could get used to that one!). Baking and teaching. Shopping and cleaning (this is never-ending, right?). Basically, we have something on the calendar every single night for 9 days, save one. This is unusual for our young family! I watch my younger siblings, and my friends and neighbors, with their kids’ ages spanning all over and all their coming and going and carpooling and rushing and running. They truly need a flight scheduler or something. It amazes to think that these mothers do all they do and stay sane. Those mothers are SUPERMOMS and I am learning so much from them! Because I know, as my children get older, that my day is coming. And to be honest, I’m dreading it a little.

I tend to fall on the other side of the spectrum though. I tend to guard our calendar from getting too full, which is funny for me, because I thrive on being around people. I’m beginning to think that maybe I guard our family calendar to a fault. But when you have a husband who likes to be home and two young children, I know that there are only so many commitments that our little family can take and still be nice to each other. 😉 But I wonder if I’m too protective of our time . . . if we’re not giving enough of ourselves to our community and church. This is a fine line to walk and I want to learn to balance it with grace.

Do any of you mothers out there have any advice or thoughts?

But I do think that on the whole, our culture is waaaaaaaay too busy. Obviously, this is a very personal matter, and I’m not judging families that are exceptionally busy (I’m AMAZED by them, really!). But, in our culture, it seems sometimes like family time usually comes last. There are music lessons and school and work and mom’s activities and sports and church activities and all those things we think are necessary for our children to be well-rounded. We want to give them every opportunity . . . to live their childhoods to the fullest. And I want this too.

But how do you know when all the scheduled opportunities are stealing away from all the child-created possibilities?

What about the quiet family time? The Saturdays when families simply hum through family life – maybe dad cutting the grass and mom fixing lunch and the kids frolicking about, playing house in the sheet-draped tent in the living room? Does this happen much in America anymore? When I was a kid, my sisters and I played the *craziest* things. Yes, Barbies and hopscotch, jump rope and kickball. But we also stretched our imaginations and became The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, incarnate. And somehow, George Washington would come along and we’d all fight in the Revolutionary War together. See? CRAZY. And I cannot *believe* I’m publishing that on the internet for all time. 🙂

But isn’t this childhood? The taking of what you know, what you love, what you’re learning (we’d recently watched a mini-series on George Washington when this imaginative play was taking place), what you’re dreaming, and weaving it all together? Somehow creating your own little worlds, where your young little lives can direct your larger-than-life, imaginative lives, in a way that gives you the excitement and maybe even courage to enter adulthood with all its possibilities. I’m sure there have been studies on this. But my theory is that creative play is central to a child’s learning how to meander and cope and tackle and invest in their own lives.

So, even though my children are a bit young, THAT is why I guard my calendar. Because I want our family to sometimes just be family. To let our children just be. To create. To play. To explore their little minds and imaginations, even in the confines of their own little domain of a bedroom. I think on those times with my little sisters and I’m beginning to believe that they were the most fun and explorative times of my childhood. So while I should probably learn to say “yes” to a few more opportunities that come our way, I hope that as my children grow older and are involved with schooling and learning and music and sports, that I’ll still remember to say “no” to the obscene busyness of rushing, rushing, rushing, and “yes” to the simply being every now and then.

Because I’m beginning to believe that if you don’t purposefully keep some blank spaces on your calendar, there is always going to be something begging to be written in.

Someone please remind me of this in five years. =D