Sunday, November 23, 2014

Keep Calm and Carry On

Growing up is hard. I am taking a growth spurt these days. I don't know what I used to think about..... I have had so many difficult thoughts in the past three months. It feels boggling to try to state them. It feels frightening. But they need to be said , if for no other reason than to make my conclusions more concrete. 
It started with fear. Cold nameless dread. Fear of the headlines. Isis, Ebola, Obama, climate change. Fear of others' tragedy becoming my own. Even now, I am not willing or able to say " oh phooey  on that!" We do live in a fallen world. The sadnesses are great, the injustice, the evil. Looking into the future only brings hard questions to mind. Technology is growing so quickly; along with it grows the potential of evil and wickedness. How dare I look my children straight in the eye, make them feel safe, teach them to love, hope, believe in goodness? The answer to this question is there, sounding trite, but oh so unchangeable. The truth for all this questioning and turmoil is surrender to God. Further truth is that, while you may experience a onetime surrender when you give over your circumstances, your desire for control, your children, your ambition to God, you must also maintain surrender. And that does not mean you must remain in a perfectly mellowed out, peaceful state of mind. It means you must also relenquish the feeling of surrender. It is to trust that God will give you grace when you need it.  And then to proceed. To go on making meals, doing dishes, picking up, giving hugs and kisses, reading stories, teaching life lessons, even though your fear wants to say it's not really worth your time . To find the promises in The Word and feast your mind on those, not the news.  (The media makes its money off your fears, y'know.)
During all this muddling God has used the "Call the Midwife" books by Jennifer Worth to help me understand some of these growing up truths. (The PBS series is also very good, but of course the books can go more indepth.) If you are a gentle reader, don't waste your time. These books are stories of the poorest section of postwar London. Add a little history of the workhouses and the world wars, and you have it. These are stories of life and death, goodness in the mundane and badness. They are encouragement that goes far beyond stuff and fluff. The stories are about a band of nuns and midwives who are doing the things I fear- thriving in adversity. We only have today. We have no promise of tomorrow. We have no promise that life will shift gracefully and kindly. We only have love today and a promise of strength for our need at the time of need.  "Keep  calm and carry on"  is true; it really is. Worn out, but true. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I am

I am a born. 
I am a sinner. 
I am saved by the blood of Jesus. 
I  am imperfect. 
I am unique. 
I am a whole person, through Jesus. 
I am a woman. 
I am wired to experience life through my emotions. 
I am not a victim of my emotions. 
I am strong when I identify my sadness, my fear, my anger, and consecrate them to God. 
I am in prayer constantly about something that is bothering me. 
I am not always intense. 
I am sometimes dull. 
I am sometimes just happy. 
I am always counting my blessings as an antidote for dissatisfaction. 
I am a hard worker, a deep thinker. 
I am usually behind on sleep. 
I am usually seeking to improve. 
I am sometimes starved for novelty. 
I am a lover of music. 
I am an information junkie. 
I am desiring to know God better because my needs are so great. I am in need of wisdom and strength to meet life's demands. 
Basically, I am just a 35 year old woman with three little kids. I am in love with them and their dad. I am blessed. 
Who would ever guess she used to be a momma baby? 

This picture epitomizes my life. Little girl had the phone, bed unmade, struggling with the wiggly baby, trying to get out the door. :) I can see the humor in it. 

I'm still taking pictures of bugs. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Week in Which......

The girls complete their swimming lessons and pass level one! 

I discover the joy of photographing spiders on petunia plants. 

Mima runs the zip line at the church campground and says she "felt like a fairy! It was like jumping off of dad's truck, only you didn't stop !"

Judy gives Christian and his little girlfriend a bowl of water to splash in. They are ten days apart in age. I love to see them together because they contrast in so many ways. 

Walks with grandma. 

Jay cuts down a tree a donates the limbs to the cause of the duck blind. Wonder where they got that idea?!

A good looking man cleans my kitchen window because I'm too short. 

Schoolbooks arrive! 

And, no picture here, but we went on a date tonight. We took Christian along. Funny how one child along feels as easy as no child along. And yet, I remember what an adjustment it was to have just one child. We're resilient, more than we ever realize or think we can be. Our date was Starbucks, Walmart, Home Depot, and Burger King drive thru. And we didn't kiss once. Maybe we need another date. :)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

No Man is An Island

"Meditation XVII", by John Donne. It's an essay I read in English literature as a teenager. It was a little hard for me to grasp; Donne wrote in the 1600's. They talked funny back then. It's still hard for me to read because my comprehension of that kind of material is much slower than my ability to read. Therefore I have to read slowly, and I dislike that. I like reading material that goes down quick like applesauce. Especially if it has  a juicy morsel of brain food. One paragraph in Donne's meditation pops out like he wrote it yesterday. Apparently I'm not the only one to think that, because I see it quoted and written out in poem form. You'll probably recognize it. 

"No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind , and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

When I hear the ambulance siren go, I think,  "I hope it's nobody I know." I may even make a phone call to be reassured. When I heard that Ebola patients were brought home to an Atlanta hospital, I did not think, "oh good! They'll get better care here!" I thought,  "please keep Africa's uncontrollable diseases in Africa." 
It took me a couple of days to catch on to what is going on in Iraq. I saw the headlines and cruised on by. There's always something bad going on over there. 

Tragedy is part of life. I don't have the strength to absorb all that pain. I find myself picking and choosing. I find myself  passing judgment on the afflicted. I find myself feeling hopeless and indifferent. And then, I read apostle Paul's reminder to remember those in bonds as if I myself were in bonds. I read, "weep with those that weep." I read John Donne's essay, "No man is an island."  I don't have the perfect answer for dealing with the tragedy of others. But if we truly are connected (and of course we are. It's a biblical concept and in keeping with God's character.), then I cannot afford to be indifferent. The spiritual laws set in place by God bind us together. There is no safety in isolation or self preservation. By God's Law, Jesus made a meal for thousands out of one person giving up his own little lunch. Jesus pretty much defined "neighbor" as anyone within your reach. And, Jesus wept. He didn't smile a bemused smile to himself at the poor mortals weeping over dead Lazurus; even though He knew He was going to bring Lazurus back to life in a few minutes, He wept tears of compassion and mutual sorrow. 

Maybe those little prayers I breathe when I recognize suffering can be a small lunch to feed thousands. Maybe I can't practically fast and spend hours in prayer, but I can enter into the grief at least a little, think about if it were me, and care and pray. Maybe I can't tend to Ebola patients or rescue Iraqi refugees, but I can notice and help those in need who are within my reach. Somehow, I believe that by adding to the amount of good that exists in this world, I can help to make a difference. Maybe it won't directly touch that big scary problem on the other side of the world, but it still matters in the big picture. 

And I can practice gratefulness. Grateful for every little thing. Grateful for the baby keeping me up at night because I still have the baby! Grateful for the girls' petty fights because they're still with me. Grateful, because if and when my tragedy hits, I'll have fewer regrets. 

Nothing can truly prepare us for tragedy. But a heart that has practice at crying, praying, caring, and being grateful, will be more resilient. And while I cannot bear the sorrows of all, I can "pick up my edge of the blanket" to bear the weight of the hurting ones closest to me. 


Monday, July 28, 2014

What Summer and I Have in Common

Tonight I did some quick math. If summer  lasts three months, and people live to be about 90 years old, then both summer and I are about one third over. Yes, I said to myself, and the new-ness of summer has worn off; in fact, it seems a little fatigued.  But we all know it still has a lot to offer. Sure, the grasses are mature, headed out, and turning golden; but the leaves aren't changing yet. Garden harvest is just beginning. And baskets full of green beans and juicy ripe tomatoes certainly don't speak "has been".  Same with me- I may be a little fatigued and starting to look mature, but I'm just getting into real production, so to speak. This is how my thoughts were rolling along as I emptied the scraps out to the chickens. And then I got back into the house and I started to share my line of thinking with Jay. He, bless his heart, said something like, "yeah, the beauty is pretty much over..." Yes, he really said that! And when I put my hands on my hips and started flashing daggers out of my eyes, he said, "I wasn't talking about you!" Well ok, but he was agreeing that summer and I are the same age, and he was going to elaborate on the similarities.... I forgave him. I'm feeling pretty comfortable in my skin, even though it's definitely not, y'know, twenty-five anymore. 
And, speaking of things that aren't new anymore- the swimming pool we bought for the girls two months ago has been well used. The inflatable ring at the top needs repairing; it won't stay inflated anymore. I've tried so hard to keep the water clean, but, alas, it's a full time job,and I have laundry and dishes to do too. But walking around in a circle, screening out pine needles and grass with a pool net is a very zen-ish thing to do. Just so you know.... If you ever need calming you're welcome to come take a turn at cleaning the pool.  
The girls have two more days of swimming lessons left. I hope ever so badly that they pass level one. They've worked hard at it, and have finally learned to go under the water and blow bubbles. I think that is the main requirement for level one. One day they were scared, and then suddenly it clicked, and now they're little fishes. :)
What's a blog post without pictures? I'll post a few that I'm particularly proud of. 

Jay helps Olivia rig up her new fishing pole after supper. I think this picture is really about the little boy in the background absorbing what happens in the lives of "big people."

Olivia works on her modeling career. Just kidding. I told her to act like I wasn't there. 

Maybe it's just little girl- I didn't teach them to pout for the camera! I always grin widely. 

There were a few forest fires mucking up our atmosphere. Makes for good color!

He looks regal. The truth is, he thinks he's a dog. He came with us on our walk and it wore him out. He plopped down and practiced his kingly airs every chance he got. 

There goes the storage (and my lovely shade plants). To be replaced with a non rotten, slightly larger model.  Hopefully it will house our stuff and a few woodworking tools. Tools to eventually help with a new addition on the house.  And tools to start a hobby adventure, called Bareroot Handcrafted. 

After the storm that put us out of power for three days. This photo is not edited. It was a stormy dusk, and the picture was taken through the windshield. 

Wildlife refuge. 

Daddy let me drive. 

You're welcome for the update. :)

Monday, July 14, 2014

House of God

This is the house with the dusty pulpit rooms that are full of old decrepit vacuum cleaners, a miscellaneous church bench, and a couple of dead forgotten house plants. This is the house with the stains on the pulpit, right where the preacher places his hands while he expostulates. This is the house with the tiny scraps of paper on the floor where the preschooler sat quietly in church, drawing strange animals or crooked houses with curly ink smoke coming out of their chimneys. She carefully ripped the page out of the notebook, folded the paper as neatly as she could, and printed her best friend's name while the tiny bits of paper fell to the floor. This is the house where there are animal cracker crumbs on the floor where the hungry toddler was hurriedly shushed. This is the house where the youths' benches are conspicuously clean, unspeaking of the text messages surreptitiously sent and received during worship.  This is the house where the older people receive God's Word and contemplate on what has been, and what is being now, and is likely to be. This is the house where the busy mother of schoolchildren and teenagers  hungrily soaks up comfort and strength from the Word and the hymns because she doesn't have the time during the week to soak it up like she wishes she could. Nobody who comes here is perfect. Some are not in good health. Some are in mourning. Some are complacent. Some are overwhelmed. Some are proud; some are down beaten. But every one of them needs Jesus. 
Few of the singers or speakers who sing or speak in this house are formally trained. But all can worship. 
There is no specific conclusion to my thoughts on this particular house of God. These are just thoughts that were rolling around in my head while I was vacuuming the carpet in the auditorium last weekend. Cleaning an empty sanctuary feels a little bit like walking through someone's home while they're gone. You sense their presence and absence all at once and it's just an odd feeling. 
May God bless and guide all who worship here. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Everyday Catch

There are times when my mind takes a snapshot of something normal but precious to me, and I'm  also lucky enough to get a real picture. 

Diagnosis: bad alternator. So glad he takes care of stuff. And he looks good while doing so! :D


And while I was out walking around the place (after the cherry picking and supper) the girls were out fishing with Jay. Olivia caught the most fish. They also caught a few great photos. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

My (big) Baby

He's just so cute and he's growing up so fast. He makes my momma heart swell with love and pride so many times a day. 

He was mad because he just couldn't reach that truck. He could have crawled there, but he didn't quite know that yet. 

Everything was quiet when I was making breakfast the other morning. I found all three of them in a big cuddle. 

He looks like his big cousin, Cody, sometimes.

He hates his life jacket. 

He is cute from behind, too. 

And he can make funny faces. 

And he likes to chew on stuff. 

And it's time to put his mommy to bed.