It’s one of those rainy fall days where you want to get home as fast as you can and then stay home as soon as you get there. We had our twice-a-month two-family co-op this morning which always makes for a more scattered morning for us. My husband and I are getting good use out of our vans, as I left around 7:20 to take our oldest to school, and he kept the other kids to meet me later at church. He his co-op job was leading Matins this morning, so he wanted to make sure he’d get there in time to get situated and vested.
I pulled into the church parking lot early and had time to get my reading homework done before 8:30. One of my co-op jobs is to send out an internet article during the week for the parents to read and discuss while the kids have free time. Being gone for three days this week put us a behind on our co-op preparations and the kids didn’t prepare their presentations til this morning. Thankfully their dad took care of that too.
Our co-op is unique and blessed in that it includes the involvement and presence of fathers. The other one is a stay-at-home homeschooling father of five, whose mother recently moved close by to be nearer. The other co-op mom has a full time job, but her schedule allows her to take time for our meetings. It’s been a blessing to have another family to connect with, and while I’d like to see our co-op grow, it’s good for the children to have time with familiar and fellow Christian children. It’s good for the adults as well.
I feel like my world has opened up a bit lately. I feel myself reaching out for those real-life connections, realizing that although our day-to-day life still very much takes place in the private sphere of home, the home is also a place to invite others into. You don’t have to be best friends to invite them over. It’s like my heart is remembering, waking up to what’s in there, which includes a deep need and genuine love for other people.
My sister and her family are coming over this weekend. They actually invited themselves, and how lovely, as sisters exist outside the rule of invitations. After co-op my husband had a lunch meeting for work, and I took the kids to get groceries at Aldi. With the weather being cold, and me being in a hurry, I had the kids stay in the van with a horse movie. Not a day goes by where I’m not noticing the differences of motherhood then to motherhood now, for instance, I didn’t have to bring them all into the store.
We arrived home to find a red car outside our house. A woman was looking for the weekend quilting retreat. I had no idea what she was talking about, but while I searched to find where it was she had to go, the kids unloaded the van and put away the groceries. I (don’t) wish I could say that I praised them with wonder, delight, and grand surprise, hoping to provide a small reward for good behavior, but my response, in the end, was much, much less, and exceedingly more. It was more like quiet, thankful sigh of relief.
I don’t write any of these things to brag. When my kids were all small is when I first absorbed the notion of finding joy in small things. How do you repel some things and take in the others? Loneliness and depletion. The smell of a newborn’s head on my bosom. The way they looked when swaddled and sleeping. Within a few short weeks the baby had smiled, and you realized in that moment how contagious a smile was.
My aunt had a phrase she used to say when we were younger. “Happiness is a choice and don’t sweat the small stuff.” I think I’m merging two phrases, but she used to say both of them. “How awful”, I would think, “for how bad must life be if happiness is something that only comes if you choose it?” Doesn’t life itself bring happiness to our door? I suppose it does, and even more than we realize. But that’s not what she meant, and maybe this is more like it–to stop and rest in God’s goodness one day at a time.
The muffins got baked and the junk dresser got massively decluttered, redesigned, and then reorganized. The supper meal down at the camp got cooked, and while I did that, the boys even had an hour or so to play in the rain. We even saw a rainbow.
I took a break about half way through the junk dresser project to get outside and go for a walk. I’ve really been enjoying my outside walks lately, and I’m convinced it makes a huge difference in my peace, joy, and inner thankfulness levels. For that I am exceedingly thankful–praise God! If I think about the cares of this world for too long, my soul becomes grey, and it starts to seem like even the little bits and pieces of joy here and there will never be enough to make up for the stresses, sorrows, and workloads of life.
Light and color bring balance to darkness, and I think there’s probably such thing as a life skill regarding how to survive in more socially isolated seasons of life. Daily walks become prayer, creative acts join the leaves in songs of praise, and daily rhythms of work become your life-long friend. The sadness in your heart will come and go and you accept that while rejoicing in the love that greatly surrounds you. You call a friend and call your grandma and accept the invitation to attend the fall pastor’s conference with your husband. Your reconnect with other wives and drink up presentations on households, hospitality, and the order of creation. “Friendship with God” becomes the gift you weren’t expecting and the school room tinkering station becomes ready to be rediscovered again.
“We tend to pour much of our design energy into the core areas of our homes, the places where we’ll entertain or spend most of our time as a family–I get that. Philosophically speaking, I do believe that what’s on the inside matters most. It’s a value I hold for myself, and that I teach to my children. But I’ve learned that tending to the outside has a pretty profound effect on how we feel on the inside.”
~Joanna Gaines, Home Body, introduction to “Entryways”~
The kids have been looking forward to sweatshirt weather and one thing you can be sure about when real fall comes is that sweatshirts are more than just nice, they are needed. It always takes me a little by surprise how cold it gets when the weather does turn. The difference between fake fall and real fall is the night temperatures. We’ve been down in the forties the past several nights, and while I usually leave our bedroom windows cracked open so I can hear the crickets on summer nights, I closed them last night til only about an inch of screen accessibility remained. Soon I’ll put the flannel sheets back on.
It’s just me and three younger boys today. Dad and the older ones are at 24-hour confirmation retreat. I’m cooking supper for them later tonight, but other than that I have no obligations. Last night the boys wondered what we were going to have for breakfast this morning and I had to admit I hadn’t thought about that yet. That is to say I knew we had plenty of food for them to eat, and until this morning, there was no need for me to think about it any further. I bought some fall muffin baking cups that I’ve been looking forward to using. I think I’ll bake some blueberry muffins this morning.
I did plan, however, to take some time today decluttering the downstairs junk dressesr corner of the school room. Several years ago I bought an old dresser to serve as a tinkering station for the boys. They absolutely loved it, but over the past year it’s slowly become overridden with Legos. I’ve never really had a good Lego system here, other than buying little decorative baskets to keep for storage in the living room, or the flatter plastic tubs that fit under a bed. Come to think of it, I actually have a perfectly fine Lego storage and organizational system. What’s also needed are diligent and willing workers.
That last line stings. For crying out loud, I’m a pastor’s wife, homeschooling mother of five. How in all that is cooking, cleaning, cooking, and teaching could I be anything but willing and diligent? Well, it happens, and this isn’t a guilt trip, but a gentle nudge back in the other direction. I marvel at the unmatched spiritual depth of training we receive through these long and sanctifying mothering years. God truly knows everything that we need, and I have never before felt so known and so loved. Proverbs 13:4 says, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
I’ll tell you this right now, I’d much rather give a motivational speech than preach a firm but necessary sermon on work. But yesterday, I preached the sermon. I’m learning through these years that a sanctified life isn’t all about surrender, about letting go, or not being in control. There are also times when you need to take action, and in the case of mothering, apply some age-appropriate pressure. It all goes back to the serenity prayer I’ve seen for years on Hallmark mugs, “Lord, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.”