love thy neighbor

The kids and I had a good summer day yesterday. They all slept in until nearly 9:30, which gave me several focused morning hours to work on my piles. Two out of the three piles have disappeared, with all the papers and stuff being put in it’s place. I didn’t end up with nearly as much trash or goodwill bags as I’d anticipated. It was just a matter of putting things away.

One of the things I found was a notebook from 2017 or 2018 with nothing else in it except a fall menu plan for Sept/Oct/Nov. It was actually a good reminder to see that, “Oh, uh huh, yep. I’ve been here before”. Did I ever actually make the Butternut Squash and Kale Lasagna or the Barley Risotto w/Peas? Probably much to my family’s relief, no, I did not. But you know?

They ate and were fed consistently that year, along with every other year I’ve been in charge of that mission. That is something to be proud of, find rest and peace in, and most of all, be thankful for. It seems so cliche’ anymore to think the problem is me always trying to be God for my family, as obviously I’ve learned all those lessons by now, right? I do tend to keep thinking that God got me through the intense little years of childrearing, burning away the selfishness you never knew was there, demolishing self-reliance, and revealing my truest, deepest, and most always-present need.

It’s true that becoming a mother, more so it seems than becoming a wife, provided a refining and polishing in becoming less selfish and more self-giving. I find it humorous and even puzzling, however, that all this refining and polishing does seem to be making me into a person with much more clearly defined methods, preferences, and standards. When we were getting ready to go down to the beach yesterday, and the kids were all looking for towels, absolutely not were they about to take all my clean, neatly folded, and freshly put away bath towels. The beach towels? Yes. Those towels? No.

We’re works in progress, as they say. Whatever God’s teaching me now, he’s teaching me, and whichever way he’s leading me now, he’s leading me. Whatever it is we’re needing, he’s providing right now. Sanctification is an ongoing, ever-changing, often unnameable and unseen thing. A common piece of advice I’ve heard is that people aren’t things you should try to be fixing, or to put it most bluntly, you can’t fix people. This is true for me as well, meaning, I don’t need to treat myself as someone who needs fixed. Thank you, Lord, for who I am, and for all You are remaking me to be in this life.

music box playing

Today was the funeral for my husband’s grandma, who died last Thursday at the age of 90. She’d been sick and in the hospital and had come home on hospice care. We’d had plans to go see her on Thursday at 3:30, where we knew we’d be there to be saying our goodbye’s. We got the text that she’d passed not long after lunch. I think we were all still surprised by the news.

I went to my husband’s office and arrived at the office door right as he was opening it to come back into the house. He called his mom to see if he could still come by himself if needed, and she said it was fine to go ahead and bring us all. I was in the middle of cooking chicken for canning, and within a minute I had the stove off, broth poured out, and food in the fridge. We got the kids in the van and made the mostly quiet drive to grandma’s house.

Life goes at a pace that’s hard to keep up with at times, at least when it comes to writing about it. God blessed us with beautiful weather today, which made for a pleasant outdoor gathering after the funeral and graveside committal. We enjoyed a meal and the time with all.

on the list

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I’ve got two lists I’m working off of right now, both having to do with getting ready for school. One is the grocery and meal plan list, where I’m making 2-3 weeks worth of meal plans and lists that can easily be rotated and repeated in the fall. My supper favorites tend to come from the paleo crockpot cookbook. Because it’s too expensive to buy all the meat needed to make those recipes feed everyone to full, I’m making rice a staple around here, where the crockpot meat dish can be placed on the top of the rice. I tried the meat+rice out for supper last night and ended up getting compliments several from the boys. It never ceases to amuse me when someone compliments my cooking, this thing that fills so much of my life.

The other list is the housecleaning list, with the rooms I want decluttered and deeper cleaned before school. It’s not the schoolwork itself that I find the most challenging, but the steady food needs and house work that is an absolute necessity when everyone is always home. There really is no magic formula to bypassing the general upkeep of homes. While I have more free time and time for myself than I did when the kids were super little, most of my time is still spent on the working things of raising a family. The messes are different. Not as many baby and toddler table messes, but a gradual increase toward making more and more food. It’s no longer the evening living room clean up of scattered books and preschool toys, but random piles of other people’s stuff, books I don’t buy a bookshelf for because I don’t know where I’d put it, and a growing collection of now adult-sized coats.

I’ve been battling “stuff” for years and years now it seems. The more years there are, the more stuff that makes its way into your life to get attached to. At least several trips to the dumpster are in order as well as a trip to the local Goodwill. For our anniversary this year I wanted to get our room to a place of clean and calm, which is the way I like it best. I took out every single homeless item and put it in the mudroom where it’s been much more mentally manageable to deal with. There are remnants of our furniture that still have that falling apart and making-due dorm room appearance, so I painted the wobbly little TV stand white and decorated it with a picture and plant. I hope to get into town this week for a fresh comforter and curtain set. The mudroom is now a mess, but in the meantime, our room is clean.

So my room was on the list, the mudroom, the big boys’ room , and then the schoolroom. The big boys’ room they can work on themselves, though every six months or so I’ll go in there and help them. I’ve gotten and kept the schoolroom down to one bookshelf of school and resource books, and all of the kids’ school stuff must live in their desks. Nevertheless, the room is one of the most used and messier rooms in the house, unless we’re cleaning it every day which we don’t. To this day it still remains one of my favorites.

the small stuff

The reason I don’t take pictures of the inside of my house is not because more often than not it’s messier than I’d prefer. Though clutter and prolonged disarray still drives me nuts at certain times, I’ve mostly gotten used to things like an extra old and needing tuned piano sitting in the living room from someone giving us one before moving. I don’t like taking pictures inside because most of the time the lighting looks dingy to me.

Come evening though, the sunset fixes this. For about a half an hour in the pre-dusk time frame, the light is far enough down to make into the northwest facing window. At the same time the sun is still high enough to light up the trees on the other side of the house. It was during this time when I sat down, and thoughtlessly stared out of both of the side windows. Dad and the kids were gone for the evening at a family supper. I normally go to the family gatherings, but tonight I asked to stay home and be alone, to be able to work on sorting and cleaning in the quiet time and space.

I stared out the windows until the thoughts came back. When they did, I picked up the book beside me and opened to a picture of ginger on a cutting board. It came from a book that I’d bought for my daughter for our first full school year of homeschooling. I’d picked out books, or “electives”, for each of the older kids, with each book containing way more pages and projects than I could ever individually get to with each of the children in a year. Though they didn’t get used in the way I imagined, they do get used, and even used by the kids. Though always somewhat tainted with the stain of pain and longing, it still brings me joy to sit down and look at them.

When I got up from the couch I got down on the floor and started sorting papers and last year’s school books, making piles of books I’m still keeping and old used workbooks that can now be stacked and thrown away. I came across an envelope that my aunt had sent me from a time when she too had been sorting through stuff. In the envelope were pictures that I didn’t know what to do with either. There was also a funny thank-you note from me and my sisters for a time when she’d taken us all to Cape Cod. We thanked her for the trip, but most memorable apparently, were the late night talks we’d had in the motel. I’d forgotten that two big things I’d learned from her on that trip were “happiness is a choice” and “don’t sweat the small stuff”.

I remember thinking my aunt’s advice always sounded so secular. Weren’t we all supposed to be trusting in the Lord or casting all of our cares on Jesus? I have always struggled to like the word “choice”, as it implies we have control over things in a world where there are way too many things that are out of our control. It seems to me now like the perfect advice. Not only does the small stuff often bring happiness, I like it that happiness isn’t just something we can want but not have, but something we can choose.