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.

mystery in progress

Church is about as normal as it can be for now. We’ve gone from posting and holding weekly services online, to three hours of continual 15 minute time slots for groups of ten and under, to three services with a group no more than 50, to two services that can hold 75 or under. We still have to call a scheduling company to sign up for whichever service we’re going to. Though not required, we are still being encouraged to wear masks, and most do. We’re not shaking hands or having Sunday School or Bible class.

We are supposed to start singing again next week. I’ve kind of zoned in and out with all the church stuff and changes. At first I was admittedly just happy to stay home and in my pajamas Sunday morning, not missing any of the church pomp and circumstance. I did make everyone dress up for Easter service, to give my daughter a chance to still wear the dress my mother-in-law had bought for her, and also feeling like we should obviously make some kind of special effort toward and acknowledgement of the day.

At some point I started to wonder if in fact I did need to start caring about the church stuff more, not only regarding the state governmental regulations against it, but my continued not being bothered by not going. After the first initial back to church weirdness, I’ve generally been fine and even glad to start going again. Two of the kids forgot their masks this morning, which caused me to quiet-laugh quite hard in the back pew when I looked over and saw them wearing not their usual masks, but wearing the over-sized spare ones that live in the van. I can only blame myself for not making the mask announcement until we were already halfway there.

I’ve been purposeful in avoiding making moral connections to the mask with my kids. I don’t tell them its to protect and show love to our neighbors or to obey our government. One reason is because I am not at all interested in training them to become proficient in judging other people’s behaviors. The 4th commandment in the Lutheran understanding, in its most direct and purified form, is to honor your father and your mother. They wear the masks because that is what their parents, in this unique and continually changing and being navigated situation, are telling them to do right now.

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All joking and serious commandment-talking aside, I’ve been keeping busy with summer stuff, while still keeping an interested eye on the news and a listening ear to other people’s stories. Several weeks ago I was supposed to get together with three high school friends. The friend who was hosting cancelled at the last minute because she’d been notified she’d come into contact with someone who’d come into contact with someone who’d tested positive with the virus and didn’t feel comfortable with possibly exposing us. She was going to get tested and self-quarantine, so we rescheduled.

The rescheduled time was cancelled again, because another friend who works in a hospital said her exposure to virus cases had increased at work. She didn’t feel comfortable getting together and possibly exposing everyone, so we cancelled again. Being interested in the clinical details of things, I asked for more specifics as to what she was seeing. She said it was mostly post-covid patients who were still having symptoms. When the other friend was asked about how her test results turned out, she said she’d never actually received any results and was told that her test had been lost.

The weirdness and general sense of uncertainty continues. So far schools here are scheduled to start in person, though the high school starting date has been moved to the end of August. One of the grade schools plans to have plexi-glass shields on each side of the student desks, which surprised me. I’ve not been too focused on getting things ready for school yet here, but I’ve picked up the usual fresh sets of crayons and packs of colored #2 pencils for the kids. I continue to be in prayer for our country and leaders, my friends and my family, and all being affected, red or blue, big or small.

second thoughts

“So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. And Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”
~1 Kings 18:20-21~

This world is not enough for me, friends. By saying that I know I risk sounding ungrateful, but this is just the simple, sometimes painful truth.

It came to me recently that pretty much every dissatisfaction I’ve ever had comes from a NEED to worship GOD with every ounce of my being.

Everywhere I look the world is flawed and imperfect. No person, no experience, no place and no thing is perfect enough to satisfy this need.

And yet here we must live until the day we die and then we finally meet the Lord. I was wondering too lately if the nearly universal human fear of death is really just a subconscious fear of having to stand before God. A perfect God demands perfection, and we, as imperfect, do not measure up.

But in Jesus we have all the perfection we need, and in Him there is nothing in this world left to fear. As rightly thankful as we are for what we have now, what we have been promised, what we who are in Christ now eagerly await, is a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

first thoughts

When 9/11 happened I was in Seward, Nebraska. My now-husband and I were sitting in chapel one morning when in the prayers the chaplain prayed for all the people in New York City. That short morning service is where I first heard that the World Trade Center buildings had collapsed.

The first thing I did when chapel was over was go back to my dorm room and email my dad. Essentially I wanted to know, “Dad, is this true?” We used to live in New York, and one year over Christmas, my paternal grandparents had taken me, my sisters, and cousin on a day trip to New York City. We saw Rockefeller Center and the Statue of Liberty, but the most impressionable thing about the city for me had been driving through the street past the Trade Center towers. From the left back passenger window of my grandparents’ car, you didn’t look out to see the buildings, you looked up. They were so tall you had to squish your face up against the window glass to see the tops. I remember thinking, “Wow! These are the same buildings that were on the news not that long ago for being bombed.”

My dad emailed me back and said that yes, it was true that the buildings were gone. He hasn’t always been right about things, but he’s always had a way of seeing the world that I value. When all the shut-downs began happening in March, my dad was not the first person I called. It took a day or so before I got to calling him, and when I did, the first thing I asked was, “Dad, what do you think?” His first thought was, “Wow, we just left normal.”

Besides the obvious and horrific tragedy of the aftermath in the streets and grand scale loss of human life, what shocked me most about 9/11 was was the speed at which the World Trade Center skyscrapers went from being two of the tallest buildings in the world to being nothing at all. They didn’t just fall or topple over. They were on fire for a while and then disintegrated in seconds. Driving by in a car the sky would look very different now.

My mind keeps going back to the earliest shut down days when massive American entities were toppling at once. The speed at which it happened made it seem like you were watching idols falling down in slow motion. The NBA, all college campuses, Disneyworld. Seeing something that striking strikes the fear of God into a person, at least that’s what it does for me.

I’ve got so many more pressing thoughts about this, friends.

If possible I will try to write again later.