blood, sweat, tears

The four kids and I took a trip up to visit my parents yesterday. We met up with my sister and her four kids and made a field trip out of going to visit my brother and sister-in-law at their local pizza business. We also got to see my youngest brother and my youngest sister who is now a junior in high school. My mom had a cake for all the recent kid birthdays. It was fun.

I spent a lot of time thinking about my oldest son yesterday. We left at six in the morning, so I didn’t see him before he would get up to leave for school. We wouldn’t get back until later that night, so I wouldn’t be there to hear about how his first day of baseball practice had gone. I wrote him a note before we left, just wanting to acknowledge his first day of practice.

Choosing the words were not as easy as I thought. “Good luck on your first day of practice today!” I did say that, but surely I couldn’t leave it there? What does “luck” mean anyway, and do we even believe in such a thing?

I asked my husband what to write. He said tell him to work hard.

Got it.

Well, that was good and true. Once those words came out it wasn’t hard to tack on a few others like, “have fun”, “be safe”, “be respectful to your coaches and be a good team player and a good friend to others.”

Okay, but now that was too much law.

“I’m proud of you no matter what!”, I thought.

But was I? Could I write those words in good conscience and have them be completely true? Would I really be proud of him no matter what? I could think of several things right away that would not make me proud. Very specifically, I meant whether or not he played or sat the bench. I decided this was true, and worth the risk. Love is the oft the under and underappreciated force.

“I’m proud of you no matter what!”

The rest flowed easily, right from the heart.

“I love you very much and you’re in my prayers!”

on two mountains

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O joyful be the passing day
with thoughts as clear as morning’s ray
with faith like noontide shining bright
our souls unshadowed by the night
~O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright~

The Lenten season begins on Wednesday. Our church is in a vacancy, so my husband has picked up some extra pastoral duties, along with the other part-time pastor at our church. He’s got a lot on his plate, but so far it seems to be working out alright. I know he misses being a pastor in some ways, and this gives him more time to do what he enjoys.

I’ve also picked up teaching the high school Sunday School class. We have an average of 2-3 boys who come, one of them being mine. At first I didn’t think that I ought to be the one to volunteer. Having a teenage child in the class made me hesitant. I’m still figuring out this whole teenage mom thing. What’s throwing me off is that it hasn’t quite been like the stereotypes taught me to expect. We’re only two and a half years into this teenager journey, and only on the first child. In other words, I don’t have enough experience to speak in absolutes, but can only report what the experience has been like so far for me.

You never know when something awful is going to happen. There are easily well over five thousand and one scenarios that I could come with for how the passing days of these teenage years could go wrong, but so far I’m enjoying them, and it’s fun watching your kids start to become their own people. I have to say that teaching this class has cured me of some of the Sunday morning dread and loneliness that had become pretty routine for me at church. I’ve struggled to find “connection”, to not feel like I’m just another person going through the hour and fifteen minute Divine Service Setting Three motions. I’d taught the year before in one of the lower grade classes, but I’d been asked to do that. This is something I hesitantly, but willingly volunteered to do, and I’m enjoying it.

Over the weekend, I bought and started reading the book The Second Mountain by David Brooks. He describes life on the first mountain as the life we live trying to make something of ourselves. Going to school. Starting a family. Establishing your career. The goal of the first mountain is success and achievement. Those who get to the top of the first mountain get there only to find that there is yet another mountain beyond them, one they couldn’t see from where they were standing before. Between the two mountains are the valleys of suffering and the wildernesses of wandering and purification. The second mountain goals are very different from the first, with the biggest being that the change has shifted from accomplishment, achievement and bettering ourselves, to centering our lives around four key things: 1) a vocation, 2) spouse & family, 3) a philosophy or faith system, and 4) a community. The second mountain is not defined by goals, so much as it is defined by commitments, the richness of spending a life on others.

 

 

 

 

on joy instead

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This week has been haphazard in terms of getting things done. Between the snow day last Friday and President’s Day Monday, the school week didn’t get off to it’s usual start. My daughter was away for a week with my in-laws, and Wednesday morning school time was used to drop off my son at school and then go pick my daughter up. The first thing my daughter and I did upon seeing each other was embrace for a long hug. It was great to be together again, as my heart had missed her very much.

We had company over for supper this past Tuesday. A pastor’s family recently moved to town from a nearby circuit. The wife and I had already met and been getting together off and on over the past year, but now that she is no longer an hour away, I’m hoping to make a semi-regular thing of getting together. They’ve also joined our homeschool group for the time being, along with another pastor’s family who does still live about an hour away. The fellowship was wonderful and natural, with no awkwardness at all.

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I’ve been pondering my years as a stay-at-home/homeschooling mom. I mentioned before how I’ve been realizing how much I’ve myself to a standard that God has not asked of me. It has been the world’s standard. How much is out there these days about “deep work”, efficiency, and getting things done? If I could just do this, if I could just be that–then I could get to where it is I’m supposed to be! I’ve thought the path of humility was to force myself, train myself, and beat myself up for being something I’m not.

Turns out, wouldn’t you know, God is doing a perfectly fine job with the training! And how exceedingly kind He is, that He lets me do it in the all ways that He chooses. God is good, friends, and the Gospel of Christ has set us free in a way that truly does touch our everyday lives. The world has no other way to reach perfection, or to even get close. But God is not asking perfection from us, nor is our definition of perfection without flaws. I’m just over all the pressure to get to a certain point when God has given me joy instead.

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clearing paths

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I don’t typically come to this blog with an agenda. If I sit down to write a post here, it’s simply because I like to sit down and write posts here. I don’t need to say much, but it’s nice to say something.  I write here to figure out what it is I need to say.

When I try to sit down and make any attempt at an official article, for example, it’s like trudging through three feet of fallen snow. I can feel what it is I want to say, but to turn my thoughts into something other people can understand is extremely difficult.

When I go to the Y, one of the things I like to do is jog in the resistance pool, except I like to run with the flow of the water and not against it. The resistance pool is an oval shaped section in a greater set of pools. They have jets that push the water to form a current. When I’m running with the current it feels like a rebellion, or more closely, a freedom. “Yes! Finally! Something that makes me feel light, swift, and strong!” It feels like a break from the daily life business of doing all those good and normal things that can start to feel hard after awhile. When I occasionally turn around and do try to swim against the current, it takes a long time for me to gain any distance. Eventually I make it up the ten or so foot section of pool to the handrail, but it’s a very, very slow process. I usually imagining if this is what it’d be like to futilely attempt to swim toward the shore before being thrown over the rim of Niagara Falls.

I feel the need to say that I am not an athlete, not am I in any kind of great physical shape. I’m honestly just an average person. I think I gave the wrong impression one time to a man I was talking to over the summer about running and walking. We both wanted to run the camp 5K that fall and were talking about running through the trails. He asked if I ever ran here and I said I did sometimes, meaning, I have on occasion ran out here. But mostly, if I do anything at all, I walk. Fast forward to later that after the 5K run, in which I jogged occasionally but mostly walked, and finished last. My husband and all four of my kids who participated had finished before me. I was proud of them all, especially the littlest one, for sticking with the whole thing and doing it all in the rain. I was satisfied and proud of myself for doing and finishing something I said I wanted to do. That same man came up to me at the finish line, and after telling me “Good job” he said, “I thought you said you’d been running?”

I wasn’t upset or hurt by his comment, but I felt like I’d somehow not been clear or disappointed him.

I’m just me here, friends.

What you see is what you get.

 

 

 

 

 

friend of all

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The kids and I had a library play date today. We met another homeschool mom and her four kids. She and I end up getting together about once every three or four months.  It’s funny how that sounds like a very long time but in life time it really isn’t that long. Life happens, we blink, and suddenly realize we haven’t done anything but “life” for months. We come up to the surface for an hour of air and conversation, but alas, kids get squirmy and the wintry mix is on its way.  We announce to the kids it’s time to clean up the toys, and do most of the picking up anyway because it’s easier, and faster, and less humiliating than having to repeat ourselves too many times in public.  We gather coats, check out a book, and look around and take a breath, before diving down into the sea again.

I realize that’s a negative way to describe it.

We actually had a good time. The kids were good and played nicely together. Our library has a cozy and comfortable play place where moms can sit and keep an eye on smaller kids. It did not go unnoticed by me that several moms of tinier children were there utilizing it. One of the moms, who was there alone even asked us if we could keep an eye on her crawling baby while she took another young child into the bathroom. Of course we said, “Of course”, and for a minute or two while sending smiles and faces to the baby I wondered if this was what it felt like to live in a community where moms were not alone.

My mom and I were talking about loneliness recently. She says loneliness is a part of this life, but what matters is what you do with it. My first gut reactions are either anger or compassion. Angry that the world and all of its people are screwed up, or compassion toward this vast sea of people all around me. But anger is a harsh emotion to live with, and not a single soul needs any more harshness in this life. Compassion is soft, and much gentler on the world at large. Jesus says, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart.” The promise is that we would find rest for our souls, and this is where I think we need to start with as moms, with our very own souls. I’m realizing more and more lately that I hold myself to a standard that God has not asked of me. The gentle and lowly Jesus says, “Come here, dear. I’ll take that.”

We had a good time at the library today. This other mom and I understand each other and that’s a rare gift in life. It’s a blessing to have not only another mother to relate with, but also to have a Christian friend who shares the same faith as you. In the midst of our mothering, God provides for me and God provides for this friend, and sometimes the way He does that is through the company of each other. My mom says she can see how God always seemed to send different people in different seasons, and I would say that has been very true for me as well. The past several years have brought some painful experiences with friendship which have severely served to wound me further, but have also sobered me up quite a bit. In all this I am warmed, for by my side has been the Lord who truly is the friend of all.