Thursday, September 29, 2011

On Loss and Awakening to Joy

Luke and I lost a dear friend and mentor to death this past week.
An older gentleman whose precious wife had died just a few short years back and he has followed her Home.
He has been battling cancer for some time and his battle is finally over.
A huge hole is left in many people's lives included mine.
I lived with them during a May term while I was in college. A whole 5 sweet quiet weeks to get to observe and learn from two precious people. June taught me how to make sweet breads using whole wheat flours and grated carrots and chopped apples. Nathan taught me to appreciate gardening and showed me his gardening and horticulture books. He was a Master.
It was at their house that I prepared for my wedding. The last night I slept as a single was in their white guest bedroom with the antique furniture and little night shade beside the bed.
It was in their hall bathroom that I attempted to curl my fine straight hair before putting on the little tiara and pulling down the thin white veil.
They had hung up the art work I had given them on the living room wall all matted and framed and pretty. Nathan gave it back to me when June died. He told me that he wanted to be sure I got it instead of someone else when he passed away.
That seemed so far away, but it was just a week ago.
When I was hugely pregnant with Nater Mater he drove over to our little house with a trunk load of spirea transplants. It was enough to plant along our entire fence line and still give some to a friend.
A year ago he gave me a 5 gallon bucket of daffodils and tiger Lilly bulbs he was thinning out. The kids and I dug random holes all along the tree line, placed them in and covered them up. They bloomed for the first time this past spring.
Every week he asked after my family who has been spread all over the world. They were a couple who cared, loved and gave freely and deeply.
I am still wading through the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.
I say wading because it's a book I want to digest while reading and some pages take several readings for me to digest it.
Life Giving Words need to be chewed carefully and thoughtfully and some days I have to come back to it several times for that to happen.
The same happens when I read Scripture. I can't just speed read through it and "get it." I need time and quiet and space. Time I don't get much of in this season of my life.
I read this the week Nathan died. I cried. Hot tears running down my cheeks blurring my vision. Her words are in purple
Daily discipline is the door to full freedom."
Joy is always worth the wait and fully living worth the believing.
But awakening to joy awakens to pain.
Joy and pain, they are but 2 arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don't numb themselves to really living (or run away from it).
What will I lose?
Eventually I am guaranteed to lose EVERY earthly thing I have ever possessed.
WHEN will I lose it?
In a few weeks?
How much TIME have I got before the next loss?
WHO will I lose?
And that is the definite: I will lose EVERY single person I have ever loved. Either abruptly or eventually. All human relationships end in loss....
What in the world, in a world of certain loss, is GRACE?"
I then stopped and wrote more Thankfulness for my day.
1. Dimples in grinning faces
2. rosebud lips dripping with a sweet Popsicle
3. Little boys pretending to be kittens
4. warm eggs in a next
5. treasure hunt for eggs
6. eyelashes on sleeping cheeks
7. gossamer spider webs outside my kitchen window
8. Dew drops on the web
We give thanks for a reason. For us. For His glory.
All new life comes out of dark places and hasn't it always been so? Out of darkness God spoke forth the teeming life...
Out of the darkness of the cross, the world transfigures into new life.
Loss is suffering.
And there is no other way... It is the suffering that has the realest possibility to bear down and deliver grace. And grace (that only God can provide) that chooses to bear the cross of suffering OVERCOMES that suffering.
This is how we LIVE in life THROUGH PAIN.
Eph. 1:11-- He makes all things work out according to His plan."
Is this how I learn to let go of things I know I should? Is this how I move on? Is this how one moves forward after the loss of a child or the struggle of infertility or both? Is this how one allows ones self to open their hearts to love and loss instead of holding it closed and tight? Is this how one can forgive after being rejected or slandered?
It sounds simple, but it's not.
It's excruciatingly hard.
I want to ask, 'Lord WHY?"
How Long?
He says eat of my Daily Bread and be filled.
I know in the end. The Final End. His Return that all will be set right and there won't be any pain or suffering or loss.
In the meantime, I live Daily IN HIM drinking in His Word to heal an overwhelmed and weary heart and I can live in Joy. I can look out my front window every spring and see the daffodiles and Tiger lilies bloom and remember dear friends.
I can give Thanks and see the Joy in the little details of life.
True Contentment and JOY.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Church Family Camp pt2

The next morning dawned bright and early once again and I realized a mistake I'd made.
In my wanting to be near adults and not away from the camp (you know, in case we had to make a run for it in the middle of the night if lightning started up again), I had pitched my tent in the middle of all the cabins.
Tents get light early.
Kids wake up early when it's light.
Kids are not easy to keep quiet when they are excited about camping out for real for the first time.
Kids have to pee as soon as they wake up.
Oh dear, the bathroom was not close.
I was tired.
I was cranky.
I had not slept much that night and wanted them to go back to bed.
They wanted to practice somersaults and hand stands in the tent.
They wanted to roll to the bottom and crash against the side and make the whole thing shake.
I yelled.
I, for the first time in my life, told my kids to "shut up!
You're going to wake everyone else up around us!"
Instantly, their laughter turned to tears or anger and I covered my face with my hands and cried.
I wanted to go home.
Nater Mater marched around the tent singing, "shut up! shut up! shut up!" Giggling and looking naughtily at me.
Good Lookin' joined in "shut up stupid! shut up stupid!" and marched behind his little brother.
Double blow to my already deflated pride.
I hadn't said THAT!
I gathered them up, apologized to them for saying the forbidden and asked for their forgiveness.
Precious Jewel asked if I had to lick soap since they had to if they said those things.
I said yes, they could watch me later if they insisted.
She gleefully accepted.

The rest of the day went well.
I stumbled into breakfast far too early, but they had been up nearly 2 hours already and I couldn't contain them in the tent anymore.
When I was told that breakfast was not yet open, I pulled out our pound of animal crackers and told the kids to have as much as they wanted.
We waited until everyone else arrived and it was officially time to open breakfast.
Hot chocolate...can I say I love it?
It keeps cold and hungry tummys quiet and mommas happy.

Much of that morning was spent stomping around in puddles and wet clothes and finding treasures like frogs and bugs.
Good Lookin' loves his little friends and I'm glad that even though he is ALL BOY he doesn't mind that his closest friends happen to be mostly girls.
It's who is in his Sunday School class and who we mostly play with.

The kids followed around the one college student who had also fattended like little mice after the Pied Piper.

Later that morning we had a small worship service.
Oh yeah, can those kids dance.

But sitting still for long is another story.
I ended up with most of my little Sunday School class beside me and I gave them my camera to keep them occupied.

I have to say, Good Lookin' takes good pictures!

When the music slowed down, I took them to the back.
My older 2 had already been sequestered by another parent to my relief, so I was left with just the younger 2 and their little friends.

Nater Mater spent the first 10 minutes silently rolling around on the floor throwing a fit because I wouldn't let him up on the stage with the worship leaders.
At least he was silent!
i don't know where the child learned that he could throw a rolling around on the floor fit as long as he was quiet, but he's done it more than once and I let a good thing alone.
Throw your fit baby, just don't disturb the rest of us.
He eventually gets bored and joins us anyway.

The other little kids were old enough to sort of know what was going on, but too wiggly to sit still through it all.
I let them each collect as many hymn books and pew Bibles as they wanted and they stacked and lined them up on their laps and beside each other and "followed along."
None of them can read and it was so stinkin' cute.
They had their little fingers on the music notes and random scripture passages and thought they were so big.
They WERE LEARNING. They just didn't know it.

After Chapel and in spite of the cold, we moms finally said yes to swimming. There was a break in the rain but it was still freekishly cold for getting wet on purpose.
It's doubly cold for those who don't possess an ounce of body fat.
Good Lookin' didn't last more than 5 minutes before he begged to go back to the cabin and get dressed.

The others had a blast for all of about 15 minutes before the cold water and air drove them out too.

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend in spite of or even with the heavy rain and cold.
I am so blessed to be part of a church that loves each other like a family.
No church is perfect but we do Caring for Each Other and Encouraging Each Other and Inter-generational well.
I believe it leads to good discipleship and healthy families who can minister to others around them better.

And I hope that we can do it again next year with Luke along.

Church Family Camp pt 1

That wonderful word that evokes so many memories if you have been blessed to be able to attend.
Our church decided this last Spring that instead of the Women's Weekend Away they would do a Family Camp.
A good chunk of the families with young children signed up and attended and it was a wonderful weekend.
Luke, once again, had to work the weekend (I hate this part of his job), but encouraged me to go ahead and take the kids and go for the weekend.
I hemmed and hawed and balked, but deep down really wanted to be a part of it all.
I love the inter-generational aspect of our church.
It's a family.
So, I packed up the tent and all our bedding and extra clothes and drove the 2 hours to where the church had rented out a camp facility.
It rained nearly the whole weekend.
It rained and I had brought a tent where nearly everyone else had rented cabins.
It didn't just rain.
It monsooned with loud thunder and crazy sharp mountain lightening.
And I had arrived there after dark; in the rain with 4 kids and had to set up a tent.
I glared at my campsite.
I wanted to go home.
But a dear sweet friend (who was also husband less that night) greeted us and kindly shared her cabin for the night.
It was her and I and 11 KIDS!!
Holy Cow!
I was crazier than I thought!
It was so much fun (until you know, 11:30 when they were still all awake)!!!!
It was like being in High School all over again being a Camp Counselor to a cabin full of crazy hyper kids!
Only they ranged in ages 3-9!
I thought being a Camp Counselor was commendable and crazy.
I'll take my Lazy Lifeguard Chair and bask in the sun thank you very much.

But to watch these kids interact--my kids--my friend's kids, was so much fun and to see the excitement in their eyes at getting to sleep on multiple metal bunk beds with all their friends; it was priceless.

Mrs. Melody even made hot chocolate for whoever wanted.

A Memory Stamped into impressionable minds and made permanent.

I will admit that at 1am ish, 2am ish, 3am ish and so on, I was not so keen on sleeping with a bunch of little people when Nater Mater decided to wake up with leg cramps and all wheezing with his allergies and I had to keep him quiet.
My bed at home seemed pretty distant and oh-so-wanted.

The next morning arrived bright and early.
A little too early in my not-so-humble opinion.
But the kids were excited to explore the camp and see their surroundings.

I love Family Camp for the very name of it.
Another good friend of mine attended with 3 generations of her family and Mrs. Susan was great at explaining the Make Your Own Ice Cream directions to some very excited and very hyper and very distracted, wiggly little people.
Patience was the name of this game.

Patience and Waiting Your Turn.

But Ice Cream in Baggies in just under 10 minutes, was Fun and Fabulous.

I was so glad Luke had reminded to me to bring Mr. Smile's own milk and cheese along because even he got to make Ice Cream with Goat's Milk and it turned out great!

Most of the weekend it rained and rained...
....and rained.
And I'm talking heavy rain people.
Not quiet little sweet rain that you can go out and play in.
This was COLD and LOUD and had a lot of Sharp Lightning.

But the camp had a large gym that everyone could play in and the kids didn't seem to mind the wet and cold at all (until they got cold that is).

Grandparents attract all sorts of little people.

Much of the weekend was simply spent playing games and playing with kids and relaxing.

I have to admit I got a little whiny.
I missed Luke.
I didn't like being in a tent in the rain.
Fortunately, it cleared enough for me to lay my tarp on the sopping ground and set up my tent with the help of friends.
And I was blessed that Nater Mater was exhausted enough that he actually took a nap that afternoon and that it was just raining and not storming.
But, I wanted Luke to be there.
I began to sulk about being once again so busy with kids that I was missing out on much of any adult interaction.
I was feeling sorry for myself that my husband has a job that requires him to work nearly every weekend and he misses a lot of this stuff.
He hates it.
I hate it.
But as I lay there next to a snotty and sleeping toddler feeling sorry for myself that I didn't get to trade child watching time with anyone and I was by myself in a cold tent in the rain, a gentle reminder whispered into my ear, "You could be without him (Luke) altogether."
"You can take this opportunity of forced quiet and seclusion and be with Me."
"You can REST in Thankfulness in a New Day of Life."
And I knew.
I had far more to be Thankful for than to complain about.
I KNEW that this weekend
This Time
This Moment
was a GIFT
Memories were being made.
Relationships were being built
He (Jesus) was There in the tent with me.

That night, I tucked the kids into the sleeping bags and we listened to the gentle sound of the rain smattering on our tent cover.
I whisked away the moisture from around their mats and kissed them goodnight and layed there in the quiet remembering all my experiences as a child camping with my family.
They are some of the best memories I have growing up.

These are the memories my children are making and they may not be how I thought it should look but they are memories just the same
and they are to be treasure.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Day In Our Life

I've had a couple people ask what I do all day as a babysitter/stay-at-home mom, so I thought I'd give you a little peep into our lives via the lens of my camera.
6 to 6:30am-- I stumble (or fall) out of bed glaring at the clock on my dresser that laughing blares at me that it is morning already. If one of the kids is not already awake I can get a good 20-30 minute quiet time that I desperately need to get my day going....That and a LARGE cup of Joe with some thick sweet cream.
6:30-- Wake up 4 reluctant kiddos and literally pull them out of bed. (I do have 2 that pop up all cheerful and ready to go most days. The other 2, well, not so much of the cheerful there).
6:45ish-- Pour bowls of cereal for breakfast because I'm not a morning cook and cereal is fast and easy and not a mess to scrape up when I get home from dropping off kids at school. Saturdays are for leisure and warm breakfasts.
7:15-- Load everyone into the car to drive into town and pick up the 2 munchkins I get to babysit all day. I turn on our SPARKS CD or Precious Jewel's Kid's Choir CD so they can practice their verses and songs throughout the week.
7:30ish-- Pick up the munchkins. Turn on Thomas the Train so little W can get excited about the car ride.
7:45-8:10-- Drop Precious Jewel and Mr. Smiles off at their respective schoosl to the tunes of Thomas the Train ringing in my ears.
8:10-8:15am-- I'm usually back at home and getting kids settled into our morning playtime and I can then clean up the kitchen while rocking to the tunes of Baby Bible Sunday Songs that makes Baby B giggle.

These guys LOVE the train set. If Little W isn't out in the front yard golfing (which he usually is), he and Nater Mater are downstairs on the train table chugging away.
The other favorite pass time is the CARS cars that they drive all over the living room floor and car garage that was given to them by a dear friend of mine.

9:30is or 10am-- If Little B decides he's ready for a nap, I can snag 30 minutes or so of time to take the 3 older boys out for their favorite game: EGG HUNTING and feeding the goats some hay.

It's like Easter every day around here. Our 2 loan hens that have evaded the coons and survived in spite of their lack of hen house, have been laying nearly an egg a day. Since they have no real place to call home, it's a daily adventure to hunt where the nested last. Usually it's in the middle of daddy's (ahem) goat hay pile (he hates that).

Last week it was under the goat feed trough (how they don't get smashed by the goats, I'll never know). Today it was on top of daddy's tool bench. Why they think that laying eggs on top of tools is a good idea I don't know, but they did.

Sorry hon, I'll clean off the bird poop tonight when I milk!

If Baby B is not sleeping, well, he comes on the hunt with us. I love those sweet little toes and that mop of dark hair. He's such an alert baby--wide-eyed at everything the older boys are doing.
If it's still between 9am and 10am, Little B gets his bottle and a diaper change. I follow the older boys around the yard or sit on the step while feeding the little guy. Then it's either take the two middle boys potty or change a pull-up.

Good Lookin' has started "wearing" his "baby" since he sees me with Little B all wrapped up in his Moby Wrap now. His "baby" amazingly loves it. Cupcake is an amazing kitten (now nearly grown cat) that gets dragged everywhere.

You gotta' to love the cat head sticking out of the skeleton jacket.

And Good Lookin' asked this past week if we couldn't just get rid of our new puppies and stick to cats. I guess he is an officially declared cat lover.

I threw this picture in for pure randomness. For all you other mommas who have asked how I keep my house clean? Well, now that a baby has re-entered the picture on top of milking goats part-time when Luke is at work and caring for toddlers and pre-schoolers, this is what my house often looks like. Laundry, how I LOATH YOU!!! As my dear sweet hubby has pointed out, at least it's clean. And, the other night he folded most of what was on the floor while I went to bed. Gotta' love that man!!

10:30-11:00am-- Still finds us outside. Now that the heat wave of this past blistering and record-setting summer has passed, we are enjoying the great outdoors so much more. The other new outdoor game--Hide and Seek in the Hay bales that Papa has put in front of our property.

11am-- Finds us back inside (quick wash down in the tub if needed) and getting lunch together.

I have the typical toddler pickiness challenges: Nater Mater won't eat bread to save his life and constantly begs for cheese and juice. Little Will pretty much only likes fruit and milk and chicken.

So, Thanks to Pinterest, I've got some new creative arsenal in my back pocket and have successfully tricked them into eating what they normal haven't. At least I've successfully tricked little W.

Nater Mater refused to eat his PBJ flower petals even though his little friend cheered him on saying, "It's good! Try it!!"

11:30-12noon-- Then it's usually a story, potty and pull-up changing time and laying everyone down for naps. (At least I give it a good go). Little W does a pretty good job of laying down and not running down the hallway. Nater Mater, not so good. I've finally taken to just giving him a stack of books and making him stay on his bed for an hour. If he falls asleep, he falls asleep. If he doesn't, well, he doesn't.At least I get an hour of quiet with just the baby and Good Lookin'.

12:30 to 1pm-- Usually giving Baby B another bottle and attempting Kindergarten with Good Lookin.' I say attempting because we've only really done about 4 days of real Kindergarten in the last 3 weeks. If little brother is refusing to stay on his bed and Baby B is fussy, he gets to go downstairs and play Mario Cart Wii (much to his delight).

2:30pm-- I wake up those who actually took a nap, change diapers and pull-ups, take others potty and load everyone into the car to pick up Precious Jewel from school. Mr. Smiles is brought home by another friend who lives a couple of miles down the road.

We may sit and wait for 10 minutes or for 30. It depends on the day and how far back in the line I got. The boys have been troopers though (It helps tremendously to have a DVD player in the car) and Baby B typically is sleeping, so there has only been one real day of crying or diaper changing while in the car line.
3:15pm-- We drive back home. This must have been taken the day that I picked up Mr. Smiles from school because my friend had an appointment. It was also a very hot day and my air-conditioner could barely keep up.

3:30pm-- Home and eating snacks and getting dirty in the yard. It's a tough life but someone's gotta live it! ; )

These two are finally becoming buds. It took several weeks for Nater Mater to stop asking for his friends from last year and accept that sweet Little W was here for the day instead. Change is hard on toddlers (and adults for that matter). But we all have settled into a new rhythm of relationships and are growing to love each other. I just keep repeating, "You are friends. Friends love each other. Friends don't hit each other. Friends don't bite. Friends share!!!" Repeat after me!!

At first, Nater Mater would yell out, "He's not my friend! M or S is my friend!!" I'd cover Little W's ears so not to hurt his feelings. Now Nater Mater and he will run up to each other in the yard and give each other hugs (if they are throwing dirt in each others hair and chanting "It's snowing!"

Which brings me to the next picture.

4 or 4:30pm-- I bring everyone inside and lately they've been FILTHY. The lack of rain has caused our front yard and drive to turn into this awful dust that sticks to everything...especially little kids who like to sit smack in the middle of it and drive their dump trucks and cars through it all. Yes, it makes fabulously filthy little roads for little boys to create roads out of.

And, it creates fabulously filthy little bodies. I try not to send home the little guy completely covered in dirt. If he's just "a little dirty" I can brush him off and send him home. If he (and the rest of mine) are dirty enough that I don't want them in the house unless they've had a bath, I give him a bath with my kids.
This is just from two fabulously filthy toddlers. They left a ring in the tub that day and I had to drain the water and re-fill it for them, so they wouldn't bathe in their own dirt.

Thank heavens for little boys!!

This is where my day gets tricky and crazy on the nights that Luke works.

Between 4:30 and 5pm-- I need to get kids inside, cleaned up, take little ones potty and change pull-ups and start older 2 on homework, start dinner and usually feed Baby B another bottle and change him before his momma picks him up.

The day I took these pics, I settled Precious Jewel at the kitchen table to start on her Math homework. So far, she hasn't required a whole lot of help, but I know that day is coming.

Then I hollered for Good Lookin' to join the 2 little boys in the bathtub and wash the layers of dust off. (Just to assure you, this pic was taken on another day when I didn't have 2 toddlers in the bathtub, but you get the idea).

I then settled+ Mr. Smiles on the floor beside me in the bathroom so he could read me his homework while I kept on eye on the two hooligans splashing around in the bathtub.

About this time Baby B also gets hungry, so I settled him in his bouncy seat to feed him just in case a certain toddler (mine) decided he was done before he really was and could make a mad dash for the door all nakey.

This day I also took a picture of my hair and the fun things I am getting to do now that it's getting long.

5pm-- Do you remember the books when you were little where you got to choose your own ending? Maybe they still have them, but I loved them. That's what my life feels like. On the nights Luke is not working, things look a whole lot different than on the nights he is working.

Scenerio 1: (Luke Home)

Little boys go home and I get to crazily throwing together dinner while the 4 kids goof off in the living room or downstairs. They come up with the best self-entertainment. This day, it was stuffing daddy's pants with pillows and knocking each other over.

6pm-- Dinner and then Luke plays in the living or basement with everyone while I clean in the kitchen. (I enjoy a bit of quiet and NO ONE pulling on my legs for something).

6:30 We start the whole bedtime process which includes showers (if needed), brushing teeth and pajamas. Then it's the highlitght of the evening...

Story Time
I think this is my favorite time of day.
Some days it's some little board book that Nater Mater has picked out and somedays it's a Chapter book that one of the older 2 brought home from school.
We just finished the Book Pinkie Pie by Eleanor Estes and even Good Lookin' paid attention to it because it was all about a cat who could type and "wrote" his own story.

Often the boys are tumbling on, around and over Luke while I cuddle up with Precious Jewel and read. They amazingly catch most of what is read.

7:30pm-- Then it's song time and off to bed and Luke and I get some time to ourselves.

Scenerio 2: 5pm-- Little brothers go home and I throw something together for dinner and then grab the milk pail and go out and milk and feed goats while there is still daylight left.

Pictures end here because I can't take pictures of myself milking goats.

Often the kids follow along and hunt for eggs if we didn't find any that morning. Otherwise they stay inside playing or watching a short cartoon I've downloaded from netflix for them.

6pm-- Dinner (if it's ready) where there are loud voices and lots of laughing and frequent knocking over of drinks by some child who is trying to describe a part of his or her day by flinging his/her arms wide to show how big something was. My floor won't forever be sticky and I want to remember these stories.

6:30--If kids are fighting, on goes another cartoon so I can get dinner somewhat put away before getting everyone ready for bed. If they are playing nice, I leave them alone.

7pm-- Attempts at story time (which often ends in me putting the book down and ordering them all to bed in the same upstairs room where I can just tell them a story and keep them coralled together). Story time does not go as well without daddy to entertain Nater Mater. He has no attention span for chapter books and finds much more enjoyment in launching himself over the back of the couch and onto unsuspecting heads.

7:30-- PJs, brush teeth and pajamas and we pull out our little Jesus Story Book Bible.

I love this little Children's Bible. It is so simple and yet so deep. It takes the whole picture of the gospel and weaves it from Genesis 1 all the way to Revelation in such a simple and yet profound way.

8pm-- Then out go the lights and we all pile onto the guest bed or onto my bed in our room and I sing the loud clapping songs first and gradually move onto the quieter more settling ones.

Hopefully by 8:30 I can say that everyone is asleep, but often someone has to be moved or removed from the room and across the hall.

9pm-- Back to the kitchen to finish up the supper dishes and pull out the last load of laundry which promptly goes onto the ever growing pile (see the above laundry picture). I glare at it and more often than not refuse to touch it and head to bed where hopefully I can get off my feet and have some quiet time and wait for Luke to get home from work.

Tonight it's 11:30 and I'm finally finishing the post that I began 3 weeks earlier, but I wouldn't have life any other way. I can count the many blessings each day... from egg hunts to bleating goats, to dirty and happy children to food on the table and I can count myself blessed.