My plan to blog daily did not work out. As in my daily life itself, I made a plan, not thinking of things that could possibly stop me from fulfilling it. I assumed my dedication alone would make it a success. And–surprise!–things came up to stop me from doing it.
However, I feel that the experience was a success.
I have quite a few blog ideas to go that I can’t wait to write about. Alas that they didn’t get written about in November, but they will.
Writing every day taught me –I can write every day. It wasn’t too painful.
I had plenty of ideas.
I haven’t written this much since grad school–I think. And it was much more fun.
I’m really happy that what stopped me from writing was not writer’s block, lack of ideas, or anything remotely like that. It was getting sick and needing to go back to bed and sleep. It was making Thanksgiving dinner and celebrating it. Those are good reasons to not write. I accept them as valid reasons not to meet my goal of daily blogging without guilting over it.
Happy December, everyone.
We had a wonderful whirlwind of activity at my house Thursday and Friday for the celebration of Thanksgiving. I sat down a few times between 2 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday, but just a few. We had fourteen family members present and it was good. My favorite memories:
1. I cut up what must have been 20 potatoes, but my family brought so much food that I thought to myself, “We’ll never be able to eat all these mashed potatoes,” or as my mother-in-law often comments, “I’ve made enough to feed an army.” At clean up however, there were perhaps two cups left. Nope, I did not make too much mashed potatoes.
Can you ever make too much mashed potatoes?
2. My brother-in-law picked up my oldest at college on his way down to our place, so I didn’t see my son until Wednesday evening, by which time I was really ready to see him (at the same time I was really thankful I wasn’t making a four-hour round trip drive the day before 14 people arrived at my house for dinner).
There is no more beautiful sight than your child’s smiling face in an approaching car window.
3. As I passed through the living room, temporarily transformed into Dining Room #2, on my way to sort out some details before dinner, I saw my mother and my mother-in-law face to face in our blue wing chairs, wine glass in one’s hand (guess which one), having what looked like a lovely heart-to-heart.
4. My children, brothers and sisters-in-law, my husband, my nephew, my mother and father, and my mother-in-law crammed into our kitchen together. My husband said these words, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,” and we shouted back, “His love endures forever!”
5. Then there’s the anecdotes I remember, but cannot share here, to protect the guilty whom I love. Imagine bursts of laughter. Repeatedly. I hope you had those too at your house.
It isn’t a cliché if it’s true. I’m really thankful that I have family who want to be here, a home to share with them, and food to cook for them. Dirty dishes too. Thank God for dirty dishes.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide, he will with patience wait.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
I went to the Word and Words conference two weeks ago. Before I went, I did some thinking about the questions the conference description provided. Why do we love stories? Why do we tell them? And how do stories inform our lives as Christian believers?
I wanted to brainstorm first to see if I was resonating with the speakers’ thoughts already. But I wouldn’t say these questions got directly asked or answered by any of them.
Why do I love stories? and why does it matter?
I have always loved books. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love a book–the smell, the feel of the paper under my fingers, the varied fonts on the pages. The rush when entering a bookstore. The peaceful must of the basement stacks of a library. The glorious realization: a great author has a new book I have not read.
I read to my stuffed animals in the living room. They encircled me and the book of the day. One of my early memories is the view of a book, wrapped as a present for me, on top of the dresser in my parents’ bedroom. At summer sunup on my fifth birthday, I was begging for my book. I can still see my mother’s head rising sleepily from her pillow.
And now I read throughout the day to my children. It’s probably one of the main reasons I keep homeschooling them. I just love to read, and we’ve found some fantastic books to enjoy together. I read the Bible and one other book at dinner. And I read at bedtime. Right now the four of us still at home are taking turns with the demigod characters of Rick Riordan’s The Blood of Olympus. Yeah, there’s a whole lot of stories going on at our house, and that’s how it’s always been.
So, why do I love stories and storytelling?
As I made my way downtown the first night of the conference, these were my speculations: Maybe we could better steward our time and energy if we didn’t spend them on something as simple as storytelling. Maybe we should only meet needs, share the Gospel and work to change the world. Wouldn’t that be more direct? In a world so painful, wouldn’t that ease more wounds?
And what if storytelling is dangerous? Stories can lead us to the wrong source; they can propel people toward empty cisterns.
At the conference, however, I was plunged into a gathering in which all loved words, stories, fairy tales. Nobody appeared to feel the need to defend storytelling.
Aside from a religious pitch or a moral fable or a lecture on what we should do, it seems we can hear stories better.
I think we were made that way.
A routine is the framework we hang our lives on.
I know mine keeps me going and sane many times. I mean that in multiple ways.
People often comment on how organized I am when they see our house and learn that I homeschool. More so if they find out that I only go to the grocery store once every two weeks, with a menu planned to last that long. I just stop in on the off weeks to get milk, bananas and lettuce.
And that’s true, I am very organized.
And it’s also true that being organized and having a daily and weekly routine helps keep us productive, most chores done, some seasonal work up to date (just being honest here as I still have quite a bit of fall yard work undone), and school both completed and recorded.
But that’s not what I mean when I say a routine is the framework we hang our lives on.
When everything else is blowing up in your face–you’re unsettled, depressed, uncertain–circumstances are unpredictable: at those times, having a next step to step into when you can’t even think clearly is a real gift.
I can’t tell you how many school mornings in the winter, I’d get up, make breakfast, light a candle in the den to drive away some of that January stuff, and then the only reason I knew what to do next was because I had a routine. I’d already done it. I kept doing it. Later in the day, things were better, and I was thankful I hadn’t ended up spending half an hour crying in the shower, or just gone back to bed. (Of course it helps if you have other people who won’t let you stay in bed.)
Another time routine is a gift is when I’m really anxious. If something is disturbing me, whether circumstance or just an unfavorable brain chemistry at that moment, thinking can get pretty adrenaline affected. Things seem to spin. I start with one thought, move to another, and then a third, but end up right back where I started. At times like those when my world feels as if it’s spinning out of rational control, when I do the next thing in my routine, and then the next, and then the next, I eventually get through it. I don’t slip off the edge.
I figure this is probably what women pressed to the limit in truly difficult situations do as well, in places where they’re displaced, there’s disease, disaster, death. They figure out a routine. And they do it. Because that’s what they need to keep going.
And it’s a real gift.
I work in the nursery with the babies and walkers every four weeks and today was one of my days. We had a pretty crazy one, with I think 10 kids (not 100% sure about that as it got a bit fuzzy there for a while) and four of them were criers. There were two of us working until we called in our coordinator to help us, cause we desperately needed his assistance. He took over our saddest one, and held him for half an hour until he finally fell asleep. Yeah, we wanted to call his parents, but unfortunately, they hadn’t taken a pager and we did not have the phone number they thought we had in the system. So lesson learned there–don’t rely on phone numbers.
You get all kinds of kids, some don’t want anything to do with you, some are like, “OK you’re not my mom but whatever.” Some are happy to explore the toys but they are not letting you in. Others want to sit in your lap. Some charm your socks off. They’re all so different.
So we had four young men who were sad. Then we had one younger baby who was the most agreeable fellow I’ve ever met. His mother said he be would be fine in his car seat because he had just eaten and been changed, and sure enough–he was. Every time I had a minute to go talk to him, which was not often, he would smile and act like I was the most fun he had seen all day. He never let out a peep.
Then we had the two girls in the mondo-toddler feeding table. It has 8 little seats you can drop the kids in (if they will tuck their feet through the holes, which can be a challenge), and for a time we had three girls. Then Michelle (not her real name–got to respect her privacy) decided she was done if we weren’t serving crackers to everyone (they belonged to one of the crying boys), so I pulled her out. That left Piper and Damaris at the table, pounding Cheerios for about half an hour. They kept avidly reaching for the glorious yellow box. What was really funny though was they had a plastic bead necklace. I was convinced it was Damaris’ but actually it belonged to Piper. I just never saw it on Piper until right before their mothers came to pick them up. They were taking turns pulling it back and forth between them, and dropping it in the empty seat I left between them. Nobody got upset; they genuinely seemed to enjoy tugging the necklace from each other, dropping it in another seat, and wearing it for about 10 seconds, then taking it off again.
Then we had the little bitty agreeable about 8 month old baby girl, who played peacefully in the floor. The only problem she ever had was when some larger walking child would step on her fingers or the toy she was looking at. Then she would fuss politely for about 10 seconds, we’d check her fingers, and she would go back to inspecting toys on the floor.
It was quite a scene–I never stopped moving between the table, the wandering boys, and the wandering criers. I’d pick them up and then put them back down again, while my co-worker rocked one until he fell asleep and continued to hold him because she knew if she put him in a crib he would wake up again.
Before I had kids, I used to think babies were basically blobs of fat with no personality at all. I suppose I thought a child would be at least five years old before you could identify him as an individual with his own preferences. Of course, after a few years of parenting I learned how misguided I was. When our daughter was about two weeks old, and wailing because I wouldn’t let her just sleep while nursing (I had the gall to insist she do one or the other, not both)my husband observed, “She’s a person and she knows what she wants.”
Each baby is a person from the very beginning. Being with him, holding him, talking with him and listening when he talks back, or interact in return if he is not talking, gives me a glimpse into who that little person is. I have a momentary doorway to the future; I can see the person she is and will be.
For me that is the most fascinating thing.
Perhaps many others of you are in the process of dismantling this myth, as am I. It may be because we are products of our culture. I suspect that not every person on the planet has had to come face to face with this particular reality. But I also suspect that I am not alone in it.
Why not? Because that is the myth: somehow I am so unique I stand alone. Haven’t you felt it? Haven’t you believed it? But only see–
I’m not immune from sickness, trouble, disease.
I’m not alone in struggling with the ‘how-tos’ of life.
I’m not excused from having bills to pay.
I’m not going to get my house or my life perfectly and beautifully organized in every particular.
I don’t have a note that says I don’t have to deal with hard situations.
I’m not going to get everything I want. In fact, I’ll be blessed to receive some of what I want.
I’m not going to be famous when I grow up.
My mother broke this news to me at some point in my early elementary years after I was infected with some disease related to going to the movies. I was not going to be a movie star. I probably cried for an hour at this news. It didn’t stop me from continuing to hope, however.
When in school and college I was singled out as a stellar student. My teachers told me I had a bright and fantastic future ahead of me. No discredit to them; I know they simply wanted to encourage me, but I’m afraid I took those compliments to mean that good things would just magically occur in my life, like Cinderella’s pumpkin spinning upward into a coach. I’m sure my love of fairy tales didn’t help; I always identified myself with Prince Ivan or the third daughter of the merchant–the one who transforms the beast, sees into the heart, and ultimately passes the test and proves herself.
I’m not saying that because I am small in the universe I have no purpose. Rather the opposite: wherever I am and whatever I am doing, my part can be played by no one else. I was created to do good deeds prepared for me. As he wishes, he gives different gifts to each person, for the good of all.
Those were the ‘nots’. Here are the ‘ares’.
I am going to have days that are frustrating. I am going to make mistakes. As Christophe André observes, “It’s the rent you pay to live in the house of life.”
My children are going to grow up and leave home.
My husband will probably need a hearing aid, and yes, both of us will have gray hair–if we have hair.
I am going to get old.
I am going to die.
These realities are the flip side of the myth that says I am immortal and invincible. I’m not sorry my myths are being eroded: I’m joining the rest of the human race. I just wish it had happened sooner.