Friday, May 30, 2008

DJ's party and Jon's parade

One week ago, we threw a surprise party for David on the occasion of his seventeenth birthday. This is a picture of the surprise. You cannot see DJ, and neither could I (well, that might be the corner of his right ear...).

Because I had reoriented the kitchen table to facilitate a buffet snack set-up, we knew the gig would be up if he came in from the garage door and saw the table. So he never had time to get into the house. His friends packed into the corridor leading to the mudroom and bombasted him as soon as he opened the door. They were all in front of me, hence this lovely blurred photo of the backs of their heads and arms. It was loud. DJ was surprised.

Here is DJ leaning against the wall, catching his breath after the vigorous surprise. His friends, at this moment in time, were all comparing the funny pictures of DJ that they got on their cameras. I'm not bitter or jealous or anything. Here is my dear boy, catching his breath (by the way, his actual birthday was the previous day, so he really was not expecting anything).

Here you see DJ and his friends in the family room. I tried to give them lots of space, so they wouldn't feel like I was hovering, or spying, or lurking... but I did get this picture. DJ is rather secretive when it comes to his friends. I think he's just a little self-conscious. We had one friend (that we knew about) hand out the invitations, otherwise we would not have known whom to invite. I was happy to have this opportunity to meet DJ's friends. They were all absolutely wonderful kids--neat, clean, polite and kind. Of course, they were a little shy around me, but I guess that makes us even, because I was a little shy around them, too.

DJ was able to blow out all his seventeen candles with one breath. He does play the saxophone, after all. And he always says he doesn't have a girlfriend! I had to get a bakery cake, because it wouldn't have done for him to see me baking a cake on the day after his birthday. I had made him a birthday apple pie, by request, on the day before.

Here is Jonno on the following Monday, playing his trumpet in the Memorial Day Parade. He is the tall boy in the middle of the picture, wearing black shoes. I love the way he plays his trumpet, loud and clear, right from the heart. We had a crazy, unorganized morning that day, and he ended up marching on an empty stomach--you can see that he looks a little peaked. But he hung in there like a champ. My solace was that I had sent him with a bottle of water. Unfortunately the girl next to him (you can't see her) lifted it out of his pocket and drank it herself. He didn't even know her. Can you imagine? Is that how girls flirt these days?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

lazy me

I haven't been on the computer so much lately, which is probably good.

I rarely answer my phone, but lately I haven't even been listening to messages on the answering machine or answering email.

We did install new laminate floors in two bedrooms recently.  And the pool is almost open.  Anyway, it looks open, which is good enough for now.  It's too cold to swim, anyway.  This morning the temperature in the house had fallen to 64, so I turned the heat on again.

I have been so tired.  I hardly have the energy to do any gardening.  I used to love gardening.  Last weekend I planted three pots of flowers, and then I went inside to sew a curtain for the boys' newly remodeled bedroom.

I dropped out of Book Review Friday, basically because I don't have time to do it along with my Tuesday morning Bible study.  We do about three chapters per week and are nearly finished with 2 Kings.  I do not understand why this takes so much out of me.  I used to teach Sunday school to third and fourth graders and also lead the Tuesday Bible study, AND send out nearly daily emails with comments on the daily scripture readings for the Bible study.  Now I prepare one lesson for Tuesday mornings and I'm bushed.  What gives?

Am I outside the Will of God?

Am I still in a weakened state from the flu I had last winter?

Am I going through menopause?

Is it a sin to take a nap?  How about multiple naps?  I am haunted by Proverbs 6:10-11, "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest-- and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man."

But there is also Psalm 127:2, "In vain you rise early and stay up late toiling for food to eat--for He grants sleep to those He loves."

We may have an opportunity to buy some land and move out to the country, but I look around at all that needs to be done in order to accomplish that, and I feel nausea in my stomach, tears welling up around my eyes.

I think I'm pathologically lazy.  Proverbs 26:15 says, "The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth."  I have an opportunity right in front of me, but I feel too 
overwhelmed to take action on it.

By the way, I hate Opera.  I am trying to write in Opera right now, and the html is all messed up and I have no idea how to fix it.  When the formatting of one of my posts is particularly awkward, it is because I was in Opera.  My bookmarks are all in Opera, and I am too lazy to figure out how to change them.

Well, I need to go change beds and do laundry and clean toilets and make granola bars.  That sort of stuff.  And shower.

DJ is going to New Orleans with the jazz band today.  He took his suitcase to school and they will leave for the airport shortly after lunch.  I am stressed silly about this, to the point where I am in total avoidance and trying not to even think about it.

If I get some work done, I will reward myself by listening to Colin Smith and then perhaps I will feel better.

This is a super dumb post.  I should have written about how Jonathan played his trumpet in the Memorial Day Parade last Monday.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Ten blissful things

  • Waking up with toasty warm toes, and being able to stay in bed for awhile and enjoy them.
  • A newly opening rose in my very own garden.
  • Hearing my children belly laugh together over something at the kitchen table--all four of them together.
  • Leaves. I love leaves. I especially love them in May, when they are new but not tiny.
  • Hiking near a waterfall.
  • When each one of the socks in the laundry load has a mate at the end of folding.
  • 80 degrees F.
  • Shade on a sunny day.
  • Fresh strawberries, ripe and warm from the patch.
  • Going to bed at the end of a productive day.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday

I have teenagers and "teenagers" means acne, at least some of the time.

Over the counter medications are pretty good--you can't find much from a prescription that beats this:
1. Cleanse with Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash in the orange tube (2% salicylic acid)
2. Moisturize with Clean and Clear Dual Action Moisturizer (oil free, also contains salicylic acid)
3. Treat spots individually with Clearasil (10% benzoil peroxide)

The problem is acne on the chest, back and shoulders, because both salicylic acid and benzoil peroxide bleach out fabrics and ruin them, and you may notice that they are the active ingredients in the entire regimen listed above. We can live with ruining our washcloths, towels, pillowcases and sheets. But it is a sad thing to ruin all your clothes.

I have come up with a solution that I believe is actually worthy of a Works for Me Wednesday post: Homemade Acne Wipes.

To make these, you need:
  • a small rectangular plastic storage container
  • plain white paper towels
  • isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
  • pure water (if your water is iffy, use distilled)
  • tea tree oil
  • vitamin E capsules (200 IU USP)
Cut each paper towel in half and fold each half like a tissue, to fit into the plastic container. Make sure that the top edge is folded to only somewhere in the center of the wipe, not all the way to the edge of the container, so it will be easy to grab.
Put the folded paper towel things into the container one at a time. To each one, add:
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1 tsp rubbing alcohol
  • approximately four drops of tea tree oil
  • the contents of one vitamin E capsule, snipped and squeezed out
I think it is important to apply the ingredients to each wipe separately, to ensure the best absorption of the proper ratios. I always make these in multiples of seven, so they last through weeks nicely. Store, covered tightly. Both the alcohol and the tea tree oil will naturally preserve these wipes for much longer than it takes to use them up.
To use, cleanse the area affected with acne with a wipe two times per day. Do not rinse off. This solution is perfectly safe for your clothing.
In addition, once per day, apply a mask of Neutrogena Clear Pore Mask/Cleanser (3.5 % benzoil peroxide) for 10-20 minutes. Wash off in the shower, using the Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash as a body wash over the affected area.
Before bed, after cleansing, apply a layer of pure tea tree oil to entire affected area.
Also, take a good multi vitamin and be sure to drink 64 ounces of good, pure water every day.
This system will take 2 or 3 weeks to show thorough results, but I have been amazed at what I have invented here. My kids say I should market it and make a lot of money. If only I had some entrepreneurial spirit. I'm too sharing and giving.
I have to say, we had gotten to the point where we spent over $125 on a prescription ointment, but it didn't work at all, and these wipes have been wonderful.
Check out more WFMW posts at Rocks in My Dryer.

10/19/2016 -- Update
I've since found that nurturing your skin and caring for it very gently is even more effective.  One of the worst things for skin, in my experience, is SLS (Sodium laurel sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate--this is in virtually all facewashes and most bar soaps).  My current recommended skin care routine is this:

Morning: (1) Wash with Yardley Oatmeal and Almond bar soap. (2) Apply lavender EE, arnica gel and calendula gel to any blemishes.  (3) Moisturize with St. Ives Timeless Skin Collagen Elastin Facial Moisturizer.

Evening:  (1) Use raw honey as a mask on your face: apply and let sit for 3-20 minutes depending on how long you have, then rinse off with warm water.  (2)  Apply lavender EE, arnica gel and calendula gel to any blemishes.  (3)  Moisturize by pouring about 1/4 tsp. castor oil (yes the laxative) into your palm and adding a couple of drops of lavender EE.  Massage this into your face and neck.  If you are having blemishes, you can add a drop of tea tree oil to this mixture.

The wipes above are still good for body acne, but if you use Yardley Oatmeal and Almond bar soap in the shower, you may not need them.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Ruth from MacCarthaigh Family tagged me today. I have never been tagged before. Wow. Does this mean I’m a real blogger?

Favourite person (outside family)....ummm. That’s very tricky. If I say one person, then another gets hurt. How about this…my favorite Bible teacher is Colin S. Smith. You can listen to him here. I have drawn great strength from his teaching.

Favourite food... fruit. I love watermelon, but it isn’t quite in season yet. The grapefruit was amazing this year. I also really like chocolate milk. I know it is a beverage, not a food, but when I’m busy I have it for lunch rather often.

Quirks about me... I like to be alone, but I hate being lonely. I like to study up on homeopathic and naturopathic remedies—I’m particularly big on arnica, tea tree oil and gentian violet. I have extreme anxiety when I am getting ready to go on vacation.

How would the person who loves you most describes you in ten words or less... (Shawn says) intelligent, questioning, wise, beautiful, temperamental, occasionally volatile, studious, loving, critical. (I hope he means critical as in a critical thinker and not as in a nasty nit-picker…)

Any regrets in life... yes.

Favourite cause/charity... Wycliffe and other organizations that translate the Bible into languages that don’t have it, and into unwritten languages.

Favourite blog recently... I get a lot of good, helpful homemaking hints off Tammy’s Recipes. Even though she’s younger than I am.

Something you can't get enough of... back rubs. Back rubs are irresistible. I love a really deep, therapeutic massage.

Worst job you ever had... I have worked so little—every now and again the government sends me a statement of my life earnings, and I think I’ve made less than $10,000 in my entire life. Such is the fate of a stay-at-home mom who started having babies at age 23. Probably my worst job was waitressing at a small diner in the town where I grew up. I also waitressed at a Chinese restaurant, but that was not as bad. The diner was really creepy, and the boss was disturbing.

What job would you pay not to have... cat vet. I have a severe phobia of cats. Oh. I should have listed that under “quirks.”

If you could be a fly on the wall, where?... I would never want to be a fly. Period.

Favourite Bible verse right now... Psalm 86:4—“Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.”

Guilty pleasures... You ask me this right after you ask about my favorite Bible verse? OK. Here goes: Taking a really long, really hot shower. Also eating a Hershey’s Symphony bar with toffee and almonds.

Got any confessions... I have been really crabby lately.

If you HAD to spend €1,000.00 on yourself, how would you spend it?...I’m not sure what that translates to in dollars. I would probably take one of my daughters (or both, if that’s enough money) and go visit my parents. On a plane. So we wouldn’t have to drive 1200 miles. Yes! Or I might try to buy some nice clothes, or hire a shopper to buy them for me, because I hate shopping, which shows in my wardrobe which has not been updated for years.

Favourite thing about your house... I really like my kitchen. I also like the brick path that Shawn built me from the driveway to the front door.

One thing you are bad at... Calling people, anything associated with the telephone. Also keeping track of appointments. And handling stress . I am awful at handling stress. Oh. I was supposed to give ONE thing. Ooops. I guess I’m bad at following directions, too.

One thing you are good at... reading aloud.

If you could change things about your circumstances, what... well, if it isn’t a sin to say so, I would like to live closer to my parents so my kids could have a close relationship with their grandparents, and so I could see them often and care for them in their old age and send over my strapping boys to help my dad plow up and plant his garden.

Who would you like to meet some day... C.S. Lewis. I always wanted so badly to meet him when I was a child reading the Chronicles of Narnia. I love his “voice.” I was devastated when I learned that he was dead. Oh well, there’s always heaven.

What makes you feel sexy... Candlelight; soft, impressionistic piano music; a full moon; a flattering, fluttery dress; my hair coming out nicely, which doesn’t happen often—I’m not sexy. Really.

Who is your real life hero... Jim Eliot. He was Elisabeth Eliot’s first husband who was killed by the Auca Indians. He said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what He cannot lose.”

What is the hardest part of your job... as a mother, finding the balance between being a servant-leader to my children and teaching them to be responsible for their own stuff... I mess up every time, usually by doing things for them that I shouldn’t and then yelling at them. Also, it used to be very hard that I got no sick days. No.such.thing. But now my awesome kids can actually take care of ME when I am sick.

When are you most relaxed... In front of the fire, wrapped in a quilt, sipping a hot mug of tea and not needing to be anywhere other than at home. Also when the house is clean, as long as it’s not being messed up again.

What stresses you out... packing for vacations, stress in my kids’ lives (music auditions, big tests), cooking for company, big messes (especially those that involve toxic substances, like oil based paint). Also heavy traffic.

What can you not live without... Well, Jesus, of course. And my cranberry tablets that keep my bladder in order. Also dentil floss. I love freshly flossed teeth.

Do you agree or disagree with the recent article that reported that blogs are authored by narcissists... Well, I didn’t read the article. I think a lot of bloggers are like me—people who are shy and introverted, and would rather communicate with the safety of the computer between them and the world than face-to-face. Is that narcissistic? I think it is more in the category of a crutch to enable avoidance.

Why do you blog... I do it because I like to write. Before I started blogging, I would just compose all these random essay-type things in my head in the shower. Now when I have a thought, I have a place to write it down. I have tried journaling, but I prefer blogging because having the threat of possible readers sometimes helps me self-edit a little better. In a private journal, I am too undisciplined in the crummy, self-centered thoughts I will allow myself to write out. I also blog as a discipline to have something to hand down to my kids someday—a memory of who their mom/grandma/great-grandma was. I would love it if I had a “blog” left from my own grandma!

Another confession in addendum: I don’t know how to tag. I am sorry if this is breaking the rules. Here is a list of some blogs I check on, instead (since I don’t know how to put them on my sidebar). Feel free to visit them. I hope. Actually, I am kind of a lurker and most of them would not know who I was if you said I’d sent you there. Amy of Amy’s Humble Musings is a very gracious person who actually sometimes emails her commenters, even though she is a total blog celebrity.

A Patchwork of Blessed Moments Makes a Quilt of Grace

Amy’s Humble Musings

MacCarthaigh Family

Laundry and Lullabies

Rocks in My Dryer

Scott and Lori is not what I would call a Christian blog, but she is funny and she has some good recipes—she also has like 100,000,000 readers)

Watch the Sky

Friday, May 16, 2008

Birth Control and the QuiverFull movement

When I first got married, in college, I was under strict orders from my mother not to have a baby for a long time.

In the eighteen months of my marriage before I became pregnant with my first child, I often thought about the wicked state of the world, and wondered how a person could ever, in good conscience, go ahead and bring a tiny life into it.

Then we had three unplanned pregnancies in three years.

At some point I began to wonder about birth control and the sovereignty of God.

I remember that when I was a girl living at home with my parents, people with large families were always Catholic. The evangelical protestants I knew and loved seemed to consider it a legalistic mindset not to use birth control; it was a rule devout Catholics followed to please the pope. In those days, and perhaps still today, protestants, especially the Baptist type, saw Catholics as some sort of quasi-cult, and did not consider that a Catholic could ever be saved. The prevailing attitude about Catholics was that they were just bound up in legalistic rule following, dead rituals, and weird prayers to Mary and the saints.

Sometimes I wondered about that. I think the Catholics have it right on a certain level, at least where birth control and the pro-choice movement are concerned. It seems to me that the advent of birth control ushered in our age of sexual promiscuity. With birth control, sex is reduced to a form of pleasurable entertainment, a fun recreation. Before birth control, sex was much more serious business. It was an act of love and trust between two people who had covenanted to build a life and family together.

Shortly after being married, I learned that the pill was potentially an abortifacient, so I stopped using it. This is probably why we had three unplanned pregnancies.

After that, however, life became too much for me. I do not feel that it would be appropriate to go into all the details of the problems or the details of what we tried as solutions. But I will say that I prayed and prayed and prayed. I read through the Bible. I sought the face of God.

I had never heard of the Quiverfull movement. I think it was the Providence of God that I had not, because I was weak and desperate, and I probably would have thought that it was what I had to do. Even now, the Quiverfull movement can fill me will guilt and shame for... for what? For honoring my husband's desire that we limit the size of our family and, as a couple, taking medical measures to do so.

This is not to make my husband the bad guy. I was not against limiting the size of our family. There have been times when I have wanted another baby, but I have never wanted an unlimited number of more children.

However, it is to say that, had I discovered the Quiverfull movement at that time, it would have seriously tempted me to disrespect my husband and to question whether I ought to submit to his leadership. The Bible is very clear that wives are to respect their husbands and submit to them. The Bible is not clear at all that limiting family size is a sin. That is a position that can be deduced, but it is not clearly stated. Better, I think, to obey the clear directives than to pre-empt them because of someone's cobbled together position on a different issue.

I don't know if what we did was right or wrong. We prayed about it. We tried to do what made sense. We had no desire to sin in this. I was sinning every day in my inability to exercise self-control, to be patient, and otherwise to live out a display of the fruits of the Spirit. What I really wanted was to stop sinning and start enjoying the blessing of the children I had. Prayer and reading the Word had not fixed me. Maybe God wanted to work through medical technology. Is that beyond imagining?

I think about it, you know... how we live these days with all our medical technology. Babies hardly ever die any more. Back in colonial days, you had to have about twelve children to ensure that at least three or four would live to adulthood. These days the vast majority of our children survive. Women who would have died in childbirth in an earlier era survive by having cesarean sections these days, which produces a whole new crop of children who are genetically wired to require cesareans when they grow up. The same goes for heart conditions, blood conditions, lung conditions. It makes me wonder, "Were all these people meant to be? Should they have died and cleansed the gene pool? Are we thwarting the will of God with our medical technology?" And then I remember that we can never thwart the will of God. It is His will when a medical discovery is made, and it is His will when it is used to save a life that comes into being after its invention. If He wanted the baby with the hole in its heart not to live, He could have easily had it born in 1810 instead of 2008.

We can't thwart the will of God. We do not have that much power. In fact, I believe in a God who is so sovereign, so in control of the affairs of men, that if He wanted me to have a baby, it wouldn't matter what medical procedures had taken place. He can make a baby grow whenever and wherever He pleases. Remember the birth of Jesus?

I am not all for birth control. I think it is very murky water. I am not totally at peace with where I am in all this, except that I know God's promise in Romans 8:28--"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." God will use all things (even my mistakes) for good. So I don't have to worry, I just have to trust. The question isn't so much whether I am trying to stop the will of God, as that I am trying to do what makes sense. If God over-rides my actions with a miracle, my heart will be glad and welcome the child. What is more important, the action, or the heart? What is more pleasing to God, a woman who suffers dutifully but miserably in the Quiverfull movement and mourns at her tenth, eleventh and twelfth pregnancies, or a woman whose husband has a vasectomy, but she later finds herself expecting a baby and responds with thanksgiving and joy?

People who join a camp--quiverfullers, homeschoolers, what have you--tend to need to validate their decision. This can come across as pride and judgment toward those who have made a different choice. Although scripture can be used to support many decisions, this support is not always clear cut. That 's where 1 Corinthians 13 comes in. We need to love one another, and give each other credit for searching the heart of God. When people are clearly in sin, it is scriptural to lead them back to the living water. But is a judgmental quiverfull mother ready to be confronted for her pride and self-righteousness, or is she only willing to condemn someone who has chosen to take steps to limit her family size?

This is not to say that all quiverfull mothers are legalistic and judgmental. I have no doubt that some women are called to have huge families and equipped with the grace to manage. The problem comes when some of them start telling everybody else that, "God will give you exactly the same grace that He gave me if you'll go out on a limb and have a plethora of children. You only have to TRUST!"

If that were the meaning of trust, we would all have to be Christian Scientists, refusing to take antibiotics for our pneumonia and refusing chemotherapy for our cancer. If God can work through those avenues to make people healthy and whole, He might sometimes choose to work through birth control for the good of one of His children as well. You can trust God and still use medical interventions.

One of the Quiverfull's benchmark arguments is that children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5). They say that you wouldn't turn away any of God's other blessings, like a big house or more money, so why would you turn away the blessing of children? That dog don't hunt, as the saying goes. I know of a number of people who have turned down a bigger house, opting for a smaller one because it was all they needed and they didn't want the headache of a huge home to clean, maintain and pay taxes on, in a neighborhood where they felt a lot of pressure to "keep up with the Jones's." I know of people who have opted for a job that net less money because it was less stressful and required less travel than the truly "big bucks" job that was available. There are people who turn down incredibly lucrative job opportunities in order to stay closer to their extended families. It's all about lifestyle choices and sometimes less is more--in all areas.

If you have too big a house, you can invite people in to share it, to live with you and help with the chores and the bills. If you have too much money, you can give it away. If you have too many children, would you ever give them away? Would that ever be God's will? Should a fertile woman continue bearing children that she and her husband can't afford to support, and hand them out to her infertile Christian friends like we do when too many zucchini grow in our gardens?

The hard thing about the truly holy Christian life is that you can never find a position and go hog wild over it. Everything needs to be in balance. We need to read the Bible. We need to pray. We need to walk by faith, trusting God, and we need to wisely discern how to properly and sensibly use the resources He puts in our way. And, while we're doing all that, we need to be loving, covering everything over with a layer of Godly love.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I'm in a rut. I just can't shake the Mother's Day guilt this year.

The thing that really gets me is when I read on a card (or whatever): "Mom. She was always the last one to bed at night and the first one up in the morning."

Well, I can safely say that I will never receive THAT card from any of my children. Unless it is in jest. Sleep deprivation was the worst thing about having three babies in less than three years. Sleep deprivation, were it not for the grace of God, could have easily driven me to suicide. When I am sleep deprived, I get sick, I cry, and I have zero capacity for dealing with stress or trauma. I never did like slumber parties as a kid. I never pulled an all-nighter in college. I just get to a point of fatigue and I shut down, physically and mentally. This was not good when I was the mother of a just-turned-three-year-old, an eighteen-month-old, and an eight-week-old and we all (yes, me too) got chickenpox.

I'm not sure I ever really pulled completely out of that. People talk about "returning to normal." I think when certain things happen to you, you never get back to the way you were, you just have to find a new way to function and adapt to it.

Anyway, I was sleep deprived for years, and for all the prayers and pleading I threw up to heaven, I never grew into a person who could graciously function on less than eight hours of sleep a night.

When my kids finally became teenagers and started sleeping, I slept right along with them. Hey, I had a lot of lost sleep to make up for. During the week, my kids often stay up late studying and doing homework. I go to bed. I don't get good rest until they all go to bed (this is due, in part, to the fact that certain ones of them often come in to my room and wake me up to ask for something). But I try to be in bed by 11:00 p.m., and they regularly stay up past midnight. I am definitely not the last one up at night.

I do not get up with my kids in the morning before school. I do set my alarm and make sure that they are up, but I do not get up and start my day until most of them are gone. It takes all my energy, mental and physical, to get Jonno out of bed in the morning, so I do get up for that, and I make his breakfast and his lunch. But the older kids are on their own after I have made sure that somebody is awake and working on the morning routine. So you see, I am certainly not the first one up in the morning. Perhaps I am the first one awake, but I am not the first one UP. And, depending on how bad a night I've had, I sometimes go back to bed after Jonno is on the bus, too.

I am the first one up on weekends, sometimes, kind of. Well, let's not even go there.

Aagh. The guilt is killing me. But if I try to push myself and sleep less and be up more, the result is... more guilt. Because then I ache and I get crabby and miserable and I whine and complain and grumble and lose my temper.

It is very hard to discern where the will of God is in all this. Does He look at me with a sort of tolerant grace, knowing that He made me a certain way? Or does He look at me in disappointment, because I am not trying hard enough, not trusting fully enough?

I don't want to be lazy. And I don't want to be mean. But sometimes it seems like I am forced to choose one or the other. When I really push myself, I get mean. When I am nice, I am lazy.

What to do? What to do?

I am so glad that I won't be tired in Heaven. Or mean. Or... guilty. Hallelujah!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The worst thing about Mother's Day

The worst thing about Mother's Day is how everybody gets so hyper-sentimental about how wonderful a mother is--how she was ALWAYS there and NEVER complained, worked TIRELESSLY to keep her home IMMACULATE while always maintaining a GENTLE and LOVING attitude with her children and her husband... while holding down three part time jobs and serving delicious, nutritious homemade cookies to all the children in the neighborhood.

It just makes me feel like a pea.

I would like to enjoy breakfast in bed, smiling faces, homemade cards, you know...

But I feel so all-fired guilty about all the things I'm NOT.

If I get one more mushy email about how wonderful mothers are, I think I'm going to... I'm going to... well, I WILL delete it. Yep. That's what I'll do.

Because I complain. I nag. I threaten. And I get PMS. I don't like to share our homemade cookies with the neighbor children, and anyway, I don't make the cookies anyway, Shannon and Laura do. I eat the cookies and cakes and muffins that my daughters make. I do this on a regular basis.

So you see, I don't even DESERVE Mother's Day.

But I do love breakfast in bed. If I didn't have all this GUILT, Mother's Day would be my favorite day of the year.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Door

Yesterday I finished staining the front door. Except for the parts I missed. And the trim around it, which will be a slightly different color, which I hope will not look bad, but what can you do?

I finished without spilling mineral spirits all over my kitchen and without crying, two good things.

There is still trim to paint. Also, once the stain dries (which took THREE DAYS the last time), I need to put on a coat of clear polyurethane. I am trying not to feel totally overwhelmed at this unending job. It will be nice when at least we get the doorknob back on so we can close and lock the door. Right now, for security we are depending on the lock on the storm door and two small but noisy dogs. I've been staying at home a lot lately.

Shannon is done with college and finals. I can't believe how fast this year went.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Eternity scares me. It scares me the most when I think about it, which usually happens in the wee hours of the night when everyone is sleeping and it is just God and me. I lie on my bed, on my stomach, and feel like it is some sort of lilting platform, careening through time and space. I think, "I'm scared of the next life. I'm scared of living forever. I'm scared of being born into eternity."

In the daylight hours I am busy. What shall we do with the mixed up files with the mixed up statements from all the utilities and credit cards? What shall I make for dinner? Are those beans I'm cooking ever going to get soft enough to mash? What time is karate? Did I remember to wash the karate uniform? How about underwear? Are we out of clean underwear? Are we out of milk? Are we out of gas, can I make it to the oboe lesson?

During the daylight hours a thousand everyday prayers go up: Please help me to remember everything I need while I'm at the store. Please help me remember to switch over the laundry. Please help me find a parking space. Please help me merge onto the freeway. Please don't let the dog be sick. Thank you for the beautiful sunshine. Thank you for the great price on grapes this week. Where is Jon? Oh please, please keep him safe. Please help me not to lose my temper. Please forgive me for losing my temper. Please help me fix the trainwreck of my childrearing. Please help me find my sunglasses.

But at night everything changes. The nitty gritty of everyday fades away and big, scary thoughts loom, thoughts that take the bottom out of my stomach and leave me falling, even as I cling to the sides of my mattress. Heaven appears to me like a gigantic medeival church of stone, imposing, beautiful, gut-wrenching. The presence of God seems like outer space, limitless and (against my better judgment) dark, cold and airless. Eternity feels like a black hole that is sucking me in.

I know that God is not like that. He is love, light and joy. In His presence is fullness of joy. Jesus came that our joy may be complete. We love because He first loved us. He is our protector, teacher, guide, comforter and friend. To be with Him is to be free from pain, sorrow, boredom, sin and death.

In the daylight hours I know that Heaven is a wonderful place and I can look forward to getting there and seeing Jesus. In the daylight hours I can say, with honesty, "I'm not afraid of being dead; I'm just afraid of getting dead."

But at night, sometimes, the thought of eternity really scares me.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Book Review Friday

OK, OK, I know it's Saturday. I have been stressed. Today I tried to start staining the new fiberglass door we had installed on that fluky warm day in January--and I ended up in tears, covered with stain, spilling mineral spirits all over my kitchen, etc. etc. So went my week. I 'm tired.

This week's Book Review was on 1 Samuel 1-6. In our Tuesday morning Bible study, we are on 2 Kings 10-11. I had a hard time getting into going back to 1 Samuel. It's kind of like going back to the beginning of a book and reading it when you are already 3/4 of the way through.

I did finally read it. Once. I also scanned it a few times, and read passages here and there.

I was dreading writing this book review, because what came out to me was the judgment of God. Every time I read God's word, something different pops out--His mercy, His power, His sovereignty, His love. Well, this week, in this passage, it was His judgment. Which was not exactly what I was hoping for. Perhaps it is a warning. Perhaps I am in a dangerous spiritual place.

The verse that really hit me was 1 Samuel 2:25 where Eli was warning his sons not to sin against the Lord: " 'If a man sins against another man, God can intercede for him, but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?' But they would not listen to their father, since the Lord intended to kill them." Did you get that? It implies that the Lord actually hindered them from listening to their father, because He had already intended to kill them.

I guess this jumped out at me because I had been haunted by the verse in Jude last week that talked about how God had destined certain evil men for destruction (designated them for judgment). 1 Samuel 2:25 reminded me of Jude 4. How eerie. And, both verses talk about people who are supposedly spiritual leaders.

I spent a lot of time last week feeling bad about myself for dwelling on this. But every time I went back to 1 Samuel 1-6, another frightening thing popped up. How about the prophesy that God gave Samuel to take back to Eli? We know the story of how Hannah prayed for a baby and God granted her request. We know the story of how God called to the boy Samuel in an audible voice in the tabernacle as he lay sleeping. But how often do we read on and see that Samuel had to go back to Eli and tell him that his entire line was going to be wiped out? Did you notice 2:14, where God told Samuel that the sins of Eli's family will never be wiped out by either sacrifice or offering? That is a very frightening and solemn threat.

The recurring talk of blood sacrifices also seemed more significant to me than they have during other times when I've read this passage. Over and over in these six chapters, we read about animals being sacrificed. This reminds us, in our day, that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). Of course, we know that Jesus' perfect blood paid the price for every sin, and we no longer have to go through the symbolic ritual of killing animals. The real sacrifice has been made, and it is finished, praise be to Jesus.

Speaking of Jesus, I was struck by Hannah's prayer--it reminded me of Mary's magnificat (in Luke 1). The lowly have been lifted up, the proud are brought low. I was also struck by 1 Samuel 2:26, "By contrast, the boy Samuel grew in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men." It reminded me of Luke 2:52, "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people."

It became clear to me what a "type of Christ" Samuel was, a foretaste of the Perfect One to come, a shadow of the Promise. In the midst of a sinful and depraved people who needed to kill animals constantly because of all their sins, and who couldn't even go through the sacrificial process itself without sinning in additional and astonishing ways (2:12-17), God raised up Samuel to stand in the gap and minister to His people. Samuel brought the people back to a knowledge of the Truth: "Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let nothing he said prove false. All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a confirmed prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear in Shiloh, because there He revealed Himself to Samuel by His word. And Samuel's words came to all Israel." (Also, we didn't get to chapter 7, but there it explains how Samuel worked to bring God's word to the people: "Every year he would go on a circuit to Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpah and would judge Israel at all these locations. Then he would return to Ramah because his home was there, he judged Israel there, and he had built an altar to the Lord there." 7:16-17)

After pondering these chapters,
  1. I am thankful that Jesus died for my sins and we don't have to kill animals anymore
  2. I am sobered by the thought of the judgment of God, and how it is impending for all who are not covered by the blood of Jesus.
  3. I am thankful that Jesus not only brought us the word of God, He is the Word of God (John 1), and although He will sit in the seat of judgment and judge all the nations on the Final Day, I do not need to be afraid, because I belong to Him, I am in Him , and He is in me.

Another passage that I read this week was Psalm 130, and it seems to go along with what God was showing me in 1 Samuel.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

Psalm 130

In Jesus we have forgiveness for sins. Do we realize what a marvelous thing this is?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Stress and stress

My kids are in high school and college now, at least three of the four of them are.

That means this time of year is testing time--AP tests, finals, New York regents tests (well, those are still about six weeks out).  Tests mean stress.  It brings up a lot of memories for me, memories of my own test-taking days.

I remember going in to calculus tests with my heart pounding, dry mouthed, stomach lurching, hands shaking.  I remember trying to breathe as they handed me a test.  Then I'd open up my calculator, and out would slip a tiny note card on which I had penciled, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

I am sure that the only reason I got A's was because God was gracious.  I don't know why I got A's--I majored in English and I don't remember anything about calculus.  I have an old scratch notebook that holds some of my favorite recipes from the olden days--I use it every time I make brownies or sloppy joes.  It also has some old calculus exercises written in it, and some Russian conjugations and declentions.  They are meaningless to me now, a faded memory of what my brain used to be capable of doing.

School was stressful.  Deadlines are stressful, and tests.  Job interviews are stressful, and client meetings and, well, lots of things.

Then I had three babies in less than three years and "dropped out."  My sister-in-law, who is a high-powered CFO for an insurance company (talk about stressful) once made a comment to me about how stressful it must be to have all those kids.

It's funny, but stressful was not a word that had occurred to me to describe those days.  Hard, yes.  Exhausting, yes.  Lonely, yes.  But I didn't feel scared, my heart didn't race, I didn't lose my breath and think I was going to throw up (except when there was a major injusry with copious blood, which, by the grace of God, actually didn't happen particularly often).

Can this be true?  Were the most difficult days of my life less stressful than other periods I've lived through?  How can this be?

I think, in me, stress comes from imagining a worst case scenario.  Some days, when my kids were sick, and I was sick, and we were going on nights of 6-8 interuptions in sleep [that would be MY sleep], I guess I was IN the worst case scenario.  And guess what--we survived it!  We are basically happy, healthy, and continuing on, by the grace of God, and it's OK.