December 30, 2011

shampoo update

So .... the homemade hair soap smells heavenly.  Lavender and rosemary in perfect balance.  The soap is soft and sudses nicely ....

.... but then it does something funky in our crazyhard water and makes my hair feel like a greasy helmet.

Looks like that bar is destined to fill the linen closet with delectable fragrance.  Oh well.  I still appreciate the kind gesture.

: :

p.s.  I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me why we eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day....

December 29, 2011

people riches

I feel rich, today.  People rich.

(family)  This morning while Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice painted plaster dogs and cats from Christmas, their cousins dropped in on their way out to Pittsburgh to give final hugs and good-byes.

(community)   As I ran errands later in the morning, I stopped by a nursery/farm stand where the Amish owner knows my husband.  I wanted some sauerkraut for that New Year's Day meal of mysterious origin (anyone?), and we were low on honey, too.  I asked how their homemade soaps work in crazyhard water - and he gave me one to try, gratis, along with his personal testimony to how nice it feels!  (I'll have to let you know).

Next stop was an organic farm where we had bought raw milk for over a year before we discovered a more convenient source.  Despite my lack of loyalty, I was greeted warmly and asked about my Christmas holiday.

At the grocery store I got smiles returned from cashiers, baggers, a worker in the produce dept, and the butcher, all of whom recognize me after more than 10 years of shopping there.

It is nice to be known, nice to do business with folks who know how many children you have.

(friends)  Today, it was a friend of my Farmer's who I'd heard much of but never met.  He came over to help work on a home improvement project, and brought his two daughters, the same ages as Sugar and Spice.  After awkward parent-facilitated name exchanges, the four girls disappeared outside to be seen running to and fro in companionable little pairs (and threesomes, once Nice joined them).  By suppertime they were exchanging confidences and using nicknames.

There is a wealth in personal interchange - eye contact, laughter, a live-spoken comment and response, a relaxed pose or an active stride - for which there is no technological substitute.

My day was full of people whose lives touched mine, and I am richer for it.

In the end, facebook is only a partial disclosure of who I am.  Blogging is only an electronic journal to be indulged in as time allows.  Even the telephone lacks the dimension of sight - posture, eye contact.  Communication can only ever be complete in person.  Anything less cheats us of being known, and knowing.

(and on a lighter note, maybe you can communicate to me - technologically or otherwise - why we eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day.  Is that a local custom?  Who started it?)

December 27, 2011

a day in the life ....

Snapshot for today:

Around my neck today is a red scarf I crocheted, white snowflakes on the ends.  Feels festive and lifts my spirits.

My Farmer just put Lil' Snip to bed after a day of much fussing.  We love that little guy, but we were glad to see his bedtime arrive.  May his night be long and refreshing, and may he wake up in a better temper than we've seen for days.

Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice are playing dress-up.  I've heard Spice referred to as the "Asian princess".  I'm not sure about the identities of the other two.  There is a lot of dancing that I suspect is a novel accompaniment to Handel's Messiah (which is still playing two days after Christmas and which I have no intention of removing from the stereo in the near future).

The laptop is currently (temporarily?) residing in a dark corner of the kitchen near the door to the backyard - a door which my Farmer, incidentally, freed a few years ago while I was away for the weekend.  It had been boarded over for decades and its unearthing makes seven doors in the kitchen, as well as adding a window, and giving us a quicker route to the garden, chicken yard, and (more importantly) the hammock.  But oh yeah, the reason why the laptop (and I) are back here is that we have upgraded from dialup internet (I'll give you a second to get up from your faint) to a wireless 4G connection.  But.  Since we are in the sticks, coverage is spotty and works best from this dark (and peaceful, now that Lil' Snip's in bed) corner of the kitchen.

My Farmer, having tucked Lil' Snip into his crib with bear and "night-night" (that's "blanket" for you big people), is now plucking randomly at his banjo, making music and airing his soul at the same time.

The potato chowder we had for supper is tucked away in the fridge for a repeat session later in the week.  I always make too big a pot ... probably because I don't use a recipe and often only remember key ingredients as I go along (i.e. "oh that's right, I usually put ham/hard-boiled eggs/celery/garlic in here...").   That's okay, it turned out well and will save me from having to come up with a menu some night.

I figured out how to read while using the elliptical, and have finished reading Dorothy Canfield's The Home-maker.  I don't know when I've read a more viscerally shocking book.  What was that one on the high school reading list?  The Catcher in the Rye?  This one (published in 1924) wasn't as crude, but I have a feeling that Dorothy was one strong woman.  I'm not sure we would have been friends.  Her book gave me plenty to think about, although I much preferred her children's novel, Understood Betsy.

And now the daughters are wrapping things up for the night ... early bedtimes started way back when they were all babies and we've learned to enjoy our couple of quiet hours to wind down from the day after they all go to bed.  It'll be another hour yet till everything is quiet, but it's in sight.

And that's it for today .... another day in the life of our family.  Thanks for peeking in.  What was your day like?

December 22, 2011

a big, big, house

I've got some new wheels turning in my head and I wanted to share them with you.  I haven't done anything about them yet, and it's always a danger with me to think exciting new thoughts and then, satisfied with just the thoughts, leave the accompanying actions languishing on the mental back burner .... indefinitely.

Here goes.

This morning our moms' group met.  We'd each brought an anonymous gift for an exchange, and while we sat around them in a circle of metal chairs, we had a time of sharing and prayer:  first things first.

One mom shared about a cousin, homeless, coming with her young daughter to stay with them till she gets back on her feet.  I mentally raised my eyebrows and thought "wow, didn't this mom let some other friends stay with her till they got back on their feet?!  She must have the patience of Job!"  I pictured the chaos, loss of privacy, and interrupted routine, and shook my head at the thought of doing what she had courage to do.

And then I remembered my aunt, who, having raised her own multitude and fostering many others, has recently taken in a family of nine (9!) children on a "temporary" basis.  Two months later, their lives turned inside out with loving nine extra souls, they are still giving.  And giving.  And giving.

The home of a woman I know (whose decorating skills and budget have often tempted me to envy) flashed through my mind, flawlessly decorated room by flawlessly decorated room, and I wondered what the houses of my friend and my aunt look like while they provide a home for the homeless.

I realized that I have equated beauty with success.  I thought that that was my purpose in my home.  That order and cleanliness were the goals.  A sort of visual peace is what I have sought after - in direct conflict, sometimes, with the living that necessarily goes on, since I share "my" home with five others.

But that's not the point at all, is it?

The point of a home is to be a place of belonging for people.  Somewhere to come to, out of the storm.  Somewhere that, as they say, "if you go there, they have to take you in."

A place of love.

I am broken, again.  "You are not your own; you are bought with a price."  The very air I breathe is on loan from above.  There is nothing, nothing, I can truly call my own.

Not even my house, "my" sanctuary.

True sanctuary is within, in the meeting with my Lord and my God in the inner places of my heart.  To arrange my home to feel peaceful can be a gift to those who dwell within its walls.  But to house in my very being a peace which passes all understanding is a far greater gift, and can be given whether the floors are clean and the knick-knacks dusted, or not.

Now, those are my thoughts.  Who are you going to send, Lord, to give me a chance to live them out?

[and in case you're thinking, but my house is too small for even the family that lives in it!!  here's a link to a related article, on small-house hospitality]

December 21, 2011

fuel up

Ever feel kind of empty this time of year?

I don't mean your stomach - if your house is like most, there are plenty of cookies around to take care of that.

I mean your soul.

It's Christmas:   "Joy to the world, peace on earth, goodwill toward men" and all that.  But if reading that leaves you feeling more hungry than happy, if it brings a bitter retort to your lips about
               family feuds
                        and low checkbook balances
                                 and ungrateful children
                                           and harried servicepeople
                                                    and other impediments to peace, joy, and love ....

.....then lay down your credit card and your grievances and hear this:

"Come,  all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
                and you who have no money,
                                              come, buy and eat!
                       Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

"Why spend money on what is not bread,
                             and your labor on what does not satisfy?

"Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
                             and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
                                 Give ear and come to me;
                                      hear me, that your soul may live. ..."
Isaiah 55:1-3, 6

"whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst."  
John 4:14

"Come to me, 
all you who are weary and burdened, 
and I will give you rest.  
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, 
for I am gentle and humble in heart, 
and you will find rest for your souls.  
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  

Matthew 11:28-30

December 17, 2011

love goes on

It's cold outside.  The road looks wet from my window, when cars go by.  My Farmer is out there in a field somewhere, playing a shepherd.

Earlier today I was angry with him.  Very.  Angry.  Big stuff angry.  If you had told me, then, that six hours later I would be wondering if he's warm enough, I probably would have laughed - you know, that bitter bark that passes for a laugh when you're angry.

But I am.  I hope his feet aren't too cold, and I wonder if his nose is running, and whether his caps are covering his ears and if one layer of long underwear was enough and if anyone brought them hot coffee in between showings.

We didn't have time to work things out this afternoon.  In fact, it could take days.  But I've been waking up beside this man for thirteen years and tomorrow morning will be no different.

On our wedding day, that glorious warm evening in September so many memories ago, I recited my vows to this man, ones I'd written myself, fashioned after a much-memorized portion of Scripture.

Love is patient 
[an argument can wait]
love is kind 
[even in between "discussions"].  

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  

It is not rude [even when hurt]
it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,

it keeps no record of wrongs.  

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  

It always protects
always trusts
always hopes
always perseveres.  

Love never fails.

I Corinthians 13:4-8

How'm I doing?  Living up to my promises?

Not nearly so well as I'd like.  We both know that I've fallen again and again.

But love never fails.

Love picks me up, sets me on my feet, and I go at it again, trying to love him even through the storm.

When he comes home tonight, cold and wet, I'll get him dry socks and make him hot tea and do what I can.  My Farmer needs me; the argument can wait.

December 16, 2011

lessons learned from children's lit

A couple of weeks ago I worried five pounds off my body.

While the weight loss was satisfying (although not a method I'd recommend), the worrying was wearying.  Confessing my sin began the grace process of being cleansed from it, and along the way, my gracious God sent me a book to help me see myself a little more clearly.

Understood Betsy, by Dorothy Canfield, is the story of a nine-year-old orphan girl raised by a spinster aunt whose worrying makes mine look meager.  Merely by worrying aloud about her niece's poor appetite, the dangers of doggies one meets on the streets, the frights certain to be found in the schoolyard, the aunt managed to create a coddled, fearful, weak child.

A few turns of events later, the poor child finds herself out from under the protective wing of her aunt and transferred to the libertarian care of another set of relatives (of whom she has heard horror stories from the cradle upwards).

Thrust into the confident bosom of a family uneducated about her fears and inabilities, the orphan girl is unsurpassingly astonished to discover that she is capable of remarkable feats:  caring for a kitten, dressing herself, rising without being called, walking alone to school, helping with household chores, and even .... thinking for herself!!

As I read the chapters aloud to my own little flock, it's gratifying to watch the orphan girl unfurl her wings and learn to fly.  I see my cautiousness in their upbringing from a new angle, and am determined to change.

It's not meant (I suppose) to be a manual on childrearing ... but Understood Betsy is challenging me to let go of my worries and quit hovering, to let my children begin to soar.

The best books always do leave us standing taller.

December 13, 2011

winter wonder

The fire has gone out.  My fingers are cold.

But you know what?  I am a grateful woman.

There are bags of pellets for the pellet stove out in the garage.  The sun is streaming through my (supposedly) energy-efficient window in my (relatively) warm house.  My pantry is stocked with nutritious food, and if it weren't, it would be a matter of minutes for me to go buy what I need at my choice of nearby variety-laden supermarkets - and with cash, I might add, that my able-bodied husband earns honestly at his fairly-compensated and steady long-term job.

My children are warmly clothed.

My to-do list centers on maintenance rather than on survival.

I'm more likely to need to vacuum my carpets than patch a leaky roof.

We ration Christmas cookies to curtail greed ....
  .... some are rationing the last of the rice, to keep starvation at bay.

A World Vision Catalog came to our door a week ago, and as we pored over the photos of foreign children holding ducks and goats, suddenly the wish lists we'd laboriously thought up for the children in our lives seemed awfully petty.

                             When we could give food....

Heifer International

What are you grateful for today?

                            How could you show it?

December 9, 2011

git 'er done

I did it - that terribly little thing - and now I'm free!

                                                               [and so, perhaps, is a child]

fleshing out faith

I've always been a pragmatist.  An optimistic realist, I'd say.  Love the lofty, absolutely, but if it doesn't work, out it goes.

I would say I believed in prayer, believed in a healing God, a God who hears and loves to answer.  When I prayed and got an immediate answer, I was thrilled.  My faith, I thought, was bolstered and increased.

When I prayed and nothing happened, I'd chalk it up to some mistake I'd made in praying or in hearing God, and forget about it.

Rarely did I persevere in prayer.  Somehow I figured that if God wanted to grant my request, he'd do it right then. ...  I wonder how many answers I've missed seeing because I'd lost sight of the prayer I prayed?

Then the other day I got a shock.

I read in Hebrews chapter 11 about people who believed God and clung to faith even though they never saw fulfillment of the promises they were given.  I've read it before, of course, but it never really struck me:  they died, believing without seeing.  A whole lifetime of faith, passed down to children:  "What our God has said, He will surely do."

Nothing happened, but "nothing" didn't shake them.

They believed anyway.

Suddenly my faith looks tiny.  Microscopic.  Nonexistent?

I rejoice in stories of God's faithful provision for others, but when he asks me  to step out in faith and do something that makes me vulnerable and completely dependent on him .... I hesitate.  "Did I really hear you, God?  But that doesn't make sense.  What if ....?"

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your path.  Proverbs 3:5-6

 I want to pray for boldness, courage, an increase of faith ... but I hear him ask me to trust him with what I have, now.  Trust him through my fear - obey without comprehension.

It's no more than what I ask of my own children.  And I, the far-from-perfect parent, frustrate myself with wondering why they disobey, why they hesitate, why they don't trust.

Oh, humanity!  Oh, the patient mercy of our God!

He is perfect.  He is loving.  He is trustworthy.  His plans for me are not to harm me, but to prosper me, to give me a future and a hope  (Jeremiah 29:11).

If I can't trust God, who can I trust?  

And if I trust no one but myself .... my record does not recommend itself, frankly.  Do I really want to forge my own way?  Depend on my own frailty for sustenance?  And if I don't trust him, why should he uphold me?

I am at an impasse.  Will I listen to fear?  

Or to love?

[and oh, if you only knew the tiny thing he asks of me ... !]

December 4, 2011

He gives more grace

He really does.

My ears had heard all they could hear.  The older children were happy-loud, and I was thankful for their health, but they had recovered not just their health but some of their bad habits as well, and I was too tired to do anything about it.  (I know, I know, I'm not supposed to admit that.  It was, however, the unfortunate truth.)

So I put earplugs in.  And issued a 10-minute whispers-only break-for-mama's-ears.  And prayed for strength to minister to the tiniest one, so grouchy from no sleep, wanting to be independent but wanting the comfort of mama more.

I showed him books.  I played trucks.  I played puzzles.  I tried and tried to understand his pidgin English.  So frustrated, he was, when mama didn't understand those almost-words.

I loved him.

I didn't have it in me.

To my utmost gratitude, God did.  And in His love and mercy, once more He provided, loaning some from His bottomless well of love and mercy to bereft me.

: : :

The little one's in bed now, and my earplugs are out.  Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice are playing Memory on the kitchen table (at Daddy's "suggestion" after the rough-housing in the livingroom turned nasty).  They are mostly kind to each other.

Forgiveness is a valuable skill, too.  And tomorrow is another day.

: : :

[the list I didn't make, last week while I worried ... ]

# 533 - 543
           His faithfulness to forgive my sin

           His power, when I ask

           the warming wintry sun

           courtesy of a hunter, a stranger to us

           the deermeat he offered - God bless him for his generosity!!

           a child's prayer for success, answered

           a friend from long ago, buying my pottery with smiles

           all those teddy bears, even unsold

           rescue of one of God's precious children


           my Farmer, humbled to serve us

           a true power nap on my favorite "pillow"

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