wocket in my pocket

Looking for the unexpected in the mundane.

Edges of His Ways

I recently picked up my modest looking copy of Amy Carmichael’s devotional book, Edges of His Ways. It was given to me by a wise friend almost 20 years ago. I haven’t read it for a while, but it is full of underlining and notes, when the short, emphatic paragraphs made an indelible impression on me. The thing about Amy Carmichael is that she gives absolutely not an inch of excuse to be indulgent to myself. Consider this from the selection for May 22:

Deut. 28:47,48 “Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things.”

And He, Who in another place says that He draws us with lovingkindness, says now that He shall put a yoke of iron upon our neck.

So dullness of spirit is sin; there is no way out of that conclusion. I think we sometimes call it by other names; “sensitiveness” is one of its pet names; and so we take things by the wrong handle, turn a dull face instead of a glad one on the rough and smooth of life, depress others and make it harder for them to be good. May the Lord deliver us from all this, and show us this dullness of spirit for what it is — ungratefulness, selfishness, sin. There will be sorrow; the care that cometh daily; battle wounds may knock us out; but we need never go under in spirit. May He keep us all and make us a joyful company, each one of us like that servant of His (the mother of Bishop Moule) “whose feet brought light into a room”. Let us all ask for that blessed gift, “joyfulness and gladness of heart for the abundance of all things”.

For defeating thought patterns, Amy says this:

“God has given us the power to close the shutter of our minds upon hurtful, weakening thoughts. He has provided all manner of shutters. A book that swings us off ourselves into another world is a very good shutter; a song set to music; beauty; the dear love of those who love us. Above all, there is this: Look at Calvary.”

Here is one for when I grow weary of waiting for the thing that I pray for:

No good thing will He withhold from them who walk uprightly. So that good thing that is not given could not have been good for us. He knows what is good.

See what I mean? No excuses, just quiet stating of the obvious, that is Amy Carmichael. She lived from the mid 1800’s to the mid 1900’s, so the wording has a slightly old fashioned flavor. I highly recommend this book. It is one you should mark in as you read. My copy has wide margins, great for writing notes.

I think one of the things that impressed me most strongly was the courage for life that exudes out of Amy’s writing. A missionary in India, she made it her life work to rescue children from temple prostitution. An injury from a fall left her bedridden for the last 20 years of her life, which is when she did a lot of her writing. No wonder that her words are so wise! I leave you with one more quote:

If we want to be among those who are always ready to go the second mile, which often means being quick to see another’s trouble, then we must not lose courage in our own… No weakling runs the second mile; he does not properly run the first… Let us be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.

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Haircut

If you need some photos to jolly up your day, here are a few that will make you thank the Lord it wasn’t your child with the hair cutting scissors. But I do thank the Lord that she is my child! My days are never, but never, boring or even predictable.

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She is sorry about her hair, but on the upside, it doesn’t hang in her cereal anymore. Life with Rita is life on the edge. Sometimes to stay focussed, I try to imagine what my sturdy little adventurer will do when she is grown. Whatever it is, it will be done pragmatically, with all her might.

 

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Goings On

Here I am, a week later, and I find that the continuity of my thoughts got derailed somewhere along the line. I looked back to see if I could catch a clue where to pick up, so… just on the off chance that you might be interested in whether I was productive or not during my week long hiatus.

After I logged out last week, I got right down to the enormously satisfying job of shampooing the rugs in our main living area. Cleaning carpets is a bit like having a colon cleanse, I think. One is so excited and relieved to have the gunk cleared out, but dear, oh dear, that it was there at all is rather appalling!  At the end of the day I had squeaky clean floors and a wrist that felt like it had a serious sprain, or strain or something, due to all the machine pushing.

Our church school had a program that evening, so I stowed the carpet cleaner at 6, got me and a few children dressed up, and waited for Gabe to come home from work so he could watch the littles while we went to the program. The next night it was our homeschool Kinder Choir’s program, so this time we all needed to be dressed up and take our snack along. I can’t remember what I took. Seriously, it was less than a week ago, and I can’t think what I took except sweet and salty kettle corn. Oh yes, I took a few gallons of iced peppermint tea and a rhubarb cake, which tasted a lot better than it looked, so we got to bring most of it home and eat it ourselves. 🙂

On Friday we cleaned the house and made a bunch of picnicky food. Gabe’s shift started at 4PM, and I thought to myself, “This is a long evening.” So I went and had a look at my fabric stash, naturally. The children were having a ball in the backyard, which made it convenient for me to whip up a sundress for Olivia. After hers was done, Rita was so jealous  desirous to have one as well, so I thought, “Why not?” There actually would have been a few reasons why not, but I persevered, (if you knew how many ways I typed that word and got auto corrected to “preserve red” until I finally got it right…) and eventually tacked on the last little white bows a little past bedtime. It might have been unnecessary, but I am working against a bent to shield myself from too much effort. What a nice way to describe being lazy, huh?

When I was a little girl, my mom made us new dresses every year for the school picnic. There was only one other girl in my grade, so our moms would get their heads together and sew us matching dresses. I can still feel the pride the year my best friend, Esther, and I had brand new brown dresses, knit, longwaisted with large hems so we wouldn’t grow out of them right away. I think my little girls felt kind of special, too, the next day at our annual school picnic, and I was glad I made an effort. 😉

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Friends just make life so much fun, don’t they? Somehow I missed getting any photos of Alex and the baby at the picnic, but we were all there. Gabe was shot from his night of work, so he slept more than played ball, but it was a great day of being with our church family.

The next day, Sunday, we had yet another picnic, this time for all EMS personnel. We went straight from church, spent a few hours of a misty, chilly afternoon under a pavilion. The little ones had an inflated bouncy castle to jump in, so they were more than happy. They drank ‘way too many of those awful Hugs “fruit flavored” drinks, ate a bunch of cookies and candy, and pretty much collapsed at the end of the day.

Anybody want to venture a guess on what we did on Monday? Yep, laundry-on-a-loop. That is my new favorite way to describe it; please forgive the repetition. The girls and I also went to a nearby greenhouse for some annual plants, a few flowers for containers on our deck and in window boxes, and a few veggies. I was still filling in dirt around the tomato plants when it began to pour.

Yesterday I wanted to deep, like really deep, clean the bathroom. That shower curtain was bugging me. Gregory got a generous streak and locked me out of the bathroom so he could clean it for me. How sweet was that? Never mind that he used a substantial amount of flushable wipes to wash the floor. I didn’t ask him what he needed the furniture polish/orange oil for…  I just quietly cleaned a lot deeper after he was done.

Sometime in the course of the day, my blonde cherub found the hair clipping scissors and lopped off her ponytail, right at the elastic band. She was stricken with remorse and snipped the fallen pony tail into little bits, disposing of the bits of curls in the flower beds. Then she walked around, always turning her back away from me until I caught on and investigated. The barber job looks a bit like an old fashioned bob cut, but the spot where she sheared a buzz cut into the top front… there’s not a whole lot that can be done until it grows out. Maybe around Christmas it will be back to normal. I didn’t know whether to laugh or feel sick after the initial shock was over. It is one thing to fix an awful cut on a little boy, but this takes it to a whole new level. What would I do without my Rita to teach me things, like how not to scream when the milk is already spilled?

So that brings us to today. We babysat some delightful little girls for a while, and then I tackled my cupboards. I found some odd bits, like a tube of brilliant green icing that was weeping in puddles on the shelf,  a milk chocolate bunny from Easter, corn meal that was outdated in 2010, and a whole bag of pretzel MnM’s. If I had known they were up there, above the fridge, I might have had a handful while I was mourning the golden ringlets. But it is good to know they are up there, for future reference. I didn’t get very far, but I am on a slow and steady roll. If I keep it up, I might just get done spring cleaning by next year!

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Inertia

It is spring, school is done, as in books packed away done, portfolios finished done. My health is great, the weather is nice. And I have been hit by this terrible inertia. I absolutely don’t feel like doing anything, an aimlessness that besets me every year when the schedule of school loosens up. It is fun for a few days, but not a healthy way to live. Here it is, 9:40 AM, and I have gotten the bedrooms squared away and the breakfast stuff stowed with the help of the children, and that is all. I would rather putter than get serious about a certain closet that threatens to dump stuff onto my head when I get out the broom. I would rather play HayDay than mulch flowerbeds, and that, my friends, is pathetic.  I would rather mess with my  fabric stash than work on ironing out the wrinkles on that rather large pile. I would rather ignore the musty shower curtain and read my new book, Just Do Something“. Somehow that last strikes me as hilarious. (My annual tradition of a new book per child at the end of the school year includes one for myself. I will tell you what I think.)

Just for fun, I give you this, which is what my children think about being rudely interrupted to take a picture outside when they are into their new books. Which is the exact same way I feel when I am rudely interrupted.

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I find that I have to take myself in hand, just as I do my children when they don’t want to do the thing that needs to be done. So… I take a deep breath and bid the inter-web goodbye, along with the excuses to loiter and be frivolous. Until the weekend, that is. 🙂 Who knows, maybe I will find time to do the closet and putter both. Maybe I will return with tales of amazing productivity and maybe I won’t. See you later.

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10 Things I Didn’t Know

Before I became a mother, I didn’t know…

  • my children would be a house of mirrors, and I would live there, every day, every bad or good attitude reflected, every word repeated, every action imitated.
  • I was forfeiting all rights to eating my food uninterrupted, drinking my tea while it is still hot.
  • I have the innate ability to fix an awful, child-inflicted haircut.
  • I would come to consider endless cooking and laundry on a loop as a privilege and a life work, an investment in healthy little bodies. I just had no idea how wearying it would be, nor how time consuming.
  • that we would have couches with “accidental” pocket knife puncture wounds and stickers on walls and even occasional graffiti or scribbling in books. My children weren’t going to do those things.
  • how rare unlimited bathroom time is. Nobody told me that as soon as the mother goes for a shower, all the children’s digestive urges will kick in.
  • I would have to get up an hour earlier than my previously established early hour if I wanted some quietness for myself.
  • how much I would relish the reading of books that rhyme, books illustrated in primary colors that have hidden Goldbugs, even books where I can figure out the whole plot in the first paragraph.
  • that sometimes I would lock my bedroom door and sob, “God, I can’t do this! You know I am just messing it all up. Help me, for Jesus’ sake!” And then someone would knock on the door, “Mama?” And I would unlock it and step out into the fray again.
  • that with every swelling new pregnancy, my heart would expand in welcome and celebration, and after the birth, there would be my heart, living and breathing outside of me.

A happy Mother’s Day to all of you who nurture others, whether you have given birth to them, or simply embraced their lives out of your own great store of love.

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180

Days, that is. Today we officially completed our school year. To say I am feeling a bit mellow and happy about that, well… it’s hard to describe just how I am feeling. Like, Wow! What a long year! And how did it go so fast? And Wow! We made it! We filled our last week with fire safety instruction and field trips and writing pages and health. All the odds and ends got neatly tied up and we are done! (I even! finished! our portfolios!)

This morning I made me an enormous cup of tea in the mug I bought at the beginning of the school year. Isn’t it funny how Greg framed the photo he took? 🙂

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It was a great motto for the year, though I confess there were days when I didn’t feel like lifting weights while I drank my tea. Also, I didn’t always have the luxury of two hands free. And again, I did not always have time to run to the bathroom three times before lunch. But yes, we did get here one day at a time. Simplistic, I know, and yet I feel the profundity deep down. I am not thinking too much about it right now. Just feeling thankful, is all.

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The Day That Couldn’t

Just in case there is someone out there who thinks, “Organized, pulled-together, homeschooler,” I give you this scenario. It’s Friday morning, lite school day. My husband is home, my washer is humming its slow, energy saving tune, the children run outside before I can instruct them as to books. I glance out the window, see the girls in nighties, hair flying, feet bare. It’s a gloriously sunny morning, so I let them go while I leisurely sip my coffee and do nothing. There are perks to having a slow, energy saving washer. Gabe is outside, damming up his pond. Eventually I pull in the biggest boy for two final tests and a writing page. He grumbles and dawdles a least twice as long as he needs for the exams. The next boy erases and erases his writing papers, driving me crazy with all the ways he devises to waste time. I remember that I need to renew my driver’s license on this day, because I decided to wait until the last minute, just for kicks. I feed my two babies some early lunch, planning for early nap time so that I can run some errands. I see the time and feel good about the day’s progress. 12:00. Yeah, I am right on track, despite slow boys and washers.

12:00. Wait. Wasn’t there something about 12:00 on Friday? And then it hits me like a bag of flour, a pile of sugar, and a pound of butter all mixed together. Yes, that’s right. I was supposed to have 6 dozen sugar cookies at the church house by noon so that the girls doing the widow’s supper can make their favor bags.

I panic. Then I text one of the girls, tell her I will be late, but am coming. With one arm  I swipe counter tops clear of assorted clean and dirty dishes and with the other arm I start mixing on high. At my house, the sound of the Kitchen-aid is the cue to come running, pushing chairs, helping. I am afraid the cookies are not being fashioned very graciously. “Out of the kitchen, everybody! Out! Out!” The dough sticks to the rolling pin, the flour flies, and the baby keeps coming back, peering around my elbows, helping. I have exactly two cookie cutters that are not Christmas themed, a teapot and a flower. I remove the baby, pop the first sheet into the oven, come back to find my rolled out dough covered with candy canes. The baby is back. I make a frantic call to my husband on his bulldozer, and he comes to my aid.

At 1:10 I instruct the second son on how to finish the extra dough and sally forth with my trays of 72 pink flowers and teapots. I am late, but the girls are kind and say it is okay.

I go to the DMV, mercifully do not even have to take a number. My phone sings out while I grin for my photo. I check, cannot see who is calling because I am out of minutes. I decide to take the time to go across the street to Goodwill. My little girl and I meander and find this:

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for $5.99. I am a sucker for fabric. I love it in all shapes and forms and prints and textures. My little girl and I open the bag, touch the pieces, look through the stack and when she sees the Peter Rabbit coordinating pieces, we decide to buy. (When we get home, I show her the proper attitude toward fabric and we take a picture. And yes, I had her hair nicely combed at some point in the day.)

I discover that the phone call was from my husband, who made an appointment at the bank for 4:00. I am supposed to moderate at the widow’s supper at 5:00. I do not have my girls ready and I have no supper prepared for my men and the visiting boy. I panic again, strip dirty clothes off little girls, shine them up with a washcloth, pull pretty dresses over their heads, sit them on the couch to watch Little Bear. They stay put. I shine myself up, get dressed and go out the door in about 5 minutes. I ask Gabe if I am fit to be seen. He seems to think so.

My girls and I get to the widow’s supper a little early, sit on the school swing set, clip fingernails, and I collect my thoughts. The supper is nice, scores and scores of local widows enjoying the atmosphere that the girls worked so hard to create. They get handed the treat bags of cookies at the end of the program and I think, “They have no idea. God bless them!”

I get home and find that my men had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for supper. I am tired.

But I have all this fabric, which cancels out all the rushing and an ugly driver’s license photo. It really was a good day after all. My girls play shopping with the stack. I promise you, they have never seen me load up my cart like this.

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(If anyone out there wants a two yard piece of fabric with Christmas angels, the one you see on the floor above, please let me know. You can have it gladly!)

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I am Woman. I am Navigator. (snicker)

Today I took Olivia for a routine checkup in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, in order to have a world class pediatric endocrinologist, we have to drive pretty far. Fortunately for me, it isn’t New York City. I like the culture in the city, the museums and ethnic restaurants that I never have time to stop and try. I like the architecture, and I like the avenues of blooming trees and the parks with paths full of friendly people. I have even made peace with driving in the city with all those bewildering one way streets and vehicles parked smack in the right lane and streets of affluence just a minute outside of streets of graffiti-lined poverty.

Still, I always feel like such a country girl. I should have a bumper sticker that says, “I know how to grow potatoes” to counteract my slow driving, craning to see the street signs, with quick glances at my google directions print out.

Pittsburg is arranged at the confluence of the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River, where they become the Ohio. There are a lot of bridges and north sides of rivers and south sides of rivers, east and west, too, because of the way they all join just there. There are all these interstates that cross and mingle and separate at intervals, and one must be really skilled at glancing to the correct spot on the google directions page while simultaneously making snap decisions as to the proper lane, all in heavy traffic.

Today for the first time in my life, I wished for the super-annoying voice of a GPS to direct me. Never mind that I think it makes people drive mindlessly. I could have handled a bit of mindlessness. (Shh. Don’t tell my sister.) I wanted to meet the Brechbills, who are in a hospital across town from the one where we go for appointments. Joe is one of our pastors, and the whole family is dear to us, childhood friends, intermarried with others of our childhood friends, even one sister in law. Joe is scheduled for an operation tomorrow to remove a mass that is pressing on his pituitary gland, causing him to be acutely ill.

I did two passes along the North Side of the river before I located the hospital, where I found Joe in good spirits, excited that he has a Christian doctor who is very accomplished and well known, yet who is humble and prays before every operation. My dear friend, Eileen, was there with her parents, so we got in just a bit of a refreshing chat before we needed to go out to our trusty google directions, cross a different bridge, follow the south side of the river, and eventually zigzag our way to our destination. The entrance to the parking garage was closed for construction, so we had to drive up the street a bit until we found a spot. To be truthful, I felt quite plucky and accomplished as I did my little swiping parallel park. We even made it in time!

Poor Olivia was wearing flip flops that chafed between her toes. As we trotted briskly back to the doctor’s, she had to take them off and go barefooted. That was when I noticed that her feet were completely green on the bottoms from running through our newly mown lawn. And then I remembered that I had told her to wait for her bath until this morning, which I forgot this morning. Maybe I should have had an “I grow potatoes” tee shirt, instead of a bumper sticker. 🙂 Actually, I am quite seriously considering getting an “I have five kids, and they are all happy” shirt. That should take care of snobs who think green feet only happen in Dr. Seuss books.

I digress. My little girl charmed her very kindly doctors. She does at every visit. 🙂 “Mama, he said I am turning into a little woman!” she grinned on the way home.

Speaking of the way home: I concluded that if my brain is supposed to be like spaghetti, everything connected in somewhat bewildering fashion, then at this charming age of five, my daughter’s brain is like Ramen noodles. We had conversation in tight little circles. 🙂 I must confess, at the height of my navigational issues, I said, “You have got to be quiet! I have to think.” 

“Oh… Okay. Hey, look at that barge! Why does it do that? Hey, they painted flowers on their door!”

“Mama, we should have a camper in our backyard.” Small pause. “Then if our roof got a leak, we could just run out to the camper.”

Small pause. “Who was the man, David, or somebody? who went to the sky in a chariot?” Me: “That was Elijah, and that is where the song (“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”) comes from.”

“I bet he wrote that song.” Giggles. “No, I guess not.”

And a little later, “Did you go to school with Eva?” (Eva is the neighbor who is about 83.) Definitely Ramen noodles.

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Grape Hyacinths and Curly Girls and Spring!

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My children are incurable flower pickers. Every one of them went through a stage where they didn’t distinguish between buds and open flowers. Last year this blonde girl totally denuded my peony bush before any of the “little balls” got a chance to open. This spring she brought me 8 precious tulip buds, still green and tightly shut, and every hyacinth as it began to show a tinge of color in its bells. I find that I simply cannot scold about these offerings handed to me from grubby little fists. We just put them into vases or bowls and hope they reach a little bit of their potential. She is learning to tell the difference between baby flowers and the full blown ones that are ready to pick. Thankfully, we have a long row of fragrant grape hyacinths that are open to picking anytime. The girls love them, and I love to watch them pick them. 🙂

Every year it catches me right smack between the eyes… how glorious spring is! I don’t forget during the winter, but I don’t actually experience it until it is here, and suddenly I feel so alive and full of energy and ideas. It feels like a different existence from February.

I think maybe heaven will be a bit like that… So much more glorious than we can anticipate, even though faith in the coming resurrection and final redemption of the body is what takes us through the February of life.

 

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Having Answers…

…is not essential to living.

What is essential is the sense of God’s presence during dark times of questioning.

Our need for specific answers is dissolved in the greater issue of the lordship of Christ over all questions- those that have answers and those that don’t.

A heart in close communion with God helps carry you through the pain beyond the power of mere words.  

 

I have been listening to Ravi Zacharias’ audiobook, The Grand Weaverwhich is where I heard this quote from Calvin Miller. If you have ever questioned “fate” and the unfairness of life/where is God when it hurts/why doesn’t He answer my prayers… then this is the book for you. You can even listen to the first chapter online here. It brings me to tears to looks back at my own life and see how very carefully God has arranged circumstances again and again to turn my heart to Him. The Beautiful Weaver with the design all planned is only asking for my whole hearted trust. 

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