It’s Midwinter

Need I say more? One does not tend to great feats of achievement when afflicted by lethargy. One does not write overmuch or think overmuch, even. One keeps a mug of tea or coffee close to hand and prays short and heartfelt prayers for patience as one steps over the Suspend sticks and picks up the 9th strand of embroidery floss and searches again for the lost needle on the couch.

Since January is almost over already, I thought it might be appropriate to recap the month. It has been near record cold in Pennsylvania they say. It has been really grey and barren. Also cold. Hibernating weather. Finally this past week we have been blanketed by a snowfall that has lifted all of us. I have thought that in another life I would like to be like a squirrel, curled up with my tail over my face on frigid days, only scampering out for nuts when the sun shines brightly. Come to think of it, this year I did have a rather long period of enforced low activity due to the knee injury. But the people still needed their nuts on a regular schedule, so it wasn’t really all it’s cracked up to be.

January feels sad this year, with the losses of friends on my mind. It also gives me a feeling of slow-motion busyness, in that way that creeps up when I don’t ever seem to accomplish much even though I keep doing stuff and doing stuff all day. Long ago I figured out that projects and accomplishments are not as big a deal as people are. It continues to be a learning process, but in the midwinter, I don’t really care about accomplishments.

So why is it that the things that don’t matter very much are so glaringly obvious, like mud on the floor or pancake syrup on the window? We can’t really see smudges on our souls or wrinkles in our spirits, yet an hour in our own company would likely reveal them. Yesterday I actually heard myself muttering, “I used to have all these buttons and snaps organized, but now I guess I have a thorn in the flesh that doesn’t put stuff away.” It’s embarrassing to admit, but there it was, a huge old stain that needed some cleansing.

Olivia came to me with her memory verse marked in her Bible last night and whispered in my ear, “I thought maybe this would encourage you, Mama.” It was the place in Matthew where Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.” Yes, dear little girl, I do like those verses.

Because that is pretty much what I did in the past month. I invested in my children and cried tears of private frustration and I felt like the Grinch of Homework. I prayed and corrected and encouraged them in the right way, then I stepped aside and let them decide which way they were going to take. Sometimes they messed up and often I messed up. Then we apologized and I doled out rewards and penalties in pretty much equal amounts.

This morning Alex recited his memory verses to me.

Luke 16:10-13  starts out with, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.”

It hasn’t been a brilliant month, but I hope that I have been found faithful. The little things, the little people, the little attitudes: I want to remember that they are where it is really at. So will it be walnuts or hazelnuts tonight, my little squirrels?


Not Your Average Weekend

So we have been out of water for a few days. Our hick-town water company is working hard to find the problem, but meanwhile we walk to the faucets multiple times a day and turn them on. Nothing. Last night a company volunteer called and explained that there was no water coming out of the spring; they had been digging all day to try to find the problem; the earth may have shifted in the freezing weather and redirected the water. It wasn’t especially reassuring, but we still had drinking water because as soon as we noticed it starting to trickle, we swiftly filled dishpans and pitchers. Happily Addy had just gotten out of the tub and didn’t remember to drain it, so we could dip out of that for flushing the toilet.

Still. This morning Gabe had to go to work with just a spit bath. I didn’t begrudge him the half gallon of water he used, but there was no way I could get five children presentable for church with the remaining half gallon.

I told the little guys to eat cereal while I gathered up their good clothes and shoes to go over to my parents’ house for baths before church. Olivia objects to cereal. She wanted to fry an egg for herself but I said, “No extra dishes. We can’t wash them.” So she ended up going to church with only a banana to sustain her.

After the service, we came home, checked the spigots. Nothing again. We couldn’t wash hands or dishes or laundry. I had enough. Okay, kids, let’s gather up our stuff and go over to Doddy’s house again. Gregory collected all the dirty laundry. Addy whined about being hungry, so I gave her an apple while I assembled food for our lunch. I knew there was little in my mom’s fridge because they have been away for awhile. Olivia whined about being hungry. Eat an apple. But I don’t like apples. Well then you just have to be hungry until the lunch is served. She settled for another banana.

Meanwhile Alex was unloading all the ski gear out of the back of the Suburban: poles, Gabe’s patrol pack, helmets, boots. Everything got piled inside the basement door so that we would have room to take the puppy’s portable kennel and all our wash and food. A few of the children thought they would want to go skating, so in went the skates. It was snowing at the time and I thought I should probably throw in their gloves. I gathered up a basketful of muddy snow clothes, discovered that Addy was coatless and barefooted in her car seat, grabbed my purse and the laptop and the puppy food.

Deep breath. Are we all in the car? Yes. But someone was weeping. Another person was refusing to buckle and Gregory was repeatedly admonishing her that she would fly out and die if we crashed. Someone was upset because another person whacked his nose. The puppy was extremely nervous.

Another deep breath. “Children, we are going to reset here. Nobody may say anything while we are driving unless it is pleasant.”

There was blessed quietness for a few minutes until Addy piped up, “Mama? Something seems to be bothering me.”

I said, “Really, and what is that?”

“I think that I need a horse. I just really need a horse. To ride.”

Sometimes you have to just seize the moment and have a good belly laugh. The day got much better, especially once the hangry  (hungry-angry) people were fed.

I did laundry all afternoon with my mom’s old-fashioned washer that agitates like no tomorrow. I want one like that again. Eight loads in a high-efficiency set up would take all day.

The water company says they hope to have things flowing after midnight tonight. Apparently there was a tree root interfering with the pipe that comes from the spring. It seemed a little vague, but I am truly grateful that the spring was just diverted, not dried up.

And I get to start my Monday with the laundry all done. It should be an interesting sensation. Not only that, Gabe has off! We are going to have Saturday on Monday! Have a great week, everybody.

The Things That Remain

It isn’t that I am not going to write this year. I have had things on my mind, places to go, laundry to do, all jumbled and busy. Then, as so often happens, something came up that put the important things in life into sharp perspective. One of those people who is always there, who is always dependable, who is unfailingly kind and wise, stepped into heaven while he was sleeping.

The Summy family moved to this area the same summer we did, 29 years ago. Their children were close to my age and we went to school together. Now they are walking through the painfully dark valley of the shadow of losing a husband/father/grandfather. I have always believed that the verse in Psalm 23 is especially for those who go on living. I pray, “Hold them, Jesus. Be with them.” It comforts me to know that in our human failing to be able to make things better, He is there for them.

We have talked a lot about sadness with the children. About death and new bodies and eternal life. Olivia, who is very tenderhearted, said that she kept thinking maybe just any time there will be a miracle and Freddy and Alannah’s grandpa would come alive again. The little girls declared that Leroy did not die. They saw him sleeping. I was reminded of Jesus’ compassionate words to Jairus when his little daughter had died, “Don’t cry. She is sleeping.” He said the same about Lazarus, his friend who was ill and died before he got to his house, “Our friend has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” Even though Jesus knew Lazarus would rise from the dead, he wept for the grief of the family, and this is His heart of tenderness to those who are bowed with sorrow.

I keep thinking about the Things That Matter. Why do we forget so quickly? This moment of spilled grape juice does not matter. What matters is the little face crumpled in remorse. It was just an accident and we will wipe it up.

The rip in the coat from sliding down the hill on the ice has no eternal significance, but the child who was wearing it does. I apologize for a scolding that forgot about the heart, and now we will try to mend it.

My limping washer with its fits and starts is of small consequence, but my husband’s weary efforts to understand the repair manual and outsmart it do matter. He deserves the specially blended cup of coffee and the happy wife serving it.

I ask again, why do I forget so easily and become wrinkled in my spirit when it is just cares of this life anyway? When my spirit returns to the One who made it, I want to have lived for eternal values.

I bought myself this little goodie with some Christmas money. It’s a tiny journal with wise quotes at the top of every page and space for 5 years. It is fun discipline to condense a day into just a few lines.


When the boys were little, Gabe would laugh at my stories at the end of the day and say, “You lead a charmed life.” At the time I didn’t really think that was the right adjective, but now I do. Recently I went back through my Facebook statuses and wrote down all the funny moments that I posted about the children. When the boys read them, they said, “No way! I never asked to google ‘How can I be six again’.” They laugh at the Gregisms: “I bet George Washington was named after Curious George.” They love it, going all the way back to when they were little boys, just a few blinks ago.

(I would not remember any of this stuff if I didn’t write it down. You won’t either. Even if you don’t like to write, just go to Amazon and spend 10 dollars for a pretty little diary and make yourself write a sentence every day.)

Last week Rita took upon herself the job of shining the glass door where the puppy paws to get inside. She did a great job, but only a few hours later I noticed muddy prints again. I was working, distracted,  when I heard her gasp dramatically, “Ohhh! Look at the window!”

I commiserated without looking up, “I know. It’s all dirty again.”

“No! It’s snowing!!!” she corrected me. I looked out, and sure enough, it was snowing. God had granted her longings for snow. The mud on the glass couldn’t diminish that joy.

Life. How I live it really matters. Let’s cheer the space we share with others. Today.