Retrospection, Anticipation

I dislike clunky titles, but that is what I am writing of: retrospection of the year past, grey, smudgy, tired and finished. Oh yes, muddy too, here in south central PA. The new year coming, hopefully with snow to cover the homeliness of winter, people getting married, long-anticipated babies due, students hoping to graduate with honors and others making sure they wear red undies on New Year’s Eve to give them better chances of finding true love in the next year. Do you notice that the things we anticipate are all good, happy, peace and prosperity?

I hate bad news, funerals, ugliness and mean-spirited gossip. I unfollow people who habitually depress me on Facebook. It verges on simple “head in the sand”. A few years ago when there was genocide in Rwanda, I avoided the news like the plague. I couldn’t deal with it. This year I forced myself to look at the excruciating realities that are everyday life for so many people. I committed to carrying the burdens of others where I can. Sometimes I really don’t even like the world we live in. 

Recently the boys and I watched Inside Einstein’s Mind on PBS, a documentary that explores his thought processes as Einstein worked for years on his theory of  relativity and his elegant mathematical equation explaining how the universe works. Physicists have not ever come up with a better explanation for spacetime. It boggles my mind that time bends with gravity and velocity, but what really intrigues me is the time travel dreamers. I know it’s nonsense, that we can’t get this year over again, etc. etc. I don’t want to. Well, I wouldn’t mind going back to November and planting a whole bunch of lettuce, seeing as it would still be growing this oddly warm year.

But if we could travel in time, where would we go? I like things safe and peaceful. I ask myself, which century? Is there even a decade untroubled by strife and sorrow, by epidemics and evil? Is there any utopia, a selfless paradise, anywhere? In the history of the whole world? There are lots of spaces in history I would like to visit, but to live in that era my whole life? I don’t think so. I am not trying to be depressing, but jumping ahead in time doesn’t look too appealing either.

The fact of the matter is that I know in my soul I am made for a different home.”But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:13) That is just being realistic. “You are here for such a time as this” was not just for Esther in ancient Persia. It is for me and for you. This little stretch of time, bend as it will with gravity, is still our time and the only time we are given.

I have been reading the Revelation of John over and over in the last month. It is about as fantastic writing as anything I have ever attempted to understand. I believe it; I read a chapter again; I feel awed by the One who is Faithful and True. My inability to really get it does not hamper my faith that it is for real. For years if I didn’t understand something, I couldn’t believe it. Stumbling in mazes of doubt, I implored God for faith. Slowly, slowly, I learned to anchor my soul on eternal truths because He was trustworthy and if He said it, it was true. So here is what I got out of Revelation for the new year, a safe place to build upon in the slippery shiftiness of time.

“I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’

“And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new… Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true’.”

Revelation 21:3-5, ESV



He is with us, present day. He will be with us, future forever. The best is yet to come, my friends!


The Common Household Mystery

My boys love mystery stories. They can spot the obvious clue a mile off. “Duh,” Gregory said, “these detectives are so dull! It’s so easy to see what is going on.” But of course, from the all-seeing perspective of the author you can solve the mystery. I wish they were as good at figuring out some of the things that remain unsolved in this house.

Top of the list right now is my missing journaling Bible. The cover is loose, but I was still using it because there is so much history in it and I planned to get it rebound. I love that Bible. And it is lost, lost. How does one even do that? It’s not under the bed or on my nightstand or in my reading room, all the usual places. Did I send it off to be fixed in a dream? Did a child use it to play church? All of us combined cannot seem to solve the mystery. I ordered a new one from CBD, along with new fine tipped journaling markers, but it feels like a stranger to me yet.

Here is one for the experts. How come my first attempt at making a simple cheese was beautifully successful. And my second and third. And then, when I tried cottage cheese, it refused to coagulate at all, so I put the milk back into the fridge and went to bed. The next day I decided to use it to make my simple spreadable cheese again because I knew I could do that, but when I heated the milk, it made ricotta. Hey! I am not complaining. The lasagna was fantastic. But I just wish I knew why the rennet acted so funny.

Where did all the shampoo/toilet paper/toothpaste/every other health and beauty aid go? Sometimes I think I might as well have a list with bandaids and hankies pinned to the top. The men of the house all despise tissues, so I am constantly struggling to keep them in hankies. [I think] sometimes they stay in the uniform pants pockets and the hospital laundress throws them out, even the monogrammed ones. But what do I know? I know that the boys use them for everything from parachutes to dog collars because I find them in the lawn.

What about spoons and forks? I only have cheap ones in the drawer for everyday use, but this fall I noticed that they were quite depleted. Nobody had any helpful suggestions until I jogged their collective memories when I turned up six forks in the flower bed right off the deck while I was raking leaves. “OH, yes… we were having a contest with the cousins, just chucking our forks over the railing. That is all.” I may have spoken a few choice words of admonition. They no longer question why I remind them after every picnic to produce the used plates and utensils before they go play. And while we are on the subject of silverware: How does all that grody gritty stuff get into the Rubbermaid tray in the drawer? Seriously? It’s not like we open  the drawer and butter the toast over the tray.

This fall I also noticed that we were constantly running out of stamps. We don’t even send much snail mail anymore, but the boys both have a pen pal that they communicate with regularly. Still. Out of stamps again? Then a young sleuth (our favorite Nancy Drew quote… she is “the young sleuth” so often that I want to hurl a Thesaurus at the author) tipped me off on a certain stamp collection in a certain notebook where I found at least ten brand new Forever stamps neatly arranged in rows, as well as a bunch of postcard stamps. It really kind of broke the back of the stamp collection when I reclaimed what was mine, but he didn’t have $6 extra in his piggy bank, and we had had a very clear conversation about stamps when the collection started.

This morning started with a huge upset about six missing Lego figure hands. Yes, you read that right. Do you know how tiny those hands are? Can you imagine how awful? And nobody did it or knew where they were. Except maybe the dog ate them, but I am betting on the vacuum cleaner. I actually will stoop and pick up a Lego when I am cleaning, if I see it. Sometimes the vacuum cleaner rattles crazily and I just hope it was a pony bead.

I have to put in a blurb for some of our favorite fantasies about household conundrums. Have you ever heard of the Borrowers? They are these tiny people who live, kind of like mice, in the walls and floors of the big people’s houses. I am sure I have referred to them before, how they borrow whatever they need from what they find laying around, and that is why there are never any safety pins when you need them.


If you see this book, or any of the series, just know that it will “explain” a lot of mysteries and your children will absolutely love them. The audiobooks are done really well too. (British!)

We have Christmas secrets going on right now, too. We have started on our cookie baking tradition, 2 down, 3 to go. Usually the recipe selection is based on pictures in the Taste of Home cookbooks: the more complicated the better, and I try to stay sweet about garish food coloring in dough and sprinkles all over the kitchen. I am hiding the cookies deep in the freezer this year because last year we had some sad children who were unrepresented on the cookie trays when their batch got eaten prematurely.

I also squirreled some presents away in the attic in a black garbage bag. Each child gets an article of clothing, a game or activity, and a book or audio. I hope they don’t think to look up there. 🙂 As I mentioned before, the children voted to give up some of the Christmas fund for the book fundraiser we are doing to send to refugees. I have ordered some books already, and when Addy saw them she pouted a little, “You are treating the refugee children better than us.” So, no, we are not nominating anybody for sainthood just yet.

Speaking of the fundraiser, I want to thank you, thank you, so much. It has been mostly blog readers who have been so kind in sharing. The donations on the website added to private donations is just at $1,700. That is really close to the goal, more than I actually dared to hope for! I plan to close the Youcaring site next week and place the completed order. I have been poring over the catalog and making selections with Davy and Janelle’s help. They were there and they know which books are most suitable. It is so exciting I can hardly stand it!

I know that has nothing to do with mystery except just maybe that we have no idea what God will do with these tokens of care and Christlike love.

One last thing. Our furnace has only kicked in a handful of times in the whole of December. What is up with that? It has been amazing, like a gift straight from heaven. Or is it just global warming? At any rate, it is a “problem” for the experts that I am thanking God for!

A Date With a Small Boy

I have a boy. He isn’t really small anymore, because he is now eleven, and that is practically grown-up! He wants Responsibility! He already knows how to do the laundry so I don’t have to remind him to put it on low setting for the permanent press clothes, even if he forgot last week and I had to iron twenty-eleven pieces of clothing that should have been wash and wear. Or, wait, maybe that was the time I just rinsed them and twirled them in the dryer again because ain’t nobody got time to do that much ironing.

Anyway, he is still a small boy in my eyes, and I like to ask him why he is so cute when he is taking life (doing dishes) too seriously. Then he has to laugh and show me his dimples, but it is true: he also has callouses on his hands and plenty of survival skills in his head and a whole back pack of gear for the woods. One day after school was over I found this note: “Gone to the woods. Might stay all night.” He had the dog and his bug-out bag and a pile of snacks raided from the cupboard. I didn’t have any problem with that, except that we had a supper invitation that evening and I didn’t think it would be quite responsible to leave him home.


Being the second born, he tends to wander off and depend on others to remind him of basic needs like meal time and when he should change his clothes. He also wears hand-me-downs and gets stuck with the little-boy-jobs and, like I said, he wants Responsibilities. Often he stays home while someone either more competent or more needy goes along to the store to push the cart or ride in it.

Last week the call came that his reading glasses were in. (Yeah, that is two down in a family of five children. The genes are against us.) So this time it was going to be just the two of us, running errands and visiting. We picked up the glasses first and he self consciously wore them for about five minutes at Walmart before putting them in his pockets. Then we spotted

our pediatrician, a lady he does not care to ever see in normal life, and out came the glasses quick as a flash. “These are almost a disguise, wouldn’t you say, Mama?”

I have been startled, when I really listen, to realize how easy it is to miss a quieter child, not hear their ideas in the chaos of the talkers. It is so much fun to hear them because often when they get a chance to talk on their own, they have volumes to say. While we were driving we discussed his bucket list. “I have so many things I want to do when I am big, I don’t think I can ever do them all.” I told him that I know just how that feels. Not that I want to go sky diving or hang gliding or even set a snare that actually catches something besides siblings. But still.

He told me long stories of people who survived airplane crashes, plummeting down from 33,000 feet or so, to smash into a jungle where vines fortuitously broke the fall and they lived to tell the tale and how they survived in the jungle for two weeks before they found another human. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s all about survival these days. 🙂

We bought a bag of sour cream and onion chips at Walmart, and ate the whole greasy lot of them. He did. While I was at Aldi’s. While he was reading King of the Wind which we had just bought at Goodwill. It was his idea of a really good time, reading uninterrupted without needing to share the chips.

So, all we really did was run errands, but he had my undivided attention, and I have come to conclude that is really all a child needs to feel special. Maybe it is all any of us need to feel special.