wocket in my pocket

Looking for the unexpected in the mundane.

March Potpourri

It’s spring now and the sap of life is rising. It gurgles to the surface: life that has been there all along, just frozen. Even though our winter was a joke to people like my husband who wanted Serious Snow, I rejoice and feel myself full of ideas thawing and ready to go!

Rita and I went on a soggy walk one day when she was feeling blue. She is cut out of the same cloth I am and we both cheered up when we found twigs with leaf babies to bring inside.

We had our First Day of Spring Party today. It being Monday, I thought maybe I could wait until tomorrow, but the children were not having it. “We have to have a tea party today! It is important.” So we decorated with a pastel piece of fabric and paper doilies, then set out the China and prettied up the food. Frilly toothpicks stuck through ham and cheese chunks cut out with flower-shaped cookie cutters, a simple chicken broth with alphabet pasta, crackers and party mints in pretty bowls, and we were set. Dessert was vanilla crepes with raspberry sauce. Oh, and tea, of course. Mint tea.

Last weekend I got to attend a conference for mothers where Sally Clarkson was speaking to us from her years of wisdom. It was one long, refreshing drink, one that I needed to give me courage. Here is what it looked like in NC on my way to the conference. I pulled off the road and put on my flipflops.

Sally mentioned that typically women in their twenties have a few babies and spend a lot of time establishing ideals. In the thirties they start to feel the burn and it sinks in that this is for the long haul, no short cuts or selfishness allowed. By their forties most mothers are tired. The crowd of godly mothers thins out a bit as one by one they quit, saying, “Let these children figure out their own way now. I am done with this mothering thing. It’s too hard, all this eye-rolling and investments that aren’t valued anyway.”

I have felt it: I am in the tired spot and needed some pep talking. Sometimes I don’t know how weary I am until I hold still for a while.

Here are a few more Sallyisms that I am phrasing as I remember them. Listening to her gentle humor in person was much better, but I know that some of you read her books and will enjoy this.

You are called to live your own story. Nobody else’s. That is your place to be faithful. It’s like a puzzle, and all you have to do is fit your own pieces into your own puzzle. Nobody else’s. Your puzzle will look different from every other puzzle when it is finished.

If God gives you a vision when you are young and idealistic, don’t just chuck it when it gets hard. Everybody in the world will give you permission to compromise. If He says something is valuable, it is!

Read stories of hope and faith to give you courage. Read them to your children. Fill them with stories of beautiful, true, honorable things. Give them a solid framework in a twisted world.

ABIDE. This is not formula or fear. It is not control. It is just a state of being.

If you make mistakes, repent and get over it. God is a Redeemer. Your difficulties are where your children see a walk with God modeled. The hard things you go through are the platform where you gain influence.

I had registered for this conference 5 months ago, and it was so strengthening. Sally speaks hard truths in the kindest way possible. Not least of the enjoyment was sharing the experience with two of my sisters-in-law. We talked long and late, ate chocolate and drank coffee, found common ground and encouraged each other.

I can unequivocally recommend a few books that Sally has written for moms. If you need to hear from someone who has walked the long road and been tested, but stayed steadfast, listen to her admonitions in print. She will not give you permission to slack and feel sorry for yourself; you will be blessed.

In the spirit of making a lifegiving home, I have been working at my March decluttering. So far I have taken out a bag of mismatched plastic containers and lids that I do not seem to be able to chuck into the trash when the sour cream is empty. I passed on a box of boys’ clothes and a bag of girl clothes. The boys were bribed with a dollar per trash bag filled in their room. It took them 30 minutes to fill 4! (I was so proud of them, but not especially proud of myself.) There were a few children’s coats and snowpants that were ripped beyond repair, with zippers broken, etc. that I burned when they weren’t looking.

One painful day I cleaned out my fabric stash and was quite severe with what I allowed myself to keep. I went through my closet and took out all the stuff that I never wear (too small/makes me look fat/bad color/what was I thinking? 😦 ). I donated the Clarks shoes that pinched my heels to Goodwill, as well as a pile of books that were taking up more space than they were worth. Most recently I cleaned out my kitchen cupboards and threw out the chipped and broken things that I had stashed for a Super glue session. Seriously, do I really like this dish that much? No. I do not.

I cleaned out my fridge and fed the pigs. It is oddly satisfying to toss a rotting cucumber to a grateful hog who then turns it into bacon. It makes me feel less wasteful that I forgot the cuke in the salad drawer for too long. The best project in terms of satisfaction was replacing a set of lace curtains that I have had for 15 years! I bought them at the Dollar General soon after we were married and thought they looked all right, but one day I looked at them and said, “So 2000.” I made simple window toppers with a vintage French print and now I can look at them and say, “So ’70’s.” Haha. I need this sort of  illogical hilarity in my life.

I still have the bathroom to sort through and the entire basement, but there is no point in deep cleaning the school room until we finish the term.

Olivia mastered the straight seams on a dress that she has been longing for ever since my mom gave her fabric for her birthday. She made a matching ensemble for her rag doll and learned the fine art of running a seam ripper. No scrapbooking has happened, but I am hopeful. I just need to get in the zone for one more child, then I plan to go digital. All the older children have a lovingly crafted photo book from birth to five years. I never waited until they were 5 to get started, but that is what Addy will get.

Gardening seems a long way off with everything outdoors squishy. I have my seeds, though, just waiting. On Saturday I spent hours making paper flowers for a garland to replace the pine swag I had above the sink instead of cleaning the bathroom. The children gasped when they saw me tearing pages out of an old book, but they soon got into the spirit of the project and helped shape flowers. It is spring, after all!

What have you been doing with yourself?

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase from these links, you will not be charged anything extra, but I receive a small commission from the sale. Feel free to buy all the books. 😀

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What Friends Are For

I have been blessed with many wonderful comrades who cheer me on. The cloud of witnesses around me is not all departed people, thank God!

Real live folks can be so incredibly sustaining and we need them. Are you introverts listening?  All you need is a crisis to make you value your connections. If you don’t have any, it would be best for your happiness and life-satisfaction to start cultivating connections. (I think this is especially true for women, although obviously, I have no experience from the male point of view.)

We are designed to be nurturers, taking care of each other, not just our children. Sociologists have long noticed a link between a woman’s reported happiness and the support that is received from other women. This is especially noticeable in what they call primitive cultures, where women often report being quite happy despite obvious poverty, lots of children, and no professional careers.

It is depressing to be all alone, and yes, our husbands can listen and support if we are fortunate enough to have them, but hormones understand hormones. (I feel like I just said something profound there.) Even the Apostle Paul said something about the older women teaching the younger how to live (love their husbands and keep their homes happy). I get the feeling that this is walking along beside them like coaches just as much as it is special meetings where an older woman teaches her wisdom.

We shouldn’t be embarrassed to own that intuition that tells us someone is in trouble or could use a bit of extra loving. Nor should we be too proud to say, “I need some help with my thinking today. I am sinking here. What would you do (any given situation…)?”

This is what my friends meant to me in the last two weeks. If you recognize yourself, this is my thanks to you.

  • A hug and a sincere “wish you well” in passing. That feeling that she cares about my  world.
  • A real snail mail card.
  • Seeing someone from way back when and catching up a bit in those easy conversations that flow between old school friends.
  • Sharing opinions about dress patterns and is it really “easy” like it says; getting to stroke someone else’s fabric stash.
  • A question, “How are you?” coupled with the time to hear the answer.
  • A thoughtful conversation about whether it really is important to raise children in a village, or is it okay to just go it alone; reflecting on what the village means to your own self.
  • A text and a word of kindness. “Hope your day gets some sunshine.” Just like that, it does, even when the sky stays grey.
  • A latte out of the blue, and a box full of groceries that my children dig through excitedly, immediately asking to break open the bag of chocolate chips.
  • A cup of tea shared over stories about life, mine and hers, even though we are in drastically different seasons.
  • Facebook messages heavily punctuated with animated stickers, something only a few people may enjoy, but when you find that friend, you go on sticker hunts to make their day hilarious.
  • Coordinating schedules so that we can get together and chat while our children play.
  • Talking with and over each other, and getting what is being heard and said at the same time.
  • A smile when your eyes meet across the room in church, because you are genuinely glad to see that her sick child is better and she is glad yours is better.
  • A quick phone call that turns into a visit about so many little things that crowd the day, and it just helps to sort them out.
  • Telling that slightly pungent story that you really just have to pass on to one person so they can enjoy the humor with you, since the children didn’t get it and your husband isn’t home at the moment.
  • The safe place where you can express exactly what it is that is wearying your very soul at the moment, and knowing that you are now held in prayer.
  • Feeling that you are not alone. There’s a whole cloud of witnesses and you are on the way together.

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(pexel free photo)

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Day by Day, a Song of Assurance

Today I had a chance to ride with a friend to an old fashioned Mennonite hymn singing. There was one song especially that clutched me by the heart, and when my friend showed me a short story about its origins, I decided to look it up and pass it on to you.

Carolina (Lina) Sandell wrote this hymn in 1865. This was just a few years after a deeply personal tragedy, where she had witnessed the drowning death of her father. The number is not exact, but it is believed that she wrote around 2000 hymns in her lifetime, among them the equally beloved “Children of the Heavenly Father.”

I have been listening to “Day by Day” again, letting those truths soak into my being.

 

 

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We’re Not Talking 5K Here

This post is about believing that the things we do today matter. Really. Nobody wants to come to the end of their lives and look back only to see that they invested in vanity and what is left will burn up like a pile of dry leaves.

(I received some advice recently, to choose an audience and not try to be politically correct for everybody who might read my stuff,  which is something I tend to do. I take a stand on my housewifely platform with pride and hope you all are kind enough to understand… teeters off… continues writing…)

We need courage when life crowds in with so much ordinary that feels pointless.  Ever have a sick day or two where you couldn’t stir to keep house?  I mean, “keep” does not mean “to hold” in this context, although we often act like it should mean that. “I can’t believe how dirty this floor is again,” we mutter to ourselves. “Why does nobody else seem to notice that the trash can is overflowing? and didn’t I just clean that window yesterday?? and while I am talking anyway, who left their crayons on the floor???”

If we look at “keep” as “to keep the children happy,” or “to maintain with care and labor” or even simply “to keep in usable condition” if helps relieve that feeling that the floor is doomed, no matter how often we mop it. We tend to resent the life-on-a-loop responsibilities that are inevitable when we choose homemaking as a career. It doesn’t seem like a big deal and it would be nice to feel important for a change. Well. Just for a minute imagine that every person in the world who does anything mundane in their life goes on strike for a day. Just for 24 hours they refuse to do anything except glittery stuff. Do you suppose there might be glory missing from the world? That’s right. Glory. 

I did a bit of paraphrasing from Hebrews 12 to infuse some courage into our housewifely hearts. This is a big deal and we should lift our heads and tackle it life the challenge of a lifetime. Because it is. This is what the passage in Hebrews 12 speaks to me, and maybe to you too.

Whether you know it or not, there is a huge cloud of people surrounding you, watching your life of faith. They are your cheering section, and they have already lived through the same stuff you are slogging through. Listen to them. They are saying, “You can make it! Look up! Chuck off the weights and RUN! It takes a lot of endurance in this marathon, a lot of dishes, a lot of drinks of water, and a whole ton of kindnesses that nobody really seems to notice unless you quit doing them. You will make it to the end, but you can’t pity yourself and quit.”

When you lift your eyes up from stray toys and dirty boots littered on your path, and do what they say, look to Jesus, you notice something incredible. He endured this race on earth too! He got tired too! There is no shame in weariness. Jesus himself had to dig deep to keep running. The joy at the finish line will be yours because that little spark of faith He gave you?.. He will keep it glowing and strengthen you.

It matters. What you do for your husband, your children, your friends, even for your enemies, matters. Believe it. Feel the relief that it may be a slogging run sometimes, but it is His work and He knows exactly the way that the race is on. The stump around the bend that you are supposed to leap over? It is not a surprise to Him. In fact, if you must know, He put it there.

Don’t be unmanned by hurdles or by His discipline. This just means you are a beloved child and He is training you for the stamina that is required for the long haul. Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your feeble knees by daily exercise. Don’t quit because it is hard! You are nearer than you know and His grace is making you stronger than you have any idea.

See? You are within sight of Mt Zion, the city of God and all those angels in festal gathering, just waiting to welcome you. You are one of the righteous made perfect through a rigorous regimen of daily ordinary training in faithfulness.

You represent a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Keep moving forward!

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He Still Speaks

Ever notice how you can hear things through your own filter that others may not notice through theirs? Your husband can remark, “The door is open,” and the child standing right there on the mat thinks he is commenting about a normal occurrence; the oldest child across the room is sure he is issuing a command to the one on the mat; you figure he is thinking about the heating bill and quickly go shut the door before you help the child on the mat take off her boots.

I have heard God speak to me in a church service, and later when I try to recount what it was, I realize that it isn’t even really what the preacher said, and yet it was exactly what I needed at the moment, even though nobody else may have heard that.

This morning my mind grasped onto a phrase in the old-fashioned hymn “Marching to Zion” that I have sung many times. “We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground…” I wondered what the author meant. Considering that “Immanuel” means “God with us”, it blessed me to remember that the ground I walk is ground He already walked and He is there ahead of me.

In the Sunday school lesson we read the story in Luke where the servant does what his master expects and it is simply his duty, even when it is thankless tasks. It’s a picture that messes with our Western sensibilities of fairness, and I thought about how full of myself I am sometimes, feeling that I am doing God such favors.

The message was on Hope, that power that propels us forward through the mess and darkness we live in. This was especially heartening after the powerpoint presentation of the world so full of refugees and hopelessness.

The friends I visited with after the service described the exact same feelings I get of being stagnant in my house and desperately needing inspiration for freshness.

It all downloaded seamlessly to where I am right now, even though I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you are scratching your heads, going “Huh?”. (I have embraced the typical spaghetti brain of the female, and lucky me, my husband is an awesome listener. 😀 )

When Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled,” He gave us just one simple criteria for being blessed. Be hungry and thirsty. He can do the filling in all sorts of ways, through songs or sermons or panoramic views or words from your own little children. He called His Spirit the Comforter for a reason.

It’s my opinion that getting out of bed on Sunday, getting dressed, and going to a place where other Christ-followers have gathered is a very tangible way of saying, “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.”

landscape-church-cathedral-rural.jpg(pexel free photo)

What did you hear today?

 

 

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Scribbling in Your Bible?

I am a terribly forgetful sort of person, which is why I put bags of things right beside the front door when I am supposed to take them somewhere, so that I practically have to stumble over them on my way out. I also mark stuff in books and put post-it notes of inspirational sayings beside the kitchen sink. I know a few geniuses who never forget the punchline to jokes and can quote verbatim the sentences that impressed them when they were reading. Not me. Sometimes I can hardly stand not being allowed to underline key passages in library books, because it is so much more clunky to take notes.

The discovery that they print Bibles specifically designed for journaling has changed my devotional life. It’s not really scribbling, but I don’t try to be profound in my notes to myself. The whole idea is kind of like the stones that the people of Israel took out of the middle of the river and piled on the riverbank. Every time they walked past them or stumbled over them, they were supposed to think about where they had been and where they were going and Who was taking them there.

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That is Bible journaling for me. If you have ever considered it, now is a great time to hustle over to Christian Book Distributors and check out their selection. They have a great sale on their Bibles today, with free shipping (use code SHIPBIBLES) on orders over $35. (This is pure sharing of the love. I am not being monetized in any way for this recommendation. 🙂 ) I have this one, because I love the English Standard Version for study.

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Bibles are not supposed to be ornamental. I take mine lots of places besides church. It has wrinkled pages from a leaking water bottle in a back pack, and I fear that coffee slopped on it once when I was rushing out the door in a hurry. A child wrote in it once and my pen developed a leak and spattered a page. Eventually I will get a new one and start fresh with marking the edge columns with the things the Spirit is showing me. I assure you, I would not remember half the things if I did not write them down. Those reminder stone piles  markings give me courage and remind me of Who is in charge of the journey.

When I see my life as a story He is writing, and I parallel it with the stories recorded in the Word, it does wonders for my faith.

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I told you before about the pens I use, but just for love’s sake I will show you again what they look like. Maybe you are more of a colored highlighter sort of person, but these pens are fine point and enable you to write in tiny legible script. They come in different colors, so I had a bright idea and am using a different color each year, just as a sort of reference.

Why not do yourself a February Favor and order a journaling Bible today? (The sale and free shipping end today. Sorry to not give you more notice but I only just saw the promotional email myself.) Challenge yourself to find one thing to comment on each day in your readings, no matter how insignificant. I can assure you that it will invigorate your walk with Jesus, even if you aren’t a writer sort of person.

You are welcome. 🙂

 

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Why We Grow Corn

Last summer I grew a new variety of corn for grinding into meal. It’s an heirloom variety called Bloody Butcher dent corn; the stalks were amazing, about 11 feet tall and the cobs were dark red. Only recently we shelled the corncobs that we managed to salvage from the squirrels. The kernals looked so pretty in their glass jar in storage, but they were decorative until I ground them into meal. Today for lunch we fried cornmeal mush to eat with eggs, and it tasted amazingly fresh, nourishing. (Buttery too. All THM folks may need to look away for a bit because it was a glorious mix of E and S.)

In my head I sometimes wish that the daily grind would be just pleasant aromas of coffee. I thought about this when I cooked that cornmeal. It wasn’t so pretty anymore, greyish with sprinkles of red, but it was in a form that has the potential to grow sturdy children and strengthen starving people anywhere in the world. That’s why we grew corn.

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I would rather have life-giving qualities than pointless shelf life in a pretty jar, wouldn’t you? There are some relevant quotes that I copied a long time ago. Both were written by George Mueller. I think he knew what he was talking about.

“Self-denial…

      not so much an impoverishment

      as a postponement:

We make a sacrifice of a present good

      for the sake of a future and greater good.

Whatever be done…

      in the way of giving up, 

      or self-denial,

      or deadness to the world,

      should result from the joy we have in God.”

This second quote has ministered to me when I felt like I was pouring love and training and mercy into a child, yet the need wasn’t going away and the results were not instant like I wished. Why weren’t the prayers working, like they seem to for other people?

“One of the great secrets

in connection to successful service for the Lord

it to work as if everything depended

upon our diligence,

and yet not to rest in the least

upon our exertions,

but upon the blessing of the Lord.”

I need that restful place to live and work. No, I don’t get to quit my job and “just let God do it”. He expects me to keep on, to endure to the end. But He is really doing the work, and that is where the JOY comes in.

How my measly few kernals get ground into powder and turned into a source of life for others is His business, not mine.

All I have to do is submit myself to the grinding.

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The Feelings

I looked at my list of the events of yesterday long and hard before I posted them. It was all true. The events actually happened, and they even looked neatly compartmentalized. So why, I asked myself, do my days feel so chaotic so often? Why don’t I feel like the dance is elegant? What was missing in the listing?

Ah, the feelings. Yes, the days are event-full. It’s one thing after another, “Just do the next thing“, which is the probably the most valuable lesson Elisabeth Elliot ever taught me. The thing that poses the challenge, though, is the feelings. Faithfulness does not depend on them, thank God! Neither does effectiveness. Actually, they don’t really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things.

Think about the people Jesus commended for living their faith in Matthew 25. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

  1. For I was hungry and you gave me food,
  2. I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
  3. I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
  4. I was naked and you clothed me,
  5. I was sick and you visited me,
  6. I was in prison and you came to me.’

 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

And the King will answer them, Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

This sounds so simplistic, but it has helped me a lot to deal with the repetition of life as a homemaker/mother to settle in my heart that my feelings are not what matters. It isn’t about me at all. Oooh, ouch.

Yesterday I woke up and felt hurried because it was later than usual. I felt kind of bothered until we had breakfast over. I got interrupted by questions about 15 times during the course of the school day. The pencils dropped on the floor with annoying predictability. Olivia and the dictionary were not getting along amiably at all, and her frustration seeped over me. I dislike ironing and mending when I stop to think about it. When it was time to go for a guitar lesson, my son was in the barn and couldn’t hear me calling him. A few people at the supper table smelled like goats.

I felt good things too. Gregory’s poem, the perfect cursive “D”, the feeling that algebra is connecting in our heads, gratefulness to have my husband home in the middle of the week, the quiet hour of chatting with a dear friend, the scent of clean laundry, the symmetry of rows of brown eggs in boxes, sharing a love of reading aloud.

It all mashes together in an ordinary day, and I no longer gauge the success or failure of a day by how I feel at the end of it. Well, sometimes I do. I am not that far above the tumult yet,  🙂 but I take heart in offering it all to Jesus.

“This is my worship, Jesus. This meal, maybe just this cold cereal… I offer it to my people because I love them and I love you. If a pack of flashcards and the timer can bring you glory, then here they are. This squabble I settle because I value peace and You love peace. Please, redeem this mess that I made with my impatience. Forgive my stinging words and give me humility to apologize to my children. Help me to move on in grace.

This day with its imperfect beauty is for You, Jesus. I will give it everything I have, and depend on You when I don’t reach around and I simply don’t feel it. Please, will you accept my homely gifts?”

He has never told me that it’s not enough.

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(source)

 

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A Thrill of Victory

We had a moment aglow with achievement yesterday, my son and I. Ever since the beginning of 9th grade there was a bit of a thundercloud hovering over the Algebra 1 coursework. “It’s too hard! I don’t get it and I never will. There’s no point in learning something I will never use, etc.etc.”

If you have ever tried to reason with a teen on the merits of discipline and HARD WORK when they see no immediate personal gain, you know how futile this feels. We looked at the chaos of his bombed quizzes and tests and my husband tutored him whenever he was home, but this was not reaching around to the everyday frustration. I would look at his assignments and dredge back into my school years, coming up with… nothing. I realized that I had never covered this coursework, having only done pre-algebra.

Well. Nothing for it then. We went back to the second unit and we did all those bombed out lessons again. I did every homework problem that Alex did, and we checked our work together. Guess what? I got an F on my first quiz. This was a new sensation for me and humiliated me a little. :/  I had to go back and review the first unit, memorizing formulas and forms and a ridiculous amount of basic rules for order of operations that I had forgotten.

There was a spot where it was all so muddled in my head; I would stay up studying until Gabe got off work, then whine to him about how hard this was for my brain crammed full of so many other things. He would unscramble my problems in a few concise sentences and I would go to bed with at least that day’s classwork done. “I don’t have time for this,” I would mutter. But I knew if I quit, my son would see the bad example of wimpy-ness that I was not allowing him to use as an excuse.

Slowly we scraped and scrabbled our way out of the pit of sucky-mud defeatism and climbed our way to consistent C’s and then we started getting B’s. It was shoulder to shoulder all the way, every day. And yesterday, oh yesterday! My son reached the pinnacle of a perfect score on his test! I made a dumb mistake and got 94%, but I was so happy for him that I could live with that!

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I will savor the taste of the expression on his face when he saw that 100% for a long time. It will get hard again, but we can do this. It’s only Algebra, but it’s life too.

You can do this, Son.

 

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The Claustrophobic Kingdom

That phrase hit me square between the eyes when I read it in an article by Paul David Tripp. He was talking about our words, the power of them to destroy or to build, but the part I kept thinking about all week is my little kingdom of one.

“You live your life in the utterly mundane. And if God doesn’t rule your mundane, He doesn’t rule you, because that is where you live.” P.D. Tripp

In other words, few of all the people in the world ever go into the history books. In a  few generations you will only be a faint memory even to your loved ones. This is not to be depressing. It actually frees me to live TODAY, this minute, and make it above normal for the people around me, because that is where it counts. Mundane is not synonymous with unimportant. It’s just everyday, okay? We all have everyday, where the hair is messy and the toes get stubbed and the bathroom needs to be cleaned. Again. Still, if I do not clean the toothpaste out of the sink and brush the snarls out of the hair, what happens?

It is easier for me to live sweetly when the pressure is on, the people are watching, and company is here. But what about the grinding sameness of deep and dark winter with grey skies and squirrelly people underfoot? Oh, then… when the words slip out sighing or sharp or sarcastic because the people are all so familiar and the very same situation happened yesterday and the day before that and the day before that? (Will they never learn? How many times have I told you?) That is when I need Jesus to broaden my vision beyond the claustrophobia of my little kingdom.

How do I get out of the trap of living for my own comfort, arranging the people who are willing to be arranged, struggling with those who are resistant to my efforts at controlling my kingdom for my own ends? Because I cannot stand the boots all over the floor, but they know, oh they know when I am in it for just myself. This doesn’t mean that it is not okay to make the child go back and line up his/her boots in the row. It means it is not okay for me to scold and rant about such a silly thing as boots.

I dislike when small people who love to eat complain about the food. It is not wrong to teach them gratefulness, but it is not right to sigh, “You guys just eat, eat, eat. All the time. But you don’t like these sweet potatoes or the green beans that I spent the last two hours preparing for your supper! Maybe tomorrow you can just eat cereal all day, huh?” (Well, actually that last line would not work here because they would gladly take me up on it.) There is something really stinky about a passive-aggressive mom who makes herself out as a martyr in order to guilt her children into better behavior.

I find myself at times in a negative holding pattern, where nobody is writing neatly in their lessons and the math is taking too long and the missing commas are distressing me with their portent of ignorant little homeschooled children being launched into the world and showing me up as a terrible teacher. It’s my own little claustrophobic kingdom and it requires some shaking and repentance to break out of it. I doubt I am the only one who has such a kingdom… please tell me I am not.

When this happens, I need a broader vision. What is really going on here? Who is in charge of the circumstances of my life? How do I fit into the story that God is dictating? Is it really as miniscule as lost gloves and muddy carpets? Or am I perhaps missing the point here?

I can constantly bang my head against a wall of futility, because my little kingdom wobbles out of the shape I would like to keep it in; it requires no effort to think about me, my needs, my lack of white space, all the reasons I excuse my stinky attitudes and withered soul. But there is a much greater Kingdom where the merciful receive mercy, the pure hearts see God, hunger and thirst for righteousness are filled, and blessing is measured by life-joy instead of stuff. I am part of that Kingdom by faith! When I embrace the love lavished on me daily, it expands me and spills out like sweet water in a thirsty land.

This is living large in my small space and has a way of curing me of the childish tempers of self-absorption. Jesus takes every space I give Him and glorifies it with His beauty. Possibly this includes the days and days of grey winter space. And the space where the boots and coats and muddy dog prints mix on my tile floor. If my husband is reading this, I am sure he is nodding in agreement.

[Redeeming love] reaches into the private recesses of your everyday life. Look for opportunities to be in someway an agent of that transforming love.” (P.D. T.)

I will end with a funny story about Addy. We were sitting in church when she suddenly noticed that Rita had a tablet and a pencil and oh dear! she had none. I told her she doesn’t need to write and kept on singing. Looking down a bit later, I noticed her little face full of reproach and she whispered in my ear, “Mama, do you even understand tragic?”

It is so easy to see the hilarity when it is a child speaking, but I am pretty sure God looks at me with exactly the same mix of exasperation and humor as I do when my daughter is overly dramatic. (I wonder where she gets it?)

Let’s live audaciously! Let’s do our small things out of the abundance of great love within! Nothing will be wasted that we give away. He promised.

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