A Place to Stake it All in the New Year

I am really happy about a new year coming up, all unsullied, fresh. I used to think, “Wow, I wonder what all will happen this year? I want to make a difference, be all I should be, reach around to the people who need me and make everybody feel happy and celebrated, etc. etc. I want it to be a good year!” Now it is more like, “Wow, I wonder what all will happen this year? One thing is sure, I am not going to do everything right and very likely there will be really yucky stuff mixed in with all the celebrations.”

This is not the inevitable downer of a weary lady who has lost the sparkle of life. It is just my deeply realistic take on seasons… You want fruitfulness and summertime? Well, you may need bleak midwinter first, with yuck and boredom and mud. The thing is, I have more hope now than I did when I wanted everything to be exciting. I have seen the goodness of God, first hand, in the middle of chaos and I am not afraid. That is the marvel of it, because life can be downright terrifying. Like Peter, when I look at the waves, I sink. I am embarrassed sometimes at the things that have made me sink. “Jesus, save me! There is clutter everywhere and I am so weary of keeping house and doing the same old, same old stuff and the children have terrible attitudes about their chores and I just tripped over the doll stroller for the hundredth time and my hormones are all out of whack. I am sinking here!” If I were Jesus, I would probably think that was a pretty silly thing to be going under about, like you are standing in only two feet of water, lady. But He doesn’t, and I feel His hand pulling me up to walk beside Him again. That is why I am not afraid. If He has been redeeming my soul from destruction all these years, He will continue to do it in the coming year.

I am learning that what makes life sweet is not me, because I am flawed and incapable of making cakes out of mud. Jesus is the One who does that. Instead of a list of resolutions, I am asking Him simply to give me grace to hold up the ingredients of life in the coming year and let Him make them, by some miracle of sheer grace, into a celebration.

Last January I resolved to read the Bible in chronological order this year. It was good discipline for me, having used my babies as an excuse for a long time to just skim for encouragement. The plan got a set back when our iPad with the app I was using was stolen, but I found a similar plan online and kept on. I started this week only 13 days behind, and having gotten so close, I determined to finish. My concluding assignment for today is the book of Revelation. I like this method, linking events in the Scriptures in the order they happened. It builds trust to see the theme of faithfulness all throughout the written record. If God says it, it will happen. I am staking everything on that.

Heb. 6:17  So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever …

Girls With Dreams

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(forwallpaper dot com)

Sometimes the oddest things bring up a blog post. This morning’s trigger was when I sent my man out the door, early, with coffee and an Advanced Trauma Life Support textbook for a class at the Altoona Trauma Center. Suddenly I remembered a post I struggled and struggled to write, and finally ditched this spring. Here it is again, trying to get out, so I will give it another shot.

“Do you married women dream?” a sweet young lady asked me after a discussion on life choices/destiny. “Of course,” I said, although I can only speak for myself and the few friends I cornered for my unofficial survey. Consensus: Our husbands dream. We go along for the ride. 🙂 If you think that is impossibly restricting, stay with me. I am not done yet.

Not so very long ago, the larger percentage of the female population dreamed of marriage, homes, children. There were very few respectable options available, unless they wanted to be governesses. A hundred years later the world is wide open for women to travel without chaperones, pursue degrees, buy their own homes, etc. The modern barrage of choices can be downright bewildering, especially considering that it is inappropriate for a girl to initiate the fulfillment of the dream for a husband. (Yup, I am that old fashioned.)

Women in the Congo dream about owning a sewing machine so they can get out of a life of prostitution. Haitian women dream of having enough food so they don’t have to give their babies away. Young girls in Afghanistan dream of becoming teachers so that they can teach other young girls in the remoter villages where there are no female teachers. I am afraid a lot of American girls dream about being thin super star actors. Our dreams are as varied as our lives.

I am going to have to zoom way, way in to one aspect. Let’s bring this subject down just to girls who want to honor God, who have noble aspirations. How should they dream, when should they pursue their dreams, and what about if they get sidetracked? I am sorry, I don’t know all those things.

But I do know a girl who was absolutely sure she was going to be a missionary (or a missionary’s wife… how romantic…). Her cherished dream was to work in an orphanage, to rescue and love children who were scrapped by everybody else (how fulfilling). She also hoped to continue her education (what fun). She traveled enough to see how vast the world is, how unending the needs. Then she proceeded to foster one little baby, teach school to well-adjusted, secure little church children, and she fell in love with  her co-teacher and married him (how predictable 😛 ). She had babies, she stayed home with the babies, and she kept house. Hey, what are you looking at? Oh, you think you recognize her? Well, maybe you do.

Sometimes after she had spent a day of nurturing babies and preparing good food for her husband, she would think about her orphanage dream and wonder where it had come from. Where had it gone? And when her life felt narrow and restricted she would wonder for a few fleeting seconds if she had chosen the wrong path? Oh, she loved her husband and her children fanatically, but it felt so… ordinary?

…to be continued…

Impressions

I have been thinking that maintaining a blog is a bit like building a snowman. You sort of have to keep the ball rolling so that you know what to build onto next. If you stop for  a long time, you find that the energy has melted away and you aren’t sure where to start.

I have periodic freak outs about the lack of anonymity that comes with internet. Like, suppose someone reads that we are in Michigan and decides it would be a good time to clean out our house with a U Haul? So then I should probably not have posted that bit until we are home. And real bloggers have posts done ahead of time, scheduled to publish on set days.

Also, I cannot type on the iPad very well, which was the only piece of technology we hauled along. I have issues with anything but an Apple keyboard, finding myself so distracted with frustration and backspacing that I lose my train of thought.

So… enough with the disclaimers. Here we are, home again. So very much has happened in two weeks, I could bore you to tears. I decided to keep it to a terse list of impressions.

  • Rest…such a lovely rest in the middle of a National Forest in Michigan.
  • Enchanting foliage in hardwood forests
  • The limits of GPS on National Forest trails 🙂
  • New foods (Pasties, (pass-tees) anyone?) and painted moose
  • Political blather about the government shutdown on every. single. station.
  • A missed stop sign, a speeding feed truck, a smashed front bumper… within four miles of my grandparent’s WI home!
  • Large mercies!
  • An evening of family camaraderie with the uncles and their families
  • Half way there, kids!
  • Hours of mind-numbing corn fields
  • Welcoming arms of the SD home which was our ultimate destination
  • Wood stove, tea, comfortable catch-up chats with siblings
  • Laughter as yet another child, supposed to be abed, needs something
  • Melding of nine kids in one house, smoother than expected
  • My sister-in-law’s cappuccino muffins with coffee
  • Blazing sunsets… so much horizon you would have to believe the earth is round
  • New appreciation for the blessing, “May the wind be always at your back.”
  • Sunday lunch with friends, reminiscing over childhood memories
  • All too soon packing up again… fare-thee-wells
  • Fifteen minutes into a 20 hour journey Addy’s piping voice: “Are we about there yet?” (No joke.)
  • Due east into the Minnesota sunrise… and on… and on…
  • Dairy Queen to cheer the little people
  • Pit stop in Indiana at a beloved cousin’s house
  • Child blubbing sadly for an hour when we hit the road again the next morning… she doesn’t know why
  • Little girl fantasizing about a long bath
  • Loud, cheerful singing of “We’re home, we’re home, we’re home…” in the last three miles

There is also a list of numbers in my head.

  • Six audiobooks: Exodus, Number the Stars, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Amos Fortune, Calico Captive, The Man Who Was Thursday, and Dave Ramsey something or other
  • One hundred and seven (give or take a few tens) water towers
  • Hundreds and thousands of windmills, spinning their futuristic way to power
  • Zero. The number of times my two year old had a potty accident.
  • Two and a half books, read during stretches of mind-numbing corn fields and political blather
  • About two thousand, nine hundred and sixty-seven semi trucks between IN and PA, according to Greg
  • Three thousand, two hundred and forty miles

So here we are, home again. Grateful.

Are We There Yet?

The paved roads only brought us close, but the last 8 miles were graded tan Michigan dirt under a tunnel of golden yellow trees. It is off-peak season in the  Upper Peninsula, mostly deserted and calm around the lakes and waterways. We have been blessed with weather 20 degrees warmer than is typical for October. It feels like Utopia… With wifi. 🙂 Our cabin is 110 years old, furnished with a charming disregard to modern ways, lights all operated with pulls and strings tied to various parts of the walls. There is an indoor toilet and a tiny mention of a shower.

Currently the boys are out in a rowboat on the lake, fishing and mostly rowing around. The little girls cheered when they heard that they can wash the supper soup mugs in the teeny sink. So here I sit, soaking in the ambiance of a perfect autumn evening. There are trails, there are meandering mazes of roads through the state forest land, and there are no. other. people. I brought four books to read, and a duffel bag with children’s books, toys, and games, in the event that we should hit a rainy day. Three days of blissful quiet before we resume the journey to South Dakota.

We decided to split up the travel time a bit, seeing we haven’t road tripped any further than 4 hours in the last 3 years. Even so, we were hardly driving for an hour before Rita said, “I think I just wanna stay home. I didn’t know it was going to take so long.”