On Homemaking

Being away from home is hard.

I was gone for a week without my husband and children, visiting my dad and his wife in the frigid cold of Montana. My dad is very ill and the week was one of those hard-but-good-but-just-hard times that we all have to face at some point. I’ll spare you the details, out of respect for my dad, but please do pray for him.

Montana from 20,000 feet

I felt a new compulsion while I was away to pray for that Christian kid at college – away from all the comforts and routines and supports of his home-life, away from what’s normal and having to make it alone, with only his own convictions and standards.

I long to abide more in Christ. I long to be so solid in my fellowship with Him that even being out of my routine and all that’s familiar doesn’t change my relationship with Him, doesn’t stagnate or diminish it.

Home is such a part of us, and such a comfort of routine and safety. Being away is foreign, even if many of the components seem the same.

It’s like cooking in someone else’s kitchen or driving someone else’s car. It’s a kitchen, and you know kitchens. There’s a fridge, a stove, a sink, and a pantry full of ingredients. Or it’s a car, and you know cars. A steering wheel, gas and brake pedals, heater, wipers, lights.

But it’s not your kitchen and it’s not your car and it just doesn’t feel the same. It’s all familiar and comfortable to someone else, and though they may be the greatest of hosts, you’re still just visiting someone else’s home.

Home is people and inside jokes and silly antics. It’s a reminder that grace is needed everyday for the moods and pet peeves. Home is the round-table of souls united for the good of one another, even when that table feels hard and unyielding.

So I’ve been back a few days now and homemaking has taken center stage, rather than housekeeping.

Think, “Messy, but Cozy”. Think of large, blank walls that finally have pictures hanging on them, after two years of living here. Think of all the things that make your own house feel like home to you.

The floors are fairly clean, the countertops get cleared once a day, the laundry piles are manageable, and I’m just so thankful to be here with these people that, for now, I’m content to let little messes slide.

It may just be the season or the circumstances of my current life. I guess I always get a little more homemaker-y this time of year.

But I also am awake to the realization that every goodbye could be longer than expected, every phone call more important than you thought.

Making a home is so much more important than keeping a house clean and sparkly. Home is something you feel and some of your most important feelings just can’t be cleaned up, can’t be tidied away.

In the same way, abiding in Christ has to be less tidy and more real, more true to who you really are and less polished than mealtime prayers or Sunday morning rituals.

Abiding means all of me. It requires more depth than I can give any relationship, because so much of my devotion is dependent on circumstances and moods and yes, location.

Thankfully, it also means all of Jesus. Abiding in Christ means home is always with me and Jesus is in every home I make, every house I enter. He makes up for everything I lack.

{And then I read this, and it summed up everything I was trying to say here.}

What if You Just Stopped for 15 Minutes?

I often exalt productivity over creativity. We need to get things done, you know? But I don’t like that attitude, and I don’t like how it saps the joy from our family life.

The other day I stopped just short of telling my daughter to go do something productive with her free time. What came out instead was creative. 

Go do something creative, I told her.

I did it without really thinking, but I liked how it sounded and I congratulated myself as I headed off to fold laundry.

Moments later I heard the neglected piano, haltingly picking up a familiar song that I love. Irish Wedding.

She had balked at taking lessons again this year, and piano has slipped off the radar of urgent-and-compelling-things-we-must-force-on-our-children. I have made it known how very sad this makes me, because I’m a grown-up like that.

I hadn’t asked her to play the piano that day, or even hinted at it. When the creative thing she chose to do collided with the desire in my heart for a musical home, there were hints of eternity, and Jesus.

Right in the middle of a busy day.

But I have a lot of things that I desire, and they don’t all necessarily have to do with Jesus.

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I want peaceful days and productivity. I want enough time to complete a whirlwind list and still read my books, drink coffee in my pajamas, write for hours, and go for endless nature walks with my adoring children.

What I wonder, though, is if all my spoiled wanting and that ruthless complaining I’m trying to root out is really, actually, a desire for more Jesus?

I want it to be.

I want to tell you that it is, but I want to be truthful. I want to be content with the way things are but never settle for “just enough” of Christ.

Can my desire for more peace and more time for restful things be truly a desire for more Jesus, not just selfishness? And would more Jesus actually bring more peace right into the middle of my busiest days?

Because here’s the truth about me:

If I had an hour to myself in the afternoon, I’d spend the first 15 minutes fretting about what to do and starting some laundry so something productive would be happening. The next 15 would be spent fixing something hot to drink, making a snack, and clearing a space. Then I’d bring distractions to that space, along with the 5 things I’d narrowed my chosen activity down to. By the time I was situated I’d have 15 minutes left. I’d read a book for 5 and scroll something mindless for 10.

And then I’d complain that I am overwhelmed or that there’s not enough time for everything. 

I miss the fact that I could easily, easily, find an hour most days, or at least 15 minutes, to put my scattered mind to something more valuable. Something eternal, and by eternal I don’t necessarily mean reading my Bible or praying. I mean feeding eternity in me or someone else.

Let me explain.

I start the day with prayer and generally read a portion of scripture each week day morning. (Yes, I could stand to pray more. Yes, I could study better.) I journal and meditate on what I’ve read and sometimes I can even remember it when my head hits the pillow that night.

But in-between the quiet morning hour and the spinning, reeling, tuck-your-big-selves-into-bed time, life feels mach 9 to me. Fast enough for whiplash if I just stopped hard enough.

At some point after the majority of my kids reached the pre-teen years, we let go of naps and quiet time in the afternoons, we passed up nature walks in favor of cardio and sports practice, and we even*gasp*stopped reading aloud together during the school day. That last one pains me the most.

All those things we’ve stopped doing were things that fed us. We’ve replaced some of them with things that do the opposite. If there are things that can feed eternity in us, then there are things that can starve it and feed the temporal instead.

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When I talk about “feeding eternity in me or someone else” I’m not trying to be all transcendental or mystical. I’m not talking about exalting my own soul above the Spirit in me, or anyone else.

I am talking about doing things that nourish, encourage, motivate, cultivate, and foster a love of the truth, goodness, and beauty that Christ has put in our hearts – the place where He has written eternity.

What kinds of things can we do to grow that place in us, and in turn, how will that grow our love of Christ?

And can we do this kind of stopping, this hard break in the busy-ness, and till up the soil that has hardened in such a short amount of time? I mean, I had an hour of prayer and Bible reading just this morning.  At 3 PM, can I stop everything busy and do something soul-strengthening, again?

There are lots of questions.

*****

I want beauty. I want music. I want whatever is true and noble and just and pure and lovely and of good report, everything full of virtue and worthy of praise. I want those things now because the Spirit has put that desire in me, and I believe eternity will be full of a cycle of wanting those things, being filled with those things, wanting them again, having them again…

I think just 15 minutes here or there of purposefully stopping the productivity to make room for the creativity will bring me nearer to the Jesus I want to be with always.

I’m going to give it a try.

Feed Me With Hope {A Lament of Bad News}

I hear clamor and it catches my attention, which is its intention, the devil’s invention, probably. There is a noise that draws me in and I read and I hear and wish I hadn’t. I wish I had avoided the loud and sat with the silent.

I am that mob on the playground when the fight breaks out and I feed it. I feed on it. Fear-mongers breed epidemics of scandal and what-ifs and they crown propaganda with diadems of disgrace. Always in my face. Always something to fear and a way to prolong the temporary but avoid the eternal.

What are you talking about? What are you feeding me, feeding you, feeding the masses who look for hope and find what you offer?

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When I give a reason for hope, it has to be more than the pot you stirred and more than wishful thinking. More than cotton candy clouds and pretty dreams, more than a way to cope and sand for your head or pillows for your weary imaginings.

I am not looking for a place to bury, for ocean front foundations, for castles wiped away. The hope I know I feel I cling to I have.

Running on.

But it needs fed and tended.

Hope is feet entering the water. Hope is something coming next, something filling now, something new out of that place where you thought you’d drown.

Hope is truth and that hurts sometimes, scars sometimes, leaves you wounded and broken sometimes. But there is always more. There is always a depth with hope and not a shallow-ending.

Everything outside of us is temporary but in us is eternity, one way or another. We are the permanent ones and there is a place for us forever.

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Fill me with what lasts, what endures, what never perishes, and what cures all the cynicism and skepticism.

If you have to tell me bad news, tell me the Good News in the middle, tell me the hope at the end. Tell me there is more than the funeral dirge of this world and the stock-piles I can store up to save a life.

Tell me there is music I can’t even imagine.

Tell me Jesus is a song we can’t quite sing yet, and I’ll keep trying. I’ll have hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When They See Your Flaws

I’ve had to admit to some fears lately. I’ve had to confess to less-than-godly parenting tactics that were motivated by a fear of the unknown, of the unpredictable, and of all the things we’ve never parented a daughter through.

She always thinks she’s the guinea pig – the one we test out our parenting theories on.

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We raised a son to 16 and then he left. We made mistakes and we also stood our ground in the midst of uncertainty and God is working all things together.

That boy is back now, as a man, and sometimes you have to listen to parenting advice from your own children. Sometimes you learn best from a reflection on your own mistakes or from the wisdom of hindsight.

An adult child at your dinner table can be an affirmation of God’s grace in the mess of your parenting.

As for my daughter being a guinea pig, she’s partly right. We aren’t testing our theories so much as we’re checking our resolve and examining our motives.

Every single child is different.

Every new season is different.

The decisions we work through with her have to endure our own scrutiny as well as hers, and most importantly, they need to be pure before Jesus.

We have to be transparent and real and honest, and yet maintain some level of respect and authority in our children’s lives.

We have heard from young people who have expressed the hurt and disappointment they felt when they realized the faults of their parents. We can know in our minds that all have sinned and fall short, but seeing it actually work itself out in the lives of those we respect can be discouraging.

We step into maturity when we learn to respect others, despite their imperfections. 

As parents, we cannot carry on the facade of perfection with the illusion of having absolute authority. Somehow, we have to be credible without having it all figured out.

Recently, a child who is too old to do such a thing took a pair of scissors to a wrinkled up two-dollar bill. This child wanted to trim off the crumpled and imperfect edges and preserve the best parts of the bill, thinking that a wrinkled, old currency was worth less than a crisp, new one.

We do the same thing. We want the best-foot-forward kind of life and the crisp perfection of never having been wrinkled. We want to accept our own imperfections quietly, push others to be perfect as we seem to be, and are astonished when our crumpled edges are seen.

It’s too much for parents to be perfect. It’s too little for them to be sorry 20 years later.

We desperately need a revelation right in the middle of our bread-winning, child-steering, crazy-making years. We need a witness to our mistakes and a goad for our timid beliefs, because something greater than us has to compel our actions.

Otherwise, we are raising bitterness in a world that needs the sweetness of grace.

The revelation for me, for now, is that our children need to have conversations with us about hard things, things we’re all uncertain about, and that the unknown should not be responded to with fear. God has given everything we need for life and godliness, and those are the things we need to present to our kids.

We give them swords of gospel truth. All have sinned. 

We give them love that covers a multitude of sins. 

We give them grace because we have received it so freely.

 

 

The Barn

We tend to measure things in dollars and cents, and we like to get a certain return for our investment.

I flew across the country for 8 hours of encouragement, 8 hours of investment in dreams that seem vaporous. It felt extravagant and a little foolish, and for weeks before the trip I sat in awe of the potential for failure in this wide-flung door and far-fetched idea.

Going where? For what?

But along with the confusing kind of awe, there is also the awe of grace and the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the One who opens and no one shuts, who goes abundantly beyond all we could ever ask or even remotely fathom.

Things don’t have to always make sense. As Emily said last weekend at The Barn – we can become addicted to drawing conclusions. Maybe drawing conclusions makes us feel justified, when what we really need is to walk in confidence of the Spirit’s work in our life – convicting of sin, righteousness, and judgement.

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We were accidentally early, so here is a picture of the barn when they were almost done setting up. Seriously. There’s a real fear that Siri will steer you wrong and you’ll never return. Better to be early.

The Barn was lovely, to be sure. The ladies were gracious, gorgeous, generous, real. Emily and Christa wove their words and music so naturally that the whole event felt like chocolate and peanut butter – meant to be. Myquillyn layered furniture and beauty and her signature love-of-imperfection so wonderfully that I almost put my bare feet right up on her coffee table. Almost. But I did curl them under me on the white slip-covered sofa and sink into the comfort of fellowship and art and the occasional kitty darting through.

For a small town girl, it was everything inspiring.

From the hours of tedious travel made better with Rachel – a dear friend who jumped for crazy with me – to the steeping of words and deep-down rooting of thoughts, there’s no way to measure the effect. It was way more than 8 hours.

I’ve only just begun to look through my notes from Saturday. My husband wants details and highlights and I can’t even put words to what are really just seeds, less concrete-and-bordered and more living-and-squishy. No good words yet. Thankfully my husband knows this about me and he is patient. And generous. And says yes to my crazy ideas whenever he possibly can.

What I can say is that love is generous and extravagant and down-home-comfortable and it doesn’t often get defined satisfactorily. But we keep trying and Jesus keeps giving us new facets to examine.  He shows up in people we’ve just met and in those we’ve known for years, and still we are shocked.

He loves me that much?

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When are You Really Living?

I try not to write about writing, because that feels dumb. Not everyone writes or cares about writing – but we all have something. There is something you do when you know you are living to the fullest. For me, it’s writing.

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My daughter asked me if I have specific days I post, and I laughed because I thought her genuine question was a joke about my sporadic writing.

If you’re a reader who likes to know what days certain writers post, so you can keep up and not miss out, I disappoint. I haven’t been writing much lately. I’ve written numerous half-posts that come from half-thoughts that never really get the chance to come to life, to steep long enough to make sense, but I mostly prefer to leave half-thoughts unpublished.

I’ve struggled against this inconsistency and wished it were different, because that’s not how you’re supposed to write. Inconsistent is not how you’re supposed to do anything, and if you create (as all of us should) you ought to do it regularly.

I turn it over to the Lord and then turn it back into a problem and then turn it over, back, over.

I fret about not writing or not having enough time, which is a ridiculous cliche. Did God not know what He was doing when He set the sun and the earth in motion? If Jesus was never rushed while His feet were on earth and if all things the Father had planned for Him were accomplished, who am I to think that there are more things for me to do, than time to do them?

Worrying about time never created more.

But I know that the real issue isn’t time or that I’m not writing many complete sentences these days. The true problem is that I stopped listening. My friend Ashley wrote something that reminded me of that.

rest in the middle

I’ve been focused on completing the worst things first, like paying the bills or exercising. I try to do the housework as fast as I can, cook as easily as I can, delegate as much as I can, and I could really spend twice as much time in the school room as I do.

I want to hurry through the work, and hurry is the death of listening.

When you speed through the days, you lose perspective. You lose the balance of another person’s opinions or feelings or needs, and you only see what occupies your own mind. You miss God speaking. 

I enjoy my days. I enjoy this homeschooling and homemaking life and there is no place I’d rather be. Somehow though, in the middle of all the things I love, I’ve stopped listening to the quietness inside and stopped observing the noise around, and vice versa.

It’s the struggle to produce and the desire to have something to show for your end-of-the-day exhaustion that keeps you, keeps me,  from listening.  Listening doesn’t manifest itself in meals made or bills paid, in piles of laundry, in lessons learned. Listening is slow.

But it happens in the midst of a full life.

Listening happens right smack in the middle of your full and busy life and if you squeeze the day for all it’s worth, you really wring yourself out dry. We wait for a quiet time or a 3-mile run or bedtime and think then I can slow down and listen to this life, to Jesus, to my own thoughts. But it has to happen in the middle. Listening has to interrupt our day, our busy, our fervor to produce, or it’s not really listening at all. 

I want to listen to the still, small voice.

To the loud ones.

To the tension rising and flashing warnings at me.

I want to listen to the season as it changes, inside and out, and know that something is passing but something is coming, too. I want to listen to Life and plug my ears to Duty, plug my ears to all the have-tos and must-dos, and listen for the needs.

I want to listen so I can observe so I can write so I can live.

What are you doing when you are really living and listening? Leave something undone if you have to, in order to slow and listen and let the days swell with the fullness of all the time we need.

 

 

 

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