Life lately

The damage from our epic and unexpected storm in February is still seen around homes and in the forests here. On my walks in the woods, the brush is rubbled-up like leftovers from a huge party, blocking the creek in places and changing the landscape. Fir trees, strong and established, came completely unmoored by the surprise weight of the snow that fell. The trees grow roots to hold on to the earth and so many of them completely let go, gave up, and their bodies all lay neatly pointing downhill. 
There wasn’t a lot people could do about the mess until the season had passed, but now the sun is out and it’s time. 

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There is really no good way to describe a season while you are in it. You don’t understand the full extent of it till it has passed.  So we describe what we were and what we did and how we thought. We tell it as though it was either the worst of times or the best, because nostalgia creeps in and makes us victims—either the past was great and now, here we are; or the past was terrible and there I was. Distorted. Hyperbolized. Inflated.

Knowing all that, let me try to describe our present season in one sentence: On Thursday we took the trash to the dump and we didn’t have another bag-full of garbage until Sunday. 

Or this sentence: Friday there were only three of us so we had dinner out. 

You’ll need to get used to this mom, my daughter said when I noted the trash situation, and that’s another sentence that could describe our season—my daughter, explaining things to me gently, letting me down slowly.  She has two months in Mongolia this summer, a full-time job, and plans to move out soon. Is eighteen years really enough time to prepare?

I had already changed our chore chart from a daily trash affair to every other day, and then I removed the chore from the chart altogether because it was so random and chore charts need regularity. Someone just takes the trash out when it’s full and no one gets to check it off a list anymore.

We still run a load in the dishwasher daily, but I wonder when that changes. When do we switch from six gallons of milk a week to four, to two, to a tiny, cute half-gallon? When does the milk spoil? I can’t remember the last time the milk spoiled in my fridge and I think it's maybe never happened; maybe milk spoilage is a myth to perpetuate repopulation: have more kids or your milk will spoil.

Time is the same. God is the same. We think it’s logical that our bank account should begin to increase now as children work and learn and leave, but even that is essentially the same. 

The sameness of God is what counteracts our (mock) despair in a season like this. He is same and steady and sure, the way a tree rooted to the earth and reaching to the sky should be. But He’s not boring in His sameness. He’s not fully discoverable, still, after so many seasons.

God is the center of a concentric circle we rotate around, rowing our boats, forgetting our bread, still not getting it. He increases the surface tension and we don’t even realize we could walk right to Him and touch Him and see Him steady, unchanging in Himself but new to us in every season. We think we’ve discovered something new when we unwrap a mystery, but He has only just pulled back the cover on what has always been. The only new thing is our understanding.

I need to think about these things when all my things are changing things, because I am a woman whose definitions and titles are changing. But I am who I always am.

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When the disciples forgot their bread, somewhere on the shore behind them were twelve baskets full of fragments leftover from a miracle—twelve baskets from a feast prepared for the hungry who would be hungry again. On the one hand, no one thought to bring bread for the trip and I think they were men focused on a task. On the other hand, wasn’t Jesus exasperated that they still didn’t get it? “Don't you understand yet?” He asked them. They didn’t and I don’t and we attempt to cover our lack of understanding by trying harder, but it never works that way. We laugh at a joke we don’t get and wonder how our bellies will be filled in this next season.

I don’t understand yet how God meets all our needs but sometimes we still feel a lack; how the spiritual dangers we can’t see outweigh the physical ones we can; how preparing for a season is even possible when we don’t know the start date, the itinerary, the return flight schedule. I don’t know how to prepare for something I’ve never been or done or seen.

All I can do is what I keep doing: gathering the fragments for the trip between feasts. There are miraculous provisions in my past, baskets full to carry me through the present.

The fragments for this season must be the memories: a toddler and an infant on the carpet, one reaching for a toy, the other starting to take it away but holding back, looking at me, knowing to be gentle; scrunching up a baby sock, rolling it over tiny toes; a baby in a room full of un-held babies, one of those orange plastic jewels stuck to his finger, eyes large and black and drowning; all of us on the floor Christmas morning.

I have a sketchy memory full of very specific snapshots I’ve intentionally frozen—remember this. I am mad about so much I don’t remember but the fragments are enough to fill the boat, and if I forget, ultimately, it’s ok. It’s never about the lack, the forgotten things. It’s always about the present provision.

The trees grow roots to hold on to the earth but so many of them let go this winter. I am changing, but I am not like those trees.  

Conflict in Church and At Home

“Every story needs tension to be good.” – ND Wilson

Every family has conflict. It is an inevitable part of living life with other sinful beings. Our family has gone through big changes in the last few years as our kids have reached adulthood, one by one. Having children so close in age was exhausting when they were young, but it’s a different kind of exhausting as they mature. There are emotional taxes for everyone and a fair amount of conflict.

My husband and I have never disagreed very much, but we surely have differences of opinion and the occasional argument. However, we realized several years ago that our children never saw us argue. One day,  we realized we had failed to teach that disagreements are normal and ok by the looks of silent devastation on our children’s faces when we had an argument in the van. It was one of those inevitable moments of childhood when the pedestals of parents wobble just a little. It was a good, hard lesson for us all. 

We still do most of our arguing in private, because that’s just polite; but since that day in the van, we have made a conscious effort to model good arguments and grace in front of our kids. We know each other’s body language, we interpret the sideways glances and silent pauses, and we have gotten smarter about timing.

Continue reading this post at Morning by Morning.

Housekeeping

We all like things that resolve. This is what Netflix binges are founded on—we feel the need to keep watching, keep watching, until the particular issue is satisfactorily resolved. The trouble is, they always bring in some new issue and turn in to a great overlapping of storylines and cliffhangers, unlike the Little House on the Prairie TV series, where every episode was a full story in itself and all the problems were solved in one short, 20 minute span.

I rarely binge-watch anything but I know the feeling of un-resolve. I feel it daily in the projects, the piles, the priorities that stack up on each other. Housework itself is a continual coming-to-terms with un-resolve: clean it, dirty it, repeat.

I used to bleach my floors (we had white linoleum and babies and I didn’t know any better) and obsess over nooks and crannies, but not so much anymore. On the one hand I’ve come a long way in my housekeeping skills; on the other, I simply don’t care as much about dirt I can’t see. And my eyesight isn’t what it used to be.

I have lowered my standards, I suppose, but I still like a tidy house. I just value my time and sanity more than I used to.

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I’m currently reading Hannah Anderson’s All That’s Good and dutifully going through the questions and reflections at the end of each chapter. Chapter 3, Worldly Wise, is about discerning “the difference between lasting goodness and temporary pleasure”. One of the reflections was to “Share something mundane that you do everyday that has eternal value,” and the first thing that came to mind was the daily, unending work of bringing chaos back into order in our home. I feel like there is a more spiritual answer that would be “right”, something like reading the Word or praying for others, but mundane is the key word in the question.

Daily ordering is a creative act and we are acting in His image when we create, looking forward to the resolving of all this disorder. One fine day God will deliver creation from the bondage of corruption (Ro. 8: 21), and until then, we’ll keep ordering creation, ordering our homes, best we can.

Speaking of mundane, here is how this practically works out in our home *right now:

Mondays everyone is gone all day so my only homemaking goal is to have a dinner plan and clean the kitchen before bed. Most of the time the sink will be empty at bedtime. Sometimes the dishwasher is full and no one cares to unload it, so the dirty dishes sleep in the sink. No one dies from this scenario.

Tuesdays I catch up on any laundry, plan our school schedules, and do the inevitable paperwork necessary for life. Lately, I’ve been washing several loads of laundry and piling them up so I can have a marathon fold-and-put-away session while I listen to podcasts.

Wednesdays I start early on housekeeping projects and do any school with my youngest that he will need me for (which is minimal), so that I can sequester myself in the guest room for a writing day by 10 a.m. By 3 or 4, I emerge, go for a walk, and come home ready to work like a whirlwind for the evening. This is the day for cleaning bathrooms, dusting, and watering plants.

Thursdays are for vacuuming and mopping. This doubles as a work-out, unless I have one of the kids do the vacuuming. It’s also dump day — the one day a week our local transfer station is open.

Fridays are heavy school days, so minimal housekeeping.

Saturdays and Sundays we might do a bigger house project or work outside if the weather allows, but I generally let the house go. Honestly, it never gets too bad because we have a daily routine that keeps a semblance of order. On Sundays I plan the week ahead: meals, appointments, and activities go in my bullet journal.

Daily, we are doing things like emptying the dishwasher, wiping down counters and stainless steel appliances, swiping dirty toilets, running a load of laundry to completion, and constantly putting stuff back in its proper place. The kids are a big help and also a big producer of stuff and dirt, so it balances out. They all do their own laundry hallelujah; I’m sure someone’s dresser or closet needs an overhaul but I don’t check often. I make our bed daily; the kids’ are all upstairs and, again, I don’t check often. These things aren’t worth battling over right now—when they were younger we lived in a house with downstairs children’s rooms and they made their beds everyday. At this point, some do, some don’t; mom doesn’t care as much. About once a month I inspect upstairs and “request” things be put back in order.

Housework will always be part of our quotidian routine on earth, and one more reason to look for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). The best scenario is to be thankful for a house to clean and set a timer, remind yourself how little time it actually takes to tidy up if you do it daily, and intersperse the daily with times of whirlwind house cleaning that doubles as exercise.

*As with all things in life that you try to make routine, this changes with the seasons. I used to really struggle with not being able to make a plan and stick to it, forever. But life is just not that way. I plan more specifically week by week, and I offer a lot of grace for changes.