Thursday, November 20, 2008

Trial by Solitude Deprivation

I wake up early to spend time in quiet before stumbling boys with tousled heads climb into my lap to be read to. Or ask me for pancakes. Tuesday morning my baby girl was coughing her wake-up cough and stirring as the 5:30 alarm sounded. I went into the kids' bedroom and gave her the pacifier and willed her to go back to sleep so my first moments of the day could be peaceful, refreshing ones. I made my coffee and sat down and opened my book, trying to ignore the coughs that punctuated the stillness and nettled me. Already I felt wound too tight, oversensitive to minor irritations. If there was ever a day I needed some time to fix my mindset, don a cloak of thankfulness and patience... Peanut Butter wailed a sleepy complaint from his bed. I sighed in desperation, went to his room, covered him, whispered calming words, gave Raindrop her pacifier again, went back out to my "quiet" spot. Whispered a plea to the Maker of Days, desperately turned my heart to thankfulness. Thank You for the three living, breathing children in the room down the hall. Thank You for a day that starts wrong, that I have this day to live. Please, help me in my rawness, in my impatient temperament, to still bear the fruit of the Spirit to my husband and little ones today.

He did. He redeemed the day. It wasn't an easy day, not an effortlessly fun and cheerful one. I felt somewhat...tense and frustrated all day, for no cause that I could see. But He redeemed what could have been a rotten day. He opened my eyes to gifts He mischievously hides in random places for me to notice in surprise at odd moments. He helped me find reserves of soft words when the sharp ones tried to leap out first. I failed a lot. But He was there, and kept helping every time I asked, and it was a different day than it would have been.

Wednesday morning, yesterday, my early morning alone time was again interrupted. "Lord, I need this time! I don't wake up early to deal with the kids early. I wake up early to get myself ready for them later. I do it out of obedience to You, because it's wise, because it helps. What am I supposed to do when in spite of my effort and obedience, I don't get to prepare for the day?"

Be thankful. Be broken. Lean into Him and breath deeply.

Last night baby Raindrop woke up often with a stuffy nose that made it difficult to breath. Now, today, it's nap time, and Christopher Robin is talking to himself not quietly enough. Peanut Butter has finally fallen asleep, but last time Christopher Robin took too long falling asleep, he ended up waking Peanut Butter up early, and never did get a nap himself, and was a growling, wailing, whining bear cub by evening. I sit here with thin skin, every noise nettling like a tiny pin pricking, wondering how to live like He calls me to when all my reserves of natural patience and cheer have been depleted. In my weakness, He is strong. Any kindness, patience, love displayed comes from His power, not mine. Any happy moments this afternoon originate from His unending supply of grace, the surprise gifts he leaves among the ordinary every day things. Bending my heart to thankfulness is my stretching out my hand to the lifeline. That is how to survive. To redeem the day.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

God, I praise you for...

91. curling, hungry baby girl using outspread fingers to grope my face as I lift her from crib to hold her warm and close

92. the haunting these fleeting moments stir in me of beauty I can't hold on to but that is a mere glimpse of what awaits in perfect eternity

93. sadness of a single pink hair bow lost away from home turned to happy delight as the mischievous, purse-picking little daughter of a friend pulled the missing bow from an unused pocket of our diaper bag

94. applesauce morning, when three bags of apples turned to pink sweet/tart sauce at the hands of my mother and me and my two involved sons

95. my own grandmother next door with outstretched heart to my two little boys, insisting I leave those two bad shoppers with her while I gather groceries

96. the surprise of two bright eyes, baby blue, intent, focused on busy mama when I, brushing hair, look down from the mirror at darling daughter

97. the bright, undeserved baby smile given in innocent gratitude for basic affection

98. red tomatoes diced, soft white cheese cubed, tangy vinegar mixed with oil for the perfect lunch

99. two boxes full of toys for two little boys whose closets, unlike my own sons' closet, do not overflow with playthings...the beginnings of basic thoughtfulness, thinking of others besides ourselves, thinking of Jesus and what would make Him fill with joy

100. soft warm glow of a cozy lamp on a gray wet day

101. boys pressed against me in warm comfort on the couch as I read aloud to them stories that make us laugh as rain wets the dead leaves and dying grass outside

102. playmates who entertain each other as I do mother chores...all the moments two opposite boys build, color, explore, drive, create, ride, work in harmony

Thursday, November 13, 2008


We're using a wood stove for heat this winter. As a supplement to oil. The price, which was almost double last year's price a few months ago, has kept pace with gas prices and fallen back down these days, but it's still one of our largest yearly expenses, and firewood is much cheaper. So we've been splitting and stacking for a couple of months, and now we're almost done. Heating with a wood stove is hard work, and messy, but so far I'm in love with toasty floors and warmth that sometimes rises above 70 degrees without guilt that we're burning too much oil.

We did have an episode. Three days ago our house began to smell smokey. I thought it was from the smoke that escaped every time I opened the door of the stove to add more wood to the fire. But it got worse. When my throat started burning and the smell permeated all the rooms of our house I finally concluded that something was wrong. I went to bed determined to let the fire die out and investigate in the morning. When My Hero came home late that night the fire was still burning strongly, and he (prompted by the haze of smoke that greeted him at the door when he came home, I'm sure) went down to the basement to find the problem. He noticed smoke curling out of the joints in the elbow of our stovepipe. In the morning I called my dad to see what kind of advice he had about fixing leaky stovepipes (which we bought brand new just a few months ago). He had never heard of stovepipes leaking like that and suggested we check our chimney to make sure it wasn't blocked. I couldn't believe creosote could've built up already after only a few weeks of using our chimney, but I found a little mirror and checked. I could see daylight, but there was something like a big black pipe blocking my view.

Our problem: The stovepipe connecting to the chimney was all the way IN the chimney and up against the back wall. When we pulled it out we saw a ring of creosote build-up where the stovepipe met the back wall of the chimney, so it must have sealed itself completely shut and the smoke had nowhere to go.

I had been marveling about how difficult it was to start a fire in a wood stove. I would load it with newspaper and kindling, making sure there was plenty of space for air to travel between them, light the newspaper in 5 or 10 different places, and hold my breath to see if it would catch. Often the newspaper would burn for 2 or 3 minutes and then die out. I would often have to give it three or four tries before the fire would start, and I began ranting to My Hero about how ridiculous it was that houses burned down accidentally so often, when clearly even the best fuel was so difficult to ignite. Heh. With no airflow, I'm surprised it burned at all.

Now when I put in the newspaper and kindling and light the match to it, it roars to life, and I have to be ready to add more wood before it burns itself away.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


(Can you see the tiny change to her earlobe??)

Having a baby girl is a happy adventure.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Here's the most helpful post I've read for a long time. It feels like it was written just for me as a mother of three small ones, struggling to find a melody amidst the chaos of life.

Some quotes:
"Parenting is the composing, the performing, of music, song upon song. Musicians play one right note after the next right note after the next right note. It's not an erratic splattering of sound, a fickle, helter-skelter banging of random notes. Music has order. It is composed. Notes are intentional, considered, deliberate.

As music has rhythm, recurring refrains, order, so does peaceful parenting. One action thoughtfully follows the next action that wisely follows the next. Days of habits, fluid and lyrical, create pleasing harmony. Lives with known rhythms, thoughtful arrangements, sing."

"And in reality, living in cacophony is more wearing than the hard work of practicing habits. 'Laziness means more work in the long run,' writes C.S. Lewis. Flubbing away at whatever strikes our fancy leaves us in far worse dire straits than applying ourselves to the work of playing concertos."

Ann Voskamp wrote those words, and they exactly describe what I've been trying to put my finger on lately. Part of the secret to a peaceful home is a fluid rhythm of good habits, routines, learned behavior that begins to come almost effortlessly over time, like washing my face in the shower...I do it so unconsciously that I can't remember doing it minutes later. The slow, deliberate, difficult days of learning new habits pay off in the lovely melody of excellence that begins to come naturally.

That is my vision for this "school year", this winter season of time spent mostly indoors. Establish routines of reading practice with my four year old, alphabet learning with my two year old, counting, Bible stories and Bible memory. These are listed on my new habit calendar along with other personal habits I want to form. To establish a rhythm for our days that will help us accomplish those things that need to get done, learn what should be learned, and live life to the fullest.

Days spent following the whims of the moment leave me humming lazily until the crises start, then chaos results and the day always ends badly. Days planned and lived with intentionality are rarely wasted. I'm more prepared and ready to hear and obey God's promptings when I have been diligently staying on top of daily tasks and parenting with all my heart.