Touching the Sky

It was a Mary Poppins kind of windy day. The wind wrestled with me and my umbrella and tossed down a carpet of leaves on our road. When we saw our neighbors headed to the nearby grassy field with their kite, we were inspired to follow with ours.

Kite-flying was new to me and I assumed that, just like in Mary Poppins, you toss the kite into the air and it soars. Haha! In the midst of tangled string and ribbons, I realized that kite-flying is a negotiating process with the wind. You let your kite go once the wind agrees to play and then you are continuously steering by winding and unwinding the string until it soars.

Just before we had to go in to tend to hungry bellies, we got our kite to soar. Wow! What a thrill! I really felt like I was touching the sky as I guided from earth something in the air. Gazing at that butterfly kite soaring above my head, I recalled an earlier discussion I had had with my husband. We noted the instant age we live in and how it influences our reasoning. We try something and if there isn’t an immediate result we try something else and so on and so forth.

I’ve noticed this tendency in my parenting: I try a new method or strategy and if I don’t immediately get the response I want, I go back to the books and try a new strategy. I’ve noticed this in how I relate to my own person: if I have a breakthrough in understanding a tendency in my character I assume I’ll immediately improve and never have to deal with that issue again; but if I repeat old habits I get frustrated and am quick to throw in the towel. Ha! I even found myself checking to see if our seeds had sprouted 3 days after we had planted them.

Before the microwave era, humans knew that life takes time. Farmers rolled with the seasons; hunters took days to track their prey; mothers made clothes by hand, washed them by hand, and made all their food from scratch. Instant wasn’t an option. Now? Now it feels like if it’s not instant then something is wrong. But I’m trying to shift my perspective these days.

There are times when I discipline calmly; the children all get along; memory verses are shared and songs are sung; we have the perfect balance of work and play. And then there are times when I’m impatient; there’s continual bickering; we can’t stay on track if it’s the last thing we do and no one wants to sit still for Bible time or meals. Does one type of day negate the other? No, both are real and both will be repeated. We must persevere because that’s how life is truly experienced. You see, there are times when the string is all tangled and there are times when you touch the sky.

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For One Moment

It’s about 3:34pm. I have my timer set for 30 minutes of stillness. The three littlest boys are finally asleep while the oldest 3 children are playing relatively amiably outside. The baby was asleep but her tiny eyelids flew open when I attempted to slip out my door to remind the outside explorers to stay outside rather than running in and out to fetch all those last minute things they forgot. Thankfully she is occupying herself with her hands and I am hoping for just one moment of quiet.

It’s been a day…or week, rather. We all know that you can’t trust social media for accurate assessments of a person’s life, nor can you really take an “it’s all good” statement literally. Dig a little deeper and I’m sure you’ll learn that a mom has spent some moments drying lots of tears, many of them her own. That’s been true for me.

Life is good but it’s also hard. Take a look at today: our 3 youngest have been hit hard with pink eye and they feel miserable. It’s been raining for a few days and I want them to play outside but that involves extra mess. Mess=clean up=more time. And my dishes and laundry and general clutter are all piling up as I devote more time to making sure the sick ones get the extra TLC they need and that school gets done. Since my routine is a little different it’s harder for the children to stick with theirs and I wonder if I should be insistent on them getting their tasks done or roll with it and let them play (I actually ponder this every day). But work delayed doubles tomorrow’s tasks and while I know that, they’re still learning that principe which means more energy I’ll need to expend in teaching that lesson. And so my mind spins with all the weighing of possible outcomes of every single decision that must be made each day; there’s rarely any decision that’s easy to make since there are so many moving parts in a family our size.

Well, my timer has rung and after sharing a peek of my stream of consciousness with you, I feel a little more revived. The baby went back to sleep and the house is quiet. A friend is dropping off dinner soon (I’m thankful!!) and…the dog just barked…and the baby is crying…my one moment is over. But before I leave you to begin the next part of my day I want to say that, upon further pondering, it really is all good for oh! the stories I could tell!

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I Don’t Have It All Together…

Birthdays draw me into deeper reflection about the past and the present. This past year something in me changed- or perhaps it was a gradual change that I only noticed this past year. But the timing doesn’t matter; what does matter is that I’m more aware of how time is passing.

On the eve of my birthday I met my face in the mirror and glimpses my 13-year old self. In an instant memories flashed through my brain from that year- memories of thoughts, memories of emotions and memories of experiences. “I still remember you,” I said to my 13-year old self. “And now here you are: a wife, a mom of 7, a friend to many lovely people…well, what do you think? Do you like who you are?” How is it possible to so clearly remember being more than two decades younger? When did those years happen?

And then I look at the people around me and I see that time has not overlooked them either. They are no longer the memories I have of them- they are older or taller or more accomplished or more fragile. And I realize that I cannot spend this life dwelling on mistakes, mine or theirs. There are a myriad of instances from yesterday and over the past decades that I regret. And there are almost as many of which I am satisfied. Of the two options, I want to focus on the latter.

The birthday conclusion I’ve come to is that the nuances of living are happening outside of my line of vision. I might think I know the bigger picture but really, I don’t; after all, I can’t begin to tell you how I spent each minute of the past 8,760 days. And because of this I am thankful that while I don’t have it all together, God does. He faithfully works in the moments between the moments: molding, shaping, guiding, nudging, protecting. He takes my misspoken words, my fumbling fingers, my stumbling toes and my countless face plants and shines His glory through them. He knows exactly how the finished product of my existence will look like and He will accomplish it.

I’m not saying I am going to live flippantly in my new year, not at all. But I am going to live more gently by understanding that every day we each learn a little more about ourselves that we didn’t know before. And I’m going to live less fearfully by remembering that God made me to be me and my place in this world is important and unique.

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Read and Then Read Some More

With February being such a short month, I haven’t begun any new books. I plan to start two new ones and you’ll find out more about them in March. Therefore, for my (slightly belated) nnbnmonthly reading post, I want to share the significance of reading for the human mind and how I have seen that at work in me and my children.

We all know that books take us places and introduce us to worlds we can never physically visit. We also know that they introduce us to concepts and ideas we might not have considered on our own initiative. But have we recognized that reading can add depth and dimension to our ordinary days and, for lack of better terms, multiply our time?

The other day we were driving and the children had brought stacks of books with them for the ride. I heard some giggling coming from the very back of the van and one sibling asked, “what happened?” The giggler proceeded to share a funny antic of Jemima Puddleduck and the inquirer joined in the laughter: “oh yeah!! Jemima!” I continued my listening and then heard my oldest say, “ok, I’m done with this one. Here A, pass it to Shi when you’re done with it. Shi, pass it to Q after that.” “Ok!” Was the answer as books started floating back and forth over heads in the van. I smiled to myself; these stories had come to life to them.

Throughout our day the children will come up and start talking to me about the plots, characters and crises in the books they are reading. They will re-enact the adventures and model their own after the literary ones. And best of all, they are introduced to experiences and worlds that would otherwise be untouched by them. Where else could they become well acquainted with hundreds of unique personalities and be presented with countless situations where their reasoning skills must be challenged? And when we read together we share in these literary memories and adventures together and reflect on them together- all in the course of one day!

Personally, I would live in school if I could. I thrive in the academic environment and I’ve been known to say, “if I could get another degree it would be in…” But that’s for another season of life so I read instead. I long to time travel and since that’s not feasible I read instead. There are places in the world where I still want to visit and until I do I read. And all of this can happen through one book or in one day, depending on how many books in which I read in one day.

If you are reading this blog, you’re probably already a reader- fantastic! If you’re not so much of a reader- grab a book and dive in. If you are a parent, let your children see you reading even if they are not reading yet themselves. Talk about when they do begin to read and set books out for them to look during reading time. Point to words while you read to them and ask them what they think the word says. These things will make reading more natural to them. In our busy world, let’s set aside time to read.

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Toddlers and Human Nature

We have been blessed with toddlers in our home for 6 years in a row. Yes, it is all the loud and messy and unpredictable that you imagine it to be when you hear the word, ‘toddler.’ We have had the toys dropped in the toilet, the cat litter sampled, the poop painting, the tantrums in public, the biting, the nap strikes, and the 24/7 teething terrors. I think by this time we qualify for a “we survived” medal of some sort.

One thing that makes these years quite fascinating to me is how this stage is truly human nature in its rawest form. Toddlers don’t have filters. They are impulse driven and egocentric: it’s all about what feels good in the moment. You’re in my way? No worries- I’ll just shove, bite or hit my way through. I didn’t get what I wanted? No worries- I’ll just scream and throw things and kick my legs to show I feel. You have what I want? No worries- I’ll just yank it out of your hands. Toddlers don’t ask; they take. Toddlers don’t recognize personal space; they climb on you, pull on you, trip you up by clinging to your legs. Toddlers don’t preserve things; they figure out the most efficient way to destroy them. Toddlers don’t listen; they try to be the loudest being in the room.

We all have that inner toddler, don’t we? Any semblance of virtue isn’t there naturally. It’s not our virtuous tendencies we worry about, is it? It’s the toddler ones. We never say, “oops! I just spoke without thinking and said too many kind words” or “I just hugged that person without thinking. My bad.” It’s the opposite: “my temper got the better of me again” or “I shouldn’t have slammed the door in anger” or “I was a little too harsh when I shared my feelings.” It might sound funny to read, but we all know the mayhem that we leave in the wake of our toddler rampages.

So, just like toddlers need consistent training and boundaries, we do too. We need to keep coming back to the Bible, seeking out stillness and faithfully surrendering our will to God’s. Amazingly, He never stops loving us in the midst of our tantrums and mess and mishaps. Huh? That sounds familiar. I can’t help but keep adoring my toddlers, hugging them tight, laughing at their craziness and finding them the most beautiful and fascinating little beings in the world- especially when they’re asleep.

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If Valentine’s Day is About Love…

We had a little party planned for today, the children and I. Over the weekend we baked treats and outlined what we were going to do once school and chores were finished. But then things went awry.

There were misunderstandings and grumpiness and some meanness added to the fray. It was a domino effect and hopes for a party were fading fast. I found some quiet spots to pray and calm my frazzled nerves because I could tell my self-control was fading fast. And during that time I saw that my little ones were struggling just as I was. This was a time to show love through forgiveness and persevering in spite of the fatigue and the splitting headache and the ringing ears.

With a deep breath I reentered the tumult. I taped the torn game board and had a good talk with the most upset child. We began our party games and had so much fun. Eventually, the upset child joined in with a more settled spirit. We ate our treats outside and one of the little boys couldn’t find a place to sit. Our oldest spoke up: “If Valentine’s Day is about love, then I’m going to give him my seat.” And he did.

This Valentine’s Day may not have been all chocolates and hearts and warm, fuzzy feelings but I do think we all experienced a deeper definition of love. We saw firsthand that true love sticks it out when it’s hard, forgives and then has fun together again.

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Enough

“That’s enough. Go to bed! All of you!” I declared in a firm tone. I had a throbbing headache and the bickering and complaining that began when nap time ended had morphed into further chaos. As I clamped my mouth shut so as not to allow my frustration and fatigue to prompt me to say what cannot be unsaid (I’m slowly learning in this area) that word, ‘enough’, floated around my mind.

Enough. I’ve had enough of the quarreling and mean-spirited words being thrown back and forth between my children.

Enough. I’m just not good enough at being a wife and mom. My efforts often face plant in spite of my best efforts.

Enough. There’s just never enough time in a day to accomplish all that I want to do.

Enough. My body can’t seem to keep up with the demands of the day. I just don’t have enough strength or energy or….patience.

But then the word began to change its tune:

Enough. I simply can’t get enough time with my children. Their adorable antics and cute way of articulating their thoughts and their unique interpretation of life- childhood is passing all too quickly.

Enough. Don’t worry about tomorrow for today has enough trouble if it’s own. There is always enough time in a day to accomplish God’s will for those 24 hours. And somehow slowing down enough to laugh or read or play or sing maximizes those hours.

Enough. A gentle answer and a soft touch can be enough to diffuse a lot of anger and frustration. A peaceful home has a way of covering a multitude of wrongs.

Enough. God’s grace is sufficient for me; His power perfected in my weaknesses. There is freedom in this verse for it’s an acknowledgment that I am not enough but He is. I will be inadequate; I will mess up; I will have emotions that are less than peaceful. But He will equip me to be enough, to show my children His love, to enable them to see the power of God overcoming my human weakness.

Enough is truly enough when it comes from Jesus.

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One Day a Memory

There are only 46 weeks left of 2022 (give or take a few days). I’ve been contemplating the passage of time. On those crazy days when naps don’t happen and we just can’t seem to follow our schedule, I remind myself that 18 years from I won’t remember this particularly difficult day. But what do I remember?

I remember the first cry of our first baby…and now he is 7 years old.

I remember the first time, 9 years ago, when I saw my husband.

I remember a conversation I had with my grandma and visits with my great-grandma.

I remember seeing Sami Claus in the village square in Switzerland when I was a young girl.

I remember the taste of Swiss Mac and cheese at the cheese making factory in Appenzell.

I remember how my room was arranged when I was growing up.

I remember the things I played by myself when the neighbor kids didn’t want to play with me.

I remember dreams and nightmares I had when I was small.

I remember the names of all the kittens and bunnies and guinea pigs I had as a child.

I remember the sounds of the ocean.

I remember the rushing wind through the branches as I sat in my favorite tree at the park

I remember journal entries I wrote a decade ago.

And so it goes…layer upon layer of memories. And I wonder: what will I remember about right now? What will my children remember? For one day it will all be a memory.

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January Reads

Hi!

It’s the new year and I’m still reading! A friend asked me how I decide what to read next and I thought it a good question to mention and answer in this post.

I like to have 3-4 books going at the same time: a well-rounded brain diet, if you will. I usually have a self-improvement book (perhaps parenting or health related), a spiritual supplement (Bible study or relationship related, perhaps), and a leisure read. I often have an audiobook or two going either with the family or just for me.

My friend also asked where I find my books. Many of the unread books in my library are ones I’ve collected for two decades. I’m still working my way through them; it delights me to know they’re waiting for me. I also buy books that are mentioned in books I’m currently reading, are recommended by friends, are by a favorite author or are on topics I’m interested in.

Soooo…This month I continued to read:

  • PARENTING WITH LOVE AND LOGIC. I’m about halfway through it and am implanting it’s ideas as I’m introduced to them. We are seeing some positives from their principles.
  • MRS. SHARP’S TRADITIONS. This one is going to be a long time in finishing since I’m enjoying it so much. I am getting so many inspirations from it!!!
  • LOVING GOD WITH ALL YOUR MIND. I haven’t read this in a while because I started a book study with a friend which brings me to my new books…
  • FIERCE WOMEN is proving to be a convicting read. How does a wife channel her strengths in a godly way so that they don’t turn into weapons that weaken or destroy her husband?
  • THE LAST MIDWIFE is my newest novel. I can’t wait to read it more!!

Please hop on over to my Bookshelf page to read my newest review. It’s about Spurgeon’s Sorrows.

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Record-Keeper

He gets up early in the morning, sometimes, so he can open up his keepsake chest and pull out our old dog’s collar and leash and remember.

She went through her keepsake bench looking for a journal and found cards from her baby dedication.

They spend hours looking at our photo books and talking about the memories.

An important part of being a homemaker is record-keeping: not just the medical records or the school records or the important certificates, but also those little moments you think you’ll always remember but often forget as one memory builds on another. Some of these might be the funny things said as language is being grasped (“When I’m a parent, I’m going to get a special mop like this one”) or those tiny gestures of compassion (someone did everyone else’s table chores this morning) or daily routines that will suddenly not happen anymore and you kind of miss them.

I write down as much as I can in baby books for those 5 and younger and then I start journals for them. I write in each one once a month. I also write special memories in my journal and make photo books once or twice a year. I make keepsake bins for each child and when they’re old enough they are allowed to add to them and look through them. I also have bins for family keepsakes including special mail. Yes, it’s a lot to keep up with but the investment is worth the effort.

My mom taught me how to journal as soon as I could write and i have journaled ever since. During my college years I did a self-study and read through all my journals in chronological order; I then took note of the patterns and themes in my life and was intrigued to see how my own story had unfolded. As humans we are drawn to keeping a record of our journey. We need to remember what we’ve come through so we can look ahead; we need to chart our progress so we know how much we have grown; we need to recall who we were so we can understand who we are.

If you’re a person, a mom or not, I would encourage you to find a way to keep a record of your life. In a life filled with so many uncertainties, security can be found in noting your milestones. Somehow, record-keeping adds significance to your life and makes your little corner of the world important. Find your story!

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