A Clean House

Yesterday was the big winter cleaning of our house.  You can probably hear my boys groan from there.  They have good reason for groaning.

It is usually a painful day…for a very good reason.

I will never win any housekeeping awards.

I have the best intentions, but…

Life gets in the way.  Homeschooling, my activities, the boys’ activities, sports, travel…many things are more exciting and enjoyable, to our way of thinking, than cleaning the house.

Oh, we fake a good game.

If you have been over, you may not realize just how messy we really are.  There’s a reason for that, too.  We tend to clean the main floor only, and only do cursory cleaning anywhere else.  (By the way, don’t try to go up the stairs to my bedroom without an invitation…I might have to tackle you!)

Aren’t we like that with our faith, too?

We put up a front…pretending we are fine, clean on the inside and out, while really we are stressed and hurting.  We stumble along, ignoring the relief that could be ours in the form of friends who sincerely desire help us…all in the name of appearances.

A different kind of white-washed tomb…but just as deadly, to my way of thinking.

Aren’t we called to be here to share in community?  Do we think all our friends are perfect, with no problems?  Don’t we want to assist them with whatever is going on?  Don’t we get joy from helping them?

Didn’t Jesus accept from others all the time, as an itinerant preacher, even as He gave?

I tell you the truth…one of the best parts of this widow-walk is the closeness that comes from needing others.  I have learned, albeit painfully, that no man (or woman) is an island…nor should they be.

There is a divine dependence that comes from walking this walk…and it truly is a beautiful thing.

There is no way on God’s green earth that I can do all the stuff I need to do on my own.  And in that statement, I am freed from trying…from trying to be perfect, from trying to be all things to all people, from trying to walk alone.

And that’s a truth I need to remember each and every day.

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” — John 15:4-5

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Thank You, Lord (A Poem)

Beside my bed I kneel and pray
And thank You, Lord, for another day.
For friends and family near and dear
And knowing You are always here
To guide me, love me, hold my hand
And to always understand
Even when I am pouty and sad
Or I am having the worst day I have had
I remember Your love and constant care
And then I have not only enough for me but also to share
With my boys, my church, my community
And all those who have blessed me
Forever I will remember Your love
From now until I go above
To the world that is waiting beyond for me
Because You were willing to die on a tree.

Unpacking Christmas

It is the beginning of December and that means the annual frenzy to get the house ready for the season.

Right now, it looks like Christmas threw up.  Not a pretty sight.  Boxes are strewn everywhere.  There is foam and fake pine needles all over the floor, and half-done shopping lists and baking lists cover the counter.  You can barely move without having to shift something else first.  I rush around, doing one thing, until I spy another that needs to be done just as much, and stop and tackle that.  The boys try to be helpful where they can, but they don’t think like me (imagine that).  (Actually, that is a great blessing.)

Currently I am unpacking the boxes of ornaments for the “family” tree.

And in this activity, I get my first Christmas miracle.

This is the tree of memories.  I have the pretty tree in the living room, but this tree holds my heart.

I unpack ornaments that graced my tree as a child:  a knitted stocking Mom made, needlepoint I did, wooden Santas as old as the hills that may have even come from Mom’s tree growing up, my grandmother’s Hallmark carousel ornaments.  I praise God that I grew up in the family that I did, with love and joy all around, and with Christmas memories that still bring me to tears.

I unpack the first Christmas ornaments that my mom so lovingly picked out for me and Keith, and Christmas ornaments that we got for our wedding from the Huffs and the Fontaines.  I praise God for a loving husband.  Even though he went home to Glory early, I would not have traded one moment with him.

I unpack the ornaments made by the boys over the years.  Some are crude and falling apart, but they make me smile.  I praise God for loving children, who love God, and who love me, despite my cranky days.

I unpack ornaments that Shari and Julie helped my boys to make a year after Keith died, the presents they gave me that year.  I praise God for friends who care enough to make my Christmas special.

I unpack a bell from Becky’s wedding, and bluebirds from Courtney’s, favors that have graced my tree since those blessed events.  I think back to the beautiful brides they were and praise God for their marriages and their children.

And then I find it.  It doesn’t look like much, but to me, it is priceless.  Aunt Hilda gave my sister and me each one…can’t even remember when.  It is about 1″ x 1/2″ x 2″…Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in a little glass box.  From the time I was little, I just knew looking at this ornament that it was real…He had been here as a baby, and a man, for me.

And that is the greatest miracle of all.

I pray that this moment can stay fresh in my mind through this entire Christmas season.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  – John 3:16

Just "Do" It

When my best friend Susan calls, I often tell her I can’t talk because we are “doing” school.  She gets it.  She “does” school at her house, too.

In the vernacular of my homeschooling friends, that means we are “having” school…learning something.  This can mean a variety of things to homeschoolers (we all “do” school a little differently), but bottom line, it means it’s learning time, and we need to focus on the learning.

At our house, we also “do” grief.  I don’t mean that we sit formally and talk about our loss.  Well, sometimes we do.  But more often than not, there’s nothing “formal” about the way we “do” grief.

In fact, it’s similar to the way we “do” school.

It’s different day-to-day, person-to-person (even within our own house).  But if we are “doing” it right, I believe learning occurs.

Sometimes that learning is a new or renewed skill.  I hadn’t “done” the bills here for many years.  I have had to relearn how to “do” them.

I never mowed grass before 4 years ago, either.  But now I have learned to “do” that, and even to teach my oldest.  Now Alex “does” the grass.

Sometimes the work I “do” is what I call “noodle work.”  I have learned to know me better:  my strengths and weaknesses; what I want from life; who I am apart from Keith.

Sometimes the work I “do” is heart work:  learning to accept God as Father, Husband, Confidant, Trusted Companion.  Learning to let go and let God, and to see and accept that He’s got it, and me, all the time.  Learning to trust His word as true and relevant to every part of my life:  grief, love, parenting, friendships, relationships, everything.

I have heard people talk about what they don’t “do”:   
I don’t “do” windows.
I don’t “do” drama.
Even…I don’t “do” grief.

I haven’t had a choice.  What was my alternative?

So, I “do” my grief work.  I sit often with a cup of coffee and a Bible and learn my Lord and His ways.  I slog through the new things I learn to do physically.  I find ways to complete me apart from Keith.

And whenever I have finished the next lesson of grief work, I am glad I “did.”

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. — Hebrews 12:1B-2

My Prodigal Heart and Bubble Wrap

A couple months ago, something in the sermon at church had me praying for prodigal children.  As I was praying, I realized that I, too, was a prodigal of sorts.  I have a prodigal heart.

Let me paint the picture.  I have a great life.  Surrounding me I have four wonderful, loving, compassionate, smart sons; gobs of friends who love and care for me emotionally and physically; a great family who has my best interests at heart; a warm and beautiful home filled with plenty of food and clothing for all of us.  I have a relationship with God that continues to grow as He teaches me and prunes me and prepares me.

Yet, I want to wander.  I want to take my inheritance and go, instead of waiting for the right time, God’s time, instead of completing the learning and training necessary to be a child of the Master.  I want what I want, not just physically but emotionally, and I am willing to forsake the Plan for that.  I am drawn by the open road, and want to do things the easy way, instead of the right way, God’s way.  I am led astray by the foolishness of my own wayward, impatient heart that wants things that are not mine to have now, maybe not ever again…like a husband.

This is what I need:  bubble wrap.  I need to have bubble wrap around my heart, insulating it against the lures of the world, against the lures from within.  Lures that draw me away from God’s plan will only cause heartbreak.  Sometimes I need bubble wrap around my whole body.

I want the package of “me” to arrive safely at the Master’s feet, unharmed and untainted.  I want to always want what He wants for me in my life.  I want my life to be so wrapped up in becoming the Bride of Christ that everything else pales in comparison.  No pun intended.  This is the real deal, what I want, what I need, to strive for daily.

Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  -Psalm 25:4-5