The Hope of Temporary

Don’t be jealous that I now have a tiny bedroom in the northern, moldy corner of our house. Actually, I was so excited to be making the change- much of our set up in our home was meant to be temporary, and any time we move forward in our house projects, I feel like I can breathe a little more deeply. But that first night in our new room, I couldn’t get to sleep. Maybe it was the hot cocoa, maybe the thoughts of all that there still is to do to get Carol settled into her room and us into ours. It didn’t end up being as wonderful as I thought it would be.

We visited a church on Sunday for the second time, one we are seriously thinking about attending long term. Realistically, we can’t visit many churches this summer: Luke and I are seasoned enough to reject most denominations in our area as not being for us, and even visiting the church we did was exhausting. People are friendly, but we are answering the same questions over and over (where we live, do we homeschool, are we related to —- Burton, etc). I thought it would be great if we just could go up to the pulpit and introduce ourselves, get it all out at once. It seems like a lot of work if we are only going to be there temporarily.

The pastor’s sermon was timely, though. The Sadducees were trying to trap Jesus with a question about a woman marrying all seven brothers of a family, and Jesus gives us insight into the nature of Heaven and eternity. This, all this, is temporary, except the Word of God, and people. I want to spend more of my day focused on these two things.

Our church problems center on these two things, in many ways. We want to be part of a church body where the Word of God is studied, where people are discipled, and where good relationships can develop that spur us each on to love and good works. Sometimes it seems like there is no place for us, if we are to be sticklers on these details. Are we too hard-nosed? I think it comes back to what is temporary, and what is eternal. We have to major on these things that last forever. There has to be a way to cultivate this in our family.

 

When To Call It

The most often asked question this week is, “Are you done with school yet?” And the answer is easy or difficult. Easy because we can be done anytime I say we are, difficult because I have felt especially bad about this year- ‘homeschool fails’. The boys made some videos during track meets and called them ‘Football Fails’, films that were particularly funny to their age group or younger. This year, similarly, felt to me like me acting out the wrong way to do everything, from getting up in the morning (late) to going to bed at night (late). But, there is light on the horizon- I’ve been reading a couple of books that I think will prove helpful to this summer and next school year: Teaching From Rest, and The Literacy Cookbook. Both have some wonderful insights, talk to me without making me feel guilty, and make me want to do better next year. With no baby on the way, I already feel some space to do that I didn’t have this year. Whatever circumstance I am in, however, is an opportunity to follow Jesus, so I can’t really make excuses.

Aliyah is doing a college-credit program in the fall, and Luke was drawing up a record of ‘courses’ she has done for high school so far. This is actually a good thing, because we can think ahead for Sarah, Sam, and Noah and have a plan for where we want them to be when their turn comes to apply for this program. I’ll appreciate having a checklist of sorts, and the challenge to have them work more and more independently.

I went over to a friend’s house last night to pick up some eggs. She invited me to stay and rest on the porch, and I took her up on the offer. It was a lovely evening, and just the right amount of adventure and offroading for me. I hadn’t ever been to her house, but it wasn’t that far out of the nearest town and I couldn’t have gotten lost, something I do many times in that area. She also has elaborate landscaping, added-to each year, and I found it very inspiring as we are planning to do something around our porch (finally!)

We have decided to take a break from our church for the summer. Some disturbing things have happened in recent years, and we’re just not sure if this is the place to be right now in our family’s life, with many children and the philosophies we have about serving them and serving in the church. It was hard to say what we were doing out loud, when I had to find subs for nursery and such. But not too many people have said anything to me about it, and my friend last night didn’t say a word. Maybe that is a good thing- there isn’t really anything to say right now- my hope is to be quiet and listen these next few months.  The Lord will show us what to do.

 

Nice To Be Missed

It has been a rough few weeks, with illnesses, stresses, and trials.  Julia has been a unique baby in that while she is sick with a cold, she refuses to nurse. This causes me to wonder each time if she is weaning. Up until now she would recover and get back to nursing, but this latest illness put nursing away for good. I’ve handled it okay, not having too much discomfort. But I am a little sad at the thought this might be the last baby and that was the last time I got to nurse. Last night when she got up with a stuffy nose, she leaned in close as if to say she missed me. I needed that. She is certainly old enough to move on, and on the move she is, walking a little farther each day.

Micah’s birthday is coming up on Thursday, and she told me she wants to have a party. “The only party I ever had was my baby shower, so I would like to have a party this year.” It struck me that this means she never has had a party (how did I miss this?), and the shower she refers to wasn’t so much as a celebration of her, but a condolence in the wake of losing her sister. I knew my family just wanted to do something special for Micah and me, though no one could give me what I really wanted- Micaiah. So this party void need be remedied! I asked her to write down ideas in her journal, and I’ll take a look at them today. We can make April 27th great again. We can.

 

Working

I have a few minutes until dinner is set and eaten. Tonight we head to church, so dinner is a little early. The kids came in from playing a bit ago, planning the shirts and shorts they wanted to wear to church. Uh, I don’t think we are wearing shorts tonight. It is warm right now, but later it will cool off. Caleb said, “Mom, I don’t want to wear SWEATpants all evening…” Strange. It worked last week, and as they will be indoors all evening…

Track meets start this week. The older four and Luke will be gone til tonight for the middle school meet. We will try to go to a few in the coming weeks, but today it was simpler to have Luke take them.

Tacos for dinner. I packed some meat in a thermos for Luke. It should go over well. I don’t usually pack tacos in his lunches for work, because 1) there are usually no leftovers, and 2) he doesn’t want that twice in a row. The thermos trick I’ll have to remember.

Sean Hannity had a good rant today about hard work. I felt a little guilty again about the way I’ve been sleeping in and lazy about breakfast/ starting school/ modeling good work ethics for our kids. I want to get to where I am making every minute count, and doing all to the glory of God, but I am not there yet. I like to sleep.

What He Would Say

I was reading a children’s story Bible to the boys one day, and when we came to the page with a picture of Jesus sitting with some children, I asked what Jesus might have said to these little kids.

“He told them to be quiet and to behave,” Kenan was certain in his reply.

As funny as it was to hear, it was a little sad, too. Is that what Kenan thinks Jesus wants from his four year old self? Good behavior? Is that the message he is getting from home and church, that all important be-quiet-and-then-we-can-do-fun-stuff?

I thought some more about Jesus and the children. I love the pictures that have Him holding the infants and kissing them. He was all in, whatever crowd it was. Newborns or lepers, they were all welcome at His side. I do wonder what He had to say to these littlest of all, most powerless, most helpless. Would He have told them of the heroes of old, like David, like Elijah? Would He have told them secrets of the world to come, what their rooms would look like? What most important things could He impart to a group of young that He may never see again? I imagine it would include, Love God Who Made You And Loved You First. Love Your Friends. Love Your Enemies. Love And Obey Your Mom and Dad. In These You Will Be Blessed.

It starts to sound like Keeny’s answer. Be quiet. Listen for God’s voice. Behave. Honor your parents and do what they tell you. This is the path to knowing God for each and every one of us.

You will say, “How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors. I have come to the brink of utter ruin in the midst of the whole assembly.” Proverbs 5:12-14

With Him We Rise

“Want you outside, Mama.”

And that is how I am found here on our new porch, typing away. I don’t think I have talked about Luke’s masterpiece yet. We recognized the need for Carol to have an easier way up the stairs a while ago, but just over Christmas was Luke able to do something about it. He built a long ramp that follows the length of the house, then turns to the spot in the driveway where she parks. It is really nice. He had his new Christmas grill set up here where I am sitting, until it blew off, twice (no railings yet). It seems the cover of the grill turned it into a kite and pulled it into the air like Mary Poppins. While the grill was still in place, a stray cat would take up residence under the cover and on the shelf of the grill. I don’t think I have talked about Luke’s nemesis yet. This cat shows up on a weeknight, peeking in the screen door and meowing. I quickly took a picture on my phone and sent it to my cat loving neice. This cat looked a lot like her cat, Fixie, so I named it Tuxie, as it was all black with a white triangle down its chest. We knew never to feed it, and didn’t expect it to stay around long. But after a few weeks it was wearing out its welcome. Wednesday night of last week we came home from church to find it had gotten in the basement. The boys and Luke had a bit of an adventure getting that cat out of our house, and Luke was now ready to put it to sleep. A few days later, he did the deed carefully enough that most of the kids didn’t know. Over the next week he would make comments about his recent kill and how much he missed the little guy, chuckle. I told him gloating must not be as exciting because not enough people know what he is talking about. He pointed out its final resting place to me on the way to church and I didn’t know what I was looking for. A hunter? A bird? A piece of litter?

I heard this morning about someone, actually a few someones, needing prayer and encouragement. It is good to be reminded that we are all struggling, and good for those struggling to be reminded that we are all in this together. I have some ideas for ways I can encourage these folks. Hopefully I can pull it off during this busy week. Bible Study, church, track practice, a dentist appointment, a birthday party (not ours), and a field trip. Should be wild.

Tuesdays With Kenan

Ay yi yi. Last night, Luke and I  settled back on our pillows at 8:45, 8:45, and grinned at each other. How nice to be going to bed so early! We proceeded to watch about 3/4 of an episode of Monk, then the night began to unravel. First, Julia woke up. I went to get her out of bed and, since it was dark, only dimly saw big red splotches on her sheet. Is that the set with the polka dots, I wondered to myself. But when I got her where I could change her diaper, I saw her face was covered in blood! Earlier that evening she had fallen against my leg, and her upper lip bled a bit after the mishap. But since then she had nursed, took a pacifier, and gone to sleep just fine. Now, she was bleeding heavily. Luke helped keep me calm and instructed me on what to do (so thankful for his authority and first aid knowledge!), and we got her cleaned up and nursing again, to curb the blood flow.

Only then did Kenan wake up, crying that his ear really hurt. He had just taken medicine an hour prior, so we were at a loss as to what to do. I remembered something about olive oil to put in the ear, but lacking that, I went for the coconut oil and warmed up some. It did seem to help, for a short time. Luke then volunteered to go to Walmart for some of the alternate pain meds we could try in another hour. So, on the bed that only recently held two tired parents happy with their bed-early fortune, sat me nursing a bloody Julia, and Kenan wailing beside me. I’m so glad Walmart is close.

Once Kenan was tucked away with more meds and ear drops, and Julia tucked away with fresh sheets, at 11:00, we were able to finish Monk. Our night wasn’t funny, but we had the wisdom to laugh about it.

This morning I took Kenan to the doctor, and, sure enough, he had an ear infection. He was so cute on the drive there. I hadn’t heard him say so much before, and for a while I kept the music playing, but when I realized he wouldn’t stop anytime soon, I turned it off so I could hear him. First he asked what the numbers on the dashboard were. I started with the radio and the heating/cooling controls, hoping that would satisfy him. Then at Meijer for the prescription, he wanted to know what the numbers in the parking lot were. They were letters, I said, to help people remember where they are parked. Inside Meijer he wanted to ride in the cart, but at four years of age he is way too big. So, we found a cart with a bench on the back. It was like driving a semi through the store aisles; I constantly had to re-judge the distance ahead of me not to knock into displays or people. At the pharmacy, an older lady got in line behind Kenan’s semi, and asked aloud whose child this was, as I was up at the window. I turned and responded, and she proceeded to talk to him, about as much as he’d been talking to me. But now he didn’t feel much like talking, and was on the verge of being rude. The lady then turned to the girl behind her, and started saying something about how evil the world is getting and how she asks everyone if they are born again and they look at her funny. I  thought about how it is good she is so bold, but that she may come off as ‘that crazy lady’ more often than not. Hey, David and Paul were willing to look undignified and foolish, so I shouldn’t look down on her efforts.

Days like this are par for the course, with so many children, but I don’t like the beating our schooling takes every time it happens. Oh, well. The best we can do is try to get to bed tonight, early, and make the best of tomorrow.

In Good Health

Julia came down with something this afternoon. The illness was almost instant in its ferocity, where she was fine one minute and feverish the next. I gave her the decongestant first, because there wasn’t any apparent elevation in her temperature. Then, an hour later, I gave her fever meds because she was so miserable. Her eyes would roll back in her head and she could hardly stay awake. That shallow breathing, that stillness. Many sick children, but it never gets easier. I think of how I will do anything to make them feel better. Anything.

A lady whose blog I read wrote about having tests run and how expensive that is, along with the many treatments for disease and major illness we have now. Things like this have been on my mind a lot lately, too, not because I am sick, but because it seems like after every diagnosis follows a fundraiser for the medical expenses. What am I not getting about this scenario if I think there is something weird about that? Add to it that a man was in the news because he faked having cancer so he could take money from everyone. This past year, our two biggest medical expenses- Sam’s MRI and Julia’s birth- were ‘covered’ when I applied for charity with the hospital. So, how is it that illness bankrupts some and not others? Is it ever the case that someone chooses against the expensive treatment because it would not be a good use of (everyone’s) money? Should we act as if God wants us to choose chemo, every time? All of these are good questions to meditate on when I am not in a desperate position to answer them. One thing has come to mind so far, I believe from the LORD. My job is to treasure and to preserve life as far as it is in my power to do so. I suppose that would be a guiding factor in situations where I had to make a decision of treatment for one of my children. When Sam’s neurosurgeon was strongly recommending a surgery at a very young age, we decided for it because it would give him the best chances at a good quality of life. Of course, it had its risks, and its expenses. But the decision wasn’t hard.

Now, if I had cancer. That is tougher, because how far do I go to treasure and preserve my own life? Selfishly, I go all the way, no expense spared. If I am thinking of children still to raise and a husband still to belong to, I still go pretty far to take those chances at a better quality of life. I think. There’s Heaven to consider, though. How much should Heaven factor into this? Not that I am eager to get there like I should be. I mean, there’s still much to be done here in this city, right Chris Tomlin?

What a burden it is for parents of sick children and people of sick selves to make these choices. God is faithful, I know, and will pave the way for us as we go, and bear us up on His wings when we can’t go further.

He found Jacob in a desert land, and in the howling waste of a wilderness. He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the apple of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young, so He spread His wings and caught  him, and carried him on His pinions.

-Moses

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burdens.

-a Psalmist

Can’t Find A Better Van

Luke and I are still dating. At least, we try. Right now Julia occupies the position of third wheel, but a chance to get away is still a great deal, so we go.

After we had test-driven the old Dodge van with back-up beeping, Luke said he’d like to go see a van over in Mt. Eaton, in Amish Country. They were asking more than he wanted to pay, but it couldn’t hurt to look. We buckled Julia in the car, and off we went to Holmes County.

We arrived at the place the van was parked, and waited for the seller. He drove up quite a bit later, with a six month old baby boy in his lap, a la Brittney Spears! Needless to say, this did not give me a great first impression of him, or this van.

Luke, Julia, and I climbed aboard and buckled up (Julia in her carseat and me in mine), then headed for the highway. My husband knows all of these things to try while driving a vehicle to check its maneuverablility and alignment. Things were appearing to work ok for a while. But when he would brake hard, the van would pull really far to the right. It was so freaky! Then Luke asked if I wanted to drive it. Um, no! Not with it pulling like that. He turned around in a cemetery, and one hard right almost landed us on someone’s grave.

When we met back up with the seller, Luke described what the van was doing and made a low offer. The man was actually selling the van for someone else, so he wouldn’t budge from the asking price. We thanked him for his time, and were back on the road.

People who don’t live near Amish Country think it is charming, hence the explosion of commerce there. As we drove along, I thought of how there is nothing about the Amish I find charming. Except maybe the way they stack their wheat and oats with little straw hats to shed water. A whole field of these mounds is quite picturesque. Luke was unhappy that we had driven all the way out to this quilt-buggy-barn mecca for nothing…

Wait. What were we passing every few minutes as we headed to Millersburg? Yes, there was another 15 passenger van, shuttling Amish people from one place to another. Though most have rules against owning a vehicle, many Amish may pay to ride in one, and ‘hauling Amish’ is a lucrative business. We have a neighbor on our road that does this in a van he won’t sell to us.

Maybe we weren’t wasting a trip after all. Just then we saw a van for sale on the side of the highway, and quickly pulled over to look. The vehicle looked good, the price looked even better, and the owner came to meet us right away. Luke said to me, “This is our van!” It did look like a great buy, but as he and the owner opened it up and tried out the a/c, they found it didn’t work. Augh. Always something. This man was really nice, though, and told Luke he would have it looked at the next day. It was suppertime by now, and Luke asked the man where a good place was to eat in Millersburg. He directed us to a pub that had good burgers. It also had a great bleu cheese salad, awakening my interest in bleu cheese. On another date to Delaware last year, we went to a place that had a phenomenal bleu cheese salad, and ever since I have been on and off bleu cheese kicks.

We talked over dinner how as we get older, we get comfortable in our skin and don’t care as much what people think. I said that is mostly true for me, only I have been so many different clothing sizes that it has been hard to keep to a ‘style’ of dress. So that aspect of my personality is still largely changeable. Still, I like nice things, and all through this van search I find myself turning off whenever the candidate is old, dirty, rusty, crumbly, etc. At first, I thought I was being a snob. But the more I think about it, there needs to be a balance. We have the money to not have to buy the dumpiest vehicle on the lot. Yes, the more we spend on the van, the less we spend on the House, but many things about this House-building project have been Providentially delayed, and the need for a bigger van is one of those Providential delays, to my way of thinking. Who could have known we would have 12 children needing vehicle space as well as House space? Only the Lord knew this. And, He knows we need to have a van where we all can go somewhere, together. We have been missing that lately, bigtime. The activities we have had to turn down in the past few weeks only fuel my desire for a better van. Not too old, not too broken; something that will cost us more, but also bring us more joy hopefully, as we are able to venture forth as a family again.

As Luke drove home from taking the kids to camp last month, he passed a used car lot that had some vans for sale. He met and spoke with the owner, and even had him over to our house (he was on his way back from Columbus) to look at our van. His name is Marlin Zimmerman and I really like him. (Mennonite, not Amish.) Marlin has called Luke back repeatedly, thinking of new ways he can use our van for parts and knock the price down on one of his. This kind of keeping in touch has certainly impressed Luke, and now, after weeks of clown car antics when we go to church or anywhere, I think he is ready to deal with Marlin. No, it is not the cheapest van we could go with, but it seems to Luke and me to be the better choice.

Catching Up

I was going to do a weekly play by play of the last weeks since Julia was born, but balked at week 1. My memory of it is already faded like an old photograph. Just as well, as I had a great deal of anxiety the first two weeks. I don’t think I have ever put into words what those first days postpartem feel like to me, though I have had 12 opportunities to do so. But the pain was so acute this time I want to document its existence. First comes this tightness in my gut, like something horrible is happening or about to happen, and it matters not how many times I tell myself everything is fine, it doesn’t lessen. It has some small connection with the sleep loss accompanying a new baby, because it is noticeably better the first night he or she sleeps for 3-4 hours. I was also helped this time by singing hymns and praise songs. I remember with Kenan listening to Matt Maher and Laura Story constantly. I to this day have a sort of crush on the former that Luke doesn’t understand; hey, he helped bring me through a tough time.

That part of the darkness has passed, but I still deal with some emotional, hormonal effects. All to be expected. The Lord has been so faithful, from reminders of His blessings to the knowledge that He is here, He’s got this. I want a t-shirt that says God’s Got This. My birthday is in 18 days; would someone work on making this happen, please?

Luke and the boys just left for a backpacking trip. It will be short, just overnight, but a way to work out the kinks before they travel to PA for the real thing in July. I appreciate his desire to be with our sons, and his activity level. He is still running and cycling, along with the hiking.

At about 4 weeks postpartem I felt well enough to try jogging again. It is going pretty good, and I hope to run in a couple 5Ks this summer. I’m also doing Mommy and Me, a fitness class that meets a few times a week. This fills the summer schedule fast, but I need to commit to things like these to help get back into shape. Unfortunately this will not happen on the couch!

Aliyah and Sarah are working girls now- they have a job at a local grocery store for the summer. Another evidence of them growing up way too fast. They needed id’s for the job, and the bank account, so we got Aliyah her temps (wow, already?) and Sarah a state issue id. They just got their debit cards in the mail today. So cute.

Sam and Noah are also going to work this summer, helping a man from our church keep up with his yard. I can see Sam doing this full time by next summer, if he wants to. Luke is going with them currently, to show them how to use stuff and be there if they need help, so it isn’t an official ‘job’. But they will get paid a little and at the end of the summer will have some cash for their labors.

Next weekend I am taking the kids to an event in Millersburg called Compassion Experience. It appears to be an interactive look at what homes and villages are like in impoverished countries. Should be special. I was talking to Luke about who should go and who should stay, because we have outgrown our van completely (after Elijah I could still squeeze between the front seats, illegally), and he suggested taking both cars and giving Aliyah some driving time. I am not sure about that. Weren’t we going to start in parking lots?

It is time to fix dinner. I made pulled pork in the oven last night (it bakes at a low temp all night) and now some fries are calling to me, “Make us!” This summer is getting off to a good start. Thank You, Jesus, for these days.