New Year’s Blogging Eve

I’m sure others are having a more exciting and memorable last day of the year, but no one is celebrating it exactly like us. Let me set the scene…

Elijah and I are in our bedroom. He has successfully gone down for bed awake and unrocked for about two weeks now. Like Kenan before him, he was a ‘rock me to sleep and put me down real gentle’ baby for um, 17 months. I really don’t mind; obviously I allowed the habit to continue because it worked, but also because I will never get those nights back. An Elisabeth Eliot memoir I read told of how her mother was very strict about children, even babies going to bed when the parent dictated. One reason for this was to train the child to adjust to the parents’ schedule, not the other way around. “His parents may want an hour or two to themselves of an evening,” her mother said. That sounds good, and may be the right course, especially those late nights I wish I had trained these little boys. But I keep coming back to the thought of how short this time is, and how long and quiet my ’empty nest’ period will likely be. I’ll have plenty of evenings to myself then, Lord willing.

I am sitting in bed with the covers over my legs, typing at my portable keyboard that I plug into my phone. Being a pretty good typist isn’t good enough in the dark that E needs, so I’ve got my iPod light wedged between my chin and chest. A picture would be worth a thousand words in this case. Happy new year with a neck ache!

The older six are out playing games at the table with Luke. His mom got us a few decks of Dutch Blitz for Christmas, a ‘vonderful goot game’ of numbering cards that has become addictive for these volk. Luke deserves the time to unwind- he spent the dinner hour putting down grout on the master bathroom floor. Yay! The hope is that he can get the master bath functional, then get us three (L, E, and me) ¬†out of the master bedroom, then get Carol moved in. Yay!

The younger four are playing mostly nicely together back between the kids’ rooms. I’ve only heard angry cries and a stampede out to the table once so far. We tried putting them to bed, but it didn’t really work; it is obvious there is a special celebration drawing near that they are being kept out of. So they have been allowed the extra play time, if they can keep it to a dull roar and not wake E.

A nursing home Luke’s grandma was at would have their party early on NYE, letting the ball drop at 9. Every year that goes by, I like that arrangement more and more. It is like turning your clocks back before you go to bed. You know it is going to happen; you don’t need to stay up and watch.

Ouch

I think I have used that title before. In fact, that would have to be one of the most common titles one could choose when they are looking for ways to introduce their life experiences, right? That, and Oh. This past week I had that kind of moment, where I first said, ouch, then I said, oh.

Going through a Revelation study has me turned upside down sometimes. There is the volume of verses I don’t understand, and there is the reality of Jesus’ return. And, there is the reality of God Himself, in total control at all times, even when the world is falling apart. This past year I have been trying to obey Him when I think He is telling me to do something, or not do something. Francis Chan helped me nail it down when he said, loosely quoted, to just do it if I think it is divinely inspired. If it turns out not to be, at least we are guilty of doing, and not guilty of disobedience. So I do.

This time it was a prompt to write to family members who I am pretty sure are unsaved. It took a day or two to get up the nerve and think of what I could write to each one that wouldn’t seem carbon copied to all of them, but I finally emailed the two in one place and one in another. For some reason I didn’t feel like emailing the other two in the latter place, but later thought better of that and just finished theirs this evening. But anyway, so far I have gotten one response.

What an email! I am certain this relative was just sharing what was new with their job/ life/ whatever since we had seen each other years ago, but reading it was like a blow to the gut. Here is a person who really strugggles, with chronic pain that makes it hard to work, taking college courses as can be afforded to get promoted to a less physically demanding position, with an aging parent to care for, and disappointment in those they see call themselves ‘Christian’ around them. I was convicted that I rarely even think of this relative, other than to pray for their salvation, or reach out to them at Christmastime. Am I any better than the ‘Christians’ they know?

A statement they made was the turning of the knife. They are fluent in other languages so they were giving me advice on learning Spanish. “You have the Bible memorized. Why not get a Spanish Bible to read?” Whew. I know this person was not being exactly sarcastic, this is just the basic impression they have of people like me. Is that what I want people to think of me? What do I want people to think of me? Maybe this is one reason we should want others to only see Jesus in us. Only He knows what they need, only He can get the job done right, without me in the way.

Some real soul searching has begun since I received this reply. I pray that God continues His good work in me to make me like Jesus, so that my next Christmas email to my lost relatives encourages them more to seek Him.

Todo Sobre Mi

One of my goals for 2016 is to become conversationally fluent in Spanish. A website I found gave some really good advice, one tip being to learn phrases and statements that are specific to me. That way, I not only am motivated to talk more in Spanish, but while I am getting better at conversation, I at least have a collection of things memorized that I say all the time in English.

Here are the statements I am learning, in no particular order:

Soy seguidora de JESUS, y disfruto estudiar mi Biblia.

Soy esposa y madre.

Tengo doce hijos.

Enseno a nuestros ninos en casa.

Estoy embarazada de nuestro duodicimo hijo.

Queremos mi suegra a vivir con nosotros antes del invierno.

Soy de un pueblo que esta a una hora al norte de Columbus, Ohio.

Me gusta dibujar, pintar, y leer.

Es divertido para mi cocinar y comer una buena comida.

Me encanta viajar, pero tambien disfruto de quedarme en casa.

Estudie matematicas en la universidad.

Soy ama de casa.

Me gusta escribir en el blog, y estoy en Facebook.

Wasn’t that fun? This was a great little exercise to come up with ways to tell people what my life is like, and also to reveal to me words I didn’t know. ‘Disfruto’ is one word I don’t think I have heard before. It means ‘I enjoy’. Good thing I have plenty of things I can tell others I enjoy.

Keep Trying

It must frustrate her to no end to play through that song on the piano, making bumbles and hitting wrong notes. Keep playing, I silently say to her hunched figure. There is value, possibly the most value, in keeping with a thing, and keeping on, than stopping short and moving away.

The last few months I have been melancholy. Not being the most bubbly personality anyway, this is difficult to take for me, because I feel even my lowest reserves of cheer are no longer available. Blame it on the pregnancy, but that is like saying blame it on the baby, which I do not want to do. Pause with me here and I’ll tell you about her.

She is beautiful, with two arms and two legs and a sweet face. The first ultrasound I had, the tech was in a hurry and the pictures I was able to take home were lacking her arms, just had her head, abdomen and legs. Even though this is number twelve, even though I could ably explain to my children that the picture was like a cross section of her body, I still battled some real fear that she was not all there. But, I would tell myself at low points, that is ok. Even if she is not all there physically, it doesn’t have to mean she can’t be excellent and surpassing spiritually, with an amazing potential for God. But still, I had a tough first trimester because of this, and other little things that threatened to rob the joy from this wonder. If there is another pregnancy, I am not going to see a doctor until I’m 20 weeks. So there.

Back on track. So, I know the solution to feeling down is not to check out a self-help book from the library, but I just happened upon a great one by Jon Acuff called Do-Over in the midst of my life burnout. What a shot in the arm! I’m considering buying the book, it is that good. Acuff is really speaking to people who are in careers and find themselves encountering (or needing) some kind of dramatic change. As I was reading about jobs and ceilings and markets and skills, however, I saw countless ties to my life as a wife/mother/homeschool teacher. It was such a needed inspiration to keep trying to make of my life what I can, keep reaching, keep smiling, keep hoping, keep persevering.

All that to say, here are my goals for 2016:

1. Paint/ draw/ do art more. I already have some fun stuff planned to help me meet these goals that I will blog about later.

2. Become conversationally fluent in Spanish. On the surface, this is a strange goal for a person like me to have. But I have always regretted not getting any further with learning Spanish than an almost-minor in college. When I encounter a Spanish speaker in town, I wish I was comfortable enough to connect with them in that moment, and often walk away sad. My hope is to meet and secure a conversation partner in the next few months. Meanwhile, I am learning some phrases that I would use frequently in describing myself and life; I will post those on the blog next time for my friends in Bolivia to critique, as I used Google translate for the Spanish. Ha! Addicted to Google!

3. Piano. I sit down to a piano and it is like painting, or hearing Spanish. I belong there, but, again, I have not made it on to fluency. I hope to get back to practicing and making a better effort at enjoying this beautiful instrument.

In all three of these pursuits, there is talent required, but the skill comes from consistent practice. Were I to devote time and energy to these things, I would not only improve in them, but also in my moods and attitudes. Who knows? Julia may be welcomed with a new painting, a Spanish lecture, an aria on the piano, or all three.

Here’s to a new year of trying again. Who is with me?

Crackle Pop

I just pulled some artisan bread out of the oven. It is a little burnt, but other than that I feel very much like a baker in Rome, or at least a Panera employee. Now, trying a new recipe at this point in my life, for me, is rather like reinventing the wheel. I mean, rolls? I’ve got them down. Bread? Got it down. Pizza crust? Got it down. But cooking and baking can also be considered hobbies for me, so I like to peruse Pinterest now and then for new meal ideas, y buscar los blogs then and again for fun things to try.

Last year on a blog a lady was saying how she had gotten a tortilla press, and how bean tostadas and the like are weekly lunchtime staple meals for them now. I loved the idea of this, always needing some variety to our pb &h laden lunches, but not wanting something else I had to make. This lady said the kids made them. Sweet! So, I start dropping hints like “Do you know how many tortillas we are buying every week?” and putting a tortilla press on my Amazon wish list. Miraculously, Luke buys me one within the month! (I think there were other things he wanted on Amazon and the press brought it up to the right price for free shipping.)

When I received my new tortilla press, I started right away figuring out how to use it. I googled “best homemade tortillas” recipes, and got to work. It went alright, but immediately I experienced what I had read others saying, including this original lady from the blog, that flour tortillas did not turn out that flat. More like flatbread. This did not make for a pleasing taco. Not wanting to believe it true for me, I thought I might not be pressing hard enough, so one night I really gave the lever all I was worth. A few tortillas into my labor, the lever broke off (this is a cast iron press!), causing me to crush my two middle knuckles before I realized what had happened. Yikes! Luke was able to get a replacement lever that has supposedly been ‘updated’, but I have yet to use the press. What to do, since I know I cannot turn out flat flour tortillas with this press?

Last night I was googling “how to get homemade flour tortillas flat” (Note the pattern- Google is one of my hobbies too, obviously) and came upon a blogger saying it had a lot to do with using lard, and rolling it out super thin with a rolling pin. Tacos are on the menu for tonight, and I plan to follow her recipe as closely as I can. And yeah, I have a tortilla press paperweight.