Christmas Eve

We stayed up late last night wrapping presents. I wasn’t feeling well, and it was hard to find a comfortable position to sit as I worked. And with so many children there were so many presents to wrap! (I know, first world problems, right?) Luke and I decided that when our little roll of Scotch tape was out, we would quit for the night. Then that roll of tape proceeded to have about as much longevity as the widow’s oil! We just about got them all done. Towards the end of the evening, Luke reached for a box shaped gift and shook it. “Is this one to Sam? I don’t remember what it is!” As tired as I was, this struck me as so, so funny, and I had tears in my eyes I was laughing so hard. I pictured Sam opening it tomorrow morning and us saying, “Look what you got! It’s a surprise to us, too!” There were a few items under the tree that were oddly shaped and particularly hard to wrap. After Luke put down Sam’s box, he spied my attempt at covering a doll (not boxed) with paper and tape. It looked like a Christmas mummy. Then he lost it, too.

The real job begins of keeping Adon and Kenan from ripping open the gifts before Christmas morning.

Laundry Woes

Ok, so I recommitted myself to doing laundry every day. This week has gone pretty good; if I can set a timer to remind myself when it is time to change loads, I can get quite a few done. There’s the mainstream loads, there’s loads of kitchen, cleaning and bath towels, and loads of Luke’s and my clothes, because we have found that the mainstream loads can come out still smelly if something wet was left there, or if they sat there too long. Bringing me back to my commitment to doing as much laundry as I can, every day, to try to combat the ugly odors in the ‘clean’ clothes. So today was going great, until about 4 o’clock, when I came downstairs to a beeping washer with a blinking red light. The basin had reds in it and was still half full of water. It is front loading, so I put a bucket down in front of what I knew would be a lot of water spilling out when I opened the door. Aargh! I think it is a clog in the line out from the drain; it seems to want to run, just can’t drain water right now. After dinner Luke took a look at it, which means he unplugged the machine, plugged it back in, and started the ‘drain and rinse’ cycle. He came upstairs with the news that “it still isn’t doing anything”. I’m not criticizing my husband’s attentiveness to our washer; he knows he’ll have to get to work on it soon, he just didn’t want to do it right then.

Abbie and Kenan were both under the weather this evening, so Luke volunteered to take my grocery list and the older 4 out to town to shop for food and for clothes they are badly in need of. This will take a load off my mind, because I would have had to do both sometime tonight or tomorrow, and it is harder these days for me to ‘get out’ than it is for him. I always have a curfew, and feel like I have to rush around, whereas he can take his time. Maybe they’ll buy me something for Christmas while they’re out. I heard a song today on the radio, a la Dave Barnes:

we’ll all tell our stories

we’ll all sing our songs

while the kids can’t sleep from guessin’

when Santa’s gonna come

it don’t matter what I’m gettin’

cause I’ve got what I need

there ain’t nothin’ quite like Christmas Eve

 

All I want for Christmas now is a working washer.

My Flesh May Fail

My fingers are tingling as I type this. No, not from some neurological issue, just from lack of thought. Earlier this afternoon, as I was walking around preparing supper, I noticed one of my toes was feeling really irritated. It was as if something was in my sock rubbing against my toe. So, after the casserole was in the oven, I decided to investigate. Sure enough, an irritant was found, but amazingly, it was a hair, wrapped around my toe! Each time I stepped down, it would pull tighter and was rubbing a nice cut into my toe. A single hair! Years ago, I was reading in a parenting book about possible reasons for a baby crying, and they mentioned the baby having a hair wrapped around his toe. Then, recently, either Micah or Adon as a newborn actually had it happen to them. Now I have had it happen to me. I didn’t cry, though. I did see an opportunity to pamper my feet. First I scrubbed them really well in the tub. Adon then saw an opportunity to play with the teapot that was in the tub and get everything really wet. I promised him a bath later on, and we got out. I received a tube of peppermint foot mask a while back as a gift, but hadn’t yet used it on my feet. It makes a great application to bug bites in the summer; plaster a bit over the bite and the peppermint makes the kid forget the itch. I looked at the directions to see how long the mask needed to sit on my feet- 10 minutes. I’ve got time, I thought. So I sat back on my bed, foot mask and towel in hand, and went to work applying the paste to my feet. I didn’t think about how much of it would still cover my hands, and was too far away from any baby wipes to wipe them off. So I set my iPod timer with a clean knuckle and sat back to relax with my feet up. Ever notice how long 10 minutes is when you can’t do anything? I’m not complaining, though. It was nice just sitting there, breathing. I should do this more often for my hard-working feet; they are there for me each and every day and they rarely complain.
At the end of September, I noticed my jaw was cracking a lot, and sometimes when I ate, the first few bites could be really painful. When we got back from Nashville it started locking occasionally, and I was talking with a lisp, too, which was thcaring me thilly. I went to see my dentist, who did an x ray of my jaw and recommended I start with a mouth guard to wear at night to help combat the grinding I do. The mouth guard turned out to really help my jaw; I now have no pain, and only occasional popping. My dentist really felt that the mouth guard wasn’t enough to fully treat the issue and thought I should see a specialist. There are many problems with this- the specialist’s in Cleveland, and even if I jumped through all the hoops to get there, would she just say keep with the program I am already on, wearing the guard at night and avoiding hard or crunchy foods? But maybe she would be able to do some kind of one time adjustment and my jaw would be back to normal. I’m still mulling over it.
I got to thinking about things that go wrong in my body, and what lengths I will go to to try to fix them. I am sure that as I age, depending on the ailment, I may be less concerned with doing too much to fix things, especially when I know they will never be perfect again. Pregnancies have all left their marks on me, marks of ownership, a dear friend of mine calls them. Then there are the issues like my jaw where at least I have gotten to a point where it doesn’t hurt. If I can continue like this without pain, what is the need to go further with care? These are new thoughts to me, one who loves her body and loves for it to work. Someone was telling me the other day about a lady who said, “I want to enter eternity completely spent physically: not a single gift or talent or ability God gave me not used to its fullest!” What an inspiration.

As for me
I know that my Redeemer lives
and at the last
He will take His stand on the earth.
Even after my skin is destroyed
yet from my flesh I shall see God
whom I myself shall behold
and whom my eyes shall see
and not another.
Job 19:25-27

Bethlehem and Bella

We successfully completed our first night of Experience Bethlehem last night. I didn’t hear how many people came through, but it seemed pretty busy all evening. Luke, Aliyah, and Sarah had official occupations, the school age and preK children were in the angel choir, and I could choose whether to stay home with Adon and Kenan or go. So I went. The booths were set up really nicely this year; I noticed a freshness to the colors and the fabrics and appreciate everybody who puts their minds to and hearts into decorating the ‘little town’. There is a new mural behind the angel choir stage painted by one of the ladies in our church that is absolutely beautiful. Having Kenan in a stroller (with all the coats mounded behind him) and Adon walking beside me from shop to shop worked for about half a block; I kept losing Adon. There were some scary moments, too- but I reminded myself where we were and how many members of our own family were spread out over the gym. Still, I tried my best not to let Adon get out of my sight. The first set the angel choir sang, Adon was content to stand and watch. But when the kids were allowed to take a break, he was off again, too. By this time Kenan was done with the stroller, so I had him on my arm, Adon by the hand, and Anna and Micah ordered to stay close to me, too. This worked for about half a block; Kenan was getting heavy and each kid wanted to go in a different direction. I ran out to the van for my ergo carrier (so glad I forgot it, er, left it in the van a few months ago), and Kenan was settled somewhere he could sleep. He really did great the whole night; I was surprised how well since I had forgotten his pacifier at home. It got removed from its clip and the clip lost, so even if I had brought it, we would likely have lost it in Bethlehem. All in all, I think Experience Bethlehem met and exceeded our children’s expectations this year.

The Proper Care and Feeding of Bella continues. Luke has tried to install a light in her house that gives off a good amount of heat. Problem is the bulb keeps breaking, either from her bumping into it or it giving out. Yesterday morning he awoke at 5:00 worrying how Bella fared the night (it doesn’t help the situation that my mother shared with us a dream she had that Bella froze to death) and if this new bulb was still on. It wasn’t, so after work he bought one of those work lights with the handle and the cage that you hang under a car hood. He installed it in her house right before we were needing to leave for Bethlehem. All evening he feared the light was going to burn down Bella’s house, and ours, so as I got home first, he had me call him to tell him if the houses were on fire. They weren’t, but the work light was hanging down in front of the door, the metal glowing red and the plastic handle melting! Luke’s going to take it back today- a heavy duty work light’s handle shouldn’t melt after only 4 hours! Anyway, back to the drawing board as far as Bella’s concerned. Last night she only had her vest and blankets for warmth in her dog house. This morning it was my turn to wake at 5:00 am, concerned about my dog’s welfare. I figured if she was dead, I should be the one to find her, and we would have time to come up with an appropriate way of disposing of the body and sharing the traumatic news with the children. I went out and called to her through the car-wash plastic door. I heard this lapping, like she had been asleep and drooling, then saw her emerge from her house, shivering but wagging her tail. I think she’ll live another day.

Eleven

Dear Eleven,
I got to see you for the first time this morning. You are nearly 13 weeks old, and are moving those new arms and legs like crazy! Even though I have been very sick with this pregnancy, it seems to make up for that in a big way to see how good you look, how strong. Since I have been sick, I told the ultrasound tech I had a hunch you were a girl, because your older brothers are boys and I do not remember being as ill with them. The tech said she had a hunch you were, too, but it was too early to say anything for certain.
So, if you are a girl, welcome! Though my arms are quite full, in a strange way they feel like they are missing one, one I never got to hug like my other five girls- little Micaiah who died at 21 weeks gestation. I did and do get to cuddle her twin sister, something for which I am daily thankful. A loss and a gain. But you- you would be another girl for me to love, and I will always jump at the chance to hold one more in my arms.
But, if you are a boy, you join five older brothers, two of whom are directly older than you. I am sure these two especially will have many fun adventures planned for the three of you. You could be the Three Musketeers- going about doing good, with your trusty canine Bella and your swift but sure swords. A boy will not lack for fun or for love here.
In short, you are wanted, Eleven. Don’t pay any attention to that rather large number. You are loved already and preparations are already being made for your entrance into the world.
Now, about your Daddy. God has given him a great analytical (that means he’s a problem solver, Eleven) mind, but times like these his brain gives him trouble. I won’t say that he is in denial about your existence, because he knows everything your Mama knows, but he has tried to avoid thinking about your arrival some, because the logistics are problems that to him seem pretty insurmountable. Where will we put you? I tell him that this is just an opportunity for God to come through BIG in the way He chooses to provide for us and for you.
But as I trace your little form on the ultrasound picture, I tell myself, of course there is room.
We will make room.

Food, Finds, Fevers and a Fine Timeline

Dinner was good tonight- spaghetti and rolls. I got up from my nap at 3, and at first didn’t want to fix rolls, but talked myself into doing so because I had just enough time to let them rise and bake them. Plus, salad hasn’t been an option lately, as we have lost the strainer insert of our salad spinner, and I don’t think to buy salad at the store anymore. What a weird thing to lose. I have looked everywhere (except where it is, of course), and concluded that it must have gotten thrown away. How could we have thrown away a bright green bowl? Who knows. I have thrown away some expensive objects, and am particularly good at tossing Cutco knives in the trash. They get shoved in with the chicken carcass, the potato peelings, the onion skins. Thankfully, I miss the knife before the trash goes out and get to dig through it all to find it. But one cannot justify throwing away a salad spinner bowl, in any way.

I found my Bible. Who knew the cover is the same exact color as buckeyes? I had looked through the basket where it was before, but saw only a few items of clothing and buckeyes I had stashed there to make necklaces with the cousins last weekend. It was such a relief to find it; I had to sit right down and read it.

Kenan has had a fever almost this whole week. When the older ones have fevers, I let them run their course, with medicine. With toddlers and younger, it usually signals an ear infection and trip to the doctor. Although Kenan had some really rough nights, one he spent on my chest (guess who didn’t sleep that night), each night has gotten better and he doesn’t give me the sense it hurts him to lay his head down, something others usually can’t stand to do. So, I hope I am not neglecting him by treating him like the older folks. We medicate and we wait.

Tomorrow is our book club. We are meeting at our church, to put the gym to good use.:) As we began the biography of George Muller, I noticed he lived almost the entire 19th century! What a wide variety of events, people and discoveries were made during his lifetime! I found a website, Fact Monster, that had a page where a lot of the big ones were listed, about 50-60 of them. Luke told me I should have the kids narrow the list down to 25, and write about why they included what they did on their list. The kids weren’t real excited about this project at first, but I think after they looked up some of the ones they’d not heard of and started compiling their lists, they got more interested. The finished product is a poster we will share tomorrow that has timeline figures glued to it for each event, person or invention they listed. Some of them could have been more eloquent in their defense of the event (“I chose the Civil War because it was scary” “I chose  the Haymarket Riot because it was important”), but I am proud of their work. It made us want to research some things further, like Napoleon and Simon Bolivar. Remember the Alamo! We now know a little better why.

Where O Where

…Is my Bible? When I called a friend today and explained I thought I left it at her church last Thursday, it occurred to me that this sounded very unspiritual of me. How could I be missing my Bible for five days and only now be calling her about it? I resisted the urge to make lame excuses like:

-We cleaned out our van in great haste Saturday morning; I figured I must have put it in the back with the other items I wanted to hide from our traveling buddies

-You should see our bedroom right now; each day I looked under a pile and didn’t come up with anything

-We have many other Bible versions available around the house and online, and I found doing my Bible study with them, particularly The Message on Saturday, quite enriching

Silly, fruitless chatter going on in my mind. Fact is, I feel as if I have lost one of my arms, or even an eye. I hope it will turn up soon.
A couple of hours after I called my friend about my Bible, Noah came running from his bedroom, saying a blue minivan had just stopped at our mailbox and put something in it. We thought this might be my Holy Book, so Sam went running down the driveway to see. He returned with a bag of not one, but two new phone books we don’t need. Sigh.

I suggested getting The Message as a gift for someone for Christmas, and Luke uttered a vehement No Way. I didn’t realize he felt so strongly about this translation, er, paraphrase. I think it is kinda fun to read, once in a while. No, one shouldn’t probably go around memorizing portions of it, but I don’t see the harm in reading it. I’m studying Matthew (in BSF) right now, and the reactions Mr. Peterson has the Pharisees producing in chapter 9 are quite humorous: “Hocus Pocus!” they conclude when Jesus drives out an evil spirit from a mute. I heard this quote at lecture last night-
“The unbelieving mind will not be convinced by any proof. The worshipping heart needs none.” ~A.W. Tozer

Time to start my pantry chili and a cake of cornbread. Looking forward to eating it tonight.

Great Lengths

Luke must really love our dog, Bella. Over the past week he has been doing all kinds of things to help her keep warm this winter. He bought a lamp and installed it in her dog house, in the hopes that it will give off some heat to keep the house warm, or at least warmer than it is outside. He also has started putting a child’s sized vest on her during cold nights. It is the funniest thing seeing her running around the yard in her vest. I guess some dogs wear clothes all year round, but this would be considered extreme pampering for Bella, since we have trouble even remembering to feed and water her. And really, all this attention to keeping her warm/alive this winter outdoors I can consider as Luke’s love gift to me- I Do Not Want Her Indoors in a cage, like she was last winter. That was unpleasant, to say the least, especially the time she got sprayed by a skunk. I thought we’d never stop smelling it in the house.

Luke gave the three older boys haircuts last week, and while I was not ready to cut off Adon’s curls at the time, I think I want him to get another trim soon. Kenan’s hair is growing out pretty straight, so maybe after his birthday picture is taken, I will ask Luke to cut his, too. He does not yet have the customary overalls for the picture; I told Sarah, who is his buddy now, to get them for him for Christmas.

Over breakfast we briefly discussed a menu for Thanksgiving dinner, and some Christmas gift-giving thoughts. Dinner will be spectacular as always, with turkey made the same way as last year, and some more of a good stuffing recipe I found last year, too. I had bookmarked the blog where I found the turkey recipe last December, but long about spring had deleted it. I worried I might not be able to find it again, but tried googling “Best Roast Turkey” or something like that. When the results come up, most of them are going to be blue, but if I have visited the site before, it will come up purple. The site came up purple, and on the first page, too! Luke gave me a disinterested look when I shared how exciting (and a bit creepy) it was that Google not only remembered me visiting the page before, but knew what I was likely looking for and put it on the first page of results. He works with Google every day, and its wonders (and all-seeing eye) are often lost on him.

We just switched buddies- before it was boys with boys, girls with girls, and Abbie was the odd girl out, since Kenan was a boy and couldn’t really use a buddy yet. Now, it is the five older paired with the five younger. Sam was not happy to get Adon again, as he is a handful right now, but I couldn’t see us picking names again in the hopes he’d get someone different. Maybe he needs Adon as much if not more than Adon needs him. So I am thinking the buddies will have a Christmas gift exchange. That should be really cute, seeing what they will get for each other. At this very moment Kenan is thinking about Sarah and her particular likes and dislikes, and is drawing up a list of possible gifts. I can hear him grunting in concentration. I can think of many things we can get Luke, but the problems will be 1) keeping him from knowing and 2) keeping him from getting it for himself first. I give up on this most Christmases, but there is one thing in particular that if I could furnish it it would really surprise him. We shall see.

We are almost done reading a biography about George Muller for this month’s book club. How inspiring to think of the many ways God provided for His orphanages, simply because George asked Him to, and not anyone else. I wonder why God does not provide certain things for us that I have asked for in the past, and think one reason is that I am not being a very good steward with what I already have. At one point in the book, George asks his wife, Mary, to get rid of her silver and finery that she has decorating their house, with the thought that as they minister to the very poor, it wouldn’t do to have these nice things laying around their house. Our pastor wrote a neat daily devotional for the 40 days leading up to the MY HOPE with Billy Graham program, and on one of the days he asked a challenging question: are you holding onto anything that you would be embarrassed to have when the Lord returns? I hope not, but look around my house and see all the stuff…Ay yi yi. Most of it is raising kids stuff, I know. And it is our kids that keep me from too much materialism and greed. That’s good. May this Christmas be the best yet for me to let go of the gets and major on the giving.

Outspoken

I just finished a book that produced some really strong feelings in me. Not good ones- disgust, anger, nausea. Here was a novel claiming to be ‘Inspirational Fiction’, but only living up to the latter of those names.
First, let me say that I am not opposed to fiction. What a treat to be able to escape this life if only for a few minutes and peek into someone else’s, whose may or may not be very different from my own. And, I have a very high threshold for the author’s imagination and poetic license; these guys can get away with quite a lot in their stories before I would have trouble with their plots or characters.
The problem I now have, as I didn’t realize it existed before, is when a novel advertises itself as a work of Christian fiction, but doesn’t do a good enough job of being Christian. It makes me wonder why the book is in that category- is it easier to have something published if you submit it as Christian fiction? This story, to me, seemed like it could easily have passed for adult fiction, or even romance. It played out like a really complicated soap opera, where every character had issues. Maybe I am not living in reality, but these personas were so over the top in the multiple problems they each had, one could be certain as they read this book that there would be no way of solving all of the problems, and maybe no chance of solving any of them.
There were Christian references from time to time, but they seemed to just be placed there, every few pages, again, to make it look like this was a Christian novel. In no situation did the main character, who needed an awful lot of wisdom, guidance, and direction, ever do anything spiritual to get it. We never see her reading her Bible, or asking older people she should have respected for advice, or really seeking the Lord. From the beginning of the novel we know she is dying, and she appears sure she is going to Heaven. Yet she doesn’t practice any life disciplines to demonstrate she and the Savior are growing in relationship. It is never our job to say whether this or that person will be in Heaven, but since this is fiction, I can freely speculate that this girl will have a big surprise when she closes her eyes on this life and opens them in the next. As to her treatment of others, there is not a person in the book she hasn’t fired one-liners and sarcasm at except her daughter, and excepting her daughter it appears her family members are the ones she despises the most. She has no respect for her father or grandmother, nor for any other person who may be in a position to help her.  The only spiritual discipline I do see is that she prays, but it is more like shaking a magic 8 ball than coming before the throne of grace to find help when needed.
Overall, this book just made me sick. I can’t help but think of Jesus when He told the Laodiceans He wanted to spit them out of His mouth, they were neither hot nor cold. Also where He says, if you do not confess Me before men, I will not confess you before the Father…Where is our contemporary Christian culture going with this lukewarmness? Do they think it will attract unbelievers to the truth? This book would do nothing of the sort- in it we see a girl with lots of problems at the beginning, and at the end we see a girl go to Heaven, but in between there is zero explanation as to how this arrogant soul would have gotten there. Way more explanation is needed if we are going to bring others into the kingdom with us.
I have to stop here, though, and look at the three fingers pointing back at me. What have I done lately that unmistakably points others to Christ? It isn’t enough just to smile at the cashier and let someone use my grocery cart. Jesus isn’t just going to ‘rub’ off my friendly overtures onto another person. I have to make it happen.
So, in summary, yes, this was the worst book I have ever read and it scares me that this author had editors, publishers, family and friends who all supported and approved of this text going to print and wasting all that paper. But it is not my job to judge the work of others. It is my job to be ready at the judgment seat of Christ, with my silver and gold ready for the fire.

Spirituality And Productivity

I’m nearly done with quite possibly the worst book I have ever read. Even now I am drafting a letter to the author laying out my complete disappointment in this, her offering of an inspirational novel. Maybe I am wrong in assuming a book with that label on its binding makes it a level (or more) above the traditional romance novel. And I am not expecting over-religious text, either- just keep the characters and the plot realistic. That is all I ask. The ladies at church are reading this for Book Club this month. I accepted the book, then suggested a book, Evidence Not Seen, to our club facilitator. So now I feel like I have to finish this book as if to say, I read your book choice, now you read mine. We’ll see what other ladies think of this book at the meeting in November. I suppose a bigger thought is: will anybody think the same way I do about it? If not, why not?
Dinner is in the oven. I love the days when I don’t have to think about it much, if it is a roast in the oven or something in the crock pot. The grocery store in Bellville had pork shoulder for a decent price, so tonight we’ll have pulled pork. If it is done in time. I got so busy doing school stuff that I forgot to put the roast in until 10:00. Again, we see the law of Can’t Do Everything Well All Of The Time at work. 8 hours would seem like enough time. Let’s hope so. Last night I made the Black Bean Soup again. It wasn’t as good as I remembered- maybe because I was out of sour cream- but still a great soup to know how to make. My goal for this coming week is to do better at meal planning and prep. Lately the kids are plain hungry, all the time, and if I would simply plan for that, and prepare foods ahead of time when I have a spare minute, we’d be in good shape.
Tomorrow looks to be a shop till I drop day, as we need not only groceries, but clothing items for the kids with this chilly winter weather upon us. I am a little excited and hopeful at the prospect of finding some really good deals. I wondered aloud to Luke if it was a good idea to shop thrift stores first, as it takes me sooooo long to find anything good. He reminded me that time is money, and since we don’t have the money to snap up just any expensive item when we need it, we must spend the time looking for comparable items. He’s so smart. So, Goodwill will be the first stop on our little spree tomorrow.
Adon is here on the couch with me as I type this, asleep on my arm. I would like to get up and fix my tea, but I don’t think I can without disturbing him. He isn’t feeling well, has been fussy all day. We each have passed a cold around these past two weeks, and I expect that this is only the beginning as we move into the winter season. No time to sit worrying about that, however- we’re having Thanksgiving at our house this year and many other great events coming up over the holidays.
Adon is awake now, looking at the computer screen like he can actually read what I am typing. If so, Hello, my boy. I love you.