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Archive for the ‘work’ Category

So I swiped my sister’s journals while I was home this weekend. I was looking for her CDs (that girl had more music than anyone I know…) and while I was rifling through her stuff (I’m getting used to it now–I don’t feel so much like a scavenger or an intruder) I found the journals. She didn’t like writing very much, so there were only a few–and I felt like I was ready to read them.

Side note: I did contemplate the ethical dilemma of reading her private thoughts. I pictured my own piles of journals and wondered: how would I feel if I was gone and someone read them? Maybe I’m a freak of nature or something, but to me, I want the people who love me to read them. I want Sadie to know what it was like to be me, and that life has ugly stuff and pretty stuff, and that everything that happens to us or that we think about or that we do is a part of what makes us human–beautiful–made in the image of God, yet fallen. And my reason for wanting to read my sister’s journals was that I desired to understand more of her than what I knew on the surface.

As the big sister I had come to some conclusions about her life(style) and who she was over the past several years that were not positive. Her seemingly constant neediness wore me out, and I was exasperated with her continual string of bad decisions. I assumed (in that annoying holier-than-thou way that I can sometimes (!) have) that because of the way she lived and the choices she made that she must not have really cared about God or her faith.

I am humbled and ashamed.

Reading her journals this weekend not only gave me insight into who she really was, but also revealed parts of me that are darker than I have cared to admit. I like to think of myself as understanding and tolerant. I also think I may be delusional. Because what I read–my sister’s most intimate prayers to God–showed me what a real human being looks like. One who struggles and fails, but who wants to be right with God. She prayed for me all of the time–almost in every entry. Meanwhile I was passing fierce judgment: why couldn’t she just live right? Like I did?

I was confronted with Grace again–that horrible, amazing truth: there is NOTHING I can DO to make God love me more; there was NOTHING she could have done to make God love her less. Neither of us could earn His love or lose it–no matter what did we did right, or wrong. It so has to do with Him, not us. Keeping the rules isn’t going to save me any more than breaking the rules was going to keep salvation from her.

What really blows me away is that God is still fond of me despite my pettiness, my arrogance, and my pride.

Now THAT is good news.

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I spent Columbus Day making grape jam with my friend Sunshine. She had picked mountains of Concord grapes at a local vineyard, and since I had already been through the jam-making process once before with Industrious Betsy, I was up for another batch (actually 5 batches…). The kids had the day off of school, and Sadie is good friends with Sunshine’s little girl, so I packed up two kettles, picked up a borrowed food mill, grabbed some snacks for Sadie, and we were off.

My favorite kind of day is when I get to live life with people. Making jam by myself couldn’t be NEARLY as fun as working with a friend. We pulled the grapes off their stems, rinsed them, and put them in a big kettle to cook down and get mushy. Then we ladled the slurry into a food mill–the kind with a hand crank (I’m sure Caroline Ingalls used one just like this–it hooks right on to a kettle) and mashed all the juice from the seeds and skin. So in case you weren’t counting, the number of kettles used so far: 2. Then we measured 5 cups of juice into a THIRD kettle, mixed that with a box of Sure Gel, and waited for it to come to a full rolling boil. At that point, we added SEVEN cups of sugar all at once and STIRRED CONSTANTLY until it boiled again for EXACTLY one minute. After that it was a race against the clock: get the hot jam into the jars stat (a big funnel helps) and one pours while one screws the lids on, and it has to happen while it’s hot or the jars won’t seal. So in the middle of the crucial get-it-into-jars-time, of course, the kids need something immediately: we want to paint, we need a snack, can you get me down from here?, I have to go potty…

After we finished the 5th and final batch, Sunshine and I sat on the back porch and complained about all our aches and pains from working so hard all day. See, I always thought I would like to be Amish, but after ONE day of Amish-y work, I was SPENT. How do they do it? Churn the butter, milk the cows, make the quilts?? The one thing I know is that they understand the power of Community. And I think that’s what makes their lifestyle so attractive to me. (That and the bonnets…)

Since I quit my job and started my domestic career (ahem), I’ve felt very alone and lonely at times. Which is interesting, because I know so many people who stay at home for various reasons–and we’re all in the same boat, doing the same things at pretty much the same time. I think I could be a good candidate to live in a commune–then we all could all fold clothes and unload the dishwasher together.

All this to say that I’m experiencing Community here, and I feel like it’s Christmas morning. Life together is one huge present to me from God.

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There is not enough coffee in the world.

I’m going to go get some more. I heard they have Starbucks downstairs.

I’ll miss working at JBU.

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So Sadie was sick and out of school all of last week. I tried to go into work once (lugging a suitcase full of entertainment for Sades: dvd player, coloring books, stencils, glittery pens, granola bars, barbies…) and why did I think I could get any work done? Oh, wait. I had forgotten. I still live in Realityland. One hour (and half a typed quiz) later, we repacked the suitcase and lugged everything home.

By Friday, her fever was down, but I still kept her home. Oh how I anticipated the coming of Monday, with all things becoming normal again; my life and time becoming somewhat my own again.

What’s that? No school?? Martin Luther King, Jr. Day?! Crap. I had forgotten. Ok. I could do one more day.

THEN I heard rumors of ice and sleet and freezing rain. It’s probably nothing, I thought. So I jumped out of bed Tuesday morning thinking ‘Hooray! Hooray for work! Hooray for school!’ And as I was joyfully drinking my coffee and daydreaming about how I could spend some time with adults again, Dan came in with the news. SCHOOLS ARE CLOSED!? You have got to be kidding me. I ran out and actually touched the road in front of my house. “It’s not icy HERE,” I shouted. Desperately.

So here it was. DAY 7 (not including the weekend) of How-THE-FREAK-did-I-do-this-before-Kindergarten??  I was literally at the end of my stay-at-home strength. I got into the shower, and I bawled my eyes out. I’m talking sobs, people. Edge of the cliff. Breakdown imminent. I started praying, telling God that there was ABSOLUTELY no way He could expect me to do this AGAIN. I was all out of energy, I was so tired of being the entertainer, I was weak and darn it! I just didn’t want to.

Then I realized that God would not give me more than I could bear, and so I changed my prayers to asking for strength to face the day. And to help me accept whatever He needed me to learn though this difficulty. I know, some people have terrible diseases, and people are dying of starvation, and there is suffering everywhere, but my desperation was real to me. So I decided, still there in the shower, to thank God for all of the things I was grateful for: Sadie’s health, a warm house to live in, the gift of being a mom, an amazing and understanding husband…

And what do you know? As the hot water was running out, I really started to feel better. Like Aslan breathing on Lucy and saying “Now you are a lioness,” strength came back to me and knew I could do it. (All of my homeschool mom friends are like, rolling their eyes, and thinking what a wussy-pants!! We do this EVERYDAY, sister!) And oh how I admire and applaud your efforts.

But since God gives each of us DIFFERENT gifts…let me just say THIS Wussy-pants is jumping for joy that my baby is at school, and I got to go to work today. I love normal! 

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I just have to say, going to work is the highlight of my 8 to 3 day. I love the people I work with, and feel so a part of the team. Maybe I’d complain more if I had to work more than 10 hours a week, but I don’t know. I’m still having trouble disciplining the rest of my time. Sometimes I want more hours at work just because I don’t know what to do with myself the rest of the day until I pick up Sadie. Wait, let me rephrase that. I know what needs to be done–and what I SHOULD be doing (housework, etc.) But I don’t know how to manage the time enough so that I can get what I have to get done, then go on to other, more interesting things. So instead of digging in and doing the yucky stuff first, I drag around the burden of it all day and enjoy nothing.  How pathetic is that?

Like right now, I’m not at home. I left work, and came over to the university library because I don’t want to go home. I’ve got to stop running away from unpleasantness. It’s not like I’m really free of it just because I’m not there. Why don’t I just put a cement block in my purse. That would be easier to carry. For some reason, talking about the issue over and over and over and over seems to be easier than just doing something about my poor time management. It is totally annoying. I am sick of the words right now, in fact. So for everyone’s sake, I’ll stop.

In other news,  Sadie’s favorite answer to any question we ask her is “Blee, Blah.” Or sometimes there is a variation: “Blee, Blee, Blah, Blah, Blah.” Secret code for I’m stubborn as a mule and I don’t feel like answering that question.

I’ve actually found this technique quite useful myself. For example when Dan asked me what I did with the chicken grease that had partially congealed in the bottom of the crock pot, instead of saying “I dumped it down the drain,” I said “Blee, Blah.”

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Well, I finally came to the end the other night. I’ve been there before, and I don’t know why it always takes so long for me to get there.

I’ve been inside my head for a few weeks, hearing the lying, evil thoughts that say I’m hopeless, that I will never change, that I’ll never be organized, that my relationship with God will always be lacking, that I’m not a loving person, that I whore out my mental energy to everyone else but my family, that I have the flabbiest body ever–and on and on about what I’m not doing right, and how I’ll never get it right. I’ve tried to rectify these things by working on a plan to get organized, buying a planner, going to the gym, trying to stay home more and keep up with the laundry, but I was still feeling like I was treading water; running uphill with rocks tied to my feet; sinking slowly down into the Swamp of Self-Loathing. I was working so hard to get it together–and coming up short every time. It was just so loud in my head.

I went Sunday night to a ‘Reformation Sunday’ service at First Presbyterian here in town. It was the EXACT thing I needed. It pulled me up and out of my head, and reminded me of the absolute soverignty of God. It was like I was coming up from underwater, and I was looking around, and focusing for the first time in a long time.

OF COURSE I can’t do this life thing without help. I’ve been working and working and trying to get myself together, but I forgot about just ‘being.’ And resting. After the service, I found a place at a small park nearby where I sat at a picnic table and wept and wept. I whispered this verse over and over again:

“Come to me all of you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart. And you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

And it was there at the end of myself that I felt like I could begin again. I found peace by letting go–giving up–finally. It was so good to realize that I am not perfect, nor do I have to be. That I am loved ‘as is’, and anything good I can do will be coming from God anyway. I found this quote from a study I did last year by Andrew Murray:

“…entire surrender to Jesus is the secret to perfect rest. Giving up one’s whole life to Him, for Him alone to rule and order it, taking up His yoke and submitting to be led and taught, to learn of Him, abiding in Him, and to be and to do only what He wills–these are the conditions of discipleship without which there can be no thought of maintaining the rest…”

This is where I want to be in my life with God’s help.

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I’m working part time. I LOVE it. After 4 loooooong years of stay-at-home-dom, I’m out in the productive world again. Yes, yes, I know that being home with your child is productive (and oftentimes grueling) work, but I must say that it is nice to be doing something un-momly. Granted, I’m just clocking 10 hours a week at the local university doing administrative assistant kind of work for a professor, but WOW. I feel alive again. It’s so funny, when I was working before Sadie was born, (10 years, full time) I couldn’t wait to stay at home. What a life, I thought. Like being on summer vacation all the time. So much time! And how I would float through my clean, organized house and bounce my little one up and down with a satisfied smile on my face everyday. Maybe being a stay-at-home-mom feels like that to some people, but my experience was just about, um, the OPPOSITE. I’m glad I did it. I know it was the best thing for our little family. But that doesn’t mean I liked it.

And I’m finally giving myself the permission to say IT’s OK that I didn’t like it. That it WASN’T the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done in my life. That I may be a mom AND something else. I’ve been beating myself up for years because I couldn’t seem to fit into a certain kind of mom mold that I saw around me. What was wrong with me that I only wanted ONE child or that I didn’t want to homeschool? It is so hard to find yourself in a place where it seems you don’t think exactly the same way as the majority around you. I know I have friends who understand where I’m coming from–and ones who choose a different way and don’t judge me, but living in the Bible Belt is just so frickin’ hard sometimes. I love Jesus and I love being Sadie’s mom, but motherhood will no longer define what kind of a Christian I think I am.

All I know is I’m alive when I’m at work. And I wonder what God is going to do with me from here.

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