Friday, September 8, 2017

Working together - appreciating my spouse and all he does.

   Crouching down to fit under the porch, I awkwardly push a wagon filled with two cement pier pads in it for about 50 feet, crawling all the while before shouting out to Seth to see if I was close enough.  "No," he calls "they go over there, up in that corner."  He was pointing to a spot another thirty feet away, where the ceiling was hardly more than 24 inches off of the dirt.  I silently groaned as I bend over to pick up one of the piers and stumble my way forward. The sweat pours down my face, and my arms ache from carrying this heavy load, even just a few feet.  I push forward, struggling against the instinct the drop the pier pad right there in the dirt and rush forward as far as I can and using all my remaining energy, launch it as far as it will go...about three feet.  I then roll it snowball style up the dirt incline until I can push it no further and call it close enough. Breathing heavily I collapse in a heap, dirt covering my face and body.  Only nine more pier pads to go.  Ugh.  "How does he do this all the time?" I wonder.  I roll my head to the side, watching Seth laugh good naturedly at me as he continues to dig from the only place under the house deep enough to stand in.   He's been there all day, working tirelessly without complaint and I had showed up less than an hour ago.  This time we're working on what we hope will be our own home, but usually he's working on other's houses. He's a pretty incredible guy.  Sometimes I forget this.
     Sometimes I feel as though I am doing the majority of the work.  I wake up at all hours of the night to feed, change and soothe whoever might need it. After getting not near enough sleep most  days i wake up, get the kids dressed, fed, and off to school.  I then run errands with the remaining children (2-3 depending on the day), cook, clean, and do a whole lot of refereeing, soothing and diaper changing in between.  I keep things running, if not like a well oiled ship, at least like one that's still sailing and well loved.  Seth comes home from a long day of work, eats dinner and sits down.  I continue to put the kids to bed, wash dishes, sweep floors, pick up toys  and then when I  finally flop down next to him to watch some show I usually fold multiple loads of laundry, and then put them away without waking any children. All day, every day, with very few exceptions.
    At least that's how it feels.  In reality Seth wakes up before six and is out of the house before seven, sometimes earlier.  He heads off to a full day of physical labor, mental problem solving as well as battling the elements (picture siding houses in an Oregon winter or roofing in summer.) He makes his own breakfast and lunch and never once complaining.  He sacrifices for me so I can do what I've always dreamed of, stay home and take care of my babies.  While I "survive" my days by chatting with friends and having our eight children take over the house (though literally some days it does feel like we're barely going to make it through the day), picking berries, or sitting at the beach enjoying the weather while watching lots of children play. Meanwhile my husband just goes on working day in and day out, and deals with all the problems and stresses of the day.  When he comes home he may sit down and take a load off, but he is certainly not uninterrupted.  He happily plays with our kiddos, reads bedtime stories and builds cardboard airplanes. They ride bikes together and he changes his share of diapers.  He is a wonderful dad, just ask his kids.  If Sequoia needs someone to cuddle longer than 2 minutes you better believe it's going to be him, not me.  When we finally settle down, and I do indeed pick up the laundry he often works on paperwork as well.  If he doesn't, who can blame him.  The truth is we both work hard.  Really really hard.  So much so that it can be hard to see past all that's in front of us personally. We both make sacrifices and we both have moments where we feel we are doing way more than our share. Sometimes we are full of appreciation for one another and other times we lash out in frustration, feeling overwhelmed.  Our kids are needy and tiring and wonderful.
       Twice a year or so I get away for a well deserved weekend and come home to a husband who is ready for me to be home and to go back to work himself.  For a few days he's always extra helpful and  a little in awe of how I do it all (though my quality of work is sometimes less than he would love - that's the sacrifice I have to make to get it all done.) We both struggle to do the other's jobs, and we both need one another.  He is an amazing contractor and provider, and being a mom is what I was born to do.  Sometimes we need a reminder of how hard the other works.  I know I do.  Seth is an incredibly talented, hardworking, loving man that I'm honored to be married to.   I don't know if it's possible to have a healthy marriage if you only focus on all that you do and ignore the other half.  Comparing our work is like comparing a cotton picker (back when it was done by hand) with a rocket scientist.  They both work tirelessly and come home exhausted, but in two totally different incomparable ways.  You could never really say who works harder, because they both give it their all.  In the end it's not about who works hardest, but more about being able to appreciate one another and support one another - making sure we each get our needs met.
       Right now we are in a crunch spot, trying to fix the foundation of what we hope to be our house, soon enough to get a loan on it before it's too late.  This is a stressful, expensive process and Seth is giving up his big hunting trip for it.  Something he's looked forward to all year (two years really, since he didn't get to go last year either.)  This was to be his first year bow hunting and we're not sure if he'll  get to at all, though I hope he will get to go on his late hunt.  Hunting, being in the woods, long drives, this is how he gets recharged and he's trading it to do what he hates the most - work under a house digging out dirt and replacing beams all so we can get this amazing place to raise our family.
       I guess when all is said and done we make a great team, and I hope I never forget that.  Never forget I'm not alone, and that I'm not the only one fighting for this team.  Thanks my love.  I appreciate you.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Finding the beauty in not having it all together

       I often get asked the question "How are you doing?" or "How's life with four kids?"  When I'm completely honest I usually have no idea how to answer these questions.  Sometimes this makes people look concerned or uncomfortable.  When I blabber on trying to explain how complicated that answer is, it rarely helps.  The truth is that some days I am thriving, while others I am struggling to stay sane. Balancing children and errands, melt downs and to do lists until I feel like everything is going to go crashing down around me.  Indeed sometimes it feels as though it has crashed down, crashed in a pile of curdled milk, spilled paint and tears and I am left in the ruins trying to make sense of it all.    Other times I feel strong, confident and ready to face what ever the world throws at me.  Running errands all afternoon while multiple kids are melting down? I can handle it.  Sticky peanut butter on the carpet? No problem.  Going to the beach with a friend and a combined 8 kids?  Piece of cake.  Other days it's like, "Get into the car with all my children? I can't do it!!!"   Usually I am feeling a mix of these things, or even both separately, all in the same day.       The difference here often comes from other factors, for example,  have I received encouragement or a helping hand from someone, be it family, friend or stranger that day?  Am I feeling appreciated and loved? Have I had coffee? Is the sun out?  Am I feeling emotionally stable?  Did I get enough sleep last night? Do I have a spirit of gratitude?  Did I receive a quick text from my husband just to say he loves me?   Have I had quiet time lately?   All these things and so much more affect how I respond to everyday situations.
   This season is by far the most challenging time of life I have faced yet, no other has required so much from me 24/7 without any breaks.  Even when I get a break I am still thinking about my children.  When I think about all the repercussions,  both good and bad, that can come from these early years, and how my children will forever be effected by them as they shape their very lives, I feel overwhelmed with this great responsibility. At the same time however,  this also happens to be my favorite season of life so far. What an opportunity to pour into their lives!  This might go without saying, but before having children I  had never loved anyone like I love them.  I couldn't even fathom it.   Although I love my husband more than anyone else, the way I love my children is different.    It's like my very heart split into five pieces.  I could not love them any more if I tried, they are part of me.  Picturing life without them is dismal.  I rejoice with their triumphs, grieve with their sorrows and laugh at their quirks.  They have filled me with more of an understanding of our heavenly Father's love for us than I could have ever experienced without them.  Being a parent has caused me to live constantly at the edge of my comfort zone, being pushed further and further not by my own accord, but simply by the requirements of being a mother.  Every new stage is something I've never experienced before,  as with every new child each stage appears differently than it did with the last.  So just when I think I have it figured out, it all changes.  I love this. And I hate it. It keeps me on my toes.
   Everyday I have a thousand chances to show grace, mercy, patience, love, anger, frustration, resentment, kindness, jealousy,  compassion, forgiveness, and humility.  Everyday I choose a whole mixture of these.  I also watch my children do the same.  Everyday I have a thousand opportunities to model for my children the kind of people I hope they become, and sometimes I do well and sometimes I don't.  Thankfully how my children turn out isn't all on me.  There is an amazing amount of grace in our lives that washes over both my children, my husband and myself and covers a multitude of mistakes.  Part of me doesn't like to admit all this, because if you didn't already know I don't have it all together, you surely do now.  But here in lies the secret to my success.  If I had it all together I wouldn't need others to help me.  I wouldn't need grace and I wouldn't need encouragement and support. I wouldn't need Jesus to sacrifice himself on my behalf, but I do, and he did.  These very things that I need to stay sane are the very things that keep me connected to others.  They are the experiences that help  build my relationships and make me who I am.   My need for others reminds me of the need they have for me.  If I had it all together I'm sure I would not remember what an encouragement a simple note can be, or an offer to cut in line at the grocery store.  The struggles I go through make me stronger, and they help me to make others stronger as well.  My failures as well as my successes teach my children to never give up, always hope and to always persevere. When I fail they see me pick myself up, ask for forgiveness and move forward.  All of these things together, the days where I soar and nothing can knock me down as well as the days when I simply sit and lick my wounds work together to cause me to thrive.  James 1:2-4 says "Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish it's work so that you may become mature and complete, not lacking anything."  If life was easy and I never had struggles, I would miss out on so much blessing.  The ability to learn from my mistakes and be willing to try again, to be willing to love others even when they don't love me back are just a few of the invaluable skills I hope my children pick up from me.  Without these challenges I would not appreciate the good times so much and the things that now make my day would mean little. The simple messages of encouragement from long time friends who likewise are in the "trenches" of mothering littles, the ones that make me well up with tears of love and  gratefulness as they stand beside me and truly get what I'm going through, reminding me I'm not alone, would be non-existent.  We need one another, we are made to need one another, and by needing one another our lives are made so much the richer.  It's a beautiful thing to see Love shown this way and to show it in return. 
   There is something completely wonderful about not having it all together, it makes all of the small blessings so much bigger.  Little kindnesses are magnified and a normally insignificant act of compassion can make my day.  Sometimes even stepping outside myself enough to see others needs and meet them in one way or other, showing them just a little bit of the love of Jesus,  can end up making my day as well.  May I never stop looking for those needs to meet and loving those in my path.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

This morning

This morning I was going to wake up early.  This morning I was going to sit down in my favorite chair and have a cup of coffee and read my bible, write in my journal and soak in the quiet while enjoying the warmth of the pellet stove.  This morning did not go as planned.   While I did wake up earlier than normal, it was not early enough.  Sequoia beat me to my favorite chair and Mikaiah was close behind.  Not giving up yet I got them breakfast and poured my coffee.  Stirling woke up and I started over, dressing, feeding, cleaning up, etc.  I helped Mikaiah get ready for school, gave her a kiss and waved goodbye as she got in my friend's car for her ride to school.  I relented and handed Sequoia the ipad to watch a show and thought "Now I will have my quiet time, I will get it done!"  And then Stirling came.  He climbed on my lap, bouncing around and demanding my attention.  I diligently ignored him and read my devotional.  He grabbed my journal and pen and started writing in it and I almost scolded him, but did not .  He elbowed me and pulled the sunglasses off my head (they serve more as a headband than sunglasses on days like today.)  I felt frustrated and turned to put him down and then he looked at me with a huge smile on his face, silently begging me to let him stay.  And I did.  I put down my book and let my coffee grow cold.  I pushed out of my mind all the things I "should" be doing.  I took a selfie of us cuddling together and started to post it, and then put that down too.  I was present.  We giggled and laughed and I picked up a book to read to him.  Then I picked up another.  I didn't rush and I didn't look at the dishwasher, still waiting to be unloaded.  I ignored the shoe under the coffee table and the blankets waiting to be put away.  We enjoyed each other's company, and then, and only then, after a good twenty minutes or more Stirling climbed down and went to go play.  Then I picked up my journal and contemplated the morning, and this is what I wrote:
    Today this is what my quiet time looks like.  It looks like sacrificing my own agenda to love on my son.  It looks like scribbles and bent pages.  It looks like patience.  It looks like knees kicking me accidentally in the stomach and wet kisses on my cheek.  It smells like oatmeal and sour milk.  It sounds like happy chuckling and feels like memories being made.  It looks like love.  And today it's enough.  

This morning did not go how I planned, it went way better.  I didn't do what I thought I should do, but I did what I needed to do.  I didn't have quiet time, but I felt the Lord's presence more clearly than during most of my quiet times.  I was able to put myself and my own expectations out of the equation and the Lord met me there. My house is still not clean, and I don't care.  This morning was a good morning. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Choosing contentment inspite of our circumstances

     Another year has come and gone, and with it the familiar vents of "what a horrible year that was, hope this next one is better."  I don't believe the year ever really ends without this, for we have an uncanny ability to forget the good and to see only the bad always wishing things were better, but unable to see very well when they are.
      Every year is different and holds its own challenges;  personally, politically, and globally. Every year natural disasters happen, people die - some of them famous people, most of them not, but affecting us all the same.  Scandals abound and people in high up places make bad decisions.  Some of them effect us directly and some of them have the potential to, while others simply hang over us like a shadow.  People are elected and removed from election, laws are changed and bills are passed.  For better or worse, these things effect us.
        People are also born.  Kindnesses are shown.  Memories are made.  People show love and care even to those they don't know and lives are changed.  People meet.  People fall in love.  People marry and new families begin.  Babies are born  and change those families in amazing ways as they live, learn and grow.  Milestones are met, life changes are made.  Consequences abound, both from the decisions we make as well as the decisions made by others, resulting in circumstances both good and bad in our lives.
        This is the journey we are on.  It's called life.  Over the ages it never really changes much, though the circumstances of it do.  The reality  is that what this new year offers us is one part new situations, challenges and blessings and 3 parts how we respond to those situations.  The sum of these parts is eventually how we end up feeling about how the year has gone, and how we feel about our lives in general.
      Personally, the more I focus on the negative things that have happened, are happening or (worse yet) could happen the more negative my perspective becomes and the more gloomy my future looks.  However, I have an opportunity in these exact same situations to choose to listen to the holy spirit and ask for his guidance.  I can choose to love instead of hate.  I can choose to serve instead of asking to be served and I can choose to bless instead of curse. 
       Being justified in bitterness or resentment doesn't mean it's a good idea.  Though it may seem deserved those are not the things that bring restore life, they just draw in more bitterness and unforgiveness, slowly eating us from the inside out.   Instead, by choosing daily to forgive, to have hope, and find joy in our circumstances, we bring about contentment. Contentment changes our lives from the inside out as well, but instead of eating us up it brings forth a joy and love that mere circumstances can't take away.   The kind acts of strangers helping out at a grocery store, a lovely picture drawn for me by one of my daughters, a fun evening playing cards with friends, or an encouraging card in the mail just when you need it most. Choosing to look past our own circumstances and to reach out to others naturally puts us in a place where we are more able to receive and appreciate the blessings that already  abound in our lives.   Looking around to see what God is doing in my life and asking him how I can take part in it,  these are ways I find joy, contentment, and life in a changing world full of uncertainty and despair.
      I recognize, even as I write this, how blessed I am to live where I live, with the opportunities that I have and the family, friends and community I have.  We have a warm home, plenty to eat, a decent job, and lots of good friends and support.  We live in a country where we have a lot of freedoms that many do not. We are indeed blessed.  Maybe it seems easy for me to talk about being content when I have so much to be thankful for, but wherever you're at, in whatever circumstances, I still believe that how we approach the every day situations and the attitude we have towards them makes all the difference.  How can people who have almost nothing still smile and give generously of the little they have?  By choice.  No matter  who we are, where we live or what challenges we face, we will never fully understand those who are not in our own position, or what challenges they face and how they affect them.  Something that is difficult for me could be super easy for the person next door.  We are all different and affected differently even by the same situations.   All we can do is look at where we are at and ask ourselves what it means to choose to be content in our own circumstances and to fully appreciate what we do have instead of always longing for that which we don't. 
      So as we enter this new year my prayer for each of you, and for myself, is that we would truly be able to see all that is offered to us and to live lives full of gratitude, love and hope.  The God I serve is bigger than my circumstances and is worthy of my trust and my faith.  He will not let us go. Wishing you all a year full opportunities to love and by loved by others,  and hearts that are able to receive all that is so lavishly given to us.  May you be able to see beyond the circumstances of the moment and see all there is to be  grateful for.  Happy 2017!  Below are just a few of the everyday moments I'm grateful for from this past year.