Friday, June 24, 2011

Lessons of a Family

When you come from a large family there are alot of things you learn very quickly.  Like the fact that if  you don't go ahead and grab the last Popsicle someone will, you might as well enjoy it.  Or if you lock your brother out of his room, don't stand behind the door as if holding it shut, it is very likely his fist will soon breach said door and smack you in the head.  Also, when hiding make sure you have more than 1 escape plan, 1 leads to nothing more than heart ache.  You have to be careful not to let the cookies sit too long, or they won't be there (it's best to eat them before they are put into the oven).  And for goodness sake, if you are going to eat the cookie dough, make sure you have the time to swipe the spoon around a couple of mixes before Mom walks in.  Otherwise she will claim to have eyes in the back or her head or a bird on her shoulder (both of which are confusing at a small age and will leave you looking for said eyes and bird for years to come), when in reality she saw your fingerprints in the dough.

You also learn that in order to have a loving home the house doesn't always have to be clean, the dishes don't always need to be washed, and it's very likely the laundry will never really be done.  You should wipe your feet after playing in the mud, but when you forget, Mom will forgive.  It's ok to play outside in the rain, just remember to come in when the lightning starts.  The "Not Me Monster" takes alot of blame, and the younger the child the easier it is to blame things on them (best if they can't talk or defend themselves yet).  Just make sure, if you are going to claim they wrote in perfect English on the wall they are old enough to spell.

It doesn't take the genius in the family to figure out there is always a genius in the family, often more than 1.  There is always a clown.  Always a nurturer, a protector, and a complete misfit.  And while each child may play their rolls, they all often decide to trade around so there's no telling who you will be today.

I learned growing up in a family of 6 kids that no matter what the fight was about, no matter how mad Dad got or Mom yelled, no matter what was said or whose feelings got hurt; at the end of the day when all was said and done all was forgiven.  Once faces were washed, teeth cleaned, hair brushed, and prayers said there was a peace.

I often think about what it must have been like for my parents to walk past our rooms in our large quiet house late at night.  Looking in for 1 final time on each of their children.  I think the only time we were all truely peaceful and quiet was during those wee hours of the night.  Tucked so quietly in our beds.  It was probably during these times when my parents were able to really smile and contentment knowing that whatever tomorrow brought today had been a sucess.  When just for a moment the care and troubles of today and the the anticipation of tomorrow faded into the right now.  I'm sure in those few moments they forgot that we had tried to pummel each other with frying pans, voted each other out of the house because there were too many, we eaten all the cookie dough, muddied the floors, and even eaten the last popsicle.  In those few moments the world was at peace, there was no fighting, there was no yelling, and all was right with the world.

I look back on those times now and see what I truely learned in those moments.  That growing up in a large family you learn to forgive.  You learn that each person has their imperfections, that you will never get along with everyone all the time.  That there is always room for improvement.  But that at the end of the day, no matter what happened when you close your eyes your family will be there.  Maybe not all of them all the time, but someone.  You'll always have someone there.  And as each child settles into their life rolls, you realize you don't always need the clown in your life, but there is a time when you need to laugh.  The protector will always be there to stand up and show their support and battle of those that attack.  That the genius has not only the brains of the family, but the wisdom.  The nurturer will always be there to pick you up if you fall down.  And as each of us move on to our new lives, with out own families, we see these traits passed on to our children, and we hope that we are passing on the same life lessons our parents passed on to us.  That when the day is done, and the lights are out, and we are gone we will have nurtured a relationship between our children that they can depend on.  One that when the day ends they can all lay in the same bed and sleep in peace by each other, with no strife and no annomosity against each other.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Not a Creature was Stirring

Well, maybe a creature....

There is something overly heartwarming to me to be able to walk through my house in the dead of night.  To see my children sleeping in there beds, wrapped up under their blankets, surrounded by delicately placed stuffed animals and blankets.  To walk through my bedroom and watch my husband slumbering, preparing for the next day.  When he will go out and do his best to fulfill all his rolls as father, husband, employee and even student.

As I walk through the house I have to smile at the small village of intricately placed army men, trucks, police cars, trains, and airplanes.  All setting up for some great imaginary battle.  While most of the soldiers have been put to bed many hours ago, I have to laugh at the fact that even my 4 year old understands, not all the soldiers get to go to bed.  "They have to stand guard", he tells me.  Explaining the importance of having a well staffed and laid out army ready to defend against the enemy, even in the night.

It's during these times, late at night, when all is quiet I look around, take a deep breath, and realize no matter what happened today and no matter what is coming tomorrow, everything is ok and all is good and right.  God has blessed me beyond measure and for that I'm thankful.  I look around my house and see not every toy is picked up, not every piece of clothing is washed, and even though I washed the dishes, there are still dishes in the sink.  And I stop to realize that's ok.   Because in these quiet moments I realize my children are perfect.  They are little angels sent from heaven to remind me nothing more than that life is good.  My husband is a dream, God gave me to him to love and cherish.  My family is a blessing and there is no greater blessing one can receive.

It's during these times, late at night, when no one is around I find peace.  I can hear my children laughing in their dreams, and see my husband smiling.  My dog is curled up at my son's feet, and my daughter is covered in cats.  And tomorrow when they awake, they will return to their made up little world.  The soldiers will be underfoot all day, and the cars and trains will resume their travels.  The crayons and paper will be put to use, and the arguing and bickering will continue.  My husband will give me a peck on the cheek and run out the door.  But that's all ok, because at some point during the day I will take a moment and sit down with my ice tea in hand and remember the quiet of tonight.  And if that doesn't happen, there is always tomorrow night.

Yes, truely there is something magically about the late night, when not even a creature is stirring.....

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wandering in the Wilderness

People need direction.  I think it is innate in us to need to know where we are headed.  We need to know if we are to turn left or right on the next street, which fork in the road to follow, and where on earth our destination point is.  We become frustrated and aggravated when our path seems to lead us no where.  When we turn down the wrong road, or drive right on past our destination.  Even our kids seem to have some born in need to know what is going on and where they are going.  

Anyone with small children, that have ever ridden in a car knows this all to well.  It seems from the time our children can talk they are asking, "Are we there yet" and "Where are we going".  So much for a surprise, you can forget about that!  They want to know and they will continue to ask until a satisfactory answer is given, or you reach your point of interest.  Which ever comes first.  In fact, I have a child that is constantly correcting me on my driving and direction ability.  My 4 year old (yes you read that right), for at least the past year or more, let's me know when he feels I have turned left when I should have turned right, when I'm going the wrong way, or when Chick Fil A is the other direction.  Oddly, he's often right.  I'm not sure if it's some born in sense of direction or if he's just really lucky or if I just go to Chick Fil A WAY too often.  So there are no surprise trips anywhere, since he knows how to get everywhere and don't try telling him different, he already knows best.  

So what happens to us when we loose our sense of direction?  It seems are humans we become disoriented, which in turn leads to anxiety and fear.  So if we have such a natural and physical when we seriously can't find the street on a map, it stands to reason we will have a similar response when we can't find out way in life.  Right now we are in one of those places.  A chapter is coming to a close in our lives and a new one is set to begin, but where?  Where does the chapter begin and seriously I need to know how it will end.  Understand, I'm not a person that reads the entire book, I'd rather read the last chapter and be done.  

I can read the rest of it later to figure out what I missed if I have time, but right now I just want to know the ending.  That way I can determine if everyone ends up ok and if the hero triumphs over evil.  I wish I could read the end of my book and make sure it all ends up ok in the end.  That my children end up living for God, that my husband ends up happy and fulfilled at work,  and that as a family we are productive in the work God has laid out for us.  I don't need the details, they really aren't my thing.  I just need the ending.  I just need to know it will all be ok.  I don't need to sit and count up the number of valleys and mountain tops I will reach, the firey furnaces I will endure, or the trials that are set out for our family.  I just need to know that when it all is said and done we will be successful. 

Of course, I really would like to know what and where the next turn is.  What the end of the next chapter will be, where it's going to take us.  As Phil enters his last months of this degree, what will the next one be?  What is the time frame we are looking at?  And will this ever end?  I'm tired of hearing I can't, I have school work.  I'm tired of the long weekends without seeing my husband.  The long weeks where he don't come home until 9 or 10.  The day upon days he's gone.  The days when he's home, but not really, because he has homework.  I'm really just done, and in the end I'm not sure it's worth it.  I feel lost and run down.  

In these days when I feel like we've lost our way, when our path feels like it's going no where, and when I don't know what the next turn is, I am reminded of Joseph.  I'm sure he sat in prision not sure if it was all worth it.  Not knowing his next chapter.  And yet, God held him through.  We read the book of Joseph now, and it seems so happy and upbeat, like Joseph knew he'd be standing strong in the end.  That he'd be man #2 in charge, that he'd be made rich like a king.  But I think Joseph's story might be a little different.  I think maybe, because he was human he had times when he cried out to God and asked why.  When he asked to see where his road was going to lead, where he asked for some direction.  I'm sure he felt like is was wandering in a wilderness, unsure of where he was going or what was going to come next.  We don't read about this between the chapters life though.  No, actually when I read the story he seems like a bright kid, upbeat and excited to face his next trial.  I have to imagine that when God writes down our lives he does some editing for future generations.  That as long as we keep trying, as long as we get up, and as long as we keep our spirit right, He goes in edits out the long nights of crying out to Him, the doubt and fear we sometimes feel.  That when He edits our life story He makes sure to remove our blemishes and down falls, and leaves us looking confident and sure in front of our reading audience.  He leaves our story as one of hope and perseverance.  Yes, I believe God takes the spirit of the letter and not the letter of the letter.  I mean can I really believe that even if God himself in Jesus had doubts Joseph didn't?  The thought in and of itself is preposterous. 

So as I wonder through this wilderness, and as this chapter on my life closes, I will sit back and anxiously await to write the next one in my life, because in the end the hero always wins.  Besides I read the last chapter, and when the book is closed we have the victory.  So I guess I'll just sit back and see what details unfold.         

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pressing On

I got to thinking today, what do you do when you are loosing your mind, tired from lack of sleep, and have more to do that you can count on a millipedes legs?  Well, I guess you just press on.  Press on through the exhaustion, the laziness, and the to do list.  You press on through the tears, the laughs, and the screaming.

When your kids are screaming, your husband is begging for dinner, and the dog is barking, you just press on.  You press on when there is nothing else to be done.  When all hope seems lost and you just can't find your way?  You press on.

So that got me to thinking, what does it mean to press on?  Well, I guess it means I get myself up, feed the kids, drive to camp, drop off the ones that are leaving, pick up the ones that are coming, pull the coupons and go grocery shopping.  I guess at the end of the day it's not the to do list that really matters.  It really won't matter tomorrow if I finished everything or not.  God's not going to judge me on each check mark, in the end He's going to look and see if I kept going.  If the times I felt like falling down and giving up, if I got up and kept moving.  He's not going to care so much if I show up at the pearly gates with dirt on my face, covered in sweat, and exhausted to the point of falling down.  He's going to care that it mattered enough to me to keep pressing on.  That during those times when the furnace was turned up, the flames were dancing, and the lions were roaring that I held on for just one more day.

So I guess the important part of pressing on is not looking for what I will accomplish in a week, or a month, or even a year.  It is more about keeping going today.  About moving forward today.  It will be about the fact that when all hope seemed lost and I was in the valley, I looked to the mountain top and decided that even if I knew I was going to fall off, I was going to press towards the top.

So today if I do nothing else, I will be pressing on.  I will keep my head held high, and not let those around me see the struggle.  I will keep a smile on my face amist the to do list.  I will keep my attitude positive.  I will be nice to my children, my husband, and even the strangers that would pass me by.  Quietly I will go to God after the day has ended, the kids are to bed, and I've finished the day and let Him know if I accomplished nothing else today I pressed on.  That I did my best and I tried hard.  I may be dirty at the end of the day, but a good shower removes even the toughest dirt.  Although I think He already knows.

And tomorrow?  Well, tomorrow I will press on....

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It's a thankless job, but someone has to bare the children...

I'm not an expert, actually I'm the exact opposite of what you would call an expert.  I have no college training, no degrees printed on expensive velum paper, and no fancy letters behind my name.  I'm actually a fairly simple person.  I really don't have need for much, although without a full fabric stash I think I would be lost.  I never really coveted a high paying job or higher education, in fact I saw it as an utter waste of my time.  No, my life goals and dreams really were to do something very, very different from the every day and norm.  Really all I ever wanted out of life was to have a family.  

Of course with that family vision I always pictured a little town where the neighbors talked to each other (and you weren't worried they were serial killers or drug addicts); a quiet neighborhood where my kids would play outside with the other kids, while I sat on my porch with my friends and drank sweet tea while talking about the unimportant news of the day or how Johnny had just gotten his first tooth.  I pictured a white picket fence, with 2 medium sized dogs running around the yard, and 2 cats sitting proudly in the window.  I envisioned having 4 kids, 2 girls and 2 boys, in a pattern, 1 boy, 1 girl, 1 boy, 1 girl.  In my fantasy life I saw my husband driving up to our two story house, and pulling into the garage, rushing into the kitchen as I finished putting dinner on the table and calling the kids in to wash their hands.  Each night after dinner having the kids wash the dishes and put them away, bathing everyone and putting them to bed, all in time to spend some much needed time with my husband.  Ok so as a kid I watched WAYYYYY too much TV.  

So my life didn't exactly turn out as my fantasy played out.  Somehow I missed the part where the kids were up all night screaming, the preteen came home weepy, everyone was grumpy, and somehow I am the one up handling it all.  I'm pretty sure that wasn't in the pamphlet.  I don't remember there being fine print on my fantasy that called my attention to the endless days of running from 1 place to another, only to have to run back, the cleaning, dear LORD the cleaning.  The nights of vomiting children, sick husbands, and yes sick ME while still caring for everyone else.  No one mentioned the insomnia that would settle in due to the worry and praying over  my children.  I'm pretty sure I would have remembered someone mentioning the burnt dinners, the screaming and fighting and the bickering that would in sue if I had more than 1 child.  The children that will only sleep ON you, who cares if they are like 10 million degrees, I'm pretty sure they didn't ask if I was comfortable, and I'm fairly confident they don't really care.  

Somehow growing up in a large family, I think I knew all this, and repressed the memories, because somehow it ended up being my dream to have a family. 

Now I've read articles that talk about what a mother is worth and if you paid her for all her different hats and job titles she'd be a millionaire.  I've also read the articles about finding a job that you are truely happy in; one you would gladly do for free.  I'm pretty sure mother's cover this.  It's a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week, 365 days a year job and yes I have NOT had any PAID vacation this year, since my LAST vacation involved my TAKING the kids with ME while my HUSBAND stayed home, ALONE.  

So I'm trying to think here, but I'm pretty sure no one thanked me today for the millions of little things I did.  I'm actually positive in the hospital after spitting out my 6# and 7# babies, respectivly, that neither of them looked up and thanked me, and I can promise my husband didn't, for him it was a fairly traumatizing ordeal.  Last I checked I didn't get thanked for being the chauffeur, cook, teacher (yes we homeschool), business instructor, sandman, nurse, and all that other stuff I did and can't think of a job title for.  

So here we sit.  3:30 in the morning and I'm awake, while the rest of the house sleeps.  Why?  Well of course because I have a screaming child that needs me, so I will do everything in my power to be here when he wakes up screaming in the next 30 mins again and needs to be comforted.  But if I didn't do it who would?  Who would raise the next generation of doctors, lawyers, caregivers, mothers, fathers, preachers, missionaries?  If mothers weren't there to pray for scraped knees, and mend broken hearts, whose shoulders would that fall on?  If mothers weren't the ones shuttling the kids to riding lessons, birthday parties, events, gatherings, church and more, who would?  If it were not for mothers loving their children unconditionally in every action and every deed good or bad, who would?  Without mothers who would teach our children to care for the sick?  To help the poor, to lend a hand to the broken?  

And you know what, in all that, I wouldn't change a single day, not 1 hour, or even a minute.  I wouldn't have done anything different.  If you'd given me the disclaimers to start with, my dream would have been to have a family.  And I must say if we are going to keep score based on if we accomplished our dreams, I'm definately in the lead.  

It's a rather thankless job, no one will come patting you on the back for a job well done when you've been up all night, but really someone has to bare the children.