Monday, January 30, 2017

The Empty Place

It's 8:00 pm and somebody just asked me if I had any hobbies.  

I stared off into space, wondering if I did.  

I mean, I know what I like to do when I have time, but when do I have time?  
I figure having hobbies implies that you actually do them, not just want to do them.  

Currently, I relate with the popular Pinterest meme that iterates a mom's hobbies as 
"going to the bathroom alone and enjoying silence."

When asked about my hobbies, the Rugged Mountain Man looked at me, 
chuckled and listed off six of my hobbies, rapid fire.  

(Thank God for that man.)

It's eye-opening that a mom can feel so depleted 
that she may not even remember exactly "who she is."  

Motherhood must be a pretty tiring job, eh?

This must be what it feels like to be a vessel.  



Poured out.


Please don't shudder.

After reading that, many would prescribe more self-care and more Mom's nights out.  

I'm not against them., please understand.

I'm just looking at this place of being totally empty and thinking of what a truly good place it is. 

I'm finding the blessing in the empty place.

This is when God can use me most, right?  

When there's the least amount of me possible.  

I've gotta get less and less in this whole equation, so He can be more and more.  

And if that means I forget that I like to scrapbook, then so be it.  

If I must pour out myself utterly and completely to help my husband, 
to serve my family and to raise these Blossoms into Roses, then so be it.  

Let me be empty.  Let me be nothing.  Let me be used up.  Let me be depleted.  

So, He can be Everything.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Five Thrifty Ways to Invest in Your Marriage

There's such Pinterest-type pressure that the only investment you can make in your marriage costs money, a whole lot of money.  

Buy a new set of books on marriage.  
Take a weekend getaway.  (Cha-ching!)
Buy him that super special once in a lifetime gift.  (Cha-ching, cha-ching!)

While I do believe that financial investments in your marriage are worthwhile, the real daily grind of serving each other is truly a daily exercise that is free.  Well, mostly free.  It will cost you, but not cash.  It will be a sacrifice of self.  A sacrifice of what YOU feel like doing.  

If we turn our attention more toward the daily sacrifice, 
we will see greater long-term investments in marriage.  

It's been a while, but here's five more thrifty things you can do to bless your husband.

#1 - Help him brain dump.
The Rugged Mountain Man is not naturally a list maker.  Rather, he has an incredible analytical memory.  Occasionally, he'll verbalize that he's overwhelmed.  One simple way I've found to serve him is to grab a sheet of paper and help him brain dump.  "Just tell me what needs to be done." Brain dumping frees up brain space for finding solutions.  Inevitably, we also find ways that I can help him and things we can delegate to the Blossoms.  Helping him brain dump turned out to be such a truly practical way to bear his burdens.

#2 - Make a date of the Yucky.
They say that misery loves company but I've found that the grubbiest, grossest, hardest jobs just don't seem as bad when you're working with good company.  I discovered I can bless my husband when I help him with those things.  Chicken butchering.  Sausage making.  Hole digging.  Wood gathering.  Nothing fun... But we did it together.  There's some great side effects when you work with your husband doing something you don't like or enjoy.  We learn about each other's character.  We get grittier together.  We joke through mistakes.  We share ideas. We grow!  We come into unity.  Because we decide to do the dirty work of life together.  I've also noticed it cuts back on the nagging.  I'm way less apt to be all, "You need to get this done or you should do this," when I know what kind of sweat it entails.  When I'm invested in the home chores, we're in it together.  It isn't man vs. woman.  This was very clear to me last September.  In preparation for putting the roof over the back deck, we rented a two-man post hole digger.  We ran it together.  It was brutal.  Then, we hit rock.  We dug that and lots of other rocks out.  Together.  By hand.  Now you know why I think he's a Rugged Mountain Man.  #giterdun

#3 - Get him a drink.
Water's free, yo!  He's working and I'm working, but he's in and out of my thoughts.  For as long as we've been married, I've flagged him down with a glass of ice water.  It ain't fancy but he knows I'm thinking of him and he appreciates the gesture.  Sometimes I fancy it up with a sprig of mint.  Sometimes I'm super busy, but I round up a Blossom and send them out with one.  Or, I might notice he's super tired at the end of the night and make him a hot cup of tea.  A drink is a really easy way to bless him.

#4 - Say no when he wants you to say no.
Ugh, boy have I learned this the hard way.  I love to help and give and volunteer and share and do, but he helps me keep my vision on our family's needs first.  I only have so many hours in the day to do what God wants me to do.  The Rugged Mountain Man helps me keep that in perspective. There are lots of great-but-not-God opportunities out there and I'm way too prone to jump in with both feet.   Sometimes I know he wants me to say no and yet I don't.  The surest way to bless him and ultimately help our family, is for me to say no.  It usually saves so much stress and headache.  He was right... So when that's what he'd want me to say, I bless him by saying no to others and taking care of our family first.

#4 - Use technology to bless him.
I love to shoot my husband short emails.  Sometimes I send a pic of something cute going on here at home.  Sometimes I send him a silly thing the girls have said.  Sometimes I tag affectionate words on the end of "household business" or reminders.  I was super late to the texting game, but now I'm experimenting with blessing my husband that way.  Rather than nagging, I bless him by helping him stay on top of things we need to remember this week, or something I need to ask him about.  I am literally his helpmate, walking this out by making graceful logistics and gentle organization my specialty, so he can focus on more important things, like making money to keep us fed and under a dry roof.  

#5 - Write him a thank you card.

On the flip side of using technology to bless your husband is to do something old-fashioned.  A thank you card is a lost art, my friends.  Writing a thank you card for one thing or a plethora of things he has done just shows that you sat down and thought through what you're grateful for.  You can hide it some place he's sure to notice it or just hand it to him with a hug.  He might not save it and he may only read it once, but now he knows.  You appreciate him.  As a bonus, you'll find yourself dwelling more on what you're thankful for and less on where he falls short.  Somehow blessing others always comes right back around and blesses you.  

I've been challenged to daily make small investments of servant-hood.  
In the end they pay the largest dividends.

For more thrifty ways to bless your husband, try these posts:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Not a Day Without Some Gratitude

"Thankful people are happy people."  

It wasn't that I was unhappy, it was that when I was unhappy, it just multiplied.  I couldn't see the trees for all of the forest.  I'd get exhausted or overwhelmed and it would just snowball.  The big, big, serious hard parts of wife-motherhood would weigh me down and I couldn't see the good little individual things that were happening.  

Even when a little girlie would say something nice to me.  

Even when my husband would rub my shoulder as he walked by.

Even when there was good all around me, I'd stay right there in the unhappy overhwelm.   

When I saw "Thankful people are happy people," I realized where something needed to change.  I thought, "Every day I'll write down something I'm thankful for."  You already know how often I count my blessings.  I already know it's a good exercise.  But, I needed to up my gratitude game.  I wanted to write one thing I was thankful for every day in my journal.  I didn't want another thing to fail at, because sometimes that's what it feels like.  (Eat better, exercise more, read more, floss, etc.)  This list is long and there's only 24 hours in each day.

It started like this, "Today I am thankful for..."

And the next day, when I opened my journal, I noticed the word thankful and again jotted down, "Today I am thankful for..."

It was anything from gratitude for the Rugged Mountain Man or our Blossoms or just having clean and convenient running water.  Whatever came to mind, that's what I wrote.  It was a simple, non-condemning exercise.  

WOW, does gratitude ever blossom!  It grows.  It multiplies.  The more I thought about what I was thankful for, the more I dwelt on those things.  I felt my perspective shift.  Instead of focusing on every shortcoming, every failure, every disappointment, every lack, 
my focus is now in the right place.  

And lest you think I'm some Pollyanna perfect optimist, I'm writing this blog post while my little Blossom4 has a stomach bug.  And yet, I've found things to be thankful for today.  

The snuggles, 
getting to rock her to sleep, 
having an excuse to just sit with her, 
gratitude for her personality that is patient when sick, 
gratitude for the other girlies being quiet while I get a power nap... 

shifting from focusing on the puking, to focusing on what is good.  That's actually what Pollyanna is about.  If you haven't read the classic in its unabridged form, I highly recommend it.  Pollyanna is a little girl going through hard knocks, walking out the life lesson her father, a pastor, taught her, to always, always, always find something to be thankful for in every situation. 

Evidently I'm not the only one thinking about gratitude these days.  A friend of mine posted a reminder on habitual gratitude, prompting me to actually take the time to write this post that I've been composing in my head for weeks.

I've noticed parallels in my children's lives too.  Teaching Blossom4 to pray has been an interesting journey.  She held on the longest to repeating after Mommy to pray.  

I kept encouraging her to talk to our Father God and tell Him what she was thankful for or something she wanted to pray about.  In a frustrated voice, she'd say, "Ummmmmmmmm, I don't know what to say."  

Knowing her personality and how she's rarely truly at a loss for words, I started waiting longer before I jumped in to help her pray, encouraging her to be thankful.  To think.  To pray from her heart.  After many of these little sessions, she now thoughtfully and purposefully searches for the words to say. 

"Tank You dat Mama got 'trawberries at Wawmart."

"Tank You dat Daddy did not slip down da driveway on da way to wuhk."

"Tank You dat my cousin came over today."

Her gratitude is such an example to me for every little thing that God does for me.  

For every way His hand is upon the day He's given me.  

She actually takes the time to think through the day  

and thank God for something important to her. 

Truly a little child shall lead us.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Savoring January

Unlike most people, I like January and February.  (gasp!)

When there's winter weather, we do enjoy winter fun.  When there's not, we try to make the best of it.  I'm always inventing more excuses for us to get outside.  

"Here, go burn these boxes for me."  

"Go pick up all the peanut butter jars in the yard."  

"Go let the ducks in the garden."  

"Let's take a gander down by the stream."  

Usually once they're outside, they don't want to just rush back in.  

Our pace of life also slows down in the winter, so our evenings are cozier with more reading and family time.  It's a time of year the Rugged Mountain Man and I have actually come to anticipate.

I like January and February too, for the effect it has on our schedule.  We have more days with nothing planned.  They are the "hunker down and get to it" kind of days.  After the holiday hustle, I think we accomplish a lot in these quiet home days.  When we combine it with getting outside, it's a happy, healthy combination.  

This week has been busy.  My sister had her baby and my nephew was here visiting us for a little while.  Of course, the Blossoms were thrilled.  He did super well, which means, there were no tears.  That makes this auntie very happy.  

It's now been about 72 hours and Blossom4 hasn't smoked us out of the kitchen, jumped off anything or locked anything.  We're calling that progress.  Big time progress.  And I'm breathing a sigh of relief, because that was quite a streak she had going there.  

On Friday, in the middle of schoolwork, we took a break to watch the inauguration.  Then, another homeschooling family came over for lunch and an afternoon of co-op work.  It was pleasant to top-notch fellowship while we work.  The day was also super nostalgic for me, as it so reminded me of schooldays in my childhood.  Mom always made sure we watched events like inaugurations and such for "Current Events."  We frequently spent time with other homeschooling families.  What a rich life this is!

Today, the Rugged Mountain Man was the family representative at a pig butchering.  My dad and brother were out of town, so the Rugged Mountain Man showed up with Blossom1 and Blossom2 in tow.  The people raising the pigs are longtime family friends - folks who showed us hospitality the first night we arrived from our long trek from the Deep South to Northeastern territory twenty-eight years ago.  We've been friends ever since.  

I figured the butchering would be right up the girls' alley.  It always good to know how to butcher something, right?  While cutting meat off the bone, our friends regaled the girlies on stories of me and my childhood.  "Your mama used to..."  and, "Did you know your mama did..."  

After several hours, the girls were finally declared off-duty and sent to play with our friends' children.  For being so unsocialized, they survived just fine with a rousing game of kickball and a girls against boys pillow fight.  When asked how the pig butchering was, they replied with, "We had a great time; we didn't want to come home!"  

I smiled, thinking of them playing with the children of those I played with as a child.  More nostalgia, telling the girls of our antics on our friends' farm.  These are things I savor.  

Happy memories.  Hearty childhoods.  Homey evenings.