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I thought I would repost this, from an old post Denise made (here):

If I live in a house of spotless beauty with everything in its place,
but have not love,
I am a housekeeper, not a homemaker.

If I have time for waxing, polishing, and decorative achievements,
but have not love,
my children learn cleanliness, ­not godliness.

If I scream at my children for every infraction,
and fault them for every mess they make,
but have not love,
my children become people-pleasers, not obedient children.

Love leaves the dust in search of a child’s laugh.
Love smiles at the tiny fingerprints on a newly cleaned window.
Love wipes away the tears before it wipes up the spilled milk.
Love picks up the child before it picks up the toys.

Love accepts the fact that I am the ever-present “mommy,”
the taxi-driver to every childhood event,
the counselor when my children fail or are hurt.

Love crawls with the baby, walks with the toddler, and runs with the child,
then stands aside to let the youth walk into adulthood.

Before I became a mother I took glory in my house of perfection.
Now I glory in God’s perfection of my child.

All the projections I had for my house and my children
have faded away into insignificance,
And what remain are the memories of my kids.

Now there abides in my home scratches on most of the furniture,
dishes with missing place settings,
and bedroom walls full of stickers, posters and markings,
But the greatest of all is the Love
that permeates my relationships with my children.

-Adapted by Jim Fowler

Happy Mother’s Day! May you know the Lord’s sustaining grace, and His own tender love as you try to show His unfailing charity to your kids through a lifetime.


I found this article by a friend on a remote and challenging mission field (to an unreached tribe) very worthwhile reading, and thought it might be an encouragement to some others here:

Motherhood is Ministry

We are to confess our faults to one another and to pray for one another. So I think I ought to confess that for several years now my home filing system has been composed of an inappropriately sized moving box, a few manila envelopes leftover from things that had been mailed to me, white envelopes of the same basic size from different mailings, dilapidated and unlabeled folders which have somehow fallen into my hands, small envelopes which seemed like the perfect place to tuck spare things in, a few plastic file carriers of different colors which seem too pretty to use, a 31 day organiser the pockets of which contain all sorts of interesting papers, an useful clear plastic folder from the Red Cross and so on.

The result is that most of the papers which ought to be neatly and regularly filed wind up strewn about me on the floor every couple months while I try to figure out what belongs where and how to group it all accordingly, under the great mental and emotional strain that it necessarily involves for certain personality types to sit on a floor surrounded by papers.

And so I am a very bad secretary; useless in a secretarial crisis. The vital receipts are likely to be found, or simply lost, anywhere.  I practice Avoidance when it comes to needing to look for them.  And this is very, very bad.

I feel that if I only had file folders and labels and markers and a magic box I could unleash the awesome and mighty filing force within. Terrible and unconstrainable would be my filing deeds. But then I pause to remember that once before at a temp job, having unfettered access to these powerful implements and a whole wall of business files, I found my inner filing freak; and it was shortly thereafter that things began to go badly betwixt myself and the office admin . . .

I truly do feel a bit despairing about this aspect of my nature, among those other aspects which do not recognise the knife sharpener on a knife block, make rice automatically when daydreaming about something else in the kitchen, and so on. I must find a way to be more practical. I must.

I Resolve to Be A Better Practical Person, At Once. And I am willing to smite the back of my own hand with the clam prodder (ie, knife sharpener) if I do not shape up immediately.

Our own dear Lauren’s book, Good Housekeeping for the Chronically Fagged, has appeared in kindle edition! Lauren has a number of painful, often prostrating, very demanding, illnesses and is both an excellent housekeeper and writer, so she is well qualified to take on such a book: this expert guide is well worth the token amount she is charging for it! I am quite excited about delving into the first chapter: ‘a house is not a home without a routine’ (something I have long thought to be true, but Lauren often puts things into words for me), which starts off with an acknowledgement of that first insurmountable thing one comes up against in chronic illness: that our strength is so erratic we simply cannot keep to a steady pace.

Yours truly has contributed a smallish essay to this book. What could I possibly contribute to a book on housekeeping you might wonder, especially one already authored by Lauren? I wondered the same and said as much :-). What more I said is protected by copyright! I cannot reveal it to you here! You must buy the book!

Congratulations, L!  You will notice, by the way, if you visit Lauren’s ‘author‘ page on Amazon that she has also burst upon the astonished sight of the world a most fanciful book of poetry about cats (also very enjoyably priced), which is just the sort of thing Lauren would do, just when the world was least expecting it.

There was a man standing on the corner of the street last week with a sign that said, ‘God loves you.’ — I am sure it is theologically incorrect in some way, but I was so glad for the reminder. Afterward, I sat in the Kroger parking lot listening to Kathleen Battle sing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ on my cellphone, while the sky turned every imaginable shade of sunset color. Ruben drove me around in the car for a long time that evening, chasing the dying light.

The next day, I wrote a dear friend about how someday those rainbow colors would never die: I would see them forever in the heaven of seeing my Saviour. She wrote me back about how her children had saved all their money to give their pastor a special present, and how the joy on his face was one of those small things that make it worthwhile to be here, while we are.

I found out that another dear friend passed away this week. I have not known many losses in my life; and this one has been particularly painful. For I keep thinking of how many opportunities I lost to make those small gestures of love which are like a sign that says ‘God loves you’. This friend was especially thoughtful about those gestures. He doesn’t need such a sign now; but it would have been a comfort to me to have stood on one of the corners of his life, holding it more often. For that is one of the comforts we have while we are here.

In the face of death we know more than at other times how harsh life can be. My friend of the special pastoral present says that we wrap ourselves up in love, like a blanket. Some days our calling seems very inconsequential. Our calling is only washing dishes, dusting, clearing clutter, making beds – dealing with sick children, running load after load of laundry, making 99 trips to the grocery store. But we are weaving a blanket with all these things to wrap around our loved ones: a blanket they will always be able to hug tighter around themselves the colder it grows. We are standing on a corner of their life they will always remember, holding a sign that says ‘God loves you’. We are making a rainbow for them out of the light of an earthly hour, so that even though this is only Kansas, they will know a little bit of what it is like to go home.

One thing have I desired, my God, of Thee:
That will I seek: Thine house be home to me.

(Amy Carmichael)

This is not really a post for playing ‘catch up’, and I’ve stayed in touch with most of you anyway. Susan and I still send each other quotes about our eternal home: I sent her the above recently. I expected that I would find ‘home’ again — that glimmering reflection of it, like light from a candle house cast up on the walls — waiting for me quite naturally here in this lovely home in Indiana: for the house simply stood here and was a real home the first time I walked in. But since moving in there has been one thing after another — one of those things being my approach to homemaking itself — preventing any sort of settledness; and as usual, I’ve not been very well; and somehow like Gollum’s ‘precious’, my idea of ‘home’ is always slipping through my fingers. I was able to do some things like laundry and dishes on our anniversary that I hadn’t done in quite some time; and Ruben told me what a comfort it was to him have me standing at the stove cooking his dinner, with laundry running in another room, again. I remember that sort of comfort — coming into the house and hearing my mom up in the kitchen when I was little, after she had been sick for a few months; and it was odd to realise that anyone finds that adjustment of the world into its rightful place in my movements.

Recently, watching the light cast the few remaining shadow leaves over patches of color and texture around this kitchen, I remembered that comfort of my childhood in my mother’s routines again. And I realised, returning back over my memories of a number of places, that a place feels like home to me not because the walls themselves become so familiar, or because I have hung up familiar things on them; but because of the familiar movements of light I have often traced on the walls. I can try to create ‘home’ out of my own raw materials — things I have managed to hang onto from previous places, a certain regularity of motion, the ephemeral scents or sounds of cooking or running laundry — but ‘home’ is the little, hourly ‘place of our own’ in the abiding love of another. And it is the Lord’s movements in my kitchen, the faithfulness of His daily routines, that gives me that comfort now.

It was poignant and precious to realise that though I may never leave behind anything substantial to mark my pilgrimage on the earth, while I am here, my own routines are in a small way that sort of ‘home’ for someone I love. That seems — in a world torn by wars and rumors of wars, and earthquakes, and diseases, and divorces, and upheavals and distresses and uncertainties of all sorts — worth being.

Last Saturday, I attempted to take a picture of an illustration of Alfred J. Crocodile — a most distinguished crocodile in the annals of literature; but looking most unfortunately, in a floral blue print, more like alien ectoplasm than anything else on earth — and today, when I tried to turn my camera on, it had gone completely berserk: so Lauren will have to take it on trust that the snow leopard is wearing his best cravat, and sipping most politely at a cup of her birthday tea, entertaining the rest of us (the baby lion is also present) with anecdotes about the curious habits of Northern Animals.  We are having a beautiful Red Rooibos tea (the baby lion can’t have anything else) and little salted almonds.  I have told R. Aloysius and Baby L that the salted almonds are dried wildebeest spleens, because you know they are carnivores.

Dear Lauren, you are much loved, and so celebrated today, as a very special effect of God’s goodness.  May our God bless you this year.

Sorry to interject on a more personal note, but I was given a strange and very mixed gift yesterday: my old journals and other old writing projects.  It was one of those irreplaceable and priceless objects only a husband can give you — apparently Ruben had saved and kept many things I ruthlessly sought out and destroyed; and besides the gratitude accruing to an unexpected return of one’s past, I am very grateful that the present is always the perfect place of repentance.

However I came across this which seemed not wholly inappropriate to some of the discussions we’ve had about ‘home’ and which I confess made me cry — reminding me of something I have been learning lately in other ways: that joy here is not so much an effect of having everything as we would wish, as an effect of the light on a unique pattern of faultlines in the broken things we love.  I have been thinking lately of the expression, ‘when life hands you lemons . . . ‘ — but I think that falls short.  Life doesn’t hand you lemons really: we carry our own lemons around with us — ingratitude, bitterness, covetousness, self-pity, etc: life is always sitting there by the side of the road on a hot day, like Wisdom, calling: selling at an incredible discount the most costly and refreshing lemonade.

“Where do you go when you can’t go home?”

Such was the song that was belted in darkness while I waited for Ruben to get his favorite potato chips in Kroger and listened to A Prairie Home Companion.

It doesn’t much matter where you go, I think. Anywhere alike you dream about home, making it up in detail; you play with the details and variate them and pick your own favorite variation and play with the details some more. You imagine home like a starving person imagines an ideal meal. Here we have no continuing city; here we have sometimes, no city at all. Meanwhile no matter how many homes with all their windows lit and the light beating like wings in the darkness, by sea or mountain, tucked into the woods with tall windows that the damp leaves cling to as they travel down you imagine — ‘home’ is something solid. It sweeps suddenly in and out with the memory of the headlights of a pesero climbing shakily through the rainy darkness: you shiver by the side of the road with fifteen other people all waiting to crowd into that warm human mass of shoes and faces and coats and backpacks that is already spilling out the doors of the bus. It is the almost solid fall of light in the morning sublimating the blue lichenous couches and walls of wood, your feet freezing on the unheated board floor of the cabin as you stand unseeing, arms wrapped around you, only the dust dancing with you in a space of light. It is the pale pink light in the evening, delicate and papery, illuminating the little trees and houses it has picked out in gold while a smoke blue mantle throws itself over the mountains. It is the lights in the valley like stars on the sea floor, broken by the silhouette of the corn stalks. It is the gas stove in the little kitchen, your pow-pow that never works, pumping water while your nose and fingers turn to ice, the bath which you have to get out of in order to change the water temperature while steam escapes through the holes in floor where the pipes come through. It is the beautiful copper tubing of the pipes that bring in your bathwater which Nico cut, molded, and installed himself while you were sick. It is Reme smiling on your front step; the people who bring the water smiling on your front step; Liliana or Adriana smiling on your front step, Miguel frowning on your front step. It is the dust that rises in clouds when you sweep the floor, no matter how often you sweep. It is walking twenty minutes down the mountain for aspirin; never being able to go anywhere after six or seven for fear you won’t get a bus back up the mountain. It is the three hour trip to the grocery store, your legs and your back aching with the weight of the groceries and the hundred steps up and over the Carretera, coming back to a frozen house on a frozen mountain and turning on all the space heaters. It is the place to which you will never return. You know it too well to variate its details; you know its every inconvenience. It is the place closest to heaven on earth, the place where you watched the shadows and the quality of light changing along the length of the walls until only the stove light over the sink was gleaming, casting elegant allusions to the dining room chairs; it is the place in which you made your husband and your three legged dog chicken soup when they were sick, sat up with candles when the electricity went off listening for your husband’s running step through the thunder, stood in the doorway while the dew gleamed on the grass like little worlds, your hands curled around your cup of tea, blinking in steam and happiness; where the wind came and found you and the bamboo shades clattered; or the rain came tracing patterns like a lady drawing her long, gentle fingers over a glass.

Today is my mother-in-law’s birthday; in celebration of which, the snow leopard and I are having a party.  R. Aloysius was much too excited at the prospect of posing with a live flame so we had to substitute a colored pencil for the candle.*  The cake itself is a double decker rice cake, frosted with something closely related to the chocolate gob — I would list the recipe, but it might detract from the joy of the occasion.  I will however, briefly caution against trying this at home.  Snow leopards are dangerous animals, and should not, under normal circumstances, be fed the sort of thing that happens when I experiment with baking chocolate.  This very rare snow leopard is extremely well bred.  He coughed politely when I offered him cake, and waited until I wasn’t looking to hide it under the present.

Mom is not only the nicest mother in law I could imagine, but has become a dear friend as well.   We are taught in the Psalms that a woman’s keeping house, and being a joyful mother of children is from God — it is a blessing from Him, and so it is a way of life that is a praise of His goodness.  Mom exemplifies that.  I am very thankful to have not only her example, her prayers, and her friendship, but to have her as part of my heritage.

*I thought I might somewhere in some corner of a cupboard own some birthday candles, but no.  I didn’t think the pow-pow (I’m not sure what they are technically called: the handheld devices one uses to start a gas stove) would have the same appeal sticking up out of a rice cake, as something slender and decided on the orange pencil — but that made me reflect on how charmingly and practically Mom Z can improvise whatever is lacking from normal little things and make everything so much more interesting.  She has always been able to do so, from what Ruben tells me.

PS.  The snow leopard also wishes me to say Happy Birthday to Laura.

More housekeeping:

A phenomenon has been occurring, seemingly at random, but perhaps with some purposeful variation which has not yet been manifest to mortal man: when one clicks upon a post through the reader, comments from other posts appear.  In my own attempts to scientifically define and possibly to synthetically reproduce the anomaly, it generally brings up comments to Laura’s birthday post.  (Happy Birthday Laura)  It also likes to play dead, and will suddenly allow you to see all the proper comments for any number of posts on end.  I can only conclude that we are, in fact, being Watched By a Duck: a fear I have long had, and which evidently has come true.  If you can think of any other explanation let me know, but mine has a lot going for it.

July 2018
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