“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.”

Monday, August 13, 2012

Keeping Simplicity Simple

 Everywhere I look, lately, it seems that every aspect of life has become complicated. Advertisements express "fast, fun and easy" and "time and energy-saving"; but, where's the simplicity?

Okay, so you weren't born during those pre-industrial years, and need some examples?  Here's a few to get our thinking process started.  (I wasn't born that long ago either)   :

~Prepared foods, which are designed to make mealtimes "simple" contain a horrendous list of ingredients. Even meals we prepare from "scratch" require so many seasonings, steps, and saucepans. 
~Keeping our homes reasonably clean calls for umpteen different chemical cleaning concoctions, vacuums, washers, dryers, dishwashers, hot water heaters, etc., etc...all designed to make home-making "simple".  What happened to the broom and dustpan, bucket and rag, washtub and soap???
~Communication has been completely transformed during my lifetime. It is not just fast, it is instant, in many cases interrupting whatever we may have been doing, and requiring immediate attention. (chats, texts, tweets, etc) I'm not suggesting that it is all "bad"...but, there is a trade-off...from deviating from the slow, simple methods, such as exchanging handwritten letters, or giving the gift of time for a face-to-face visit. My three "mothers" are computer-less and iPhone-less, thus greatly appreciating an hour-long phone conversation once in awhile.
~Healthcare is ridiculous. (not to mention the cost/&/or insurance that it takes to pay for it!) A pill for every ill, and more pills to counteract the side-effects of the original prescription. Doctors and nurses so rushed to "see" the next patient, that true observation and compassion are sorely lacking...replaced with endless charting, geared to protect the medical personnel from malpractice suits. This is so far removed from the family doctor who made house calls! The sick person stayed home, in bed, where they belonged... Simple.  Sleep, pure water, sunshine, fresh air...these are simple preventatives and "cures" for many ills.

Okay, that's enough examples, lest you believe that I am intent on being negative. If you haven't read it already, and you dare to delve into this realm of "progress vs simplicity" , I recommend reading "Henry and the Great Society". You can read it for free here: http://www.jesuslovesme.org/newWeb/media/PDF_BOOKS/HENRY%20AND%20THE%20GREAT%20SOCIETY.pdf.

What actually prompted my thinking (and writing) is that I recently acquired a mountain dulcimer. (insert BIG, happy face!) As I am becoming familiar with it, and studying the history and various methods that are used to play it, I am drawn more and more to the slow, simple, traditional approach. The more complicated  chords and "finger-dancing", and finger-picking methods produce amazing music, to be sure! But, I have decided that I will employ the most simple "noter and drone" style of playing.

This simple, yet beautiful instrument, has sparked a little "revolution" in my heart. As I go throughout my days, I am looking for ways to truly simplify. Some call it "de-clutter":  ~I plan to discontinue things like Twitter and Pinterest, which I haven't had time to use anyway... (not Facebook, though!!!) ;-)    
~I plan to give away the egg poaching apparatus, and the angel food cake pan, and suchlike specialized cooking equipment.  And, I'll eat more pots of oatmeal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples and goats' milk.
~I plan to clean house and hair with those proven, inexpensive, safe ingredients: water, baking soda and vinegar. 

And, for entertainment, I will sit in the dawn's light on my back deck, watching the hummingbirds, and playing my dulcimer.

Interestingly, as I searched for those Bible passages that I was sure referred to "godly simplicity" , I found this one in 1 Chronicles 29:17: "I know also, my God, that you test the heart, and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy your people, who are present here, to offer willingly unto you."  
Guess which word is often translated "simplicity"?... "Uprightness"!  Do you think there's any correlation between the two?  I found, over and over, the phrase "simplicity of heart". I want to have that kind of heart toward God...one that is uncluttered, uncomplicated, unfeigned...just like my life.

God bless you, as you find your own place of simplicity.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Make It Count

I must be "over the hill", because I think I'm finally beginning to understand what that really means. 

From the top of this "hill" I can see what really matters: what matters to God, what matters to humanity, what matters to me.

Like a truly "old" person, I find myself shaking my head in disapproval at the ways folks use their time and energy. The things and pursuits which our culture of "self-love" exalts as "all-important" and worth striving for seem to me to be such a waste...so empty and unsatisfying in the long run.

I'm judging myself here. I wish I could reclaim those hours "wasted" in my youth, sunning myself on the beach, or feeling sorry for myself, or sleeping when I could have been serving.

If I could recapture that lost time, I would inquire at the feet of my elders, hear their stories, assimilate the lessons they learned from failures and victories. But, Granddaddy's gone; as are  great Auntie Margie, Aunt Dee Dee, Uncle Ernie, mother, father. I can speak with them no more.

If I knew then what I am just beginning to know now, I would have read more, written more, thought more, communicated more. And, created more.

That last one: create...that's the one that has me pondering so. I've come to a place in my life where creating and sharing feels incredibly vital; but, I hardly have life left enough to do all that is in my heart to do. I am almost overwhelmed with how many lifetimes I would need to be all that I want to be. Already my strength is failing me. It takes longer to do menial tasks than it used to, leaving less time for creative pursuits. Granted, I have participated in "creating" eight more human beings. That counts, in a big way. No regrets there! :-)

What's the point of this little blurb? I'm not sure, other than to encourage those that are still young enough to "make it count". Consider how you use your time and energy and talents. When we are young, it seems as though time is at a standstill. In fact, we spend much of our youth wishing time would hurry up. Suddenly, you will crest that "hill", and begin to race down the other side.

I exhort you:

"Whereas you know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away." 
(James 4:14)

"You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath."  
(Psalm 39:5)

 "Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow."  
(Psalm 144:4)

"Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth." 
(Proverbs 27:1)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother's Day

I'm not one to celebrate a day just because Hallmark says I should. (Just ask my husband or any of my children how rebellious I can be about this subject!)  In my opinion, we ought to show our love and appreciation whenever and however often we are moved to do so.

However, with "Mother's Day" approaching and my dear friend requesting birth stories, I thought this an appropriate time to comply...

I have eight birth stories...twice that many if you include the babies we never met. Each birth has its own unique and incredible story. But, the one that is the most fun to tell is Micah's. You'll see why. First, allow me some space to set the backdrop for his entrance into this world.

When Howard and I first married (at 17 and 18, respectively), we didn't think we ever wanted to have children. To make a long story shorter, we changed our minds, and three years later, Andrea was born. Then, Lauren. Next, Charlotte. And, Patrick.   ~ An eight year gap. ~  Enter Samuel, whose birth was nearly the death of me. By the time I was expecting Micah, I was 39 years old and my body was not bouncing back quite as readily. I was in excellent health, though, had a wonderful midwife, and was full of confidence and wonderment and anticipation.  Somewhere in the last trimester,  my pubic bone felt as though it was separating. Yes, quite painful. My midwife wisely ordered me to stay off my feet as much as possible. No more long walks in the countryside for me! I spent the remainder of this pregnancy making a quilt, start to finish. I call it "Micah's quilt", of course.

As with most expectant mothers, I was concerned if I would recognize "real" labor. My midwife lived almost an hour away, so I didn't want to rouse her in the middle of the night for a false alarm. So, when the pangs began sometime after midnight on July 24th, 1996, I waited to call...until 2am.  Lynn cheerfully answered, as though she hadn't been sleeping; but, said she would take a shower before heading our way. She arrived about 3am. We visited quietly, sharing a light snack, until 4am. At that point, I announced that I had better head to the bathroom while I could still manage to walk. Pit stop completed, I rounded the corner into our bedroom, and hoisted myself upon the bed with Howard's assistance. By now, birth was imminent. Lynn was scrambling to assemble her supplies.  I was scrambling to remove clothing. She turned her back on me for a moment, and when she turned around, at 4:07 am, there was Micah! She said, "Oohhh!" loudly enough that the girls could hear her from the other end of the house.

No muss. No fuss. No intrusion, interference or distraction.  Quick. Quiet.   Ta-dah
Every one needs to have one of those! :-D

Micah, at nearly 16 years old, continues to be "ready to go, ready to stay, ready to do my will". He's quick and attentive, alert and enthusiastic, cheerful and encouraging. Was his birth experience an indication of his personality and character? Only God knows.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Moment by moment, task by task...

A list of today's "to dos" was going through my mind, just now, as I was feeding Ethan...and then, I began to muse...

One of my daughters said something to me the other day which spurred my thinking.~
"That is one of the best things you taught us, Mama. To love something ~ and then let go."
And, I thought to myself, "I taught you that? When? How?"
And, then I realized that we are exemplifying and/or teaching something ALL THE TIME, no matter what we are doing.

I spent much of my young motherhood rushing through my tasks in order to get to something "important" that I needed or wanted to do. Rushing through dishes, rushing through laundry, rushing through children's care... so that I could do that thing that "really mattered". How often would that "worthy goal" remain elusive, as another mealtime came and went, creating yet more dishes? How many times did I regard the "menial" chores with frustration, as they "got in my way" of pursuing something "greater". How often did the repetitive demands of the children become a source of irritation?  Oh, to be able view each task or interruption as an opportunity to say, "I care about you"! To purpose to pause from whatever task to listen, to look the "interrupter" in the eye, perhaps to clasp a hand or fully embrace...to teach true love, to teach Truth, by word or by deed!  Those are my aspirations!!!

Here's what I am learning... I don't really remember what those "grand" accomplishments were supposed to be.  Somehow, 33+ years of motherhood have swished by. Really swished!!!  Half of our children are completely grown and establishing themselves in the world, and the other half are half-grown. What they rehearse to me as memorable and important has dramatically changed my perspective on what is truly of consequence in this life.

No matter what task is at hand, if I am tempted to feel hindered or held back from what I think I really ought to be doing, I hear God's voice, speak to my heart "This is your work. This moment."  And, a  wave of peaceful contentment overwhelms me. Each moment can be filled with purpose. Each task is filled with opportunity, if we but pause to consider it.

Here are the keys to making that happen: 

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going." (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men," (Colossians 3:23)

"Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31)

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:17

"Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:11)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Of Grandmamaness (it's a word if I say so)

I am still getting the knack of this grandparent thing...even though I now have four of those blessings...even though they will be One, Two, Three and Four in 2012.

I find myself contemplating not only the privilege, but the responsibility, that is involved with being "Grandmama". I wonder at the strange, new love for my offspring's offspring. I pray about the type and amount of influence that comes with this title. What effect might my life, my attitudes, and my example have on them?  What will they remember about their time with me when I've left this life?

One thing that I've particularly noticed about myself is the freedom with which I am able to love, nurture, and discipline these little people. And, as I pondered the reason, I think it is simply that, ultimately, they are not my responsibility. They will neither reflect well nor poorly upon me. I cannot be embarrassed by them, as I might have been by my own children, at times. Wisdom of years and experience lends itself to this "free" feeling, as well. I've traveled this path before...it feels vaguely familiar, yet, surprisingly new. Free from the 24-hour duty, I have time to listen, to share, to read. I often wish I was able to be more playful; but, that's where "Grandpa" comes in. I always did count on him for that, even when we were young parents ourselves.

There is a delicate balance, however, as I strive to respect boundaries, philosophies and standards set by their parents. It is my fervent desire never to cross the line which would undermine the course their parents have charted for parenting their children.  I want to be a valuable support to my children...an aid, an assistant, a booster. Since every parent and every child and every home is a unique entity, this requires discernment and prayer, self-control and humility, patience and love.

Much, much love.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dish Pan Mind

Swishing dishes through the warm bubbles allows... no, it actually promotes philosophical thinking.

I'm thinking of the incredible energy expended by the steady stream of hummingbirds at my kitchen window, just to sustain them for their next trip to the feeder. And, how like them we are in our daily rounds to earn our living.

I'm thinking of the round lumps of soft bread dough rising to their full potential on my stove. And, my sons and daughters being stretched in the process of rising to their fullest potential.

The roar of the little window air conditioner, straining to keep this trailer at a comfortable 83*, is no match for Ethan's "roaring" in his tall chair. He wants to talk. He will talk...someday.

These dishes represent good food eaten together. Not just full bellies, but full hearts, as we share the events of the day and things that matter most.

I had best return to those jars I left soaking and to my dish pan musings.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Twitter-tweets, Chats and Texts...

but are we really communicating?

Language is a fascinating phenomenon. There are approximately 6900 known languages world-wide, not to mention various dialects within each language, as well as lingo pertaining to a particular trade or profession. It is not the words themselves that concern me; but, how we use them.

Are we understandable?

The technological advances in communication have been extraordinary during my lifetime. And, yet, I am observing, more and more,  that we are forgetting how to speak and write properly.  Most of the tweets, chats and texts I've seen are choppy, full of abbreviations or codes, and lack capitalization or punctuation. And, that makes perfect sense, when you are typing on a device the size of the palm of your hand (or smaller).  What concerns me is: what if the current generation is actually forgetting how to talk in complete sentences and to think complete thoughts?

Our family enjoys words: Big words, little words, expressive words, unusual words, descriptive words.  Communication has been an integral part of our marriage and our parenting.  We believe in honesty, yet discretion and respectfulness; "say what you mean, mean what you say"; "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all"; using words "to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." (1 Corinthians 14:3)

It figures that when there is a misunderstanding, it is particularly troubling. Miscommunication can occur for so many reasons: carelessness, false assumptions, and lack of charity are among them.  Communication is a two-way street. It is not only talking, but listening and  understanding.
We are familiar with the Bible verses that instruct us in our speech;  

Ephesians 4:29: Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 
Ecclesiastes 10:12:  Words from a wise man's mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips. 
Matthew 12:34:   For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 
Ephesians 5:4:  Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 
Colossians 3:8: But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 
Colossians 4:6: Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

but, what about the way we listen?

1 Thessalonians 5:11 : Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;

Proverbs 10:19 : When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
Proverbs 17:27:  A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.
Proverbs 29:20: Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

To be effective, communication must have clear speech and receptive listening, whether it be a tweet, a chat, a text, a letter or a conversation.

I have been reminded recently of the importance of giving the benefit of the doubt, not jumping to false conclusions, and assuming the best about the intentions of others ... 

" And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (Colossians 3:14) "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:3)