Sunday, July 31, 2016

Life Lessons Relearned

A couple people have written to see if we're still alive. It's not that I've lost my writing/reflecting voice, just that every time I think I need or want to reflect and write something, there's never time.

I'll just jump in and write about a hodgepodge of things that have happened, hopefully some that will help others.

1.We had our end-of-year portfolio review last week and we're on day four of the new school year. I have two ninth graders now, and two fourth graders, though everyone is at their own pace with writing. I've learned the hard way that kids (and Mom) thrive when there's on-going routine, with days off here and there, or half-days off when necessary, rather than an extended break. The neurological problems such as the OCD and ADHD do far worse with lack of routine.

2. I had my second routine mammogram and they called me back again for a diagnostic mammogram (next month for what looks like calcifications), which can include more pictures and an ultrasound. I got the same form letter saying I have dense breast tissue, which basically makes it harder to see things clearly. Last time I was fearful of this "diagnostic" mammogram, but this time I've barely thought about it, except to accept the fact that they'll probably call me back every time, because my paperwork indicates my mom had breast cancer at age 65. The dense breast tissue will get less dense as I age. Now that I do daycare, every appointment is a hassle to arrange.

3. If you subscribe to Netflix DVD, please rent The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry. It's a fantastic Christian movie that will spur your children on in their faith and in their Bible reading. I found it heartwarming, inspiring, wholesome, featuring a culture reminiscent of the 1950's. We also rented God's Not Dead, which I loved. The Christian movie choices are pretty good through the Netflix DVD program.

4. I have learned to love the two children I babysit. The five year old will go to kindergarten in about five weeks and we will all miss her. Previously I mentioned that the mother is having a baby in December, and that I said yes to watching the baby and the three year old, but I recently reconsidered that due to the little boy's challenging behavior. He is a nice boy, but stubborn and prone to fits like most 3-year-olds. I told the mother I could handle either the baby or her preschooler full-time, or both of them half-time, but not both of them for 45 hours a week. She is thinking of staying home after the baby comes, anyway. She is the main breadwinner, so it will not be an easy decision for them.

The five year old has learned how to pray, and she enjoys our morning devotions. Because I am an ex-Catholic and she goes to a Catholic church, I regularly tell her that we do all things through His strength, not through our own. I missed that as a Catholic and my experience was that it is primarily a good works philosophy of religion and salvation. She asked me recently what a Christian is and among other simple things, I mentioned that it means we understand we cannot be good on our own. We need the Lord to shine in any way. He makes us who He wants us to be, as opposed to us trying and failing again and again. I felt defeated by my own nature when I was going to Catholic churches. Now, I understand that I need the Gospel everyday. Not one day any less than another. I embrace His nature in me, rather than hating my own. Does that make sense? God sent these particular kids for a reason. They are hard work, but I know it is good work I'm doing. Loving a child is always good work, meaningful work. Introducing children to Jesus is such a privilege. We may only plant a seed with some of them, but every effort is beautiful.

5. My girls will be doing Sonlight Core D this year, which is American History Part 1. They can do all the readings themselves now for all subjects, which has been a blessing and a pleasure to see. I loved this core when the boys did it, and I am looking forward to it with the girls, too. My husband will have to share the read-aloud load with me, though. Sonlight usually assigns as many read-alouds as they do student novels.

I believe I already wrote about our choices for the boys' first year of high school, but since then we did decide on horticulture as their first elective class. We're reaping the benefits right now of their countless hours of research and time spent planning and planting. The garden is the best we've ever had, even though we've been in a sort of drought here in northeast Ohio. They already have a good head start on their horticulture knowledge.

6. I had a varicose vein stripping surgery on one leg and will schedule the other leg for sometime this calendar year. It wasn't an easy recovery, but there is far less pain in the treated leg now, and he tied off a golf-ball sized blood clot that formed after one of my miscarriages (lower inner thigh..a benign area for a blood clot). The scars take about a year to flatten and heal, but I am so grateful!

Here's the main thing I wanted to share, which might help someone:

Sometimes we have to wait on things we've prayed for, and in the meantime we can be very uncomfortable. This is a given for the Christian, but when it happens to you, it ain't so easy. Right?

Our culture doesn't like to wait, but learning to do so builds character, perseverance, and faith, especially when the wait is very uncomfortable--such as physically or emotionally burdensome, on top of the everyday burdens. Everyday of the struggle, we're reminded that we're still waiting for an answer. Some days, we wonder where God is and whether he cares at all. As I write this I'm aware that America-style burdens are of course much different than most of the world experiences. Our burdens are pretty light compared to the third world's.

And indeed, the less you have, the less you have to be burdened about. We worry about car repairs and they worry not so much about possessions, but about daily bread. A downed vehicle is nothing compared to a hungry stomach gnawing at you, but it's still possible for one to lead to the other here in America.

As soon as I started doing daycare, one thing after another broke around here, at a pace fiercer than before. If were were thinking that my job would end all our financial problems, we were dead wrong. Teens eat a whole lot, after all. By November I'll have two that need more and more calories, and calories are expensive! 

The used washer we bought three months ago started leaking in the bottom front. First a trickle, than a whole bucket-full of water during each load! The used appliance place kept promising to come and fix it for a fee, but they never showed and the 30-day warranty was up. With no hope of another one right away, my husband built a pallet and we put it up on that, catching the water with some tupperware and changing it often. Even looking online at videos, we couldn't fix it ourselves.

This went on for four or five long weeks and even though sometimes I wanted to cry at the level of inconvenience and waste, I couldn't do anything but persevere. If I didn't get there soon enough and the tray overflowed, I had a huge mess each time with six kids underfoot.

Finally, my husband found another washer for $75 from a Habitat for Humanity Restore. It's high efficiency, which I've never used, but it's a Maytag washer, used, for $75 versus the $200 we paid for the other used one. It works but it's loud on the spin, even though it's advertised as a quiet model. I don't know how long it will last, but my discomfort in doing laundry is over for now. I'm so relieved and my experience proves once again that God's grace is sufficient.

Every time I think I'm going crazy, I somehow bounce back and find blessings to count.

That's His grace at work.

I'm sure it seems like this is all so minor, but to a mom with four kids and two daycare kids, laundry is never minor.

Our lives aren't supposed to be easy and comfortable, as Christians. How does anyone grow when things are comfortable? Our journey as Believers is not about moving up in the world, or even having a smoother path, but about moving closer to Him. That's necessarily a lifestyle that should look different than the way your typical American lives.

If you aren't different, why?

Embrace your own discomfort, whatever it is, because God has a plan. Keep praying and believing and listening to the Spirit as to what you should do next.

Sometimes, the answer is just......wait.

Your spirit will want to fight that. It seems so passive and wasteful, this waiting. But putting your trust in God is not passive. It's an active endeavor to rest in Him. It's work to rest in Him.

Around the same time the washer started leaking, the $2000 water softener we bought 11 years old quit working. Because two major car repairs hit us in the same period, along with a broken garbage disposal, we had to let the broken water softener just sit, even though it's likely that the extremely hard water will ruin the dishwasher, which is only a couple years old. It ruined our drinking glasses within a week.

For the first week after the water softener quit, I was incredibly frustrated and depressed, while still believing that God is always good, always faithful. At that point I was just done being long-suffering. I was done with hassle, after two and a half months of babysitting and working my rear off keeping the house up, with only a couple hours on Saturday for relaxation. It seemed there was nothing to look forward to but more broken appliances and more car repairs and more cleaning.

The stress brought worsening OCD and anxiety in the kids, so I knew I had to learn to stay joyful and hopeful.

Devotions became my salvation. Praying with my family brought the only relief from problems and disorders. Discomfort sends us running to the Lord and loving our time with Him. He purposely, I think, contrasts that time with all the other hours of the day.  With kids there are always interruptions, but it's still rich. As they get older, it gets even richer to pray together.

My overall predicament made me appreciate women of the past, who worked even longer hours without the modern conveniences we take for granted. They had so much to do they were primarily workhorses, and I don't say that disrespectfully, but with admiration. They weren't sissies. They weren't weak or impatient. They couldn't be. Their kids weren't sissies, or weak, or impatient, either. There was still the upper-class who used servants, but I'm talking about your every-day American mom from over a hundred years ago and longer.

I'm interested in the history of modern household inventions, but if you aren't skip this entire washing machine section below.

Some backgroundBefore indoor plumbing, the housewife also had to carry all the water used for washing, boiling, and rinsing the laundry; according to an 1886 calculation, women fetched water eight to ten times every day from a pump, well, or spring.[1] Water for the laundry would be hand carried, heated on a fire for washing, then poured into the tub. That made the warm soapy water precious; it would be reused, first to wash the least soiled clothing, then to wash progressively dirtier laundry.
Removal of soap and water from the clothing after washing was originally a separate process. First, soap would be rinsed out with clear water. After rinsing, the soaking wet clothing would be formed into a roll and twisted by hand to extract water. The entire process often occupied an entire day of hard work, plus drying and ironing.
Margaret Colvin invented the Triumph Rotary Washer, which was exhibited in the Women's Pavilion at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia.

1910 advertisement
Electric washing machines were advertised and discussed in newspapers as early as 1904. Alva J. Fisher has been incorrectly credited with the invention of the electric washer. The US Patent Office shows at least one patent issued before Fisher's US patent number 966677 (e.g. Woodrow's US patent number 921195). The "inventor" of the electric washing machine remains unknown.
US electric washing machine sales reached 913,000 units in 1928. However, high unemployment rates in the Depression years reduced sales; by 1932 the number of units shipped was down to about 600,000.
Washer design improved during the 1930s. The mechanism was now enclosed within a cabinet, and more attention was paid to electrical and mechanical safety. Spin dryers were introduced to replace the dangerous power mangle/wringers of the day.
By 1940, 60% of the 25,000,000 wired homes in the United States had an electric washing machine. Many of these machines featured a power wringer, although built-in spin dryers were not uncommon.
Bendix Corporation introduced the first domestic automatic washing machine in 1937,having applied for a patent in the same year. In appearance and mechanical detail, this first machine was not unlike the front loading automatic washers produced today. Although it included many of the today's basic features, the machine lacked any drum suspension and therefore had to be anchored to the floor to prevent "walking". Because of the components required, the machine was also very expensive. 

It appears that it was after the 1950's before in-home washing machines began to resemble something like we use today. Poorer Americans waited even longer, and of course many apartment dwellers are still using laundromats, at about $2.00 per wash load! Sometimes they simply don't have that money and go without clean clothes.

It's astounding how easy a woman's life is now, in comparison. What do we really have to complain about? We lose our babies to diseases and infections far less often, and we have medicines to treat our own diseases. We know less inconvenience and less heartache. 

Our biggest problem is our attitude, I would think, and that we've lost a sense of what God wants from us, as women.

I still have a broken garbage disposal; I'm used to not having one now. The water softener still sits in a closet, unused, but I no longer lament about the dishwasher rotting away from hard water. 

I've learned to wait. I've learned anew that we must squeeze what joy we can from each day, like it's a juicy lemon. We're not promised our next breath, much less our next 24 hours. I've learned that God promises daily manna, not weekly or monthly or yearly manna. 

Or rather, I should say I have relearned. Such lessons are on repeat from the Lord, aren't they?

A woman who rests in the Lord, who trusts in the Lord, lives a 24-hour day. She laughs at the days to come.
I'm so grateful for the Lord's wisdom and love. He knows what lessons we need and He's faithful to provide.

 So rejoice in your trials. Rejoice!

Our children are watching and learning from us. Let's pray that we can model strength, faithfulness, perseverance, and a heart full of gratitude and charity and joy.

When we fail for a day or for a season, he's there waiting to move us forward.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
What exciting adventures have come your way this summer?