Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Lessons from Mother- #1 Don't Focus on the Dust

Lessons I’ve Learned from my Mother
#1- Don’t focus on the dust.

I thought I might do a little series of posts on things my mother has taught me through the years that I have been married and have been raising my children- things that she tells me when I call on the phone and wail about the latest incident in the house. I appreciate her balance of being sympathetic to my situation – she had 8 children herself, and yet honest and bold enough to tell me what I need to hear. Sometimes it’s the tough side of love, but it is usually the quickest way to get me out of the emotionally drained hole I am it.

So, the first one I’ll mention is “Don’t focus on the dust.”

She doesn’t quite say it that way on the phone, but that’s usually the way I remember it. Generally I hear the dust pep talk when I’ve hit rock bottom with the children and the house and everything all together. Usually I’ve had some disaster (real life example: Jeff floods the kitchen with the water that comes out of the door on the freezer.) and I’ve been interrupted with Bible School questions, and there are 5 piles of laundry sitting on my bed to be folded, and I haven’t done any school, and we need groceries, and I probably didn’t go to bed on time the night before. I’m worn out, upset, tired, and without a plan and so I call her and say, “I quit!”

She translates that into, “I am an Israelite walking through the desert. I don’t like it and I want to go back to Egypt.” Then I get the “talk”. She tells me all about the Israelites. I never really thought much about them and how they went from one place to another, but since she has latched on to this story, I see them very clearly now:

The Israelites are walking in a line, well a sort of line with all the tribes, one after the other trudging along. There are groups of cattle with their owners and then comes another family behind, then a cart or two of stuff bumping over the rocky ground. After that is another family with their meager herd of goats and 5 children and a wheelbarrow, next is a man who had a cage of chickens and a very large tent that no one understands WHY he must lug that huge thing around when EVERYONE knows it’s terribly impractical. There are 600,000 of these people and YOUR family happens to be smack dab in the middle of the line. Somewhere in between Reuben and Benjamin, thousands of animals, carts, kids, stuff, and noise, there you are walking along with the rest of them. It’s hot, it’s rocky, and the wheels on whatever you have don’t roll smoothly across the ground. Generally your children are running in circles around you because they’ve already walked for so long that they are TOTALLY bored of it and there are no signs for playing the ABC game- even if you could stand it. Since you are in the middle and happen to be behind some family’s herd of cattle and in front of some lady’s prize rooster, you manage to get the best of both worlds: the mounds of cow dung to avoid AND to try to keep your kids out of, the dust that gets in your face from being stirred up by all those hooves, and the lovely crowing behind to serenade your little escapade as you go. Can you picture it? Don’t you love your journey through the desert? Of course not! It’s hard, hot, long, crazy, and besides that, every night no matter what, you have more sand in your bed than anyone else in camp!
The key is that in your walk- you’re focusing on the dust. All the hard things of the NOW. Everything that’s tough that makes you want to complain. It’s hard to have long range vision sometimes, but that’s what the Israelites needed more of- long range vision. They needed to look beyond the dust and the noisy animals and see where they were headed: The Promised Land! God had prepared a special place for them, just for them. He was carving out a way, feeding them, giving them water, meeting their needs and going before them every step of the way to get them to their glorious home. That’s what I need to remember- where I’m headed.

God says children are a blessing from the Lord. He says that because they ARE, not because they might be or could be or someone else’s are to them. NO. Children ARE a blessing and right now during the little years when things are really hard, He has still said they are a blessing and they will be later too.

Then my Mom often reminds me of my relationship with my siblings. Since we grew up in a Christian family that focused a lot on doing things together- we love each other and times when we are together, it’s one of the best things in life. They are my best friends and we have a blast together. That’s the vision I can see. I also see my siblings making wise choices having good character and being a “Jesus” influence on others in the world. I can look at those things and think of them as my Promised Land for my family. When I look ahead, it’s easier to make sense of why I put up with the frustrations of here and now. I no longer want to give up and sometimes become inspired to walk harder, faster and most importantly, with a smile on my face.

We are building an army for Jesus in our family. As one politician put it, though I can’t recall who, "If we can’t change them, we’ll just out number them." Training lots of little soldiers is hard work, but we can have the vision of a mighty army of Christians changing the tide of thinking, action, and moral decay in our society and that is what keeps me going when the road is dusty.

So, don’t focus on the dust. Focus on the goal at the end, our Promised Land, our vision of making a difference in the lives of others, and the vision of raising Godly men and women who can do the same.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Credit to Whom Credit is Due

Lest anyone think that I am conquering the world here and at the same time finding more time to blog than ever before...I'll just state right now that "it ain't so"! Therfore, without further hesitation let me proclaim far and wide and high and low that "my husband is wonderful"!
I don't know how I rated to get such a great man, but I feel like one of the most blessed people on the planet and here's some of the reasons why- just this week...

1. Willingness to keep the children ALL DAY LONG, multiple days in a row.
2. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner in bed for almost an entire week.
3. When he doesn't know what I want, he walks in and in an elderly, raspy voice says, "Dietary".
4. The laundry is done- I fold it, but he has washed and dried it all, including two rounds of Jonathon ?!? wetting his bed- all of it.
5. He has kept the kitchen clean.
6. He has kept the living room picked up.
7. He even cleaned off the clutter "hot spots" a time or two.
8. He changes dirty diapers.
9. He makes the children clean their rooms and make the bed.
10. He has sent one child up at a time to me this week and thus we have had a continuous week of school!!!!!!!!!!
11. Somehow he managed to squeeze in almost 30 hours of "real" work. (Not without help from friends and neighbors, but nevertheless...)
12. He made SALAD to go with dinner tonight!
13. He makes me laugh.
14. He is teaching the children to love me. Jonathon comes up one day and says, "Dietary. Mama, what's a dietary?"
15. He stopped working and went to town so I wouldn't have to go one day.
16. He has been my servant many times, fetching things from downstairs so I would not have to climb them or do without.
17. He drove 5 of us (Jonathon, James, Joseph, Brandon and myself) to Joseph's circumcision appointment and held his little hands during he operation.
18. He let Jonathon watch #17 and thus we have a budding doctor in our midst- at least a child who is fascinated with all manner of dealing with human ailments and blood and guts and such.
19. He has put his comfort and rest last and the children and my needs first.
20. He cares about me and lets me know it.

Anyway, the disclaimer is that I have had a tremndous amount of help from others as well and I don't want to discount their efforts, but the brunt of the responsibility of running the house has fallen on him and he gets an A+ for his efforts.

Oh, and the children are happy!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Attempting the Impossible

Here's one or the results of our attempts at a group shot. I think five is the number at which we might have to stop trying to get everyone looking at the camera, with no fingers in their mouths, and happy, but not fake smiling, and no falling over or looking the other way or leaning back on the pillow, or ....arh! Anyway...they are still charming when they are out of trouble and at this moment none of them were in trouble so life was good and I'll take it!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

In Times Like These...

…all the world seems to be a peace. This week of recovery has been quite productive and I have found rest for the whole of me, not just the physical side, but emotionally and spiritually as well.

First, I have been blessed to have a wonderful friend- DR- who, took two of her four personal days (per year) to stay home and help take care of our family while I rested! I remember days in years gone by when I prayed that God would supply me with “real” friends that I could enjoy, trade encouragement with, and be moving together towards God. I haven’t been on the asking side of that prayer for a while now, but there are many times when I find myself thanking Him for supplying that need in my life. So, this week, even though the baby wasn’t suppose to be here yet and thus threw us for a bit of a loop preparation wise, we have had help. I should mention that DR is not the only one who has assisted. I’m sure to skip someone, but there is ES that came on Thursday when the midwife left and Brandon was at the airport and she stayed the day to babysit “Mary and Joseph” (hehe- I didn’t think about that combo until after he was born) . Then there was GP- who in my hour of social thirst came and filled my cup to running over with all manner of conversation, laughing, day dreaming, and general talkativeness. And ER, usually with many children in tow, who has stopped by several times to see me and always lifts my spirits- even if we don’t talk about much of anything. ER has 9 kids and sometimes my strength is renewed just by seeing her alive and knowing that it is possible to have that many children and not be dead from the work of it, but she usually has a smile and a laugh as well- which makes it all the better. And of course, there have been many others who have stopped by to see me, the baby, and say hi. For me, that’s like drugs. I’m practically addicted to people and the worst part of being away in my bedroom is the lack of company. So, thanks to all those people out there who have come to visit and all of you who wish you could…that helps too.

Second, I have been way productive. I feel like I’ve climbed mountains. First and foremost, I’ve been able to read my Bible and have virtually no excuse for not getting it all in. So, that has been a huge boost. I also managed to sneak into the school room yesterday and tidy it up a bit so I could walk in there. When it isn’t in use, it quickly becomes a dumping grounds for all things without a home. Now it’s tidy. I’ve also managed to write up a family letter for this year and hopefully I’ll actually get it sent as well. Among other things, I’ve also finished two books I was reading, cleaned up my room- more thoroughly, made some necessary phone calls, received some books in the mail for school next year and glanced them over, done some long overdue blogging, taken plenty of naps, given orders for the fridge to be cleaned out, done some school with James and Jonathon, put puzzles together with Rachel, gotten my birthing supplies packed away and ready to be transported back to the attic until the next round, had plenty of prayer time, updated some pictures of the children, and numerous other little tidbits. The great thing is that since I have had several days of bed rest recently due to the kidney stone issues, I have actually crossed off lots more of those little nagging things that need to be done than I ever anticipated. I never have much time for work that I need to sit for, because I don’t sit for much, but now I’m caught up with tons of it!!!!! WHOOOOOHOOO!

Third, physically I’m doing pretty good. Joseph has had a bit of trouble eatting due to engorgement issues and the fact that his mouth is so tiny, so that has been tough, but other than that, I’m feeling pretty good and every day find I have more energy. I’m especially thankful now for the disgusting diet I’ve had to be on for my blood sugar issues. For the first time in all my pregnancies I only gained 25 lbs. and lost over half of it at the birth, so getting back down to a decent weight seems more realistic than ever. Two thumbs up for exercise and healthy eatting even when I hate it…it is paying off! Hooray!

Spiritually, I’m doing pretty well. I was just recently feeling discouraged and like I could pray, but felt convinced that God wasn’t really able to respond to me in a way I could hear it. Perhaps you have felt that way about something- like the idea that you want to call God up on the phone and talk to him about a particular matter, but even though you talk and talk and then listen, there is no voice that comes out of the phone saying: “I will send you money tomorrow to pay for the car bill.” Then you say, “thanks, that’s exactly what I needed to know.” So, I was basically griping about a host of things that I didn’t have answers for- that was Saturday night- before the baby was born.

It’s too bad that I am such an impatient person, but Sunday I received answers to several of the things that I was frustrated with and once again I was reminded that God DOES hear, he DOES respond, and even though it may not be through a phone or maybe we don’t ask and then find: GO TO TOWN THIS AFTERNOON written in Matthew, he DOES lead us! So, not only did I get answers to at least three concerns, but I also got a gold nugget from a George MacDonald book I was reading. The idea I got from that, though I don’t remember the quote exactly was,

When we reach the end of the land of possibilities and find ourselves stepping out into the realm of impossibilities, that is just where God dwells.

I was so encouraged to be reminded that God is the KING of conquering impossibilities. And somehow it reminded me once again that he wants to be the KING of what I think is possible too. He would rather me fall flat on my face, than bring glory to myself by doing a thing solo. He wants me to need him for EVERYTHING, to trust him for everything, so that when I get to the end of the day, I can say that God did it.

The other nugget of truth I have been blessed by this week came from listening to “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” on DVD, thanks to a particular CS here at Fairwood. I was listening to the part where the children are discussing Edmond’s recent fall in with the witch and they were despairing over his fate. One of the girls looks to Aslan and says something like, “Surely, something can be done to save him.” And Aslan replies, “All will be done…” And I rejoiced to be reminded that when there are those we know who are stumbling along in their faith, or perhaps it’s just a bad habit that I cannot conquer within myself, I am reminded that God doesn’t stop after he’s tried a couple of tactics. NO! ALL WILL BE DONE! He would not stop until he has given up all of himself and more for every single one of us! He doesn’t throw in the towel after “experiment #4” and say he’s done with it. NO! ALL WILL BE DONE! He keeps going, keeps knocking, keeps pointing, keeps leading, keeps going, and keeps himself on the cross long enough for His death to be the necessary answer for everything we have done, and could ever do, and ever will do.

I’m a bit inspired…

Anyway, I was thinking along those lines for those people out there who want to be following God on one hand, and yet more and more find that they want to be following the world at the same time. I am so thankful He is not content to leave us in such a state!

Well…I guess you got your sermon for the day! I wasn’t really planning on going on that tangent in the beginning, but now you have it. Praise the Lord for rest on all sides!

Friday, February 16, 2007

In the midst of the storm...

So here's my attempt to recreate some of the details for those of you who want more.

I've sat down to post several times since my last posting, but always found myself with more hands at the "wheel" than what I can manage.

Anyway, most of you know that yesterday, February 15th, we had #5.

Joseph Zachary Aldrich

My story is that I started with mild labor on the 14th at about 5am when I couldn't sleep anymore due to contractions and the fact that I was cooking breakfast for the students that morning for Valentine's Day. So, I got up and began. It was a great breakfast if I do say so...we had scrambled eggs, beef sausage links, strawberry yogurt, granola, strawberries, homemade cheese danish, cran-grape juice, and lots of fancy dishes to round it out. The contractions were mild enough that I could work right through them, but they were very regular and hard enough that when I tried to take a nap later that morning, I could really sleep much- about every 6 minutes apart.

For those of you who do not live in the north and thus might be ignorant of our recent weather patterns, Wednesday was also a VERY BIG snow day. We got close to 2 feet of snow before the day was out! So, have snow...must have baby! I called our midwife around 10:30 and apologized over and over that I thought I might be in labor in the middle of a blizzard. She was very comforting and told me numerous times that I was doing the right thing to call- even if this wasn't the "real" thing. (Note: for those of you who don't know...even after four children I can't really tell when I'm in labor in the early stages unless my water breaks first- which it did not.) So, on I went with life...lunch and such and then the midwife (MW) came around 3. She did a few checks, said she thought I probably was in labor and hung around to wait it out. A few applications of some evening primrose oil helped things move along in the right direction, but only very slowly. The short of it is- by 1am I was only 3-4 cm and somehow I have to get to 10!

In fact, I thought I was slowing down afer that and called my mother around 5 to say that I didn't know what was going on, but I seemed to be "circling the runway" with little intention to land any time soon. At 5:15 am on the 15th though- that's 24 hours into this for those of you who don't want to do the math- things changed and I could tell we were going to actually have this baby. It was rather interesting timing however because Brandon was supposed to leave at 7:30 to go pick up my sister Amy at the Boston airport- 2 hours away and then retrieve our new living room furniture (more on that later) on the way home. So I was a little nervous that he would either miss the birth or Amy would have to wait at the airport for us for a while.

But God's timing is perfect- as I am realizing more and more with this child. Brandon stayed and the baby was born at 8:09am. For those of you who appreciate some of the gory details, the midwife broke my water about 2 contractions before I was ready to push and then I had one warm up push and Joseph came out in the second really long push- everything in one great heave! It was not pleasant...and that's all I'll say about that other that, I'd do it again if I could avoid kidney stones!

So Joseph was born, Amy's flight was providentially delayed, and Brandon did his airport and furniture run and Amy didn't have to sit at the airport too long on this end waiting for him.

Now he's here and you might want to know what he's like:

Well, Jonathon insisted that he was still named "Isaac"- a name we considered for a while after being suggested by him on numerous occasions.

James exclaimed that his hands were very small and they were smaller than Rachel's.

Jeff smiled- which was a big improvement to his reaction over Rachel's birth- and just looked on.

Rachel is quite taken with all of Joseph and loves to sit and rub his hands and feet and head and talk about all his parts and say "Baby Joses" over and over.

I think he's pretty cute myself and I think he looks kind of like my paternal grandfather. He had a rounder face than the other children and I could almost imagine him with a balding head of gray hair and some glasses! He was quite a sleeper for most of the day and didn't really want to try to eat anything. I don't often think of the work the baby must do to be born, but I think I just wore him out! He whimpered tiny little whimpers while he slept- kind of like someone who snores with each breath, only his were cute...and he managed to sleep a good part of the night too. He's awake wide and early this morning and has been trying to eat almost nonstop, so the two of us escaped the bedroom to give Brandon a little more sleep before he had to be functional.

For all of you who know and believe in God's timing of events, Joseph was named for the meaning: God will add (and not because it starts with "J") He was a little of a surprise to us from the beginning, though we were very thrilled! He also came after a longer break between children and after the wedding of my brother- which I had specifically prayed for. And the timing here at the end of his birth has just seemed to be perfect as well. I never dreamed I'd have a baby 2 weeks early, but I had prayed that way and God was gracious and answered.

Now, I'm excited about the rest of Joseph's life and wondering what events God has in store for him down the road that might look big or crazy, but in reality are just perfectly put together in God's plan. Whatever it is, I hope I will remember why we named him Joseph and be able to focus on God's big picture of adding things to our lives when He wants to- whether it all makes sense to me or not.

Hooray for little miracles...we have a nice new one here and you should all come and see him! He truly is a blessing from our heavenly Father!