Thursday, July 19, 2018

Dear Mom

It's Vacation Bible School week here in my world. I never quite realized before what a trigger that simple, summer activity is for me......

Dear Mom,

I can just see you, back in the day, urging daddy to go with you to invite children to Bible School. You loved Bible School. You loved picking up the children and making connections with their parents. Longer ago, when you were young and in your prime, you enjoyed getting creative with making song posters and teaching class. Your famous "Noah Noah" and "Jonah" song sheets live on through second and third generation students!

Bible School in your day was no small deal. Sometimes you hosted out of state teachers, taught a class, picked up students and took them home, helped with snack and maybe even led the singing all while juggling laundry, canning green beans and hosting teachers for a lunch or two. This went on for two weeks straight.

I know you got stressed and worn out and things didn't always go perfectly but you wouldn't have missed it for anything.

Bible School in the hills of Arkansas was something my pioneer parents and their cohorts took seriously. Because our community was spread out so widely, we hosted a morning Bible School at our church and an evening Bible School at a local church at the other end of our community. Teachers would come in from out of state to help and many of them would teach at both places i.e. third grade lesson to one group of students in the morning, the same lesson to a different group in the evening.

The schedule sounds crazy to anyone who was never a part of it. Bible School morning and evening for two weeks?? How?

Some of my best memories are my youth years when I would teach morning and evening and join the whole gang of teachers for lunch at someone's house every day. We went shopping together, went on picnics, played games, prayed and fasted on Wednesdays, helped each other prepare our lessons... Some of the friendships made with youth who came to help us teach are still alive today.

I know time has a way of changing things and often our own era seems to have the best memories. Oh the stories I could tell of hot, cramped little classrooms at the old, Wolf Bayou church where the old, folding seats creaked and the curtains strung up everywhere still didn't provide enough "rooms" for all the classes. The noise and temperature levels in that old building were high but the singing rang and the silence was breathless when the storyteller got up to tell us the next installment of his story.

Yes, memories are golden. It's no wonder the very mention of Summer Bible School brings waves of nostalgia and memories galore. In the middle of all those memories, somehow you seem to be at the center, Mom. When I pull out your old flannelgraph and tell the old, old story to an eager group of 20 some 9-11 year olds, there's an inevitable ache in my throat and tears in my eyes.

Times have changed in Arkansas. There are nicer accommodations now, more people to reach around, busier schedules and less need of doing nothing but Bible School morning and evening for two weeks straight. But the children are still coming and the legacy is still going on. On the last day, when the parents and grandparents show up for the program, they can join in singing "Noah Noah" just as lustily as their children and grandchildren!

Sometimes I wish I could roll back the years and relive those memories of bygone days. I wish I could be your little girl again, Mom, helping to fill the big, metal igloo with water for drinks and riding along to take the rowdy bunch of children home. I'd join the out of state teacher's children in "the little chicken house" to hold up imaginary song sheets and play our own rousing version of Bible School. Sadly, I can't do that.

So, I'll wipe the tears, swallow the lump in the throat and live the now. Hopefully someday my children's memories will be warm and nostalgic too. But I promise, Mom, they won't be half as grand as mine.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What Is Summer: The Glow And The Reality

What is summer?

Summer is green, luscious green everywhere. Little garden, growing wildly. First the blooms, then tiny, promising fruit. What a thrill to watch it grow, then pick and enjoy the product of our labors.
(Also: Living in the middle of the woods it means weeds grown up, up and out of control. Until I feel like I'm living in a jungle and no one cares but me.)

Summer is popcicles on a hot, sunny day; homemade ones. Made with the relic Tupperware molds of our past. 
(To be honest: we've made them once this year and they disappeared in about 2 days.)

Summer is fourth of July picnics at the lake. 
(Confession: picnics anywhere, much less all together at the lake, are not really 
a regularity with the Eicher family. 
This was special.)

Summer is storing up the bounty for winter. It's watching the full jars line up slowly and feeling the adrenaline rush of the lids sealing with a satisfying 'ping'.

It's a friend sharing her bounteous dill and your mother-in-law digging out more jars from her basement. It's pulling out old recipes, long unused. It's the smell of vinegar and spices. It's tomato sandwiches and cucumbers on butter bread and weary bones at the end of the day. 

(Full Disclosure: It's a sweet, caring husband who takes an afternoon off to go to a produce auction to buy his wife veggies for canning -- a husband who likes to buy things at autions; lots of things. It's a wife who discovers she really may not have learned so very much in 17 years. [That's putting it all very mildly])

Summer is long, lazy days and evenings. It's a game of Clue, first thing in the morning. It's a trip to the Library and gazing in awe at the American Girl Doll collection on display. It's an afternoon spent on the recliner with stacks of books. It's crafting a swing set for your poor Fisherprice children who desperately need one. 

(Reality: It's settling fusses over one person having both Fisherprice toilets while their sibling has none. It's a perpetually toy-strewn living room, non-stop Adventures In Odyssey and people who constantly think they need to be fed. It's hoping for some quiet time in the morning before everyone wakes up for the day.....)

Summer is busy and lazy and fun and taxing, all rolled into one. It is also short and fleeting and deserves to be 
enjoyed to the full. 

How's your summer?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Geocaching: One Giant Treasure Hunt

Used to be, when my family gathered, it was tradition for my mom to have a treasure hunt for the grandchildren. The hunts were never big and elaborate, nor were the treasures. But the special feelings and memories were huge and all the grandchildren looked forward to the little tradition with anticipation. Maybe that's why some of us get such a kick out of the giant treasure hunt called Geocaching?

It's been quite a while ago that I heard about this quirky pastime. Several of my siblings have spent time hunting down various caches but somehow I've never gotten in on the action.

According to wikipedia, "geocaching
is an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a global positioning system (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches", at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and sometimes a pen or pencil. The geocacher signs the log with their established code and dates it, in order to prove that they found the cache. After signing the log, the cache must be placed back exactly where the person found it. Larger containers such as plastic storage containers or ammunition boxes can also contain items for trading, such as toys or trinkets, usually of more sentimental worth than financial."

If you are interested in the origin and history of geocaching, you can find the full story here. This fun hobby even has it's own personal lingo which you might find intriguing and helpful in deciphering information about geocache sites.

Last week I decided to look up some info and try out this crazy, giant treasure hunting. There are several caches hidden less than 5 miles from us, so Sunday evening the girls and I went on a little excursion.

Our first destination was a graveyard next to a park we sometimes visit. The hint they gave us was "Under stone, ask Elizabeth". Being able to put two and two together, we went searching for a gravestone with the name Elizabeth.

Lo and behold, there she was!

And there was our box....

With all the little treasures and logbook inside......

We checked it all out and added our name and the date to the log. Then, we tucked everything back where it was and exclaimed,  "That was fun! Let's look for another one!"

Since there was another one located in an older part of the cemetery, we went ahead and searched for it too. This time our hint was "Don't get your arms scratched up like I did placing it". 

Didn't take us too long to say I Spy!

I'm not really sure why it's so much fun but there's a whole list of them around here I would love to search for! We haven't managed to convince the men of the house that it's exciting. Maybe one of these days when it's not so hot we'll get them talked into going with us. One good search and they'll surely be hooked, right? I'm already dreaming of finding one in every state we travel through. Shhhh. Don't tell. 

And now I'm curious -- have you heard of geocaching? Have you tried it? Are you a fan?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

17 Things From 17 Years: Post 17

I realize that June is actually past but here's #17 anyway...

#17: There is always something more to learn in marriage.

I don't think I even need to elaborate on this one. The minute we think we have arrived in our marriage is usually just shortly before we have some sort of relationship issues. It's when I do things like blog about 17 things from 17 years that we for sure knock heads and have multiple misunderstandings and extra amounts of hurt feelings. Really.

But it's ok to always be learning something more; that means God is at work. Let's not despair and give up, we have an enemy that would like nothing better!

This ends my list of 17 things. I hope I have stirred your thinking, maybe inspired you to sit down and think about what marriage has taught you? I hope I have challenged you, maybe in areas you hadn't thought of? Or encouraged you in places where you would like to grow. Mostly, I hope you know that I have not learned all of these things perfectly; that my marriage is a work in progress just like yours. I fail. I fail often. But -----

"...I am certain that God, who began the good work within [us], will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." Phil 1:6 

Courage to you and yours. And much joy and happiness in your marriages. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

17 Things From 17 Years: Post 16

#16: Marriage is not about figuring out who is right or wrong, it is about "we are a team".

I don't know if it's true that in every marriage one partner usually feels like they're always wrong; I think it might be. All I know is, in our marriage I am that person. Anytime there's a disagreement or a misunderstanding, I tend to immediately make it about who is right and who is wrong.

One day, in the middle of a big, frustrating go around, Chris explained to me, "When we are discussing something like this, to me it's not about who is right or wrong, it's about understanding each other."

"Really?? To me it feels like you are just out to prove you are right - and you can always prove you're right because you are more analytical and articulate than I am!"

But he insisted that's not what his goal is and I started trying to wrap my brain around the difference that knowledge could make. Then, one day we listened to the video about The Four Countries. I pegged him wrong on that to start with but once he set me straight and we started talking about the countries we're from -- light bulbs!

You see, Chris is from Perfect Country. The people in Perfect Country are all about getting it right. They are about truth and logic. It doesn't matter so much to them if people think they are right, as it does that the truth marches on. If they love someone, they show it by trying to help that person get it right.

I, on the other hand, am from the Country Of Peace. If there is anything that makes me shut down, it is someone trying to help me get it right. My immediate reaction is, "I'm so stupid. I always mess up. What's the point of trying, I'll just forget again."

Isn't it amazing how different people come at life from such different angles?

As husband and wife, we're on the same team, working toward the same goals. The more we can learn to understand each other, the better we can be at our game. In baseball, the pitcher's spot is quite different from the guy in left field. To play a good game, we need them both. Yes, the pitcher might give the guy in left field some tips and the first baseman might critique the pitcher. But it's never about "I am right and you are wrong". It's really all about, "Let's win this game!"

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

17 Things From 17 Years: Post 15

#15: Seasons come and go; the baby won't settle at 11 p.m. forever.

This one sounds so completely cliche, I hardly even know what to say about it. We hear the 'they'll be grown up before you know it' lines so often, it's hard to know if they are even helpful. As a young, sleep deprived mom, I mostly just wanted to smack the people who said those things anyway. Smack them and roll my eyes with a sarcastic, "Oh, I'll know it all right!"

Every stage of life has it's pros and it's cons, it's hard and easy things, it's times of fun and frustration. In the scheme of things, none of the stages last very long.

The days years of getting up multiple times a night will end (with my youngest, I was sure I would be the first mom still rocking my child to sleep at 16 but lo! I was wrong.) Those hectic Sunday mornings, getting everyone fed and clothed and combed with your own two hands? They end. So do the games of peek-a-boo and the cute things toddlers say. The chubby, baby feet disappear and the little heads no longer nestle up against your neck. One day there are no longer multiple heads of hair to be braided and no one needs help with their buttons. In fact, one day there might not be anyone in the house but you and your husband.

Before you go find the Kleenex or fling out your sarcastic remark, here's all I'm saying.

Realizing these things don't last forever doesn't mean you'll never feel exhausted or overwhelmed. It doesn't mean you won't long for a full night of sleep and a long, hot shower without anyone crying outside the bathroom door. It doesn't mean the first day of school won't be hard and the very thought of them all growing up won't dissolve you into tears. It just means that you'll live your life in the big picture.

It means you'll cry tears of exhaustion into your pillow at night but you'll search for the good moments like gold. You'll fall on your knees, begging God for wisdom and you'll jot down all the hilarious things that they say. You'll despair over them ever getting through the day without a squabble and you'll treasure the cuddles and I love yous. You'll worry that you've completely messed up and you'll delight in having them come to you with their struggle.

Realizing the baby won't settle at 11 p.m. forever just means I'll try to embrace it all; this stage, that stage and then the next one.

And, someday when I find myself with no one needing my help and the house all clean and quiet, hopefully I'll wipe my eyes and say, "Hey darling! How about ice cream at bed time without worrying some kid will see us? Shall we run off for the weekend and do something fun? It'll only take me two shakes to get ready!"

Monday, June 25, 2018

17 Things From 17 Years: Post 14

#14: Standing behind my children's father is one of the most important things I can ever do.

Being a mom - at least in my world - means caring for my children 24/7. This boils down to mom being the chief diaper changer, food provider, mess cleaner upper, quarrel disolver, problem solver, question answerer, discipline administerer... etcetera and so forth.  And while I'm always wishing to hand my responsibilities over to dad, it's awfully easy to come across like I have a corner on child rearing.

"That's not the way I would change a diaper" and "that's not the way she likes to be held to go to sleep". "He always does that when he's hungry" and "don't feed him that, he'll get a tummy ache!" "How do you make such a mess to give one little bath?" "You rinsed her hair like that?"

But oh, the worst.

The worst is when I contradict the father in front of our children.

"She didn't even do that. It was actually him that took the toy away from her!" "Did you have to say it like that? You made her feel terrible!" "Does it really matter if they don't go straight to bed when they go to their rooms?" "It really doesn't matter to me if he bangs his hammer on that chair."

If you want a happy home, if you want children who are respectful and obedient, you gotta stand behind the dad, mom. You just gotta.

The daddy loves his baby just as much as you do and his way of putting them to sleep might work even better than yours! Let dad try his way, it probably won't hurt anybody. God gave men instincts too, they're just different from ours. Different, but not necessarily wrong.

Hear me correctly on this. I'm not saying your tongue must be permanently bit and you should never speak up. It's not always wrong to contradict your children's father, but it's usually wrong to do it in front of your children. Unless you can say it in a kind, respectful way, you are almost always better off voicing your cautions/concerns/opinions in another room or after listening ears are elsewhere.

There is a marked difference between a quiet, "I think he was actually the one who took the toy but I may be wrong." And a forceful, "He's not even the one who did that, why are you punishing him?"

When the tables are turned, I know how much it means to have dad stand solidly behind me when I'm doling out a punishment. I also know how badly it hurts when my discipline is publicly downplayed or my lecture openly questioned.

If you are married to a man who loves the Lord and your children, a respectful discussion in private is far more likely to produce apologies, forgiveness and good relationships than an open confrontation, which is likely to cause anger, hurt and disrespect. How do I know? Because I've responded both ways.

It is hard sometimes, when you're so sure you know better, to keep your mouth shut. Trust me, I know. And I fail at this one too often. But it's worth it.