Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dear Mom,

I've been avoiding this, Mom.
Been spending half my time 
pretending there's nothing going on
and the other half trying to figure out
what it is I'm trying to avoid.

It would be tempting to blame it all 
on four innocent pieces of fabric.

We had fun shopping for them --
well, mostly anyway.
It took us awhile to decide
what we each wanted
but I think in the end we were 
pleased with the choices we made.

And it was fun to decide
how to make them --
A square neck or a round one?
These sleeves or those?
A belt or no belt?
But somewhere between decisions 
and seams and hems
the fun began to seep away and
a new feeling took it's place.

The only word I could honestly give
the feeling was resentment.
After all, let's face it,
 no one ever plans to make dresses 
for their Dad's wedding!

As I stitched and ironed
(and used the seam ripper),
I would discover a lump forming
 in my throat
and pretty soon a tear would escape
and then another and another....
If no one was around,
the tears might turn into
a full blown sobfest
but mostly I would take myself
in hand and preach.

Why am I crying anyway?
I'm happy for my Dad.
I'm glad this is happening.
 I like Sara, for pete's sake!

And no, you are not going to write about this, 
I would tell myself. People do not
 need to know everything.

It is good to deal in facts, I believe;
to not allow oneself to wallow
in a hopeless mess of
 feelings and emotions.
On the other hand, it is also good 
to realize that one is human
 and therefore 
one will have feelings and emotions
that cannot be dismissed completely even with the truthfulest of facts.

A friend of mine said it best 
when I poured my feelings into 
her kind ears --
"Because. It's missing your mom.
Let the grief come."

Ahhh. That is it.
It's not because I'm unhappy 
about the plans,
Not because it's all so 
hard and terrible, 
And for sure not 
because I don't like Sara!

It is really the simple fact that the need for these dresses 
brings home the stark reality 
that you are not here, Mom.
And I miss you, that is all.

And so, when the lump comes into my throat and the tears spill down my cheeks, I will allow them their place; they are necessary and healing.
But come Saturday, when we don the lovely dresses and celebrate a new beginning, I will smile with happiness in my heart for the two 
special people joining hands. 

Because it is okay to miss you, Mom,
and embrace the welcoming of my dad's new wife all at the same time.

And maybe it's okay for people to know everything, after all.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Complete Guide to The Best Way To Can Tomato Juice

#1. When you go to the local Amish man to pick up your bushel of green beans, casually mention that you'd like two bushels of tomatoes rather than just one like you had ordered. When he says he's got them today if you want them, take them. Block out the fact that you are doing a bushel of beans today and you still need to sew a dress in the next 7 days, amongst numerous other things. Take them!

#2. Go out for supper with two girlfriends after doing said green beans. Be sure that one of them is a friend who owns one of these babies. 

*It's called a Vita Mix!

Listen skeptically as she tells you how she puts her tomatoes through this wonderful contraption and the juice is ready to cook - no Victoria Strainer; no other type of hand cranked sieve of any kind. 

#3. Borrow The Thing. I'm probably way behind the times but people, it works! This thing is the Do you know how much time I've spent cranking tomatoes through a sieve? Me either. But way too much.

#4. Next you need a daughter to cut up tomatoes for you. Preferably one like mine who sticks with it til it's done.

#5. You also need a son to run the fabulous blender. It is Much the best way.

#6. Then, you need a sister who teaches you how to cut out the other time consuming factor in canning tomato juice - water bathing for twenty minutes. Introducing: The Oven Method. Again, I am probably way behind on these revelations but in case you are like me, I will explain.

-- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. In the mean time, cook your juice down. 

-- Fill oven with jars. I left them in there for fifteen-twenty minutes but I'm no expert on this.

*Just a little aside here. If you are like me - end up with jars with the paper still on - when you get the jar out of the oven, that paper will slide right off!

-- Place lids in pan. Cover with water and bring to a boil; turn on low. And, by the way, if you've never learned the secret of canning with (and re-using and re-using) twist lid jars, you're welcome. They work beautifully.

-- Once your juice is boiled down, keep your juice simmering, your lids hot and grab a hot jar out of the oven. (Oven mitt!)

-- Fill your jar, put the lid on, presto! Set to the side and repeat, repeat, repeat.

-- Enjoy the delightful "Pings" as the jars begin to seal.

I know it isn't really worth it these days, tomato juice is cheap at the store. But Oh, there is nothing like the feeling of satisfaction looking at those lovely rows of ruby red.... and it tastes better, too.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Beauty For Ashes or The Dead Hanging Basket

Last year in May, on the first anniversary of the passing of my mother, several different ladies from church gifted me with plants. I was so touched to think that they remembered the date and took the time to let me know it! I don't do well with doing that sort of thing for others and it made me feel very small and humble to think that they cared enough about me to remember with me.

One of them gave a lovely hanging basket. I didn't take a picture of it but it looked a lot like this...

I'm not very great with flowers. I love them and I dream of beautiful flower beds but I've never had them. You see, beautiful flower beds don't just happen. They take lots of tender care, not to mention some money and know how, and I just have never put in the effort. I have done some hanging baskets and window boxes and those type of things but even there my green thumb is lacking.

So. The lovely hanging basket gifted to me...

Well, with no porch I didn't have a good place to hang it, for starters. I planned to buy a hook to put by the door or a hanger of some kind to put out by our back patio but - you guessed it. It never happened. I'm ashamed to say what did happen, actually. The dear, thoughtful lady who was so sweet to remember and care might read this and how would she feel??

Maybe if I say it real fast and get it over with -- I hung it on the end of the clothesline and it died. 


It lived for awhile. It bloomed profusely and looked gorgeous and I would notice it again and think, "I've got to make a better place to put this!" Then it started looking sickly. Jasmine was determined to nurse the thing back to life, so we cut it back and she watered it diligently. It revived somewhat but never to it's original glory and eventually it gave up completely and shriveled into nothing.

Me being the neat, orderly, particular type, I left the thing hanging right there on the end of the clothesline. It weathered the fall, and then the winter, and there it hangs still.

This morning I was out busily hanging my towels. The sun was hot and I was doing my job quickly - bend, select towel, flip on the line, pin pin pin.
I don't know what made me look at the empty basket hanging there forlornly on the end of the clothesline but it caught my eye and my busy fingers stopped short.

Could it possibly be?? Surely not a flower in the corner of that dry, empty old basket? However in the world could it be?!

But there it was, sure enough. Pushing up bravely through dry, old dirt was one little shoot with dainty, perfect flowers blooming brightly.

I stood still and gazed at it with a twinge of awe. How in the world did that brave little shoot emerge from a pot of dry dirt that had sat empty for over a year? A lump rose up in my throat and tears threatened to fill my eyes. The analogies and comparisons that could be made were endless and the beauty of a God who can bring life out of the dark, dry places filled my heart in that moment.

"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified." Isaiah 61:3

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

We Have This Moment

All five are home again, 
after two weeks of someone being gone.

I'm reveling in hearing, 
"It's so good to be home, mom!"
"It's good to eat food 
that tastes like home." 
And other such heartwarming sentiments.

Two weeks ago Isaac went off to a week of Youth Camp in IN and last week, he returned and Jasmine took her turn. I think they both grew several inches, inside and out, during those days away. I think I may have grown as well.
It's a kind of growing, isn't it, to have pieces of your heart walking around in different parts of the USA?

It's only beginning I'm afraid,
this having a part of me
in different places at different times, and I don't think any mother anywhere has ever been ready.

I've been thinking about that fact
 a lot lately.
I'm concluding that the only
thing I can really do
 is treasure the moments I have now.

And there are many interesting moments, I assure you.

My house is in a constant state of chaos these days, which isn't too hard
with five children in a house that measures 24x32.

But when I think of the few short years that I will actually have them 
all under one roof,
it's a little easier to remember
to embrace the chaos
and treasure the moments --
like these....

Operation Legos: divide the blocks by color; two people get yellow and green, two people get red and blue. 

Each team build a building

 Using plenty of imagination

And a large dose of your arguing skills

Then it's time to take the fun a step further and
 play a 'Detective Game'
(can I just say right here, these kiddos are their dad's, every one of them??)

First, you set up the town

Complete with all the cars and people

Then, it's time for the story line: A girl's mother (I believe it later turned into her grandmother) died, and left her the mansion. The two 'bad guys' (Jasmine and Lillian) don't want her to have it, so when the girl comes to visit, they set up things to make her think the house is haunted. The police and detectives (Isaac and Jennifer) must then unravel the mystery and solve the problem. And, of course, ultimately stick all the bad guys in jail!

Interesting Moments Indeed.

I might add here, the whole operation actually started with three begging the fourth to play a game with them. When the fourth refused to cooperate, their mother suggested they propose a deal (Hey, it was one way to keep the three from begging her next!)
So, the fourth agreed to play the game the three wanted, if the three would then play Detective with the houses and people....which then evolved into 
all of the above.

When the noise level is way too high,
and I can hardly walk through
my living room for the chaos of imagination, I hope I remember how it will feel to have pieces of my heart wandering the world and how happy I am to have them all here with me under this one, small roof.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

I Thank Thee More?

We were visitors at church that Sunday, tucked into a row with hardly enough room for our family of seven. I was keenly concious of the watching eyes as I did my best attempt at deftly balancing song book and three year old in my lap between elbow in my rib on the left and shoulder brushing mine on the right. It was hardly the best atmosphere for noticing any profound message in the songs being sung and I really wasn't trying; I barely knew the song we were singing, actually.

Suddenly a phrase in the third stanza grabbed my attention with somewhat the same effect of an electric fence and an oblivious cow. Say what again? I thank thee more for what?? 

   "I thank Thee more that all our joy is touched with pain..."

I sat there, stunned for a moment, while the voices around me continued on with their singing.

   "That shadows fall on brightest hours, that thorns remain -- So that earth's bliss may be our guide, and not our chain."

The words echoed and re-echoed in my mind. Was it really possible to say that? I thank Thee MORE??

Those words stuck in my mind, and three days later I finally took the time to look up the song in our songbook at home and study it more. I've concluded that I would like to have known this woman who penned such profound words.

"My God, I thank Thee, who has made the earth so bright -- So full of splendor and of joy, beauty and light -- So many glorious things are here, noble and right.

"I Thank Thee, too, that Thou has made Joy to abound -- So many gentle thoughts and deeds circling us round; that in the darkest spot of earth some love is found.

"I thank Thee more that all our joy is touched with pain; that shadows fall on brightest hours, that thorns remain -- So that earth's bliss may be our guide, and not our chain.

"I thank Thee, Lord, that Thou hast kept the best in store; we have enough, yet not too much to long for more -- A yearning for a deeper peace not known before.

"I thank Thee, Lord, that here our souls, though amply blest, can never find, although they seek, a perfect rest -- Nor ever shall, until they lean on Jesus' breast."

Even so come Lord Jesus.