Sunday, May 9, 2021

Dear Mom

Mother's Day has come and nearly gone. 

We've gone to church, listened to all the nice things said to the women, eaten our lunch cooked by the men. We had nice naps and soft pretzels made by the daughters. We spent some time with the in-laws, where we came away with gifts from the mom, instead of vice versa. It's been a good day all around. 

But tonight, my heart feels a little tired and my eyes feel a little weepy. I'm ending the day thinking about you, Mom. 

May 6th came and went last week; seven years that you're gone. I knew the anniversary was coming up but I nearly went through the whole day without remembering! Somehow tonight, the sadness of that fact hits me hard. Of course I want to move on and live life, but I don't ever want to forget -- what kind of person forgets?

Grief is so strange, Mom. Even when I remembered it was May 6th, I could have hardly cried a tear if I'd tried. Today, sitting in church listening to people say lovely things about their mothers, I shed a few tears only when my own daughter stood up and took the mic. Tonight? Tonight I could cry buckets over the weariness of this world and the pain of living and the ache of missing you, Mom. 

I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- I'm so glad you could slip away peacefully in your sleep. So glad you didn't have to go through old age or cancer or dementia or pain and suffering. Would that we could all go as easily and effortlessly as you. 

But tonight I'm missing you. I miss your smile and your laugh and your voice. I miss your letters and your notes and your emails. I miss all the games you would have played with your grandchildren; the stories you would have read; the treasure hunts you would have made. I miss all the advice you would have given me these past seven years; all the questions you would have answered. I miss all the times when I would have told you things -- big, life changing things and small, unimportant things. I miss the prayers you would have prayed; I miss just knowing you were there. 

Life goes on, Mom. Sadness comes and goes, joy ebbs and flows. As long as we're here in this broken world, we'll hold the tension of it all together -- the laughter and the tears, the pain and the healing. At the close of this Mother's Day, it seems fitting to cry the tears and count the blessings, all in the same little space. Because, the truth is, Mom -- there are a lot worse reasons to be crying than the reasons I'm crying tonight. 

Thank you for all the good, good memories; for being the kind of Mom who is missed. That is a blessing I don't ever want to forget. 

Love, Bethany 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

10 Pros and Cons: Cape Dresses

A while back I wrote about some pros and cons of homeschooling and I thought it might be fun to come up with more pro and con subjects. 

As a little explanation for this post -- I grew up in a church where the women wore homemade, cape dresses. The church we now attend allows other types of modest clothing, but I have chosen to continue wearing homemade, cape dresses. So, here are my 10 pros and cons in no particular order...

1) It is what I've always worn. I like the way they fit and look. When there is no compelling reason for change, why change? 

Sometimes it would be fun to do something different for a change but mostly I like not having to figure out a new way of dressing. 

2) It offers less temptation for excess. I feel like the principle of modesty includes amounts of possessions as well, and when I can't pick up a $2 skirt at Goodwill but need to make my clothes instead, it automatically cuts out some needless excess clothing. 

Sometimes a little more excess would feel less boring. 

3) It encourages me to pass on an invaluable skill. I think sewing is a valuable skill for my girls to learn. I know me well enough to know that if I didn't have to sew my clothes, it wouldn't be long before the skill would be lost. 

I am not a teacher. I actually don't really enjoy teaching this skill to my daughters. 

4) It makes choosing my outfit for the day simple. There's no need for putting together countless outfits -- I pull out a dress, and put it on!

Sometimes it would be fun to have more options for coordinating clothing. 

5) It is a little extra personal discipline in being intentional about what I wear. When I make my own clothing, it's harder to excuse a short skirt or sheer fabric or too large neckline -- I sat down and made that myself, I didn't just pick it up at a yard sale or thrift store because it was cheap. 

I will admit, when the dress so laboriously made does not fit, the option of buying things looks pretty attractive. 

6) It utilizes a skill that I enjoy. Sewing is a creative outlet for me, so why not use it?

Ask me this question when I need to pick out a seam or adjust a pattern for a growing girl; my answer might be very different. 

7) It is a personal, focal reminder that I belong to another Kingdom. Cape dresses are a unique way of dress that serve as a reminder to myself that I am representing Jesus and others will notice. 

Sometimes it would be nice if the reminder wasn't quite so focal. Pretty sure I could be reminded in more obscure ways. 

8) It makes it almost impossible to blend in with the world at large. Anyone who sees me knows immediately that there is something different about me. It is a natural generator of questions and conversations. 

Some days I would rather just blend in. 

9) It is a good way to dress modestly. Cape dresses are certainly not the only way to dress modestly but they are a good one. 

Sometimes I feel like choosing other ways of dressing modestly would be a lot easier. 

10) It is a way to honor my husband. My husband prefers cape dresses over skirts or even other kinds of dresses. He thinks they look pretty and feminine -- I kinda want to look that way for him. 🙂

There is no con for this one. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

How Do You Know?

• How do you know when you can put the ice cream buckets away, when everyone in the house has been carrying them around for a week "just in case"? We have had a stubborn stomach / flu bug hanging around our house for over a week now and I am so over it! Everytime you think you're all heading in the right direction, someone comes around carrying one of those wretched buckets again. Most of the time they're not getting used anymore, we're just all slightly paranoid. 

• How do you know when to ask your husband to do things and when to just be thankful for what he does? It's no secret that my husband is not all that concerned about possessions or looks; I love that about him. Except when I wish for things -- like a cleaned off porch and an organized storage shed and a lawn that's mowed and a nicely tilled garden and mulched flower beds. My philosophy is generally that it's not worth ruining what I have, by fussing over what I don't have. On the other hand, sometimes it doesn't hurt to ask. 

(And what I have, btw, is quite nice.)

• How do you know how long you can go without deep cleaning your house? If you regularly clean your bathrooms and sweep your floors, is that enough? Will the dust on the curtains eventually weigh down the curtain rods too much? Can you just pretend you wanted the white wall in the stairwell to be a slight shade of grey? Will the bugs collecting in the light fixtures actually block out all the light at some point? We're working on the conclusion to this one. The short answer is: a long time. 

• How do you know when always believing the best about other people is actually not a healthy thing? Recently I've been thinking about how easy it is to slip into the habit of expecting the worst from people. Instead of assuming someone just never thought to tell me the news, I immediately believe they intentionally didn't want me to know -- things like that. It's such a detrimental habit that breeds distrust and cynicism. On the flip side, I think that attitude can be ingrained to a fault, to the point where a person doesn't have the ability to think logically for themselves -- they said we have to buy the $100 outfit to participate; I'm sure they have a good reason! Somewhere there is a line. 

• How do you know when you are addicted to a thing? Depends what it is. When it's 9:15 pm, and you're waiting for bread to cool so you can go to bed because you've baked four loaves of sourdough bread in a day and you only have two bread pans, it is probably safe to assume you're kind of addicted to sourdough toast for breakfast. Jasmine will never let me forget how I rolled my eyes when she started experimenting with sourdough!

• How do you know when an idea you thought was so wonderful, is one that you should just lay aside? Like Pooh Bear says, "When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it." Sometimes you think you've had a brilliant inspiration -- from the Lord, no less! And then it just doesn't quite roll. No one else is quite as enamored or invested. In fact, you're not quite sure if they even like the idea at all? A few say they do, and probably you should just go with it. But nothing about it goes smoothly and maybe, after all, you're just hanging onto something that's only Thing-ish in your own mind?

• How do you know when your refrigerator has not been cleaned for a very long time because the mother in the house is a pro at pushing off projects she doesn't like to do? Oh wait. I know the answer to this one. All I have to do is open my refrigerator. 

• How do you know when you should stop asking questions and just get on with your life? 

Questions for the Lord, as they say. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Days Go By


I spent last week as a single parent, with Chris off working at a Tire Shop in another state. I had big ideas that instead of spending my "before bed" time with my husband, I would have expansive amounts of time to think and write and Do Things. Maybe that sounds silly, but one of the things about having my children home 24/7 that has been difficult for me, is never having enough of my own space. When I do get alone time, it takes me a bit to 'get in the zone' to write or do any serious things. If I know I only have a little time, I usually end up squandering it on things of little importance. All that to say, I'm not sure what happened, but the whole week disappeared without me ever doing most of the things I thought I might do. Maybe, after all, the thing I need the most is more schedule and discipline?

Surely not. 

It is becoming increasingly hard to focus our minds on school work every day. We did double up lessons last week and the girls and I spent a day shopping, while Charles enjoyed time at grandpa's. That was fun. 

Having dad gone is not nearly as stretching as it used to be back when the children were small. But, having him come home is still my very favorite part! When he wakes up at 2:20 AM and decides to get up and start driving, that makes it even better. Walking in the house at 9 in the morning instead of arriving in the evening is not going to bring any complaints from me!

We've had some really pretty Spring days but this week Ohio decided to give winter one last fling. 

It didn't last long. 

Several years ago, I introduced you all to Shari Zook in one of my June story times. She has a book coming out July 6 and I get to help spread the word about it! The funny version of the story is this. 

Shari had announced on her blog that she is starting a launch team on Facebook and welcomed anyone who is willing to spread the word about her book to come and join. I wasn't too sure about it, but I shyly clicked the link to join this highfallutin launch thing and chickened out when you were required to answer questions about yourself. Weeks later, I was encouraged to "Do it!" So, I went back... and I just couldn't handle the "three words describing yourself and your interests" and I chickened out the second time. (This really is who I am.) Later, I got a notification saying my request had been accepted!? At that point I kind of didn't even want to be in the group! 

But, in the group I am. It's making me think and stretching me to answer more questions about myself. I'll share more about the book and a link to pre-order soon. 

At this very moment, I'm sitting in the Walmart parking lot. I need to wrap this ramble up and go get my grocery shopping done. I feel like I should have something more profound to say than little bits and pieces of the days going by. I guess that's pretty much my life right now. Not a bad thing, and I hope I'm making it count in some small way. But sometimes it feels like a lot of mundane and waiting and doing the next thing. I suppose that's actually mostly what life is. When you're trying to have your ear open to God's voice, that's the important part. 

One last picture and then I'm off to the races...

Don't you just love dogwoods? They're one of my favorites. They remind me of my childhood and I'm so glad Ohio has them.

A happy weekend to you!

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Dear Little Girl

This is written to the little foster girl who was part of our family for six months. We still have some contact and, this past week, were able to pick her up for an evening at the park for Charles' birthday. We surprised him with the visit and he was so, so thrilled!

* * * * * * * 

We got to see you this week and it made my heart so very happy. When I got the idea to take you out for Charles' birthday, I was pretty sure you would be just as excited as him. We drove up to your house, and I saw your little face bounce excitedly at the window. Then, there you were, running out the door to give me a hug!

You were just as sweet as ever, with your shining brown eyes and your contagious little giggles. It was so fun to see you happy, healthy and glowing. 

I watched you run around the park in your rainbow boots and a thousand memories came to my mind. My heart squeezed and I felt a little teary, thinking about the good times and the not so good ones, all jumbled up together. There are no words to express how grateful I am that you are happily at your mama's house, where you belong. 

We ate chicken nuggets and fries together under the pavilion and it felt just like old times. How many, many times did we pick up McDonald's and head to the park during those long weeks of lockdown when the one park that was open offered an escape from days upon days at home? I watched Chris tease you and you took it in stride, as comfortable with us as if it had been yesterday that you sat at our table. 

After one last swing ride, we piled back into the van for the ride home. There was cheerful chattering and finishing of drinks. When we arrived, you bounced back in the door to your house as happily as you had bounced out, and I was glad. I thanked your mom for letting you come and turned to leave with a final goodbye. 

"Wait. She says she has something she wants to give you!"

You handed me your masterpiece with the proudest grin and I exclaimed at your artwork and gave you a hug. We all laughed together when you looked at me expectantly and wondered if I had anything to give you? Then we said goodbye again and the door closed behind me.

Oh, little girl. I am so honoured to still be a small part of your life. 

 * * * * * * * * * * 
I don't know why God blessed us with such a beautiful fostering story; I know that many, many stories don't turn out this way. I am forever grateful.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Friday Rambles

This week has been unusual, beginning with a week ago Saturday afternoon. I packed up overnight things for Chris and I, and then wandered off by myself to spend several hours enjoying alone time.

Barkcamp State Park 

The weather was lovely, with signs of spring all around. I drove around the park, wandered down a trail, and found a secluded picnic table. The quiet time alone with God and nature was so good for my soul. One of the things I have missed the most the past year, is alone time. I need to just make it happen more often. 

Chris had work related meetings all afternoon at a swanky motel in our local town. I met him at supper time and we ordered food to enjoy in our room, which was more like a little apartment. When the company you work for provides you with an overnight getaway, you certainly do not complain! It was a lovely time, relaxing talking and just enjoying each other. We had thought we might take a hike the next morning but it was raining. We enjoyed a Bob Evan's breakfast in our room and then checked out at 11.

I had a great server...

Sunday evening, there was a party in Holmes County for the school's read-a-thon Jennifer had participated in. Chris, Jennifer and spent our afternoon/evening there. I must say, the day did not feel like Sunday at all!

Tuesday we celebrated thirteen years of  having Jennifer Lynn in our lives. In typical Eicher household fashion, a last minute birthday outing got planned the day before. On Tuesday, Chris took off work early and we loaded up bikes in one vehicle and Jennifer and friends in another, and headed for the bike trail!

The weather was perfect for a five mile bike ride! Chris, Jasmine and Charles picked us up at the other end. The girls had time to check out the "library" before our ride got there. 

Pizza at the park completed the birthday outing. We delivered bikes and girls to their homes and called it a successful time. 

Wednesday morning dawned wet and chilly. It's been four years since we moved into our house on the hill, and today was the day to finally install a backsplash in my kitchen! (The backsplash was to have been done before moving, but there were issues with the installer and it never got done.) We escaped to town for lunch and then spent the afternoon doing school work at the library. Wouldn't recommend doing that on a regular basis. 

I was also supposed to be getting a new stove on Wednesday, so my old one had been moved out. However, the delivery was delayed a second time (when the delivery truck gets stuck one week and breaks down the next, you begin to wonder if there is a stove). Everything felt a little out of whack with the kitchen partially dismantled. 

Thursday the tile got grouted and we struggled to keep people motivated to do schoolwork. There was snow in the air and a couple with sore throats and it felt like a good day to take a nap! I put my kitchen back together enough to cook a decent supper and tried to catch up on laundry. 

Today my brain can't quite absorb the fact that it's Friday. I should be doing any number of things rather than write this meaningless blogpost but here I am, doing just that. If nothing else, weeks like this one make me grateful for ordinary!

That's all. 

Happy Easter!

Friday, March 26, 2021

Thoughts About Relationships

I have been thinking a lot about relationships lately -- what is it that makes good relationships? How do you build trust? What fosters friendliness and goodwill toward each other?

I think one of the single most important things in having good relationships, is learning to understand other people. The ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes is not a skill that comes naturally for most people. 

The forsythia starts that I planted 
four years ago when we moved into this house 
finally have their first little blossoms!

There's probably a number of things that contribute to that, one being that people are simply all so different from each other! A friend of mine commented recently how making food is therapeutic; I confess, I failed to come up with a scenario in which food prep might serve that purpose for me. Or we have people like my husband, who feel the closest to others when they engage in animated discussions, the like of which would typically send me looking for a bed to crawl under. The goal in understanding these things is not so much to determine right or wrong/ better or worse responses and feelings. The goal is to recognize what is true to the other person, so that we can view their actions accordingly: Making food truly is therapeutic for that person. She is probably not going to stress out about making a snack for x-y-z like I would. Or: loud, animated discussions truly do make people like my husband feel intimacy. Understanding that can help me learn to press in and engage, instead of taking things personal or running away. 

We tend to expect everyone else to respond to life the same way we do -- "I hate to ask her to bring all of the dessert for sewing because that would feel like a lot to me." (Purely being hypothetical here. I would stress out a lot more over preparing, say, a turkey, than dessert for sewing. But you get my point) Or "If I was saying something that loudly, I would be upset. That person must be really annoyed." The fact is, regardless of how true those assumptions may seem to me, they may not be true at all in either of those scenarios. It is easy to see how other people understanding me can be helpful, but it's a whole lot harder to truly believe the other person's truth and put myself in their shoes.

I enjoy personality tests, love languages and the like for the very reason that they are helpful in understanding other people's truth. I know the enneagram is a controversial thing for some people but I have found it to be one of the most valuable tools I've discovered so far in learning to understand other people (not to mention, myself). I think another valuable tool is listening to other people's stories. 

I mentioned Katrina's blog and book last week. I have also immensely enjoyed a podcast she and her husband put out last year. As of now they are no longer putting up new episodes, but I loved their mission with the Voices of Survival podcast: "Voices of Survival shares, in their own voices, the stories of people in our Brady Street, Elkart neighborhood, who have survived difficult times. You provide dignity by listening to their stories. But the stories will provide you with something too: a sense of gratitude for the childhood that you had and a sense of compassion for those who have not had it."

That, in a nutshell, is what listening to each other's stories can do. 

I am woefully behind in reading through the  chronological Bible this year, but I just got done listening to the part in Deuteronomy where Moses admonishes them over and over to remember their story. "Remember where you came from; remember what you've gone through; remember to remember." That's a bit of a bunny trail, maybe. But I think it ties into the thing of telling our stories and understanding where we came from and where we're going. 

I'm just a little excited about them, 
they remind me of my mom...

I'm not always real great with relationships. I'm the person who came through a pandemic feeling like it's just easier to live life without needing to deal with people, remember? The fact is though, in order for most things in life to work smoothly, we need other people. And in order to accomplish anything well with other people, we need good relationships. A big step toward building those good relationships involves learning to understand what it feels like to live life in another person's shoes. It may not be a skill we are naturally born with, but I do think it's one we can learn to be better at!