Last Day of the Year

It is the last day of the year. Last blog of the year. Last post of the year. 

 

Every time we have a “last” we always feel like it should be extremely profound. Well, it’s the last day of the year. I’m doing laundry today. We’re going to clean the house. I’ve got to do a bit of grocery shopping. This evening we’ll have some pizza and the teens are going to have some friends over to watch movies. On the surface, none of that is profound. It’s very mundane. 

 

But, let’s dig a bit deeper. I’m going to spend the day taking care of my family and my children and our home. It’s a good family. It’s a good home. I am very blessed to be able to have this family. In fact, I would say that puttering around my house with a bunch of children is kind of along the same line as being the curator of a large treasury. My sole job is to keep the diamonds polished and make sure the gold is lined up just right. So, yeah, it’s actually a pretty profound way to end the year. 

 

I’ve been trying to do a little reflection, think back on the year, what stood out? I was looking at my blog posts for the year…glancing at the titles, what did I write about this year? I think if I needed to sum up the year, I would say it has been a year of going deeper. A year when I was able to spend time thinking about issues, people, books, politics, how does all this fit with Jesus and the Bible…I was able to engage with these subjects and go a bit deeper instead of skimming along on the surface. For an introspective introvert like me, who tends to live inside her head, that actually made it a really great year. 

 

It’s been a year of not hiding. Sharing my thoughts with others. Giving real answers to the “How are you doing?” question. That’s been a challenge. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written a blog, hit post, shared on FB, and then gone into a complete panic. Wondering if I should just erase the whole thing. DELETE! DELETE! Please know that I have not shared lightly. It has often been a major victory for me to hit the POST button. 

 

It has been a year of Overwhelming Grace. Looking back at all that has happened this year, the main theme I see is God granting strength and patience, endurance, provision. His hand always tightly wound up in every single detail. 

 

It’s also been a year of Seeing. Seeing the beauty in the every-day moments. The sunshine hitting that tree just-so. The dark clouds forming that geometric pattern. That tiny wildflower hidden in the grass. The kindness of a stranger at the store. The rich community feeling while standing in line at the bank. It’s kind of been like turning on the light switch in a dark room and realizing that you’ve been standing in an art gallery all along. Who knew all this beauty was just sitting here, waiting to be seen? 

 

It’s been a year of slowly blossoming friendship. Getting to know some of you much better online. Getting to know some of my old friends much better as we’ve carved out time to just be together. And realizing that all these friendships have always been waiting right here, it just took me making it a priority to seek them out at a deeper level. 

It’s been a good year. I am thankful. 

My blessing for all of you for this next year comes from the Bible, Numbers 6: 24-26:

“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you;  The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”

 

Not Bored Anymore

Well, it feels like it’s been several weeks since I last sat down to write, though in truth, it’s only been four days. I feel like I’ve crammed in enough activity in the past week and a half to fill at least one month. If someone were to ask how I was doing, the answer would be Tired. 

 

But it’s a good tired. It’s the tired at the end of a really good workout. The tired after completing some humongous task. It’s the feeling of knowing that you have worked really hard and now you deserve some rest. 

 

Introducing new kids into the family is very similar to having a newborn baby, minus the nursing problems. Our schedules have been tilted, everyone is in a transition mode. There’s excitement, and irritation, and 24hr-a-day parenting. 

 

The first day we got our new kids, that night, my husband hugged me tight, grinned at me, and said, “You know you’re crazy right?” I thought about that for a whole day then confronted him the next night, “If I’m crazy, what does that make you?” He said, “Oh, I’m crazy too.” Apparently we are well-matched. 

 

So, I know this is going to sound weird, but adding these kids to our family has added a lot to my life. I have to admit, I was getting a little bored. Our family was on cruise-control and while parenting is always challenging, there was nothing new or unexpected. I felt very much like I was treading water, trying to figure out how to challenge myself. Maybe I could figure out how to take on more piano students? 

 

Well, I do not feel bored any more. 

 

It makes me think about how God knows best. It seems that he has created us to enjoy change. We have the four seasons, or in other parts of the world, rainy seasons, dry seasons, stormy seasons. We mark time by how the weather changes. We have various holidays and festivities marked out to happen throughout the year, and we are constantly looking forward to these changes. I can’t wait for spring to come! Valentine’s Day is coming up soon! I can’t wait for next fall! 

 

It’s kind of strange that we live in a state of constant change, but we also crave the familiar, the comfortable, our safety zones. The two don’t seem to go together. 

 

I know that when we start getting close to Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years, there is a feeling of excitement and anticipation. I feel more alive and energetic, just awaiting all the festivities. I also know that when my comfort zone gets shaken up I feel more alive and purposeful. There is more zing in my step. 

 

I wrote in another blog, quite a while ago, about The Prayer of Jabez. How it was all about asking God to increase our boundaries, increase our area of influence. And I never liked that prayer. I never had any desire to make my boundaries any bigger than they are right now…thank you very much. So, recently my boundaries have suddenly increased. And I find myself happy about it. Feeling alive and useful. And thankful. Thankful that God knows a lot better than me what I can and can’t do. Thankful that he was willing to shake me out of my comfort zone. 

 

So, yes, I am tired. But I’m also not bored.

 

Have Yourself a Very Hygge Christmas

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The other day “hygge” was my Word of the Day and I loved it. I thought, This is My word. A word I can get behind.  Then the next day, I saw this picture with the definition again. And suddenly it seems that I’m seeing it everywhere.  And I love it. It fits into the lifestyle that I try to have, noticing the small things and realizing that the small things are actually the big things.

 

Right now, as I sit in my chair I can look out a window and see the early sun slanting in on my neighbor’s house, and just seeing that sliver of sunlight makes me happy. It gives me a feeling of hygge. 

 

Sitting at the breakfast table this past Sunday morning with twelve children all gathered together, everyone chatting happily to each other. Hygge. 

 

Walking through the house last night, right before bed, turning off lights, checking locks on doors…I stopped and noticed all of our stockings hung on the mantle, waiting for Christmas morning. Hygge. 

 

Today I will spend the day baking a humongous pan of cinnamon rolls and a quadruple recipe of pumpkin bread. I’ll get various children to help me and the house will soon smell like a bakery, the smell of cinnamon and warm bread filling the air. Hygge. 

 

Tonight my husband and I will stay up till the wee hours wrapping presents and putting them under the tree. When we are finally done, we will sit on the couch in the dark, maybe with a hot cup of tea, and admire the twinkling lights of the tree and all the surprises waiting underneath. We’ll grin as we imagine the excitement of the kids in the morning when they see all these presents waiting. Hygge.

 

Tonight also, per tradition, all the kids will gather in one bedroom, snuggle in their blankets, and one of the older children will read aloud the book, “The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever”. The younger children will fall asleep halfway through the book, the older ones will squirm around, wishing that morning would hurry up and come. The anticipation will be thick in the air as one by one they drop off to sleep. Hygge. 

 

Life is so rich if you can just stop and take notice. May your Christmas be one that is full of hygge as you pause and enjoy the small moments that are all around you. 

 

Merry Christmas!

 

Surprise!

Well, we’ve had a lot going on at our house since I last wrote. Two days ago I suddenly acquired a sibling group of three more children into my family. Six days before Christmas.  

 

Surprise! 

 

First, let me say that I am very humbled that God and all the powers that be were willing to entrust me with these children. Second, it’s absolutely terrifying. You want me to do what??? I have spent a lot of time on my face before God (mentally, because I’ve been too busy running around doing everything that has to be done), and he has showed up in a very big way. 

 

The first night we had the kids, I couldn’t sleep. My brain was too busy making lists of everything we needed to get these kids settled in AND have Christmas ready for the WHOLE household. I finally gave up on sleeping and moved into the living room, got the fire going in the fireplace, snuggled up on the couch and just let my brain do it’s thing. As I finished making up my lists I told God that I needed him to Provide in a really BIG, EXTRAVAGANT way. 

 

Twenty four hours later, almost everything on the list has been checked off. 

 

And how did God achieve this? Well, he used my family and friends and church. As I have reached out to ask for prayer and tell people what is going on, the overwhelming response has been, yes, we will pray…what can we physically do for you? And I have been able to resist the urge to think, I can do this, I don’t want to bother people asking for help, and instead I’ve been able to say, This is what I need…thank you for helping. 

 

And this is what Christmas is all about. Jesus came to earth as a baby, he paid the price for our sin and he has given us all that we need so that we can learn to be like him. The God of love. Love God, love each other. Not just mushy sentimental love, but physical, something you can touch, love. What are your physical needs? Let me help you. 

 

I am just at the beginning of this wild ride and would appreciate prayer for our family as we walk this new road. 

 

Life is full of surprises. 

 

Keeper of the Stuff

It came home to me today that I have a Job Title that I didn’t even realize. I am the Keeper of the Stuff. 

 

My oldest son: Mom, I have to take a present to the party tonight…where can I find a gift bag?

Me: Either top shelf of the hall closet or the bottom corner of the hall closet.

 

My husband: Where did I put my wedding ring? (Construction and wedding rings don’t always go well together.)

Me: Check my dresser.

 

Younger daughter: Mom, I want to give my teacher a Christmas Card.

Me: Check the top white drawer, there’s a stack of cards you can pick from.

 

Son: WE’RE OUT OF MILK!!

Me: No, bottom shelf, behind the eggs, there’s another gallon.

 

Extra Toothbrush? Check the pantry, above the washing machine. Plastic silverware? Look under the brown buffet, in the basket. Butter dish? I think I saw it in the bottom of the Catch All Drawer. Lost paper? Check my stack of papers in my room. Hair clips? Sorry, you’re out of luck. 

 

I think every family probably has one person who is the Keeper of the Stuff. It doesn’t have to be the mom. But, I think it is usually the person who has taken on the role of Primary Housekeeper and Primary Caregiver. It’s one of the requirements of the job: knowing where everything is.

 

Of course, I’m just human. I can’t keep up with everything. My oldest daughter used to help me with this. ANNA! HAVE YOU SEEN THE HANDMIXER??? And then she’d tell me where it was. Of course, she loved to cook and had her own organisation system so asking her where stuff was also had something to do with that old phrase, “Too many cooks in the kitchen.” But, Anna also tended to notice things around the house, so she was always my go-to person to help find something. Now that she lives in another state, I sometimes find myself looking for something  and think, “I should call Anna, maybe she knows where it is!?” Instead, I text my husband who is baffled as to why I am asking him. It just makes me feel better to pull one other person into my fruitless search for that one little attachment to the mixer that I haven’t used in two years. 

 

Hand-in-hand with KEEPER OF THE STUFF comes the job title FINDER OF THE STUFF. Now, this one, from my limited experience, does tend to be filled by the women of the house. 

 

Husband: I have looked everywhere, I can’t find that check I put on this shelf.. 

Me: (Walks over to the shelf, picks up check sitting on the shelf..) You mean this one? 

 

10 year old boy: I can’t find my shoes. I can’t go to school today because all of my shoes are gone.

Me: (Walks over to the shoe box, removes three pairs of shoes that belong to this child…) Put your shoes on, you’re going to school. 

 

Daughter, opens fridge: Mom! We’re out of salsa!!

Me: (Walks over to daughter, looks in the fridge, looks at the daughter…) The salsa is literally in front of your nose. If you walk forward about 6 inches, your nose will touch the salsa jar. 

 

Being the FINDER OF THE STUFF can be annoying. In fact, I have taken to warning my children, when they complain to me that they can’t find something. 

 

Me: If I come up there and find your shoes in less than One Minute….THERE IS GOING TO BE CONSEQUENCES! I don’t know what…But something. 

 

Anyway, I’ve held these job titles for years, I just hadn’t really thought of it till today. They are highly prestigious positions. I am sure they look good on my resume. 

 

I hate you…Merry Christmas!

So, I’ve decided every holiday season needs at least one blog to point out the underbelly of Season’s Greetings. Today is the day of the Heneise Family Christmas Party. If you didn’t get an invitation, consider yourself invited and come on over. I love this tradition. One of my girls asked me, rather annoyed because she is having to do a lot of cleaning today…Why do we always have a Christmas Party??? I said it’s because Christmas is about family, and since we don’t have a lot of family living close by, our friends are our family. And this is an opportunity to get together with them at least once during the Christmas Season. 

 

She harrumphed. 

 

If you can’t tell, attitudes haven’t been the best today. My kids love having a party, but they hate getting ready for a party. It involves cleaning, and deep cleaning, and decluttering, and picking up things that we usually ignore. Wiping down surfaces we usually leave for later. Then there is also the maintenance of the Said Cleaning. I JUST VACUUMED THAT COUCH!! GET OFF IT!!! 

 

The kids, already feeling put upon for having to clean, are taking it out on each other. I hate you! You’re stupid! I wish you weren’t here! And other horrible things that I don’t allow my children to say to each other, have been said today. I have had some rather uncomplimentary thoughts about some of my children as well, though at least I managed to keep it to myself. 

 

My husband told me yesterday that he was going to devote the whole day today to helping me get ready. I envisioned him washing some dishes and running a vacuum. This morning he announced he was going to clean the basement (???) and fix the two holes in my floors that have needed repairing for months. 

 

Ok.

 

Not exactly what I had in mind. 

 

But, the holes did need fixing, and apparently cleaning the basement was tied into fixing holes in the floor.

 

Ok. Give me a minute to readjust my expectations. 

 

Now, in a couple hours, people will start showing up and we’ll forget about cleaning the house and we’ll settle in to just having fun with friends. MERRY CHRISTMAS! PEACE ON EARTH! 

 

So, are we all raging hypocrites? Hateful one minute, sweet and nice the next? Or maybe being hypocritical is just part of human nature.  A human nature that we all need to be saved from. A human nature that was completely lost in it’s sinfulness and yet Jesus decided to give us value to the point that he was willing to come to earth and make the ultimate sacrifice so that we could be saved from this sinful human nature. 

Christmas…Emmanuel…God with us. 

 

I have believed in Jesus, decided to follow him. My sins are forgiven. But I still have this sinful human nature. I will spend my whole life learning how to be more like Jesus. Sometimes I’ll do really well. Like today! The meanest thing I said was, YOU GUYS STINK AT CLEANING! Which is mild compared to some of the verbiage that was being slung around. But then, there are days where I completely step out of grace and wallow in my sinful nature. 

 

So, really, I hate you…Merry Christmas… is completely appropriate for this time of year.  I hate you: I’m not the best person. I say and do bad things. Merry Christmas: that’s why Jesus came! We can devote an entire month to celebrate that we have a Savior now who wants to rescue us from ourselves. 

 

Self Care not Self Indulgence

I’ve been thinking a lot about Self-Care lately. I have been on a journey as I try to get to the root of my over-eating problems, food addictions, bad habits and life-style choices that have left me in a state of being overweight and unhealthy. I’ve been trying to figure out why I keep self-sabotaging all my attempts to be healthier, lose weight etc. What is wrong with me? 

 

Through this process, a couple stories from my childhood have come to mind. I wrote them down. I thought about them a lot. And slowly, a pattern revealed itself. I use food as a form of Being Kind to myself. In my mind, allowing myself to have that: extra helping, piece of chocolate, bakery delight, ice cream etc. is a way that I try to be kind to myself. I’m feeling depressed. I go eat something yummy. I’m stressed out. I buy myself a chocolate bar. I’m overwhelmed. I go eat fast food.  In all these situations I am feeling the need to be kind to myself and food has become the way that I do that. 

 

Obviously, this actually not being kind to myself. It has caused me to be overweight and unhealthy. That is not kindness. 

 

During these past weeks, I had a friend who was doing an “88 Days of Self-Care” where she described every day what she was doing to take care of herself. But I didn’t really grasp what she was doing until I read a post someone had shared about Self-Care by SORT THIS. It was exactly what I needed to hear. The main point that I carried away is that Self-Care is basically Self-Parenting. It’s not Self-Indulgence. I have definitely been completely into the self-indulgence thing. As a Parent of Many Children, hearing the term Self-Parent starts all kinds of bells ringing. I understand this concept. I know how to parent. I do this all day. No, you can’t have that candy. You don’t need to be eating sugar. Get your butts outside and play, you’ve been sitting around the house all day. Go get some sunshine, you’ve been cooped up in a dark room all day. Eat your vegetables! You need the nutrients! Take your vitamins, it will help you stay healthier. Have you had enough water today? Don’t forget you need to drink water all day! No, we’re not having dessert tonight, you don’t need to have dessert every day. 

 

I know all about parenting. 

 

This has been a paradigm shift for me. How to be Kind to Esther? Parent Esther. Don’t Indulge Esther. Stressed out? Go for a walk, get on the elliptical. Journal. Play the piano. Feeling Depressed? Repeat the above. Unhealthy? Talk to your doctor, find out what changes you need to make. Make the changes. 

 

In the past, my biggest hang up was that self-denial felt like being mean to myself. And after a while I would just get over it. Life is hard and I want someone to be kind to me. And not getting to eat dessert during the holidays while everyone else is, felt mean. Not getting that special treat when I was stressed did not feel kind at all. 

 

But now, I’m trying to see it through the lense of parenting. When I see a child walking around with an armful of junk food, stuffing their faces, I don’t think, “Oh what a lucky child! Someone was so nice to give them that!” I think, “Why is this kid’s parents letting him eat all that? It’s going to make them sick!” Parenting. Saying no because you’re looking at the Big Picture instead of the in-the-moment desires. I know you want to stay up all night watching tv, but you have school in the morning, so you need to get in bed on time. Saying No because you love this person and you want the best for them. And the best involves discipline. 

 

So, for the upcoming year, that is my goal. Start parenting myself.