Plans Change, Thank God

This weekend did not go as planned. 

The plan was to have a ton of different activities happening all weekend. Different people going in different directions. Every minute crammed with busyness. 

I was not looking forward to it. I don’t do well with really busy schedules. They stress me. But it seemed unavoidable. 

Then Saturday morning, in the middle of the morning, I got a humongous headache. The kind where you just have to lay down. I had been dragging for a couple days and suddenly felt horrible, achy, nauseous. I got on the phone and started cancelling things. A lot of things. The headache and fatigue fit with the chart of covid symptoms, and a friend of mine, who actually is positive for covid, had told me those were her main symptoms. I decided I better get tested and cancel everything else till I was certain. (Which makes me feel weird. Like, in normal times, I would just be sick and get over it, now I’m freaked out about being contagious, especially since this family has so many moving parts.) 

Andy got home from his morning activity, found me sick, heard all the news, and agreed to shut things down. He took the kids out for an afternoon of socially-distanced, outside, bike riding. I slept. And then sat around in a stupor, trying to find a book to read, but too zoned out to focus on anything. I also tried to deal with an online grocery order that went completely haywire. That was fun. 

This morning I got up early still feeling sick, left at 7:30am and went to get tested. It took a long time, I didn’t get home till 12:30pm, but the good part was I got the results immediately, and I tested negative! Yay! But, I still felt bad, so I came home and went back to bed for several hours while Andy took the kids to his shop for an afternoon of Dad time. 

So, this weekend did not go as planned. 

And it was great. It was exactly what I needed. An entire weekend of rest and no expectations. 

And once again I’m reminded that it often works that way. We make plans, something bad happens, plans get ruined, but it all turns out for the best. 

I think that is part of living a life of faith. We can get rid of a lot of stress if we cling to the promise in Romans 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Not that God makes bad things happen, but that he can turn each bad thing into something good. 

So, I’m thanking God for being sick this weekend, and thanking him for a negative Covid test, and thanking him that I can head into this next week a little more rested and peaceful. 

(I’m feeling better, not perfect, but hopefully by tomorrow whatever this is should be gone.)

Puppy Emergencies

Yesterday I was in my room with my four youngest children. The puppy walked into the room and he was breathing funny, sounded wheezy. And then he started coughing and acting like he was trying to cough up something in his throat. This puppy was choking. I told the kids to go get the fourteen year old and official owner of the puppy since I was probably going to need some help. Then I pried the puppy’s mouth open and did a finger sweep, trying to see if I could feel anything. I couldn’t. The puppy continued to wheeze. I grabbed my phone and called our vet who is literally half a block from my house. They didn’t answer the phone, even though the webpage said they were open. I hung up and tried again. Still no response. I remembered that there was another animal clinic a couple miles away, I had no idea if they handled emergencies, so I tried to call them. Again, no answer, just lots of pre-recorded messages. 

Suddenly Ruth started yelling for me, her voice panicked. I ran back to her and the puppy, and the puppy had gone completely limp. And this is when it completely sucked to be the adult. 

Mom, do something!

Uhhhhh…Ok, grab the puppy and get in the car, we’re going to the vet place down the road. 

All the little kids are crying and freaking out, I’m running for the car, yelling at the little kids to go get their other big sister and tell her what’s happening. 

I don’t even get my seatbelt on, the car beeping at me in protest. Ruth is crying, “Live Puppy! Live Puppy!” and I’m praying Loudly, Lord, let this puppy live, PLEASE!! 

I tell Ruth to squeeze his chest. 

HOW?

I don’t know! Just squeeze it somehow!

She starts gently squeezing his chest and I’m praying and trying to drive safely.

I look over and there is foam coming out of the puppy’s mouth. I am crying and driving and praying.

Suddenly, the puppy starts breathing and sits up. Like nothing had happened. He is still wheezing, but alive!

We are almost at the vet. Traffic seems to be moving way too slowly. 

I finally pull into the driveway, no idea what I should do first. 

I pull into a slot and there are signs everywhere telling you to stay in your car and call this number, and then press #3. I don’t have time to deal with phone menus. 

I jump out of the car…a mask, shoot, wait…(this place is obviously taking covid very seriously by evidence of how many signs they have up). I grab my purse and yank on my mask. There is a woman in the car next to me, looking at me wide-eyed. Her window is down so I ask her if this place handles emergencies. She says, I don’t know, but you have to stay in your car. 

Well, this is an emergency. I can’t. 

I start running for the door and suddenly a man in uniform walks out, I run up to him and ask if they handle emergencies, my puppy is dying! He looks at me, nods yes, and comes up to the car, takes the puppy from us as I quickly explain what’s been happening, and he disappears into the building. 

I climb back into my seat and kind of collapse for a second.

Except I can’t. I left my teenager at home watching small children, but that teenager is supposed to be getting a ride to work very soon. She can’t leave the little kids alone. 

I grab my phone and call her. Give her an update on the puppy. Tell her to call her ride and cancel it, let her work know what’s going on, and I will give her a ride to work as soon as I get home. 

Then I call my husband, update him. Then I open my banking app and start figuring out where to pull the money to pay for this unexpected medical emergency. 

A nurse from inside comes out to my car. Asks if I’m a current patient. Gives me paperwork to fill out, assures me that the puppy is stable and they are taking care of him. 

Long story, a little bit shorter…They don’t find anything in his mouth or throat. They do an xray and see there is a sharp metal pointy object in his abdomen that he must have swallowed. They are worried about it causing damage when it comes out. They send him home with some special dog food to help push everything out of his system. Tell me to come back the next day for more xrays. 

Then, they call later and tell me to take the puppy to a different clinic in another part of town that can remove the object with a special tool that goes down his throat. My daughter has already given the puppy his special food before they called and the food is doing it’s work. 

That evening as we try to figure out all the moving pieces of our family and figure out who is going to take whom where, the puppy starts wheezing and coughing again. 

My husband takes off with puppy and Ruth to the new vet office, while I load up the little kids so we can go pick up some of their siblings who were on a playdate. Rushing, because I have to be home in time for another child who will be dropped off later in the evening. 

The new vet does xrays, the metal object is gone. They determine that the puppy aspirated some fluid when he was choking before and now we have to get medicine to help his lungs heal. 

Puppy is going to be ok. 

Thank you Lord. 

I, on the other hand, am going to need a bit to recover from all of that. 

My Sin was Great, Your Love was Greater

I want to start by letting you know that my mammogram went fine, no problems. All is well. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. 

This past week has been pretty crazy. My days were a lot more busy than I like. This month seems to be the month of Doctor Appointments. I just looked at my calendar, we have sixteen appointments scheduled for this month. Which is horrible. They are all check ups, dentist appointments, eye appointments etc. Which means that after this month, I shouldn’t have to take anyone anywhere for a long time. Getting it all done in one fell swoop. 

Except that it makes this month a lot more stressful. 

I had the whole having-to-get-a-mammogram thing which was also stressful, though it ended well. We’ve had some changes in our home life with our foster daughter slowly transitioning back to her birth parent. Which is great, but our schedule has gotten a lot more complicated. Even when she goes home completely, I will still be her full-time babysitter, which is a part-time job all by itself. Also a bit stressful.

So, here’s the crazy thing. All this stuff has been going on, and I have been stressed, but it’s not really these things that has been stressing me out. 

I have been mostly stressed about my inability to conquer and be victorious over my weight problems. Sins. Gluttony. Emotional Eating. Using food as the source of my peace and comfort. 

I have been feeling weighed down with condemnation. Surely God is sick and tired of me still struggling in this area. I am a disappointment. A failure. Weak. Not worthy. I’m pretty sure God really doesn’t want to have anything to do with me until I stop being this way. 

Yesterday I kind of hit rock bottom. I wrote a letter to God. 

It was helpful. Helpful for me to be very, very honest. Helpful for me to lay it all down. And then stand back and get some perspective. 

The perspective I got (I believe with the help of the Holy Spirit) was this. Perhaps my bigger sin is thinking that my own works is what saves me. Perhaps my bigger problem is not overcoming in this area, but truly trusting God at his word, that he has truly saved me and given me His Righteousness, and His Righteousness is enough. Maybe Pride is more the issue. Having to realize that Esther, in her own strength, has no power to overcome. She is completely dependent on God and his power to free her from her strongholds. And trying to remember that I am loved. As I am. I don’t have to get perfect first before God decides that he can love me. 

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

I think I have reached the place where I fully see my helplessness to free myself from sin. And I then also fully see my dependence on God to do the work necessary in my life. And so I cling to his goodness. His mercy. And once again I put my trust in Him. 

I have set aside today to be a day of rest. A day of staying home, not having to run a bunch of errands. A day of minimal housework. 

And I pray that it also is a day of spiritual rest. Sinking into the truth that I am forgiven. That he who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).

And this line runs through my head:

My Sin Was Great, Your Love was Greater. (from the song, “What a Beautiful Name”)

Just In Case

Tomorrow I am going to get a mammogram. I have a cyst and the doctor said, because of its location, they just always follow up with a mammogram. Just in case. 

Fortunately, I have insurance that covers these things. 

I have been pretty blase about the whole thing. It’s nothing. Routine check up. 

Though I do remember my initial shock when I discovered a lump a while ago. What? This is definitely not supposed to be happening. I had someone who used to be in the medical field check it out. It’s a cyst, she said. Her diagnosis was enough for me. But then it caused problems and I eventually ended up at the doctor last week. 

And now, as I see how the doctor responded, the care she took in my examination, I realize that I should have gone to the doctor sooner. Just in case. 

Then I got on the internet today, that wonderful source of information, googled. Clicked on a list of possible causes. A long list. The very last item: breast cancer. I presume it’s last on the list because it’s the least likely culprit. 

It’s nothing. I’ll have the mammogram. They’ll give me the results and I will move on with my life. It’s just a precaution. 

And I tell myself that I am 99% sure that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. 

And that 1% sure has a loud voice. 

And I make plans with my husband for him to take over my afternoon chores tomorrow, in case my appointment runs long. 

I don’t tell anyone. 

I don’t ask for prayer. 

Cause it’s nothing. 

Just a precaution. 

And I think about all the women who have been in this exact same position. Going to get a mammogram. Found something suspicious. Just getting a routine checkup. It’s nothing. 

And for a minute my heart beats a little faster. I take a couple deep breaths. 

It’s ok. It’s nothing. Routine checkup. Just in case. 

I Am Rich

I love the sounds of my house. A couple minutes ago I was sitting at the piano, trying to sight-read through a fairly simple Chopin piece I had never seen or heard before. It was slow going. Adagio. I wasn’t really focusing on what I was doing. Honestly, I was just killing time, waiting for my kindergartner to finish his workbook. Right now all the kids are waiting for him to finish his workbook. I told him that when he had finished his school work (workbook and read aloud a story) then I would go down to the store and buy our traditional bags of Candy Corn (and for all you haters out there, we happen to think candy corn is awesome!!). Every October I put out some ceramic pumpkins on my mantle, fill them with candy corn and the kids get to grab some after school is done, or chores, or whatever hard task is in front of them. 

Anyway, I was playing the piano, waiting for David to finish his workbook, and I started just listening to all the sounds of our house. 

We started a fire in the wood-burning stove this morning. The stove has a little fan that blows warm air into the room. It is a soothing white noise. We also have a large fish tank in the living room whose water filter sounds like a little waterfall. We need these soothing sounds. They counterbalance the sound of teenagers hurling themselves down our wooden staircase as loud as they can. And the sound of the three year old talking to himself as he plays his little imaginary games. I have one teenager home this week because her school is shut down for Covid. She loves music and carries her phone everywhere with her, sharing her very eclectic music choices with the whole family. 

You can hear our dog barking outside, faithfully protecting us from any random person walking down the sidewalk. The occasional car drives by on the street in front of our house. You can occasionally hear a siren rushing past on the main road which is only a block away from us. 

The kindergartner has a chronic whistling habit and the eleven year old is constantly humming. And Chopin continues to plunk along in the background. 

There is so much life tucked into the walls of this home. 

(Time lapse)

So, I just got back from the store, candy corn has been bought, pumpkin candy dishes are now full. 

When I pulled up to the Family Dollar, I saw two apparently homeless people, a man and a woman, in the alley behind the store. By the time that I left the store and was heading back to my car, they had settled themselves on the back steps of the store’s delivery entrance. They had bags of belongings and some fountain soda cups from a nearby gas station. They looked dirty and the woman looked like she was crying. But they weren’t trying to make eye contact with me, and I had nothing to offer them. No groceries in my bag, just candy corn. No cash in my wallet, just a bankcard. No words to share, my innate shyness balking at starting a conversation. I remembered that I had supported one of our homeless shelters this past weekend by shopping at their thrift store (thank you Ma’am, your purchase has just helped us feed ten people!), and I just hope that this couple will make their way to the shelter by evening and take advantage of this ministry in our city.

I climbed back into my car and drove back home. And once again, I felt like the blinders had been ripped off my eyes. A glimpse at my true reality. My home, a beautiful mansion. My children, costly jewels, unmeasurable treasures. My life, a dream come true.

And the noises in my house sound like a beautiful symphony. The chaos is simply an outpouring of joy. I feel like the richest woman on the planet as I survey this ramshackle house of mine. 

And my prayer becomes, make me a blessing.

God, you have blessed me, show me how to bless others. 

Depression Anniversary

This morning my Facebook memories popped up and showed me that three years ago, I made my first “public” post about my struggle with depression and our decision to put our children in public school. 

I read through the comments again this morning. (All 78 of them!) And what stood out to me was how much of a need we have for people to honestly share their struggles. Knowing that someone else is struggling makes us feel less isolated, it eases some of our shame. 

Keeping that in mind, I’ve decided to give you all a “Depression Update”. 

One of my big disappointments in life is that I haven’t had a full recovery from my depression. While I haven’t been as low as I was three years ago, I still feel like depression is something that I have to actively keep at bay. And when I am not purposeful about taking care of myself, it creeps back in. 

Things I do to keep depression away:

Take a night off. 

Wednesday nights are MY nights. My husband gets home from work and I take off. I very often end up at Panera where it’s ok to sit with your computer or a book for a long period of time. I have a couple different friends who often meet me there for an evening of chatting and encouragement. Sometimes I go walking in the park alone or with friends. Sometimes I just leave the house, go buy myself some supper somewhere and then sneak back into my house in the back door and hide in my bedroom, feet up, reading a good book. 

The whole point though is that I can do whatever I want without feeling any guilt about leaving my husband home alone with the kids. (He gets his own night off.)

Give myself lots of space. 

I do not keep a perfectly clean house. I do not run a tight ship. I do not have a perfect schedule. I do not have a full, busy schedule. I am very purposeful about keeping my daily routine as free from stress as possible. I have found that the only way I can maintain a 24hrs a day, 7 days a week parent-of-many-children lifestyle, is to keep my day as calm as possible. Lots of wiggle room. Maybe it only takes us two hours to get all our homeschooling work done.  I give myself four hours. That way we can take lots of breaks, follow rabbit trails if we want, have time to deal with phone calls that might come in, or a quick chore that has to get done. I do not do well when I have to follow a tight timeline. Occasionally it can’t be avoided. There are doctor’s appointments, extra curricular activities, school meetings. If I have a day that involves me running full stop all day long, then I make sure that the next day I have nothing extra going on and I move slower. 

Date nights

The other day I told my husband something that I don’t think I had ever put into words before. “You are essential to my happiness.” And it’s true. When Andy walks in the door at night, my shoulders visibly relax. He makes me laugh. He uses his words often to tell me how important I am to him, to tell me how he feels about me. And I am encouraged and I feel loved. We need time together. We need to be able to unplug from parenting for a minute and just be two adults who like spending time together. Now, I know that for parents with young children, getting out on a date can be impossible. We went years not being able to get out. Now, we have teenagers who can babysit and we try to get out once a week for a date. But, sometimes money or schedules keeps us from being able to go out. Then we have bedroom dates. And by that I just mean we get the kids to bed, maybe get a snack, watch a movie together in our room or just sit and talk. The main point though is that we are purposeful about setting aside at least one night a week that is ours. 

Daily Devotions/ Daily exercise

Taking time every day to read the Bible and pray feeds my spiritual self. Taking time every day to get my body moving feeds my physical self. Sometimes I don’t do these things. But, when I do, I feel happier and have more energy. 

Talk to a therapist/friend equivalent

I still have monthly or bimonthly phone visits with my therapist. And I always think, before the call, do I really need this? And then afterwards, I am always glad that I was able to talk to her. It is a great help to have another adult look into your life and help you process challenges and get a perspective that is focused on the good of you and your mental health.

Practice Thankfulness

This one is actually an outpouring of my Christian walk. The Bible tells us repeatedly to give thanks in all things. As God has been teaching this to me over my lifetime, I have not only learned how to lose a bad mood or a bad attitude, but I’ve also learned how to stop and just take pleasure from small things. The way the sun is shining just-so on that tree. The sound of fall leaves crunching under my feet. The smell of woodsmoke. Watching my children practice acts of kindness to each other. Being thankful, noticing the goodness around me, these have gone a long way in helping me to not succumb to depression. 

In the end, all of these things are tools, not cures. I have days when I crawl back into bed in the middle of the day. Or I end up sitting in my chair, doing nothing. But the difference between years ago and now, is that the next day, I can usually get up and keep moving, instead of it dragging on and on and on. 

Maybe I will struggle with depression the rest of my life. But I have hope and peace that God will help me through it, one day at a time, one strategy at a time. 

I’m Celebrating!

I’m going to break one of my personal rules, and write about one of my kids. My eleven year old is not on social media. And none of his friends are on social media. And I’m saying nice things for the most part. And if he discovers this somehow in a couple years, I don’t think it’s too embarrassing, and I’m not betraying any confidences…Ok, now that I’ve justified this to myself, I will continue…

So, this particular child has always struggled with education. I homeschooled him for three years. Two of those years was just doing kindergarten. Twice. Because he hated it and wouldn’t do it. And no matter how I tried, I could not convince him that school was something worth putting any effort into. 

This child was actually a big part of why I put my kids in public school. We did three years of school and he still couldn’t read. I didn’t have the energy to solve this problem. Enter Public School, stage right. 

When I enrolled him I explained that he was significantly behind his peers. They said, don’t worry, we will help him. And they did. They put him in an intervention program. We had a couple meetings with administrators who all assured me they had the problem under control. 

By the end of our first year of public school, he was reading! Yay! All of his teachers loved him. He always worked hard, was kind to others, participated. ( Apparently working hard for teachers and working hard for mom are two very different things.)

I would get reports every couple months telling me about his progress. Lots of charts with little dots. Your child is here: dot. The rest of the class is here: dot. This is how far we are hoping to move his dot in the next couple months: dot. 

I attended all the parent teacher conferences and all his teachers assured me that he was working hard, giving his best, and they were all pleased with his progress. And so, we did three years of intensive intervention.

Last night I was going through his school folder and found a stapled pack of papers addressed to me. The front page was a letter addressed to all parents of 5th grade students. In the letter the teachers explained that, as a result of school getting out in March, our students were struggling with a bigger than normal gap. They were also having a harder time adjusting back to a school routine. No one’s fault. We just have to face these challenges head on. Etc etc. 

I went to flip to the next page, and I was fully expecting it to be an Intervention report where they would tell me that my child qualified for the intervention program, and these were his test results, and these were the steps they were going to take to help him. This was what I was expecting to see. 

Instead it was just two pages of test results from their beginning-of-the-year testing.  

The first page had a chart and then explanations of the chart. I glanced at the chart, was confused, so I read all the fine print. My child scored in the 80th percentile for reading for his grade. He was labeled “above average” for his reading skills. I flipped the page. Math. He was in the 76th percentile. Also above average. What? 

Somehow this child managed to bridge the gap and then leap forward. 

I have been giddy with pride and happiness for him. 

So, forgive me about gushing about my kid. But, I think it’s good to celebrate when someone has overcome such a big challenge! 

My Heart is Full

My heart is full right now.

Our youngest foster child has returned to our home. 

When she got here the kids had a welcome sign hanging up and there was much squealing and hugging and running around. In the midst of all the chaos, she turned to me and said, “Esther, I was waiting for you!” 

You know, I never pursued foster parenting. But it has pursued me. Over the years I have heard stories of the need and my heart would break, but I always felt helpless. What can I do? In order to be a foster parent through the state, you can only have six kids in your home. We have ten of our own. It’s going to be a long time before I can even qualify to become a foster parent. 

And then I would hear another story about the desperate need for foster homes. And my heart would break again. And finally, I told God, if you want me to be a foster parent, you’ll have to do something special to make it happen. 

And he did. 

And we walked a rocky road with these kids, full of extreme ups and downs. 

And then they left and I had no more power over the situation. And I felt bruised and battered, heartbroken. And I told God, I guess you don’t want us to do this anymore? Well, if you do, you will have to work some kind of miracle, because I can’t make it happen in my own power. 

So he did. 

Again.

And my heart is full. 

You Have Not Yet Resisted

This week and last, I have been reading a chapter a day in Hebrews. It has been more of an academic/discipline type of reading than reading to gain deep insights. I have been trying to be faithful to read every day, and think about what I have read, but it has been more a gathering of interesting information than anything spiritual. Until… Yesterday morning. I have been struggling with a feeling of unease and lack of peace for a couple weeks now and I have been skirting around the reason why. Not wanting to face it head on. But knowing that I needed to. And then I opened the Bible yesterday morning and I felt like I had opened a room and unexpectedly found Jesus sitting in a chair, waiting for me, and his face was a bit stern and he said, We need to talk. 

And this is what he said:

Hebrews 12: 4-11

12  4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

    nor be weary when reproved by him.

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

I have been struggling for a long time with my health. My body simply can’t handle sugar and lots of carbs. I am prediabetic. And whenever I hit periods of stress, I throw health out the window: 

I don’t care if this is bad for me. It’s going to help me unwind. It’s going to make me feel happy for a minute. Fighting my cravings is too much to handle right now. I deserve a treat. 

And this past week I have not been feeling well. My bad habits are quickly catching up with me. And I have been whining about it. It’s not fair. I can’t do everything. How am I supposed to homeschool and also go on a diet? It’s a psychological thing, I’ve got to figure out how to deal with that part first before I try to abstain. Etc etc. Lots of excuses. 

The verse that struck me the hardest from Hebrews 12 was verse four,  “ In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

For the record, I do not think that being overweight or having diabetes or any other sickness is a sin. But for myself, I know that refusing to take care of the body that God gave me is a sin. When I know the right thing to do and refuse to do it, that’s sin. And all of my excuses looked pretty pathetic when I read verse four. I have not tried to resist to the point of shedding blood. I have actually offered up very little resistance when it comes to temptation and my eating habits. 

After my morning devotions, I went and found a black sharpie pen. I wrote on my wrist, “You have not yet resisted” so that every time I went to reach for the cookie or popsicle or whatever temptation was waiting for me I would see it on my wrist. It’s been a good reminder. 

All that to say, reading a chapter of the Bible every day is always a good idea. My kids ask me often, How do you know what God wants you to do? How do you hear Jesus speaking to you? And I always tell them, the best way to hear God’s voice is to read his word. The Holy Spirit will lead you to the right places, he’ll open your eyes to see what you need to see and understand what you need to understand. 

And I’m thankful that he did that for me this week.

The Spinning Clock

It’s Wednesday. Only two more days till the weekend. The weekend will go quickly. Then another week. Before we know it, that week will be over and then September will be coming to an end. My oldest child is turning twenty at the end of this month. And while I try to grapple with this landmark in parenting, I sit back and view the years. 

I have an image of a large clock and the hands on the clock are spinning, spinning, spinning. And I am walking in a circle, washing the clothes, cooking the food, cleaning the house, changing diapers, hugging babies, and the clock keeps spinning, and the cycle keeps repeating over and over and over again. Buy the groceries, fold the clothes, hug a child. Mow the lawn, drive to church, Christmas, hug a teenager. Celebrate a birthday, sweep the floors, scrub the toilet, wave at the young adult as they head off to college. Turn on the heater, turn on the air conditioner, pack up all the childhood memories in a box, send them off with the young adult who used to be your baby and is now moving across the country ready to start their own life. And the clock keeps spinning and spinning. 

And occasionally I yell STOP! I try to hit pause. I make a survey of my life, our lives. Where are we? What’s happening? My almost twenty year old is firmly established far away, working, going to school. My eighteen year old just let us know that he is also heading out of state soon, pursuing his dreams. I have a junior in high school who is starting to make more solid plans about her future after high school. I have a freshman in high school who might start driving soon. My baby boy has now joined the youth group, stepping into the ranks of TEENAGERS. My elementary kids are rushing through the grades, climbing, climbing steadily up the ladder. My little five year old is reading like a big boy, the three year old no longer needs diapers and he is starting to engage in some pretty grown up conversations. And the clock has been spinning and spinning. And even as I try to get a good grasp on where we are right now, it keeps spinning. The kids keep growing, time keeps zooming past. 

And I think about the book of Ecclesiastes. (1:4-7)

Generations come and generations go,

    but the earth remains forever.

The sun rises and the sun sets,

    and hurries back to where it rises. 

The wind blows to the south

    and turns to the north;

round and round it goes,

    ever returning on its course. 

All streams flow into the sea,

    yet the sea is never full.

To the place the streams come from,

    there they return again.

But, as I was imagining that clock spinning and spinning, the cycle of life, never-ending, I also saw something else. As I was cleaning, and cooking, and washing, and drying, there was a song on my lips that floated above everything else. A song of praise. A song of worship. And it was continually floating upwards, a beautiful melody going up to the heavens. 

And I think, this is life. We are on a treadmill that we can’t get off. The seasons continue to change. We have babies and they turn into adults, then they have children of their own, the cycle never-ending. Governments rise and fall, cultures change, times of plenty come, times of going without, and the clock keeps spinning. Every day we do our part, feed our bodies, sleep, get up and do it again. 

But there is beauty. There is purpose. There is gentleness, and passion. There is comfort and joy. There is the wonder that as we tread out our paths, we are not alone. We are loved by our God. And our work and toil is pleasing to him. The compassion we show others is beautiful to him. Our perseverance is acceptable. And though sometimes we can only see a never ending grinding of daily tasks, our lives are like a fragrant offering drifting up to heaven. 

And even as my children seem to be slipping out of my hands, gone to the world of adulthood, even as the clock hands seem to be spinning faster and faster, even as I straighten my spine and tackle yet another day of cooking and cleaning and washing and folding, I can still have joy. Knowing that contrary to the sentiments of the author of Ecclisiastes, life is not meaningless. My life is a drink offering poured out on the altar. My life is a noble journey. My life is a Holy Quest.

So. spin clock. Fly past, time. Each day is another day to serve God through the works of my hands, the love I share with others, and the faithfulness in the small things.