“The Peace of Wild Things”

I am sitting by the lake, I’ve been watching my kids swim, but they have now moved on to playing prince and princess and are concocting some elaborate make-believe game. I only have the three youngest with me. My husband and five of our kids left at 4am this morning to go hike a mountain. I don’t expect them home till late tonight. My other two daughters are at their grandparent’s house, in town, a short distance away. It has now been twelve days since we left Knoxville on our vacation, and it has taken about ten of those days for me to finally be able to just relax. We still have a couple more days before we head home and I am thoroughly enjoying the wonderful feeling of doing nothing except some light household chores and watching my children swim in the lake. 

 

It’s been a different kind of vacation. State mandates mean that we can’t go shopping or go out and be around a lot of people. We have seen basically just a few family members and had them do our grocery shopping for us. Aside from a day trip to the beach, we have just stayed in our little cabin and enjoyed the lake and the woods. And it has been wonderful. 

 

My restless husband has been able to help his Uncle and Aunt with a remodel project, my teen girls have hung out with their grandparents and the little ones have practiced their swimming. 

 

My brain has had time to process. Relive, rethink, reassess. And finally, it has just quieted down. I’ve read some good books, done “adult” coloring where there is an inspiring scripture and then a ton of elaborate details to color in. Not something I do often, but I find when I am coloring, the analyzing part of my brain shuts off, and I’m just thinking about staying in the lines, and what color should I use next? It has the same effect for me as playing scales on the piano, or re-reading a favorite book. Occasionally, I will stop coloring and just think about the verse. Meditate. 

 

We don’t get to do this every year. More like every two or three years. But I am glad for these times. 

 

As my brain has quieted and I have rested, I find myself getting ideas again. Getting excited about projects. I am even starting to feel excited about homeschooling some of my kids. I am plotting out schedules, and thinking about books to read and papers we will write and discussions we will have. Spelling charts for the second grader. Homemade calendars.

 

And this is the difference between stressed-out me and healthy me. The ability to dream and be excited about the future. 

 

I remember in the flurry of having lots of babies, I went for years without having any dreams. I was too exhausted. Too overwhelmed. The future was too far away. I was just surviving today. This moment. This minute. This second. 

 

The past months have been that for me. Survival. 

 

And it’s good to feel that quieting down. To feel like the ability to dream is coming back. 

I even told my husband that one day, when all the kids are grown, I want to get a giant fluffy dog. Like a St. Bernard. Or something like that. He immediately pointed out that big dogs are expensive. And I pointed back that all the kids will be gone and I will have money to spend on a dog. 🙂 He’s not over-excited about that dream….yet. I’ve got some time to talk him around. 🙂 

 

Here is a poem I found.

 

“The Peace of Wild Things”

Wendell Berry

Listen

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

Today, I am thankful for nature. For God’s creation. For the beauty he created that provides rest to all people, believer or not. It is one of his gifts to humankind. 

 

And I’m thankful for the time he has given me to just rest. 

Peace is a Verb

It has been days since I’ve last written and I almost feel a craving to get back to my keyboard. Our family is on vacation at the moment. Staying in a family-owned, small, rustic cabin on a beautiful lake that has entertained generations of my husband’s family. Tucked away in rural America, far from home, it is a wonderful escape from daily life. I have been weathering the shock to my system that comes from suddenly disconnecting from everyday life. No agenda. No plans. No schedules. The kids have been living in the lake. They have turned into little minnows. My only job is to keep an eye on them, join them occasionally, when the whim hits, and prepare three meals a day. 

 

I’ll tell you what I have been thinking about the last couple days. 

 

Peace is not a place. It’s also not a lack of movement or busyness. It’s also not being in nature. Or having complete freedom in your schedule. 

 

Cause, if it was all those things? I’d be floating on a cloud of peace right now. 

 

Instead, I am finding that I am having to fight for peace just as hard as I was when I was home, surrounded by schedules and appointments and work and busyness. 

 

I am having to take my thoughts captive, train them to go in a better direction. I am having to be purposeful about being thankful and looking for the good all around me. I am having to mentally box up all the things that I can’t fix (world pandemic, crazy politics, the coming school year) and again say, Ok, God, I am leaving these things in your hands, my worry is not going to change or fix any of these problems. I am having to seek out scriptures, to remind myself of the goodness of God and strengthen my faith again. 

 

I am hoping that the fact that I am on vacation will mean that I can actually be more purposeful about seeking peace. I am hoping that simply sitting in nature will eventually help my tense muscles to relax. I am hoping that the change of pace will be a time of bonding for our family and a time to simply have fun together. I am hopeful that by the end of this time, I will be recharged, ready to tackle the coming school year. These are my hopes. But, these things are not going to happen automatically. I am going to have to seek them, chase after them, pursue them. If I don’t, I will just spend this entire time fretting and worrying and stressing. 

 

Peace is a verb. A state of being. Sometimes, it’s a gift that is simply handed to me, but usually, it is a purposeful pursuing. A conscious choice. And in my experience, what I’m pursuing is Jesus. More of him, less of me, that is how I get peace. It is an acknowledgment of his sovereignty, his goodness, his love. A moving of my thoughts so that they line up with what the Bible says about my life. 

 

The good news is that you don’t have to be on vacation to have peace. While I’m going to treat this time off as the lovely treasure that it is, I know that the peace I look for during this time is something I can take home with me. It is always close at hand, whenever I’m willing to seek it. 

 

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. 

Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

What Does it Mean?

John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

 

I just read this verse this morning. The phrase, “will be loved by my Father” stood out to me. And the question, What does it mean to be loved by the Father? 

 

I was staring off into space, thinking about this, and my phone gave me some kind of alert, and I glanced down at my phone and saw this Picture that I had taken and was using as my screensaver. 

20200517_181642

It was from a walk I got to take a couple weeks ago when we were visiting a state park. My husband watched the kids while I took a solo jaunt in the woods. It was a beautiful walk. The kind of scenery that spoke to my soul and gave me joy. Nothing overtly breath-taking, just beautiful woods and greenery and light filtering through the trees. 

 

I looked at this picture and thought, this is what it means to be Loved by the Father. He created this beautiful world and then he arranged for me to be able to be out and about in it. 

 

I smiled at this thought, and then looked up. My daughter was just standing by my chair. No reason. She was playing her Minecraft, and decided that standing by my chair was a good place to play. I looked at her beautiful pixie face, her dark hair pulled back into a messy bun that a model would envy, her eyes so bright and intelligent. And I thought, this is what it means to be loved by the Father, a houseful of amazingly sweet, intelligent, fun children. 

 

A bit later, I was trying to deal with the mystery of why my washing machine was making noises and yet the power was turned off, and even when I tried to turn the power back on, it wouldn’t turn on, and yet the machine continued to make noises. I called my husband. Walked through some different steps over the phone with him, then when a large electric spark erupted while I was attempting to plug the machine back in, I just walked away from the whole thing. No laundry today. I’ll wait for you to get home and figure this out. 

 

And I thought, this is what it means to be loved by the Father. He has given me a Godly, wonderful husband who loves me and who takes care of his family. (And fixes washing machines!)

 

I thought about the question some more…What does it mean to be Loved by the Father? I suddenly remembered last night. I was watching an online class on trauma and how it shapes children’s minds, and different strategies to help bring healing. One of the first steps they gave was, Understand Yourself and your Own trauma. And I realized, that’s exactly what God has been doing over the last several years. Putting me in a place where I can understand myself better. Understand my own history. And now, from that understanding he is putting me in a place where I can help others who need healing from their trauma. 

 

And that is what it means to be loved by the Father. He not only blesses you, but then he gives you opportunities to take those blessings in order to bless others. Like one of my pastors likes to point out, in Genesis 12: 2-3, God blessed Abraham, so that he could bless others. 

 

What does it mean to be loved by the Father? 

 

I think it’s one of those questions that can be given a different answer every time you ask it. Tomorrow my list would look different. Yesterday, I would have told you that being loved by the Father was about living in community with others and the richness that brings to your life. The day before that I would have said that being loved by the Father was about his Amazing Grace no matter how much I mess up. 

 

Today, I think I will end with Peace. It’s peace. Knowing that I am loved and taken care of. Knowing that all things are in his hands. Not striving. Just Peace.

 

I am loved by the Father. 

The Road to Acceptance

Happy Palm Sunday everyone! It is a sunny, warm day, blue skies, light breeze. I’m sitting out on my deck. We had lunch out here today. Hot dogs and watermelon and a salad tray. Easy to make. Easy to clean up. Fun to eat. 

 

The last time I wrote, I was simmering in anger, feeling like my head was going to explode. Today I am feeling calm. Hopeful. More accepting of where we are at. How did I get from point A to point B? I would say God definitely used my family and friends and community. A family member and an old friend both surprised me and took care of some physical needs we had. A kind lady from our church sent me a card and a gift. I had a good phone conversation with my mom. I took a walk through our neighborhood and waved and said Hi to LOTS of neighbors who were sitting out on their porches or in their yards. My kids all decided to hit the pause button on their bickering, and for the last several days have been playing happily outside in the sunshine. My teenagers have been laughing and joking together and acting like they’re best friends. Domestic Peace. 

 

I also took a Productivity Class with Brian Durfee of productivity-max.com who happens to be an old friend from our church. We did it via Zoom and it was quick and painless and left me with some good tools and tips to try and reign in some of the crazy in my life. It gave me a good dose of hope, that I too, might join the ranks of the organized. 

 

As I sit here, enjoying the breeze, watching my little kids ride their bikes around the yard, I am feeling very much like God gave me the gift of peace this weekend. 

 

This morning we had a little church service with our kids. We read about Jesus coming into Jerusalem on a donkey, people shouting Hosanna. We sang songs. We talked about prayer requests and prayed together. Then I turned on a video that our church’s children’s ministry made. The children’s pastors greeted the kids by name and they sang some songs and all the different Sunday School teachers sent in a video greeting to the kids. My kids were overjoyed! And their eyes got so big when they heard Mr. John calling them out by name. They enthusiastically joined into the song time, dancing all over the living room. And I felt myself getting teary-eyed. These kids have been in our house for a month now. I don’t take them on errands. They’ve just been here. And they miss their friends and church and school, and life seems a little scary to them right now. And hearing their teachers talking to them on the TV just lit up their faces. 

 

After the kids service was done, my husband and I and our teens sat and watched our own church service that our church put out. Worshipping together and hearing our pastors was encouraging. I am so thankful for our church family. 

 

One of the pastors exhorted us to continue to reach out and get together with each other using the technology we all have at our fingertips. I need to do that. I’m so frustrated at all my limitations, that it makes me not want to be creative to see how I can actually still make connections. 

I guess, what all of this is leading to is Acceptance. This is where we are at. I have no control over the situation except to live in my home, take care of my kids the best I can, and see what I can do to be helpful to the world around me…while maintaining a 6 foot distance. 

Life is a Battle

I am a day late in writing. I could have made time to write yesterday, but I had no idea what to say. I am trying to walk a fine line between being real and authentic, and not whining and complaining. Yesterday was all about whining and complaining. So I didn’t write. I am also trying to find the fine balance of guarding the people in my life’s privacy, but at the same time sharing the struggles of parenting, and now foster parenting, and being a wife and friend etc. Bear with me while I try to figure this out. 

 

Yesterday afternoon the school called and said they were cancelling school for the rest of the week due to high numbers of sickness. After getting that phone call, I felt like huddling in the fetal position and sucking my thumb. We have had sick kids home all last week, and yesterday was the first day that I finally had all my children healthy and back at school. We are at the stage of fostering where everyone is settled in and now we are starting to deal with some behavior issues that can’t be tolerated any longer. Even though I have been parenting ten children of my own, these are issues we have never dealt with because we’ve had our own kids from day one, and we have laid some basic foundations from the very beginning that these kids don’t have. And so we stand back and scratch our heads, wondering how we get these kids from point A to point B. I just bought a parenting book specifically for foster kids on Kindle this morning and I am contacting some local resources to see if they have some parenting classes available that would fit our particular situation. And I have a couple friends in mind that I might call today to get some advice. So, I am not in total despair, I am certain that there is someone out there who can help me get on the right track. But, I will admit, having the kids at school during the day was a much-needed mental break. 

 

Extreme stress has also done a number on my blood sugar problems. Yesterday I faced facts that I am in a battle and in order to do my part I am going to have take care of myself to a much higher degree. I can’t do this job if my blood sugar keeps crashing. So, this morning I drank my nasty nutrition-filled protein shake and I got on my elliptical. I have mentally pushed my sleeves back and said, Ok, we’re going to do this. 

 

Over the past weeks I have found my thoughts racing from one problem to the next, doing an anxious dance that never gives me rest. In order to get out of this crazy cycle, I have found myself mentally imagining the throne room of God. And in my mind I imagine myself just kneeling in his presence. And my heart rate slows down and my shoulders lower a couple inches and I feel peace settling on me. And I am reminded that yes, this life is a battle, and my strength comes from the Lord. 

 

So, that is all I have to say today. This is Life With Esther. Signing out. 

 

Let’s have a Chat!

Hey Everybody. It’s Tuesday and it is apparently time for me to write my blog. And I’m not feeling it. Sometimes this blog feels narcissistic. It’s time to write about ME again. Uggh. 

 

So, let’s make this about someone else tonight. How are you all doing? How is life out in internet world? Are you crashing at the end of the day and seeking some mindless relaxation on Facebook? Right now I am sitting in my little boys’ room, waiting for them to go to sleep. It’s Andy’s night off and I am solo parenting. 

 

How are you coping with the holidays? Are they a fun-filled nostalgic time for you or are they a non-stop hectic, stressful race to the end? I seem to seesaw back and forth on that one. I am trying to have a slow, peaceful holiday month, but life keeps interrupting. 

 

How are you feeling with the shorter days and winter weather? (If that applies to you, maybe it’s summer in your part of the world.) For me, I love winter, but the cold weather gets to me. Maybe because my kids don’t want to be out in the cold, so then they’re running around the house, shooting nerf bullets at each other, or literally, climbing the walls, trying to see if they can make it up to the ceiling. 

 

How’s your peace doing? Is all right with the world or does everything feel out of whack? Me? Well, I’m in that interesting place where everything is out of whack, but despite that, I’m at peace and can feel God’s presence in all the craziness. So, I guess it’s good. I’ll tell you what, Jesus is the only one that can do that for me! I hope that you can find peace in your craziness too. Cause, if I’m being realistic, there probably isn’t anyone of you out there that doesn’t have some level of craziness going on. 

 

How are your dreams coming along? It’s taken me years to even give myself permission to have dreams. For a while there, just taking care of little kids was so overwhelming, I did not have any time for dreams. It’s not a great place to be. Feels a bit dead. I’ve been trying to let myself dream again. One dream is to be a full-time piano teacher. I had four piano students this school semester and it was really fun. We had a little recital of sorts last night and it felt good to see how well they did. It’s a small dream, but I’m taking steps towards it and that is nourishing to the soul. I hope you can find a way to, first of all, have a dream, and second of all, pursue it in small ways tucked here and there in your busy life. 

 

Let’s see, we’ll just skip politics. And sports. Read any good books lately? I found a new author I like, recommended by a friend, Amy Harmon. Fluffy, funny, PG, but also some stuff to think about. Just what I’m looking for right now. I’ve also been reading 1,2, and 3rd John, in the Bible. I found 1 John to be very comforting for my perfectionist self. I am never sure if I’m doing enough, being enough, striving enough etc. And the main point I took away from the book was, Obey Jesus’ commands. This is his command. Love God, Love People. The End. And that doesn’t seem too burdensome. It seems like a joyful task, not a hard chore. And it also feels like a load of expectations dissolves off my shoulders every time I read it. Good stuff. 

 

Well, if you were sitting right in front of me, this is about the time I would start digging for the nitty gritty stuff, how are the relationships in your life? How are you feeling about yourself? How’s your spiritual life? What’s making you happy these days? What’s dragging you down? 

 

So, you should come on by when you can, sit at my kitchen table, where the kids will run around us, kind of like a rock sticking out of the current in a river. We’ll drink some hot tea, I’ll dig up some cookies, or carrot sticks, depending on where you are at with your diet, and we can chat (with plenty of interruptions, but it won’t matter!). 

 

Good night friends, let’s talk again soon!

 

Don’t Worry

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to not worry? About anything? I know the Bible tells us not to worry, and we pay lip service to that. But deep down, if you are anything like me, you have a running list of things that you can drag up at a moments notice to worry about. I’ve been reading more about the sovereignty of God. And it strikes me really hard, how foolish worry is. Either God is in control or he isn’t. If he is, then why are we worrying? If he isn’t then yes, we should definitely live our lives in fear and trembling. My reading of the Bible seems to say that actually, Yes, he is in control. So, why the heck am I worrying about everything? 

 

Does he love me or not? We sing the song “Yes Jesus love me…” and smile at our children when they sing it so sweetly. But do we believe it? If Jesus loves me, and he is God, then what on earth do I have to worry about? 

 

I think what scares me, is that we don’t have any promises in the Bible that say we are going to live a life without pain, without hardship, without trials. God doesn’t promise that. He does promise that he will be with us always, that he works all things to good, that he will never leave us or forsake us. But I worry…I don’t want trials and hardships. And I have a hard time seeing how God can be in control and love me when I am suffering. 

 

What if God is using those hardships and trials to change me? What if it’s more important to him that I grow to be more like him than that I stay in a state of constant ease and comfort? That seems very un-American. The American dream is to pursue wealth and happiness. Going through suffering that changes our character and strengthens us and makes us more like Jesus, just doesn’t seem right. Not very loving. God’s must have lost control somewhere along the way.

 

My dream is to live a life without worry. To be able to confidently say, God’s got this. He’s in control. I can trust him. He loves me. 

 

No matter what the circumstances, I want to walk in his perfect peace. 

 

Lord may it be so. 

 

Though I am secretly worried about what trials and hardships I will have to overcome before I finally get it! I guess it comes down to faith. And the Bible says that we can ask God to strengthen our faith…:”Lord I believe, help my unbelief!” 

 

I guess that’s my prayer tonight as I write this. Lord I believe. Help my unbelief! 

 

 

Stranded, a Story.

This is a longer story than usual, but one I wanted to write down for the records…

A couple years ago my family got to experience the strange and horrible feeling of being stranded in a strange place with nowhere to go. 

We had an old 15 passenger van which was, admittedly, near the end of its life. We thought we had figured out the ONE magical part that needed to be fixed in order to keep the van running. Alas.. we were wrong. After spending a month in Maine with my inlaws, we were traveling back to Tennessee with a trailer towing behind us, holding all our bikes and camping gear and canoes. We had our dog with us as well. 

Somewhere in Massachusetts, on the turnpike, our van gave it’s last breath and died. We were very close to a rest area and were able to coast into the rest area parking lot. I spent the next eight hours trying to keep 9 children happy (this was before Noah came along). Andy worked on the van doing everything he knew to try. Evening was coming and we realized the van wasn’t going to get fixed. We needed to go somewhere. Unfortunately, transportation was a real issue. A tow truck would not transport a family of eleven. Taxis would not transport a family of eleven, we would have to split our group up. At that point in time, our oldest child was only fourteen. There was no way we were going to send a taxi load of our children off by themselves when we didn’t even really know where we were. I got on my phone and looked at the map, found the next town on the turnpike and then started looking up hotels. I found a motel that was offering cheap rooms. Since we had our dog with us, we had already decided that my husband would get a tow truck and go with the van and our dog and just sleep in the van, and our oldest son elected to stay with him. So, it was me and eight children who needed a room. I called the motel and explained the situation and asked if it was possible for me to get one room for me and my children since I was the only adult and I didn’t want to put my little kids in a room by themselves. The lady on the phone said, yes, of course. I got the address of the motel. Now we just had to figure out how to get there.

Andy came over just then and said he thought he had a ride for us. Apparently two police officers had pulled in to the rest area. They were driving a prison transport van which was empty. My husband approached them and explained our situation and asked if they could help us with a ride. They were surprised at the request, but talked it over and said, yes, they could do this for us. So, we grabbed a couple bags of clothes and diapers and I put the baby in my carrier and got into the back of a prison transport van with my children. Lots of nervous laughter. I exchanged a panicked look with my husband. All we had to keep us connected now were our phones. I had no idea where I was and he wasn’t sure what town the tow truck was going to take our van. We trusted that somehow we would reconnect the next day. 

By the time we got to the motel it was dark. My kids were tired and traumatized and I was being brisk and efficient, trying to exude an air of confidence as I ushered all my kids into the foyer to check in. In the foyer there was a large statue of Buddha with incense burning. My kids had lots of questions about that and I was stressed, trying to keep them quiet, hoping they wouldn’t inadvertently ask an offensive question. I spoke to the lady at the desk and told her I was the woman who had just called her. 

She looked at my group and said, 

Two rooms. You have to get two rooms. 

I gave up arguing and said, Fine, do you have two rooms that are right next to each other? 

Yes, of course. 

I pulled out my bank card and gave it to her. She ran it and then came back to me. 

Your card has been denied. 

WHAT??

I knew that I had a large chunk of money in my bank. I pulled up my banking app, just to verify. Yep. There is definitely money in this account. I asked her to run it again. 

Your card has been denied. 

Ok. Regroup. I walked over to the side and called my husband. I quickly explained what was going on. Ok. He said, here, write down my card number, have them use my card. 

I did so and gave the new card number to the lady who was starting to look suspicious. 

This card has been denied. 

WHAT!!!!!!!!

The lady then said, there is an atm machine across the street in the little strip mall. Go take out cash. 

I counted up the cash I was traveling with. I was ten dollars short of being able to pay for the rooms in cash. I gathered up the kids who were now in a full-blown panic. Keep it together. Keep it together. Lord help. 

I was carrying  the baby and we put the next youngest in the little umbrella stroller we had brought. My oldest picked up the next youngest child and then the other older daughters helped the other boys walk, as they were all falling asleep on their feet. By now it was close to eleven pm. We crossed a little road and approached the bank. I tried the atm machine. My card was denied. Apparently something had triggered a security lock-down on my card. (Personally, I think it was the motel, it was a rather shady establishment.) It was the weekend and late at night so I couldn’t contact my bank. I pulled all the kids in a huddle and had them sit down on the sidewalk in front of the bank. The bank was well-lit, I was pretty sure there would be security cameras around as there was a 24hr atm machine. It seemed like the safest place to stay for the moment.

 I called my husband again. Explaining in an even voice the situation,  but I know that the fear I was feeling was coming through loud and clear to him. He said he was still waiting on the tow truck to come. I told him exactly where I was and he said he would just have the tow truck bring the van to where I was. We would sleep in the van in the parking lot. At least we would be all together. I sighed a big breath of relief. It was very scary to be doing all this without him. 

I sat down with the kids and tried to quiet them and reassure them. One of my little boys started crying. I held him and rocked him, continuing my silent prayer that hadn’t stopped since our van first broke down. 

Just then a fancy little car pulled up in front of the bank. A well-dressed, middle-aged man hopped out of his car and walked towards the atm machine. I tried to look like it was very normal for a woman to be sitting on the sidewalk with eight children in the middle of the night. He glanced my way and kind of winced and then kept walking. He used the atm machine and then walked over to us. Here, he said, and thrust four dollars into my hands, and then quickly got in his car and drove off. 

Now, I must admit, I wasn’t feeling very thankful for this bit of charity. 

Four dollars. Really?? How is this supposed to help??? 

The kids were very curious as to why a stranger had given us some money. I tried to explain that he obviously thought we needed help and so he tried to help.

How is four dollars supposed to help us mom? Umm. I’m not sure. I guess it’s the thought that counts?

Then my phone rang. It was my mother-in-law. We had been on the phone off and on with them, keeping them updated to our situation. I explained how my bank card was not working at all and she told me she would like me to try her credit card. She gave me the number and I said I would let her know if it worked. I called my husband and gave him a quick update and then me and my older daughters gathered up the sleeping children again and we made our way back to the motel. 

I patiently explained to the suspicious lady at the desk that my mother-in-law had offered to pay for the rooms and I had her credit card number. This time it worked and the lady begrudgingly showed us to our two rooms. The two rooms were not next to each other. They were several rooms apart. I smiled politely, thanked her, and waited till she had walked back to her office, and then ushered all my children into one room. No way was I splitting us up. 

The kids were so exhausted it only took minutes for them to fall asleep, spread over the two beds and on the floor. I sat there and waited till they were all resting and then called my husband again. I told him where we were. He said that the tow truck was towing them to the same town and according to the maps, it was only about two miles away. He said that when he got the van settled at the auto repair shop, he and our son would leave the dog in the car and walk to the motel so we could be together. Big sigh of relief. 

I decided to jump into the shower before I went to bed. I entered the bathroom and immediately started hearing screaming from the next room over. There were some large crashes and more yelling. Something thumped into the wall of the bathroom. I continued my day-long prayer. Lord, whatever this altercation is about, please don’t let them start shooting off guns. 

I sat up another hour until finally I heard a quiet knock. I walked over to the door and removed the chairs I had stacked up in front of it (since it was a super-flimsy door without a proper security lock) and let my husband and son in. They were exhausted. They had just walked about two miles and it was now closer to 2am. I handed him the key to the other room since this room was literally overflowing with children. We hugged briefly, clinging to each other, then they went to the other room to sleep. I laid down, feeling peace now that our family was all in one place, and went to sleep. 

The next day my husband left early to go back to the garage to check on our dog and figure some things out. I got the kids up and dressed. We walked back over to the strip mall where I had noticed a small grocery store. I bought some food for the day and we walked back to the motel to eat. The room had a tv but it only got one channel. The room we were staying in was playing JAWS the movie. Not exactly what I wanted to entertain my children. The kids got the bright idea to check the other motel room we had paid for, maybe that tv was showing something different? It was! A western. Fun.

A little later my husband showed up. He and my son were both on bikes towing bike trailers. In one bike trailer was our dog and then the other bike trailer was just full of bikes and bike helmets. Well. This is an interesting solution. My husband and I and five of our children rode bikes while the other four rode in the bike trailers and the dog ran alongside us. The motel owner and his wife came out into the parking lot to see the spectacle. They seemed surprised to see that my story of a broken down car was actually true. 

To make a very long story shorter…We finally ended up riding our bikes to a Jellystone Campground (great place!). The mechanics from the garage were willing to tow our trailer to the campground and so we had all of our camping gear and were able to set up camp. The van was declared unfixable and we spent a week trying to figure out how to get home. Finally my inlaws decided to buy us a van and drove it down from Maine for us. (A super blessing we can’t begin to express our thankfulness for.)

It was a crazy time. My kids were amazing. I was determined to keep our attitudes positive and made it a requirement that everyone list off things they were thankful for every time the mood started getting sour. The kids managed to relax a little and enjoy the time at the campground. We called some friends from our church and they got on the phone and helped with paying for the campground and even arranged for a nearby church to bring us a hot cooked meal. God provided for us in miraculous ways. 

I can’t imagine going through life without God. His peace is what carried me through that time. 

 

Just a Thought

My eight year old daughter was sitting next to me on the couch today. I noticed that she was wearing an old watch on her arm. It was silver and obviously too big for her. 

 

Me: Where did you get that? 

Nomi: What? 

Me: The watch, where did you get that watch? 

Nomi: (continues to play with a toy, doesn’t look up) Miss Linda.

Me: Miss Linda? 

Nomi: Yeah.

Me: (wracking my mind, trying to place this name…a teacher at school? Someone at church? A neighbor?) Who’s Miss Linda? 

Nomi: Miss Linda! 

Me: Who’s Miss Linda! 

Nomi: IT’S MISS LINDA!!!

 

You would think that at this point in time I would realize that this method of interrogation was not working and I should try a different approach. But, no.

 

Me: WHO’S MISS LINDA?!?!?!?!?!

Nomi: Mom, it’s Miss Linda. 

 

I stared at her in frustration. Then it clicked. My husband had taken two of his little daughters with him when he did a quick Saturday side job to put up a ceiling fan for Miss Linda, a retired woman he has done work for in the past. It was a chance for him to have some daddy-daughter time and a chance for Miss Linda to spoil some little girls. 

 

Ok. Mystery solved. 

 

Then one of my sons walked in the room, spotted the watch with his laser eyes, and quickly went into attack mode..

 

Judah: Where did you get that???

Nomi: Miss Linda.

Judah: Who’s Miss Linda? 

Nomi: It’s Miss Linda! 

 

I inwardly groaned as I knew I was now going to hear this whole conversation again. But as I watched my daughter I noticed a certain spark in her eye, a smug set to her mouth. She was having fun with this. 

 

What is it about kids loving to create conflict? 

 

MOM! SHE TOUCHED ME!

DID NOT!

DID TOO!

DID NOT!

DID TOO!

 

And on and on and on. 

 

I remember being exactly the same. It wasn’t until I was an older teenager that I started realizing that I didn’t have to react every time my brother pushed my buttons. And I didn’t have to push his buttons every time the opportunity presented itself. I presumed that it’s just part of growing up; learning how to live at peace with people, no longer delighting in sparking conflict. 

 

Enter FaceBook Stage Right. 

 

Don’t get me wrong. I love getting on FaceBook. I love seeing who just got engaged. Adorable baby photos. Who just got a new job. I love reading interesting articles that people post. Beautiful photos of far-off places. FaceBook can be a lot of fun. 

 

Then you have those posts that say, “If you don’t agree with my position, then you are STUPID!” And then someone comments: OH YEAH! WELL, YOU’RE STUPID!

AM NOT!
ARE TOO!
AM NOT!
ARE TOO!

 

Apparently the need to stir up arguments and be difficult Doesn’t go away when you grow up. 

 

I am not saying there isn’t a place for expressing ideas that differ from others. And I think there is definitely a time to say, I disagree with you, and this is why…I guess what always baffles me is why we can’t have differing opinions or even heated discussions without remaining respectful of each other. It is possible to believe strongly in something, have a desire to share that belief with others, and still not be rude or disrespectful to the people who believe differently than you. In fact, if you remain respectful, you will probably have a much better chance at sharing your beliefs with others. 

 

Just a thought. 

 

Questions on the Nature of Peace

I just read a blog post on Peace Hacks. Here is the link: Peace Hacks The article was about the nature of peace. Is peace simply the absence of war? Are we truly at peace if we know that injustice is happening where we live? Can we truly be at peace if we make ourselves fully aware of how many people are actually starving to death, right now, while we sit here reading stuff on the internet?  

The idea is, are we at peace, or are we simply choosing to ignore the problems around us so that we can feel comfortable.

This has made me think about Peace, and about burying my head in the sand. First of all, I’m going to go ahead and give my definition of peace. For me, peace is knowing that I am right with God. My sins are forgiven, He loves me, I look forward to an eternity with Him. That is the true source of my peace. When my world seems to be unraveling, that is what I cling to.

But what about peace in my world? Right now I do not feel like the world is at peace. The news shows a very rigid divide between political parties. It feels very much like people are choosing sides and drawing lines in the sand, preparing for battle. I am horrified as I watch people make moral decisions that defy logic. I am truly frightened when I see laws being passed that erode my parental rights. I am completely boggled as I look at the upcoming presidential election. I’m not even going to go there right now.

I look around and think, maybe we should move. Surely there is another country that isn’t as crazy as mine. But, if you read the news, you quickly learn that every single country in the world has got some pretty serious flaws.

And then there is all the suffering going on. Religious persecution is a very real thing, happening all over the world. Poverty at a level where people are starving to death, this is happening right now. Human trafficking is everywhere. Prejudice, injustice, foster kids in need of care, domestic violence, homelessness. All these things are happening right here, in my city. And I sit in my house, occupied with the very tame jobs of washing dishes, cooking meals, entertaining children.

What is my responsibility as a human being, as a Christian?

I find that when I read the news regularly, stay up-to-date with all the horrors that are happening,  I start feeling very anxious, afraid. Unsettled. Overwhelmed. I don’t like feeling that way. And so I withdraw. I stop reading the news. I stop engaging. I want my peace back, and so I turn my back on the world’s problems, ignore them.

Is that right though? Throughout history, time and time again, change has occurred when a person, a group of people, say, That is enough. This is wrong. We must stop this. Isn’t it our responsibility to be one of those people?

But there has to be a balance. I am a wife and a mother. I have a job to create a peaceful atmosphere where my children can live in a calm, safe environment while they are developing mentally, physically, spiritually. It’s hard to create that environment when we are focusing continually on all the bad things in the world.

Let me try to sum up the problem here. I am actually looking at two kinds of peace. Peace with God, and peace in my city/region/state/country/world. How do I address the lack of peace in the world without letting it disrupt my spiritual peace, and my own little haven of peace that I’ve created in my home?

I do not want to be someone who turns a blind eye, ignores the problem, pretends it isn’t there. Nor do I want to live a life of worry and fear and stress as I get overwhelmed, feeling like I, alone, can do nothing to change what’s happening around me.

I was hoping that as I wrote this, I would come up with some conclusions. I think instead I have just defined the problem really well for myself. But, that in itself, is progress. I guess I will have to write a Part 2 for this piece when I get some insight.