One List at a Time

We are back from vacation! I think the drive home hit our world record for least eventful, fastest, calmest drive we’ve ever had.  We did twenty hours straight, drove through the night. Only stopped for bathroom breaks and to get gas, one pass through the drive thru. Kids didn’t fight. No complaints about being bored. We didn’t even watch any movies, just listened to music. I do not have any idea why everything went so well. It’s never happened before. 

 

So, after this amazing trip, I walk into my home. And I’m greeted by an old musty house that is pretty messy. No couches in the living room cause they were nasty and I threw them out a couple weeks before vacation. Stacks of homeschooling books. Clutter. Lots of unfinished projects. My daughter runs up to me, When are we going school shopping? Can we go right now? (What??) No, we JUST got home. We are not going shopping. (School starts the middle of August here.) 

 

I look through the mail. Bills. People needing information from me. Phone calls I need to make. 

 

Mom, when are we taking our kittens to the vet? Uh..soon. Not today. 

 

What’s for supper Mom? Uh, let’s see what’s in the freezer, I need to go grocery shopping. 

 

Mom! The fish tank needs more water! Yes, I will fix it tomorrow. 

 

I sink into my chair. Yikes. Deep breath. Today. Focus on today. Today, I’m going to unpack a couple things, take a shower. Go to bed. 

 

This morning I woke up and again had to fight off the urge to get overwhelmed. One step at a time. In order to get myself from fretting, I sat down and wrote a list of goals. Things I want to happen sometime this Fall. 

 

Personal goals: Exercise every day, get my blood sugar under control.

 

Spiritual goals: family devotions, bible memory.

 

Household goals: buy couches, get a homeschooling space set up.

 

School goals: get everyone ready for the school year, get a school routine going.

 

Nothing unrealistic. All stuff that needs to happen. Writing it down makes me feel better.  When it’s all written down, it feels possible. Like, one day, I will wake up, and all these things will be checked off this list! 

 

I am feeling optimistic about the future. Homeschooling is actually sounding fun. It helps that it will only be three kids, not seven.  I ordered some books for the coming year and I was flipping through them today, How many chapters? How many months do we have? How many pages do we need to get done a day to finish this on time? And it was fun. I’m feeling ready to hit the stores and buy out the school supply department. 🙂 

 

This coming school year, with kids in public school, doing virtual school (one highschooler decided to stay home and do virtual school instead), and homeschool, it is going to be weird, and unnatural, and uncomfortable, and alarming at times. But right now, coming from a place of rest and refreshment, I just have the attitude of Bring it On. I’m ready. One step at a time. One list at a time. 

 

“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)

And Today’s Awesome Award Goes to….

Today, this weekend, this week, this month, this year…the Awesome Heroes Award goes to my parents. YAY!! Who paid for a romantic weekend getaway for my husband and I in the mountains while they came and took care of the kids all weekend. 

 

Yeah. Try and top that!

 

The purpose was for Andy and I to be able to get away, reconnect, rest, and de-stress. 

 

It worked. 

 

I left Friday afternoon, literally running to get in the car and drive away before the kids got home from school. I came back today, ready to push my sleeves up and get back to work. 

 

We stayed at Jonathan Creek Inn at Maggie Valley and had a room with a Jacuzzi. Which is kind of a funny story in itself. My husband and I have been trying to stay in a room with a jacuzzi since our honeymoon, and then for our following anniversaries, and we have been thwarted every time. On our honeymoon, because we were in Wisconsin, and we are not planners, and thought we’d just drive till we felt like stopping and then get a hotel room, with a jacuzzi…except unbeknownst to us, our wedding day fell on the day of a Green Bay Packers Game and every hotel in the entire state was booked up. Then on the next anniversary, we were all set to go have a romantic getaway, but then a close friend was in a tragic accident and we were at the hospital on our anniversary. And then, we had a lot of kids and gave up trying to do stuff like that. Until a couple years ago, when I finally had a room booked and a babysitter lined up. Then I got appendicitis and ended up spending my anniversary recovering from an appendectomy. 

 

So, we finally got our jacuzzi suite.  Yay!

 

We took a drive around the mountains and went on a hike through the woods. We watched sappy Hallmark movies in our room (another first, we don’t have cable and have never seen a Hallmark movie, it was hilarious making commentary with my husband). 

 

And we talked. We talked a lot about our new living situation. With three new children, we are having to make a lot of adjustments. And we are getting tired. It’s one of those things where you know that you can do this, but you’re going to have to be smart about how you go about it. 

 

We talked about how we can pace ourselves and make sure that we are getting the breaks that we need. Talked about how we need to keep some strong boundaries in some different situations. We plotted and planned. 

 

And we just enjoyed being out in nature and being together. I enjoyed not having to cook any meals or do any chores. 

We especially enjoyed saying, Hey, Let’s go do this! And then we would just walk out the door and go do it. Amazing. No thirty minutes of getting everyone ready to go. We just Walked. Out. The. Door. 

 

I’m going to be honest. Taking on new family members is hard. Really hard. But, God has been faithful. He has provided: everything we physically need, and even a mental and emotional break. And he is continuing to provide wisdom as we learn how to walk this path. And it’s worth it. It was great to come home to a house full of smiling, happy children. Each one beautiful and amazing in their own way. 

 

Fat Fridays: Week 30 Taking a Short “Life has Interfered” Break

Hey Everyone. This is going to be short and sweet. This Friday my summer-long houseguests are going to be moving out. I am going to be spending this Friday and the weekend trying to put my house back into order. Next Friday I will be gone on a mini second honeymoon as me and my husband celebrate our 20th Wedding Anniversary! Yay! So, For the next chunk of days I am not going to be even thinking about diet and exercise and being healthy. But, the day after we get back, our kids will start school up again and I have a plan that I hope to initiate that week as well. I will tell you all about it when I surface again from the busyness. I’ll see you again in a couple weeks!