Category Archives: From theCompostPile

Easter Memories

Dragging the basket bin from the basement and trying to remember whose is whose as I prepare to fill them brings many of my own Easter memories to mind.

Growing up we celebrated Easter mostly, meaning, usually celebration happened unless we were in a time or season when it didn’t. There are things that I remember happening around the holiday and things that I remember wishing would happen and then things that actually happened.

Things that I remember happening are dying eggs, having them hidden, and getting Easter baskets. Things that remember wishing would happen are that I would get one of those amazing ready-made, cellophane-wrapped baskets with a chocolate bunny in it and tons of novelties, candy, and toys. Things that actually happened were whatever my parents could pull off in whatever season of life they were trying to survive.

Dying Eggs
There was this rule about eggs akin to the one about swimming after eating lunch. After the eggs were boiled, they had to rest in the refrigerator at least overnight. So asking to dye eggs meant that we would get to do it, just not that day. The large pot was hauled out to boil the eggs, and they sat in the refrigerator overnight or longer if there was a special circumstance.

Egg-dying took place in Mom’s wedding china pattern tea cups. That is what they were used for ~ the egg-dying cups. It is the only time I remember getting them out, those white china with the wide black pattered stripe around the top and the silver edging cups. What else would you use to drop the colored tablet and add vinegar and water to?

I don’t remember the actual process other than sometimes using a crayon to write on the eggs. I can only filter how stressful it must have been through my own mothering experience as I am the firstborn of seven. When I was ten, there were five younger than me. That is a lot of littles trying to color eggs.

Egg Hiding
There was not such thing as hiding plastic eggs back in my day. Maybe there was, and we just didn’t use them. What happened in our house was that the real eggs that we colored would be hidden around the living room to be found when we woke in the morning. I have only one vivid memory of finding real eggs, and that is of my dad seeming stressed that there was still an egg at large that hadn’t been found. At the time, I didn’t understand the big deal.

Maybe we only did that real egg hiding thing one time.

Easter Baskets
We got Easter baskets on Easter morning. I wonder how my parents worked that out? I have a vivid memory of my brother, Nick, getting an upside-down cowboy hat as a basket when he was a preschooler. That seemed so special. As a parent I can also see the pragmatic side of panic when the realization that another kid needs a basket hits, and something useful is found.

I can also see it as being different, hence, memorable.

Chocolate Bunnies
This really happened ~ once. One time there was a foil- wrapped bunny in my Easter basket along with a sticker book, little packets of snacks, and other non-candy treats. It was the basket of my dreams for about five minutes.

Upon closer examination, those little snack packets were sesame stick snacks. They were a twig-like texture covered with bumpy seeds. The wrapped bunny was not chocolate, but carob, and sucked the moisture out of my mouth completely as I bit into an ear with gusto. I am sure there are things are more disappointing to a child than thinking a foil-wrapped carob bunny is real chocolate, but none come quickly to my mind.

<b>Carob</b> solid Chuckle <b>Bunny</b> Shapes 120g Of COURSE they are chuckling!

As a parent, I totally get alternative treat ideas. I understand trying to limit sugar for a number of reasons. I am the one who says that you know you have crossed to adulthood when the candy aisle becomes about behavior issues and dental bills rather than fun. But on Easter morning, That just ain’t right!

My son asks the question, What did you do with it? after I let him preview the post. It’s like tofu for meat, he comments.

I don’t remember. Do any of my siblings remember the Healthy Crunchy Co-op Easter Basket fiasco? What did you do with your bunny?

This is the part where I give a shout out to my parents for the effort they made to make Easter fun. Sitting on the other side of the equation, I understand the struggle to keep proper focus, to limit sugar intake, to want to make memories.

Thanks for the memories! I know my kids have a pile of their own that will be a topic for another time!

And, Sibbies, does any of this ring true for you? What was YOUR Easter experience growing up?

Angered by the Call

Sometimes I wonder if I have changed, am changing, will ever change. I look back over the blog, read old entries, and think, really? STILL?

Sure, things are not exactly the same, but they are eerily similar. I found one such gem after looking through some old posts from the private blog. Sitting in my drafts folder was this memory from three years ago, almost to the day.

It is a different kind of hard that we sit in. We are always sitting in the hard, and maybe that is what I need to remember and learn as I sit in this Saturday afternoon between death and resurrection.

From March, 2013

It has been a hard day. Week. Season.

Life is so very full, which is a good thing. We are blessed. Work stress means there is work. House mess means people are living. Serving others means we are able-bodied.

It’s still been hard. Tiring. Draining. Exhausting. 

I had been looking forward to Good Friday.

Not in a, “I gave up caffeine for Lent and can’t wait for coffee on Easter” kind of way but in a, “I can’t wait for the school to be closed and to get to sleep in and have coffee with Steve” one. I was looking forward to hanging out together. 

Good Friday morning, Steve woke up and something was wrong. He was sick. It was his turn for the stomach bug that has been passing through our family for weeks. The violent, let me tear through your system and leave you languishing, stomach bug.

And I was angry.

Angered by the call to sacrifice my agenda and desire to have things my way. Angered by the call to suffer, because, after all, now I was going to have to do EVERYTHING myself and how is that FAIR? Can’t I even get a BREAK? A day OFF?

On Good Friday, the day set aside to remember the One who sacrificed his life entirely, the day I am on worship team for a special service, the day I am called in a minuscule way to lay down my own life and suffer and sacrifice for another, and my response is anger.

Not love.

Not Christlike.

Not taking up my cross to follow. Not even on Good Friday.

Only the painful, tangible, heart-rending reminder of why all of this had to happen.

For me.

Reasonable Service

This morning, Pastor Todd brought words from Romans 12, challenging us to give our entire life to God. I was transported back to a season of meditation on this very passage.

Certainly not the only time I have spent in Romans, it was a significant season in my story. I recalled the exact journal used to process and pulled it from the shelf this evening to examine my thoughts more closely.

The first page tells me what I need to know.

I’ve just given birth to child #7.

It’s August 7, 2006, and it’s been a week and a half since her birth.

The summer seemed quite fragmented due to the fact that I was very pregnant for the first half and post~partum for the second.

As there are four full weeks of August before school starts this fall, I am trying to begin collecting my thoughts and planning for the coming season.

This is followed by lists of things that I would like to accomplish during the month along with things that have been lacking in my life. There is concern for my emotional stability as we enter a season of transition in the areas of church, school, and family. There is looking ahead to the fall and what to focus on with the parenting of seven children ranging from 13 years to 10 days.

There are goals set. There are lists of things to rejoice in. Blessings.

There is the question.

How can I not feel blessed?

A theme in my story is trying. I am grateful that God’s Word does not return void, no matter where we are on our path. In 2006 I was trying to do the right things on the right lists and to understand what God was doing with my life in the midst of feeling lost and overwhelmed.

The following is a mediation on Romans 12, demonstrating how God met me there in 2006. This is directly from my journal to illustrate where I was during this season.

Romans 12 ~ Wow! What a chapter! Here is what jumped out at me.

“living sacrifice” ~ daily sacrifice of self
“reasonable service” ~ caring for home and family
“do not be conformed” ~ worldly desires
“be transformed” ~ changed through the Gospel
“renew your mind” ~ think like Christ
“Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought.”
“All members do not have the same function.” ~Not everyone has my role, and that’s okay. My job is to be me.
“Having gifts differing according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” ~gift of mothering 7 ~not 2, not 12, but 7 children
~abhor evil
~cling to good
~be affectionate with brotherly love
~diligent, busy about my own work
~fervent in spirit
~serve the Lord (with gladness!)
~rejoice in hope (what is to come!)
~be patient in tribulation (dirty diapers, disagreeable children)
~pray!
~care for the needs of the saints
~practice hospitality
~bless, rejoice,weep
Do not be wise in your own opinion!
~don’t seek to get even

I am to present myself as a living sacrifice to God through the daily offering of my life to him.

He has given me a measure of grace to mother seven children, and I am to use that gift for him. It is my reasonable service to do laundry, potty train, change diapers, clean up messes, organize toys, plan meals, read stories, wipe noses, run errands, and do it all again tomorrow.

My desire to conform to the world says there must be something more than this. This feels boring and pointless without a renewed mind that says, You are being transformed! Being transformed sees my life as full of opportunities to be Jesus to those around me and to use my spiritual gifts and to function as part of Christ’s body on earth.

So in my behavior day to day, rather than wallowing in not this again, I should be crying, Transform my heart, Lord! It is thinking of myself more highly than I ought to say, Not this again. I am exactly where I need to be to fulfill God’s merciful plan for my life.

I should be rejoicing in hope while patient in tribulation. Instead of wallowing in the messy pants, I can rejoice in the hope of no diapers one day!

I should have a fervent spirit making me diligent about my daily work. I should be giving preference to my family with brotherly love. Am I distributing to their needs? Showing them hospitality?

And if my greatest “tribulations” are a house to care for (shelter), laundry to do (clothing), and meals to plan and prepare (food), then how ungrateful to complain about the blessings in my life!

I resisted the urge to edit, especially all of those shoulds. I left them. That is where I was back in 2006. It was a season of shoulds. I was also in a season of the New King James Version of the Bible, which gives context to my notes and why I linked to that version above.

I hope these words have encouraged you. They certainly have encouraged me by reminding me that God has always been faithful and will continue to be so, even in the lost and overwhelmed. Thank you for journeying alongside of me and for your kindness in glimpsing my world, Dear Reader. Be blessed!

Escalating

Thursday I picked up a friend from the airport. As part of this journey I had chose to ride some escalators in Dulles Airport. Standing at the bottom of the longer one, I snapped a picture and posted it to social media.

escalator

There’s a story behind this that I must not have heard! commented a friend.

Of course, there is a story. There is always a story. Are stories.

A vivid memory of my first field trip, taken in kindergarten or first grade, to the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. places me at the top of an escalator, looking down. I am not able to step on, because I am terrified. I am small enough for the chaperon to have to carry me down the escalator, which he does. I feel safe.

Questioning my parents about this confirms that it is a plausible memory. We lived in an area where field trips to the DC area were common. It could have been a family trip, since we went there often with family and friends, but it seems that I would know the difference between a parent carrying me and a safe stranger.

Family trips contain memories of not getting freeze-dried astronaut ice-cream or not eating in the cafeteria but packing sandwiches in a cooler. Family trips would have most likely involved elevators due to the number of small children and the stroller. And somehow I knew there was a chaperon. That word is in my head. 

Of course, as an adult and a teacher looking back, taking young children to the National Air and Space Museum seems stressful. Did it really happen? I am grateful to have listened to this podcast on memory this week. I appreciate Dan Allender’s perspective and insight on the subject.

“But the question itself betrays an assumption we make about memory—that if memory is true, it is accurate to a degree that it would actually be comparable to watching a videotape. […] That’s not the way memory occurs. It’s not the way we even remember what we ate or who we were with for last evening’s meal. […] No memory holds a kind of videotape accuracy.”

I have an adult escalator memory, as well.

Years ago, when our eldest children were 4, 3, and 22 months, we took them, and my 8 year old sister, to the National Zoo. There was a double stroller involved, yet as with most stroller activities, the littles weren’t riding in it.

Steve, my sister, and firstborn were ahead of me trucking along to the escalator that would return us all to the Metro from the zoo. I was carrying a toddler and holding a little boy’s hand behind them.

As the three of them stepped confidently onto the descending stairs with the double stroller, I froze at the top with two small children in hand. My feet feel numb and legs itch even as I type this.

With no free hands available, I tried to pep-talk myself into taking that first step, but I just couldn’t. The little boy holding my right hand would follow my lead forward only to be jerked back at the last second.

Ok. The NEXT time a group of people steps on, I will go. They will at least break my fall if we go pitching forward. Lift foot. Jerk back. Confuse son. Vice grip daughter.

I was stuck at the top in a minor panic.

My husband reached the bottom, looked up, and immediately realized what had just happened. Going into rescue mode, he located the elevator, returned to the top, and escorted us to the elevator and safely to the bowels of DC (is that an oxymoron?) to be returned via subway to our minivan.

Over the years, I have risked and grown in my use of elevators. I do much better when I am alone or with other adults and not responsible for small children or reckless teenagers. I can even navigate a piece of luggage going up. Going down is a little more stressful.

Here you see me risking two years ago when we took the littles to DC and rode escalators at some point.

Clench a jaw!

Clench a jaw!

DSCN0295

Fearless one.

I was reminded of this as my friend and I made the trip in reverse, she with a large rolling suitcase.

Do you want to take the elevator down?

No, I’m fine.

Ok.

I took a deep breath, reminded myself of her adult status, and held on for the ride.

Mother’s Day Flashback

From Mother’s Day 2013 on my private blog. Sharing here now.

Mothers Day was amazingly overwhelming. ALL of my children plus 2 special someones were in attendance, totaling 12. That is a lot of people. When we walked to Klines, I almost expected to be stopped and asked if we had a permit to assemble.

Mother's Day

Klines

My newly-able-to-feel heart felt many good and difficult things, often resulting in tears. I don’t hide and cry well, but I tried. Busted each time….Mom, are you crying in there?

Monday morning, as I surveyed the fallout from the celebration, Katie said, they should make a morning after mother’s day pill. It was funny. I knew what she meant. I would down a fistful.

Functional Wife, Functional Mother

As part of my theme of returning this year, I am taking this incredibly vulnerable (for me) post from my private blog today as an example of grace and change, and God’s work in my life, though not on my timetable. It was and is and continues to be a process of hope and trust and choosing to keep going, even when I can’t see or understand why. Read through the comments, as well, as they are telling. 

Back in July, 1996, I was a 25 year old wife, married 4 1/2 years, and a mom of 3 little ones aged 3,2,1.  Every area of life was full and overwhelming. That was all I knew. I had to keep going and going and going because there were no other options. It was a lonely time full of disappointment, disillusion, despair, and depression (which would not be acknowledged and dealt with for 12 more years after I had 5 additional kids).

I know it was all grace that kept me functioning when I didn’t think I could. It was mercy that Steve and I not only loved each other but LIKED each other enough to keep trying to push through and make sense of the senseless. It was writing that moved the clutter inside from my head to paper and it was Jesus who heard my cries and never let  me go.

I wrote Functional Wife, Functional Mother during this time. It’s one of those mantras that would get stuck in my head, and I had to get it out. That’s how I felt. Like I was barely functioning. At 25.

Thank God for His redeeming love. He has made and continues to make all things new, but it has been a long, at times, lonely process. Here I am over 17 years later to testify that things do get better. Just not always on our time table!

From deep within the bin of my 25 year old heart….

Functional wife, functional mother.

When I’m not doing one thing, I’m doing another.

I’m feeling let down, I’m starting to smother

As functional wife, functional mother.

I get out of bed, there’s a baby to hold.

I look in the mirror, my face looks so old.

I go down the stairs, there’s a pile of clothes to fold.

And the bread in the cupboard is starting to grow mold.

And I’m a

Functional wife, functional mother.

When I’m not doing one thing, I’m doing another.

I’m feeling let down, I’m starting to smother

As functional wife, functional mother.

My husband comes home, he kisses my cheek.

We’re both so tired, it’s been a long week.

What’s in our hearts, we can’t even speak.

What would we find, if we dared to peek?

He’d find a

Functional wife, functional mother.

When I’m not doing one thing, I’m doing another.

I’m feeling let down, I’m starting to smother

As functional wife, functional mother.

Please do not say it will all go away,

and that what I am feeling is not here to stay.

I’ve heard it before, I still feel the same way.

It may soon get better but for today

I’m just a

Functional wife, functional mother.

When I’m not doing one thing, I’m doing another.

I’m feeling let down, I’m starting to smother

As functional wife, functional mother.

Seeking the Lost

This post is part of the Chicago Trip series from 2013.

My only “break” was the time spent left behind searching the Shedd Aquarium for my son’s lost backpack while the rest of the group bused over to the Art Institute.

Praise God, I found the backpack, but it would be lying to say there were no tears. Prayers, phonecalls, and detective work revealed the location.

aquarium

We were at the aquarium rise and shine at 9. When noon rolled around, buses were boarded for a short ride to the Art Institute.

A teacher took attendance, asking in an urgent tone where my son and his friend were. Immediately they came running down the sidewalk and burst onboard.

It was revealed that a backpack might be lost. Yes or no? Is it or isn’t it? What to do? Times like this bring out my inner 10 year old, and I feel helpless.

The idea of getting off to hunt for the lost item myself was met by resistance from our local tour director. While I wanted to be set free to look and then walk or taxi to the museum, she thought it was too far and I should call someone in the other group that was staying a few minutes longer and ask them to look for it.

I didn’t want to compound the problem.

I wanted to understand what was going on inside of me.

I wanted to be there for my own kid like I would be for anyone else’s.

I got off of the bus.

It wasn’t at Ice Age 4D, not at lost and found. I wrote a description of the item and my contact information in a notebook at the information desk. (I’m pretty sure its sole purpose is to placate tourists who lose stuff.)

With strollers and diaper bags everywhere, who would notice a lone burnt-orange backpack and turn it in to lost and found?

strollers

The logical, grownup side of my brain kicked in, and I remembered taking Kieran’s picture while waiting for the 11:00 movie. A quick review of the shots on my camera revealed no backpack.

But wait!

I had taken an even earlier picture at the sea lion. I checked it. No backpack.

sea lion

At that time, my child had raved about the time spent with penguins and otters. They were down below, and I would give it one last go and call Steve to keep from losing my bearings in the process.

penguins

He listened and talked me through the descent to the scene where the backpack was finally found amidst tears and a fragmented explanation to the young family guarding it.

I returned to the front desk to assure them that the lost had been found. I called the bus driver and waited outside with my ipod for him to circle around and get me.

bus

I texted my mom chaperone friends who met me at the student group entrance of the Art Institute and whisked me in for an afternoon of art therapy, courtesy of Rembrandt, Monet, and VanGogh.

art