On Busy Hands and the Pleasure of God

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast!
And when I run I feel his pleasure.”
― Eric Liddell

I never saw it coming, but at some point after the Cheesedoodle was born, I realized that I enjoyed being my home maker. I never had enjoyed being at home before kids. I am an extrovert and I found housework to be tedious and lonely, so I found reasons not to be at home; but two children in 22 months was enough of an anchor to stop me from drifting away and I found joy in it. Sure, the business of scrubbing toilets and washing dishes and folding laundry is, and will always be, a personal challenge; however, there are many aspects of being at home, and managing my home, that I enjoy and I missed those things in the last two years as I worked outside the home. I really enjoyed the work I did for our St. Louis church, but I missed cooking real meals from scratch, and having the time to bake desserts or experiment with new recipes. I missed crochet and some of the paper crafting that I had begun to learn. I missed hospitality. Mostly I missed being the one who set the tone of our home in almost every way.

In the six weeks since our move, I have found myself once more enjoying the task of home maker. I have begun again to bake bread, and when a new friend cleared out some of her yarn, my fingers remembered with joy the comforting rhythm of single and double and treble crochet stitches. I have found myself taking heed of the admonition in Titus 2:5 to be busy in my home and I have not struggled to find ways in which to do so. The addition of educating the oldest two children has certainly contributed to busyness of my hands.

On Monday I sat down to write a silly skit for a friend. It was very stupid – in fact some of the worst writing I’ve done since high school – and I felt a grief that my writing had become rusty from lack of use, and simultaneously a settling in my spirit as I wrote as if I had been gone too long from a well loved place and was once again where I belonged.

It made me think of the quote from Eric Liddell with which I opened this post. Eric Liddell spent most of his life ministering in obscurity, and is, in fact, more famous for a race he did not run that for any that he did; yet, just as he trained and studied for his ministry in China, he also trained and prepared his body to race, because he believed (correctly) that he could be fast for the glory of God. I know that The Lord has called me primarily to serve my family, and to serve alongside my husband in the local church. I am pleased with this calling and thank The Lord for it. But I can also write, and when I write I feel His pleasure. I cannot abandon the greater calling for the lesser gifting, however I also know that I cannot ignore a good and perfect gift given from the Father.

So I will remain constant in my efforts to be busy at home, and to manage my household; but I will also make time to write for the pleasure and glory of God.

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Coralie- Proof Whole Wheat Potato Rolls

Saturday I tweeted: “Made some moderately tasty crackers for dinner tonight. Unfortunately I thought I was making hamburger buns. :-/”

So today, when my rolls had actually risen, I had to tweet a picture, to prove to the internet that I am not always hopeless in the kitchen. There is a great deal wrong with that sentence. Anyway, irony of ironies, three people asked me for the recipe. So here it is.

e6c5e71f-11e4-47be-9bff-6b0cd18fb9bbApparently Coralie-proof Whole Wheat Potato Rolls.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 5 teaspoons yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup of scalded milk
  • 3 Tablespoons of butter, oil or shortening
  • 5 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup of ground flax seed
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 – 3 cups all purpose flour
  1. Cook the potatoes in the water until very soft. Do not drain. Remove 1/2 cup of the potato water, dissolve the sugar and let cool to warm temperature. Add yeast to reserved potato water to proof. Add butter, salt and milk to the remaining potatoes and water. Puree (I use an immersible blender. The recipe recommended pouring it all into a blender.)
  2. Add two cups of whole wheat flour to the potato mixture and stir to a paste. Add proofed yeast and stir well.
  3. Add remaining flour a little at a time until a sticky dough develops.
  4. Turn out onto the counter and knead with remaining flour until the dough is no longer sticky and bounces back when pressed.
  5. Cover and let rise to double.
  6. Punch down, form into rolls on a cookie sheet. (I did four ounce rolls. That seemed to be a good size, once risen.) Cover and let rise to double again.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

So, there it is. For those who care.

Peace and Settling In.

113“Are you settling in?” I don’t know how to answer that. I understand it is the conversational equivalent of “How are ya’?” when one has just moved to town, and people know you well enough to speak, but not well enough to know what say, exactly. I generally answer in a generally positive way, because the person asking doesn’t really want to know the details of my life, and settling, or not.

How does one define settled? In some ways I am feeling decidedly un-settled. Almost everything I own is stacked in a two car garage and will be until May, most likely. Our van has been parked in Maine for a month, because the United States Postal Service seems to have lost the title so we can’t import it.  I went grocery shopping this week and remembered that I can’t buy sherry at the grocery store in Canada. One of the children’s favorite lunches is the Pioneer Woman’s Sherried Tomato Soup, and I had all the ingredients except the sherry, but I couldn’t buy sherry in the grocery store, and the liquor store was closed. I sat in the borrowed Honda Pilot we are driving and said, out loud, to no one in particular, “Why is everything so complicated?”

But those moments, while real, are pretty rare. In the moment to moment I am feeling more settled than I have in years. I haven’t had to rush the children out the door since we got here. I haven’t told anyone to “just hurry up! We are LATE!” Every morning at 8:30 Jonathan sits at the dining room table and begins his day, and the children and I go to the living room and begin school. There is no commute. We can finish up breakfast at 8:15 and have plenty of time to get dressed and make it to our 8:30 start time. I have baked bread, and made petite pain au chocolate for breakfast, and had people in for meals, and been to other peoples’ homes for meals, and I have still been able to keep up with the laundry. We have been to the local public library (twice) and the children go outside to play on most afternoons – weather permitting.

I spent the last year feeling like I was doing everything poorly because I didn’t have the time to do anything well. I felt like I dropped more plates than I kept spinning, and I told the children “No, we don’t have time” more than I was able to make time to say “yes.” Now I feel like I can breathe. In November the mackerdoodle asked me a question and I answered, “Ask me that again when we aren’t in the car, and I can look up the answer for you.” She answered, “We are always in the car.” Today she asked me “What do penguins and polar bears drink, if they live where the water is frozen?” I Googled it. (Penguins drink salt water, and Polar Bears don’t drink at all! Isn’t that interesting?)

So, are we settling in? In all the ways that count. The Lord is teaching me, one minor inconvenience at a time, that settled and unpacked are entirely different things.

A Longer View

Quick housekeeping note: Life More Abundant has a new facebook page. Would you consider clicking “like” in the box on the right? Thanks.

This morning, Jonathan rode to the rescue of a coworker with a dead car battery and he took the two older doodles (in their pajamas. They thought it was quite the adventure) with him. For 45 minutes, I was at home, alone, with just the snickerdoodle. I got so much done! While I was doing my Monday morning chores, and chatting to the snickerdoodle about each task, I suddenly had a memory of the days when the mackerdoodle was this small. I was so overwhelmed not only with being a first time mama, but also learning to be a home maker. I spent so much of my time thinking that if I could just figure out the right way to accomplish these tasks I would suddenly find they weren’t so hard after all.

All of those thoughts and emotions came back to me today as I was scrubbing my stove – my weekly Monday morning task. I still hate scrubbing my stove. I don’t enjoy cleaning any more with five years more experience than I did back then. I have learned, however, that it isn’t about learning the “right” way to do things. There are fifteen ways to achieve most housekeeping tasks, and each is as good as the other. Most days I go to sleep feeling like I’m moving backwards in my skills as a home maker, but today, with only one baby to entertain, I realized that I breezed through my tasks with an ease not felt in years. I haven’t tapped into some mystical set of Highly Successful Housekeeping techniques. Instead, I have just done it, and this morning I was able to see that just doing housework with one child, is easier now that I have had to just do it with three.

It is encouraging to have the rare opportunity to look back and see a pattern of improvement. It encouraged me to just do a little more than my list because it is in the doing that I learn and grow and gain the ability to manage this family the Lord has entrusted to me. I was also encouraged that I will not always have this sense of backward motion. I will not always be adding to my family size. I will not always be living in the fog of infant sleep deprivation. There will be a day when just doing what needs to be done, while maybe not more enjoyable, will be less of a seemingly insurmountable task. One day, I will be able to finish a to do list without being interrupted by some child’s bowels.

It was a needed glimpse of encouragement on a day when I needed a longer view.

On Thinking and Doing and Irony

The snickerdoodle is 4 and a half months old, and as was the case when the other two children hit that age, I am feeling all of my creativity pouring back. There are a thousand blog posts rolling around my head right now and the fictional characters are beginning to talk again (over each other at the moment. I need to sort through everyone to find Tracey again). I stained a bookshelf our friend Loran made us a year ago (and put it beside the couch and now I need another one for the other side. hint hint), re-covered an office chair and have been pouring over the Design*Sponge book my sister bought for me. I went into Home Depot for a new filter for my vacuum cleaner and found myself looking longingly at power tools. I want to renovate something.

The irony of all of this is that while I am googling “Can I change the color of my leather couch?” because it suddenly MUST BE RED, in the desperate dream of a home that one day looks like adults live in it, my apartment currently resembles what would happen if a frat house and a day care ever bred. (by the way, yes, you can re color leather for about the same price as buying a brand new sofa. Just FYI)

The new semester has real activities, and we spent several days fighting hair dwelling parasitic insects and I have a preschooler, a toddler and an infant, and the weather has been comfortable enough to go outside, which eats into my chore time. I could blame any one or all of those things, but the truth is this: I have always lived better in my head than in real life and I have a tendency to believe that what I imagine could happen one day is more important than the reality of what really is happening and going on and needing to be done right now.

There is nothing wrong with trying to make my home both more functional and more beautiful, but only if I am also keeping up with the mundane necessity of clean dishes, swept floors and scrubbed toilets.

A Cheer and a Boo

In the whole housekeeping/homemaking category I had a major break through and a disappointment in the last week and a half or so and I just can’t help but share these things with you. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a narcissistic compulsion.

Our home here in St. Louis is all hardwood, vinyl and concrete flooring. I really hate carpet, so I was so pleased to hear that I wouldn’t have to deal with any here, but hard surface flooring is difficult to keep grit free. Several of my neighbors recently told me that they purchased Dyson vacuum cleaners, and found that to be the key to floor maintenance.

I was suspicious, and knew there was no way we could afford a Dyson right now, so I put the thought out of my mind, and continued to sweep and swiffer vac the floors. Spring, however, has been kicking my floor maintenance behind. Well, spring and pregnancy.

The mud from the children’s boots/pants/jackets etc. when they play outside gets spread through the entire house faster than I can get to it, and over the last few weeks, sweeping and mopping has kick started contractions 100% of the time. It was getting old. Very quickly. And with every contraction I began thinking, “And next spring there will be THREE pairs of boots/pants/jackets.”

Dyson was still out of the question financially, but I did already own a shop vac, which has much of the same benefits as a Dyson – It is bag less, It is virtually uncloggable, and the only way it loses suction is when the filter is old and dirty. Unfortunately an open tube isn’t such a great tool for vacuuming anything bigger than a few feet long or wide. Imagine my pleasure when I discovered a wide floor brush attachment at Home Depot when I went to pick up a new filter for it! For $7.45 I turned my shop vac into a usable all purpose home vacuum!

I’ve been using it for a week, and it is such a big YAY! It’s loud, I’m sure much louder than a Dyson, but it sucks up ANYTHING, including things my broom and swiffer vac were leaving behind. The only real cons to using the vac are: my kids love the sight and sound of things being sucked up the tube and try to find things to put in front of it and it has a short cord. These things are livable because my children can walk around in their socks now, and it only cost $7.45 to make it happen.

Unfortunately, the same day I found the answer to my floor issues, I came home to a domestic disappointment. When we moved into this apartment, the former tenants left us a red and white checked chair sitting on the porch. It is a great chair and I spent many an hour during the summer sitting in it and watching my children play. My goal when I took possession of it was to re-cover it in oil cloth to make it waterproof, and thereby practical as a long term porch chair. The cost of oil cloth had heretofore prohibited such a move, but I held out hope that I would be able, in some way, to redeem this chair and hold on to it.

Until I came home from Home Depot and found a squirrel sitting on the arm of the chair, doing this to it.

Doesn’t that arm just break your heart? I did mine. It’s certainly fixable, but not for me, not right now. Sigh. Now I’ve just got to find a home for it, with someone who will give it the loving restoration it needs. Anyone interested?

Ear Infections, Entropy and Everything Else

Last week things sort of fell apart around here.  The cheesedoodle had his first ear infection, and spent three days wanting nothing except to be held by his mama.  I spent a lot of time sitting on the couch blogging about the things I loved and reading stories to a sick and cranky little boy.  When I was finally able to put him down on Thursday, my body reminded me that I had effectually been carrying two children for three days, and my muscles were lodging a complaint with their union rep.

Friday and Saturday we were at a new member class at church.

Sunday was the Lord’s Day.

This morning I knew that something had to be done.

It’s not all done, but I was able to accomplish several tasks around the house that had been left undone for far too long.  It’s the life of a stay-at-home Mom that a few days out of routine can push my entire world out of orbit.  I’m still getting used to it, but it is getting easier.  The entropy gets easier to tackle each time. The clutter seems smaller, and less fearsome. The tasks, when approached one by one, seem less daunting.

It’s still a struggle to restore order to a home I have let run down, for whatever reason, but it is no longer a paralyzing, seemingly insurmountable challenge.

Baby steps, I guess.