The Joy of the Mundane

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Most of the time it seems our lists and chores and errands are just something to get done and get out of the way.  They aren’t joy-filled, or joy-making.  We view them as joy-destroying.  Endless drudgery that must be done over and over and over again and no one cares and no one notices.  I have felt this way, and will probably sink down into it and feel it again, but I won’t stay there.  Not after what I have learned.  I have learned to find hope and joy among the laundry and dishes.

I want you to find it too.

It has to do with the lenses which we use to focus on the mundane drudgery that is part of our daily existence.  We create mess every day.  We must prepare meals every day.  It can seem like a life sentence confining us to endlessly repeat the same tasks over and over again and never make any progress forward, for as soon as the hamper is empty, someone puts something dirty in it.  As soon as the sink is empty, someone puts something dirty in it.  We feel emptied by the work and then we put something dirty in it.  Dirty thoughts of hopelessness, drudgery,  not being appreciated or loved, taken advantage of, used up and useless all at the same time…and so many more.  This is a vicious cycle and this is what women have railed against for years.  ”We need only think of how the gift of motherhood is often penalized rather than rewarded, even though humanity owes it’s very survival to this gift.” (John Paul II, On the Dignity of Women).  But there is more to it….there is beauty and purpose in it. There is something that those who belittle this vocation and womanhood have missed.

We have been tricked into looking at our life through the wrong lens.

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We were created by a loving and generous God in His image and He said that we are good (Gen1:27-31). God’s first instructions to man and woman was to work…be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth, til it and keep it. (Gen 1:26, 2:15).  Work was not a burden in the beginning.  It was a sharing in the creative work of God.  Blessed John Paul II talks extensively about the dignity of work and the worker, no matter what the work, or where it’s done and that this work is what makes us even more human.  Work is the mark of a family…”the mark of a person operating within a community of persons”.  He calls the family “a community made possible by work and the first school of work within the home for every person.” (Blessed John Paul II, Laborem exercens)  Including us moms.  If we think about it, we are always being “schooled” in the areas of housework.  There are so many books, blogs, websites, articles in papers and magazines on housekeeping, cleaning, organizing, parenting,…the list goes on.  So, from the beginning and without end our “home”work is learned in our homes, every day.  We, as mothers and wives, are the primary learners and teachers of this “home”work.  If it is such an important part of our family and our world, then why is it so difficult and wearisome to our spirits? What about our lens?

“Awareness that man’s work is a participation in God’s activity ought to permeate….”the most ordinary everyday activities.  For while providing the substance of life for themselves and their families, men and women are performing their activities in a way which appropriately benefits society.” (Blessed John Paul II, Laborem exercens).  So,the first filter we need to attach to our lens is that of work having purpose in the life of man.  That work was created for man, after man was created.  That work is important to the very fabric of our world.  With only this filter, we can see that there is a need for work and that God told us to do it, but it still isn’t quite clear.  We work out of innate human-ness and out of obedience to God.

But there is still  more.

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If we look to our Lord, Jesus Christ, He had some things to show us and to tell us.  Both Matthew (20:28) and Mark (10:45) tell us that Jesus, the greatest of all, came to serve and not to be served.  If the one who can do all things came to serve us who can do nothing without Him, then we too should be here to serve and not to be served.  I have heard it over and over again that if you are feeling down and sad, serve someone; if you are feeling lonely and your life pointless, serve someone; if you are feeling guilty and angry, serve someone.  Service to others is not only a way of following Christ’s example but it lifts us up inside.  It actually makes us feel good.  So, in practice I can see this when serving in the community or serving those in need, but it is hard to see our work in the home as service to someone in need.  When we look through the filter of expectations and return for investment, we don’t get lifted up, because our family is not applauding us for our work.  We are tired and worn down, but if we turn and look to Jesus we hear Him saying:

“Come to me all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Here, Jesus says he will help us bear the burden if we go to Him.  So, we turn from our worldly expectations of applause and thanks, we turn from the world that John Paul II stated is often looking down on the vocation of women as mothers, we turn from our own disillusionment and go to Christ who will be our help.  Just as God made woman to help man, so Christ promises to help us.  We are to be Co-workers with Christ.

Wow!

Suddenly I”m not doing this alone, in the darkness of my own despair.  Jesus is with me! In me! and working through me!  And what is Christ, if not love?  “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” (1John 4:16). God is love and He is in me!!  I have Love right there inside of me…what do I do with that love?  “…let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” (1John3:18).  So, love isn’t a feeling, love is a doing!!  I must DO in order to love. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph 5:1-2).   Christ told me to learn from Him, to cast my cares on Him, that he would help me, that He is love and I should imitate and share that love, by imitating Him, by making my work a unified sacrifice with Christ and therefore a fragrant offering to God.  My laundry can be a bouquet for God the Father through Christ and with Christ!  That definitely brings a different filter to add to my  lens.100_3730

“When the laundry is for the dozen arms of children or the dozen legs, it’s true, I think I’m due some appreciation.  So comes a storm of trouble and lightning strikes joy.  But when Christ is at the center, when dishes, laundry, work, is my song of thanks to Him, joy rains.  Passionately serving Christ alone makes us the loving servant to all. ..The work becomes worship, a liturgy of thankfulness.” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts).

We are given the choice to share lovingly in the work that Christ came to do by enduring the toils, and hardships of work and collaborating with Christ who was crucified for us to help redeem the world.  Our work is redemptive when united with Christ’s work.  By carrying our cross daily in the work of our home and family we show that we are disciples of Christ and that our work can be a means of our own holiness and a way of bringing the Spirit and love of Christ into the ordinary activities of everyday.  We have been endowed with the “Genius of women” who by way of our ordinary life we “reveal the gift of (our) womanhood by placing (ourselves) at the service of others in (our) everyday lives.  For in giving (ourselves) to others each day (we) women fulfill (our) deepest vocation” (Blessed John Paul II, On the Dignity of Women).2008 Florida 042

Which lenses will you choose today?

Today I choose Joy!  (if only I remembered to pick up the right lens every day!)

 

 

 

 

Who’s got your back?

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Partners in crime?

Support network?

groupies?

girlfriends?

encouragers?

So many names for those who are there for us through thick and thin.  But are they really and truly there?  When things get tough and we get in that dark space, do we reach for them?  If so, which ones?

This morning,  I didn’t believe in a dream and I was in a dark space.  In the past, I have dwelt there, and wallowed there, and pitied myself there.  I may again in the future, but not this time,  who did I instinctively reach for?

Jesus!!

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He is my one and only, true, always there no matter what, got my back support!!  He. Is. It.

It really took me a long time to find Him.  To trust that someone I couldn’t see or hear was really there.  With me always. And that turning to Him actually makes a difference in this here and now life.

At once, He reminded me that He is there! Then He laid His loving hands on my shoulder and told me to look around and he gently spun me around my mind’s room and swept His arm in front of me showing me all those who are there to help me.

First was my main line of cheerleaders!  My boys! Shouting and cheering and loving me!

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Then was my loving wonderful husband who would bend over backwards to support any dream I had.

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Then was my mom, my mother-in-law, My extended family and sisters-in-law…all clapping, or standing silently with the warmth of a loving smile on their faces. None of them live very close, but I know that they love me, pray for me, and think of me. I just wish I had more photos of those beautiful faces to share.

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Then was my girlfriends.  Those women who have made it a commitment to uphold and support each other through all things-no matter what.  I know that they are there for me and will be there even when I am too proud to ask for help.  They have proven that over and over again with each other!

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My fellow blogger, Mandy is among those women and she is on this God-sized dream journey as well.  She is encouraging this journey specifically, and has been a big motivator and source of information and support on this blogging thing.

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Then Jesus turned me back around and held me.  Held me tight as I stood in my bathroom.  All alone smiling and feeling filled up with all the wonderful people He has shown to me.  I glance behind Him and I see other people I know, have known, or have recently met.  Also standing with Him in support of me.  Only through His help can those dark moments be brought to the light so quickly and turned into a loving embrace from Him, through all the wonderful people in my life.

I am blessed!  I have a whole cheering section-and I would bet you do too.

Join all the other dreamers at the link below.

 

God-Sized Dreams

Weekends are for Sweets, sons, and simple blessings

It was a fast weekend.  It seemed to go by so very quickly.  Just not enough time to savor all that I want to soak up in a weekend.

I had minor outpatient surgery on Monday that went fine, but is taking more time than I had expected to recover and get back on my feet.  I thank God for my sisters in Christ who provided us with meals every single night and were there for anything I might possibly need.  What great friends!  These wonderful ladies are simple blessings for me!

So, Saturday I mostly sat around, did a very quick grocery stop (remember those sisters who cooked for me?, well, the residual blessing was that I didn’t have much to shop for while still recovering either).

I haven’t baked in awhile and one of those awesome sisters of mine offered to watch my boys while my sweet husband and I got out for a bit, so I baked some cookies to send along.  My current favorites.  I add chocolate chips, because everything is better with chocolate! A cookie, is a beautiful yummy simple blessing!

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My second oldest came to visit for the weekend!  It is always so good to see those who don’t live with me.  The other boys like watching each other play computer games. (Tasty Planet this time) I will never understand the joy in that.  Brothers are a simple blessing.

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Sunday morning. I snuggled into the corner of my couch with my prayers, books, and tablet…oh, and my cup of coffee! Coffee and books…simple, but a bountiful blessing!

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I had a friend on the couch with me.

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Then he got a ilttle closer as I was composing a post for Facebook.

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Finally he decided that he was more important than anything I was currently trying to do. Fellowship of bunny friends is a simple blessing.

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More sweets were in order once the kids were all ready to head to church.  Donuts are a joy to little boys.

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I went down to the Detroit Institute of Arts to see my oldest son perform a dance program.  Unfortunately, I was off in my timing and found a parking spot just at the same time that he was scheduled to be FINISHED.  Yes, I missed it.  All of it.  BUT, I did retrieve him from his room and bring him home with me for the night.

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So, I had ALL of my boys under one roof for about an hour before the other hand to leave.  An hour is better than nothing!  An hour of togetherness is a simple blessing.

I hope your weekend was filled with simple blessings as well.

First Steps in God-Sized Dreaming!

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Trust and Joy!

I first thought of this post simply in terms of a checklist. Steps that I have taken in the past week.

But then I reread my first post and it hit me square in the head-Trust and joy.  I was avoiding those words.

Those words….

Those are the biggest part of my God-sized dream-truly they are.

Yes, I have done things this week that get me closer to checking things off of the lists on the pages of that cute journal. Yes, I have made progress that I am happy about.  Yes, I am feeling the effects of my re-commitment to the areas in my life that God first led me to.

But I need to remember I am NOT IN CHARGE of the list.  I must TRUST that He will lead and guide me.  I can feel Him.   I can feel a tug here, a pull there, a whisper of an idea here that just keeps nudging me.  Am I listening to those? Am I following those? Am I trusting that this is the right course and He will lead me to JOY?

So, steps lead to trust and joy in this dream?

I resolved to pray with my kids instead of yell at them.  I tried. Once. The prayer was sort of yelled. And really wasn’t all that kind. Not even sure that can be called a prayer with those characteristics.   I CAN say that it is a step in the right direction though.  It put a hiccup in the usual way of reacting.  It is a step and the next one will be better!  I trust that He will help me to move even closer toward true kindness and prayer.

557I found a 1/2 marathon and printed out a schedule for running.  I haven’t signed up yet and the schedule starts tomorrow.  I have been on this road before and didn’t quite make it.  There are immediate obstacles, but I am still trying to trust in this one.

I have been praying more.  I can feel a change in my interior life. Trusting that He hears.

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I have given of myself more. Simply by listening.  Listening is hard work.  Keeping your attention on someone? it. takes. work.  Real work.  I am working those muscles and it feels good.  Trusting that what I hear from others is more important than what I think I need to say.057

So, there are some steps and there is some trust…but where is the joy?

I am finding that joy comes in the trusting. Knowing that I don’t have to have all the answers or direct all the events of a life. There is joy in that.

Joy comes in the tiny moment. Joy comes in the smallest little detail and the looking from a different way.  Joy comes in the unexpected. Joy is there…you just have to look.  Joy is in the sight of the man holding the almost teen wracked in sobs. Joy comes in the smile of the little one. Joy comes in the “love you” from the biggest one typed across the screen of a computer. Joy comes in the delight of the middle when he catches a little joke between the two of you. Joy comes in the man fighting the dragons that want to consume the peace in the house. Joy comes in the knowing that God is in charge and that He has given us each of these small moments to treasure. Joy comes in planning WITH God. Joy comes in accomplishing that which He has placed before you. When you aren’t slave to the list and allow it to unfold as He guides your day. Joy even comes in the sadness and the heartache of loss.  Joy is still there, with Him.  But you won’t see it if you don’t look. And you MUST look with TRUST to see the JOY in the pain and in the hard.

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You must keep looking.  It won’t come if you are focused on the list as a task master.  It won’t come if you don’t keep your eye on Him!

Allow yourself to trust and to seek joy.

Allow and seek.  Good first steps.

God-Sized Dreams

 

 

 

Weekends are for the letter B

We had a Birthday this week.

Our smack dab in the middle boy turned 11.

While he and his friends were celebrating at a giant indoor play place, I baked cupcakes and another brother along with a neighbor had a blast decorating the basement for the continued celebration. I was surprised and overwhelmed with the joy they showed in decorating for a celebration that was to be enjoyed by others and not themselves.  What a beautiful example of joyful service they were for me and the rest of the family!

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Our new Bunny was neutered and needed some extra cuddle time.

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Boardgamesseem to be a regular event here lately.

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Preparing for Bible study.

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We had a very warm Saturday for this time of year which allowed for Bike riding and open doors with Breezes blowing through the house.

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This was definitely a weekend brought to you by the letter B.

What letter filled your weekend?

 

 

God-sized dreaming….

IMAG0341Dreams. We all have them.

Some we forget, some we treasure, some are painful, some we just put away for another time, another day.

They seem so far away, so distant, so….other.

And “God-sized” dreams? Who has time for that?!?!

Well….you do!

Join me as I travel this road and series of posts by Holley Gerth

God-Sized Dreams

My God-sized dream:

Well, wait a minute, what does that mean?

It’s simple. Where is God calling you.

And He’s not actually calling me anywhere other than where I am.

My dream is Huge to me, but rather tiny to the world.

I am using this dream time to recommit…recommit to what He has already been calling me to.003It started here, well, it probably started in my heart, but out in the world this is where it began.  Some colored Sharpies and a really cute Journal.  Truly now, who could resist this!!  Not this stationery loving girl!

Lot’s of prayer and talking with my dear sweet husband led to “stuff” getting put on paper….

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Well, that’s a start anyway….then,

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A page for every area that I wanted to recommit to in this bright shiny new year and some fun colorful mindmapping!!

So, I have areas that I want to recommit to.  Areas like: God, Family, Connections, Creativity, …

Now what?

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Now It becomes bite-sized pieces each month.  Here’s my page for January. I use that to make small daily lists tasks to move me toward reaching these goals.

One of the best parts about this is the fun journal and the colorful markers. Did I happen to mention them?

It’s best to make changes in ways that excite and energize you, and if that’s fun paper and markers, then so be it!

And did you happen to notice inside the front cover?

That word?

I’m striving to infuse this whole dream time with That Word.  I miss that word.  I am actually a bit scared to dream joyfully.  Won’t I miss something if everything isn’t perfectly in place and accomplished on time?  Won’t I be doing it wrong? I really need to embrace this word!  Of course the underlying truth behind joy is trust.  Yes, I have to trust God in this and I have to trust the people He has placed in my life.  That too scares me.  So, with excitement about colored markers and a cute journal, I timidly reach forward with trust and embrace joy!

Definitely going to need help with this one.  Good thing He’s got my back.  After all, He gave me the dream in the first place.

So, what’s your God-sized Dream?

God-Sized Dreams

Weekends are for…bunnies, baths, books, and brothers

 

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Our relaxed “old man”, Purzel getting a bunny bath in the sunshine.

RiesenOur new “baby”, Riesen, hanging out in his new home.

Bunny penHis new larger home in our basement. His previous home was about a 1/4 this size in a very large dark barn with about 2oo other rabbits.

845During our evening story time with Dad, we opened his house into the larger space of the basement.  Mostly he hid behind whoever was sitting in there with him.

836This was about as far as he made it out…well, a few more steps, he actually stuck his head outside the now imaginary wall of his pen.

844waiting for bunny to emerge while listening to daddy read.

822Little brother reading stories to big brother, both fresh and clean after their own baths.

831lots of drawings were created this weekend…sketches…

832colorful markers…and piles of paper…

855and a few Legos mixed in among the drawings.

848and a few chips mixed in among the Legos.

851and finally a little snow time thrown in as well.  Can you find the second child in the photo?

Hint: his boots are red!

I pray your weekend was a blessing!

Is Virtual School For Real?

Oh, this Virtual Public School is the real thing alright! We  have every subject we love and every one we don’t!  We have teachers, and attendance, and field-trips, and standardized testing, etc.  Just like a real public school.  Within that seemingly endless list of structure and requirements is a TREMENDOUS amount of flexibility.  The kids are placed according to their abilities, they get as much one on one attention as they need from both me and their teachers, we determine the structure of our school day, week, month, year within general guidelines.  The kids aren’t distracted by the politics of schools, or of students.  We don’t have to wear the right clothes, or watch the right TV shows, or play the right video games to fit in.  We are home and we all fit here!!!  This is truly “real”.  Real kids being who they really are!

We aren’t running on all cylinders yet.  This is a rather slow process;  getting all registered, then getting our log-ins and permissions all set up, getting pc’s and printer delivered and set up, and getting our giant boxes of curriculum for each student. We began our schooling with just our online access and with both the math books and the science books online for most students we are able to begin there.  But even these will get easier with the actual books in front of us.  There are also extra practice pages and activity pages that will come with the books and will help to reenforce the concepts.  In retrospect it was good to start with just a couple of subjects for our first year in order to begin to understand the process of logging in, checking mail, and finding assignments for the day.  Less overwhelming I think.

Some of the biggest challenges have been to learn the “system” for each student.  Learning how and where to log in, and then what to do from there.  Swimming in an unknown and unexplored ocean of possibility on how to structure the day and how to attend to five boys who all need “teacher-mama” at the same time has been a struggle.  I think too, that emotions are running high because they are missing some of the regular back to school social excitement and it is always difficult to learn a new routine, especially when there isn’t a person who has “been there, done that” and set up some more specific rules.  We are definitely finding our way, and including them in some of the decision-making about peripherals like “gym” and “arts and crafts” has been a blessing and given them a sense of ownership and excitement.

The staff and teachers have been AMAZING!!  Kind, patient, responsive, and generally upbeat and happy to help, encourage, and answer questions!  They are truly a blessing.  There are only five people with whom we need to interact and once we were registered and set up, we truly just need to interact with our teachers.  Since we have a string of kids across different grades we have three teachers for the family.  All three have been very interactive with me and the students.  Very encouraging and positive, but also being directive when appropriate.  We are truly blessed to have these new women in our lives helping us with this new experience.

This whole process has been new to all of us.  I have homeschooled and the kids have gone to public school, but those really are rather different experiences than this.  This is new, exciting, intriguing, scary, and frustrating all at the same time.  We are finding our way and I am sure we will find our groove, which I am also sure will flow and sway and evolve and change all the time.  Flexibility within a structure is key here…but isn’t that the key to most things in life?

What are we really saying “yes” to?

What are we choosing when we say “yes” or “no” to: “Mommy, can I play xbox/wii/computer?”

What do our consents, denials, or non-answers like “I don’t care”, or “I suppose” really lead to?

When I give permission for games and television that’s exactly what I get…my boys don’t opt out on their own. So they are sucked in to generally mindless entertainment.  Even if I allow only educational programming, games, and websites, part of the child’s system really does check out when he is absorbed by visual stimuli.

If I don’t agree to electronics, but don’t give a clear and direct “no”, the default for them is…you guessed it, electronics.  They are drawn to them, they are stimulated and entertained without much effort.  Even when they get frustrated with the outcomes of their actions in their games they still stay.  Being a “non-gamer”, I really don’t understand that behavior.  But I don’t truly have to understand the underpinnings of motivation to see that too much time in front of a screen is detrimental.  They are less relaxed, more irritable, less creative and imaginative, more frustrated and less patient to name just a few outcomes when they spend too much time drawn into computers and devices.

They aren’t as happy and they aren’t as much fun.

I am not one to eliminate games, movies etc from our home.  I really do believe they have a place in our lives.  I do applaud those who are happily living without some of them though.  To own and use the many options for electronic entertainment and information is a personal choice.  It’s the overuse that causes problems in our home.  And I believe “over use” has a personal threshold.

What truly surprised me was the realization that saying “yes” to electronic entertainment really meant I was saying “no” to other things.  Since my boys, by default, are drawn to this type of entertainment, by saying “yes” too often I was removing other options that they wouldn’t have discovered if I had said “no”.

By denying the privilege of  games and movies I was saying yes to so much more!!

I was saying yes to: Continue reading

Change is in the air

Saturday we were preparing for a family to come over and spend some time with ours.  We have children sprinkled in between each other and they all get along quite well.  A big boisterous bunch of kids (I would have said boys to keep the alliteration going, but she has a couple of girls to throw in the mix-who are just as boisterous and fun), running, playing, jumping…they are like a big pile of puppies so excited to get together and play they are just a mob falling and rolling and laughing.  It truly is amazing to see.  The unbridled joy and seeing each other and anticipating all the fun they can have.  Even the preteens are young again, and can let go of that big girl/boy air about them and just wallow in the fun and joy of friendship.  Needless to say, we were all looking forward to the night.

There had been some miscommunication between us moms though.  It turned out she came alone with the kids intending to babysit while hubby and I went on a date.  We weren’t prepared for that, but decided to rejoice in her generosity and head out together for some alone time.  We had already eaten dinner, and there weren’t any movies playing that we wanted to see so we used our old standby-bookstore with a coffee shop inside!!  Yes!!  One of our favorite places.  The name on the door doesn’t matter as long as there are books to browse, wifi to utilize, and coffee to consume. Continue reading