means, ends, and tyrannical tools

You know those “job descriptions” of a mom that include everything from taxi driver to medic? They’re funny to read, and they’re certainly true enough, but confession:

I get things topsy-turvy.

I easily get into Nutritionist mode and forget that that’s not actually my job. Learning about health and nutritions is simply a means to an end: nurturing and caring for my children. I get into Housekeeper mode and suddenly we will have a clean house! Now! OR DIE TRYING!!

My means become the end. And my true end becomes collateral damage.

*****

You’ll hear me and so many other home schooling mamas say, “Your curriculum is a tool, not a master. It’s there to serve you, and not the other way around.”

I think of that this week. I have lots of tools in my box — not just my “mom” box, but in my “life” box. But too often I stop seeing them as tools to serve me in my goal as disciple and disciple-maker, and I begin serving them. An organized home is a blessing as I raise children who love order and work and peace. But an organized home is a terrible slave master, showing no mercy, when I let it become tyrant rather than tool. Healthy eating is a serious responsibility with lifetime effects, and I want us to be responsible with these bodies. But nutritional eating is a master that will drive you to the brink of nervous breakdown if you let it become your end, and not the means. Those are just two examples, but I’m amazed at how well that applies to every single good endeavor. (Being On Time to Church, Family Devotions, Modest Dress, Coupon Clipping, Real Play Only, Chore Charts, Gas and Mileage Savings, Bible Study Attendance, Exercise, Good Book Reading, Theological Studies… All fabulous tools and terrible Masters.)

*****

Who’s in charge here?

That’s a question worth asking myself regularly.

What’s the End (knowing and loving Jesus, and loving those I’m called to in a way that shows them Jesus), and what are the means? The end usually requires the means (don’t throw babies out with bathwater), but let’s not get lost somewhere in the middle, chasing our tails.

Hone my skills with the tools in my box. Learn how to use them. Walk by the Spirit, knowing which tool to use when, and when to lay your favorite one aside for a season. The Holy Spirit isn’t a tyrant: when I feel like I’m slave to a dictator (including my own selfish desire for clean and quiet), chances are I’ve lost sight of the Goal and have become servant to a tyrannical tool.

Down with tyrants. I’m all for freedom.

*****

Because we all like pictures in our posts:

today.

Today was a real day.

Real exhaustion.
Real tears.
Real love.
Real need.
Real tenderness.
Real togetherness.
Real correction.
Real forgiveness.
Real weakness.
Real strength.

*****

I almost bailed on going outside. I really did! I was just so tired I was falling asleep standing up. But I figured, if I’m going to do that, there’s no reason I couldn’t do it outside. Right?

Two hours.

120 minutes slipped by while we got completely caught up in warmer temperatures, sun on our faces, exploring the woods, and brushing snow off an “ice rink” on a frozen-over clearing. I stood with my face to the sun, and then looked out over the wide field. Three little people, all in their own little worlds, laying face down in the snow, studying and feeling and being mesmerized.

It was the perfect day for 15 acres of country.

I felt beyond blessed.

*****

She sings. For two hours, she treks and falls and sings the whole time. Then she recounts every detail at dinner time and ends with, “And wasn’t dat pun [fun], Mama?” So, so fun, little lady. Because you are.

William made maze after maze, hoping to stump Jameson and me. He also escorted Beatrice and me back to the house at the end of our day, making sure to clear branches and hold our hands. Gem.

This boy. He just loves me, and it amazes me. He cares about me and notices me. He’s quick to help if he senses I’m tired or down. It doesn’t matter how rough a morning may have been, he’s cheerful and whistling and setting a pace of joy for every activity. He forgives me, long before I repent. A true gift.

And this is what she did for two hours, only zipped inside my coat inside my ergo. Snug as a bug. We “skated” and danced and climbed together. I sang in the middle of the woods at the top of my lungs, and she never stirred. Happy to be near me. Always.

There were toes to be warmed, of course.

…and toes to be examined. Must not have a stray fuzz in there. That would be bad.

Love this baby.

Love all these babies.

Love these babies’ daddy.

I am blessed.

end of june

[I tried to insert pictures, but got frustrated with a flickr glitch. Click through if you want to see them!]

Last Monday was our 7th anniversary. Seven is closer to 10 than to 1. This year, our special day landed right in the middle of deadlines for Ryan, so celebration looked like a smile in the morning, roses ordered and delivered last minute, and saying at the end of the day, when Ryan looked up from his work, “So, seven years, huh? Wow.”

Just like most other special days, the best way to celebrate something is to just do it fully. (This makes me think of Psalm 116:12-13.)

I took a few pictures of the day, comparing it with a smile to our lives seven years ago. You know: special hairstyles and make up compared to finally getting a shower sometime that afternoon. And other comparisons that made me deeply thankful: two individuals who were “one” in word but still learning how in deed, compared to a family of five who lives life together in purpose and love every day.

*****

Our family of five will take a “real” vacation for the first time this year. A little house on a lake, shallow beach, boats and fire pit: these things have my little boys very, very excited. A whole week, rain or shine, to just take the moments as they come. Okay, that has me excited, too.

William has been practicing his summetime-and-the-livin’-is-easy.

*****

Another stage of our renovation is nearing completion. Do I sometimes just sit in the lamplight and soak in the loveliness? Yes, I do.

Also, on the increasingly rare afternoon that all three children are asleep, I sit in the sunshine and soak in its loveliness.

lemon, honey, and an awesome little family

This is supposed to be day two of our trip to Maine. And maybe it will be later tonight. But for now, I’m just plain ol’ sick. Ridiculously sore glands resulting in sore throat, tender ears, topped off with a good fever and case of chills/aches. I knew it was there, that Virus, when I woke up yesterday morning, though I did my best to persevere a bit. By last night, there was no denying it: I am down for the count.

Today, therefore, was a planned pj day / don’t bother Mama too much day. Does anyone else get a little scared when you embark on those days? I mean, it could go really, really wrong. My kids are sweet and all, but they’re not angels, they make messes, and my house isn’t self-cleaning. I get nervous.

So, since I went into this sick day with such a remarkable heap of faith, I thought I should stop, pause, and say how blessed I have been.

Jameson, on his way to bed last night: “Mama, would you like me to pray for you?” (followed by the sweetest, most thorough and sincere prayer. Like, he really cared!)

This morning he announced, as soon as we were all up (at a very early hour), “Don’t worry, Dad, I’ll take care of William and Beatrice and even Mama!”

He and William then proceeded to get milk, syrup, juice, and dishes onto the table without me even asking.

He even offered to try his hand at pb&j. Really, he would!

(Aside: he’s just discovered that he’s been failing at his “L” sound, and so now is flipping his little tongue with such gusto every time he says one! I haven’t heard an L pronounced so distinctly since I was an accompanist in diction classes! It’s so, so cute.)

William came in and stood by the couch, took my hand, and asked quietly if I would sing a little ABC with him, please? (He, however, doesn’t even attempt L’s, so actually, he asked to sing a widow ABT. He doesn’t do real well with S yet, either.) We sang together, and his eyes just sparkled.

Jameson heard me turning on the TV and requested that we watch some “Tessa” together. That would be Ina Garten, and she has been our very favorite since he was about 18 months old.

Later I heard he and William in the kitchen, up to something. When I asked about their activity, Jameson said, “Oh, I’m just making a chore chart for my day. How do you spell, ‘Pick up for Mama’?” ARE YOU KIDDING?

(Should I be sick more often?)

And lastly, a cute William anecdote that I just can’t forget. I was reading The Long Winter yesterday at naptime. We were reading about Laura and Carrie’s harrowing journey from their schoolhouse to Pa’s store through a terrible blizzard. They couldn’t see the adults they were supposed to be following, but at one point, “Laura suddenly felt Miss Garland’s coat.” William’s eyes were HUGE with intensity and concern, and he blurted out, “But Mama! Was Miss Garland in her coat?” I forget how very literal, and yet how very magical, the world is to a three year old.

Speaking of magical, our next book came from the library. Roxaboxen is the biggest hit we’ve had in awhile, I think. One read through, and the boys were hooked. It’s their world, after all.

P.S. And Ryan brought home the very cutest card for me. Yes, I am very loved.