Tiny Revelations

Happy Homemaking

I’ve been a marketing director, a college professor, a physician recruiter and a Sunday morning disc jockey.  I’ve made presentations on Wall Street, conducted interviews on Capitol Hill and started my own business. I am a magazine editor, a family humor columnist and the author of two books.

But here’s the thing: None of these accomplishments or titles matter, and I know it.

What has mattered, really mattered, in my life are my titles of wife, mom and homemaker. After “Catholic Christian,” these titles are the most meaningful to me. They are my vocation.

It took me a while to figure that out.  When I was in college in the early 1980s I was influenced by the radical feminists of the era who chanted in the background of my life to break the glass ceiling and strive for success as an independent career woman. Family and marital life was not considered a priority, or worse, it was discouraged. I drank some of that Kool-Aid, even though I didn’t really like the taste. Something seemed off with this philosophy, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. So I put myself through college and scrabbled for a job opportunity when I graduated, eager to launch a high-flying career in the communications field.

But there was a catch. A 6-foot-3-inch catch, to be exact. My tall, dark and handsome boyfriend swept me off my feet and I found myself walking down the aisle of a beautiful Catholic church before I could say Helen Gurley Brown. I loved this man. And that love compelled me to have a family with him. And then love for that family compelled me to be a homemaker.

The term “domestic church” was unfamiliar to me back then, but somehow I felt its pull and tug anyway. (thanks, Holy Spirit!). I wanted our home to be a respite for my husband and my kids—a place of peace, love and stability, where God could dwell and make himself evident. Was this always the case over the 30 years I’ve been a wife and mom? Um, no. Often it was the complete opposite. The struggle is real! But that did not stop my intention to make it so. To home-make was one of the strongest inner desires I had ever felt. And I believe it to be a holy desire, inspired by the God who created us to live out this very role. Homemaking, I discovered, is an important part of my vocational commitment. Slowly but surely, I gave up the lure of the feminist propaganda given to me by the culture, for the surety of the pure feminine genius given to me by God. I became a homemaker. And I liked it.

My homemaking was not focused on cleaning and organizing. Instead, it included intentional decisions to create a serene and welcoming environment. We wanted lots of natural light pouring in from big windows. Our décor was informal and kick-your-shoes-off inviting—no white carpet and no fussy, off-limit areas. We had Mozart on the stereo, fluffy pillows and cozy blankets on the couches, fresh vegetables and bright flowers from the garden. We read books together and ate supper at the table almost every night, even if the fare was from a box or a can. We had multiple pets, we played outside often and we created a space in the basement for teenagers to hang out on the weekends. We laughed a lot, had joke-telling and story-telling challenges, and celebrated special events with gusto.   And there was a continual flow of guests into our home (over the years, I honed my introverted/underdeveloped hospitality skills and got over the concern of a supposed not-clean-enough-for-guests home). We also prayed together.

We didn’t get it right all the time. We still argued, got stressed and took out our frustrations on each other. There were slammed doors and tears and words of regret. But there was also forgiveness and mercy and compassion. And life lessons that could be taught nowhere else but in this domestic church.

I realized we did at least a little something right when my 27-year-old son recently mentioned to me how he always loved our home: being home and returning home. He wasn’t talking about the bricks and mortar of our house. He was talking about growing up in a home surrounded by a sense of being guided and nurtured and cared for. A home his parents designed and maintained with family life in mind. He physically, emotionally and spiritually benefited from intentional homemaking. We all do.

Far from my attitude 35 years ago, I now assert that we wives and mothers have a right and a responsibility to our families to home-make in ways that have eternal value and influence. It’s a gift particularly endowed on us women and we should not deny or suppress it.  We are made for this!

So when the time comes to write my obituary, I will set aside all my worldly accomplishments. I will say instead that I was most thankful for the gift of being a Child of God.  And most honored and fulfilled by my vocation as a wife, mother… and happy homemaker.

What about you—are you a happy homemaker? What do you do to create your own domestic church?

Tiny Revelations

Holiday Hallucinations

In my former life, I was a family humor columnist. While I was rooting through some old Word documents, I uncovered this gem from eight years ago. Some things never change! I hope you enjoy this little Throwback Thursday!

It’s that time of year again. The fall decor gets pushed aside by all things red and green, the holiday music kicks in over PA systems everywhere, and the gift catalogs jam the mailboxes. And I, as I do every season, get overtaken by a rush of sentimentality and initiate grandiose plans to create lovely and personal gifts for everyone on my Christmas list.

Let’s see. Will I make some aromatic homemade candles this year? Yes! I’ll buy some scented oil and wax tomorrow. What about the pretty layered brownie mixes in quart jars, all tied with ribbon and a hand-stenciled recipe card? They’ll be great gifts for the teachers. And as soon as I can, I need to cut and dry the perennials from my flowerbeds, so I can make beautiful wreaths and pressed flower arrangements for my sisters.

There’s just one problem with all this: I am not what you would consider a domestic goddess. I rarely bake, unless you count Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls on Sunday mornings. When my kids need something sewn, they know they have to call Grandma. I don’t even own a sewing machine. And my attempts at anything craft-y usually end up in the garbage can. I was just not blessed with those skills. But still…

I can’t stop myself. There’s something uniquely motivational about the holiday season. All those home and garden shows touting the many ways you can decorate a home using only chunks of coal and pocket lint are enough to rouse my usually-dormant homemaking genes from their deep sleep. The magazine covers shout at me to bake seventeen kinds of cookies and share them at a cookie swap with neighbors I don’t even know. Yea, I must traipse over the river and through the woods to cut real greens in order to bring the authentic smell of Christmas to my home. That nativity scene hand-carved out of soap doesn’t look too tough to handle, does it?  And of course it’s time to sit down and make elaborate, time-consuming mini-houses out of terrible-tasting dough and a variety of hard-to find-candy (so the cats have something enticing to shove off the counter tops tomorrow). Where’s the gingerbread?? My children scatter when I start posing these questions and my husband suspects I’ve been prematurely nipping into the eggnog. They try to talk me out of these attempts, but it’s too late. I am in a holiday planning frenzy and have already purchased yards of raffia ribbon and brown paper that I can hand-stamp for gift wrap, Martha-Stewart-style.

Now, I know in my mind that most of these projects will remain undone and un-created. It will get to be December 23rd, and with the clock ticking away, I will resort to gift cards and overnight deliveries from Amazon to round out the gift list. The raffia and quart jars will be stored in a basement cabinet, right next to last year’s “ ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” cross-stitch undertaking and the unfinished manger made entirely of pop can tabs. But in my heart, I know I am creating something greater: a genuine sense of anticipation and joy that comes from thinking about the ones I love and the many reasons I have to be thankful that Jesus Christ came as a baby to redeem us. And that’s more than enough.

Except for maybe a pan or two of homemade fudge shaped liked Christmas trees…

Happy Advent everyone!

Tiny Revelations

Watching the Kids (A Throwback to August, 2013)

We hugged, swiped a kiss and exchanged “I love you.” She hopped into her car, flashed a cheesy grin and waved at me with open-palmed gusto, like she did when she was seven. And then I watched her back out of the driveway and speed down the country road, headed to the big city and college life once again. She joins her older brother, who left the day before.

This leaving-for-college thing is never a smooth transition. It is a bumpy one, fraught with last-minute laundry and trips to Walmart for supplies, and overflowing boxes and second-hand furniture in the middle of the living room.  When the run-up to a major change is filled with all this plus teeth-cleaning and haircut appointments, and getting prescriptions filled and oil changed, it feels too herky-jerky to me. There’s no time to just sit down, take a breath and do what I do best: watch my children.

I wonder if my kids will ever realize that my favorite hobby is, and always has been, simply observing them.  I stared for great stretches at a time into their chubby-cheeked faces when they were babies, wondering what they were thinking. I watched them play every day, fascinated by the discovery and learning process they went through. As they grew, I watched them interact with their friends, gazed in awe when they mastered sports and marveled as they developed sunny, unique personalities. And when they were teenagers, I again often stared into their faces, wondering what in the world they were thinking.

I caught myself watching them a lot this summer, knowing that it was likely the last summer the four of us would be together on a regular basis. I noticed a shimmer of red whiskers in my son’s short beard, a testament to his dad’s genes. I saw my daughter’s eyes light up as she talked about the little ones she got to know at the daycare where she worked while on break. I liked watching her make plans for a new apartment with her roommates and watching him intently read a news article on his smartphone.  When I booked a photographer to help slow the hands of time this summer, she artfully caught a true candid of them together—my daughter showing lively emotion, as is her nature, and my son displaying quiet curiosity, as is his nature. I was watching them at that moment, too.

This week I watched them leave home, amid baskets and boxes and piles of their possessions, the excitement of a new school year registering on their faces. My heart was filled with pride and delight and a pinch of bittersweet-ness. The days suddenly stretched before me, void of my children’s presence and the ability to watch them whenever I wish. But as I turned and opened the door to an empty house with a mother’s tears in my eyes, I reminded myself of the simple truth: they were doing exactly what they should be doing now—becoming capable, independent, compassionate adults. And I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing—watching them go about doing that.

 

 

Tiny Revelations

Snorkeling Lessons

Sometimes, you just have to say a prayer and jump in.

My friends and I were on a cruise around the West Indies islands not long ago when we signed up for a tour of lush St. Lucia. In the afternoon, our driver took us to a dock where we boarded a speed boat.  The boat ferried us to a hidden lagoon nestled between two jagged black mountains. I gasped when it came into view; it looked like something out of a movie. It was pure paradise with sandy beaches, calm sapphire blue water and swaying palm trees. And what did I spy on the tiki hut nearby? A sign that said, “Rent Snorkel Gear Here.” Yes! Snorkeling is one of my favorite pursuits. There’s not much call for it in the flatlands of northwest Ohio, so when I get the chance to snorkel on vacation, I usually jump at it. My friend Rachel and I approached the young man who was handing out the gear. Hmmm. This was going to be different than my previous snorkeling experiences. He did not look like an expert deep sea diver. He did not offer any instruction. And the mismatched gear he was thrusting at us did not look like it had been, shall we say, appropriately sanitized. Or ever sanitized.

I threw caution to the wind, said a quick prayer, tossed $10 in the salesman’s bucket and geared up. Rachel, possessing a great deal more common sense than me, hesitated. I waded out and sunk into the pristine water. I was immediately greeted by a school of underwater inhabitants that I had never seen on any previous snorkeling trip. It was like swimming in the middle of a rainbow! I stood up and waved at Rachel, who was only knee-deep in the water. “Come in, come in!” I yelled. She pointed to the (yucky) snorkel and mask in her hands and made a face. There was no way that snorkel was getting close to her mouth. “Look down!” I pantomimed to her. She looked down at her feet and saw what I had seen—a moving, shifting rainbow of colors so amazing she couldn’t resist. In went the snorkel and in went Rachel. We spent an hour floating along the shore, quietly peering into a spectacular world we were unaware of just 60 minutes before. A world we could have easily missed if we had given in to our fears.

This little experience reminds me: There will be times when we won’t get good instruction and we won’t feel well-equipped and conditions won’t seem perfect, but something still tells us to take a leap of faith. Listen to that little voice, girlfriends. Say a prayer to help you get past the real and imagined obstacles and then move forward. Take a friend along if you can. Delightful surprises await all of us when we obey the nudges of the Holy Spirit.

Don’t give in to your fears. Say a prayer for courage and jump in. You’ll be glad you did.

Tiny Revelations

Glove Box Proposals

I was sitting around a table with my old high school girlfriends (note that I mean the friendship is old; we aren’t). There was a bit of music playing and a bit of wine flowing. The subject turned to one friend’s son’s recent engagement announcement. Of course we wanted to know all the details of the proposal: Who, what, where and when, what the ring looks like and how romantic the proposal was on a scale of 1 to 10. Given all the videos on social media that portray husbands-to-be staging elaborate proposals complete with friends, family, photographers and the dog present, we knew the pressure was on for the poor guy to produce a unique and memorable moment.

I know I risk sounding old here, when I just pointed out in the previous paragraph that I’m not, but–my, how times have changed. After hearing a few stories about all the modern proposal fanfare, I posed this question to my friends as we refilled our glasses:

“How did your husband propose to you?”

Every answer was the same.

Each one of our future husbands had stowed an unpretentious diamond ring in the glove box of his car and took his bride-to-be on a drive before popping the question. Right there in the front seat. No cameras, no crowds, no confetti. Just two people. On a back road or a side street or (in my case) an airport parking lot. We didn’t record the event. We couldn’t post the announcement seconds later to gather in the accolades. And we didn’t have parents hovering around. We actually had to drive to our parents’ homes later and deliver the good news in person. And we called our siblings the next day from our landlines.

My friends’ spouses are all from the same hometown. I was in their weddings and they were in mine.  All of our ceremonies were held in the same majestic Catholic Church, where we also received Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation.  Our diamond rings were all purchased at the same jewelry store located on Main Street of the nearby county seat.  I am the only one who moved from our hometown, albeit a mere 15 miles down the road. We are a pretty solid, traditional group, especially compared to today’s culture. And we are all now approaching our 30th wedding anniversaries.

We’re also pretty happy.

Our hype-free proposal experiences may sound archaic to “kids these days” (yes, another phrase that makes me sound old). But I’m not going to knock it. In fact, I am grateful for it. Our glove-box men are dependable, faithful, hard-working guys. Our glove-box marriages have withstood wave after wave of challenges. Our glove-box rings still shine on our left hands after 30 long years. Thank you, God, for your many blessings on us over the years!

I think that calls for cameras, crowds and confetti.  Don’t you?

Tiny Revelations

Don’t Taste It!

Every once in a while, a television commercial truly entertains me. Instead of fast-forwarding past it (or, more accurately, having my hubby fast-forward past it), I want to watch and enjoy it. Mostly, it’s been the insurance company commercials that make me hit the pause button and giggle. The “Mayhem” commercials influenced me enough that I named our adopted hyperactive/unpredictable/destructive stray kitten after the character. The “Jake from State Farm” commercials spawned Halloween costumes for my husband and me—he being Jake with the red shirt, name tag and, of course, khakis, and me as the suspicious wife in my robe with a phone in my hand. And I cannot get enough of the synchronized swimming dogs in the Farmers Insurance commercials. They just crack me up.

My current pause-worthy commercial is from Geico. It features a bevy of raccoons feasting on leftovers in a dumpster and having a very human-like conversation about whatever is tickling—or terrorizing— their taste buds.  “Oh man, this is terrible. Try this. It’s awful,” one raccoon says to his buddy. “It’s like mango, chutney… and burnt hair.”

I laugh out loud every time.  Isn’t it so true that when we taste something bad, we want others to experience it too? I did it just the other day at a restaurant in a city known for its foul tap water. “Ugh! This water tastes like gravel,” I told my husband. “Taste it!” He didn’t fall for it. In fact, rarely does anyone over the age of 8 ever fall for this request. So why do we even bother asking?

I think it’s because we humans like shared experiences. We want affirmation, we want a co-experiencer, we want to pull someone else in so we can revel in mutual disgust! It’s much more fun to lament in a group than to complain or criticize in private.  And it’s harmless…as long as the subject matter is harmless. Bad water, spoiled food: harmless. Talking about people: not so much.

When the subject is people, girlfriends, that’s when we can get into trouble. It’s a slippery slope. We can be tempted to gossip, slander and tear down. Did we have a poor customer service experience in a store? We want to plaster it all over Facebook. Did someone disappoint us? We are drawn to tell others in our circle all about it. Did a co-worker make a mistake? We can’t wait to let others know about it at lunch. We want them to “taste it” too, whatever “it” is. This is a bad habit to get into–one that has eternal consequences. We can’t fall for it, friends! As Saint Paul warns the Ephesians in 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” When you are tempted, or when you are in a group that is giving in to the temptation to gossip, slander or tear down, take action: Say a prayer, tame your tongue, change the subject, walk away. Don’t taste it! It’s worse than gravel and burnt hair—it’s sin.

We (me included as a repeat offender) need to put a clamp on this kind of “sharing.” Proverbs 11:13 teaches us: “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered,” So…let’s not reveal secrets. Let’s be trustworthy. Let’s vow to keep a lid on the destructive talk. When the subject is a puzzled palate, go ahead—invite others to taste it! It’s all in fun. But when the subject is people, let’s keep it covered, build each other up and give only grace to those who hear!  Deal? Deal.

And we can all just keep on wondering what mango, chutney and burnt hair tastes like…

Praying with a Pen, Tiny Revelations

Praying for Little Things (or Die, Stupid Wind!)

The air was ten-degrees-below-crisp as I stretched my hamstring muscles and tried to get ready for a run/walk/trudge down the road. It was early morning but The Wind was already at an unfriendly level and I needed to give myself a pep talk. I can handle ten-degrees-below-crisp, but ladies I despise wind in my face. This is a problem because I live in the flatlands of rural America, you know, where “the winds come sweeping down the plains.” All day. Every day. When it’s not breezy, people around here are kinda spooked: “Nice calm day, isn’t it? For now?” I should be used to it, as I have lived 90% of my life in this area. But I am not. Like an angry old woman, I still shake my fist at The Wind when it makes me catch my breath, or nudges me off course, or blows my hair into rats-nest tangles.
In past winters, The Wind got the best of me on my daily walk attempts. I would high-tail it back to the house, not even making it to the end of the driveway if the wind was too strong for me. I gave up, admitted defeat, waved a white flag of surrender after about 3.6 seconds. Diet and fitness goals notwithstanding, I was not going out there to be battered about like one of those inflatable clown punching bags. I would retreat to the house, search out a chunk of a Ghirardelli Sea Salt Soiree candy bar (side note: a little bit of heaven on earth) and stew about my thwarted diet and fitness goals.
This winter I decided things were going to be different. I was going to ask my good friend the Holy Spirit for the extra fortitude I needed to take on my nemesis. Now friends, let’s get real here for a sec: Over the course of my lifetime I have had to ask the Holy Spirit for the fortitude to handle much more onerous tasks, believe me. On the scale of challenges for which I need Divine Assistance, wind in my face is not even on the radar. Still, I know God is interested in both the big and small obstacles in our lives, and I figured the fact that I liked to pray on my walks/runs would give this dilemma a little more weight with the Almighty. So I gave it a go. I prayed for resilience against The Wind.
Well, guess what. Outside of the few days when the temps dipped below humane levels, or the road was encrusted in death-defying layers of ice, I’ve been out there! In The Wind! Walking, jogging, wogging, whatever it is that I do. I’m feeling better, I’m getting outside, I have more energy and I’m keeping the winter blues at bay.
Granted, I bought thermal jogging pants, insulated sweatshirts, a hat with a pocket for those little warming blocks, fuzzy running gloves, head warmers, a hilarious fleece kerchief-type thing that goes over my mouth and nose and, yes– running goggles. People, I look like an escaping bank robber with bad eyes and a misshapen head coming down the road. But I’m out there, by golly, running against the wind just like Bob Seger wants me to do. With my uncoordinated yet highly effective attire and a prayer for strength before I leave the house, “The Wind” has been reduced to just “the wind.”
What have I learned? I pondered this in my prayer journal one morning this week. “God is truly invested in my day-to-day life,” I concluded. He is not just to be called on for the big honking problems I have. He wants to walk with me—and you–all throughout the day: through the highs and lows, the interruptions, the ordinary frustrations.
He wants to walk with us through the wind, the literal kind and the figurative kind. He wants to hold our hands and help us through it all, day by day, hour by hour, step by step.
I like this concept of walking through the wind of my daily life with Jesus.
And bonus—he doesn’t mind what I look like while we’re walking.