The boys and I traveled up to my parents’ house again today. My two aunts were in town to spend time with my grandma for Mother’s Day. We left this morning around 7:40 AM and returned home nearly twelve hours later. My sister was also there with two of her girls. My grandma wasn’t feeling well today and spent most of the time that we were there in bed.
One of the things I learned after my grandpa died last year was the extent to which he was involved in prison ministry. I knew as a kid that grandpa sometimes left in the evenings to go to the prison. I hadn’t put together that this is what he did nearly every Saturday evening for 25 years. He and a friend did devotions with the men, using the Gideon bibles that lived in a box in the basement. I remember the bibles but hadn’t remembered who and what the bibles were for.
My grandpa also brought his trumpet and played there. He and his friend would invite the men to sing hymns with them. I don’t know if the men ever actually sang, but they each had papers with printed out words. The thought of a trumpet in the prison made me happiest. We spoke again of the great blessings of our lives, safe in the hope of a life without end.
We had a wonderful Mother’s Day. The kids and I went to church in the morning. Our new pastor has started using different services from the hymnal. Today we did Divine Service Setting II. In Hoyleton we used to do it where the services matched whatever week of the month we were on. The first week was setting I, the second week setting II, the third week was setting III, etc. My favorite of the divine services is setting four.
God was merciful and blessed us with a relatively open Saturday yesterday. The game that was supposed to be close to two hours away was cancelled due to rain. We had a Saturday like we used to have, in what seems to be now a former life season, where everyone pitches in and helps clean up the house and makes it look nice. After church we lightly tidied up again before joining up with Grandma and Papa for lunch.
A passage from Lamentations stood out to me this morning in church: “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men (Lamentations 3:31-33)”. I’m thankful tonight for the ways the Lord brings us back from where we were cast, that we might live with him today in peace.
Spring has been doing what spring does. Anymore I don’t even think about plants or flowers until May comes around. The weather forecast predicts temperatures next week in the high 80’s and even low 90’s, which I find almost laughable in these expanding days of 40-50 degree drizzles. This evening, my daughter and I paused by the flowers and herbs in the outdoor tent beside the local County Market, but not for long.
Regularly stored bathroom items were in need of replenishing. Also on my list was mouthwash, floss sticks, toilet paper, and ice cream. Most of that we picked up at Walgreens, along with another round of vitamins, which wasn’t on my list until I saw them and remembered the ones I bought last month were already almost gone. My daughter eyed a bag of dried apricots, then put them back. We skipped the ice cream.
We walked through the grocery store, picking up a few personal snacks. There is a phenomenon of food not lasting long enough to stay full. I remember the knowing of similar days. I told her she needed to talk to her aunt Jess about marking your territory when sharing a fridge with other food consuming people. She was always better at recognizing her need to be separate, writing her name on food in permanent marker.
Into the cart we placed bananas, oranges, granola, yogurt. One of the sets of bananas was more yellow, and the other more green to hopefully last a little longer. When we were loading bags into the car I once again thought about the ease with which I swipe this card and money is just there to buy whatever it is I’ve brought to the counter. I told her that girls need to be spoiled sometimes. I meant more to say that she was loved.
I didn’t see the college aged girl politely waiting for me to finish loading so she could get into her car. I moved faster, climbing back into the passenger seat. The Christian radio station played as we maneuvered out of the grocery store parking lot. We commented on the occasional radio predictability. I opened up my phone to put on Nichole Nordeman. It wasn’t long and we were home. Dad carried for me the heavier bags.
The boys and I took another field trip this morning. Our pastor’s daughter had a birthday today. They invited a few homeschool families to join them for a concert at the local college, and then lunch and games at a nearby park. It was an absolute thrill to hear a live symphony orchestra. The music was combined with a screen show and narration teaching about our solar system. With each planet they also featured an instrument from the orchestra. They weren’t able to cover all of the instruments.
As my kids have gotten older and started moving on to high school, we’ve had less of these kinds of homeschool “experiences”. I wish now I had written about and recorded more details from those days. Most of my collection of pictures I had was lost one day when my phone shut off and wouldn’t turn on or charge. It was a replacement phone from another one I’d lost, including more pictures, and something about the replacement one would not allow pictures to upload to the icloud. There was a way they told me I could do it manually on the computer but I never took the time to do it.
Obviously covid contributed to the end of more official outings. Recently our piano teacher had to drop the boys and I as students after picking up another job. It was disappointing to lose her as a teacher. I don’t know what this means for further lessons for the boys. I wish I had the skill to teach them myself. As for me, I’ve wondered if the piano playing dream and desire is just another one of those things I need to let go of in order to peacefully go on with my life, though some things just nag at me if I’m not doing them. The boys don’t fight it, but the need for them to practice comes with a weight. I keep thinking I could teach myself if I was dedicated and practiced every day.
The boys had a good time today too. It made me happy in the auditorium to look over and see them enjoying the show. I momentarily wished I’d taught them more about music and instruments, whatever more general knowledge I had from my own school field trips, band experiences, and music appreciation classes, so I was thankful when the show included the featuring of the instruments. I know better not to get too bogged down with the mom guilt from all the things I haven’t done. If there’s something I’ve done wrong, I can ask for forgiveness. Otherwise I remember that God has his own story for them that he is writing. I knew with homeschooling that I’d be exchanging the inclusion of some good things for others. I’ve also much more deeply learned that the bigger things in life that I’ve actually done, always came with the help of other people to make them happen.
The past few nights have been late. Yesterday I had my final exam for my in-person Abnormal Psychology class. It took me most of the 3 1/2 class hours to finish it. This afternoon we left around 3PM for a track meet and returned home a little past 10PM. I stayed on the bleachers for most of it, but went back to the car once it had been sprinkling for a little while. These days I try to keep from becoming overly chilled.
My sentimental side wants to cherish the family outings and the high school years that are flying by. At the same time, my practical side says kids these days are doing way too much, which mostly has nothing to do with what makes up life in the real world. Homeschool parents can be viewed as sheltering the kids, but I tend to see the traditional school route a kind of sheltering too. Kids are kept away from reality.
We stopped by Sonic on the way home for supper. On the drive home, with sore legs after a longer and immobile day of sitting, I considered whether or not it would’ve been better for me to stay home and work on my paper this evening. Ultimately am glad I was there to share in the memory and to be able to talk about the kids’ races they’d ran. It’s true these are the little moments real lives are made of.
We recently met again with the couple who hosted last summer’s marriage intensive. Every quarter or so we’ve been following-up with them in their home. It takes a pretty dramatic change for me to be able to call something a “game-changer”. When I find or experience something that makes an actual difference in my life, that actually helps me with eliminating or reducing problems, that is actually able to change me, I am not only amazed. Something even more miraculous happens: I’m convinced and I’m loyal.
That’s what our marriage intensive was for me. So far, so good, right? God intervenes in ways beyond my work and activation, and I become a better, more stable, and more grateful person because of it. Yet still the all of me returns, and familiar inner struggles come back into view. One description, the one I find more personally practical, is that the cycles regularly occurring in waves, to continue on for decades or for however long the heavenly books are written, is like the time when we visited Cape Cod as kids.
The tide went out. Water that had once been up to our knees receded to reveal the rippled valleys of the sea floor. To this day, all these years of fascination later, I still can’t explain how exactly the tides work. But I think of that sea floor on a regular basis, imagining all the hidden things I could find in the once submerged, but now exposed sand. I could do without the pain but I’ll have heaven for that. And so I’m left with the wrestling, the tired revelations saying, “What am I supposed to be letting go this time?”
In Cape Cod we saw ripples and found more shells. There was nothing man-made, no sign of anything dead or sharp. For a period in time we could see the sandbars and landscape. The shore disappeared and dared us to chase it. We marveled when the covering returned to its place. The God who commands the tides of the ocean and created the body surely knew what he was doing. He is the only one who loves all of me, and I return to no one else. I don’t curse the body or the mind God gave me. I offer it back to him.
We didn’t know what we didn’t know, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get a chance, in God’s grace, to know now. I’m seeing more and more ways in which my own love was tainted, but am also able to remain in love’s embrace without shrinking away. It seems to me that little by little, God does help us to re-understand the things we were trying to know before. I again know his love, as he burns away the collected impurities getting in the way of its fullest expression.