Love is a Verb

The current model of girlhood in our culture, beginning at a very young age, is disturbing on many levels.

Emily asked me recently if she was pretty. I assured her that she was, and then we talked about what made girls really lovely. I told her that beautiful girls are the ones who care about other people and who know how to use their hands and their minds to do something useful for others.

We talked about kindness and how that makes people attractive. “You can have an outside that’s shiny and perfect, and yet have a rotten, ugly inside,” I told her. She took all of that in thoughtfully.

The concept of sacrificing for others isn’t a celebrated theme in our culture. Many young girls spend countless hours texting their lives away with nonsense, wasting precious time, living for themselves, while parents sacrifice to give them the latest technology. It’s foolish and a tragic use of their minds, bodies and gifts.

Countering the current mentality is not easy, but as mothers, we can demonstrate service towards others and love in action, and we can pray that the model we give our girls is one of usefulness rather than self-worship and sloth that is sure destruction.

The best message we can give our daughters and sons is that love is action, not just words. Whether ironing school blouses or making a meal or shoveling or whatever it is that comes to us to do, all of it is serving those we love. Even if we think we are unappreciated, these acts of service are never wasted. It does something in our own character. As Christ-ians, if we aren’t doing this, we are using a name we are not entitled to. Love acts. Anything less is fraud.

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A Home Song

I read within a poet’s book
A word that starred the page:
“Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage!”

Yes, that is true; and something more
You’ll find, where’er you roam,
That marble floors and gilded walls
Can never make a home.

But every house where Love abides,
And Friendship is a guest,
Is surely home, and home-sweet-home:
For there the heart can rest.

~ Henry Van Dyke

 

mothersday

Making a House a Home

I have lived many places in my adult life in five different states including Wisconsin, my home state. Whether it was a small house in the Rio Grande Valley, apartments, good old Milwaukee bungalow duplexes or, in the last 17 years since marrying Tom, snug houses of our own, the question was always, how do I make this place a home?

A friend told me that our home feels warm and welcoming. I hope that’s true, because that’s exactly what I want people to feel. Whether it’s makeshift furniture or a room of nice, new furniture, I think it’s possible to make almost any place feel homey.

Back when I was a single parent and didn’t have much  to work with, I had a few things that moved with me—a very used piano, lots of good books (even though the bookcases were far from beautiful), a well-used but comfortable couch with the ever-present afghan on the back , a rocking chair my mom bought me and a couple of serviceable lamps and end tables. I got a nice pendulum clock for the wall one Christmas as a gift, and that added a homey touch.

I have never had much of a sense of decorating style. Years ago, I had a friend with a magazine house in the Washington Highlands of Wauwatosa. She was so gifted in decorating that it took my breath away. She made her home feel cozy and comfortable at the same time. She had the knack of re-doing old furniture with paints, and she would sometimes sell these lovely tables and chairs at special sales. When she threw a wedding shower for me back in 1995, her table settings alone were so beautiful.

That sure isn’t my gift, but I try to make my home cozy in my own way. One of my favorite pieces of furniture is my round end table with shelves for favorite books. It polishes up beautifully (on the rare occasions that that happens!), and it invites anyone who is so inclined to pick up some of my (somewhat motley) books I’ve collected over the years from used bookshops.

One thing I determined early on was that I didn’t want TV’s in an obvious place. I wanted my children to see books around them instead. I personally find it a little sad that where a mantel clock once would have taken pride of place, it is the current trend to attach massive flat screen TV’s over the fireplaces in living rooms. Everybody has their own views and preferences, but I wanted to encourage reading, so I put bookshelves in my living room instead.

But the truth is, children don’t have a clue what quality the furniture is, or how worn the couch is. If you take the time to snuggle up with them with a book to read, all they know is the love and security they feel. The little things you add to a room are really small extras. What children will remember is the time you spent with them.

Making a home feel homey starts with the people in it, really. All the cozy, charming accessories and furniture won’t mean a thing if the atmosphere in a home is full of tension and conflict. It’s the love and care our families feel that can make even a poorly constructed apartment feel like a little bit of heaven.

Home is a place in our hearts. I want my children to carry with them out into an often bleak world memories of a warm, safe place where they were loved unconditionally and prayed for and taught the things about life that matter most. If I accomplish that, I will feel like I did my homemaking job well.

Cheerfulness Breaks In

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Mirth is like a flash of lightning, that breaks through a gloom of clouds, and glitters for a moment; cheerfulness keeps up a kind of daylight in the mind, and fills it with a steady and perpetual serenity.”  –Joseph Addison

Little things make me happy. I call them “joy blips” because these are just the little things during a day that bring satisfaction or a little pleasure to mind. Even when you are dealing with a rebellious child, a broken sump pump, a car on the blink, or any number of daily catastrophes, those little joy blips break through. Yours are probably entirely unique to you, but here are a few of my own.

1. A shiny kitchen sink. I have a minor passion about shiny sinks. When the kids leave the sink less than pristine after loading the dishwasher, I either make them re-do it or shine it up myself. Nothing nicer in the kitchen than a shiny sink and a gleaming faucet. Call me funny that way.

2. Delivery of Country or Reminisce magazine in the mail. The bills are downers, but either of those magazines gives me a lift because I can see a pleasant hour spent with antique photos or traveling down country lanes to see the spring wildlife in full color.

3. Hearing Will playing the piano downstairs while I have my feet up upstairs. One of the compensations of doctor-ordered bed rest is that I get to really listen to him practice. Besides the classical barn-burners, he plays hymns that get me singing, and also some of the old popular standards. He just learned “As Time Goes by”, and that’s one of my favorites. When I call out, “I love it!” to him, he always laughs and says, “You always say that, Mom!” Yes, I guess I do. That’s what moms are for.

5. A laundry basket (or two) containing washed and neatly folded clothes, sitting on the landing at the top of the stairs. I have a barter arrangement with one of my young adult children that helps me get the laundry washed and folded and ironed. It is working splendidly.

6. A cup of Constant Comment tea with just a little honey.

7. Finding an undiscovered book by a favorite author. I was over the moon recently after discovering Winter in Thrush Green at a branch library I had never visited. I thought I had read every single book by Dora Saint in her Miss Read and Thrush Green English village series (over 30 books), but I was wrong! The book served as a prequel for me that explained the earlier lives of certain characters that became mainstays in the rest of her stories. I didn’t want the book to end!

8. Hand-written notes. I received something I will write more about soon called a “PrayerGram.” Dear radio friends in Missouri had the members of their church prayer group write me little notes on a piece of church stationary assuring me of their prayers for me and the baby. I was so touched, I cried. I’ve never gotten anything like that. That was a major joy blip! Thank you friends at First Southern Baptist Church in Stockton, Missouri. I am so grateful for your Christian love.

What are your joy blips? I’ll bet there are more than you think each day. No matter how gray the skies or how ugly your co-workers or how bad we sometimes feel for many reasons, try to find some joy blips that come your way, and thank the Lord that, as one English writer once put it, cheerfulness breaks in!

*Updated* A Decorating Dilemma

Last summer we had a painter in and he did most of the house. The results of our paint choices were very good in the end with two clear exceptions; the front hall and the master bedroom. What we thought was a sage green turned out to be way too light and looked like a mint ice cream cone. We had the painter re-do it with what we thought was, well, sage green. Now the front hall is the color of an army truck. Tom is finally ready to tackle it himself with a sort of sand color which won’t clash with a similar color in the living room. That’s if it doesn’t turn out to be the color of mud, in which case we can splotch it on the army green and have a camouflage-theme hall. Sigh. These things drive me crazy.

Then there is the debacle upstairs in the master bedroom. When we were having things painted last summer I was stressed out with the whole house being torn up, and I couldn’t wait for it all to be done. Tom kept presenting options on paint colors and wall paper choices, and I just couldn’t get it together, I was so confused by it all. I finally said, just have it painted light blue, like the sky. It seemed peaceful. Well, unfortunately, it resembles a baby’s bedroom, and I never got around to getting the white curtains I was intending to buy. So now my decorating train wreck needs to be cleared up. Tom came home from state fair with a wooden wall plaque that reads, “Tom and Ingrid’s cabin” for over our door which gave me the inspiration to chuck the whole idea of something pretty and feminine and go the rustic route. The boys’ bedroom is already done in a lodge theme complete with antlers on their light fixture. After years of insisting on light colors and white curtains and all that, I think it’s lodge time. I’m even fed up enough with the whole thing to say yes to Tom’s idea of a deer head on the wall. Why not go the whole route, right? Maybe a rifle on the wall over the four-poster? Then again, once I’m staring at those glittering deer head eyes in the night, there won’t be any going back. Tom’s not doing the room a third time. So I have to make up my mind. Maybe the light blue with some white curtains won’t be so bad after all if I could find the right quilt that would go with the light blue…

**Major Update**Breaking News**I decided to not redo the bedroom to a lodge theme. Too much time and effort. I found the perfect quilt, finally! It has the colors of Sweden’s flag, (except lighter by a couple of shades) with light yellow and light blue and little flowers on it. The blue and light yellow go perfectly with the walls. I also found the curtains I want. You can see them in the photo.

I like the lace at the edges. So I’m sure everyone is deeply relieved to know this crisis is over. Ha. I find writing about this banality to be therapeutic so bear with me, friends!