Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Monday, March 26, 2012

Top 4 Reasons Not To Buy A Dishwasher When Yours Breaks

Last night, our dishwasher broke. Gasp!!!! It was happily finishing its rinse cycle and moving on to dry when Sophia pushed a button. Whatever button she pushed made it stop. Which would be fine except it had a bunch of water still in the bottom and so when I tried to start it up again on a quick rinse cycle or something to get it to drain out and dry the dishes, it didn't want to start back up. Nothing I did would make it work. Now that I think about it, perhaps my repeatedly kicking it might have been its final undoing. You see, ever since we moved into this house over 5 years ago, it has had some issues. First of all, it is INCREDIBLY LOUD!!!! *imagine me shouting this last statement to make my point* Sometimes it smells weird. It doesn't always start when you press the START button. Forgive me for being so spoiled but I thought when you press START, it know...start. Ha, how naive am I?? In fact, we had to do some serious pleading, some punching and a magical little dance to coax it into starting. Every. Single. Time. (Well, almost every time.)

So, do I grieve the death of my dishwasher or shall I rejoice in its final passing? I mean, after all I loathed that thing. Yes, loathed it. Such a strong word for an inanimate object that was designed and created to make my life easier. However, I hated it with such passion, especially every single time I hit that cursed START button and the light on the "normal wash" would go out and nothing else would happen. Nothing. I loathed it because it did not, in fact, make my life easier, but for the most part, harder. It added to my often-scathing sense of discontentment over other mishaps in our old house and every occasion in which I loaded it proved to be a constant reminder that I would have to listen to its horrible screeching groaning noises as it made its way through wash, rinse, dry.

What's that you say? For the love of all things normal, why didn't I buy a new one to save myself the insanity of listening to that awful noise and having to perform mystical rituals to get it to even start?

Ahh....I'll tell you why. And it will be a nice lead-in for my top 4 reasons we won't be getting a new one right now.

To be honest, in our very materialistic, consumerist and lazy society, it is the ideal situation to just buy a new one when we find our current *thing* useless. Or are just simply over it. It doesn't matter if we don't NEED it. It doesn't even matter if we have the money for it; there's always credit, right? Well, as a large family (growing larger every few years) who own our own business and are very, very conscious of being wise stewards of all we possess (did I say very?), it did not make sense for us to just run out and buy a new one. I can almost say it would be morally unconscionable for us to do so just because it was an annoyance.

So what about now that it's actually broken and almost completely useless? I still say nay, we will not be buying a new one. Here's why:

# 1. For practical reasons, first. Not only do we not have the extra cash to spend on a quality dishwasher because we just came out of a snow-less winter where we earned almost no money, and brought in only a small % of our seasonal monthly income from residual payments our clients owed us from last year (a very wise contract move on my husband's part), but I refuse to even put something like that on credit. It's not a necessity and over the last 7 + years of having a family, we've learned a thing or two from our gracious Father in heaven about not robbing Peter to pay Paul. Do we remember this every single time we want- or think we need- something? No. But when it comes to a large purchase and most unimportant things in general, we do. And we'd like to stick to that as much as possible.
*By the way here is a good definition of necessity. Pay close attention to #1. Indispensable. Is a dishwasher indispensable? No. It's really not. Not like food, shelter, clothes... So says thousands of years of people who had nothing other than their own two hands and some dirty river- or well- water...which leads to my # 2 reason we won't be getting another one right now.

# 2. The invention of the earliest dishwasher was in 1850 by Mr. Joel Houghton. Probably tired of his wife complaining of having to wash dishes while he smoked his cigar and read the paper after dinner, he decided to embark on the monumental task of appeasing her and other housewives across the nation. (Of course this is my assumption with a little bit of humor added in.) But his model was far inferior to what is known today as the automatic dishwasher, especially since it was manual and did little more than splash water onto dirty dishes, which inevitably would still have to be washed in a more effective way afterward. But it was a start. After another man took a turn at the dishwasher-inventing wheel, in 1887 a woman..yes, a woman - imagine that! - invented what would evolve into the very first automatic dishwasher. Her name was Josephine Cochrane. Now, I have to say here that wikipedia (where I retrieved some of my info) mentions that she did not do her own dishes and decided to invent a dishwasher so her servants wouldn't chip her fine china. But hey, whatever. Anyway, my point is that the dishwasher was not invented out of necessity. It was invented to make *someone's* life easier. Am I complaining about that? No! Do I think dishwashers are stupid? Absolutely not. But what they are is a convenience. A luxury. NOT something I need to survive. I would rather take the money I might spend on a dishwasher and use it to buy extra gallons of that fantastically healthy raw milk we drink, or the next season's clothes for my ever-growing children. Food and clothes are necessities. Dishwashers are not.

# 3. The third reason why we won't get a new one is because I like washing dishes by hand. This might come as a shock but I really do actually enjoy it. One of my favorite ladies, Judy Dudich, recently wrote an article about praying our way through our daily chores. It is a beautiful insight into her world and why and how she takes the time to pray while she is doing her housework. In her article she writes about doing dishes:
"I'm thankful for the luxurious dishwasher we have, indeed. But, many times, I choose, instead, to do dishes by hand, so that I can pray. [emphasis mine]Sometimes, we neglect our prayer life because we're so busy that we feel that taking time to pause and pray would be selfish or unproductive. However, we MUST do dishes, right? Thus, I have found the perfect excuse for taking time for myself to pray! I have to go and do the dishes! Oh, the world-problems and family crises I have solved while dipping my hands into the warm sudsy water."
Judy goes on to explain the different aspects of dish-washing that she is thankful for. I completely agree with all of it! Taking the time out to pray while doing dishes is such a huge blessing. There's something about the task of loading them into the dishwasher that seems to involve much of my brain capacity where I am rendered completely inept at thinking of or doing/saying anything else at the same time. But soaking my hands in a sink of hot soapy water seems to allow my thoughts - and especially my prayers to flow, unadulterated as the calm water somehow seems to wash the dishes itself.
Another thing is that I have a very fond memory of my mother singing or humming (sometimes hymns, sometimes other favorite music of hers) while she did the dishes. For some reason, our dishwasher growing up was constantly breaking down but instead of complaining, my mother washed dishes for all nine people in our house with a joyful heart as she sung or hummed her way through. I wonder how much grace and peace was bestowed upon her all those years from our loving God who most undoubtedly delighted in her singing and her joy. I seek to emulate the attitudes of both of these amazing women- mothers of large families who have seen their share of difficult times- praying and singing my way through; finding peace, resolve and resolution at the bottom of a sink full of dirty dishes.

# 4. Ok, there is no # 4. Not really. I think # 3 is my favorite, not to mention most pertinent one and there isn't really much to top that. I can only say that our decision to not run out and buy a new dishwasher has already been a huge blessing even after only 1 day. And I dream of other blessings coming along in the future. I imagine the "you wash, I'll dry" exchange will happen more than once on this road of dishwasherlessness (yes I made that word up).. between my husband and I who would absolutely delight in the time we could spend working together and acting as a team. We work so well as a team, especially when it comes to house stuff. Also, Angelina usually likes to help with dishes and I think this will be such an incredible learning op. for her to be able to take part in the primitive nature of washing dishes by hand! She just started washing the bigger nondishwasher-safe dishes a few months ago and having to do all the dishes by hand will definitely move her to veteran status more quickly; not to mention the fact that if I impart to her my desire to use the time wisely to draw closer to the Lord and find peace, perhaps she will resolve to do the same. What a blessing that would be for both of us!

The Donkey That No One Could Ride

I don't know if you've noticed but Lent is fast-approaching its end. We have just under 2 weeks left before the joyous occasion of Easter, when we celebrate Christ's resurrection. I have to confess that although my can-do attitude for observing Lent gave birth to a lot of great intentions, the time has gone by quite quickly with a lot of our plans still bouncing around our hearts, not brought to fruition. I had a list of several activity- and story-books I wanted to get for the kids but they are still sitting in my Amazon cart having not purchased them. Sigh. Maybe next year. However, though I can beat myself up about the fact that my can-do's failed to turn into did-do's, I try to focus on the few ways we have observed this solemn time. It's often hard for me to not focus on what I know is wrong with myself; how I can be a better person, how I need to change in order to be the woman/wife/mother God wants me to be. I sort of had to be reminded through out the past few weeks that although I may be a weak person in a lot of respects (ahem...planning and executing), Christ is my strength and He knows my heart and He can change a lot about me if I ask Him to, and then believe He will. He can make me into the person He wants me to be so I can rise up new along with Him.

This brings me to something that I just have to share about; a really exciting little gift I received completely unexpectedly in the mail. As you know, I have been reviewing books off and on recently. Several of these books have been by the author Anthony DeStefano. He is a really great author, especially of children's books. I have been very blessed to have had the opportunity to receive several of his books for review, and then also to be able to give some away! Usually, it goes that I receive an email asking if I would like to do a review. I reply yes and a few days later, I get a book in the mail. So imagine my surprise when I opened up my front door last week to a USPS envelope tucked into my glass storm door. I opened it up and pulled out a beautiful and colorful children's book. It was by Anthony DeStefano. I had to check my memory to see if I had forgotten about a book review. But no, I had not. This book was a complete surprise.

After reading the book myself, and then several times to my children upon their insistence, I decided I would definitely write a review for it. Whether sending me the book unannounced was nothing more than a [very good] marketing ploy or not (haha), I was drawn to share it and would have even if I had happened upon it in the book store myself! The book is called The Donkey That No One Could Ride. Just in time for Palm Sunday and Easter, it is a very good read for children about Christ's power, love and wisdom. What I found most intriguing about the book was that it did not focus on the actual sacrifice that began on what we now celebrate as Palm Sunday, but on a small donkey who would be the one to carry Christ into town to render that sacrifice.

The story is about a little donkey- weak, small and unable to carry anyone or anything. It had a crooked back and weak legs and even its owner eventually disowned him. The story is based on the passage in Luke where Jesus tells two of his disciples to procure a specific 'colt' for him from the village to ride into Jerusalem. Jesus knew it was there tied to a post. Mr. DeStefano's imaginative depiction of the nature of the donkey's existence is a beautiful portrayal of how loving and wise Christ really is and how He can make even the weakest beings into strong warriors for God's purposes. For when the donkey was brought to Him to be ridden into town, the donkey did not believe he could do it. He has always been small and useless and here some strange man was telling him that he had a GREAT destiny and he was to carry Jesus into the town on his back??? The donkey would not believe, until Jesus told him with warmth and love in his eyes and wisdom on his lips, that His help is all the donkey needs for the task at hand; Christ's strength will suffice.

As the donkey realized that he really did believe everything Jesus was telling him after all, Jesus laid his hand on the donkey and changed him into a strong, powerful animal who would carry Him into Jerusalem. As they entered the town, the donkey found out exactly who he was carrying on his back - a man who would be with him long after this great sacrifice; who would aid in his life however he needed Him to; a King who could turn even the sorriest animal into a mighty servant.

Written in perfect cadence which children can follow with ease, The Donkey That No One Could Ride is a simple yet powerful story that teaches our children - and us - about the hope, love, strength and new life found in Christ's death and resurrection. One thing that really stuck out (and personally, was a reminder to me) was the importance of our existence as servants of God. We all have a great destiny to fulfill. From raising our children to know, love and serve the Lord, to accomplishing more-specific missions He puts on our hearts like this donkey had, we have a purpose. It's something we could all use a reminder for, especially when that reminder arrives in the grace-filled form of an unexpected children's book on our door step.

I'd like to say thank you to Mr. DeStefano and his staff for sending me such a wonderful gift. My 5 1/2 year old son, Aidan, thanks you, too. This has become one of his favorite books!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Home That Love Built

I have been thinking a lot lately about my uterus. Yes, you read that right; I have uterus on my mind. The fact that I've been thinking about it at all has kind of bewildered me. I mean, one doesn't really think of one's uterus very often, right? It's not one of those things on the brain like homeschool schedules or meal plans or cravings for chocolate. It could be the fact that I have four adorable little children whom I've birthed into this world [from my uterus!] and whom I spend each day with as they challenge me, grow me and make me who I am. They are a constant reminder of where they came from; that they were once inside my body for such a short time, but have my heart forever. It could be that I have two other babies in heaven who, for a very brief moment in time, each called my uterus their home but didn't make it very far. And I miss them sometimes, when I think of them. I never got the chance to feel their movements within me or rub my belly where their tiny feet or hands rested just on the other side. Or it could be that it's because I have yet another new and tiny human being nestled snuggly and securely in the secret depths of my growing womb. Nonetheless, whatever the reason, it's been on my mind a lot.

I guess I have to say I'm in awe. Each baby I become pregnant with never seems to dim the glow of the miracle of life. As each baby is unique, each with its own worth, purpose and design, each with a specific path in life, that ever-present factor of amazement and wonder shines as brilliantly as it did the first time.. And the second.. And the third. And...well, you get the picture. I think about the quiet beginnings of such a miracle - a tiny baby inside a protective egg, planted in a secret place so as to not be disturbed while it grows and thrives. And inside this secret place, within the darkness and warmth, the Master continues His work, knitting together the life of a very special and precious individual. Out of His great love and tender care, He created this environment to protect and sustain each tiny life as they grew inside of me. He designed the most intricate details to nourish and nurture each baby, even from the moment he or she was conceived.

I think about this, each moment in each pregnancy, every detail of the Master's work, and I am just floored by the very existence of such a place: A strong, beautiful muscle that every woman is born with, serving the purpose of sustaining life. A home for these precious little people as they grow and change and eventually become able to live outside their warm, protective surroundings. A home that has the ability to sustain not just one baby, but two, three or often more all at the same time! It's a home that does not need decorating or renovating but is beautiful in so many ways. Unlike our stick-built homes, it is a home that grows with the baby, who only feels "cramped" at the last moments when it's time to leave anyway. It's a home that begins each new life in gentle and quiet peace, providing everything that is needed for baby to survive. A home built for the sole purpose of growing that new life. A home that love built.
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth." Psalm 139:13-15