Category Archives: Daily Living

It Could Happen To Anyone

It could happen to anyone. At least that’s what I tell myself sometimes when things unravel. I think it might be true, even if the circumstances differ.

Monday morning, I knocked a jar of banana peppers off an eye-level shelf in my basement. It landed just left of my foot, peppers in a neat little pile, vinegar splashed across the floor,  glass exploded into smithereens that embedded in my foot and flip-flops. It was not how I wanted to start my morning. I hadn’t yet made coffee or eaten breakfast. I was trying to get a jump on the day and create some order that would help me get ahead (who am I kidding? I’m so far behind, I’m just trying to catch up with the tailgate!). This little incident was not helping matters.

Tuesday morning, I discovered a package of meat between two freezers in my basement. I can’t tell you how long it had been there, but it was smelly and crawling. It was not how I wanted to start my morning. I hadn’t yet had coffee or eaten breakfast. I was all about efficiency when I set foot in the basement – in and out. This big incident was not helping matters.

I had left the safe space of my bedroom feeling pretty optimistic about the day ahead. I’d had sweet fellowship with the Lord, had a mental list going and few obstacles in the way of accomplishing that list. Monday morning left me thinking that making coffee would be a great way to start Tuesday morning; but when I noticed the empty dishwasher, I decided to put a hold on coffee until I got my canning jars loaded in to sterilize while the coffee brewed and I ate my breakfast. It seemed both smart and efficient.

Taped to the basement door was the reminder of broken glass and the need for shoes. So I stopped to get the vacuum. At this point, the vinegar would be all dry and any last glass dust easy to vacuum up. It was, but the basement was so dimly lit that even the extra lantern I’d brought to illuminate my canned goods closet was insufficient. I felt the need to explore the cause. A light bulb had been loosened in its socket, so I tightened it up, and suddenly all was exposed. The spider webs in the corners and crevices, the rotting meat between the freezers…

Let me tell you something about my basement. It isn’t really a basement. It’s more like a cellar, built out of large field rock, over 100 years ago. The rain and snow-melt run through the cracks and would fill it up if not for the sump-pump built into the low spot. The essentials are housed on concrete platforms — freezer, furnace, hot water heater, well tank. We run a dehumidifier all summer to keep the humidity down. Still, all that wet earth in the corners every time it rains can make it a little smelly at times.

This summer was hot and humid. The basement odors were unpleasant. My husband noticed, checked the dehumidifier, looked around, but couldn’t find any explanation for the scent other than wet, earthy basement. When I came home from weeks of summer travel, I found the smell offensive and did my own search, knowing that if the source didn’t easily reveal itself, I would need to find time for a thorough cleaning of the cellar. Until Tuesday morning, I had been unable to find the source of that awful smell that I’d been trying to keep hidden by a closed basement door.

I donned rubber gloves. I found heavy duty plastic sacks to scoop the mess into. I armed myself with a large putty knife.  I….was unprepared for what lurked beneath the package. I will leave that image up to your imagination. I want you to keep reading. You will undoubtedly be done if I paint that picture for you.

I scrambled for the Lysol. Bleach was out of the question because we’d used the last drop two days ago. Lysol was ineffective. I ran through the rain to the barn to find any kind of bug killers my husband had stashed there. They, too, were ineffective against the moving mass on the floor. I needed to scoop it all up, but couldn’t get the right angle with the second freezer in the way. I needed help. Kids to the rescue. Thankfully, my kids are all big now and the three still at home are used to coming to my rescue when big stuff goes down.

When the oldest came on the scene, we decided that bleach would definitely be necessary at some point. But first, we needed to shove that freezer out of the way. We two puny ladies couldn’t make it go. She woke her brother and told him to bring his muscles. I said I would pick up bleach while we waited for the muscles to fully wake, but under no circumstances should she try to clean up that mess. No way was I taking the easy job of running an errand and making someone else clean up the nasty. I said it again on my way out the door, “Do NOT try to clean that up! I’m not making anyone touch that. I’ll do it when I get back. Just spray it with more bug killer occasionally if you do anything.”

I grabbed a hat and keys and off I went. The fact that I had tackled this without ever getting to the coffee hit me as I got behind the wheel, and my neighborhood, drive-thru coffee shop jumped to mind. I was going to buy us each a specialty drink because there had to be some reward for doing a job like this one. I was off without getting properly dressed, washing my face or brushing my teeth. But I was only headed to Dollar General for one thing and would keep my head down. I figured the drive thru didn’t pose a threat, either, windows between us for the short bit of contact that would be had. I pulled in just after another car, stopped a good distance back and put my car in park.

I looked up just as the car in front of me went into reverse and started backing towards me. I tried to get mine in reverse and move, but was too slow so I just yelled “NO!” at the top of my lungs. That didn’t help. The thought of honking came after the fact. By God’s grace, there was no damage done worth caring about. But when all was said and done, I ended up inside that coffee shop in my unwashed state with 4 other ladies, wishing I could crawl under the freezer in my basement. I probably smelled bad enough to belong there.

Here is where the story takes a turn and really gets good. So don’t stop reading yet.

When I arrived home with bleach and coffees, I was greeted by 3 cheerful young adults with gloved hands who had moved that freezer, cleaned up every last bit of nastiness, and the young man with the muscles was burning the remnants. He had proved unnecessary in moving the freezer because the one puny lady did better than we two. All that was left for me was the bleaching and rinsing. Bleach and rinse I did, with a hose that sprung a leak and rinsed the upstairs as I rinsed below, completely unawares. The youngest prevented disaster and left me none the wiser till I finished.

When it was all put back together (which turned out to be no small feat, requiring four of us and a good bit of leveling), and the basement light turned off, the three laughing young adults, my children, who were gathered around my kitchen island asked if we could pray together before we moved on. As we reached for each others’ hands, one remembered a song they used to sing every morning at a camp they’d attended. So we stood in a circle and they taught me a fun version of “Bind Us Together, Lord,” complete with clapping and hugs. And then…we prayed.

All before we’d even finished our morning coffee.

Tuesday morning did not go according to plan. I thought by noon I’d be well into making pickles, if not close to done. I’d have eaten breakfast and finished my coffee and had my day in hand. But it was never my day to begin with, and the Lord had something to show me. In my quiet time during the early hours, I had been reading the opening pages of a book by Jen Wilkin where she makes the case that for the believer who wants to know God’s will for their life, instead of asking “What should I do?” we should first ask, “Who should I be?”

My prayer for my children has long been, and especially this last year, that they would be filled with the Holy Spirit, exhibit His fruit and display the character of Christ. Tuesday morning, I saw it on full display, within their home, where it is often the hardest to do, and under unpleasant circumstances. I don’t know how to answer all their questions about what they should do at any given moment, but I know who they should be, and by God’s grace they are (Romans 12:2). They are not merely rule followers who are well-behaved lovers of self, but followers of Jesus whose love has filled them to overflowing, transformed by the Holy Spirit to show the character of the God who made and loves them (1 Peter 1:14-16).

It could happen to anyone – a morning like mine. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen that way every day. But the unplanned, unexpected, and ugly sometimes pile on. As to the rest of it? The joy, the self-sacrifice, the love, and unity – those can happen to anyone, too.

They can happen to anyone, or rather within the heart of anyone, who truly knows Jesus.

 

©Erika Rice 2018

Mother and Gumption

I’m sitting at my computer, towel wrapped around my conditioned, but unrinsed, hair; sitting here, thinking about my mother and how she gave me the gumption to do this.

By “this” I do not mean sit here and type with a towel wrapped around my head. The situation is a little more sticky than that. You see, I have no running water at my house. Except that twice a day, for 15-20 minutes, the water runs. In that time period, we wash our dishes, fill our pitchers, and try to get everyone through the shower. This has been going on for 12 days. And it led to my current predicament.

It was my turn in the shower, and the second I was covered in soap and conditioner, the water stopped. Just like that. No warning. No “Better be quick!” slowdown. It was just gone. I yelled, “NO! I’m covered in conditioner and soap, and there’s no more water!” My ever-helpful husband arrived on-scene with an immediate, and undesirable, solution.

At this point, you need to know that my bathroom is fully occupied by 5-gallon, not-so-clean pails of not-so-clean, cold water which we use to flush toilets and meet other similar water demands.

Ever-helpful Husband said, “I’m going to pour a pail of water over you and rinse it off.”

“No! No you aren’t! I will wrap a towel around my head and wait for the water to come back again.”

He just looked at me. We both knew that could be a long wait. In an effort to sound less ridiculous and more solution-minded, I told him that the water was COLD and not-so-clean. You get what I’m saying, right?! Who wants a pail of cold (not-so-clean) water dumped over their head (unless it’s a sweltering 95 degrees and you know you’re going to shower later)? He still just looked at me.

“Okay, fine, I’ll use that water, but I’m doing it MYSELF, with a pitcher, except for my hair, ” I said. “I’m still wrapping a towel around my head and waiting for the water to come back on!”

So here I am, towel-wrapped head, thinking about Mom. I know I get that stubbornness from her, but I’m really thinking about all the things she faced head-on in life. She was a do-it-yourselfer before it was trendy. Not because that’s what made her tick, but because she didn’t have an option.

My father worked hard, but we never had much money. He was a highly educated blue-collar man who lived in a little house with his wife and seven children. My creative-brained mother was always figuring out new and better ways to utilize the space and keep us all organized. She plastered and puttied, painted, sanded and varnished, sometimes late into the night, to get the job done.

She cooked on a stove that sat in the middle of the dining room for weeks while the kitchen was remodeled–a tiny closet of a kitchen in which she somehow functioned with all of her children helping by her side. For several years when money was too tight to vacation east to see our grandparents, we camped in state parks close to home while Mom cooked over the open fire, Dad read to us, we washed our hair with frigid water under pumps, and we made inexpensive but precious family memories. Mom never stopped opening her home to everyone, especially those she thought in need of friendship, family, or food, even when all she could offer was scrambled eggs.

I learned from my mom that God is sovereign–she never lets up on that theme. Both the good and the bad (our perception) come from His hand for our good and His glory. She never let me fret, but always directed me to prayer, because it’s God’s pleasure to answer the prayers of His people.

My mom taught me how to be frugal, that no job was beneath me, and that it’s better to do it yourself than complain about it not getting done. It wasn’t a can-do attitude that never accepted help, but one that was accepting of her lot in life. Many times in my adult life, I have spurred myself on by the thought that if Mom could do it, I can too. I think she always seemed fearless and strong-willed, though the perspective brought by nearly 25 years of motherhood myself leads me to believe that it was a confidence in Christ and determination to make the most of any given situation. No obstacle ever seemed too big to overcome, no person too unworthy to receive the benefit of the doubt.

That’s what I mean by gumption. All these synonyms apply–initiative, resourcefulness, ingenuity, imagination, mettle, fortitude, courage. I’m not saying that I actually have it, but I know my mother did. And watching her for years has encouraged me to be thankful in all circumstances, to make the most of every situation, to persevere whatever the difficulty, and to know that every good thing is a gift from God.

So I’m sitting here grateful for the mother I have and the water we get, with this towel growing ever-heavier, knowing that if the water doesn’t come back, I’ll be dunking my head in a bucket. Somehow that just seems better than having it dumped on me.

©Erika Rice 2017

Hold My Hand

I love to hold my husband’s hand. I have since the very beginning. But a traveling job and five children later, that hand can be hard to grab hold of at times.  So this year, I followed him around the world just trying to catch that hand. Together, we watched the sun rise and set over the Pacific, ate salmon in Alaska, climbed the Eiffel tower at night, and rode bikes through an Amsterdam rush hour. As I made my way through various cities and tried to take it all in, the overarching charm was always that I was taking it in with him, sometimes while holding his hand.

My husband is an active man and doesn’t sit still for long, which means when I’m with him I’m on the move, too. So it was, on our second day in Paris, with aching feet and tired legs, that I reached out and took hold of his hand. The evening light was magical in a city that begs one to linger and look. But we are not the lingering kind. We had a distant destination and an imminent time limit. My active man had engaged his long stride and fast pace and thrown it into high gear. My gears were winding down, and sunset over the city was exerting its magnetic force, holding my feet in place, eyes locked on the skyline. I knew I needed to move, but felt immoveable. That’s when I said it, words that have stuck in my head all year. “If you want me to keep moving, you’ll have to hold my hand.” He held on and didn’t let go. We made it across the city. We found the open market just in time. We filled our bag with good things to eat, and made it to our hotel before collapsing into chairs and relaxing.

That one sentence, “If you want me to keep moving, you’ll have to hold my hand,” gave me plenty to ponder as his hand guided me through the Paris streets to the place he had in mind. The first thought being that that’s all I really want through all my years of marriage–to know that he’s got my hand and we’re in this together. I’ll follow him anywhere, I’ll do my best to match any pace, I’ll trust he knows where he’s going, I’ll get lost with him if he doesn’t, as long as he never lets go of my hand.

And, as one thought leads to another, I came next to the thought that marriage is the earthly picture of the heavenly relationship between Christ and his bride. When He’s holding my hand, anything is possible. I’m able to keep moving wherever He wants me to go because He’s holding my hand. His leadership is trustworthy, His strength becomes mine, and His ability gives movement to my feet. Christ is the ultimate husband, in who’s hand I always want to rest.  And He’s given me this good man to help me learn and remember what it means to be His bride.

So I reach for that hand, catch and grab hold. Whether at home or away, I pray to keep moving or appropriately sit still, knowing we’re in it together, being held by an even greater hand.

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©Erika Rice 2016

I Cannot Live Without Jesus

I’m not very good at sleeping. I’d say I’ve never been very good at sleeping, but I remember hearing my mom tell people that my older brother was an early riser, go-getter type (still is) while I was a blob she could barely get to move. By high school I was listing sleep as a hobby on job applications because at that point in life I thought of hobbies as things that one really wanted to do, but for which they had no time. There might be a reason all my jobs came from people who knew me rather than people who read my applications.

Then children came on the scene and I discovered I was a very light sleeper, waking at every sound. But when the opportunity to sleep came around, I slept and slept hard. Still, I looked forward to the day when I wouldn’t be wakened by cries in the night and could get several hours solid sleep. No more living like a zombie. That, however, was not the reality in store for me.

When my fifth and final child was still quite young but finally upstairs out of light-sleeper’s earshot, and sleep should have been mine for the taking, insomnia set in. This was a hard pill to swallow, and an exhausting one! I had five young children, a million things to do, the need for wisdom and clarity, not to mention self-control; but instead of sleeping I spent hours staring at the ceiling. With the insomnia, came an anxious spirit.

I tried to control the situation, create the perfect environment, and make sleep happen. In the process, I shamed anyone who interrupted the process, whose attempts to aid my sleep failed, and I put my poor family through the wringer. I became desperate for sleep and let the desire for it take control. Every chance for sleep was also a time of fear that I might not. Don’t get me wrong, I prayed…a lot. I thought if I prayed my anxious mind would be calmed. I thought if I prayed, at least I wouldn’t be wasting my time. I thought if I prayed instead of worrying, I would be holier. Worry is sin, after all, and prayer a commendable thing. But it isn’t a magic potion to be used to my advantage, and my heart was not content with the wakeful nights. The prayers did not accomplish what I desired. I do not mean that my prayers were ineffectual. But my motivation for praying was not what it should be. God, however, is faithful and did not allow me to be tempted beyond what He also provided a way to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13).

He was working in me a better understanding of my lack of control and His overall control. He was teaching me to rest in whatever He sent my way. My days were less ruled by lists and the need to accomplish, and more relaxed in the joy that whatever came my way was for my best. I began to realize that if I said I believed in a sovereign God then I needed to be content in every circumstance. The unexpected was to be embraced with joy and gladness rather than railed against as an interruption or undoing of my plans. Over time, I found peace in midnight wakefulness. I had no better times of sweet communion with the Heavenly Father than in those dark and quiet hours.

I had made friends with insomnia. I ran tired, but I knew God’s sustaining grace and strength when I was weak. I trusted the wakeful hours were meant, even, to sustain me in a way that sleep could not.

But this summer, a whole new level of sleep deprivation kicked in. There were strings of whole nights lost and daytime sleep was impossible. Still, life moved on, and responsibilities called. There were days I didn’t know how I would continue, or how I would meet that day’s demands.  I was profoundly tired. Profoundly. I don’t know how else to describe it. Still, I could not physically rest.

This, however, is where the promises of God are proved. In our weakness and utter reliance on Him, He shows Himself to be true.
In Philippians 4:19, Paul says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” He supplies every need. 2 Corinthians 12:9 contains a promise I have long been learning to rely on. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” “My grace is sufficient for you…” What a truth to cling to! Do I need sleep? No, I need GRACE, and grace is sufficient.

I found myself running late far more often than I would have liked during those weeks. Not because I didn’t plan and prepare, but because preparation was suddenly so different from what it had been. I had no legs to carry me, no stalwart emotions to trust, no strength on which to rely, no alert and ready mind to move me to action. I spent many mornings laid out on the floor, Bible open, in God’s Word and prayer, meditating on all He is and has done. Praying for the sufficiency of His grace in all things. Praying for His legs on which to stand and move forward, His fortitude to stabilize my emotions, His strength to enable in every way, His clarity of mind. The length of time it took me to get off the floor and moving varied, but God never failed to carry me.

Isaiah 40:30-31 says, “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” I have loved this verse since childhood and often pondered just what it means to wait on the Lord. I’ve sometimes thought I had an inkling, but now I understand more fully.

Exhaustion makes us crave rest, but true rest is found only in Jesus. Weakness and pain make us crave strength; but it’s only in seeking His strength that we find ourselves soaring, which really is just knowing that He is accomplishing in and for us all that He wills. He will move us though we can’t move ourselves.

I’ve been to a doctor who discovered an underlying issue. Some solid nights of sleep and more typical, occasional insomnia are returning. Now that my body is learning to rest, I have hope for the day I lose the fatigue. But there’s one thing I don’t want to lose. If I keep just one thing, I’d like it to be the utter reliance on God for every moment. I want to start every day laid out before Him, seeking His everything to work in my nothing. His promises are real, His strength immeasurable, His grace sufficient for my every need. By His grace, I can live with pain, I can live with weakness, I can live without sleep. But I cannot live without Jesus.

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©Erika Rice

Good News for the New Year

Today is the first day in a brand new year. Much will get said about where we go from here, how to move forward, and how to make this year better than the last. Resolutions will be made and people will try harder. They’ll try harder for a better life, a better persona, a better image, better body, better health. So much trying will be going on, or at least so many good intentions. But as we consider how to press on and move forward, I’d like to look back for a moment. Look back a couple years to something I wrote before this blog began. I don’t think this can be said too often. It’s one for this day, the next day, and the day after that. Year after year after year.

GOOD NEWS FOR THE NEW YEAR!

As we begin the new year, there is good news for the broken, hurting, wasted, sick and desolate. And who among us hasn’t been counted in that number? The less-celebrated but more important meaning of the Christmas season, good news in every season, is the birth of one who knows and heals all wounds. A baby born in under-privileged circumstances, living an unremarkable life from his neighbors’ perspective. A baby, once grown, suffering extreme rejection and physical pain, broken. What good is someone like that to me in my pain? This rejected and suffering man was God in the flesh. Not “…unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) “He learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:9) Now we, in our brokenness, can approach God with confidence, “that we may receive mercy and grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16).

Jesus was born, suffered, died to bear our burdens, and lives again in defeat of death, so that we can draw near to God! Psalm 22 says that God has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard when he cried to him. This world will never be free from evil and pain. But there is another world to come, one in which those who see their need for God and trust Him for life will live in perfect unbrokenness. A world and time where tears will not be needed and the only cries of the heart will be praise to the God who has made all things new. Don’t wait for tomorrow, life to become un-messy, or a new year’s resolution to cry to God. Trust Him to forgive your sin and heal your brokenness. He gives new life.

And new life is the only way to start off a new year on the right foot, kneeling before God and moving forward in faith. There’s nothing wrong with setting goals and living intentionally. But all those things are meaningless without the God who directs our steps. You may not get a better body, a better image, or better health, but you will get a brand new heart!

Happy New Year!

 

©Erika Rice

Today, I’m Working on My Heart.

Today, I’m working on my heart. Oh, but that was yesterday, too, and for sure the day before that. I seem to be in an ongoing battle for the consistent joy I desire. Some days its easy to have an attitude of gratitude. Some days simply waking up is enough to start me complaining. As the days shorten, the rain and snow fall intermittent, the dogs bring the dirt and drizzle dripping through the door, shoes litter the entry and pile neglected underfoot, I come to a realization. I have not kept a quiet heart, but find myself living in a place of unrest. I have been ignorant of the level of my discontent until I listen to my own voice time after time, unrelenting in its disapproval. Oh, I can make a very decent list of things I’m thankful for at the end of the day, and I repeat the words “thank you” to my husband and children, with sincerity, many times a day, but know that the peace of a grateful heart is not in me. It’s as if the words are needed as proof of what I’d like to be true.

The Bible describes the Christian life as a race that needs to be run with endurance (Heb. 12:1) and in such a way as to win (1 Cor. 9:24). So I determine that I have been coasting and that is no way to win. I need to pick up the pace and leap this hurdle and finish victorious. I run what feels a frantic pace into a gale force wind that leaves me striving and exhausted but having gained no ground. The only marker I’ve reached is labeled Frustration and Failure. And agitation seems to be all I can muster. I know I need the strength of another, and I think He is the One I’m pursuing. He is the reason I’m running. I keep calling His name and reaching for His hand, but feeling it all lost in the wind. Then suddenly it comes to me, and my falling frame is lifted. I am not running the race to find Him. He is already holding me. (Psalm 63:8 & 73:23). “Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you [God] hold my right hand.” And He says to me, “‘Be still, and know that I am God […]’ The Lord of hosts is with us…” (Psalm 46:10) Just like that the wind has subsided. I am at rest. The race has not ended, but I am no longer running with my legs. Like one who runs and won’t grow weary, I am lifted on the wings that also are my shelter (Isaiah 40:31 & Psalm 91:4). I do not need to frantically strive to overcome my character flaws. It never gets me anywhere. I simply need to ask Christ. Christ is my salvation and my champion. He fights the battle. He runs the race. He carries me in His arms, and someday it will be across the finish line, complete in Him.

This changes everything. I can’t help but be thankful. The attitude of gratitude comes without effort when my eyes are fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith (Heb. 12:2). Tomorrow, I will not be perfect, but I will be forgiven; and my heart will be known by God, who will lead me in the right direction. (Ps. 139:23-24). Tomorrow, by God’s grace, I will rest in His unfailing love and His purpose that He promises to fulfill for me. (Psalm 138:8). Tomorrow, God is working on my heart, just as He has been all along. (Phil. 1:6).

 

©Erika Rice 2015

Remembering my Father

Yesterday was Father’s Day. When I think of fathers, I always think of my own, for obvious reasons. I remember his tenderness, tears, love and prayers. I remember the gentle way he always made it okay to be weak or wounded and needing some consolation, yet never allowed me to indulge in self-pity. I remember the way he diverted my attention from my suffering to better things or told me to pick myself up and start over when I fell or failed. He loved to infuse tense moments with humor and was quick with a smile or hug. He was always willing to listen, offer wisdom where he had it and pray for wisdom where he lacked it. He taught me to pray and search God’s Word for answers.

My father taught me Scripture instead of just telling me what to do. He would give me gentle reminders like these as befit the occasion:

James 1:19-20 “…But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Anger is rarely ever helpful, but being quiet long enough to hear someone else’s side can change everything.

1 John 4:20 – “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” If I insist that I DO love God then I better show it by loving my brother. And what is love?

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” It’s hard not to be rude to the irritating people I live with everyday who can’t see that MY WAY is the BEST WAY…So much for love.

Proverbs 15:1 – “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Little explanation is needed here.

Reminders such as these were words from my Heavenly Father not just my earthly father, both of whom I desired to please. In fact, there’s no one it would pain me more to hurt or disappoint. My longing to please my earthly father was greater because he did not demand that I please him, but urged me to do right and loved me in spite of myself. He loved me as nearly like my Heavenly Father as I imagine possible.

My father was safe, strong, wise and upright. He was trustworthy and compassionate. He desired good for his children and encouraged us. He modeled selflessness, hard work, generosity, hospitality, and love for God, His Word and His people. He never turned away anyone in need.

What I do not remember of my father is a harsh tone or words, anger or abuse. I do not remember him demanding work from me that he was not willing to do by my side. I do not remember him burdening me with loads too heavy for his own shoulders or too distasteful to be done by him.

I know he wasn’t perfect. He’d have been the first to admit it. He was good at recognizing his failings and also good at apologizing. What I know is that when I read in the Bible that God is patient and long-suffering, compassionate and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love (Psalm 86:15, Joel 2:13, Nehemiah 9:17, 2 Peter 3:9), I believe it. I believe it because if an earthly father is capable of such things, how much more so a perfect God? Matthew 7:11 says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

As Father’s Day fades away for another year, I want to remember the example of my father every day, parenting as he did; and even more so because he was the visible picture of my Heavenly Father, the Heavenly Father who tells all His children to be like He is.

Colossians 3:12-14 – “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

 

©Erika Rice 2015

All About the Details

Outside, the snow is heavily falling, and then it’s driving sideways against the house. The wood stove fights a losing battle against the bitter breath of a raging wind forcing its way through cracks we never knew we had. The chill nibbles at my ankles and stiffens my fingers. Not far from the stove and its meager warmth, my youngest son plucks at his banjo strings. I’m seated close to my patient Man About the House as he gently instructs me in a new craft project. Trying to meet his patience with my own, I hear myself saying, “This is a painstakingly detailed project.”

Painstakingly detailed craft projects are the kind from which I run. I’m not sure why I run from them when I eagerly grip teeny artist’s brushes in my paint-stained fingers in order to perfectly edge the corners of my bathroom. I have a penchant for embroiling myself in painstakingly detailed projects, so long as they aren’t considered crafts. Maybe I’ve spent years teaching crafts to children, knowing that I can’t afford to get lost in too many details. Maybe I’m afraid I’ll lose interest before I finish. Maybe I’m reluctant to concentrate on something I think should be entertaining. Maybe I don’t want to clean up the mess when I’ve finally come up for air. Maybe I should stop looking for excuses.

For right now, though, I’m inched up tight to calm, kind and patient himself. The man who never sits still is seated next to me, gently lifting tiny paper pieces with an exacto knife while we laugh at our mistakes and he wonders aloud at his boldness in saying he’d teach me. Let it snow, let it blow, let the fire strive with the cold. Today, I’m all about the details. And days like this don’t happen enough.

 

©Erika Rice 2015

Laundry Closet Lessons

Gone are the days of filling my washing machine by way of 150 feet or more of hose. One hundred and fifty feet of hose stretched out to the old well under the windmill. No automatic shut-off, no temp or volume control.

Gone are the days of becoming distracted while waiting for the machine to fill, only to be called back by the realization that water is silently spilling over to create a lake on my kitchen floor.

Gone are the days of setting a timer to prevent such spillage due to distraction – the days of such distraction that I completely miss the timer.

Gone are the days of moving my washing machine every few days or more to sop up my mess. No one could possibly compete with me for the cleanest laundry room floor, because no one else does this, do they?

I’m reminded of those days as I kneel behind the washer now to clean up the accumulated mess of years. I don’t actually know when the machine was last moved. I’m sure it’s been at least a couple years now since I’ve battled the bulk of it to fit behind. I sometimes look at it and feel a pang of guilty neglect while leaving the unpleasant task for yet another day.

Here I am now, on my knees sweeping up mouse droppings and chasing the whole dust bunny family, needing elbow grease to get to the bottom of the accumulated crud. All this leaves me plenty of time to reflect on the blessing of an overflowing washing machine. I like clean, but sometimes (obviously) I need an outside motivator to make it happen.

Many of those days felt so unproductive. Every attempt to clean up a mess simply created another. Though I was always busy, I often wondered if I’d accomplished anything by the end of the day. But I think a greater work was being accomplished than what I had planned into my day. A work not done by me but in me. It was here in this corner on my knees that the hard work of giving thanks in all circumstances was practiced and the heart of gratitude produced.

I am thankful for that overflowing washer yet content to never again be champion of the cleanest-laundry-closet-floor-competition. Thankful, in fact, to not even be in the running. Who, after all, would move the washer every few days just to scrub underneath it? Not me. This much I have proven since necessity quit calling. I am thankful, too, for the gift of grace that taught joy in the midst of the laundry lint and excess water.

The days of long hoses snaking through to the washer, the days of creating lakes on the kitchen floor, the days of dirt-free laundry closets may well be gone. But the lessons live on.

 

©Erika Rice

Mouse Marketplace

I’ve lived in this house for 12 and 3/4 years. I’ve never had a mouse in my pantry. Ever. I catch a couple every fall in the closet by the dog food bin or under the kitchen sink. The last few years, I’ve seen almost none. I did a battle or two with shrew during that time, but never in the kitchen. Things have changed around here quite dramatically as of late, and not for the better.  The mice have found their way in. It isn’t pretty.

During my recent two week absence, the whole country mouse village has come to market in my pantry cupboard. And they have left their mark. In-the-shell pistachios seem to be a favorite, judging by the hole in the bag and the stash of empty shells filling my oatmeal bin. I don’t want to know how they got the lid off of that one. Some things just shouldn’t even be imagined. Pistachio shells are strewn across shelves, as are the inevitable droppings left by well-fed critters of the night. Chocolate footprints are smeared across dry goods containers and half-eaten cracker packages are left for unsuspecting lunch-packers. No, there’s nothing pretty about it.

I empty the pantry shelves, throw away the remnants of mouse market nights, place an already contaminated bag of pistachios on each shelf, and strategically place traps along the trail of leavings. The mice have obviously been coming through the uncovered electrical outlet (pistachio wedged between box and wall serves as exhibit A). I go to bed and hope for full traps in the morning. Awake in the night, I inwardly raise a triumphant cheer at the sound of mouse clattering and chattering. These critters are silent and stealthy unless trapped. Imagine my rejoicing this morning on discovering two full traps, bringing the count to 3 mice who will no longer feed in my storehouse. But as I was still basking in the glory of my victory, a friend sent me this heart-tugging video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vXMf_OGmbk

I sniff. And then giggle. I have only two thoughts: Good thing I don’t keep cheese in my pantry, and I’m so glad I use sticky traps!

I am not cruel. I let mice live in the out-of-doors, happy to find them in a cats paw now and then, I admit. But after 12 and 3/4 years, I’m a bit set in my ways. I’d like my pantry to belong to me, to reach in for some rice or nuts without fear they’ve been nabbed out from under me. I refuse to let mice carry on in my oatmeal. I’m determined to reverse this change-for-the-worse, and bring back the pretty to my pantry.

 

©2014 Erika Rice