You make me happier than a bountiful tomato harvest!
{a paraphrase of Psalm 4}

A rockin' one-day tomato harvest in 2008

As always, I am enjoying the newest bible study from Do Not Depart. The current study is called Run2Him and is based on the Psalms. Last week's topic was "I Cry Out Because He Hears" and was based on Psalm 4.

As part of my reflection on the Psalm, I tried something new, and found it fruitful. I wrote it out in my own words, a paraphrase of sorts. Yesterday at our morning family bible time, my husband read Psalm 4 to us all, then I shared my paraphrase. He thought I should share it with you all, so here it is (remember this is not ME speaking, but the psalmist, lest you think I am boasting about good behavior)...

Psalm 4
Patti's paraphrase

(1) Please listen to me God, because you have before!

(2) People around me, when will you shape up? My good behavior makes you look bad! When are you going to stop loving worthless things and trying deceive?

(3) God has set apart godly people for Himself, and He hears me when I call Him.

(4) You should be afraid! Don't sin! Lie on your bed, silent and still, and think long and hard about your heart.

(5) Offer PROPER sacrifices, and trust in the Lord.

(6) Many are asking who will show them even a little bit of good. Lord, please look at us with your light-filled face.

(7) You have put gladness in my heart, God... YOU! Even more than when the harvest is amazing and there is an abundance of food and wine.

(8) I will lie down and go to sleep peacefully because You, and only You, make me dwell in safety.

Kind of makes me wonder if this is how Eugene Patterson wrote The Message.  :-)

Babies Are the Sweetest Interruption of All

I thought I knew what I was going to do last week.

I had planned a typical week of chores, homeschooling, some writing, and a day of fire relief work, plus a few special meals with my dear aunt who was visiting the area from Boston.

... you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow...
James 4:14

I did not know I would be a goat mama.

My husband came in from chores, a week ago Monday, with a cardboard box, and in that box were two shivering, weak baby goats.

Thus began my ongoing stint as a goat mama, a nanny I suppose you could say.

I filled my tub with pine shavings.

I turned up the heat.

I treated wounds.

I cut umbilical cords.

I researched.

I mixed bottles.

I fed (and snapped pictures while children fed.)

I buried.

I watched a real goat mama, bereaved of her own babies, take interest in the surviving kid as I brought him to bottle feed in the fields.

I watched her come to consider Nibbles - named for his propensity for nibbling the tub faucet - her very own.

And the day little Nibbles got a real mama, Tiny became my new ward.

Eleven days into being a nanny and my plans have become... feed the goat, homeschool, feed the goat, do chores, feed the goat, make dinner, feed the goat. The children like to take a feeding or two, so it really isn't hard at all. We look forward to it. A sweet interruption.

We are hoping that one of the expectant mamas will adopt Tiny when her babies come, but for now, he drinks from a bottle.

And Nibbles is healthy and happy and growing like a goat kid should.

Lessons From the Knitting Chair ~ Sometimes You Just Need to Tink

About eight months into my journey of finally-really-knitting I started thinking about Christmas. Oh the socks I would knit, oh the hats I would create!

So I picked a lace scarf pattern for my sister-in-law and got to work.

Yes, you read that right. A lace pattern. Because I did not have enough time to finish the socks and hats I had already planned. Why not add more?

We've already discussed how lace is not for beginners. Here's the thing: lace is not difficult, per se. It's just that it require focus. As in every stitch focus. You have to know not only what row you are on but which stitch. Or. Else. 

Ever tried to focus with a toddler around?

But I was determined to knit. After a rotten start on the scarf (I seem to recall I had to start from scratch twice) I decided that I had one rule and one rule only.

Don't give up. 

I can assure you that this did not mean don't mess up. Because I did.  A lot. But I didn't give up. And the way I managed to finish that scarf despite all my errors was by tinking.

What is tinking? How do you k-n-i-t backwards? You t-i-n-k!

When I discovered a mistake, I would painstakingly undo each stitch one by one, not by pulling it out, but by knitting (or purling or yarn-overing) backwards. Whenever the pattern looked normal again I would resume knitting normally.

I still tink when it comes to lace, but now I see my mistakes much faster. 

Lace washcloth needing a good tinking

Isn't tinking kind of like life with kids?

We go along and have our little routines, then bump! something is just not working. The pattern is not looking right, but you're not really sure what went wrong.

Usually this is because somebody has grown and changed and needs something different. All of a sudden you're looking at a big hole in your family's life pattern where one does not belong. So you tink. You back out of that misstep and find the thing that works for right now.

All better!

As a homeschooling mom I feel like I get a double dose of this. Not only am I undoing and redoing parenting stuff (oh look, child #2 is old enough to cook... time to change the chore chart!), I am also constantly looking for dropped stitches in each child's educational plan (good grief, this child needs more handwriting practice!)

It's not exactly like tinking, I know, because life's daily pattern is meant to change as time passes. But if the overall goal is a pattern of peace and life-giving in a family, it's not all that different.

All done!

 The bottom line is don't give up.

The scarf that taught me not to give up

Something beautiful is bound to come of it all.

The Inevitable New Year's Decluttering Urge

Our silverware drawer is right underneath the spot on the counter where our coffee maker and grinder live. Because of this (as well as scientific mysteries I am not smart enough to solve) the utensil drawer and organizer seem to be the favored place for miniature rockies of grounds and crumbs to appear.

These little mounds multiply practically overnight, and recently led our eldest, not exactly the most tidy person in the house, to declare, "Based on the state of this drawer, I am starting to wonder if any of these utensils are even clean!"

Well that will stop a mama in her tracks!

If I had been grumpy, I might have mumbled something about how those who find problems ought to fix them, but I was of a cheery disposition, agreed heartily, and immediately divested the drawer of its contents.

I scrubbed the drawer, scrubbed the sorter, tossed a bunch of broken plastic utensils that we never use, rewashed a few rarely used but beloved bits and pieces, and found myself ecstatic.

Cheerful to ecstatic.  Not bad for 20 minutes of work.

Now when I open my drawer I see this:

Okay, you might be thinking, but the silverware isn't in perfect stacks and wait, aren't those multiple styles of cutlery all mingled? Yes, all of this is true, and no, we will never get into Better Homes and Gardens.  But today we might get into Cleaner Drawers For Your Personal Satisfaction. A fine magazine, at least in my dreams.

When I look at this drawer I see nothing floating around randomly out of the organizer, no crumbs or coffee grounds, and an ability to lay my hands on exactly what I want instantly. <ahhhh>

It's the little things, people.

On the decluttering urge, I have been trying valiantly (and admittedly in spurts) to follow the decluttering calendar from My Simpler Life. It is really taking the brain work out of where on earth do I start in this cavern of stuff?

I have been doing pretty well, although some days I do two days of the assignments.

Have you been consumed by the inevitable New Year's decluttering urge too?

Lessons from the Knitting Chair ~ Love is More Powerful Than Perfection

When I was hugely pregnant with The Princess (and I mean hugely), a sweet friend sat next to my massive form on the couch one afternoon, handed me two wooden needles and a ball of yarn, and taught me how to knit.

Being slow to warm up to projects of a creative nature (ahem), I immediately decided to knit a blanket. I wish I could blame it on pregnancy hormones, but this is a handicap that afflicts me regularly... if I can do it in miniature I get the wild idea that I can do it on a grand scale.

So I waddled off to the local craft shop, bought the only 100% cotton I could find, along with some hideous aluminum needles, and set to work. Naturally I picked a lace project.

If you don't know anything about knitting, let's just say that starting with lace is kind of like starting school by going to Harvard.  Who cares about kindergarten when you can go straight to college!

I did not finish that lace blanket in time for the baby's birth. It sat in my closet while I nursed and rocked, and homeschooled our oldest. Then my husband started traveling for his job. Then we moved. To a farm. And had another baby. And on and on like this... for six years we did things that required my hands and that made me hesitate to pull out the blanket. Note that perfectionism had nothing to do with my hesitation. Nothing at all.

But one day, I felt that blanket calling to me, and I decided that by sheer force of will I was going to finish it. Not only finish it, but finish it with a simplified pattern and with all the mistakes left unfixed.

This was huge.

Leaving mistakes is not natural for me. I do not like mistakes. I accept that they are going to happen, but I try to remedy them, not leave them intact.

My new goal had become to finish, not to perfect.

So on a March evening in 2008, I finally finished the blanket for my six year old baby.

I was utterly shocked when she swooned over it. I mean swooned. She gushed and oohed and aahed and made me feel like the best mama on the planet.

And when we evacuated because of the fire last September, it was one of the things she wanted to have with her.

Apparently my daughter understood that while I was knitting holes where they didn't belong and dropping stitches with that cotton yarn, I was also carrying a strand of love with each dip and twist of the needles.

If I hadn't embraced the mistakes and forged ahead, there would still be a pile of unfinished yarn in my closet.

If I hadn't just gone forward without regret, my Princess wouldn't have her treasured blanket.

Love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

All of messy muddled up me was in those loops of yarn and that was enough for my girl. Holes and all.

The Curious Case of Overwhelmed Paralysis Syndrome

A new condition has recently been discovered in which the sufferer breaks down in a most unusual way. Generally brought on by oodles-to-do and perfectionism, the patient simply ceases functioning as a reasonable adult.

Symptoms include to-do lists littered about the house, piles of materials for unfinished projects, anxiety when speaking to people whose phone calls and emails have not been returned, and lots of time frittered away on useless pursuits. One alarming aspect of this condition is the tendency for the patient to add several new major projects to her to-do list daily, regardless of the fact that there is not enough time for her to accomplish those already on her list.

The patient finds it difficult to sleep, consumes too much caffeine, and asks for forgiveness regularly. She also is prone to making ridiculous faces.

Curiously, the patient tends to neglect first the things she cares about most. Thankfully this does not include people.
A recent study undertaken in my very own home has shown that this condition is self-replicating. The less the patient does to manage her spinning-out-of-control life, the more overwhelmed she becomes. During the study the patient was heard to say "The state of my house is directly correlated to the state of my mind. And where are my keys?"

A telling moment in the study was when it was discovered that the patient planned to hand-knit five hats, one flower, one pair of socks and a washcloth. In six days. One of which was Christmas.

The only way to cure Overwhelmed Paralysis Syndrome is to make a clean break. In dire cases the patient must relocate, even if temporarily.

I am happy to report that in the case of the study undertaken in my home, a six day vacation was more than enough to reset the patient's brain. Post-vacation she reported the following:

"I am so glad we went away. If we had stayed home I would have continued to work, yet feel like I was accomplishing nothing. When we came back I felt like myself again, like I could think. I felt motivated and ready to get things back in order and back to normal."

Due to the fragile nature of the patient's condition and her ongoing recovery, no one pointed out that there is no such thing as "normal." And no one laughed at her too-big hand-knitted hat, too-small hand-knitted hat or very lacy hand-knitted washcloth.
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