The holidays are coming, and for as far back as I can remember, the holidays have always started on November 12th, Mother’s birthday. When I was little, this day started the festive season with a bang, so much fun and festive-ness. It was wonderful.
Now, instead of starting the holiday season with joy, it starts with darkness.
This year we are spending the holidays with Father’s parents, Grandma and Grandpa Miles, in England. They live in an old house out in the English country. I call it The English Farm House, but they call it The Cottage. Either way it is beautiful. It has a huge garden with growing things everywhere! Though, right now many of the trees are leafless and twiggy.
None of the relatives are here yet. It’s just Father and I, Grandma and Grandpa.
When I wrote the above, I was going to bed and it wasn’t the 12th yet, but I can’t sleep…
It is about 1 am right now. Officially her birthday. I went to bed at about 9, but I just lay there, thinking of her. Her eyes. Her smile. Her necklace with the gold heart and the tiniest of diamonds resting in the middle of it. I wear it everyday, so I will never forget her.
I will never forget her. She’s Mother.
But I realized, as I was laying in bed, that there are things about her that I am forgetting.
What did her voice sound like? What did her arms feel like when she hugged me? How tall was she again? What was her favorite Christmas song? What did her singing voice sound like?
I don’t cry often anymore, but that’s when I cried.
I’m starting to forget details.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, I was only 6. There are so many things you think to remember when you are 6. There are so many other things you wish you had asked. There are so many morethings you can remember now, that you were too little to remember at 6.
I am so filled with darkness. It’s not sadness really, it’s more like emptiness, like a room you used to go into all the time is now dark and unused. It’s been four years. So the really deep sad feeling is more numb now. But there is still darkness. Father feels that darkness too, I think. He won’t talk about it though.
Tomorrow morning is the morning I will not see him. He will spend it in his room. He will lay in his bed, covers pulled up to his scruffy chin (he’s growing out his beard), and just lay there. Eyes closed. If he opens his eyes, he will cry. He’s too British for that.
Grandma will bring breakfast and coffee to his room, and sit with him. She will not say anything. Everything has been said, but she says, “He should not be alone”. So, she will sit with him until he gets up. She will stay with him all day if need be.
I will not go sit with him, the darkness gets too dark when we look at each other.
Now I am alone, downstairs on the couch with the quilt off my bed, writing in my diary.
Grandpa found me last night on the couch. He made me hot chocolate. He said that dark days are okay to have, as long as we don’t spend them alone. Alone, the darkness will swallow us up. Alone, the cold living room would have swallowed me without Grandpa there, and the hot chocolate. He started the fire and sat with me until I fell asleep. I woke this morning still on the couch, Grandpa was still with me, asleep in his easy chair.
We had breakfast together, just Grandpa and I. He told me to get dressed, and we’ll get out of the house for a little while. There’s some sun coming through the clouds today, and he said a lamb was born a few days ago. I’d like to see the lamb, and the walk in the sun with Grandpa will be good.
Dark days need people, sunshine, good food, and love. Lots of love.
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a bit drained these days. Turns out, even introverts need people!
My husband is home, and thankfully is still working. It’s a tricky situation in our little house, but we have found a sort of groove with it, and the kids have adapted. What has been the hardest is being home, inside, and away from family. It’s especially hard on my kids, which breaks my heart.
This new isn’t normal. This will change, but we don’t know when, and man can these days feel long. So, what do we do?
Fill up! and fill up with truth.
Here’s what I’m doing to help fill me up, and maybe it will inspire you to fill up too: (the first one daily, but the others are scattered throughout the week pretty much)
Bible – There is no way I, or you, or anyone on the planet who can make it through life, much less through stress, suffering, change, hurt, brokenness, without God’s Word. (I’m currently reading through Exodus, and seeing how God provided for his people is amazing, even through the law!)
Sufficient Hope: Meditations and Prayers for Moms by Christina Fox – Having a solid, bible central devotion has helped me immensely. This book is perfect because it’s relatively short, full of scripture, has questions at the end, and has a prayer written out at the end of each little chapter. The prayers are my favorite, because they are so solid, often praying the words of scripture, and give me words to pray when I’m out.
Friend-ish: Reclaiming Real Friendship in a Culture of Confusionby Kelly Needham – Maybe an odd choice for being secluded away from friends, but man has this time also revealed some of the idols that have crept up in my heart, especially in the area of friendship. This has been a very convicting, and comforting book always pointing to the truth.
Risen Motherhood Podcast – Hands down, my favorite podcast. No matter what, these ladies are always pointing to the truth of the gospel, from make up, to marriage, to parenting, and everything in between that falls into the realm of motherhood. Go listen. So good. The resources page on their website is also fantastic.
Journey Women Podcast – In the same idea and purpose as Risen Motherhood, but aimed at young(er) women. Topic and interviews to encourage and point women to God in our journey through life.
Foundations Podcast with Ruth and Troy Simons – This is centered on biblical parenting, and I have just started listening to this with my family (husband and kids).
Biblicaltraining.org – I’ve listened to a few good classes and seminars for free on this site. I love learning and this free resource is great for that. They also have some certificates you can earn (these are not free).
“Marks of a Healthy Church”, teaching series by Ligonier Ministries – This has been a balm to my soul, though I’m missing my church soooooo much right now, I’m enjoying this series about church. Ligonier Ministries also has a ton of other free teaching series, and other resources too.
Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones – This is what I have been reading to my children everyday at lunch time, and they remind me when I miss! They are into this routine of ours. Their little hearts are anxious and scared in this time too, recounting promises, hope, and truth of Jesus is just what they need now, and all the time! It helps Mommy’s heart too 🙂
There you have it! I’m also reading some fiction for book club, an audio book for fun, and have at least three more books I’ve started, and set down for now. Trying to be better about finishing what I begin. 🙂 What are you filling up with?
It has been a busy month! Father and I first arrived at the Blasi family’s vineyard the second week in October, and now there is only one week left in November. We are leaving in just two days. We have been here a while, and I want to write some things down so I remember them. Father says that’s what a journal is for, so here we go.
On Wednesday morning, Mami, Mrs. Blasi, baby Leo, and I all head to the local market for the weekly shopping. The nearby town is about a 20 minutes drive, the Blasi’s are pretty well out in the country. Mrs. Blasi spent the drive there talking nervously with Mami about what happens when the roads have snow on them. I entertained baby Leo so he wouldn’t cry the whole time, he’s not a big fan of car rides.
Of all the things I have done in Switzerland, going to the market is my favorite. All the stalls, smells, people, fresh things, it’s wonderful. My favorite stall at the market is the honey stall. All those golden jars of deliciousness (Father says that’s not a word, but it is accurate). Because it’s a market, the honey is not mass produced (meaning, made for lots and lots of people in a factory style way), but made by one local person in small batches. This honey stall has jars of honey from several people actually from several of the local towns. The owner of the stall says that she and another lady have a partnership with a group of local beekeepers. This is how it works: The different beekeepers have their own hives, own bees, own flowers for the bees, own jars and labels, but they sell them together at one stall. The owner says that this group all started because her husband used to keep bees, and travel to all the local markets to sell the honey. It was a full-time job! She actually doesn’t know anything about beekeeping, and really never enjoyed it like her husband did, but she loves honey. When her husband died, there was no one to keep the bees, or to collect the honey. She says using up that last jar of honey was like losing her husband all over again, and she couldn’t stand it. So! In honor of her husband she organized a local beekeeping group, and she and her friend gather the jars from the different keepers, and sell them at the markets, so the keepers can stay focused on just one side of the process. I have three jars of honey ready to go in my case. I love honey.
Mami says it’s too bad I’ll miss the Christmas market, because it’s even better. Fresh baked sweets, gingerbread, steaming mugs of hot drinks for the cold nights, the twinkling lights, the decorations, ah! The way Mami describes it! I wish we were staying for Christmas just so I could visit the Christmas Market, even just once. But, as Father says, “We have a previous engagement” (meaning, something you have promised to do).
One Saturday, a few weeks ago, Mr. and Mrs. Blasi, Gabriel, Laura, baby Leo, and Father and I all went into town for a fun time and a special lunch. We had so much fun! The car ride was the funniest, because we didn’t exactly fit in the car. The Blasi’s have a larger car, but there were still not enough seats for us all. Laura and I sat on the floor on Mrs. Blasi, and Gabriel’s feet, and baby Leo kept throwing his toys on our heads and squealing with laughter. Father and Mr. Blasi were in the front seats with their knees nearly at their shoulders, because they had shifted the seats forward as far as they could. Both Father and Mr. Blasi are about 6 feet tall!
After lunch in town, which was amazing, we wandered around looking in the shop windows. Laura and I loved this, though she kept moving on too quickly. I saw the most beautiful necklace in the window of one shop! It was silver with a little pendant in the shape of Switzerland, and a heart cut out of the shape. There was a little card next to the necklace, and Laura translated it for me. It said, “My heart is in Switzerland” It was too much money for me to buy, since I have already spent so much on delicious honey. Then, we got some ice cream and sweets and headed home. When Laura and I went upstairs to go to bed that night, Gabriel was waiting at the door, with something behind his back. It was the necklace! I was so excited, I kissed his cheek. His face turned bright red, and he muttered something in Italian, then went to his room. Laura laughed until she almost fell off her bed.
So many more things have happened this month, but, like I said, it’s been very busy! I really just want to remember these two things and the feeling of being with the Blasi family. I like being with them, I like their vineyard, I like their home.
But, Father and I leave in a couple days. We are heading to England, to spend the holidays with Father’s side of our family.
I’m excited for it, but I’m sad to leave my Swiss family.
When Laura and Gabriel are at school, Father and Mr. Blasi are busy with the vineyard business, Mrs. Blasi is fussing with baby Leo, he’s teething and has been so cranky! I go and talk with Papi and Mami. They may be Laura and Gabriel’s grandparents, but they insist that since Father and I are such good friends of the family I should call them Mami and Papi too. They say they are my Swiss grandparents.
Mami says she likes to keep herself busy by helping around the house. Usually this means, walking around the house, straightening things, sweeping floors, dusting things with her hankie, and carrying food on trays to Papi in his bed. Sometimes she is very wobbly, and I carry the tray for her. Whenever I go into Papi’s room, he asks me to fluff his pillows, sit with him a little while, and read to him. Mami usually feeds him while I read. Mami assures me that Papi knows me, but he never remembers my name.
Papi always has me read the same book to him, HuckleberryFinn. He says it’s his favorite English book. I never finish it, but he doesn’t remember me reading it to him before, so I just end up reading the same part to him over and over again. Papi always falls asleep after he eats, while I’m still reading to him. Mami says Papi is forgetting because he is old, but she is just as old as he is and she can remember lots of things! I think there may be something wrong with Papi. It makes me sad because he’s still so sweet and kind.
Yesterday, Papi was not his normal self. He was very grumpy and it took him a long time to fall asleep. He kept wanting his pillows fluffed, and he would keep mumbling things in German and Italian. Mami just smiled at him and did whatever he wanted so he would be most comfortable. I actually got through four chapters that day. Just as he was falling asleep, though, he looked over at Mami and asked, “Who are you?” She cried.
I left. I didn’t know what to do, I still don’t. Father says sometimes these things happen to old people, they forget. Even the people they love most.
When I was getting ready for bed on yesterday, Mami knocked on the door of the room Laura and I are sharing. She came in and sat on my bed for a while. She said she wanted to explain why Papi’s questioned made her cry (she is a pretty serious woman, so seeing her cry was really weird).
Mami told me their story: “Who are you?” was the first thing Papi ever said to her.
Mami is from Italy, but she moved to Switzerland to get away from the bad things (she didn’t tell me what they were, just that there were bad things happening in Italy back then). She had just started working at a bakery in town and one day Papi came in. It’s a small town, so it was easy to see she was a new worker. Mami said Papi was trying to be flirty (I had to ask what that meant), but she said “I wouldn’t have any of it, I was working after all”. But when she got off work that first day, he was waiting for her. He waited for her after work everyday for three months before she finally agreed to go on a date with him. I guess Mami was serious even back in those days.
Papi wanted to impress her, but his father only owned a small farm so he didn’t have much money. Their first date was a picnic! Mami said she was shocked that this is what she had waited three months for, but Papi made her laugh so much that by the end of the picnic she didn’t really care. Mami says on that very first picnic date, Papi told her that he would marry her someday. She didn’t believe him. “Things just don’t work out the way you plan sometimes,” she told me.
Papi was determined as a young man. A year later they were married.
Mami said they didn’t have a lot of money at first. She was still working at the bakery, though now she was actually helping to bake the breads, and not just sell them. Papi was working on his father’s farm, but the farm wasn’t doing well. It was Papi’s idea to turn the farm into a vineyard, because Mami had told him all about the vineyard she had grown up on in Italy, and Papi was inspired.
Mami said that she had laughed at this as a silly idea! But Papi convinced her, and they started the vineyard. It was so much harder than they thought, they almost went bankrupt (I think that means they almost lost everything and were homeless). Finally, everything started working out, and by that time they three kids, Mr. Blasi’s three older siblings. Mami said that Papi had a way of always making sure things worked out alright, even if it wasn’t always in the way they had originally planned. He would make it work. This made her smile when she said it.
Papi built more rooms for their house, it used to only have two bedrooms, now it has five. Mami said it took him ten years to make the house what it is now (and it’s beautiful now)! Mami put in the gardens in the front yard, all the flowers and bushes; and in the backyard, all the veggies and herbs. When Papi finally finished the house, Mami found out she was pregnant one last time, with Mr. Blasi! He is ten years younger than his closest sibling (a sister, but I don’t know her name). Mami patted my knee and said, “I am so happy to have children in her house again.”
Then, Mami showed me her wedding ring. Her hands hurt her now, so she doesn’t wear it on her finger, but on a necklace. It doesn’t have a diamond on it. It’s just a gold band. She says that’s all Papi could afford back in those days, but for their 35th wedding anniversary, Papi took it to a jeweler to have it engraved on the inside with the words “My Forever Love” in Italian (I can’t read it, but Mami told me what it says). She laughs when she sees it because Papi’s Italian was never very good and one of the words is spelled incorrectly. He also had the outside of the ring etched, which is like engraving, I think. It kind of looks the same as the engraved things I saw in Venice. The outside of the ring has hearts for each one of her children, and in the middle are two hearts that are connected, for she and Papi. It really is beautiful, and I told her I love it.
She kissed me goodnight and left singing a song in German, swaying back and forth.
I’ve seen Mother’s wedding ring, Father has it saved for me, it is engraved too, but I don’t know what it says. I don’t ask to see it because it makes him sad, but one day Father says it will be mine to save, and then I will read it. For now, I wait.
I dreamed about Mami and Papi being young again, smiling at each other, with all their kids in their home, dancing to that song Mami sang as she left my room. I dreamed about golden rings on young hands, and old hands. About tears and laughter. About weddings, and baby cradles, and old Papi in his bed with his worn, red quilt. I dreamed about Mother. About her smile. About Father laughing with her. About Mother singing. About her laying in her bed, with her light purple quilt. About the machines buzzing around her bed. About Father crying.
I woke up from my dream this morning, before the sun. I was crying. I didn’t want to wake up Laura, since we are sharing a room, so I went downstairs with my journal to the couch in the living room. I’ve been writing for a while now. Mr. and Mrs. Blasi is here now. I think they know I was upset. Mr. Blasi is going to carry me out to the field with some blankets, and we are going to watch the sunrise, while Mrs. Blasi gets some breakfast going.
Schedules and routine are glorious things. When I was a new mom, I followed a sleep training schedule just to keep me sane (postpartum emotions are no joke). Second baby came 15 months after the first, and getting my babies to sleep at the same time was my end-all-be-all goal. Now, with three children ages 4.5 years, 3 years, and 16 months, schedules have been an vital part of our home for just about 5 years!
Schedules = sanity
Or do they?
For all of my motherhood, I have searched for peace and security in schedules. Yet, I still battle with anxiety (the kind where you just sit alone and cry for no reason, or can’t find it in you to get off the couch or even out of bed).
There is only one place where we can find peace, security, sanity, purpose, and all the other things we really are looking for in our ideal schedule. That place, is actually a person, it’s Jesus.
Jesus is the source of lasting peace. Jesus is the anchor for our fluctuating emotions and circumstances. Jesus is the only cause for life-long and minute-by-minute purpose.
Schedules are good and often very helpful, they are fantastic guidelines, and give us (and our kids) things to look forward to. However, helpful tools were never meant to calm our souls, give us disaster-proof security, or motivate us with an all encompassing purpose that would fill every moment of our days and last our entire lives. Nothing on this earth can do that, only God can.
The book of Romans has a lot to say about peace, where it comes from, and where it does not come from. Let’s take a look at a few verses:
“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
True, lasting, unwavering peace comes when our trust is in Jesus alone. Why? Because unlike every other thing in the universe, including ourselves, he is unchanging. Peace founded in Jesus Christ because no matter what we go through no matter our circumstances, our emotions, our relationships, our mistakes, our health, any of it, he remains steadfast. He is our peace.
No matter what faces you today, tomorrow, ten years from now! God remains faithfully the same. We can rest secure in that.