The secret of contentment can’t be in wiping noses, can it?

It’s the winter of my discontent. Poetic language is sometimes lost on me, so I’ve always thought there’s something about winter that makes a person discontented. For some reason, I dwell on all the things I want or don’t have more in the cold, snowy, dreary months of winter.

This winter, my discontent includes:

  • our house
  • our income
  • being a stay-at-home mom
  • my husband
  • the present
  • the future
  • church
  • seminary

And those are just the things that come to mind immediately. I know I’ve dwelt on other areas recently. Earlier this week, I was convinced I was not cut out for motherhood and God had no use for me in His kingdom. The reason? I’ve spent the better part of the last week battling illness (in myself) and wiping the children’s noses. This latter activity brings me no fulfillment whatsoever. So, I began to wonder, what use I could possibly be to the kingdom of God while wiping noses every couple of minutes. My heart longs for greater things; my mind has dreams of glory.

Somewhere inside me, I know that motherhood is a blessed gift, the HIGHEST calling maybe, but in this instant-gratification, microwave dinner world, the payoff of parenting is like slow roasting a turkey. I feel like I have to wait years before I’ll see any reward from this gig. I used to work in newspapers. The results of my labors were daily. Motherhood seems to be the same thing, day in, day out.

That’s not exactly fair. Our days are not boring by any means, but sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who experiences the madness, and what good is that to anyone else?

The apostle Paul said he had learned the secret of being content, and people usually follow that with his statement, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” So Christ is the secret to contentment, but how does that live itself out in my world? I know I ought to be content, but I’m not really sure how to get there. When I find myself wanting to be content, I discover something else with which I’m discontented.

And I’m a little afraid I’m going to spend my whole life like this — wanting what I can’t have or don’t have, wishing for another season of life, wondering why I’m not OK with life as it is instead of longing for life as I wish it was.

What are your secrets to contentment? How do you live with your life as it is while still hoping for better things to come?

Yesterday, three auction trucks pulled up in front of the house across the street. Our neighbor had been sick for a few weeks then was moved to an assisted living facility. Her family, it seems, had been through the house. What was left was left to the auction company to haul away.

Two trucks of stuff. One truck of garbage. A person’s whole life, as it were, all her possessions, gone in a day. Someone else determined what was important enough to keep, what could be sold and what should be thrown away.

Watching the process was sad, in a way, even though I didn’t know our neighbor at all. But it reminded me how quickly life passes, how easily “stuff” comes into our life and leaves it.

I’m trying to start this process myself in our house. One of my areas of discontentment is the size of our house compared to the amount of “stuff” we have. It’s not the house, really, that’s the problem; it’s our accumulation of things. I’ve begun boxing up things we aren’t using right now. I’ve started a give away bag. I’ve bagged up newspapers and magazines to recycle.

I’m not convinced it will solve my discontentment, but it’s a start.

When Shakespeare wrote the “winter of discontent” line, he meant that discontent was dying. I get it now. And I’m hoping that this really is the winter of my discontent.


Chutes and Ladders was more fun when I was the kid

Our daughter is a few months from turning the magic age. Three, it seems, is to children what 16 is to teenagers and 21 is to college students. Worlds of possibility open at the age of 3.

Take, for instance, the Happy Meal. She will soon be eligible for the regular, not the under 3, toy every time. And we won’t feel guilty for giving her toys and books that say, “Small parts, not for children under 3.”

Perhaps most exciting is the entrance into the realm of board games. I grew up in a board game family. Some of my best memories are nights spent playing Monopoly with my grandparents or Taboo at Thanksgiving or Guesstures at Christmas. We’ve been reluctant to buy any kid-friendly board games because, while we think she’s brilliant (what parent doesn’t think their kid is a genius?), even we could recognize that she needed to be of a certain age before we attempted game play.

So, for Christmas, she received Chutes and Ladders. This week, especially, while her brother naps, she’s been asking to play it. She likes the fun pictures of the kids.

Here’s how one of our games tends to go:

I explain the rules to her.

She dances her game piece across the board.

I tell her she needs to spin.

She spins, then stops it with her fingers.

 I tell her to spin and let go.

She spins.

 I move her game piece to the correct spot.

She whines, “But Mommy, I want to go to the movies!” (one of the spots in the middle of the game board, at the top of a ladder is of a girl going to the movies).

I explain that she has to work her way up to that square.

She gets quiet.

 I spin and move my piece.

She moves her piece to the middle of the board without spinning.

I swallow the urge to walk away from the game.

I explain the rules again.

She says she wants to go ice skating (another of the spots on the board).

I explain that the ice skating square is a bad one because it makes you go back toward the beginning.

You get the idea, I hope. I suspected this might be a problem for me earlier in the week when she was playing with her vTech laptop, too. I don’t know the age recommendation for that, but I’m pretty sure she’s at least a year too young for it. All she wants to do is push the buttons and click the mouse with no regard for the rules. I want her to learn, but most of the time I just want to grab the mouse and play the games for her.

I’m a rule-follower. I like precision and doing things the “right” way. Sometimes, I can’t even color with her because I want to color the characters the way they’re “supposed” to be. (Are Dora’s shorts red? What color are Boots’ ears? Is Spongebob all yellow? These are the pressing questions in my life.)

Then I remember that I don’t do things right all the time. I don’t always follow the rules. I’ve messed up. I’ve made mistakes. Sometimes God has stepped in to stop me from doing wrong. Other times, He let me make a mistake and learn from it. And I realize how much love there is in that non-action. And how incredibly difficult it must be.

I don’t want my kids to make mistakes, especially the grievous, hurtful kind that can change a life forever. But I also know that I can’t do everything for them in life. That some things they’ll have to learn on their own. And sometimes they’re going to do things the wrong way, and I’m going to have to watch them do it, learn from it and grow from it.

For now, that means loosening up a little while playing games. So what if she doesn’t follow the rules? She’s not even 3 yet. She will learn in time.

And maybe, if I chill out a little bit, she’ll even WANT me to teach her.

A winter outing (or why I may not leave the house again until March)

It started out as a good idea. Well, maybe even that’s a stretch. How many ideas from the mouth of an almost-three-year-old can truly be called “good”?

Two active children and winter, I’ve found, don’t mix well. Or maybe they don’t mix well because I’m more an indoor, sit on the couch and read type of winter person than say, head out and enjoy the snow kind of person. I like being outside. I don’t like the idea of putting 2 or 3 layers of clothing on 3 people, two of whom are running away from me while I’m trying to outfit them in winter attire.

This day, though, I almost had no choice. We had colored a picture for MeeMaw, for her birthday, and even though it was Saturday and her birthday was Monday, Isabelle, the 3-year-old, WOULD NOT REST until said picture was in the mailbox. Any attempt to explain to her that putting the letter in the mailbox Saturday was just like putting it in the box on Monday was futile. “NO. We HAVE to put it in the mailbox.” I might add that vehicle transportation was not an option as my husband was at work and wouldn’t be home till after dark.

So, I ventured into the unknown, a little fearfully, a little confidently. Certainly I could dress two children for an outdoor excursion a block and a half away, in winter, accomplish our mission and live to tell about it. I mean, it’s not like I was taking them on an Antarctic expedition.

Because it had snowed, I opted to dress Corban in his snow pants so he wouldn’t have to sit in snow in the wagon. If you have ever seen “A Christmas Story” you might guess what’s coming next. As I was outfitting his sister for the ride/walk, he fell flat on his face. If he wasn’t crying his little eyes out, I might have laughed. Isabelle wasn’t yet dressed, so I had to find a way to prop Corban up against me as I finished her weatherfitting. In my haste, I couldn’t make her snow boots fasten across her pantleg, so one boot was loosely secured on her foot.

Snowpants and jackets on, it was time for gloves and hats. Usually this isn’t a problem. Hats and gloves stay with the coats the kids usually wear, but since they were wearing their winter coats, I had to search for the other snow accessories. And for the life of me, I could not find two matching mittens for Corban. By this time I was flustered and rushed yet committed to the mailbox mission, so I grabbed the first two Corban-sized gloves I could find.

We made it out the door and remarkably, I strapped Corban into the wagon only to discover that the two mismatched mittens I’d found for Corban were both lefts. But we were already out of the house, so there was no turning back. Isabelle had decided to walk at least some of the way to the mailbox. She has a tendency to pick up on moods, so as we set out on our journey, she shuffled along muttering, “I’m sorry. I just want my Dad.” Could any other set of words break a mother’s heart like those did? I asked her why she wanted her Dad. “Because he would fix my boot,” she said.

Then and there, my attitude flipped. I apologized to Isabelle for being hyper and frustrated.

We were cold, but we accomplished what we set out to do. Corban sat sort of chill in the wagon, and Isabelle kept up with us as she walked. And MeeMaw received her picture, at least the week of her birthday.

Determination is an admirable quality, but I hope she saves these wild ideas for spring. I’m not sure I can handle many more winter outings like this.

Then again, cabin fever is the pits, too.

I’m learning to laugh about stuff like this. If I don’t, it’s going to be a VERY long winter.

The difference a day makes

I’m one of those strange people who sort of enjoys cold and winter. When I had to be to work at 6 a.m., though, I hated winter, especially Illinois winters, when snow was practically a guarantee and the plow hadn’t reached my street by the time I had to leave. I have vivid memories of digging my car out of snowbanks, gripping the wheel for the 15 miles to work, shivering while the heater warmed up.

Things have changed. We live in Pennsylvania now, in a part of the state that is apparently immune to snow, at least so far this winter. I don’t work outside the home anymore so I usually don’t have anywhere to be, especially not at 6 a.m. And my husband typically digs our car out of snowbanks.

Winter’s not my favorite season, but I like the change it offers. The reminder that we’re in a different time of year, that something new and fresh is coming, if only we’ll hang on for a bit.

The kids and I took a walk around the block yesterday afternoon. We aren’t in the habit of doing that in winter because of the cold, but I just needed to get out of the house for a little while. When we reached the street that parallels ours, I noticed the temperature change and realized we were on the “wrong” side of the street because the houses blocked the sun. In summer, we relish this side of the street because it keeps us cool and protected from sunburn. But in winter, we need to be in the sun to stay warm.

I thought about the winters of my life, and how the cold, dreary, dark days made, and still make, me yearn for the Son and the Light. I’d be miserable, near death even, if I stayed in the shadows of winter.

And when life brings me summers, I need the respite and protection of the shadows. I think of the Psalms’ references to the shadows of the wings of the Almighty.

How good it is to have a God who both keeps us in the light when the days are dark and gives us protection under his wings in the heat of the day.

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 6,400 times in 2010. That’s about 15 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 125 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 146 posts. There were 123 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 144mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was July 19th with 133 views. The most popular post that day was Mommy 911.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for god ruined my life, how god ruined my life, depression destroyed my life, kids ruined my life, and machine shop smell.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Mommy 911 July 2010


God ruined my life June 2010


And just like that, it was over November 2010


Nothing April 2010


The myth of happily ever after May 2010