The Work Of Our Hands

pomanderYesterday marked the beginning of the end of dignified walking.  I awoke to a sharp pain in my pelvis as I swung my legs out of bed.  It’s known in the pregnancy world as pelvic separation and is caused by a hormone known as “relaxin” (aptly named) which makes the ligaments in the pelvic girdle all loosey-goosey.  It means that when my legs aren’t moved in symmetry (which is, unfortunately, most always), there is sharp pain from the instability in the pelvis.  Hello, waddle.  Or even funnier, if I scoot sideways like I’m country line dancing there is great relief.  Feel free to laugh at that image.

I’d love to be attending to my gardens, but I simply can’t.  I need to prepare a blueberry bed by digging-in white pine needles to raise the acidity.  I need to dig up my elephant ear bulbs before first frost.  I need to prune my nectarine and apple trees.  I need to dig out a tree sapling that pretended to be part of the grapevine.  I need to prune back the raspberry and blackberry vines that fruited this year.  There are potatoes to dig, there are weeds to pull, and there is an unstable pelvis saying “no”.

So, I ordered a pelvic support belt yesterday morning while chair-bound.  Yes, I am going to be actually manually pulling myself together.  Until that blessed relief arrives, my creative endeavors are limited to what can be accomplished sitting.

I had to wonder last evening, as I lay in bed with my pregnant belly covered in bits and pieces of whole cloves, how many husbands go to sleep with their wives beside them making pomanders.  Round and round the orange the cloves marched in staid procession, each puncture releasing a waft of orange scent.  It’s something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while; making these early American fragrant Christmas decorations, but had never gotten around to it.

“It’s amazing how strong that smells,” said my dear husband as I poked cloves into the orange.

“Yeah, and it’s supposed to still be fragrant for years if it dries nicely.  I’ve wanted to make these for a long time”.  I poked in more cloves and the thought came quick:  there are so many things I want to make.  I looked at my husband.  “What do you want to make?”

He looked puzzled.  “You know, like Tom really wants to make a wood canoe?”

“Yeah…I just don’t really have anything I want to make.”

How very different we are.  I have a list a mile long:  paper kites, red ware pottery, tinctures of all sorts, hundreds of soaps, handmade papers, chair caning, basket weaving, mosaics, etc.  I want to learn how to do everything.  Which is why I was poking an orange with cloves at ten at night while he enjoyed some peaceful, well-deserved, rest

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us– yes, establish the work of our hands.” -Psalm 90:17

peppermint mochaI find great satisfaction in making things, whether it be pie dough massing between my hands or cutting thick bars of soap or stringing a batch of words together.  It all brings me joy; the disparate parts becoming a new whole, a useful thing, a thing of beauty.

While not everyone has this impulse, or, ahem, compulsion, to create, I hope that each does have that deep satisfaction in their work.  For my husband it is taking boxes of fittings and lengths of pipe and with them providing clean drinking water and waste removal to countless homes and businesses.  Ever thought of how much of a blessing it is to be able to flush away waste?  To be able to shower in fresh water to your precise temperature preference?

I imagine the particular joy of an accountant, having all the numbers tabulated, filed, and organized.  I picture the satisfaction of a surgeon, having implanted a new organ in the place of a failing one and seeing it come to life.  And the farmer seeing his hay stacked high in the barn and the nanny soothing the baby to sleep in her arms and the grocery bagger slipping the last tidily filled bag into a cart.  Do we see our work as a blessing, as a joy?

I hope you do.

Even if you have to walk sideways or endure any other number of impediments or hardships.  I hope this day that you can feel the satisfaction of work done well.

 

The Management of Blessings, or Monday To-do’s

Monday is looking at me.  There is laundry to do and fifteen pounds of apples on my counter wondering whether they’ll ever be made into sauce and canned, and there’s a whole basket of quilt patches that want to be a baby quilt sometime before the baby comes or before my belly is too big to allow me to reach the sewing machine.  Both bathrooms need to be thoroughly cleaned, and more tomatoes need picked and processed before they drop and rot in the garden.

I can’t help but smile.  See, most of my work involves the management of blessings.  How about that.

_MG_5079_MG_4736 IMG_1632 IMG_1915I am blessed, blessed beyond measure.  And here goes my Monday-List-Of-Praise…

God, thanks for….

-the laundry piles; evidence of Your provision of clothing.  How grateful I am that my children have shoes and socks and underwear and pants and all they need.

-the dirty dishes in the sink; clearly we are eating each day and being satisfied with good things.  So many do not have that daily joy.

-the canning and preserving workload; how You have overabundantly blessed us and the work of our hands in the gardens.

-the dirty bathrooms; that we even have two of them to take care of, that we have ready access to sanitation and cleanliness, clean water to wash with, thank You.

-the little children that need my care seven days a week; I don’t have words, but You, Lord, can read radiant, heart-bursting joy in my soul.

I say nothing new here; I repeat what I’ve said before, and what countless others have said, and said better than I, before.  But I remember hearing that we don’t so much need to be always learning new things, but instead bringing back to our minds the things that we’ve forgotten.  Like God’s daily goodness and being thankful.  Like rejoicing in all things at all times.  Like knowing that God gave work as a gift before mankind fell.

These things I remember this Monday morning and I smile and head to the laundry room.

Why It’s Hard to Rest

Henrik does laps around his playpen, swinging his dimpled arms like pendulums, as taking a nap is unthinkable with all this excess energy that compels his little legs to run, his little body to move, move, move.  It’s hard to rest.  There’s so much running to do.  As he winds down a bit, he rolls across the mattress with his blankie, in a wrestling match of sorts with the idea of sleep:  I embrace it (sucks thumb and strokes blankie’s silky edge), no I do not (tucks and rolls and kicks the sides of the playpen).  I think I do the same with the Sabbath.

For six days of the week I start my day by getting the laundry going.  There’s something soothing to me about hearing my trusty appliance sidekicks humming in the background, doing some major work at the touch of a button or two.  It’s probably as close as I’ll come to having some domestic help, and it makes the day seem like it’s acquired some momentum.  Some getting-it-done-ness.

So when the Sabbath comes around, a day to cease from my day-to-day workload and enjoy rest and my Lord, I miss the assuring hum of progress in the laundry room.  I even have “temptations” and rationalizations about why I could/should in fact do laundry anyways.  The quickly piling basket in the laundry room woos me.  I’m serious.  The loudest voice of temptation is Miss Responsible.  She reasons matter-of-factly that it’s as necessary as brushing my teeth and cooking on Sundays; the children do need clothing ready for school the next day.  What would become of Monday if Sunday didn’t do any work?

But, it’s just not true.  Because I do laundry nearly every day, there is no true shortage of clothing for anybody.  And Monday is meant for working, so let it have it’s work.

It’s hard to rest, hard to cease from wreaking productivity all over our weekend-blasted home.  Hard to swallow the crumbed floors, the scattered shoes, and the Sunday paper laid strewn in several reading spots.  Part of me wants it all ordered and shining and fresh and ready for Monday.  But when, then, am I ready for Sunday?

Ready for rest?

This takes some foresight.  I’m slowly learning that.  If I have laundry going Saturday night, I make sure not to put a load in the washer before bed, because it will shout at me to be switched over to the dryer and folded on Sunday morning.  I try to vacuum the floors and tidy things up Saturday night so that my restless I-want-order spirit can find less irritation in my surroundings.  And if all else fails and I awake to a disordered home on Sunday morning, I do as we did last night.  We gathered the children and headed out for a nice walk to the park.  We abandoned ship and sought fresh air, different landscapes, and no visible work to attend to other than pushing a giggling baby on the swings.

Sometimes you have to physically flee from temptations, even seemingly silly ones.

But the Sabbath commandment isn’t silly.  I guess it’s pretty important to God, so it must be awfully important for us as well; for our spiritual wellbeing and connection to Him and others.  We have to hit the pause button on our work, we need to step away from it, we need to remember God and dwell on Him with unscattered minds.  _MG_4776

Why do I put dear Henrik down for a nap?  Not because he wants one.  Oh, no.  He doesn’t even feel sleepy, quite the opposite really.  I put him down because I know what he needs better than he does.  I know he’d run himself ragged and get cranky and destructive and all out of sorts without his rest.  He’d make himself, and all of us, miserable.  It is an act of kindness and love, though to him it can feel so confining and restrictive.  When he finally succumbs to the nap, his cheeks flushed pink and his blankie clasped in his pudgy fingers, his breathing sweet and soft, I am captivated by the sight.  Love sweeps on over me as I see my son relaxing into the gift of rest.IMG_2100

It is humbling that we need the same, eh?  We are all grown up and yet we are still assigned a rest time.  We try to squirrel our way out of it, don’t we?  Because we like to be unrestricted; we like to chart our days as we please.  But God, in His wisdom, knows what we need better than we do.

Let us not, then, resist Him.  Let us accept the gift He kindly offers to us as dearly loved children.

 

It’s the Sound of Slicing Celery, and Other Reasons I Love My Work

IMG_1323  Perfectly ripe avocados in a simple lemon juice/salt/cilantro dressing.IMG_1597  Working venison together with pork and bacon for deer sausage.IMG_1283  Cooking over dead-fallen branches for lunch on an old oven grate._MG_5079  Putting up garden bounty._MG_5067 IMG_1050  Honey harvest from our bees, twenty-five pounds our first year.IMG_0966  Salsa and more salsa from our prolific tomato harvest.IMG_0444 Strawberry shortcake, need I say more?

“Why on earth would you want that?”, puzzled my husband with bewilderment in his face as I oohed and aahed over a manual washing machine.  “Do you know how much work that would be?”

“Ah yes, dear, but it’s the sort of work I like best.  And imagine the arm muscles I’d have.  No gym needed, and we wouldn’t need to depend on electric!”

Can you hear him sighing?

We were at Lehman’s, a store specializing in all things old-timey and non-electric (though they do offer electric items too, like a kick-butt dehydrator that I covet).  Dustin had surprised me on our way home from Montana with a trip to the store that I’d only encountered online before.  I danced around the aisles of wood-burning cookstoves and kerosene lamps in utter glee.  Everything in there is useful and well-made.  I was in pioneer-wannabe heaven.

I settled on 5 yards of cheesecloth, a butter paddle (for removing buttermilk from homemade butter), and a rapid laundry washer (which is like a metal plunger that washes clothes, sucking the dirt up and out, very useful when my kids come in covered in mud!).  My mother-in-law smiled as I happily showed her my washer.  “I tell people all the time that you were born in the wrong century.”  Yes and amen.

Dipping candles, working with my bees, gardening, canning, drying, sewing, and pinning out the laundry in the breeze; how do I have time for it?  I get asked this now and then, usually by someone who is shaking their head at me.  I turn the question around, “How do people have time to run their kids to five activities a week or keep up with a television show or work out in a gym or serve on committees and such?  We all make time for life-giving work, whatever type that might be, work that feeds our souls and nurtures our families and communities, we apply our hands to those tasks.”

It is far from drudgery for me to pull weeds for hours.  As my hands work my mind is free, free to think and dream and ponder and wander.  Then there are the tactile delights, like digging my finger into honeycomb and feeling the wax give way and how the warm honey and waxy bits feel on my tongue.  The feel of dough under my hands when it reaches that magic elasticity that means it’s done.  The way cold water seems to permeate to my very bones on a hot day of garden work.  Don’t laugh at me, but even the feel of the water slipping over my hands in sudsy glory while washing dishes holds a delight for me.  It is the work I like best.

Today the cucumbers needed attention.  So four quarts of refrigerator pickles are sitting on the counter cooling down on a folded tea towel while a 5-gallon crock of diced cucumbers, peppers, and celery sits in a salt brine for canning sweet relish.  I love the sound the knife makes when slicing through the crisp, cold celery.  I love the fresh scent of the cucumbers.  I like this work.  I am grateful that these tasks are mine to do, mine to teach to my children in time.

This is a rambling bit of gratitude about work.  Of course there are rancorous and irritating things to say about the work of my hands, but those are nothing but common woes, weeds among the flowers.  Will you perhaps think of what you love about the work God has given you?  Will you share some thoughts below?

A smile and a wave from me.

The Work Of My Hands

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It was right there on the prayer card, the one with us smiling with a squirmy one year-old Sophia in our arms, Edison inside my not-quite-showing-yet belly.  The verse at the back, the one out of all of them that we chose:  “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us– yes, establish the work of our hands.”  Psalm 90:17.

Because, you see, we had no idea what sort of work we’d actually be doing out there in that big wide “mission field”.  There were vague ideas about helping a local church plant, or reaching out to rural people in the Andes or on the islands, or both.  We knew only that we were called, we were “sent ones”, and we had at least a mustard seed of faith that God would indeed establish the work of our hands.

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I had no idea that my hands would be calloused and bloody and ripped up weekly.  I didn’t know He’d call me to row, to insert myself into a local rowing club so that I could reach out and be a friend to the youth there.  I didn’t know He’d start a Bible study through it.

He gave us all sorts of work.  But this post isn’t about the big Work, it’s the about the small work, the hidden work.  The every-day-always work.

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It’s the rubbing of fat into flour; making all those pieces come together into a new thing, a hot pie.

It’s the joy of bathing a baby.
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   It’s organizing the toys.  Again.  And being glad even with temporary shalom.

It’s being a bed for a sleepy, womb-missing baby.

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 It’s tying up herbs for drying.

It’s writing.

And here, right here, is where my throat constricts and the dams threaten to overflow, you see, I’m over-abundantly blessed by the work I’ve been given to do.  Those dirty dishes I need to wash?  It means WE ATE TODAY!!!  The laundry that needs folded?  It means that we were clothed and had clean water to wash with.  The floors that need vacuumed?  It means that there’s a whole galloping herd of happy children living here, leaving trails of hard-won dirt from their adventuring feet.

There is so much joy everywhere and a lot of it can be found in our work.  Where do you find joy in the work established for you?

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