A Welcome to Autumn (Good Riddance to Summer)

Summer’s road was rough and hard
Leaving me a little scarred.
Unexpected devastation,
Basket case of frustration.
But like all things, summer’s passed
Into history at last.
I welcome fall in all its glory
Ready for a different story.
Bring on lots of pumpkin spice
Don’t lose hope that something nice
May happen still despite the mess
So let it go, that weary stress.
To the wind, the burdens throw
May my heart more peaceful grow.
Rejoice in yellow, red, and brown
Watch the leaves fall in the town.
Pull out the bin of autumn clothes
Let candle scents delight my nose;
Keep that coffee mug nearby
Cut myself a piece of pie.
Consider pumpkins local grown
Buy them for my very own.
Fall in love with little things
Welcome change this season brings.

cookies for Kids’ Minute at church
Sourdough Bread

Job Hopping

Today marks another ending for me. My life seems to be filled with those, whether or not I want them. Today’s ending is not nearly as dramatic as some others have been, thankfully. Nevertheless, it is still an ending, and that still means adjustments. It’s a change in my workplace.

I brought home my tips from the creamery tonight for the last time. Am I sentimental? Okay, yes, I am.

Prospective employers in the future might hesitate if I were to tell them the amount of jobs I have had. Let’s face it; I’m a job hopper. My first jobs were cleaning jobs. I tolerated those, probably because they were my first jobs and because I wanted the money. Do I ever want to go back to cleaning residential homes? No, thank you. But it was work, and I was still living with my parents at the time, so it was an okay fit.

Next, I attempted eldercare. I learned several important things during this experience. Number One: Please get some proper training before you attempt personal care. I did not, and it was not a pleasant wake-up call. Number Two: Just because your mother is naturally skilled at a job does not mean it will resonate with you in the same way.

I moved from eldercare to live-in eldercare. The couple I lived with was thankfully very tolerant of me and my shaky mental health at the time, but the combination of already struggling mentally and living at work was extremely difficult. I learned another very important life lesson here: never live at work. Work and home should be two separate things; otherwise, you can never truly get away from your job. I lived there for a year and a half.

Two photos from the eldercare season of my life… coloring with Mr. G and the Andrew McCutchen shirt I bought for him. I dislike sports generally, but I did get into baseball a little bit because of the elderly gentleman.

I moved on to a basement apartment, where it was only me. And later, my cat and me. I miss that cat- dear Molly. During the next year and a half, I worked in bulk food one day a week, helped to clean a business once a week, and worked at a bakery. I also spent a little time in a greenhouse during the spring season.

Cleaning at the business… I really disliked this job.
Greenhouse life. It served a purpose for my heart during that season.

I took a nanny job, and moved again. I attempted tutoring on the side for a short while. But the nanny job was only during the school year, so last summer, I started a part-time job at a creamery. I went back to nannying in the fall, but kept the creamery as a side job.

What’s my favorite job been? This little one right here, no question. For those of you wondering if I want another nanny job when she goes to school, the answer is, I can’t keep breaking my heart… getting attached and letting go.

This summer, I picked up some extra hours doing housekeeping at the local motel, and have decided to drop the creamery altogether. However, the motel business is part of a restaurant and bakery business as well, and the motel will start sharing me with the bakery next week. It will be a full time job for the remainder of the summer and hopefully something to fall back on after my nanny job ends next spring.

Am I crazy? Maybe. Or maybe I just haven’t found my niche in life yet. Are there benefits to job hopping? Yes, surprisingly, there are. You learn a wide range of skills, for starters. Can I bake sugar cookies? Yes. Cook in a commercial kitchen? Yes. Help an elderly person shower? Yes. Push a stroller, change diapers, and read stories? Not all at the same time, but yes. Have I used a pricing gun? Yes. Can I choose flowers for a planter? Yes. Clean a flat top? Yes. Make a bed? Yes. Bake flaky, layered biscuits? Yes. Be a cashier? Yes. Make an omelet? Finally, yes.

Love the views I’ve seen while pushing this stroller!

Of course, there are disadvantages as well. Like not having a real career. Like having to start over so often. Like running the risk of being seen as a fickle person in the future. But for better or for worse, I’m moving on.

Broken

How do you recover from broken trust? Especially when you are a deep feeler? How do you recover from hurt that goes all the way in to your soul? What do you do when you doubt others and you doubt yourself? Broken trust is a kick in the stomach when it was supposed to be a hug. It’s knowing that things are never going to be like they used to be, and it’s grieving that loss. The grief doesn’t end in a night, or a week, or a year. It pops up at inconvenient moments, and makes you realize that you’re not nearly as healed as you thought you were. It’s seeing minor irritations as large life problems. Who is right, and who is wrong, and does it even really matter?

Answer: I don’t know. And even if I did know, my feelings probably wouldn’t cooperate with the logic. What is forgiveness, really? And how does it play out in real life? Sometimes, the answers are there, but the application is terribly difficult. And the answers aren’t the same for every situation, either.

A person who used to be your everything turns out to be someone that you don’t really know anymore. A relationship that was getting better suddenly gets worse. Someone pretends to be someone who doesn’t even exist. Dreams don’t work out. You dread being around certain people. And with Pilate, you wonder, “What is truth?”

So you distance yourself. You allow yourself to become busy with other pursuits. You surround yourself with other people. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t take much to reveal the bruises on your heart. And you cry-again.

And then things get even worse. And you cry even more. You don’t know where to begin to heal.

Step One. Drink coffee, so much coffee. We won’t talk about how often I’ve been to a coffee shop lately.

Step Two. Eat ice cream, great tubs of it. But maybe exercise moderation, or you will begin to look like a tub of ice cream, and then you’ll just add to your mental problems.

But really, those are simply coping mechanisms. They don’t ultimately heal.

Step Three. Cry. Seriously, this one helps. Tears heal. Accept the fact that there will be times when you look less than presentable. Lots of times. Even in public.

Step Four. Surround yourself with good people. Don’t spend excessive amounts of time alone. You need community. You need hugs- many, many hugs. Find people who make you laugh. Go to church, and feel the love of Jesus through His people. Let the body of Christ pray for you. You’re not required to be strong right now. Let others be strong for you.

Step Five. Listen to Ellie Holcomb. I think she may be my new favorite artist. Her songs are honest, and speak to pain.

Step Six. Pray. This one is hard. I don’t pray nearly enough, and most of the time I don’t feel like it. But God wants to hear my heart, even though He already knows it.

Step Seven. Buy a gift for someone. It seems counter-intuitive, but when you’re struggling, it helps to reach out to someone else. Show your appreciation for those who stand beside you. Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way speaks of this kind of healing.

Step Eight. Intentionally process your pain. Face it. Talk about it with a mentor. I need to seriously revisit the book Forgiving What You Can’t Forget, by Lysa TerKeurst. When there is hurt involved in your situation, forgiveness is necessary, but oh, so hard. I strongly recommend this book; Lysa understands firsthand what it’s like to forgive the really, really hard things.

Step Nine. Find a new normal. Normal is no longer an option, but a new normal is. There is hope. “There is always hope.” This scene from Lord of the Rings is so incredibly powerful. Things may appear to be completely hopeless; things may feel completely hopeless, but hope remains. I haven’t felt very hopeful lately, but just because I’m not feeling it, doesn’t make it any less important or true.

Of course you will not be healed in ten steps. But maybe, just maybe, some of these ideas might help you to get through the day. And perhaps bring you a little joy. So, a final suggestion: Step Ten. Paint your toenails. Or light a candle. Or read a book… Or- fill in the blank. You know.

Illusion

You’re living for the sunshine

For passion and young love

But you can’t hear the thunder

Menacing above.

You can’t see the sky

Darkening tonight

For in your rosy world

Everything is light.

Throw all heed away

As long as it feels good,

Never mind advice

It’s just a bunch of “shoulds.”

The world is yours to grasp

And you reach out your hand,

But alas, the ground beneath

It is only sand.

You awake to find

Your castle’s washed away

And all that’s left for you

Another empty day.

Coping with Change

I seem to write about the things closest to my heart and mind in the various seasons I go through. And the words which I think best describe my life right now are chaos, change, and weariness. Chaos and change certainly bring weariness, and being already a naturally weary person, perhaps chaos and change just escalate that for me. I’m tired, not only physically, but also emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Some changes are temporary, like my summer job change. I’m not needed as a nanny during the summer, so I’m picking up more hours at my second job. The change might be good- give me a break, refresh myself for this fall… Or it could also just result in separation anxiety. When you spend so many of your working hours with a little human, you may inevitably become quite attached and rather possessive. Thus, the separation anxiety. Or, if it’s like last summer, I might have a case of self-diagnosed baby fever. Whatever the result may end up being, it’s change.

The other change I’m dealing with right now is even bigger and more personal. It speaks of a kind of grief and sadness, a longing for what used to be and is no longer, an aloneness (Apparently, that must not be a word, because it’s underlined with a red zigzag. But I say it’s a word in this case.). It involves someone dear to my heart moving further away from me and closer to others. All is not right in my corner of the world, this I know. It’s change, and I can’t stop it. It’s too late.

Some things I can change. The sheets on my bed, for instance. The trash bag in the kitchen. Dirty diapers. Those are possible changes. But some things are totally out of my control. Things like: my age, another person’s decisions, and the weather. Let’s not even talk about how cold it is, and it’s nearly June!

So, ultimately, how do we deal with changes that are hard? Well, you could start a habit of buying frappes and milkshakes. I don’t recommend that, actually, even though I’m guilty of it myself. Or you could buy a Shire shower curtain for the bathroom. Guilty again. The sad thing is that the excessive coffee, the chocolate, and the shopping are not a cure. Neither is social media. And if I turn these kinds of things into coping mechanisms, I may live to regret doing so.

There are ways to deal with stress, anxiety, and sadness that are more helpful in the long run. You could cry. It helps to clear your heart of some of those stored up emotions that need an outlet. Find a godly mentor to help you sort through the mess. This, speaking from experience, is extremely valuable. Surround yourself with a solid church family. My church is one of the biggest blessings in my life.

Find an animal to cuddle with. Seriously, sometimes a non-human, living creature can be quite soothing. Especially if it happens to be a kitten. Okay, I understand not everyone is a cat person. That’s fine. If you prefer dogs, I give you liberty to snuggle them instead.

Write, draw, scrapbook about the situation- whatever your creative outlet happens to be.

Spend time with a little person.

Plant a garden.

Talk to Jesus. I’m not good at this one anymore, yet it is more important than all those other things. He is the only one who is truly capable of taking the burden off of my shoulders. Jesus isn’t just the One who carries my sins. He also carries brokenness and heartbreak and difficult relationships, longings and sadness and weariness. Will everything automatically get better when we give these things to Jesus? No. Some situations will stay the same. They may even get worse. The difference is that we are allowing Him to be in control of it all.

Susan, relax. He’s still holding you. And- He’s still holding the world.

Flashback to Eighteen

My mother’s flowerbed this spring

Last weekend, we celebrated my baby sister’s eighteenth birthday. She’s seven years younger than me, and tonight, I was thinking about a poem I wrote when I was eighteen. I was an idealistic teenager with big dreams.

A Girl’s Questions

Eighteen years old
And as inquisitive as a child
Only this time,
Her questions seem bigger.
But like the child,
She is excited about tomorrow.
   Will her tomorrows be filled with
   Books and brain-work
   Cramming her hungry head
   Full of knowledge?
   Or will this dream
   Disappear
   Underneath
   Dishes and dirt
   Buckets and brooms?
Will her tomorrows be lived out
Here-
Nestled in the mountains
And buried in the snowdrifts
Of Western _________?
In a comfortable farmhouse?
Or in a remote mud hut
Next to the Mayan Indians 
Of Guatemala?
Will she stay
Or will she fly?
   Will her tomorrows bring
   Prince Charming?
   Someone she will love
   And someone who will love her
   “For better or for worse,
   For richer or for poorer,
   In sickness and in health…”
   Or will she walk alone
   With her God?
   Dreaming dreams with Him?
Will her tomorrows dance…
As children appear?
Endless games of hide-and-seek,
Countless stories before bed,
Timeless hugs and kisses.
Will she be a mother?
   Eighteen years old
   And as inquisitive as a child
   Only this time, 
   Her questions seem bigger.
   But like the child,
   She is excited about tomorrow.

I pulled down my box of journals from the top shelf of my closet to refresh my memory about my life then… which guy did I have a crush on at that point?  

My eighteenth birthday, I was flying home from a short term mission trip to Guatemala. It would have been my third year making the trip. I was sad that day… I’m just not sure how often I can do this, Lord. It hurt so bad to leave. But yes, I know it only hurts because I loved. And it is worth it all. It’s just so hard. Last evening, [M] told me that someday, I am going to go to Guatemala to stay. Just not yet. That’s just it: NOT YET! How much longer, Lord… (journal entry, Jan. 2014) I knew more at 18 what my life should look like than I do at 25. Guatemala was going to be in my future, as was a certain little girl at the orphanage we visited. At least, that would have been what I would have chosen. 

This was also the time of cleaning jobs. I hated cleaning jobs, but I was willing to endure them if it meant I could be earning money to go back to Guatemala the next year. I don’t miss those days. The thing about being good at cleaning is that it’s a blessing and a curse. If you’re good at what you do, people will want you to clean their houses. But sometimes, it can also feel like a curse, to have people want you to clean their houses. I survived.  

At 18, had I been a normal teenager, I would’ve also been a senior in high school. I was not a normal teenager, and my education was not a priority. 8th grade and a GED should have been enough for me. Honestly, this may be one of the things that infuriates me most about the culture I grew up in. I tried to do a little bit of high school work at home, for a while, but it’s hard to be motivated to teach yourself, and besides, there were always other things to be done that were apparently more important. It was a struggle at 18, as I still struggle now, with the knowledge that I didn’t do four years of high school. It made it hard that spring, as I had friends graduating, and I was not. 

And about the crush… Yes, my suspicions were correct. That was the Davy Crockett-like guy. I was seriously infatuated, which is rather funny now, because, well, picture Davy Crockett and Jane Bennett, and you might have an idea of why such a crush is laughable. And then I wavered, seriously wavered between Davy Crockett Guy and Guy-Who-Eventually-Broke-My-Heart-Without-Even-Knowing-He-Did. It’s tough, being 18, having confusing feelings, and growing up in a culture that didn’t encourage guy/girl friendships. 

Still, I was so full of hope about my future then. And I believe I may have more unanswered questions about life now than I did seven years ago. Why did things turn out so differently than I imagined?   

Before the Resurrection

Saturday is a day that gets missed in celebrating Easter. There’s Thursday with the Last Supper, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. What about Saturday? The despair and lack of hope that the disciples and followers of Jesus must have faced after the crucifixion needs to be remembered as well.

I wrote this poem for the Easter season last year and shared it on Facebook, but for some reason, it never made it onto my blog. So I’m sharing it with you now:

Wakened by the Sabbath sunrise
Disciples stir with burning eyes
It rushes back- Friday’s pain
From their hearts come stifled cries.

Why did they run? And hide away?
Had no one courage enough to stay?
On their souls- a blackened stain
What was there now left to say?

They’re terrified, still hiding now
With broken hearts and broken vow
Men and women both- they weep
As in unison they bow.

Hearts are broken, hope is dead
All they can see is grief instead
The agony- it settles deep
Peace has gone from every head.

Nothing’s right, and all seems wrong
Joy is crushed, a shattered song
Confusion creeps- it slithers slow
This Sabbath day feels ever long.

Women gather, speak of plans
Somehow meet their souls’ demands
Anoint Him- do what they know
One last gift with gentle hands.

But ere they journey to the tomb
They will endure this night of gloom
While light is growing in the womb
Of darkest earth.

Finding Real in Fantasy

One of the reasons Tolkien and Lord of the Rings are so popular, I think, is because the words are so incredibly applicable to our lives. During the beginning of the pandemic a year ago, this quote popped up. You might remember how perfect it was for those months.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” -Tolkien

We see real life even in fantasy. I see that in Tolkien. And sometimes, in fictional characters, we find real people. The hobbits, for instance, are extremely similar to the culture I grew up in. Yet, let me insert a disclaimer here. I am not trying to stereotype everyone that is Amish, for as with any culture, the people within it vary greatly. But, I know a people, who, like hobbits, are quite fond of eating and who can become totally immersed in a conversation regarding genealogy. They are a people, especially the older generation, who struggle to express their feelings and who have a tendency to closet themselves from the world. Yet as Tolkien says, “You can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence others out.”  

There are also real world places that remind us of Middle-Earth. The lake minutes away from my apartment, at sunrise, tells this message:

…Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind: a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise. -Tolkien

Then there were the woods last autumn, so reminiscent of Rivendell. Elf-like, beautiful, and otherworldly. And of course, where there are mushrooms, there must also be hobbits. 

Of Galadriel’s gift to Frodo, the star-light, she says, “it will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.” And then when I read 2 Peter 1:19, the similarity is super cool, at least I find it so. “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place…” 

Forgive me for straying to the movies, but I love how Aragorn’s coronation is such a great illustration of the meek inheriting the earth (Matthew 5:5). Aragorn could have been the definition of meekness. Besides, listen to this from Psalm 37:11: “But the meek shall inherit the earth, And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” In the movie, Aragorn says, “Let us together rebuild this world, that we may share in the days of peace.” Love it! And I also love the irony of the people bowing to the hobbits in one of the next scenes. They were such an unimportant people in Middle-Earth, yet in the end, they had such honor, which I find to be another picture of meekness. Another disclaimer: I am not saying that The Lord of the Rings is an allegory. It is not. I have listened to enough episodes of The Prancing Pony Podcast to know that! However, I am trying to show how relatable Tolkien’s fantasy world is to the real world and to our individual lives. 

This living life through the lens of literature is probably a nerd thing. I’ll admit that. I wouldn’t change it, though. I think it adds a richness to life. Happy Tolkien Reading Day!  

Inspired by Ireland

Surely I’m at least a small percent Irish. After all, the freckles and auburn highlights have to come from somewhere. But I’m of Anabaptist faith, and typically we are largely of Swiss and German descent. One of these years, I’d like to do the DNA test to see what my ancestry really looks like. Until then, I shall continue to believe in my heart that I’m a little Irish. Regardless of my true heritage, I do love St. Patrick’s Day.

Not that I’m into the drinking and the leprechauns and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. That’s not what St. Patrick’s Day is really about for me. I don’t drink, and I don’t believe in leprechauns. I’m into the culture and the music and the food and the real story of St. Patrick. And Arby’s green Mint Chocolate shakes. 

First things- if you want a quick lesson on St. Patrick, that is also fun to watch (even for adults), I highly recommend the Veggietales version. I’m not a devoted Veggietales fan or anything, but I find this to be quite amusing.    

Seriously though, this story is a reminder that God can change the history of a country with one obedient person. It’s also a reminder that God can use the negative experiences in our past to write our histories in an amazing, redemptive way. St. Patrick, I am certain, did not dream of being made a slave. You probably didn’t want the loss, or the absent parent, or the broken heart, or the mental confusion and torment. These experiences do not define you, though, unless you let them. I confess I’m letting some of my experiences define me. But they don’t have to. What incredible story might God be wanting to write with your messy past, and with mine? He did it with St. Patrick; He can do it with you and me.

Now, for some more lighthearted content: This is Irish Soda Bread. The members of this household liked it, so I’ll probably end up making it again. It’s a good kind of bread to make when you’re short on time, because it can be mixed up and baked right away.

Then, we have this beautiful Irish Cottage Pie I made at work. Also a success, but certainly not a quick meal if you’re chopping vegetables and making mashed potatoes from scratch. The bottom of the pie is a mixture of ground beef, carrots, celery, onion, mushrooms, and tomato paste. You then cover that with mashed potatoes mixed with cheese. By the way, here’s a secret I learned from my mother about mashed potatoes: use cream cheese and garlic powder in them. Honestly, it makes the best mashed potatoes ever!

And this is Irish Apple Cake. It’s supposed to be served with a custard sauce, which I was going to make, but I ran out of kitchen energy today. Maybe later…

I have a mini fashion show for you in these next couple of photos. I really wanted an Irish-inspired outfit this spring, but I wasn’t wanting to spend a fortune. Gabe’s to the rescue! Obviously, I know very little of traditional Irish attire, but this is my attempt. Note: I love the sleeves on this dress!

Ironically, I didn’t wear a green dress on March 17th. White and green socks were the extent of my greenness then. But that’s okay. St. Patrick’s Day has been more of a season for me this year rather than a day. And I don’t consider it to be completely over yet.

There are still things I want to do before March ends. I ordered a kids’ book with the story from the library, and I haven’t taken time to read it yet (Once I do, I will try to share some thoughts on my new Instagram account: treasurethepages ). I also picked up an adult book about Ireland, which is quite a bit more intimidating. Someday, I want to read the writings of St. Patrick himself, but that may have to wait until next year. Pretty sure I haven’t listened to enough Irish music, and there’s Irish cheese in the fridge that I bought at Aldi, which we haven’t opened. So, if you missed March 17th, there’s still time! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Lament During Tax Season

‘Tis time to give to Uncle Sam
The gold he did not earn,
Why this seems a proper thing
I have yet to learn.
It wearies me, to work so hard
Then pay the government,
An age old curse of working man
And this is my lament:

O taxes faithful, go away
Leave me now in peace,
I know you’re constant, tireless
I dream of your decease.
I do not wish to dine with you
And watch you eat my meat,
After which, you drink my wine,
Then ask for something sweet.

O taxes cheerful, lose your grin
It isn’t even nice,
To come to me again this year
And flaunt your gruesome price.
You know the numbers tire me
Before I even start,
But you just laugh hysterically
And tear my brains apart.

O taxes boastful, arrogant
You like to see me crawl,
So calm and strong you seem to be
How to make you fall?
Please hit your head and bruise your nose
Forget that I owe you,
Maybe then I’ll shake your hand
And pay you ‘fore it’s due.