Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Lots of Tuesday Notes. . .

(Because this is my summer notebook, after all.)

 Where I sat this very early morning.

Let’s start with this. Have you ever encouraged yourself before? It seems a strange, self-absorbed thing to say, in a way, but yesterday I remembered something from my High Desert Home blog that snapped me out of a mental mode I was working my way into. The past week has been a mixture of tears and “wrestling” and lots of fun (sounds crazy, but it’s true), and yesterday I had a good morning, but as the day wore on, and I let my mind linger on some of the recent challenges in my life, I began to feel slightly melancholy. Then I became lethargic and unmotivated, which made me more melancholy, which made me more lethargic and unmotivated, and a silly, downward spiral began.

I really do know that moods go by “kicking,” and I refuse to be swung around by them, so as soon as I realized what I was doing, I went first to Psalms, my Biblical haven. And as I read, I focused once again on who God is and how much He loves me (He loves me and cares for me and wants me to be blessed and wants my life to go well even more than my mother does, and if you know my mother—wow—that’s really a lovely thought! And, of course, and obviously, it’s true.) Anything God does is good. All of His ways are good. And this is not just an esoteric idea that is disconnected from real human life. It is utterly true. If anything is withheld, it is not just God’s discipline or His detached will; it is His protection of me. He is looking out for me.

So, the Psalms settle me and increase my faith. It seems that, more every day, I relate to the heart-cries of David in the Psalms, and I increasingly understand why Dorothy Day said, “My strength returns to me with my cup of coffee and the reading of the psalms," and why St. Romuald of Ravenna said, “The path you must follow is the Psalms; never leave it. . .”

Anyway. Once I got my mind set straight in the Psalms, I decided to kick the mood further by remembering what a gift it is to have mundane work to do. And I have a lot of it!

I thought back to a High Desert Home post I wrote in 2008. I continue to embrace all of it, but I reminded myself of item #3 yesterday—that mundane housework can be: 

3. An act of defiance. Against apathy, acedia, ennui, troubles, and all things that would rob from us the vision and joy of caring for others and the things that God has blessed us with. It's defiance against what would cripple us, pull us down, defeat us. When we want to cave in on ourselves, we carry on with our work. It's a defiance born of faith. 

Yes, so it was time to hop to it! It’s funny because I’ve known this for so many years, yet, no matter how long you know something, sometimes you need a reminder. And I took my advice and got in and did my work whole-heartedly. “Just do it” isn’t merely a catchy marketing slogan; it’s wise. And when we step out to do the thing we need to do but don’t feel like doing, so often, the Jordan opens up and we find ourselves more lighthearted, more motivated. Everything changes. At least this is how it is for me.

So. You know that second bedroom off the living room, the edge of which has shown up in some of my blog photos? Well, here’s the rest of it. Yesterday afternoon, it had been sitting like this for a week, untouched (but then I got busy and made progress against that mess):

It’s very unusual for me to let messes like this stagnate, but that’s the way the week went. And the garage that I wanted entirely clean by last week? Well, here’s how it looked yesterday afternoon (it’s vastly improved now, but I have a lot more work to do):

Most of those boxes you see in the photo are empty, filled with packing paper. I’m straightening out the paper and stacking it to recycle, and I’m breaking down the boxes to recycle, too. Much of the rest of what is in the garage will go to Goodwill, and I have just a handful of boxes that I’ll keep, but I need to sort and reorganize those. When I’m finished, the garage should be almost empty and very tidy.

Okay, this is already getting long, and I have plenty more to go!

Last night, I came home to a surprise.

After working in the garage for a few hours in the afternoon, I collected some boxes to take to Aaron, who is reorganizing and repacking some of his own things. I also gathered my walking shoes because I intended to go for a long walk in the south hills while I was on that end of town. When I walked out my front door to leave, the magnificent old maple that graces my front yard was groaning and creaking. I heard little snaps and noticed some shuddering and thought the squirrels were getting a bit over-exuberant amongst the branches. I watched for them in the tree but didn’t see them.

I went on my walk, took the boxes to Aaron, and drove to my sisters’ to pick up a large vat of coconut oil another sister had left there for me. Wow. It’s a lot. I hear it makes great body lotion, so I will definitely try that (the expiration date is just a few months away, so I need to use the whole thing fairly quickly).

When I finally returned home, it was much later than I’d intended to be back. And when I approached my driveway, I said, “What in the world. . .?!” There were enormous branches blocking my entry. Holy cow! I parked in front of my picket fence and walked around to look at that tree, and I felt so thankful. I grew up around loggers and woods-people, and I know that a falling branch much, much smaller than that will kill a man. I thanked God that my car was out of the driveway (it would have been squished), that my grandkids weren’t playing in the driveway when that fell, that I wasn’t walking or sitting under the tree, and that the tree didn’t hit the house or fence or do any damage to anything at all. Today, my landlord is playing logger and cleaning up the mess.

This morning, another typical Susan moment occurred (family and friends will not be at all surprised by this). I put water in the kettle for coffee, and turned it on to boil. As the water heated, I began to putter around the house and garage and found myself reading some of my old journals again. My brain went off into that ether world where everything real disappears, and when I came back to reality, I jumped up, “Oh, no! The water has probably boiled completely away!” I sprinted to the kitchen (I did. I sprinted.) And this is what I found:

Oops. Enough said. (You've never done that, right?!)

One more thing (which is really several things) before I go. I have to tell you about a dear, real-life friend I’ve known for 22 years. Some of you know who she is, particularly if you are a Catholic homeschooler and know about the various Catholic homeschooling curricula she has written. Her name is Nancy Nicholson.. She gave me this book when it first came out, and I love its simple, sweet stories that point to our amazing Creator:

I did not ask Nancy if I can do this, but I’m not putting up anything that is personal between us, so I don’t think she’ll mind. (Do you, Nancy? Heh-heh.) Nancy often sends me things to encourage me. Notes, letters, excellent books, etc. Yesterday, I found this in my mailbox:

She sent it, she said, because of my “exquisitely adorable grandchildren” (See why I like her?!). And the seeds are for me to plant. And I will. Today.

One of my all-time favorite notes came from Nancy. She had visited us when we first moved to the High Desert, and she saw the prodigious, busy creativity of my kids with our cardboard moving boxes. They made all kinds of things with those boxes—let your imagination run wild as to what could have been done with those boxes, and I’m guessing you haven’t come close to imagining what the kids created! J Happy days. Here’s that note Nancy sent me (click the photo to read, if you like):

Nancy is funny. Her letters often make me laugh. She was a subscriber to my girls’ sticker newsletter, and once she sent them this “letter to the editor”:

A mutual friend of ours used to call Nancy “Saint Nancy.” It’s true. God has blessed me with beautiful friends. Nancy is a special one. 

And now it’s time to get to work. I hope you’ll have a beautiful day.


  1. Oh, Susan, you always have a way encouraging me! Your intro regarding spiraling into melancholy and lethargy is all very familiar to me, along with the decision to focus on Truth and to just move forward regardless of feelings and then to get busy. I too have had to do some self-encouragement--even this very day. It's so great to know that our Loving God is right there with us in the midst of it! It amazes me every time I stop to consider it.
    And, I am so grateful along with you that neither you, nor your loved ones, nor your car, etc. were in the way of that branch! A great reminder of His providential care.

  2. So glad you are safe. I multitasked a little too enthusiastically today. Took my eye off the pot and ruined some pasta! I like the honest mess photos too. I can see the space where you were.

  3. First of all - Yes, I have done that, except I have actually put the pot on the burner and ruined my poor little tea pot. I scare myself sometimes :-)
    I know what you mean about downward spiral too. It's funny - sometimes I can sort of stand outside myself and watch with wonder. I often know what I need to do and don't do it. Reading the Psalms sounds like the perfect medicine. I'm reading through them again too. They always draw me back.
    Hope you get lots and lots accomplished. Oh - and I'm so thankful that branch didn't do anyone or anything any harm. God is so very good.

  4. You are so right about acedia.... Have your read the book by Kathleen Norris?

    Also, have your read the trilogy of Kristen Lavrandsdatter by Sigrid Undset?
    It is one of my all time favorites. It was published in the 1930s I believe and able to read it through the inter loan library system.

    The Psalms contain every human emotion known to man-sometimes I have difficulty focusing on them while reading. Sister Mary ( my oblate director) told
    me to take a line of two and ruminate the words throughout the day.

    In regards to your stove picture... I have done the same thing! You are not alone. Nancy

  5. I'm glad it was encouraging Silvana. And nice to know that you understand. :-)

    Lucille, Ha. The pasta. And I'm not surprised that you would notice the place where I was sitting while sorting through my papers. Good eye!

    Linda, I scare myself, too! :-) Well, we've survived so far, haven't we? God is good, huh? I do love Psalms, and even though I read all through the Bible, I still read Psalms every day.

    Nancy, I have read Kristin, and I love that trilogy. It really had an affect on me. I do what Sister Mary told you--I often end up with just a line or two of Psalms that I focus on through the day. :-) Thanks for commenting, Nancy.

  6. I particularly liked this post, Susan!

  7. Yes and yes! Just do it! One foot in front of the other, one by one you through Him will get them done! Slow and steady, just do it! I feel thar, I am doing that too right now in my life.

    Thank Goodness you are okay!

    On coconut oil... Yes... Lotion... All over... Luxurious! That is what I use and it should be good past the expiration for that use.

  8. Hi Laura! :-) I'm glad.

    Timberlyn, thank you for this post. Sweet! Yes, one foot in front of the other, and, yes, thank the Lord there was no damage to anyone or anything.