Almost every Sunday my husband cooks. Sauce piquante and fricassee dishes are favorites with our children. Sometimes, when the freezer swims, he fries fish.
Our children wander through the kitchen, bounce past the living area, wander to the shop, visit the uncle and aunt next door, venture to church, and timetable jobs inbetween college schedules.
The grandparents arrive after Mass for coffee and a net of family news.
At some point during the day, with lives spent in a swirl of life, the kitchen table captures us in a hug.
It's momentary linger, but hugs don't have to last long to be meaningful.
My house is not new. It is not spacious. It is not the dream house of my childhood.
When my girls talk and dream about their future houses I have to smile to myself and temper their dreams with reality that flows in monetary value, practicality, servitude, and stewardship.
Nine years ago, we left a newer house and yard we loved and moved into my husband's family home to care for my father-in-law who had Alzheimers. He passed away in 2008. We sold that home we loved in south country and stayed in this home in north country that held more square footage of us and them.
I have measured our lives on dreams, unity, feelings, and spirituality. My husband has measured our lives on monetary value, practicality, servitude, and stewardship. He has read and listened to Dave Ramsey. In less than five years we will be debt free...God willing.
My husband and I balance one another.
The dreamer and the doer. The fanciful and the practical.
Life is about balance.
Of course we now sit on a pinnacle of weddings and college fees but, there too, we have been blessed, surprisingly, through weighing and observing those same mainstays when tempering our dreams...monetary value, practicality, servitude, and stewardship (absorbed with unity, one another's feelings, and spirituality).
My husband knows of my desire for unity within our family, he respects my feelings for a nice home, and he shares closely in our spiritual home life. In the mist of monetary value, practicality, servitude, and stewardship; my husband has blessed me with nails and paint and working hands.
He has taken this old house, seen it to be the canvas this artist needs to paint our life upon, and tried to make it into something beautiful.
The first room he transformed was our bedroom. He polished our bathroom, wrapped a carport into a sitting room, and redressed a bedroom into a study.
Today I'm sitting with a cup of coffee waiting for Sheetrock to be delivered. My living room has been emptied and my kitchen and sitting room are top-heavy with "stuff". It began while transferring old home movies from VHS onto DVDs when my husband noticed that the carpet in the living area has been in this house since before we dated. (Have I mentioned we've been married 25 years this past May?) In the blink of an eye we found money to purchase flooring and new walls. My husband will, as always, do the work himself. That's one of the things I admire about him. He can do anything!
Originally we thought of purging the kitchen along with the living area. We had to downsize our dreams and desires and temper them with monetary value, practicality, servitude, and stewardship.
We go through life amassing things, material things, trying to catch-up to our dreams.
Dreams are often unattainable but they serve to lift us up, lift us higher, lift our standards, and to make our lives better.
But dreams are good an holy, as long as we know how to tame them with temperance.
When you opt for more than 2 (or 3) children you have to make room...physically, financially, emotionally, and mentally...within your home and heart. And it's always worth the effort but the obvious cannot be slid under beds or stuffed into closets. More people within a home means more stuff. My home is not clutter free nor ever will be. Being a wanna-be-housekeeper, this revelation frees me...immeasureably. I realize that if my house was clutter-free it would not be full-to-overflowing with Life!
I embrace the "stuff" because I embrace the people who need it, want it, own it.
Not that decluttering and weeding out are not good things to do in serving a family. The desert fathers tell us it is not good to own things, it depletes our spiritual lives. The activity of decluttering serves a valuable purpose and lesson in the life of a family. A good physical purging gives us a good mental purging as well. It blesses our families.
I've also been in homes where the anxiety for cleanliness and order creates an anxiety within the family almost to the point of choking the very life out of that family.
When the house and "stuff" matters more than the people who live there, that is not freedom nor the life I want for my family.
Life is a balancing act.
When the "stuff" overcomes me, I do have my moments of moaning and groaning and thumbing through home and garden eye-candy magazines; but I'm not a slave to my dreams.
My husband, my children, and the reality grounds me every day.
This past October I had two children move next door, one child move in back, and two "children" move into our hearts and life. Another shuffle was inevitable. The physical shuffle resembles the shuffle within our family unit. One must be flexible to change. In a large family one must even embrace it.
Our family is not getting smaller. It's widening. It's spreading. Yet all the tentacles...while reaching out to grasp college degrees, jobs, lifestyles, new homes...come circling back to the home from where it all makes sense and unfolds in a great big, all-inclusive hug.
Almost every Sunday, and on some evenings inbetween, despite the old kitchen floor and the too-many-nail holes in the wall, I see the hug this life affords me and it's priceless.
Mark and I are entering a new phase of life but what is key here is that it is LIFE! OUR LIFE! There is nothing sad about it, not if I focus on the good things in my home and around my table, not if I dream about the good things to come.
That God has blessed Mark and I with THIS LIFE is beyond my expectations, beyond my ideals, and...certainly...beyond my dreams.