Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Quiet Home

I was thinking today of how much I like the quietness of our home. At the time, I was sitting at my sewing machine, the needle humming away, and although all 6 of my family members (minus my married sister) were there in the house, a stranger would never have known it.

Now, we're not always that quiet. No, indeed! But there is generally an air of quiet in the house that is surprising enough to cause several friends of ours to comment on it.

A quiet home is not necessarily a home where nothing happens. Ours is a very active household; my sewing students come and go, my Dad and brother are departing and returning from their workplace, and Mom or I are frequently running errands. (Our driveway ought to have a revolving door thingy, so we don't have to play rush hour with the cars.)

My younger siblings are studying, going in and out the back door to the great outdoors (often trying to sneak rabbits or chickens inside), playing games (NOT board games) in the basement, using B.B. or air-soft guns in the house (yes, really), raising sawdust and wood chips in the work area as they create a new project...

Mom and I are often tinkering in the kitchen, using noisy appliances, or banging pots and pans. All five of my siblings and I play more than one instrument, and rare is the hour when at least one of us is not practicing, or playing musical CDs.

Like every household, we operate. We move. We talk. We bang stuff around. But still, we have lots of quiet. I want to list a few things I think contribute to a quiet house, but first: why desire a quiet house?

I think the blessing of a quiet home is something we all understand. It's peaceful, and soothing to tired nerves. It's conductive to study, to keeping your mind focused on the task at hand, and creating a welcoming environment. When the household is constantly full of screams and shouting, chatter and loud laughter, little legs running to and fro, objects hitting the floor, etc., it affects your mind, don't you think? It's a lot easier to pray, too, when you can hear yourself think.

So how to have a quiet home? Well, I think it's all based on habits. And, of course, quiet is all relative to the season of life you're in. "Quiet" sounds mighty different when you have 3 toddlers in the house than when you have five young adults in the house. :)

Some habits that have helped us:

~ Cultivate "Quiet" Hobbies
No, I'm not suggesting we all take up embroidery and painting, and never touch a hammer or guitar. But we spend a lot of time doing quiet activities in our house; reading, writing, computer, sewing (in my case), ...And many chores are relatively quiet; sweeping, cleaning the toilet, organizing clutter, dusting, etc. But you can't be quiet forever, and that leads me to my next point:

~ Schedule Your Noise
We have certain hours of the day that are set aside for school. Even though I'm not in school any more, I know my younger siblings are supposed to be studying during those hours. So, I don't practice my fiddle. And I don't play a CD while I'm washing dishes. And I don't carry on long, energetic, enthusiastic conversations with Mom while I'm in the room where they're working. I save my talking for later.

Quiet times are a major practice in developing this habit. When Mom was expecting my younger siblings, all the siblings who were already here had lots of practice with learning to be quiet, because she would frequently need to take naps throughout the day. While she was lying down, she'd turn off the lights in the house (so long as the day was sunny), to remind us to be quiet, and we learned to talk in low voices, play or work quietly, not to start tickling each other, and not to play with dice on hardwood floors.

This is the biggest "tip" I can offer on this subject. It's proven to be very valuable for us. Schedule times for just "quiet." The habits will carry over into other times of day.

~ Do loud stuff outside
Let's face it - we were made to make noise! Especially when you've got young folks around, noise is a great thing! It releases mental energy, or something. :) So go outside, and laugh, and be loud. Just do it at a decent time, so the neighbors won't mind. :)

*(As a side note, I want to mention that I've noticed something about my siblings; they play fairly quietly, even when outdoors. Ever watched "screamers" play? They shriek at everything, setting the dog two houses down to wailing. The whole neighborhood knows when they're out. But for some reason, my little sisters never caught that habit - which is nice! I'm afraid I'm more of a shrieker than they are; just play tag with me sometime!)

~ Cultivate Quiet Voices and Bodies
Some people just don't know they're making noise. It's worth trying to cultivate the discipline of self control in the area of your volume level. I remember trying to help my brother understand the difference between just whispering, and truly being quiet. Whispering doesn't help if you're tromping down the hallway at 5:30 in the morning! But the gentle reminders paid off - he's now pretty quiet when he wants to be. :) Now if we could just get a certain sibling to shut the bathroom door without rattling the doorknob so loudly at 11:30pm. :)

And, when the inevitable sounds happen....

~ Contain the Noise
Ours is not a large house, and it's easy to hear what's going on in other rooms. Sometimes that's fine, but other times, you just don't want to hear that piano lesson played one more time. Shutting doors, plugging in earphones, and turning down the volume helps to keep tempers more cheerful. And, when "sharing noise" can't be helped, learn to either enjoy or ignore! :)

~ One Room, One Floor
As a general rule, only one person in a room talks at a time. Even when you're not sharing in a particular conversation, you respect that person's right to the floor. In general, we don't usually have more than one conversation going on in a room at the same time. If somebody wants to start another discourse, they move to another location. (Example: two little people want to play together, they move to a bedroom. A phone call for you; you move to another room to talk.) The major exception for this is when we have guests; then, nearly all the rooms in our house are filled with happy chatter, from multiple mouths - and we love it! Other exceptions would be at the dinner table (yes, I know, it's not "proper") or when we're playing games. When competition is going on, everybody is talking. :)

I think I've talked enough for now. I just wanted to share a few thoughts with you. Really, though, in the realm of "quietness," the most valuable thing you can cultivate is a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great worth. Why don't you share some habits that have helped you form that kind of quietness in your life?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

God is Good ALL the Time

I've been doing a lot of thinking, the past couple days.

Great, you say. Good for the head.

No - really. I've been doing more than the usual share of wondering, asking, and pondering. Don't make jokes. This is serious thinking that I've been doing.

There's so much hurt in the world. Death. Persecution. Broken relationships. Greedy dictators. Depression. Anger. Murder. Loss.

So many innocents wounded. Babies killed. Children scarred in their hearts. Wives grieving. Men broken inside. Families starving to death.

Why, God? Why do you let it be this way? Why must they hurt? My heart aches for them.

Why is my life so....pristinely perfect? It almost scares me. Why was I born in the most wonderful country in the world? Why have I never had to hide under a table, clutching my Bible in my hands, while secret police arrest my parents?

Why do I have an entire family that loves God and loves me? Why do I have parents who love each other? Why do I have enough to eat and clothes to wear? Why do I have a wonderful church, where the gospel is preached? Why do I have my grandparents still with me on this earth? Why have I never dealt with any sort of great physical pain at all?

Why have I been blessed with the opportunities to go so many places, meet so many wonderful - and sometimes famous - people? Why was I put in a family that is so popular? Why have I grown up in this lovely location - so close to the city, yet with a big enough yard to get filthy in, and plant seeds and run around with dogs? Why did I love school? Why did I have all the opportunity for the best education?

Why does everything always work out so well for me? Why has God blessed me this way, and not them?

If I think about it long and hard, I can find hardships in my life. I grew up feeling like an "odd ball," the "conservative homeschooler." I had a hard time making close friends as a youngster. I've never met my grandfather on my Dad's side. I've struggled with depression. I have asthma. I have a sister I dearly love who struggles with a lot of physical problems. There are loads of places I long to visit that I've never set foot in. I miss having my older sister living at home. Overabundance of money has never been a disease I caught.

But those things don't come to mind when I'm analyzing my life. When I'm struggling with them, in the moment, they seem overwhelming... but in the big picture, they disappear. When I'm summing it all up, I forget to add them to the total. I count my life a blessed thing.

And it doesn't seem fair. Not when all those other people are suffering beyond my comprehension.

But, ...then, do I really know these people? I haven't met them, or talked to them.

Maybe....maybe they're just like me.

Maybe the drama and misery and agony isn't like movies and novels and such would have me believe. Maybe the trials rise and fall, and their life goes on, just like mine. Maybe God is as close - closer - to them in their big troubles as He is to me in my little ones. Maybe they wouldn't trade their trials any more than I would trade mine and the lessons I've learned from them. Maybe God really does chasten those He loves.


Of course.

But what about the babies? What about the men and women and children who actually die?

O God, where are my eyes? What am I asking? I see things from such an earthy point of view. Help me remember that this world is not all there is. It exists for Your glory. All of history - and every life in it - is here for Your glory. You write each story. You know each soul. And when they leave this earth, why am I thinking that they are over, that they are gone? They have only moved.

How could I have forgotten that You love them more than I do? That You know them intimately? That You planned each second of their life before they came into existence?

The answer to my worries and fears lies in the character of God. I can trust His goodness and love.

Psalm 73
1Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.

2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.
3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm.
5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men...

...16 When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;
17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.
18 Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.
19 How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.
20 As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.
21 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.
22 So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.
23 Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.
24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.
28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.