Life in a Kitchen Aid mixing bowl

Have you ever caught your fingers in the whirling beaters of a mixing bowl? Doing it once insures you’ll never repeat it. I can testify to the experience: scrambled, twisted, excruciating.

Our house had been on the market for many months, and the ticking of every clock was like the unrelenting wap-wap-wap of mixing bowl beaters… with us in the bowl, scrambling. What would we do if the house never sold? Would we lose it to foreclosure? Excruciating.

Financially, I knew it would help if I went to work. Looking at want ads, I marked the newspaper with highlighters, but every job had at least one requirement I couldn’t meet. What does a homemaker do after being out of the work force for 35 years while raising her family?

My mind whirled as the beaters twisted me. How ‘bout this? Or that? Or something else? I looked in one direction and then another, here, there, back and forth, spinning fruitlessly, unable to grab onto anything.

Finally I decided to do what I should have done in the beginning. I asked God. I’m not sure why it took so much spin-time before approaching him, although it was difficult to look up when life was beating on me. All I could see from the bowl was chaos.

But God knew all along he had a plan. Never mind that he made us wait a little longer before he showed it to us. Wap-wap-wap.

I have a friend who loves the elderly. Jan works in a nursing home and is in charge of many residents, often befriending the spouses of those in her care, the ones who come visiting.

One day “out of the blue” she called me. “Would you like to become a companion for a delightful 83 year old lady, in her home, several days a week? She’ll pay double minimum wage.”

Within a week I was sitting in Bettye’s immaculate living room, hearing her make that same offer. And the job description? All the things I’d been doing as a stay-at-home mom for 35 years. It was a perfect match.

The beater stopped spinning, and God lifted me out of the mixing bowl. Bettye and I worked together in flawless synchrony until our family moved away just recently.

I’ve learned that God can be trusted and ought to be consulted well before life twirls out of control. He always has a good plan, and it’s always an original. The hard part is waiting with patience until he’s ready to reveal what it is. But when he does, the time will be exactly right.

Three score and four

Today I turned 64. All I can think of is the Beatles’ song:

“Will you still need me…

will you still feed me…

when I’m sixty-four?”

Those words, recorded by Paul McCartney in 1966, have been on a loop in my head since I got out of bed this morning. Trying not to feel threatened by the number 64, I’ve comforted myself knowing Paul couldn’t have been very old when he wrote it. Most sixty-somethings can still feed themselves. (In researching it, I learned he was only 16. It figures.)

The Beatles song is said to have been the longing of one young lover to another, the expression of a hope that their relationship would be a marathon, not a sprint.

Feeling nostalgic, I took a look at my own young loverhood via youthful diaries. Reading through the “capers” of my teenage self dating seven boys at once, reminded me of the biblical tag, “youthful foolishness.” But that was me. In searching for the perfect date, I was really looking for the perfect mate. So did I find him?

My “Dear Diary” pages about Nate’s and my early marriage resounded with a happy “yes”. But memories of the 40 years between then and now force a tempering of that enthusiasm. Hard times have been sprinkled over happy ones, and we’ve gradually learned to find blessing in ordinary days.

Viewed in a rear view mirror, the most difficult seasons of our marriage, the times labeled “hard” or even “awful” when going through them, can now be seen as having been for our good. We didn’t learn much when life was all laughter and fun. A preacher once said, “God isn’t interested in our happiness. He’s interested in our growth.” I believe it.

Despite being able to point back to periods of sadness, disappointment and pain, Nate and I are still together as we cross the threshhold of 64, ten days apart. We see personal growth and lots of good coming out of life’s occasional “bad”.

In 1983, I hung a plaque on our bedroom wall:

“Coming together is a beginning.

Keeping together is progress.

Working together is success.”

That year we celebrated our 14th anniversary with five children around the table and an overly busy family life. The plaque exuded encouragement to keep going.

Today, having traveled 26 additional years down the marriage road, we still look at that plaque every day. And we really get it now. That middle line about keeping together is a required stepping stone to a Golden Anniversary party. In marriage there are points for just showing up.

The last line about working together eliminates the option of working against each other. Satisfying marriages get really good at side-by-side.

So, what’s the bottom line about reaching 64? Paul sang, “When I’m sixty-four, you’ll be older, too.” When a husband and wife buy into this truth, life calms considerably. Pressure is lifted, and expectations line up with reality. This has been our experience.

Looking back, I think each of us did pretty well in the search for a perfect mate. Yes, sixty-four is off to a good start. And by the way, we even ate our birthday cake without anyone having to feed it to us.

Reality sometimes bites our kids.

We gathered the kids around the dining room table. “You all know how tight the money’s been around here,” Nate started. “We’ve tried to cut back every way we could. Some of you have had to drop out of college. All of you have jobs. We don’t go on vacations or buy new cars anymore. But this stuff hasn’t been enough.

There is one thing, though, that we could do…” he faltered… “that would help us alot… that we’re going to have to do.” He paused. “We need to sell our house.”

After a hush during which I was sure I heard the roll of thunder, Birgitta, 13, responded with horror on her face.

“You mean MOVE?!”

My personal tears anticipating this moment had been shed days before, during prayer times for the kids looking at us now. My hope had been to remain tearless at that moment and speak light into the storm cloud forming.

“Maybe we’ll move to the country,” I chirped in a voice too high to be mine. “Weezi, you might get your own horse!” Our 15 year old looked at me through eyes full of tears, pursing her lips to hold back a sob… and words.

Nelson, 31, having moved out long ago, pulled toward optimism by pointing out how the four brothers could use country acreage to store rattle-trap cars and non-functioning go-carts. Although we appreciated his try, our main focus was the younger kids, and they were not doing well.

Getting through our half-hour meeting was like trying to swallow a pill that refused to go down. Reality sometimes bites, and it was biting our children. Although we’d been tempted to sugar-coat the news, we thought it better to let them have the whole truth, bitter that it was.

Five of our seven children had known no other home. The oldest two had only a handful of early memories of our prior house. As we watched their facial expressions define different inner struggles, it felt like we were yanking baby bunnies from the safety and familiarity of their snug burrow.

“Do we absolutely have to move? Who will buy our house? When will we have to leave? Will we take the animals? Will I have my own room?”

Our only accurate answer was, “We don’t know.”

The contract was formalized, and a FOR SALE sign went up in the yard. Gradually, over weeks and eventually months, resistance melted. Our address didn’t change. Other than occasional visitors marching through the rooms with clipboards, family life continued on.

Little did we know that by the time a serious buyer with a healthy checkbook would finally surface four years later, most of us would have come to believe the house would never sell, and we would never move.