The Carrot Seed and Old Windows

One of my all-time favorite childrens books is a little one written in the 1950’s.  The carrot seed by Ruth Krauss is an absolute treasure.  It tells the simple story of a boy who plants a carrot seed, then waters it diligently and carefully weeds around it while his entire family looks on telling him “it won’t come up.”

But he doesn’t quit.  He continues to tend his seed patiently until one day…

I love this story.  I love reading it to my children.  It speaks of acting in faith, believing in yourself when others don’t, of the law of the harvest.  I have also dreamed for years of somehow hanging this book in my home as a reminder to us all.  I hesitated, however, worried about the number of picture frames it would take.

Last year a friend gave us a beautiful set of two old windows.  Painted a beautiful butter yellow, they each have six panes.  One day the light went on in my head and I rushed to my copies of The Carrot Seed to count pages.  Sure enough, I could do it.   It took two copies of the book (purchased years ago from Scholastic for 99 cents each).

I cut the binding off the books and carefully taped the pages to the backs of the windows.  And now, on two old windows, we have the entire story hanging in the toy room.  It makes me smile to peek in and see the children reading it while they play.  Exactly what I hoped for.

A simple way to hang an entire book, and the windows add character and interest to the room.   Most importantly, we’re reminded daily to keep working on those good seeds we’ve planted in life.  Eventually they will come up.


Hospitality: A Pep Talk

As I mentioned, we’re hosting a gathering this weekend to celebrate our daughter’s baptism. It’s a wonderful thing, something we look forward to and which we will remember fondly when it’s all over.

I’ve done all my usual things.  I’ve dreamed up fabulous menus, thought of all kinds of pretty little finishing touches for everything from bathrooms to desserts, written a list of projects to finish that is longer than all the projects I’ve done this year.  There is no shortage of ideas in this head of mine!  As the weekend has drawn nearer, however, many items have been crossed off the list as reality sets in.  Last night the whole family joined in and helped to clean bedrooms and bathrooms.  The essential rises to the top and the nice-to-do settles to the bottom.

As I’ve done this, I’ve been pondering my little cycle of preparing for out of town company.  Why is it that I expect my perfect house, my perfect self to be ready for gatherings?  I know that it won’t really happen, but I impose the standard on myself anyway.  Why do I behave as if my house shouldn’t look like ten people live in it when ten people really do live here?  Why do I worry and stress when I know that it will all turn out fine, just as it’s done every time before this?
And what about the cost of stress for my family?

I want to live graciously.  I want to have  a gracious home, a gracious family, a gracious demeanor, a gracious smile.  I want my home to be a warm and happy place where people feel at peace.  I want to give thoughtfully, to entertain cheerfully, to live with a calm and happy heart.  And perhaps most importantly, I want to prepare for all these things graciously as well.

Sandy Coughlin wrote, “Gracious living is the butter on the warm bread of common life.”

Isn’t that beautiful?  Does it make you want to go bake some bread to share with a friend?  It does that to me.  It also reminds me that gracious living isn’t something I should focus on only when guests are expected; it’s something I should offer to my family every day.  People who are gracious make it look easy, but really they’ve worked at cultivating this talent.  It’s a talent I am determined to develop.

Sandy Coughlin is the author of the blog, Reluctant Entertainer , and earlier this year she published a book by the same title.
Having read her blog here and there, I purchased the book when it first came out, and for me it’s been a gem.  While many of her tips and tricks were things I already knew, I enjoyed it because she sounded real and down-to-earth.  I also enjoyed it because as I read the book ideas and insights were opened to my mind concerning how hospitality and graciousness relate to me as a mother in my relationships with my children.  Heavenly Father can use anything to teach us what we need to know.  I learned a great deal and wrote pages of notes.

“Hospitality is more about creating the right mood than the perfect piecrust,” she writes.  The key, in her opinion, is to seek excellence instead of perfection.  “Excellence is working toward an attainable goal that benefits everyone.”

It’s so easy to get it backwards, to think that we must create the perfect environment so that the right mood can prevail.  With all of my little ones I’m in a stage of life when the environment is far from perfect.  If I let my success hinge on that one thing alone, I cannot succeed, and there’s nothing that will destroy my mood faster than the feeling that I can’t succeed.  While having a tidy and presentable home is important, it is NOT more important than the feeling in my home.

Excellence, on the other hand, is win-win.  It blesses all of us.  Unlike perfection, excellence can be attained – not in all areas at all times, but in some.  Ultimately the secret to success and to graciousness is in “being relaxed and engaged when you greet your guests at the front door.”  Life is about people, relationships.

All these thoughts have paraded through my mind this week.  There have been moments of stress and moments of peace.  I look around my house this morning and see many loose ends to tie up.  I see fingerprints all over walls that I didn’t get to.  I also see a newly organized pantry and a guest room that is ready and waiting.  There is excellence in a few areas and great need in others.  I see three little ones who need me to be their mother in the midst of  all my daytime busy-ness.  I have simplified many plans and kept my sights set on one or two.

Most of all, I’m excited.  In a few hours someone will notice the car pulling up, and eight sets of feet will run from different parts of the house to greet grandparents who have sacrificed to spend a couple of days with us.  That  moment, the moment of pounding feet and noise converging on the front door is what it’s all about.

I look forward to greeting my parents, my brothers and sisters and others at the door with a smile on my face, ready to engage in the opportunity to make memories and build relationships.  My two year old said to me yesterday, “I don’t like when Grandma and Grandpa go.  I like it when they are here.”  It will be wonderful to see them, precious to see my daughter dressed in white with her Daddy for her baptism.  We’ll bask in the blessing of being together.  And the dirty fingerprints won’t matter.

Hopeful Homemaker

Will You Still Love Me?

I’ve been reading this book a lot lately with my little guy. It’s titled Will You Still Love Me?
by Rick Walton.

It’s the story of a boy who approaches his Dad with a series of hypothetical scenarios.

In each scenario he describes a different mistake or poor choice that he might make, then asks his Dad if he will still love him.

Every time his Dad tells him what he will do to help his son learn from his mistakes and have an opportunity to fix them where possible.  He tells his son that he might feel disappointed, sad, or he might even panic, but each scenario ends with the words, “I will still love you.  I will always love you.”

I love this book.  It is well written and illustrated in a way that makes children want to look at it.  When my little guy and I have had recent conversations about his behavior, this book has been a good reference point for us when I firmly tell him what is acceptable but also tell him how much I love him.  He remembers this book and seems to understand.  The other day he watched someone else make a mistake and said to me, “But we still love him, don’t we Mom.”

I smiled at him and said, “Of course.”

Sadly, it’s out of print, but you can still find copies for a good price if you’re interested.

Hopeful Homemaker

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