Keep Shaking

A few years ago my mom taught us how to make butter by pouring heavy whipping cream into a sealed jar and shaking it until the liquids separate from the solids, resulting in butter and buttermilk. This process, though simple, takes effort and perseverance.

This week I thought making butter again to spread on homemade bread would be fun. I gave each of my kids a jar of cream that they began enthusiastically and vigorously shaking. They were even singing and dancing as they shook their jars.

“Shake, shake, shake…shake your butter…”

But, their motivation quickly began to wear off as their arms grew tired. When they couldn’t see any immediate results, their excitement turned into complaining.

“Keeeeep going. It will be worth it.” I told them.

They kept shaking their jars until all you could see was a white film covering the whole inside of the glass. To encourage them to persevere, I allowed them to open their jars and see the progress.

“Are we done? Can we eat it now?” They asked.

“Unless you want thick cream on your toast, you need to keep going. But it’s working, so keep shaking.”

“Shake. Shake. Shake.” My 1-year-old sang as they each gave her a turn.

Elijah, the inventor in our family, had the idea to stand on the Vibrating Exercise Plate while he shook his jar, hoping that would speed up the process. To his dismay, this idea did not create a shortcut.

Seven minutes went by and the shaking seemed to be accomplishing nothing. There was no movement in the jar, no noise, no sign of change. The interior of their jars was still covered in a thick white film that seemed to be stuck in whatever butter-making stage it was supposedly in. The kids were getting frustrated at this point and wanted to give up.

“Keep going. You’re almost done.” I promised them.

I knew I could promise them this because I had made butter before. Being fully aware of what to look for and listen for in the butter-making process allowed me to encourage them with full confidence. They too had previously made butter but in their impatience and frustration, they forgot and became discouraged.

After more fierce shaking, motivated more out of anger than making butter, their jars began to clear. With renewed hope that something was changing, they shook their jars even more vigorously, and after another minute they started to hear something. It was the sound of sloshing; sloshing because the buttermilk had begun separating from the butter.

“Hurray!!!” “Yay!” They all shouted!

“You’re not done yet. About 30 more seconds. You wanna get all that liquid out.” I told them.

With all the remaining strength left in their little muscles, they shook their jars like crazy for 30 more seconds. Then they each opened their jars and pushed the lids back just far enough to pour the buttermilk into a fresh glass. After removing their lids, they turned their jars upside down over a bowl, and, plop, out came fresh homemade butter. We mixed in a pinch of salt before joyfully savoring the warm bread smothered in a labor of love.

“Mmmmm. Worth it! ” they all agreed.

The season of life I’m in right now feels like making butter. I began homeschooling with eagerness and enthusiasm and had all sorts of ideas and dreams of how I wanted to run my school. There were museums, zoos, parks, trails, and community at my fingertips. I might not have been dancing and singing, “Shake, shake, shake…shake my schoolhouse…” But pretty much. I attended homeschool conventions, transformed my master bedroom into a school room, researched different methods and curricula, and heck, I even wrote a book on homeschooling. I’d like to say that after years of homeschooling, I’m still thriving joyfully as a home educator, but the truth is, I’m tired and burnt out. For the past few years, homeschooling has become more of a heavy load I feel inclined to bear. The joy and enthusiasm I started with has become foggy not just by the monotony of laundry, dishes, and lesson planning, but by a cloud of persistent grief that doesn’t seem to want to dissipate. And though I’ve wanted to give up, I keep hearing,

“Keeeep shaking. It will be worth it.”

My oldest is going into middle school. Am I done?

“Unless you want thick cream on your toast, you need to keep going. But it’s working so keep shaking.”

But nothing is moving. The jar is cloudy. I can’t see or hear anything. Is this really making a difference?

“Keep shaking.”

But I’m tired. It’s hard.

“Keep shaking.”

Sometimes God will let me pop the lid off to see the progress. I might witness maturity in my kids or find a new method of teaching that works better than another. But then I screw the lid back down and keep going, keep shaking – motivated by anger and duty at this point rather than by all the “whys” of homeschooling. Throwing the wet clothes in the dryer for the millionth time, slamming the door shut, and trudging through our basement floor covered in art supplies and toys to get to our schoolroom I hear,

“Keep shaking.”

I might have thrown in the towel if it hadn’t been for making butter this week. The process reminded me that when things look the cloudiest, or when you can’t hear anything at all, when it seems like all your efforts are in vain, if you keep shaking, keep persevering, butter is on the way. In fact, it’s just around the corner.

I have already learned this lesson in former seasons of life, but it’s easy to forget in the midst of pain and frustration.

So whatever journey you are on, whether you’re training for a race, parenting a difficult child, waiting to adopt, or whatever it is; remember God’s faithfulness. Take a peek inside the jar and see how far He has brought you. Keep shaking. In the end, it will be worth it.

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3 months ago

YES! So good. Love this analogy of the butter!