Thursday, October 28, 2010

Time's Limits

Sometimes life seems simple and spacious, and I begin a project to fill my leisure hours.

Like at the beginning of fall, when summer's crazyness is winding down, and my mind wanders ahead to the dark quiet evenings of winter, and the cozy, restful kind of work that can fill the two hours between the kids' bedtime and my own.

This fall I taught myself to knit. Inspired by Amanda Soule at Soulemama and her inspiring goal of knitting each of her family members (even her husband) a sweater for Christmas, I decided my first knitting project would be a white button down sweater for Raindrop. Something to turn short sleeved dresses and shirts into winter-ware, something that matches any outfit and makes it cozier. I chose a baby sweater pattern from my "Teach Yourself to Knit" book, and worked the stitches over and over again with the same piece of yarn, knitting it, unravelling it all, and knitting again until I was satisfied that I had the stitch figured out. If I'm going to spend all the money and time on it, I want to be happy with it when I'm done.

The problem is, my real life is neither simple nor spacious, and I don't have hours of time waiting for me to fill it. I have a myriad of projects and interests all clamoring for my time, all the more so since I began first grade with Christopher Robin in earnest at the beginning of September.

I have potatos and carrots and rutabagas to bring in from the garden before the ground freezes, I have squash to bring in and cook and freeze, a new pile of wood to stack, a book to read for the book club, piles of laundry waiting for me to fold at the end of most days, bills to pay, friends and family to keep in touch with, and soon, Christmas preparations to begin. And I'd like to fit blogging back into my life somewhere in a regular spot.

To my chagrin, I forgot about my basil patch (it was so lush and healthy, and I was so excited to try making pesto and having it on hand all winter to flavor pizza and pasta) until the frost had killed it. I hoped to add bulbs this fall, too...more tulips and darling crocuses and a patch of gladiolas, and now the time for that has nearly passed me by, too.

But the most imporant things, beginning my days in the Word, setting my mind on Christ, learning to live by the power of the Holy Spirit rather than in gritting my teeth and willing myself to do what's right, educating my children, reading scripture to them, learning to see them as people and respect them and hear them, those things have not been neglected this fall. The rest, my projects, my goals and hopes and dreams are just icing. If I don't get more bulbs planted this fall, I won't still be regretting that in 20 years (I may regret it if I don't get any apple trees planted this spring, however, because those could be a wonderful resource in 20 years), so I reach the end of my day and I choose. Tonight I'll blog for a little bit while three full baskets of laundry wait to be folded, and after this I'll turn on the gubernatorial debate, pick up the little white sweater, and knit. Not full of regrets that I can't get everything done. Just quietly thankful that I have so many good choices for how to spend my time.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gifts I've found on vacation in Illinois...

308. Sweet niece just my daughter's size, cooing, "Oh, so cute!!" about her little cousin. And sidling up to her with her head tilted lovingly towards her, and directing endearing smiles in her direction all evening.

309. Chili and corn muffins and fresh vegetables and pumpkin squares generously baked for us by our sister-in-law's mother

310. Experiencing for a few hours the home and town and life of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and niece (and a very good life it is)

311. Warm evening walk through the pretty little town they call home, savouring the last few minutes with them before piling back into the van for 3 1/2 more grueling hours of travel

312. The Farm in October...pumpkins, cornstalks, giant metal towers full of kernals...riding in the combine, feeling the grind of the amazing machine beneath me while it pulls in whole cornstalks and spits the millions of individual kernals into the bin

313. Coyote, sleek and golden, running reluctantly out from the last of the corn rows as his hiding place is swollowed up

314. Rabbit, jumping out at the last possible far still surviving coyete's hunt and combine's blades

315. Two boys in the pickup with Grandpa

316. Apple cider

317. Raindrop's new word, "Windy". "It's windy, Mom!"

318. Reunion with best friends from college...nine years since we were together, picking up where we left off, wishing the hours would stretch a little to allow more time together.

319. A whole weekend with one of them, and her boundless generosity and limitless energy and perpetual cheeriness haven't changed, and I soak her in, and watch my kids become acquainted with her, and give thanks to God for this unexpected gift of seeing her again.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Peter Pan

Browsing the shelves of a bookstore several months ago on a rare day without the kids, I picked up a deep blue hardcover copy of Peter Pan. My boys had been playing Peter Pan daily since I had let them watch Disney's version, but I had never read the book and wondered if, as in most cases, it was better than the movie. I flipped open to the first chapter.

...Of course they lived at 14, and until Wendy came her mother was the
chief one. She was a lovely lady, with a romantic mind and such a sweet
mocking mouth. Her romantic mind was like the tiny boxes, one within the
other, that come from the puzzling East, however many you discover there is
always one more; and her sweet mocking mouth had one kiss on it that Wendy could never get, though there it was, perfectly conspicuous in the right-hand
The way Mr Darling won her was this: the many gentlemen who had been boys
when she was a girl discovered simultaneously that they loved her, and they all
ran to her house to propose to her except Mr Darling, who took a cab and nipped
in first, and so he got her. He got all of her, except the innermost box
and the kiss. He never knew about the box, and in time he gave up trying
for the kiss. Wendy thought Napoleon could have got it, but I can picture
him trying, and then going off in a passion, slamming the door.

I could barely wait to read more, but I had several other books in progress, so although of course the book came home with me, I put it away in the hidden place where I keep gifts I have bought for the kids, and then forgot about it by the time my other books were finished. I pulled it out two nights ago when I was ready to wrap gifts for Christopher Robin, who turned 6 yesterday.

I had planned to read it aloud to him, because it has few pictures and 17 chapters. I bought a couple of other simpler books with pictures on every page for him to read to himself during rest time.

I was surprised how thrilled Peanut Butter was to be able to give the book to his brother as his gift. It was, after all, a book, not a toy. But it IS a beautiful blue, with even a matching blue ribbon attatched as a book mark, and they do love the story of Peter Pan. Peanut Butter chuckled with glee, chose some brown paper with brown and pink dots to wrap it in, and promised not to tell.

When Christopher Robin opened the book as his very first gift of his birthday, he seemed a little hesitant. I wasn't sure that was the best timing, since it was one of the few gifts he couldn't use right away, and at the beginning of the day it's fun to open something you can start playing with and enjoy all morning. But he flipped it open and looked quietly, then began reading silently to himself. I didn't tell him I was planning to read it aloud to him, and he took it over to the couch and read, not interested in anything else for a few minutes. He kept going back to it, and when he opened Billy and Blaze just before rest time, he left it on the floor and kept reading Peter Pan.

I knew it would come, but it surprised me still. It's as though he slipped quietly through the door of chapter books and left me behind... I still haven't read Peter Pan, and he's delving into the world silently, alone.

I have long been thinking that I would soon be spending most of my reading time trying to keep up with books he's reading. There are so many worlds open to him now, and I want to be sure he's keeping out of the sordid and dangerous ones, and keep him supplied with the ones that are heroic and honest and true. But now the time is here, I feel a little breathless with the surprise and also apprehension. The older, he gets the less I can control what he's exposed to, and although I love to see him reach new heights and open new worlds, I wish I could always direct him to the good and the true.

I know my direct influence dwindles as his world expands, so I find myself more and more on my knees, asking, begging God to show Himself to my son, and to watch over him and guide him to people who will teach him good things and inspire him to devote his life to worship of our mighty God, the Lord of Heaven's Armies, and courageous obedience to Him.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

September gifts

292. the discipline of vigilance to keep the two-year-old out of trouble while homeschooling the oldest

293. chilly legs in fall's cool air, and snuggling in soft warm clothes feels good again

294. address labels stuck all over little girl legs and skirt and shirt

295. gingersnaps

296. freshly-vacuumed carpet

297. Dare to Discipline... how helpful it is to be reminded about these basic principles

298. spending evenings with my sister, and how she, too, loves watching and rewatching Pride and Prejudice

299. stacking wood, all five of us that make up this family, on Labor Day

300. boys determined to make their muscles bigger by carrying the heaviest pieces of wood they can find

301. oldest boy who kept stacking until every piece of the generous cord of wood was stacked high

302. words printed on pages

303. The Moon of the Monarch Butterflies...I never miraculous, how magical, the migration of the monarchs

304. summer: full of events and visits from family, green, alive, fresh, hot, camping in tents, trips to the beach, slip'n'slide play, tending the garden, swinging daily the little girl who loves to "'wing", evening walks, marshmallow roasts, family trips to new places

305. fall: cool and warm mingle and swirl, promise of short days and long cozy evenings to sew and maybe learn to knit and organize and read good books

306. "I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again." John 6:35 NLT

307. "People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water. But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life." John 4:13-14 NLT

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Story of the Schaeffers

I knew that I had come to be shown something more of how God works, making
His strength perfect in weakness, as well as to give some answers to
people eager to ask. God is very merciful to us in continuing to help us
to grow, to teach us more of how He works, to give us a growing closeness to
Himself and fresh glimpses of reality. Such things are exciting to me, but
they do not come from "nine to five" in neat little packages of time, when our
energy is fresh, when we have had enough sleep, exercise, and a balanced
This is not to say that exercise, proper food, sleep, and some sort of a
balanced schedule are not important, but we each need to recognize the Lord's
interruptions when they come, and DO what He is giving us to DO. We are
not in a union! Gideon's battle with so few men and such strange weapons
was not exactly a soothing night's sleep. Nor were Paul's shipwrecks,
beatings, imprisonments, stonings, lack of food and sleep all listed in a
preplanned schedule. So often in history the excitement of seeing and
being a part of God's work is accompanied by afflictions and persecutions and a
diversity of true hardships.
Turning a few pages to find out what happened "next," what happened in the
last twenty-three years, is not really possible if one were not reminded that it
takes twenty-three years to understand and feel the pain, fears,
uncertainties, shocks, and the constant waiting. One can't wait "with
patience" without a period of time that threatens to destroy all patience, that
slowly brings an increasing impatience. Condensed pages of "skimming" the
years may give a false impression...each year is made up of 365 twenty-four-hour
~Edith Schaeffer, L'Abri

These paragraphs are from the end of Edith Schaeffer's book describing the journey she and her husband, Francis Schaeffer, and her family took as they blindly, in faith, followed God's leading, resulting in a cluster of chalets in Switzerland where people from all over the world found their way to stay for a time and listen to answers to their questions and discussions about God and truth. The book is called, L'Abri, which is the name they gave their chalets, the French word for shelter.
What struck me as I read their story was how God led them in a way similar to how He led Abraham, making his will known to them a step at a time as they humbly obeyed in faith, without knowing His ultimate plan. Their story echoes so many other stories I've read of people used in mighty ways by God, people whose lives produced fruit a hundred fold. Prayer, humility, steps of faith, persistent obedience in doing what He calls us all to do, sacrificing their own comforts in service to others, welcoming with generous hospitality all He brought to their doors, and then, at certain moments, stepping into the unknown towards impossible things as He led them. The remarkable results of their life work seem to come from opennes to HIS plan (not concocting their own...they had ideas of what He might want them to do, but they let Him show them incrementally, and never professed to know where it would all lead), fervent prayer whenever they felt lost or up against impossible obstacles or had important decisions to make, and selfless service to others. That struck me deeply as I read the story from Edith's perspective. She never complained about the work, just mentioned in passing once towards the beginning of the story how some people's responding to her husband's conversation with them by coming to joyful faith in Christ erased the resentment she had been feeling about having to work through the whole long discussion. She was the hostess to countless guests who found their way to the "shelter." The Schaeffers didn't have an income other than what God provided for them, so much of their food was grown in gardens and made from scratch. When I think of all the meals she planned and organized and served day in and day out, I'm awed. She raised her four children and travelled with her husband and shared his work load and contributed to the ministry and held conversations with guests and workers who were helping in the gardens and with the meals. She never glossed over how much work it was or what sacrifice was required, but it was never a complaining or resentful spirit coming through her story. When she talked about the challenge it was to have a "family life" with such a steady stream of guests always in their home, she acknowledged that the challenges were real and not always solved. But the main story consists of the miracles, of God showing Himself and His will to them through supernatural workings of circumstances and situations and changed lives. She talks often of the joy of living a life where God kept showing to them that He is REAL.
I kept feeling so thankful, as I read their story, to be able to know some of the details about how God leads people. Their story is so different from other ones I've led in the kind of ministry they had, one of hospitality on Edith's part, and introducing intellectuals to the logic, coherency, and truth of Christianity on Francis's part. But it's the same story, too. People who chose to listen to God and obey his leading in faith finding themselves at the end of their lives having helped, changed, influenced, encouraged more people than they could ever know about.

Monday, June 7, 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird

I'm pretty sure my five year old boy thinks the book I was reading aloud to his daddy was about different ways to slaughter birds, but it's actually a warm, human, touching story that I fell in love with all over again when I read it as the last of my three-book reading spree, and then again to My Hero because he'd never read it.

Atticus, the father in the story, is the kind of man I hope my boys will be someday, and he actually reminds me some of my dad. Especially last night, when my dad was pitying my younger brothers, who are just 16 and 12, for having such an old father. When my older brother and I were growing up, he was younger than most of my friends' dads, but there are 20 years between my older brother and my youngest brother, and by the time the two youngest came along, my dad had more wisdom and experience than almost all the other dads of young boys out there. He joked that he had lots of experience, but he'd run out of energy. Atticus bows out of the more demanding athletic events available to him by saying he's too old, and his kids pity themselves for having such an old father. The irony, of course, is that he's the best kind of father a kid could have, as I'm sure they begin to realise by the end of the story.

I'm finding myself at a loss to talk much more about the story. I could give an outline, but that would be flat and empty. It's the characters and humor and depth of development that make the book so wonderful, and I can't recap that. Just know that if you're looking for a book to read or reread this summer, this one will not disappoint.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

That was the second book of my three-novel reading spree. Here's how I decided to read this one: I checked the Midday Connection Book Club page to see what book we would be reading next. It was a novel I had read in high school English and loved. Excited that I already owned a copy and knowing it was worth rereading after such a long time, I made a mental note. A few days later I went to my bookshelves to pick it out, and had a sudden confusion. Was the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or To Kill a Mockingbird? Both I head read in high school English, both I had loved... I debated for a minute, then decided it was definitely A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Part way through the book I returned to the book club page to print off the discussion questions, and saw to my dismay that I had begun reading the wrong book. The book club book was To Kill a Mockingbird. Not dismay about the book, because I loved it, but dismay that I might not have time to read both, and I was far enough into A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to be unwilling to set it down to start another story. I decided I would simply have to finish A Tree Grows in Brooklyn quickly and then read To Kill a Mockingbird. Turns out it really wasn't a problem finishing them both in the couple of weeks I had left before the book club discussion (to hear the discussion, including comments contributed by this shy but avid reader, simply click the listen link next to the To Kill a Mockingbird title.) Here's the kicker. At the end of the program they announced the next book club book to read during the summer: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Francie has far from ideal parents, but again I found myself closely observing the ways they dealt with their children, good and bad, especially Katie Nolan, Francie's mother. Francie's father is a charming, well-meaning man who can't hold a steady job and drinks too much. Katie shoulders the responsibility of the family, and she's described as made of steel. She has high standards, does everything as well as she can, works hard constantly, loves her children. I'm filled with admiration for her and feel irritated and impatient with Francie's father for his weakness and irresponsibility. But Francie loves her father better. I think there's a softness, and understanding in him towards Francie that Katie doesn't have.

The tree is a kind of tree that grows in the slums of New York. It grows where nothing else will, and in the end of the book, after men had cut it down to make room for electrical wires, it grew back, shooting up in a spot where it wouldn't be in the way, persisting, determined to live and thrive. It's a picture, I think, of the Nolan family, maybe Francie specifically.

There is so much richness in the characters and their relationships with each other I feel completely inadequate to describe or relate, but I feel strengthened, somehow, after reading the story. It's a story of survival, I guess, and hope.