08 February 2015
04 March 2014
Why celebrate Lent as a Family?
Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving
Devotionals, readings, crafts and music
Lenten wreath, cross or spiral
04 January 2014
This month seems as though it has carried an entire life's worth of feeling in it. Elora's death and birth brought into clear focus the fragile beauty of life which is a realization that carries with it the weight of Glory, I think. We went into the Advent and Christmas season with a stark awareness of our desperation for God to arrive in places so previously dark and seemingly uninhabitable that His arrival could only be described in terms of dazzling Light. "God with us" has never seemed more true. In grief, He has been constant, never turning or foresaking. Like the great lion weeping with a small boy in a new country, He has demonstrated over and over again just how very "with us" He is.
This next week, we head back to the small classical school we attend. There, our children will be taught by loving friends and in turn, I will have the opportunity to meet every day with young minds stuffed full-to-overflowing with big ideas. I am so grateful for them all, but there is a part of me that is mourning the movement of time, the inevitable loss of this place wherein we have walked the valley of the shadow of death hand-in-hand with our Savior. The valley has been dark, but His presence has illumined our very souls.
As we begin to emerge from the deep onto the plain, I know that His light will come from other sources, too. And while we need that and will rejoice in it, I confess, I will miss how aware I have been of His nearness. Like Mary in the garden, clinging to resurrected Christ, a great part of me doesn't understand how to both let go and still see Him clearly before me, also. I hear Him saying, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" but my goodness, I do so
want to cling...
01 January 2014
But 2013 was also extraordinarily wonderful. It was, by far, the year in which God grew us deepest into the soil of his provision. We have a long way to go, but we experienced such joy and satisfaction this year. We have discovered creativity and passions we had forgotten. We have developed understanding and compassion we didn't have. Our love for each other and our children is greater and deeper than we ever imagined it could be. Our pruning has brought forth flowers and fruit. We have seen resurrection from those parts of ourselves we have let die.
And, family and friends, we have been reminded again and again of the goodness of God's people. You have borne our sorrows and our pain, along with our ineptitude and mistakes, and have showed us grace and generosity and love, love, love again and again. Your prayers and practical love have sustained us. We are humbled and grateful for what God has done through you.
At the end of this difficult, beautiful year we pray that you and yours also see God's good and merciful hand shaping your 2013. He withholds no good thing from us...
Here's to 2014!
03 February 2012
This week, we received the sad news that a classmate died suddenly. She was 36 with three little girls and a husband who adored her. We all adored her. She was wonderful.
I know it is cliché in times like this to reflect on the brevity of life. But it occurs to me that if I knew this life were to end tomorrow, I'd want to spend it just like this, with eyes wide open to the quiet beauty all around me.
29 November 2011
Why is it that church people find it so very hard to be real with each other?
I hear of people wandering through their church experiences deeply wounded, longing for real connection, fearing judgment, unable to let down fences and guards and walls. I hear of churches deserting people in real need, dropping people who end up being sinful. I hear about pastors and parishioners without grace, without mercy, without humility.
So often Christians insist on being surprised, disappointed, afraid, angry when we find out people have failed. We accept the pretense that a Christian should have it all together. We act as though we are above sin, beyond sin, over sin.
If there is ONE PLACE where we ought to be able to be as broken as we actually are in real life, it is the church.
If there is ONE PLACE where we ought not fear if other see us fully, cracked and shattered, it is the church.
If there is ONE PLACE where we ought share our desperate need to be filled with something (actually SomeOne), who will not ooze out of us but will remain, abide, heal... it is the church.
If there is ONE PLACE where we ought practice confession and repentence, it is the church.
If there is ONE PLACE where we ought preach and teach and LIVE forgiveness and love, love, love, it is the church.
So why is it that it is so hard to be real in this one place?
07 November 2011
Over the past 6 3/4 years of motherhood, I've found that distractions are a little like a drug to me. I am embarrassed to admit that I have a hard time being "present" to my children minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day. I know some women who are just really wonderful at tuning in to their children's wants, needs, dreams, etc. And I'm, frustratingly, not one of them. Give me the opportunity to be distracted and I'm there!
Honestly, I like to think about grown-up things. Big ideas and deep conversations get me very excited. And while I know that one day my children will be able to engage in those conversations with me...well...that's a long way off.
I've been simultaneously glad for, and loathing of, the outlet the internet has provided for me. I find it hard to be a homeschooling mother of people who mainly want to talk about the toys they want to buy with the mythical money they'll never earn doing chores they refuse to contemplate. I've loved the internet -- reading the bloggy thoughts of women and men far wiser than I -- the opportunity to create some sort of alternative community -- it's all made this very isolating job of stay-at-home-schooling-mother a little easier for this extrovert.
But I've also noticed over the past few years "the D-word". I'm just distracted. I found myself crafting facebook status updates while washing dishes. Or wondering about a controversial blog post while reading a book to a child. Or completely ignoring the mountain of laundry on which we live while I spent time reading about the role of women in the New Testament on various internet sites (yeah, nerd-dom never leaves this girl). I just was not here and available to this family emotionally like I should be. Like I want to be. Like I really believe God wants me to be and has called me to be. Distracted.
To combat this, just a little, I got rid of my smartphone a month or so ago. Doing so, means that I don't have access to the internet until Dennis brings his smartphone (which has our wiresless hotspot on it) home from work. I have found it to be a big adjustment. For the first week or so, I felt like I had an itch I could not scratch. But after that, I've found a lot of peace in the disconnection. And once I got used to not having immediate access to information, I think my brain became a little less stream-of-consciousness and that I'm a little more linear. More focused, maybe. (A teeny bit, at least.)
I guess what I've experienced is another D-word that I've always dreaded. "Discipline". I know other people learn this as young children. I'm learning it now. And, you know... it's not ALL bad.
18 August 2011
17 August 2011
The last twelve months have been such a rich time in our lives. We've started homeschooling, moved into a house, had a baby, visited the NICU while said baby was healing, started unpacking, continued working on the house, continued homeschooling, continued working on the house, continued unpacking, finished homeschool, continued unpacking, continued working on the house, continued unpacking, continued working on the house...
It feels like there has been A LOT to process. And while I'm one who processes "verbally", as it were, it has seemed like a year to be silent here, for the most part, and reveal fool-ishness elsewhere.
But we are all doing well - growing in age and, hopefully, wisdom, too, and I find that I'd like a bit more of a record of who we are and what we are doing than I've had over the last year here. So maybe now is the time for more words. We'll see...
10 March 2011
I do love this third child of mine. She is one of the cutest things I've ever seen. Big brown eyes. Hilarious expressions. Engaging laughter and mannerisms. She's adorable.
Emmeliese loves to be in the thick of whatever is going on with her siblings. She won't stand for being left out of some activity; she inserts herself into the center of the action. She tends to want to play with whatever is being played-with, draw with whatever is being drawn-with, eat whatever is being eaten, go wherever others are going, do whatever others are doing.
- Eat cereal with spoon until cereal is below milk level and spoon is on floor.
- Proceed to eat cereal with hand.
-Wipe hand on hair and table.
- Get down from table.
- Find orange crayon near table.
- Draw circles on the wall nearest table.
- Notice Mommy noticing the drawing on the wall.
- Move to the kitchen, out of Mommy's eyesight to draw on drawers there.
- Discover alphabet magnets on fridge.
- Get into lower cabinets to find the perfect carrying container for magnets.
- Leave rejected receptacles of pyrex and cooking sheets on the floor.
- Carry magnets into living room.
- Dump magnets on floor.
- Pick up magnets one at a time and place in VCR slot of tv.
- Move to library when Grandma is alerted to presence of magnets on tv.
- Find wooden lacing beads in box.
- Pull off of shelf
- Take beads out of box and attempt to string on shoestring.
- Scream loudly when frustrated with attempted lacing.
- Watch Grandma and Daniel trying to put together a puzzle.
- Dump other puzzle pieces into Grandma and Daniel's stack.
- Move to books on shelves.
- Climb up one shelf of books to reach pop-up book about fairies.
- Read pop-up book.
- Decide pop-up book should be dismantled.
- Act dismayed and cry when Mommy takes book away.
- Find Daniel's birthday card on floor.
- Run around with card, screaming when Daniel gets close enough to grab card.
- Rip top off of card.
- Cry when Daniel takes card back and says, "NO, BABY!!"
- Go to Mommy to report Daniel's behavior.
I suppose one could get pretty upset or exasperated by this crazy kid. But for some reason, this stuff doesn't much bother me, her daddy, or her older brother and sister. They get annoyed with her but all is erased when she runs up to them to offer a kiss and a hug.
And cute goes a long way around here. Happy birthday, sweet little E!!
18 February 2011
12 February 2011
Love bade me welcome
Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.
"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here";
Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee."
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
"Who made the eyes but I?"
"Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?"
"My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."
So I did sit and eat.
-- George Herbert
It's even more beautiful in the setting by Vaughan William, I think. This version is so gorgeous and I was so excited to see that Thomas Allen is the baritone for this. Sublime.
09 February 2011
31 January 2011
26 January 2011
24 January 2011
Anyway - let's just say - I've been a fan for a long time.
So I don't know why I was surprised.
But I was.
I opened her book and began reading. I expected to be moved, expected to be inspired, but did not expect to be shifted into another universe of thought, did not expect to be fundamentally changed.
This book... oh my...what to say about this book that has taken my breath away and swept me up into her dizzying, gloriously stretching, delightfully revealing journey?
This book... is good. And I don't mean "good" as in "nice, fun, happy". I mean "GOOOOOOD!" I mean, "God looked at his creation and saw that it was GOOD" sort of "good." It's the sort of "good" that can only come about after total emptiness has been filled by the Divine -- complete with all the breaking and burning and molding and shaping and groaning that divine birth involves.
This book is so much more than a practical guide to creating a gratitude list, though one could find that in it. It is more than a memoir, more than a reflection on the intersection of the mundane and the divine, though it is definitely these things, too. What this book is, at its essence is a book of profound contemplations on the desire of a creation to be returned to communion with its Creator. From her opening assertions that the original sin is one of ingratitude, Ann spins the tale of how she runs, dances, stumbles and gropes the path of redemption found in a life of thanksgiving.
What Ann has created is an extraordinarily insightful, nuanced and deeply honest theology of Gratitude. The answer she has found to the meaning of life (living in intentional thanksgiving) appears to be simple. But the answer goes beyond just keeping a numbered list of God's gifts, something I've done without the essential accompanying contemplation of God's very nature, His plan for our restoration, His willingness to enter into our lives. Ann knows that living out the satisfied life is so much more than a sterile list. Ann knows that living eucharisteo is perhaps the most challenging task a mortal, fallen creature can undertake. She treats her exploration with all the raw desire, startling honesty and passionate reverence that such a task deserves. It's amazing.
I really wish I could buy tons of these books to hand out to family and friends and church members. And strangers, for that matter. If people get hold of the concept of a life-lived-in-thanksgiving, well... it could be life-changing. I know it already is changing mine.
Thank you, Ann.
21 January 2011
The link for XML (feed readers) is here and iCal is here and the link to view it in HTML in a web browser is here.
When I get together my prayer calendar for Dennis, I'll post it here, too.
10 January 2011
I haven't read these stories since late junior high and I never appreciated the wit and humor in them back then. The language and vocab is so rich and the characters so lighthearted... They are just a pleasure to dramatize vocally, and the kids sit in rapt attention (mostly) even though the meaning of a good third of it must go right over their heads. It really does make me eager to find more classics to share with them!
03 January 2011
We'll see how it goes!
This year, I thought I'd get fancy and try my resolutions in 90-day chunks. Dennis recently had a fabulous success in reading the New Testament in the 90 days before Advent, and it inspired both of us to "think small" when it comes to big changes in life. So here's what I (and Dennis, too, actually) will be doing in some 90-day chunks in the near future...
-Reading the Bible in 90 days ( a la biblegateway.com - it's delivered to our smart phones, which makes reading throughout the day pretty manageable!)
-Joining Weight Watchers online (after I'm cleared by my doc @ my 6 week appt.) and following the plan (again, the accessibility through our phones is just awesome)
- Joining e-mealz.com and cooking at home, mostly (we did lots of eating-out in Dec.)
-Sticking to a written budget ( we sort of got lazy w/ this during the move and near Peter's birth/hospitalization, etc.)
and most important...
- Making time several times throughout the day to give kisses and hugs to the kiddos (it's embarrassing to admit, but my kids are usually so good to each toher and me that, if I'm not careful, I find myself reacting only to negative behavior. My mom suggested setting a timer and having a hug-and-kiss break every hour or so, and it has been a big help. Again, I'm embarrassed that it slips my mind to do it without help, but this is working for us!)
Anyway, those are the things in the works for the next 90-ish days for us. I'm going to keep telling myself when I want to get off-track, "It's
only 90 days!"
18 December 2010
I'm not exactly sure he HAS meningitis, and neither is the neo-natologist, frankly. But the pediatric infectious disease doc has given that diagnosis, so we will treat it.
The bad news is that he has to have a PICC line and will be in the hospital for 14 days total. But that's the only bad news, really.
The good news (which, on the tiny keyboard on my phone, I always type as "god news". Coincidence, I think not!) is profoundly greater, in number and substance. The good news -- all of Peter's systems look not only good, but wonderful! His white cell count in his blood is perfect, which means this infection is not multiplying. (i.e if he does have the bacteria, it's just hanging out). His breathing is good, his oxygen levels are good. His sleeping is good...
But the most wonderful thing, to me, is that he can be fed "ad lib" meaning whenever-he-wants AND, glory of glories, he's been a really good nurser!!! He opens his mouth wide, latches on almost right away, and then nurses himself to sleep. I LOVE it!!! I think my mammaries are so excited that I might have a little overactive letdown going on. The poor child was gulping as fast as he could the other day and the milk just kept pouring forth.
I cannot describe the joy this gives me! After nursing Annalivia for 14 months, which was such a sweet experience, both Daniel and Emmeliese were my feta-makers -- fed on homemade goat's milk formula. Long-term, they are none-the-worse-for-the-wear, and there were parts of bottle feeding that I enjoyed, namely being able to hand them off to someone else to have a bottle. But I missed breast-feeding. There really is something there that cannot be duplicated in bottle-feeding, regardless of how close one can come. I'm not sure what it is. But that "je ne sais quois" is remarkable.
And I get to experience it again...
Such sweet joy this little one has already brought... :) :)
For a few more pics, click here.
17 December 2010
15 December 2010
07 December 2010
What all of this has meant, practically, is that we have a large house full of stuff that is not categorized or sorted, boxes most everywhere, Christmas decorations in our pastor's trailer parked, attractively, next to the house, six inches of snow on the ground, an overworked Daddy, a kindergartner on perpetual fall/ Christmas break, and a baby arriving in 6 days.
BUT- it's all good. We're in the house and I pray we will never, ever have to move again (though if I were God and Miss April let me know that she didn't want to move for another 50 years, I'd think she was just "askin' for it" :) ). Little Peter is doing well so far, and so am I, really. The kids are happy even we still haven't hooked up the tv. My mom has been taking them to her house every day and we wer reminded again of what an amazing fam we have when they all helped w/the move... There are just a lot of gifts in this process.
One of the most lovely, timely gifts is that this whole experience has afforded me yet another opportunity to reflect in this Advent time on how God took on human flesh and came into this messy, disorganized, not-at-all-ready-for-Him world and how He will come again - into the world, into my heart, and into the hearts of my family. I really wish this Christmas He would find the arrangements at the McStew house less like a stable than they will probably be, but I'm taking comfort in the fact that he WILL find a family waiting for Him. And in the end, the dusty, unorganized, chaotic chambers of our hearts will be His dwelling place again.
Even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come!
Hope you are having a blessed Advent. I'll try to post here after Peter is born next Monday!