29 November 2011

Somewhere to be real

"When the world can turn around and see a group of God’s people exhibiting substantial healing in the area of human relationships in their present life, then the world will take notice. ~ Francis Schaffer

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

The D-word

I am a distracted person. Flylady would call me Sidetracked. But what I think of as "the D-word" makes more sense to me. "Unable to concentrate because one's mind is pre-occupied." Yup. That's me.

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

We are so blessed to have him

My beloved grandfather turned 88 this Aug 3. Here he is with 6 of 7 great-grandchildren. We all gathered to celebrate and give him presents, but we all know WE are the ones with the gift.

17 August 2011

Wherein she attempts to defeat Ecc. 5:3

"A fool's voice is known by many words" Ecc 5:3b

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

This third child

My little Emmeliese Elizabeth turned two today.

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.

She loves her little brother and constantly wants to hold him. Or rock him. Or cram his pacifier in his mouth to "help" him.

A story for posterity on the occasion of her second birthday.... Emmeliese also happens to be a total and complete mess-maker. Her father and I call her Destructo because the kid breaks, bends, amends or alters almost everything she touches. She doesn't do these things maliciously and she's not particularly disobedient; she's just so. flipping. curious! I've gotten so accustomed to her constant alteration of items, surfaces, plans, etc. that I sometimes don't realize that the poor thing hears, "Emmeliese! NO!" at least fifty times a day. And that's just from me.

A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law was visiting. My MIL is someone who likes things to be in original order all the time. When the kids spill something, she cleans it up immediately -- no waiting for them to clean it up for themselves. When something is out of place or slightly askew, it drives her nuts. Her children have tormented her in the past by moving the zipper on her purse so the pulls were off-center. You know the type, right?

Emmeliese kept the poor woman on her toes. It was hilarious, and thankfully, my MIL has a sense of humor to match her desire for order and saw that herself. Through her reactions and attempts to right that which was wrong, I saw anew the wondrous and terrifying power that is Emmeliese Stewart. Here's a literal rundown of about two hours for Emmeliese.

- 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.

I don't know if I'm just a more relaxed parent or whether I've realized that most things can be fixed or that I am learning that most of the stuff that's easy to see as a parent is not worth making a mountain over. Those are possibilities as to why I am relatively unfazed by her redecorating, most of the time. But I think the real reason is because she's just so darn cute.

And cute goes a long way around here. Happy birthday, sweet little E!!

18 February 2011

Peter smiling

I snapped this with my phone's camera the other morning. It's not great quality, but he sure is cute. :)

12 February 2011

Love bade me welcome

At Valentine's Day, one of our traditions is that I force anyone who will stand sort of still for a bit to listen to poetry. This is one of my faves.

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

One of my favorite pictures ever

Meeting little brother for the first time

Those on facebook have already seen this, but I wanted to share here. (And, fyi, there are more pics at this link.)

31 January 2011

Preparing for Snow-maggedon

So... it's supposed to snow...

We're in the 13-18" area.

My facebook friends headed to the store to stock up on things yesterday and today. I resisted the urge to do the same. Instead of heading to Walmart, I thought I'd prepare by finding some links to fun snow-day activities. If anyone else has fun snow-related activities to do, I'd love to know about them! Here are just a few to get started...

Snacks and Treats

We will likely make Snowman Soup. We have one good story to accompany our Snowman Soup, but I think we need another, so we'll likely write a story and illustrate it as part of our preparation.

I've been waiting to make these frozen banana snowmen with the kids.

We may also make some sort of snowball cake sort of like these. I love the yellow cake recipe here. It's so easy and I always get delicious results. We'll top with coconut, which my children love and we hardly ever have. A snowman cake is here.

Here's a Snow White Pizza that looks different and deliciously fun! Or one could make it with alfredo, carrots, and mushrooms and make a Snowman Pizza.

Crafts and Games

There's always snowflake-making. We're going to do ours out of leftover white tissue paper from Christmas and we may cut them into hearts to work as a Valentine decoration.

These snowman pins are cute and would work as magnets, which we happen to have on hand.

Tic-Tac-Snow is fun. The gluing of the cottonballs to the penny is quite the event. I don't usually let my children glue things. :)


I think I'm going to have Annalivia and Daniel do the snowman name graph and scarf pattern found at this link.

And Almost Unschoolers has many cool projects involving snow. We'll be doing this experiment, but I'd suggest searching her blog for "snow" to see her brilliant ideas!

And, if this snow drags on and on, we are going to scrap the winter-related themes and get out the gardening book and seed catalogs! Happy Snow Day(s)!!

26 January 2011

My perceptive son

My kids are fans of the PBS show, Wild Kratts which features Kratt brothers Martin and Chris in various wild animal related adventure. The brothers are animated and one is always depicted wearing green and the other wears blue.

For the record, here is a picture of Chris Kratt.

This morning, Daniel was watching PBS - Sesame Street this time - and discovered that there is a character on that show named Chris. Daniel watched for a while and then came over to explain to me that, because the Chris-es have the same name, they have different colored shirts. The different colored shirts eliminate the confusion one might encounter in dealing with two individuals of the same name. It is, he explained, how we can tell them apart from each other.

For the record, here is a picture of Sesame Street's Chris

And a side-by-side comparison, just in case.

Isn't PBS thoughtful? :)

24 January 2011

A theology of Gratitude

I've been reading Ann Voskamp's blog for a long time... before I actually understood what a "blog" was, really. She's an extraordinary presence - immensely gifted, even more humble, passionate and yet also compassionate, wise and still seeking, artistic and also grounded in the literal dirt, sweat, blood, and tears of life. (And, as an aside- is there a more well-read woman in the northern hemisphere?) I've longed to have her spiritual maturity and honest longing for God. I've followed her suggestions at Lent and Advent and dutifully started up a gratitude journal. I've made some embarrassing attempts at emulating her writing style. I've even more embarrassingly read and re-read the comments she left here a few times. :) I've not googled her to find out where she lives, yet, but I could have wondered... :)

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

Prayer calendar

I've been working on getting a prayer calendar together that will import to my smart phone. I've finally got this one on my Google calendar and thought I'd share the link in case it could help anyone else.

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

Just So Stories

Recently, we got a Kindle onto which I eventually plan to load a bunch of homeschool books. To fill the gap between receiving the thing and that time at which I unpack the curriculum discs or, more accurately, the time at which I find the instructions for loading said curriculum onto a reader, I downloaded a free copy of Kipling's Just So Stories. I've been reading them to the kids and have been having so much fun!

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

Resolutions- the 90 day version

I love the first of the year, and while I wish I were evolved enough to join the trend toward not-making resolutions, I also love this particular tradition, even though I've never actually fulfilled a resolution in my entire life. :)

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!"

We'll see how it goes!