Tuesday, December 11, 2018

It's not too late- best words of 2018

In December I reflect on the year, pay attention to things I learned, the books I read, the best and the worst of the year. 

My favorite words of 2018 were spoken by my husband (I mentioned it here): It's not too late.

After weeks of indecision it was a first moment of clarity. These words seemed to bounce across the city and over our years together and all of the paths we've chosen or didn't choose. It's not too late - an unexpected release of all the tension and indecision, a sudden inexplicable knowing. I still am thinking about them.

It is the best and truest news for all of us, whatever our situation . . .

Maybe you need to know this-
in a very practical or
very personal and
truer than true
kind of way-

It's not too late.

Darling, you cannot miss this-
wherever you are,
however long down this path . . .
having made these choices,
going this direction
firmly but-
some lingering doubt,
something still missing.
There is this one sure thing-
it's not too late.

You are more than you are.
Today is more than you know.
Life is more than only what is
before you now.

Nearly the end of the year,
among the darkest
days nearly spent-
if I could tell you anything, it would be-
it's not too late.

As you search the sky,
pay attention;
that someplace within you
unsettled, restless, empty-
if you are waiting, then
something new is blazing,
about to be born.

This wish in your spirit
for a do-over, a second chance,
more time,
a new day- consider:
love is knocking.

Advent begins in the dark,
the very end of the year,
this seventh-inning surprise
no one saw coming:
The Ancient of Days became a child.

Christmas is just the beginning and
you are not at the end, and
Everything is about to begin

"Turn around and believe that the good news that we are loved is better than we ever dared hope, and that to believe in that good news, to live out of it and toward it, to be in love with that good news, is of all glad things in this world the gladdest thing of all. Amen, and come Lord Jesus.” -Frederick Buechner

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Our Advent Plans and Activities

I love this time of year. Decorating, days and days of baking and crafting. I love the secret planning and shopping, the lists and events, the big sloppy chaotic mess of all of it. December is my month.

I'm kind of excited about our Advent calendar this year. Rather than filling the little boxes with teeny tiny candy which impresses no one- this year I wrote out the things we plan to do anyway this month and slipped one in each day's box. These are the kinds of things we do every year, some are very simple, but this way they are actually noticed and hopefully remembered, being given a special place to be discovered.

(I know I should post something spiritual and all of the family devotions and the Jesses Tree but honestly, I'm taking a break from it this year. I'm going to keep doing what I always do; talking with the kids all the time about Jesus, telling them what the Father is teaching me, talking about character, studying scripture, confession, practicing repentance, practicing gratitude, sharing with my kids my weaknesses, worshiping together, praying together, laughing together, repenting together, paying attention to all of the beauty in the world. I am reading this Advent devotional and I'm loving it, I tell the kids about it.) 

P.S. If you only click on one link, make it to this podcast on Keeping Advent with Malcolm Guite!

Our activities for Advent:

Make our own snow globes
Salt dough ornaments (my kids are too old for this but we did it with the little 2 y.o. we babysit, and made wrapping paper with stamps).
We made these pinecone ornaments at Thanksgiving, my favorite for the younger crowd.
I absolutely love these cinnamon applesauce ornaments. Even years later they still smell good.
Cornstarch gift tags
Let's go buy new Christmas socks!
Lunch in the car at Swensons (There is one near us and we've never been. It seems like such a novelty. ha)
Gingerbread men (We bake a variety of cookies, but this is our favorite)
Candy cane play-dough for the cousins
Ice skating
Hot chocolate at the coffee shop
See a performance of the Nutcracker
Christmas tea with friends
No school today! Today, we bake!
Spiced nuts
Go to the store and find the best-smelling thing you can find (soap, etc).
New books for St. Nicholas day
Learn about the winter solstice and eat dinner by candlelight
A winter hike through a metro park on an especially snowy day
Deliver cookies to the neighbors
Take the train to meet Dad for lunch
Gingerbread house (with a kit)
A drive to look at the lights and stop for tacos
A new tradition I started right now- this chocolate tart

Honestly, my kids are getting older and less enthusiastic about all of my Christmas activities and it makes me so sad. I was looking through old pictures remembering the fun things we used to do. I need more toddlers in my life ;-)

Friday, November 30, 2018

On Humiliation

“Meg, I give you your faults."

"My faults!" Meg cried.

"Your faults."

"But I'm always trying to get rid of my faults!"

"Yes," Mrs. Whatsit said. "However, I think you'll find they'll come in very handy on Camazotz.”

― Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

Sometimes life feels like a long series of humiliations.
I know there are some who've figured it all out, are never wrong, always achieve-
this is not my experience.
I find, much more, there is lack, loss,
one small humiliation upon another.
Loss of friendships.
Loss of time and days.
I trust the wrong people.
I am too open, too vulnerable.
Parenting failures I wish I could go back and do again.
My endless failures to live up to my own ideals.
Failures of relationship, belief.
I was totally wrong here,
I made a huge mistake there,
I can't believe I didn't see this . ...

Then there are the smaller humiliations-
I forgot to renew my driver's license, I forgot about that email, a birthday.
The bill I missed,
I left the windows down in the car and it rained,
I was late,
I ran out of baking soda-

(And now I hear someone tell me how to keep better track, she never to runs out of baking soda or missed a birthday, here is a link to this better method--)

I asked the Lord the other day,
can I be done now?
Have I lived long enough through this season that I could be finished- with these humiliations?

And I felt Him say- they are the dearest thing about you.

And so, I am giving this to you- whoever you are,
or not,
achieving or fumbling,
winning or just barely getting by-

You are human and you will be for a long time.
It is the very deepest, dearest thing about you-
You are so imperfect and vulnerable and lovely
and human.

(The world does not, in fact, need more success, more competition-
what will we do with all these trophies?)

We need the light in your eyes.
We need your quiet thoughts and sometimes fears and 
always insecurities.
Old habits you keep trying to change, old regrets, 
old grudges.
We need your forgetfulness,
your mistakes, missteps, 
misguided, sincere attempts.
Your lack of love but somehow, you keep loving.
Your lack of joy but somehow, you keep bringing it.
We need your unmade bed and dust 
and heartache.
We need your nearly laughter and nearly tears, 
almost winning, almost falling apart.

It is exactly what the world needs-
your trying again, hopeful, fumbling, impossible-
fearfully and wonderfully,

(The root word of humility is humus, earth; to be human,  too, comes from the same word . ..)
-Walking on Water, Madeleine L'Engle

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

we pulled on our boots

First deep snowfall of the year last night.
We pulled on coats and boots and made footprints through
the densely quiet street.
The world-
    a whisper
    a wonder
an invitation
   to journey
   within a poem
   within reverence
           this life
           these soft-moving

(Thirteen years now of parenting-
stacks of books and worry and theory-
I won't know if I've done this job well,
there is time enough to question-     ) 

But looking back, I will know this-

when the sun set
or rose
the seasons
when the trees offered their wisdom-
we paid attention.
I didn't miss a chance to say LOOK-
 to be astonished.
When the snow fell,
   we pulled on our boots.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

put love on the line.

Every day I put love on the line. There is nothing I am less good at than love. I am far better in competition than in love. I am far better at responding to my instincts and ambitions to get ahead and make my mark than I am at figuring out how to love another. I am schooled and trained in acquisitive skills, in getting my own way. And yet I decide, every day, to set aside what I can do best and attempt what I do very clumsily–open myself to the frustrations and failures of loving, daring to believe that failing in love is better than succeeding in pride.  -Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction 

Hi. It's been a while.

I love this month. I love the long dark evenings, just begging to be curled into with a book or long conversations. I love the coziness of home this time of year; candles and lights in the corners and turning on lamps (this weekend Jim threatened to install an overhead light; I told him its me or the overhead, he can't have both ;-) ). This morning I took the dog out into the glittering atmosphere of snowfall on the dark street. I love the atmospheres this time of year; warmth and dark and hope and together.

We got another dog. 
I may have skimmed over the fact that we re-homed Lucy, our chocolate lab, a year ago. At the time, the decision felt terrible. But honestly- she was like trying to keep a horse in our house. She was a big, stubborn puppy with more energy than our little house could hold, she seemed sad and depressed and because one of my top five strengths is empathy, I felt intensely guilty for keeping this free-roaming animal confined. I'd walk and walk and walk her for miles, she literally dragging me around the block, and it was never enough. I'd drive an hour round trip to take her to playdates, and spend actual money for her to go to dog daycare in the hope that she would wear herself out playing with other dogs for a day. The only time Lucy seemed to be happy was when she was with other dogs. And so we asked our friends whose dog was Lucy's pal if they were interested in taking her, and they said yes. I felt terrible for weeks over giving my kids' dog away, and it was the best thing I could have done.

We got another dog. He is tiny. His name is Finley. We love him. He is so easy and effortless and happy. I wonder why we give so much time and effort and guilt to things that are not meant for us.

A few years ago I read a quote by Bill Gates; "People overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in ten years." This inspired me to begin saving a very small amount of money every week, for years. I didn't know what I was saving for, only that it was going to be something fun. And then suddenly I knew. ..

Annie has been obsessed with Harry Potter this year. She read all the books four and five times, she's reading them to Josie, she talks about the stories endlessly. In the books, acceptance letters to Hogwarts are delivered on the students' eleventh birthday. So we gave Annie her letter on her eleventh birthday, and she and I flew to Orlando to go to Harry Potter world. We had the best time. We aren't huge fans of amusement parks, but it was a great memory and I loved the time with my middle girl.

We are staying in Cleveland. 
Always in the back of our mind was the question, is Cleveland home? Since we moved here eight years ago I've never wished to be anyplace else, but would we eventually make our way back to our hometown, or another city? It seemed possible. This month Jim had a job offer and we spent a week overthinking and changing our minds and changing them again. At the airport as Annie and I were flying home he decided to take the job, and I agreed, and then we landed in Cleveland and he picked us up and I said, I love it here. And he said, it's not too late. And we are staying.

We realized that we love our life here, we don't want to leave. It was a nice chance to step back and survey our life choices and where we are in this present moment, and to choose it all again.

I woke up thinking about Heidi at Mt Hope Chronicles this morning. I've never met Heidi, but I began to read her blog way back in 2008 I believe. It was my first in-depth introduction to homeschool and to the classical method. Two things caught my interest- her love of books, and her humble honesty. I guess she was on my mind because last night I skimmed instagram and read her captions- genuine and self-deprecating and literary as always. Because she was my introduction to homeschool, this is what I thought homeschool could be. I'm not sure why I'm writing about this except that maybe I need to revisit my vision every once in a while, to shake out the rugs and clear the clutter. I want to do this job humbly, honestly, quietly, free of stress or competition or self-righteousness, to know my children and help them to love God and their neighbor and life and learning, which is the whole dang point.

(If you aren't familiar with Heidi, go follow her on instagram or her blog).

When I heard Eugene Peterson was dying I read A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, which had been on my TBR pile for years. It is a wonderful, expansive view of the Christian life based on the Psalms of Ascent. I absolutely loved it and I plan to read it with my kids when they are a bit older.

The Christian life is going to God. . . . The difference is that each step we walk, each breath we breathe, we know we are preserved by God, we know we are accompanied by God, we know we are ruled by God; and therefore no matter what doubts we endure or what accidents we experience, the Lord will preserve us from evil, he will keep our life. We Christians believe that life is created and shaped by God and that the life of faith is a daily exploration of the constant and countless ways in which God’s grace and love are experienced.
Faith is not a precarious affair of chance escape from satanic assaults. It is the solid, massive, secure experience of God who keeps all evil from getting inside us, who keeps our life, who keeps our going out and coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

In the Kitchen
Still perfecting my sourdough.

My favorite lentil soup in the winter.

I could make this banana bread every morning. And these healthier blueberry oat muffins are really good too.

For Thanksgiving I'm making cranberry-jalapeno cream cheese dip, a pomegranate/apple/walnut salad,Turkey tacos with cranberry salsa  on Friday. (I know, I don't get to make any main courses because apparently I'm still finding my way around the kitchen; actually we just have a lot of cooks in the family).

Learning, Enjoying, Watching
There is too much to catch-up after so many months . . . a few things . . .

Isn't the Enneagram so fascinating and super insightful/helpful/convicting?

I've missed The Writer's Almanac daily poem, but now I am enjoying the Circe Institute's Daily Poem podcast even more. No longer than ten minutes, some brief commentary and he reads the poem through twice. I listen while I'm getting ready in the morning or in the car with the kids, it's a lovely way to start the day.

I love everything Joy Clarkson and her sister Sarah Clarkson are giving the world. Watch these women, I believe they are speaking something deeply important into their generation. I especially enjoy Joy on twitter, and her podcast is fantastic. (Consider becoming a Patreon! Jim and I 100% believe in supporting truth and beauty).

Poldark is the first series I've gotten into since The Office in the 90's. Ha! I was so sad the fourth season ended on Sunday. If you haven't watched, it is worth catching up on. The next season will be the final.

After many years and many diets, I think now in my forties I'm finally landing in this camp. Basically, pay attention to your body and eat good food, mostly plants. I have adopted this morning detox drink.

There is more to write but this post is probably too long already. It is a lovely, snowy day here. I'm about to go make this cabbage soup.

I hope your Thanksgiving is rich. I hope you will put love on the line. To very clumsily open yourself to the frustrations and failures of loving. I hope you will see the humanity in every person with whom you disagree, I hope you will find yourself drawn to them by some illogical mercy, some miraculous tilt of beauty. I hope the atmosphere will be soft, and that you will linger for a long time, and ask good questions, and be vulnerable and share your stories. I hope you will go home full and warm and soft and glad.

And I wish all the people I love the most
Could gather in one place,
And know each other and love each other well.
And I wish we could all go camping,
And lay beneath the stars,
And have nothing to do and stories to tell.

We'd sit around the campfire 
And we'd make each other laugh,
Remembering when...
And you're the first one I'm inviting.
Always know that you're invited, my friend.

And at the risk of wearing out my welcome.
At the risk of self-discovery,
I'll take every moment,
And every minute that you give me.
Every moment, and every minute that you give me.
Every moment, and every minute that you give me.
Every minute...
(Sara Groves, Every Minute)

Saturday, May 5, 2018

It's not about the cow (it's love, of course)

I love trying to identify personality types. I don't assume that I'm right, and I understand that people are more nuanced and complicated than a type. But it is interesting and helpful to think about as a way of understanding where people are coming from. I am especially interested in my kids' types as they are getting older, though I'm not certain I know or that they won't change and surprise me.

The easiest part of the Myers-Briggs to identify is the TJ (Thinking/Judging). I am a high FP (Feeling/Perceiving), and it feels like the whole world is a TJ.

Two of my kids are definitely TJ's, and I love (and can be exasperated by) the way their minds work. Today is a great example. I was reading aloud over breakfast. The previous chapter ended with a cow being killed by a bear, and this chapter opened with this sentence:

"Wilbur says I'm grief crazy sad . . ."

I couldn't even finish the sentence before Josie interjected. She already knew what the chapter was about, May Amelia was "grief-crazy sad" because their cow died, and she continued on with several more observations as if she had just finished reading the entire book.

In fact May Amelia's grief had nothing to do with the cow, this was a part of the story she couldn't have seen coming, the part with the cow was sad but she had no idea why May Amelia would be grief crazy sad. She hadn't yet heard the chapter.

This seems to be the way the whole world is interacting currently.

We look up a name and can instantly cast a person into one group or party or another, and then we are done listening.

We read a headline and believe or disbelieve the entire article based on where it was published.

We enter into conversations already disbelieving, already armed with rebuttals.

We assume that no one with a differing opinion is as intelligent, thoughtful, god-fearing, or well-informed as our group.

We just finished the chapter about the cow. The cow is dead, everyone knows what this chapter will be about.

FP's to the rescue.

Sometimes I'm insecure about my FP-ness. And for good reason. I struggle to make decisions, I can be a huge pushover, I'm often ruled by my feelings (oh, my word, why is being ruled by one's thoughts a superior virtue?) We are often perceived as weak and not taken seriously.

As I've gotten older I've grown into my FP-ness. It's the way God made a few of us, there must be a purpose.

Maybe it's because we're willing to wait for the next chapter. We don't believe we've arrived and we're open and willing to listen. We hesitate to make judgments and sometimes that's a good thing.

We usually begin with the assumption that there are people smarter, braver, with understandings and perspectives which we can learn from.

We can hear something with our mind, but if it doesn't engage our heart, if it doesn't resonate in our intuition, if it isn't beautiful, it just never settles.

FP's are quite comfortable with wonder, with hopefulness, with not knowing everything.

In his book You Are What You Love, James K.A. Smith makes the case that human beings are first and foremost lovers. (Great book! Highly recommend).

"To question thinking-thingism is not the same as rejecting thinking. To recognize the limits of knowledge is not to embrace ignorance. We don't need less than knowledge; we need more."
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless . . . Phil.1:9,10
". . . love is the condition for knowledge. It's not that I know in order to love, but rather: I love in order to know. And if we are going to discern "what is best"- what is "excellent," what really matters, what is of ultimate importance- Paul tells us that the place to start is by attending to our loves."

". . . It's a question not of whether you long for some version of the kingdom but of which version you long for. This is true for any human being; it is a structural feature of human creatureliness. You can't not love. It's why the heart is the seat and fulcrum of the human person, the engine that drives our existence. We are lovers first and foremost. "

I love the Thinking/Judging people in my life (I married one). They keep me grounded, they help me make decisions, we laugh at my lack of logic. But that doesn't mean our TJ's don't need us. I don't apologize for my feeling and perceiving anymore.

I have great affection for the number Pi. As a person who struggles to understand most math, my ears perk up hearing about this irrational number which lurks in every circle, appears to go on forever, seeming randomly distributed, has never been solved. There will always be this gap in our knowing, a fault in every fact, the crack in human logic. It is love, of course.

Monday, April 30, 2018

A few of the things I'm loving, learning, or changing this spring

I love home, homes. I love walking my neighborhood of homes built in the forties, all of these decades of coming home. My favorite are the kitchens. I'd trade an entire subdivision for one kitchen table with a light over it, the muffled clatter of dishes, chairs pushed back, over and over and over again. I have more hope in kitchen tables than just about anything, I believe they are the one thing keeping us afloat, holding us together. When despair for the world grows in me . . . I heat up a pan, chop an onion, I set the table. 
"After the resurrection, Jesus didn’t show up at the temple, but around the dinner table." (Leonard Sweet)

A page of my bullet journal contains four lists: things I'm learning, small things I'm loving, my frustrating moments, and what is saving my life right now.

The idea of recording frustrations came from Modern Mrs. Darcy (here). It is surprisingly helpful to actually write down your frustrating moments, even the small things. When I name it, I can begin finding ways to change it rather than endure it, rather than repeating it over and over. 

Here are some of the things that I've been learning, loving, or frustrating things I'm working on changing this spring:


I made this chocolate cake with chocolate frosting from Julia Turshen's Small Victories for Josie's birthday, and it will become my standard chocolate cake recipe

I re-read Daring Greatly for book club, and I really need to re-read it every year or so.
Vulnerability is life's great dare. Are you all in?
Shame heals best between people.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco was hilarious and a super interesting behind-the-scenes look at the White House. (Let's be friends on Goodreads; I track my reading and write reviews there). One takeaway: She says she succeeded by focusing on the next five steps. You can't become an expert on everything, but you can prepare for your next five steps. I'm learning to prepare for the next five things right in front of me rather than looking too far down the road.

Dream More, by Dolly Parton
I would not have picked this up on my own, but I heard it recommended three times within the course of a week. Don't read the book, everyone said, you have to listen to her read the audio. It is a quick book, only three cds, and it is delightful. I love her.
It’s been my experience that happiness begets happiness. You have to work hard at being happy, just like you have to work hard at being miserable. I wake up every day expecting all to be good and right. And if it’s not, I set my mind to making it so by the end of the day. You just have to figure out where the unhappiness is coming from and then set about fixing it . . . I learned early on that if you can just get started at doing something positive, somehow you are starting on the downhill side of your problem. When big things in your life get messy, you need to get up and get out. I make a point to appreciate all the little things in my life. I do out and smell the air after a good, hard rain. I re-read passages from favorite books. I hold the little treasures that somebody special gave me. These small actions help remind me that there are so many great, glorious pieces of good in the world.

Small choices have more power than big. I'm learning this from the Lazy Genius, How to Set Goals Like a Normal Person and The Universal Path to Life-Giving Routine. Both are super practical and thoughtful. I'm loving everything The Lazy Genius (Kendra) writes or says right now.

Rethinking School by SusanWise Bauer
The way we do school is entirely unnatural. If you are a parent, read this book. It's not about homeschool, but about taking charge of your child's education- which is the job of the parent regardless of your school choice.

A few quick tips: 
Don't ask kids what they want to be, but who they want to be.

Help kids to pay attention to their emotions and feelings, look for patterns. Be aware of the things you love. Have them keep lists; when are they confused/interested; frustrated/happy; things I love/places I love. Ask; If you could have a perfect day, what would it be? Take all of the Self-knowledge tests you can get your hands on.

I attended the Midwest Great Homeschool Convention in April. I wish there were a Great Parenting Convention for all of my friends who don't homeschool, as every year I come away encouraged and better equipped in my parenting. A few quick takes because I have pages and pages of notes which I will spare you  . . .

Education is virtue. Your child's teacher should be the most virtuous person you can find. I must be the most virtuous parent I can be. (Andrew Kern)

Parenting: "Let there be a tree of no in a garden of yes." Our orientation toward the world should be positive. We are heirs. We don't lack." (S.D.Smith)

Writing: "Words are not abstract. They make you feel, they get in your head. Writing is a craft. It's physical, you're shaping and creating something. . . Don't try writing massive novels; write one brick, perfectly. If you can make one perfect brick, you can make another perfect brick, you can make a million perfect bricks, you can build a cathedral." (N.D.Wilson)

Little Things I'm Loving:

Tea time. Joy Clarkson's podcast is so great, and A Philosophy of Tea convinced me to adopt a daily tea time. I am surprised by the way a set time for tea actually brings a kind of order to my day.

We toured Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve with our homeschool. The company began in their mother's kitchen, and while it has expanded their process remains the same. They continue to make small batches of soaps and lotions, with few ingredients, on a stovetop. I've switched from a more expensive moisturizer to their whipped face cream and Pomegranate Argan Oil and I love them.

Taking a quarterly day every three months to review life, set new goals, trouble-shoot my frustrating moments. I'm finding quarterly goals are much more successful than grand New Year's resolutions.

Frustrating Moments/ Changes

My art space is in my basement laundry room, and every time I walk by with a load of laundry it sits there mocking me. I am frustrated that I'm not making art, frustrated at my unfinished pieces. My solution: inspired by the Lazy Genius'  #the100dayproject watercolors, I'm starting a forty day project in May. Quick, simple, daily art. 

Somewhere I heard the idea (I believe it was Erwin McManus) that I cannot measure my own success by anything but that I gave my ALL. This changes everything. The question isn't what should I be doing, but What can I give my whole heart to right now? In each situation, however large or small the question is, How can I give my whole heart to this situation?

Saving My Life Right Now . . . 

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias. 
(Read the rest here)
There are other things I'm loving and learning, other frustrating moments, and this is the wonder, that all things are ours, all of God's wide world, and all of the books and people to meet, all of the frustrating moments and cups of tea and chocolate cake; all of life and death and the present and future- all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's. We will never run out of things to learn and ways to grow and love. Today, we pour tea and set the table and plant Sequoias. The wonder of it.

Friday, March 2, 2018


It's been a year since I last posted, and my writing here had been dropping steadily before that, and now there is this quiet tug to blog again. Life isn't any quieter now, or the internet any safer, but life circles back and there is this desire, and maybe desire itself is a gift, a nod in some direction- look, there- and to ignore it is to miss something.

This morning I tried to pull into our snow-covered driveway but there was a robin hopping all over the place, huffing, he seemed mad about the snow and I thought maybe he was calling my bluff- go ahead, take me now, please- as it hopped in front of the tires and I had to wait for the suicidal robin to clear the driveway. So what does this have to do with writing? Only that there are these moments- this joy and fury and misery and what do we do with them but notice and watch and protect them somehow, the experience of living.
Pablo Casals, one of the greatest cellists who ever lived, began every day in the same manner. "I go to the piano and I play two Preludes and Fugues of Bach. It fills me with awareness of the wonder of life, and with a feeling of the incredible marvel of being human." (Still Writing, Dani Shapiro)
Does blogging fill me with the awareness of the wonder of life and the marvel of being human? No, but writing does, and this is one way to share in the marvel of being human together.

Maybe someday I'll freshen up the blog, but for now I'll be happy with a free hour on a Friday afternoon to try to catch up a bit and share some things I learned this winter . ..

Harry Potter helped me remember what we're here for. I read the first Harry Potter book to the kids and before I could pick up the next one Annie had finished the series. For a month she ate, slept, and breathed Harry Potter. She is reading them all a second time, she's reading them to her sister, she talks about the stories, the characters, endlessly. She dreams about Harry Potter. Watching her, I remembered what art is for. I remembered how it feels to be entirely transported into an experience, I remembered the shock and thrill and sizzle that good art can do, and how to come back to earth with the light still firing in your eyes. This is why we make art.

I've been learning how to make sourdough bread. I'm learning about the elements of good cooking: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat in this beautiful cookbook.

I'm still learning so much about mothering and living an intentional life from Sally Clarkson, and now I'm enjoying learning and pondering the arts through her insightful daughter's podcast, Speaking With Joy.

I learned more than I thought I could know about North Korea in this amazing novel.

I learned that writing is solitary work. I know this, I've always known it, and yet I've spent a decade believing that I could just sneak it in along with the noise and action of life, wondering why I felt so frustrated. Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, by Dani Shapiro is a great book about the writing life. What struck me most were the details of her working life; she keeps bankers hours, she needs a place free of interruption, she is alone and writing forty hours a week like its her job, which it is. For some reason I needed someone to spell it out like this, to talk me through the details of a writer's life, the sense of feeling cut-off from the world, the courage to claim her own space and time. Some of the same challenges are present with homeschool.

I was able to attend the IF Gathering last month and was encouraged to Persevere in my faith, specifically in the spiritual disciplines.

"If you can't get out of it, get into it." I've kept this bit of advice in my pocket from Parker Palmer's Let Your Life Speak. Intentionally getting into the very thing you wish to avoid is the key to most things; commitments, relationships, winter, piano practice, growing older, getting things done.

Self-Care Mistakes, and How Service Solves Them, at Simply Convivial. This helps explain my cringing reaction to the term "self-care." I thought about all of the inexplicable ways and times I felt the tender care of God when I wasn't looking for it, and how much more satisfying it is to be cared for by God than to strive for it for ourselves. A wise perspective.

Finally, a fast summary of the past twelve months; I quit my job, we re-homed the dog (don't hate me, she got to move in with her best friend and the most incredible dog parents- a long story that emotionally wore me out but was the right decision), we continue to homeschool, this year we formed our own co-op and its been the best year, I turned forty, the kids are easy peasy, we're all still in process, still trying and failing and loving and fighting and working it out. We're still doing our best to love God and people and to live wholehearted and amazed in this brutal, beautiful world.

Monday, January 2, 2017

reflecting on 2016:

I love the New Year for dreaming and re-focusing, and I love taking time to reflect on where we've been. I prefer to take my time entering a new year, giving myself these first weeks for dreaming and planning the year ahead. These are some of my reflection questions on 2016:

Single best thing that happened in 2016: Changing my diet, eliminating sugar, gaining greater health. Choosing to homeschool the kids another year.

Single most challenging thing: LUCY.

An unexpected joy: that I would not only learn to live with Lucy but also grow to love her. (Most of the time). Watching the kids grow and mature, seeing their strengths emerge.

Best books I read in 2016:
Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson
The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard (still making my way slowly through this, so much to mull over!)
Big Magic was good, too, and The Allure of Gentleness by Dallas Willard. I listened to both of these on audio.
Best fiction was The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, a read aloud with the kids.

Biggest personal challenge: learning to say no, letting go of guilt

In what ways did I grow spiritually? In various ways, at various times this year I have sensed the Lord showing me that I am trying too hard. I feel guilty alllll of the time. I feel like from the moment my feet hit the floor, until I fall into bed at night, I am trying as hard as I can, and I still fall asleep feeling like I'm failing. One Sunday our pastor gave a message on the older brother in the story of the prodigal son, and it hit me hard. The older brother is working really hard. The older brother is angry. The older brother doesn't realize he too is lost. I am the older brother. I have to admit, the message made me mad. I felt hopeless. I felt like saying, no matter what I do I am still doing it wrong. I give up. For the first time I took a long break from everything- a break from guilt, a break from trying so hard. I am still working this out, I know I need to sit here for a while and understand how to abide as the beloved, how to rest in imperfection.

In what ways did I grow physically: I originally contacted a health doctor for one of the children. But it was the week I turned 39, and suddenly I wondered if I was taking care of myself. I considered myself a pretty healthy person, but I was also considering going on a mild anti-depressant. I'm so glad I started by learning about nutrition instead. After cutting out sugar and grains and adding supplements, I have very little pms symptoms, no more insomnia or anxiety or brain fog, more energy and balance. Over Christmas I indulged a bit and instantly experienced anxiety and insomnia again.

What was the most enjoyable area of managing your home? Cooking, meal planning, decorating, planning our schedule and just going about our life together, cooking with the kids, reading together, having people over.

What was the most challenging area of home management: homeschool

Single biggest time waster? The internet. One of the frustrations of being home with my kids all the time is the sense that I can't do anything without being interrupted. As a result, I often default to mindless things which don't require deep attention. One of my goals for the new year is Deep Work- to train myself to give focused attention to my work; whatever it is I am doing.

Best way I used my time this year: any time I was present with the family, the nights that I didn't work, reading with the kids, family suppers, Sunday evenings when I sit down and relax, visiting friends and taking trips. Not trying too hard to read, write or blog this year weren't things I'd have chosen, but ended up being a necessary choice.

2016 was a year of peace and goodness in our home. It was another year of God's beauty and grace. I am so grateful.

Friday, November 4, 2016

the problem with knowing everything

I spend a very large percentage of my life acquiring information in hope of doing something right, whatever it is- Life. Living. This Very Important Question.

I read ALL the parenting books and followed all the blogs and went to conferences. I researched the hell out of homeschool and read all the books and followed all the blogs and went to conferences. I've spent my Christian life trying to read all the books and I still read all the blogs and go to conferences. I've read all the writing books and subscribed to the magazines and followed blogs and gone to conferences. I spent all summer researching dogs which is not my favorite topic. Lately I've been changing my diet and now I'm searching for books and blogs and going to talks on nutrition.

And then I worry. I worry because I am not living up to what I know. I worry that I'm choosing the wrong information, or because this information contradicts that information. There is always more to learn, and yet there doesn't seem to be enough; I am still imperfect, life is still imperfect.

We have this very human need to know how to live. I don't think there is anything wrong with learning, growing, trying to improve; it is vital. Questions, ideas, contradictions, conversation, are some of the best things in life.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; 
to search out a matter is the glory of kings. 

Surely I've read 1 Corinthians 13 hundreds of times. But this week verses 8-13 were brand new to me, the best news I've read in a long time:
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part . . . Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Everything is only in part.

Knowledge is in part.
Prophesy is in part.
Homeschool is in part.
Public school is in part.
Classical education is in part.
Every parenting effort can only be in part.
Every vocation is in part.
Calling is in part.
Relationships are in part.
Nutrition is in part.
Art is in part.
Every book is in part.

Life will never feel quite complete. Every idea or school of thought will eventually end because it is imperfect. There are no perfect solutions or ways of doing anything. Every choice I make will always be at least partly the wrong one. This is a huge relief!

So what do we do with this incomplete life and imperfect living? Faith. Hope. The greatest is Love.

All of the books, all of the reading and asking and discussing and learning- what we are searching for are these.

Love fills in the gaps. Love covers a multitude of imperfections. Maybe living well isn't even all that possible. Only how we've loved will remain.

"Do every day with love, and you will know what to do."

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Daybook October 5

Today . . .
Today we are at home. I knew by the look in her eye at four-o'clock yesterday that Josie had caught her sister's fever, knew we wouldn't be hurrying out the door to co-op today. I never want my kids to be sick, but I never mind the healing. I don't mind canceling plans, cuddling all morning with books, getting out the soup pot and stirring chicken soup. I don't mind that she asks all day long for more hugs. Today is for healing and this is my best and favorite work.

Reading . . .

Devotional: The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. Enjoying this one so much.
Fiction: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Recommended by Ruth.
Nonfiction: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I listened to this on audio and liked it so much I bought the book.

In the Kitchen . . .

I am completely off all sugar and grains now, so I've become one of those people who takes lovely, eternally good, delicious things like pizza and tries to make it out of cauliflower and enjoys suffering. (Kidding. I am all in. I thought I could never give up sugar and now bread but it really is worth it. I'm sorry, paleo people, for making fun of your recipes all these years.)

So now I'm cooking:

This red cabbage and kale slaw. Tuscan garlic chicken. Roasted sweet potatoes. Kale chips. Eggs over quinoa with feta. Or my default recipe: any remaining vegetables and/or protein on a plate, a handful of seeds over, oil and vinegar.

Outside my window. . .

It is a beautiful, sunny and mid-seventies week here in Cleveland, and I feel guilty every time I look out the window and can't stop thinking about Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba.

Thinking about . . .

How to quiet my mind. How to simplify our schedule. How to stay home more. How to say no to good things and yes to the right things. This:

"Until our thoughts of God have found every visible thing and event glorious with his presence, the word of Jesus has not fully seized us." -Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

Looking forward to . . .

Wendell Berry is speaking at the Circe Institute Winter Conference. The price is ouch but I was already hoping to attend and when I saw that Wendell Berry would be there I fell over. My biggest crush (W.B.) and my biggest educational influence- together. I will be such a fangirl.

The Spiritual Discipline of Dogs . . .

Josie is napping on my lap and I'm trying to type around her. Lucy is begging to be on the sofa with us and I keep dragging her off. I am determined to love Lucy. She barks too much and she stinks and the shedding is more than I can take. I don't understand dogs but I believe God is here, and that she is another way to know God and to be loved by God. I'm learning that my heart needs stretched, in all kinds of ways. The older I get the more aware I am of a hardening of the heart, a natural reflex to be unchanged and uncomplicated, and if I choose to believe in the vastness and limitless of the love of God then I must open up, again and again, the door of my heart to Jesus, to invite him to come in, daily, in every way. To find his glorious presence. Even by learning how to love dogs.