Saturday, December 21, 2013

the gladdest thing of all


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


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

gifts


A Christmas letter to my children;


I am sitting by the tree this morning thinking about Christmas, and trying to shop online but not finding quite what I am searching for. I am thinking this morning about the things I really wish I could give you, if I could give you anything . . .


The gift of laughter.  Especially at those times when life is too serious, too dark, too ordinary.  I wish I could give you the ability to find the irony, the hilarious, the deep gut-busting soul-cleansing kind of laughter that heals you.  


Art.  Art in words or pictures or music or friend.  I hope, when you need it most, you will find the art that blows away the dust, shatters your idols, makes you more alive.


The grace of failure.  If I could, I would let you fail enough for you to understand grace, how to give and to receive it, but protect you from the failures that would ever break your heart.


Healthy Debate.  Just when you begin to think you know everything.


A true friend.


Silence.  To hear the snow crunch.  To hear the still small voice.


Story.  Your own, the story of people, the story of God.  The ability to enter into story; to believe, be moved, become.


Language.  The strength of words, of understanding, the wealth of vocabulary.


Wonder.  I hope that storms and stars, science and art and green green grass will always take your breath away.


The ability to forgive.  This gift will always be the hardest, the most painful, the most necessary.


To see the Good, the God-image, in every person.


Empathy.  I hope you will be gentle with people, that you will love mercy and will defend the defenseless.


Simplicity.  Simplicity of faith, simplicity of wealth, simplicity of purpose, simplicity of desire.


Gratitude.  "It is gratefulness which makes the soul great."  


I would give you mystery.  I hope that life doesn’t make perfect sense to you.  I hope you will embrace that gap, will peer into it with childlike faith and hope and imagination.


Freedom and rest in the unchanging, everlasting love of Christ.


I cannot give you these things; I am only beginning to learn how to accept them myself.  But every year when I fill your stocking, and every day these are what I hope for you to find, to grow into, to live, to pass on to others.  Much more than the gifts I can buy you, I hope for you these things.


Love, Mama

(this is a repost from a few years ago)

Monday, December 16, 2013

my favorite craft- teeny tiny boxes

I love to make art with my kids but being called upon to do crafts with a group always terrifies me just a little bit. Like I said before, I'm not very crafty. Arty, yes. There is a difference.


So, when I need to plan a craft I usually go for something that is mostly art- meaning loose, creative, freedom- not stuck on a pattern.

Lately there is one go-to crafty project that I do for almost everything. Kids love it, it can be adapted to any holiday or age level or cost . .. 

Teeny tiny boxes.

I adore teeny tiny boxes.
Who doesn't love a teeny tiny box?
Teeny tiny boxes are the solution to anything.
The world could be saved with teeny tiny boxes- or something like that.

The project is so simple and can be anything at all that you want it to be.


I found small paper boxes for the kids to paint and decorate,
or this set of tiny plastic jars . . .


I have also used larger paper boxes from the craft store, mason jars, spice jars, baby food jars . .. any container can be turned into a magical teeny tiny box.

Simply decorate, and fill with something joyful . . . 

I like to fill them with little love notes. The plastic cylinder jars we fill with long, long, long slips of paper rolled up very tiny- a list of all the things we love about a person.

For my daughter's class we made pet rocks- the kids decorated their boxes, then painted rocks with sharpies (or paint) and glued eyes on. We cut slips of flannel as blankets, then nestled the pets into tiny nests in their boxes.

Other ideas . .. candy, tiny sparkly stones, itty bitty photos like a locket . . .

The fun is really the box- who doesn't love to open up a little treasure box decorated just for them.

Simple, artful, delightful, suspenseful, adaptable-- fun and inexpensive. My very favorite craft for kids.



Friday, December 13, 2013

art with kids- simple gifts to give

We do a lot of art making around here, especially at the holidays. I like to have the girls give handmade gifts, and they love to make them. 


It isn't anything expensive or complicated. Messy? Yes.
I think that crafts can be intimidating to moms. They usually require instructions and specific supplies, and a lot of planning. Art with kids is simple. I much prefer to simply give kids the materials we have on hand, and see what happens.




This is one of the simplest: stamped or painted wrapping paper. I save the brown paper that comes in packaging. We have used all kinds of things- potato prints, stamps, markers, stickers, glitter, pom poms, or just paint.


Canvases are cheap, come in all sizes, and can be painted over again and again. These make nice artful gifts. Last year we did snow scenes and Christmas trees.

 I use the bottles of acrylic craft paint and yes, it stains.




Other ideas:

Nearly anything can be painted, glittered, embellished. I love to give the kids different materials and see what they come up with.

Give kids cheap Christmas bulbs (plain, the larger the better- they come in sleeves of ten at the Dollar Store) and glitter glue, stickers, and sharpies to make ornaments to give. We have also bought the clear glass bulbs and squirted paint inside to swirl.

This year we found nice wooden ornaments on clearance at the craft store. I gave the kids paint, glitter, and embellishments. These will be the gifts they give this year.

Sharpies. I believe in giving kids good materials to work with- it is worth the extra cost and stain factor. My kids love sharpies, and they can be used on anything. Oil-based sharpies are great for decorating cheap dollar store coffee mugs, kitchen towels- anything. The metallic sharpies are best for decorating glass bulbs or ornaments. Here is a great link of Sharpie projects.

These cinnamon applesauce ornaments are so great, and make a really nice gift that lasts for years.

Sam is making pot holders this year with the loom kit she got for her birthday- she loves this!

For more ideas here is my Christmas Crafts board on pinterest.

Next up: one of my very favorite art projects with kids, great for Christmas or all year. Coming soon ...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Snowy Night



Snowy Night

Last night, an owl
in the blue dark
tossed
an indeterminate number
of carefully shaped sounds into
the world, in which, 
a quarter of a mile away, I happened
to be standing.
I couldn’t tell
which one it was –
the barred or the great-horned
ship of the air –
it was that distant. 

But, anyway, 
aren’t there moments
that are better than knowing something, 
and sweeter? Snow was falling, 
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness. I suppose
if this were someone else’s story
they would have insisted on knowing
whatever is knowable – would have hurried
over the fields
to name it – the owl, I mean.
But it’s mine, this poem of the night, 
and I just stood there, listening and holding out
my hands to the soft glitter
falling through the air. I love this world, 
but not for its answers.
And I wish good luck to the owl, 
whatever its name –
and I wish great welcome to the snow, 
whatever its severe and comfortless
and beautiful meaning. 


-Mary Oliver



Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Question

It took a twelve hour road trip (and home again)
ten days with family (without internet)
then six days sick (and pensive) . . .
quiet
quiet
quiet
to finally pinpoint what it is-

that thing off balance,
some irritating buzz coming from somewhere . . .

It's this blog:

What will you do with your one wild a precious life?

That question.
The huge, important question.

Maybe it has something to do with turning 36-
the question was beginning gnaw at me, raw-
my mind spinning,
keeping me awake at night.

I want to do so many things. All of them. I always have.
But here I am, at thirty six, feeling like I've not done many.
What have I done with my one wild and precious life?
What am I doing with this one. short. life?

See what I mean here? The question. It's terrifying.
And complicated and, in the middle of the night, defeating.

Ah, but let us review the poem again shall we?

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?


Yes this. This. Why I love this poem, Ms Oliver . . .
What I want to do with my one wild and precious life? 
What do we all want, need, really, deep down . . .?

I want to pay attention
fall down
kneel down
be idle and blessed
stroll

Tell me, what else should I do? 

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

It was a good name for a good six years. 
My first clumsy, tender years within the four walls of motherhood-
the question kept me rooted, and dreaming.

But maybe it's time for a change-
a new blog for a new season of life,
one I am trying to figure out, and likely never will.
What to name it . . .?

Hmm . . . how about "idle & blessed"? Now, wouldn't these be nice words to think on in the middle of the night? 

(I'll keep you posted!)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

logical is no way to live


My husband is a civil engineer. He designs bridges. When he isn't designing something he and other smart people are busy checking plans to find mistakes, his work and others. This involves long calculations and formulas and things which make my eyes glaze over.

Engineers are perfectionists because they need to be. No doubt this is common in many professions, where anything less than perfection equals fail.

He will tell you that some engineers seem to find satisfaction, even delight in finding faults in another's work.

They're like professional fault-finders.



And I have to tell you that he doesn't live like this, fault finding, but it can be difficult when he comes home to turn off the critical voices, to not feel like he's living under the narrow-eyed microscope of perfectionism.

And it is a good thing there are fault-finders to find the flaws and errors- it is the reason we don't need to carry parachutes crossing bridges.

But it is no way to live.

In this way I think there is a bit of a fault-finder in everyone.


I think all of us can live it- an analytical eye; partially on the look-out for flaws and imperfections, a way to sum-up a person in our own calculating, silent way.

Maybe it is a defense mechanism, maybe we are born squinting.

It starts early. Even my kindergartener today came home and muttered, she got what she deserves. Where did she learn that?

And I do it to myself.
Just the other day I stopped in the middle of the day and gasped, remembering a time and something I said and how foolish it was, such a fool, I said it out loud, and I could bury myself in judgment.

I do not work in an office where performance is king. I am a writer, and once a month I meet with other writers to talk about the story we each are writing. The group helps make my writing better and in the process they remind me how to live.

Here is the contrast:

We aren't looking for flaws, we are looking for potential, and creative people are able to see potential in anything.

I think we are able to see potential because our work is so very much in process. We know that we have read only a small portion, maybe a chapter, of a greater work. And we understand that the unanswered questions we have, the gaps, aren't going to all be answered in those few pages. The answer likely is buried somewhere in the pages we haven't seen.

You know, like people. Like life. We get this one tiny glimpse into a person's life. Maybe a chapter. Usually more like a paragraph. And from those few clues we think we have a person figured out.


When we are critiquing a portion of a story there is an understanding that it will be flawed because it is unfinished, and this is why we are here, this is why the author has bravely presented her work to critique, because she needs advice and wants to hear our thoughts on her piece. We understand that fear  and are gentle with it because it is so familiar.

Oh how much healthier, more whole, people might be if we could find a place safe to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other and ask for advice, help. We are all so very much in process.

We have earnest dialogues about the necessary laws of fantasy worlds. We debate the reasoning of fictional characters. We offer possible solutions to made-up problems. We invent characters with magical powers. And I leave with my sanity restored.

I'm serious.

Because this is the way I want to live, this upside down way: In possibility.

It is our new Reality.

There is a God of metrics and calculations, but it is the former way, the curse, death. In it everybody loses.

In Christ there is a new way, a living way, the way of Grace-
where our sin has been removed as far as the east is from the west and remembered no more,
where even a bruised reed Grace will not break, or a smoldering wick snuff out,
where Love believes all things, hopes all things, covers a multitude of faults

We need engineers in the world. We need precision, logic, reason.

But somehow we must separate this world from our true home, where the last are first, and sinners are called saints, a world of Yes where the story is called Redemption. Where anything anything is possible.




Monday, November 11, 2013

marriage weekend

Jim and I went away to a marriage conference this weekend. It was our first marriage retreat, and the first in a long time being away without kids. Too long. The weekend was part of a big, national conference that has been hosting marriage retreats for over 35 years. Tons of planning and research has been put into this, and the topic is huge- A LOT of ground was covered in those two days. In fact I am still feeling a bit emotionally spent from all of it . . . but also I am feeling reset. Refocused and energized, renewed in my marriage and in my calling as a wife and mom. It was a good, practical and restful way to get away and focus on our marriage.

Could I be skeptical? Of course. Anything can be dissected. But overall I came away thinking again, where would I be without Christ? Without the instructions of scripture, the call to love and serve, basic things which go so against our nature and our culture and can only be produced by the Spirit. There is so much confusion in our culture, in me; I need to revisit the basics every so often. I was struck by the room full of people committed to their marriage and family, willing to go through the hard and painful and humble work of self-examination, forgiveness, healing, love.

Whatever the season of your marriage, I would highly recommend attending a Weekend to Remember. There are conferences happening all over the U.S., and a few coming up soon in Northeast Ohio. Send me a message if you'd like to know more, I'd be happy to tell you more about it!

Friday, November 8, 2013

soup 11.8

I have been thinking this week about the seasons and how necessary they all are. These months are so much calmer- so predictable and steady, and I am feeling more creative energy and finding more space to work and making some good progress on the book.

Again this year I considered NaNoWriMo, but November begins with a birthday and ends with Thanksgiving, and isn't a month that I can devote solely to a project. However completing the first draft of the novel I am writing by the end of this year does seem achievable. The only goal I have now is to finish my shitty first draft by the end of this year.

Shitty first drafts are liberating. They free you to try ridiculous things, to experiment, play, paint it out and start again, in red this time. It is so much fun.

Painting has made me pretty familiar with the creative process. So much of it is not rational or conscious. I am very aware that right now I am just laying in the broad strokes. Roundish, lopsy figures, taking a pallet knife to block in the undertones, sketching in what may be a barn, or may become a plate of oysters, but something is telling me that something needs to be there.

The creative process- so illogical and unexpected and magical. It feels good to be in it again.
"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it." -Anne Lamott

Two good links this week:

I'm a Feminist Because I Love Jesus So Much: Interview with Sarah Bessey at Christianity Today

The 'Stubborn Gladness' of Elizabeth Gilbert's Favorite Poet-- this is so lovely!
 Gilbert takes this middle way, and I think it’s a far better way: he says the world is terrible andwonderful, and your obligation is to joy. That’s why the poem is called “A Brief for the Defense”—it’s defending joy. A real, mature, sincere joy—not a cheaply earned, ignorant joy. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

thinking about Thoreau at the end of the sixth birthday party

I cannot take Thoreau seriously since I learned his mother did his laundry
simplify simplify: a nice thought but somebody or your mom must wash your underwear
Thoreau lived deliberately and did not ever
so far as I am aware
separate the whites or
deal with his child's civil disobedience or
hear his name called up his spine
so persistently that he might consider ducking into the coat closet

Did you, Thoreau, ever plan a six year old's birthday party
or contemplate food allergies
crafts
test the recipe for chocolate cake with chocolate frosting
or advance confidently in the direction of the store for maraschino cherries- a five year old's only request?
Details Details

Did you, Thoreau, ever see your daughter so drunk on delight and red40
at the end of her sixth birthday party?

Now watch as I take this glass of wine to the bath
And read the Atlantic and scrub my poor feet with sugar

No one, not even Thoreau, had such delicious solitude
Not even Thoreau had such smooth feet


Thursday, October 31, 2013

our few live seasons



These are our few live seasons. Let us live them as purely as we can, in the present.
― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

the story of the world

Eleanor of Aquitane and her son, Richard the Lion-Hearted fought the Turks for Jerusalem during the time of the Crusades which occurred from 1095 to 1291.

During the Hundred Year's War, Joan of Arc and King Charles VII led the French to defeat England at the Battle of Orleans. In the late 1340's, fleas on rats carried the plague which killed one out of three Europeans. (Classical Conversations
Romans went to the Colosseum to see bloody sports- sports where people and animals died terrible deaths. Crowds cheered as they watched staged battles. In one battle alone, 10,000 people are said to have died! People also watched as gladiators fought one another or wild animals. (Ancient Rome and Pompeii, Mary Pope Osborne)

It seems a good practice to begin one's day with a bit of World History.

Classical Conversations, our homeschool program, includes memory work of historical events and the timeline of world history. And so at about 9:30 every morning after she practices the piano, I listen as Sam reviews (currently) the Middle Ages, and the song which covers the timeline of world history.

For our history lesson we then read books that flesh-out the memory work; this week is Ancient Rome and the Renaissance.

And then all day long I think things like . ..

Our government shut down for a few days? That's nothing.
Football players with concussions? You could have been a gladiator.
 Pesticides, additives, GMOs? be glad it's not the Middle Ages.

And . ..

Thank God for vaccinations.
Thank God for soap.
Thank God for sanitary systems.

And . ..

Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly Meaningless!

Oh the world is one long tragedy, there is too much sorrow how does the earth continue? Is it all we are here for, to be lonely and suffer and hurt each other and then to die?

And then there it is in the middle of the timeline song: Jesus the Messiah! 

I don't know how one would cope, without these words intersecting the history of the world; without hope as an anchor for the soul. It is all one long sad twisted joke, if not for Christ.

I am finding an even deeper worship, remembering daily my place and my smallness, the vapor of life in the scope of time and history, and Jesus, the Messiah, who intersects history for God so loved the world and looking forward to the day when all shall be well.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”  Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Rev.21
I go for a jog and I can run with my eyes to the ground, and leaves have fallen and everywhere there is falling and decay and death and meaningless meaningless.

Or I can run with my eyes on the trees, and all year long the leaves have been watching the heavens declare God's glory, and I imagine them whispering it's coming! it's coming! it's glorious! it's glorious! 
Every morning you should wake up in your bed and ask yourself: "Can I believe it all again today?" No, better still, don't ask it till after you've read The New York Times, till after you've studied that daily record of the world's brokenness and corruption, which should always stand side by side with your Bible. Then ask yourself if you can believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ again for that particular day. If your answer's always Yes, then you probably don't know what believing means. At least five times out of ten the answer should be No because the No is as important as the Yes, maybe more so. The No is what proves you're human in case you should ever doubt it. And then if some morning the answer happens to be really Yes, it should be a Yes that's choked with confession and tears and. . . great laughter.” -Frederick Buechner

Monday, October 28, 2013

and Grace calls out




And Grace calls out, 'You are not just a disillusioned old man who may die soon, a middle-aged woman stuck in a job and desperately wanting to get out, a young person feeling the fire in the belly begin to grow cold. You may be insecure, inadequate, mistaken or potbellied. Death, panic, depression, and disillusionment may be near you. But you are not just that. You are accepted.' Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted.

Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

glimpse

Claude Monet, The Red Kerchief
Cleveland Museum of Art


Soup, 10.28


This week we celebrated a birthday, my in-laws visited, it snowed- what?, and we spent a day at my parents' celebrating birthdays. This week there is another birthday, and a party, and Halloween. Sugar, yes, wow. 

Every year this happens- I feel this nice sense of relief after one birthday has been celebrated, and then I remember I need to come up with Halloween costumes. And then I remember I still have one more birthday to pull off, and one more birthday party, and everyone is sick of birthday cake . . . It is my middle child and oh, I won't let her birthday feel anti-climactic I will not. So here's to the second half of Birthday Week.



Books:

Some Things That Stay by Cleveland author Sarah Willis
Set in the 1950's a young girl is the daughter of an artist father and eccentric mother, who move the family every year so her father can find new landscapes to paint. When she is fifteen they move to rural New York and her mother comes down with tuberculosis. Meanwhile Tamara is growing up and confronting issues of sex, religion, and place. It is a moving, emotional story and had me rooting for Tamara and her family. I loved the voice of the narrator, who manages to be both so simple and adolescent and so wise.

He's Gone by Deb Colleti
Deb Keller wakes up one Sunday morning to find her husband is gone. He remains missing and as she continues to search for him the story of their marriage is unraveled and she is forced to confront the loss and mistakes they each have made. The story itself may be overdone, but I enjoyed the author's voice and I felt the subject of adultery and remarriage told a very authentic and just lesson on the complexities of marriage and remarriage.



Good Links:

Conversation Matters: RZIM
The conversation matters—even conversation that questions and argues—for God values communion. Indeed, Abraham and Moses, Job, the psalmists, and the prophets all provide us with rich and engaging narratives of authentic, challenging, questioning, and even argumentative conversation with God.

Christian, Not Conservative: The American Conservative an interview with Marilynne Robinson (love her! love this!)
Our idea of what a human being is has grown oppressively small and dull,” she continues in When I Was a Child, and proposes an alternative anthropology: “What if we were to say that human beings are created in the image of God?”
Calvin writes in the Institutes that man’s creation in the image of God establishes a duty of unlimited love: “The image of God, by which he is recommended to you,” he writes, “deserves your surrender of yourself and all that you possess.” The social consequences, Robinson believes, are clear: an “unqualified requirement of generosity” that is repeated again and again in the Christian tradition: in Deuteronomy, the Gospel, Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards.

Look Inside a Chicken Nugget: The Atlantic . .. and that eliminates this option.

8 Things I've learned about education in my 8 years of motherhood: Simple Homeschool
*especially liked #5 & 6


. . . and that is last week's soup, reheated, on a Monday.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

then He begins to teach us



When God gets us alone through suffering, heartbreak, temptation, disappointment, sickness, or by thwarted friendship - when He gets us absolutely alone, and we are totally speechless, unable to ask even one question, then He begins to teach us.” 
― Oswald Chambers

Saturday, October 19, 2013

soup 10.19


I do love these quickly darkening days. In the mornings when I woke up this week the golden harvest moon was shining directly through the window and it is good to begin the day with Wow.

And the sun is telling us by seven we should be on our way to bed, that is just fine, and we fill a steamy tub and there are flannel nightgowns and extra blankets and a rocking chair with extra chapters, and then I creep to my own unfinished chapters.

The girls are sleeping late, past seven, I have to wake them up some mornings. After so many many years of five a.m., sleeping children at seven will never cease to amaze me.

I feel a tiny bit guilty at just how peaceful our days are this year. Annie still loves school. She is thriving on the routine, and she really loves the social, it is definitely the thing that motivates her, we hear all the kindergarten gossip. This will be something to think about when we bring her back home to homeschool next year.

We drop Annie at school and come home and Sam practices piano and does her schoolwork and Josie hops around. We take a midmorning break and go for a walk and gather leaves and come home and eat a little lunch and do more schoolwork. Then we brew tea and read on the couch. It is so peaceful and natural and so much what I want home education to be . . .

but I have only one student. Ahem.

And Sam is an easy student. Easy easy. It's like having a newborn who sleeps through the night- she's an anomaly. I did nothing to make her that way, she just likes to learn and likes to be at home and likes to do her schoolwork. I will enjoy this year and not feel guilty I will enjoy this year and not feel guilty . . .

And so I feel a little bit guilty that life is so calm and there seems to be so much space in life right now and I ask how does God want to fill it?

In the afternoons we bake or do art or read and then pick-up Annie and play outside and make soup. It is a season of exhale and peace and I am thankful.

The Autumn leaves this year seem to be hanging around extra long, the sky is wildly blue and "wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration" (Marilynn Robinson). It is my favorite slant of light this time of year.


Books:

Book Love: I read the ebook version. It was pretty short, concise and to the point, with good practical tips on how to overcome the things that discourage reading, and help your child to love books. There is a great section of online resources as well.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
A really interesting compilation of the daily routines of all kinds of artists. I love getting a peek at the way people organize their days, the routines they cling to or reject in order to make art. I think the only common thread in nearly all of the lives of artists is coffee. Artists it seems need their coffee. I liked Marilynn Robinson the best who rejects all routine. The book is based on the blog by the author, Daily Routines.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tuesday (Just Write)

It is a calm moment in the middle of a calm Tuesday. The sky has been blinding blue for weeks but today grew subdued and the trees began to muddle.

This morning was just the way things are supposed to go but seldom do- coffee quiet shower three daughters dressed three frizzy tangled heads of hair subdued (morning shrieks and desperation). Prayer gratitude socks shoes jackets out the door (early even), home. Chop onions call my mom. Second cup of coffee while listening to piano practice~ instruction offered in which my near eight-year old turns suddenly to me with her very first mom-you-don't-know-anything look and I wasn't sure whether to spit out my coffee and scold her but then I laughed (the years to come) and also, I sort of agree.

Then we read books on the couch, because we can. Josie with her elbow in mine and Sam and apples and Beatrix Potter and Leonardo DaVinci and Math and Ancient Rome.

In the middle of a paragraph I remembered four years staring out the window dreaming if I were a teacher there would be couches there would be tea my students would read books not these horrid textbooks and today there is tea and piles of books and staring out the window in the middle of an ordinary Tuesday it all is so startling and good.

linking up with Heather today to Just Write

Monday, October 14, 2013

where your feet take you



I find myself in a book jam. I have too many good books started at the same time, and when I have time to read I can't decide which to pick up.

Reading is the one area of life I usually can keep free of compulsion. I read because I can, not because I have to, and I usually read what I like, not what I think I should. If a book doesn't catch my interest, I stop reading.

But then there is everything else in life nearly always predicated by a should.

It is in the world of books, which I pick up purely for enjoyment, that I find the most life and satisfaction; often within a randomly chosen book or poem or blog I will find a word or glimmer or some thing I didn't know I was searching for.

I assume that for people who run or make music or study or bake there is this same sense- the satisfaction of doing something purely for the joy of it, and by chance stumbling upon some deeper meaning or value in the process.

I think there is an application to the Christian life here, but I'm not quite sure what it is . . .

I really love this by Frederick Buechner, and it is the way I am trying to learn how to live:
"Thus, when you wake up in the morning, called by God to be a self again, if you want to know who you are, watch your feet. Because where your feet take you, that is who you are."
. . . where your feet take you. There is something liberating about this, if only I could learn how to trust it.

wrote about this tension before, of being dead to self but mostly alive unto God. That was in 2009, and I am thankful for this thing I still am learning, maybe growing a little more comfortable with- being alive.

I wonder how to teach my daughters how to live in this tension; right now we are in the obedience stage and we are trying to teach them to obey their parents because it is obedience to God. "Choose what is right even when it's not what I want." . . . I think that is what we want to teach. . .?

But really what I want them to learn is to love God and love good things.

I hope they will love wisdom and peace and that they will somehow recognize and follow good things-- that their feet will take them there.

How do I teach that really it isn't about "not what I want" but about yes wanting- the true and lovely and honorable things?

Yes they need to do what is right but it is more important that they love what is right. And sometimes what is right might seem like the wrong thing, to some people,but it is the heart that discerns, not the shoulds and shouldn'ts but the heart, and the living, the breathing Word of God, the Spirit who says Come.

I don't know how to teach my kids this, but I pray for it. I'm not sure I understand it myself.


Friday, October 11, 2013

By faith



By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear. . . . By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, took heed and constructed an ark for the saving of his household. . . . By faith Abraham . . . went out, not knowing where he would go. . .. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive even when she was past the age. . . . These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.
Heb.11:3, 7-14

Faith is a way of looking a what is seen and understanding it in a new sense. Faith is a way of looking at what there is to be seen in the world and in ourselves and hoping, trusting, believing against all evidence to the contrary that beneath the surface we see there is vastly more that we cannot see.

By faith we understand, if we are to understand at all, that the madness and lostness we see all around us and within us are not the last truth about the world but the next to the last truth. Madness and lostness are the results of terrible blindness and tragic willfulness, which whole nations are involved in no less than you and I are involved in them. Faith is the eye of the heart, and by faith we see deep down beneath the face of things- by faith we struggle against all odds to be able to see- that the world is God's creation even so. It is he who made us and not we ourselves, made us out of his peace to live in peace, out of his light to dwell in light, out of his love to be above all things loved and loving. This is the last truth about the world.

Can it be true? No, of course it cannot. On the face of it, if you take the face seriously and face up to it, how can it possibly be true? Yet how can it not be true when our hearts bear such powerful witness to it, when blessed moments of our lives speak of it so eloquently? And that no-man's land between the Yes and the No, that everyman's land, is where faith stands and has always stood. Seeing but not seeing, understanding but not understanding, we all stand somewhere between Yes and the No the way old Noah stood there before us, and Abraham, and Sarah his wife, all of them.

The truth of God as the last and deepest truth- they none of them saw it in its fullness any more than we have, but they spent their lives homesick for it- seeking it like a homeland, like home, and their story is our story because we too have seen from afar what peace is, light is, love is . .. .

Frederick Buechner, from Secrets in the Dark

(I hope I didn't break too many copyright rules by posting such a lengthy portion, but I loved this and wanted to share . . .)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

one handful of dream-dust


Gather out of star-dust,
Earth-dust,
Cloud-dust,
Storm-dust,
And splinters of hail,
One handful of dream-dust,
Not for sale.

-Langston Hughes



Recollections #17 of 36 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Because, the Heartland


We traveled last weekend over fields and through cities and towns and around the Lakes and across pages and maps of the heart to visit old friends. These are the kinds of friends who know us, our ugly and good and they share our history, they are part of our story.

Along the way I am watching the sun set over the Midwest, shadows slanting along hills, trees, golden fields, subdivisions. And I think again how beautiful is this land I have always known, the Heartland, what good people it has grown.

We drive right into twilight, my favorite time of day and pull over to dress the kids in their pajamas and they drift to sleep as the stars are turning on, a long black stretch and nothing but stars I lean my head out the window. And then there is the glow on the horizon and soon we are in Chicago, and I lean out again and breathe the sorrow, the dreams, the motion and confusion and longing of time and humanity.


And we are talking. Talking about where we have been and where are we going, and there is this usual conversation, the one we keep coming back to- Home. I think a lot about home, home matters; it is my work and my heart, the backdrop of family and childhood, the spine of memory.

For years we have been in transition- all of the years of our marriage, and five houses, and I am feeling the pull to root, to find our place and make a forever home. I breathe it often, Where is home, Lord?  and I hear Him say, You are a traveler here, love, this world is not your home. And I know this is true.

Back in Ohio a school morning we are in an all-out race to make it out the door on time. There is a lost backpack and shoes that don't fit and tears and bickering and a potty accident just as we were already late and I am keeping it together, just barely, my voice is calm though my pulse is racing and somehow we make it.

We drop Annie off at school with kisses and then on to our class for homeschool. As we are driving I notice: first, a car beside us the passenger appears to be shouting, screaming at the driver, clearly distraught and then, in the rearview mirror I notice the woman in the SUV behind us is sobbing, hysterically, and she too is shouting, whether it is aloud to herself or on a phone I can't see. We are stopped for minutes at a light and she is clearly coming undone, I fear for her and pray for her as our cars part on the interstate. Later on this same day, in the middle of traffic, a man has stopped his car and gotten out only to shout across the lanes, fists raised, I have no idea who he is shouting at but he gets back in his car and drives away.

And a poor woman was shot that day at the U.S. Capitol, and her daughter was with her . . . and a man who shot an officer with his three kids in the car . . . and I learned we have 90 guns in this country for every 100 people, and I wonder- are we slipping? Is our collective sanity breaking down? Why? For lack of social services or lack of medicine or is it for lack of home?

Home, is the word that comes to mind when I hear these stories, when I watch the news and see the horror or drive past the broken. Oh Darling, where is your home?

And the question I realize is not where is your home, but who? Who is your home? Who are your people? Where will you go when your nerves are shattered and life strung out, when all you can do is rage? Can you find yourself in a warm kitchen somewhere, within the safety of people who know your story, all of it's yokes and confusion, who see your lovely along with your dark? Who will listen and who will speak truth to you?

And I thought all day about our friends, these friends who map our heart. I thought of other friends near and far, the people we have grown up alongside and traveled with for a season or for years, with whom we have wept and argued and laughed; all of our roads trace back to them.

Because this is our home, these people, this history. The Heartland. The world is not our home, not a location on a map or a white picket fence but the journey, the terrifying, beautiful journey, and the tribe we travel with. We are travelers here, but we are not lost.

The ark is wherever people come together because this is a stormy world where nothing stays put for long among the crazy waves and where at the end of every voyage there is a burial at sea. The ark is where, just because it is such a world, we really need each other and know very well that we do. . . . The ark, in other words, is where we have each other and where we have hope.-Frederick Buechner