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


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.


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.


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,
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

Saturday, October 5, 2013

soup 10.5

We traveled last weekend to visit some friends in Wisconsin. It was soul-nourishing and glorious and good. The time in the car as a family, the time with our friends and their kids. Madison, Wisconsin is beautiful. It was our longest road trip as a family, and the kids were so great. Tim is a pastor in Madison and his wife Ashley has this amazing gift of hospitality and truth, and they are honest and wise and they walk the Gospel.

When we got home this was Sarah Bessesy's facebook status on Monday and it is exactly how I was feeling about our friends:
Deconstruction is necessary work, but today I'm praising God for the ones who build out of the brokenness with hope. Once again, my own hope for the Church has been renewed this week. There are good, humble, genuine people in our weird patchwork communities all over the world. I was reduced to tears by leaders who bowed low in humility, made changes, & boldly followed the Holy Spirit. Incredible to witness, truly. If you haven't experienced the goodness of God's family yet, take heart. We're all out here, I promise, making space for God, loving well, living into the Kingdom. There's room for you.

Tim was Jim's best man at our wedding, ten years ago this week. We went to Momocho to celebrate and ate guacamole until we wanted to die, and then ate some more and had sparkly desserts. Ten years- worthy of fireworks don't you think?

Here is the download of good reads from the past couple weeks . . .

I still don't like what I do: welcome to my brain

Art in the Now and Not Yet: Q Ideas

We live between two perfections, and yet in our imperfect landscape there are glimpses of beauty. Art gives us a window into what was, and what is to come. And we ourselves can become the mirrors reflecting Christ’s Kingdom in this now-and-not-yet place. 

Anxiety: The "Busy" Trap: NYTimes blog

The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it's something we've chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. 

Four Ways Jesus Was Like a Millenial: Sojourners

Follow the money to the Common Core: Across the Page

But it takes the meat and potatoes served up by the humanities — imagination, philosophy, faith, art — to find meaning (rather than information) in the often bewildering and difficult circumstances of adult life. The global economy spins on its own, and human essentials like wisdom and freedom do not register there at all — nor are they articulated in our current notions about what makes an educated person.

In Which I have All the Feelings About Conferences: Sarah Bessey

How to Make the Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich, According to The Melt: Cleveland Scene Magazine (come visit us, we will take you there). 

How Would We Report on the Government Shutdown if it Were Happening In Another Country?: While the country’s most recent elections were generally considered to be free and fair (despite threats against international observers), the current crisis has raised questions in the international community about the regime’s ability to govern this complex nation of 300 million people, not to mention its vast stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

Life is Freaking Brutiful: Momastery

You really need to follow my friend Tana's blog if you aren't already. I especially loved this post, Remember, which includes stories of some of her crazy adventures. Oh, this is the adventurous Tana I knew and loved!

Finally, a beautiful moment of the day yesterday: Josie with her frizzy hair brushed out and blowing in the wind in the back of the van, looking for all the world like some 80's rockstar, singing her heart out to Shout to the Lord!  Blessed are they who take themselves lightly.