Friday, December 30, 2016

Our Story of 2016

We began the year with a minor surgery for Josie. She was a trooper and back home running around by the end of the day.

We did what we always do in winter: lots of time in the kitchen, books, piano, homeschool, soup.

A new baby cousin in February!

Florida in March.

In April Sam and Annie were baptized as a profession of their faith in Jesus Christ.


We figured out that Sam is quite the babysitter. Along with cook, home manager, all-around great kid.

Josie got to go to her first birthday party.
The Cavs won the NBA finals.

And then after years and years of endless begging, reasoning, prayers and supplication by Sami-- we got a puppy. The rest of 2016 belonged to Lucy.

In June our closest friends moved away, leaving a big space in our home and our hearts. 

Another June highlight was a few days with our cousins here for Cousin Camp.

We did a ton of work to the outside of the house this year- new landscaping, a fence for Lucy. 
We put the children to work.

Annie got to travel to Oklahoma with my parents all by herself- for a week!

Another baby cousin! Sam the baby whisperer.

A highlight of the summer was a reunion with my Haiti friends in Indiana. It was such fun to reconnect with so many, and for our families to get to know each other. Thanks, Shannon, for planning an amazing weekend at Camp Moneto.

We traveled to Pennsylvania to visit the Kanagys in August. A beautiful, sweet time with our friends!

Jim surprised me with a fun day at Kelly's Island for my birthday.

My whole family came to Cleveland to go to an Indians game. So much fun.

We began our fifth year of homeschool and our fourth year of Classical Conversations.

Sam and I traveled to Grand Rapids to visit dear friends in September. A fun girls getaway!

We went to Indiana to visit our dear friends the Dunns in October.

The Indians nearly won the World Series. We loved watching the games.

Fall is always a blur- a hectic, busy, sometimes frantic season of adjusting and re-adjusting and trying to find some kind of a groove. There are too many activities and never enough time. I need to remember this and adjust my expectations. Every year I want to quit homeschool in the fall.

I have to tell the truth- this dog sent me into therapy- literally. I was living in a constant state of panic, she brought out all of my neurosis. We were this close to re-homing her. And then I fell in love with her. My Lucy experience was nothing short of a spiritual awakening; a step of liberation and of understanding the love of God in a new way. 

2016 was the most peaceful, joyful year I can ever remember (aside from Lucy).
Don't get me wrong- I did my share of complaining. I muddled in the usual self-doubt and questioning. The kids have their own struggles that did not go away. There are broken relationships that make us ache. Jim and I had our share of fights big and small.

We did two really positive things this year: we began going to counseling as a couple, and I began going to a Natural Health doctor and completely changed my diet. As a result, our marriage is the best that it has ever been, and I feel healthier- emotionally, physically, mentally- than I ever have. Hopefully I will have a chance to write more about both of those, and more. 

For now, this is the story of us in 2016.

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.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Symposium, and what is working this year

Symposium, or Morning Time, is a concept I have read a lot about and have done in various forms over the years. It is basically a way of creating a specific space, or ritual, of reading aloud and memory work, and making it the most important part of our day. 

The word Symposium comes from the Greek and means "to drink together," which is wonderful however for our homeschool this means tea. We have Symposium mid-morning, and promising tea and snacks is a great way to get everyone to the table.

This year Symposium consists of:

A hymn. Usually I begin by playing the Benediction on YouTube, hopefully we will go a little deeper into other hymns and their composers.

Devotions- The Jesus Storybook Bible (still our favorite, we will switch to another when we are through) and Jesus Calling for kids.

Scripture Memory: I have collected in our Symposium notebook many of the Scripture passages we have memorized in the past as well as what we hope to memorize this year. This way we can review several passages, and I can quickly choose the next. Having passages already prepared is key for me to reduce the paralysis of analysis I often feel with Bible memory- which one to pick next?

Poetry: ditto for poems, I have printed the ones we have already memorized, and selections to be memorized (I chose ours this year from The Harp & Laurel Wreath). We can quickly review a few already memorized, and then work on the new poem.

Classical Conversations Memory Work: we review Memory Work lightly and then spend time going in-depth in the subjects with library books, YouTube, Encyclopedia of World History, etc. For example, this week we are reading through an Eyewitness Book of Medieval Life, we watched a short video on the seven biomes, and a video of Charlemagne. 

Read Aloud: One of our read aloud books is from the period of history we are studying, and there are more picture books from the library on the subjects from our CC week in Science, Geography, and History subjects.

Famous Paintings: I love this set of activity cards from Usborne Books. One brief card per week with a famous painting, the artist, and a few key facts.

There are educational coloring books for kids to color while I read aloud, or they can cut paper or draw. Generally Symposium lasts right up to lunch, from about 10:30 to noon, and is our favorite and most focused time of the day.

Other things which are working for us this year:

I am giving myself Mondays as a slow-entry day. Generally I work on Saturdays, and so Mondays are for managing the house: cleaning, laundry, groceries, and the library. I take the morning to catch up on email, plan our menu, figure out what books we need. The kids help me clean, round up overdue library books, and try to at least practice piano. We also try to fit in Symposium on Mondays. My fifth year of homeschool, I don't feel guilty for taking this day. Homeschool is about living life together, and we need this day.

I'm trying to take back a daily quiet time- all kids in their rooms reading for one hour. Everyone is happier when they take some space from one another, especially mom.

Just-Because-We-Can days. We want to be about enjoying the freedom that homeschool give us. Who am I kidding, we've always enjoyed our freedom, but we are being even more intentional this year and planning fun days and trips.

One of the values of Classical education is the idea of much not many- to go deeply into a few subjects rather than a thin study of many subjects. The same applies to life. Learning how to say yes to a few things- and do those things really well. 

Most of all, I am learning to relax and enjoy our days. I'm learning to laugh more and try to control much less. Everything goes smoother when we take it a little lightly.

I love this permission slip at Brave Writer. I hereby grant myself permission . . .

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Our homeschool plan and why I should not be doing this but I'm doing it anyway

I decide that I am unfit for homeschool at least three times a week. Sometimes three times a day. As the mom, you are so up close and personally involved with every moment of your kids' lives, without the space of perspective. There are no perks to this gig or even a coffee break; you are the crazy person who chose this in the first place.

After taking the Clifton Strengths Finder this summer I thought about my strengths and compared them to what is needed to be a great teacher, and determined that I have none of them.

My top five: empathy, connectedness, ideation, input, adaptability. All of my strengths feel like weakness as a homeschool mom.
I love ideas. I can generate a thousand ideas but be unable to choose one.  
I am highly adaptable, I resist structure and routine which are kind of important in a classroom. (Adaptability + ideation means that I change my mind twelve times a day)
I love to learn and so I can be impatient with things I already know.  I love the learning and research aspect of homeschool but struggle to stick with one thing.
At the very bottom of the thirty-two strengths I am sure would be the command strength. I am terrible at command. I hate telling people what to do. I should not be in charge of anyone, I can't even take charge of myself. I cannot ask for help, I have no concept of time and plan for twice more than could ever be accomplished. I hate details. I make most of my decisions out of guilt.

When it comes to homeschool, my strengths feel an awful lot like weaknesses. All of these are reasons why I should not be doing this.

But something about turning 39 this summer has me saying, Ack, so be it. I am a bit of a mess, I will probably always be, so be it. I am what I am; self-deprecating, in over my head, usually a bit confused, doubtful, curious, feeling everything.

I do my best. I give my whole heart. I keep trying, and learning, and adapting. I am going to try to be a bit more empathetic with myself this year.

And also? We might not do it through High School. Or maybe we will.

The best bit of homeschool advice I've ever heard is from Susan Wise Bauer who said that every year they asked the question, what does each child need to thrive this year?

This year, thriving is more of the same: Classical Conversations one day a week, and Math, piano, lots of books, friends, field trips, and time to play. And because I have in the back of my mind (and on my prayer list), that just maybe next year will look different, we are being all the more intentional enjoying the just because we can things.

One of the themes for me this summer was the next right thing. Talking with friends who spent their entire career in Haiti, they said that so many people came to Haiti "for life" and left after a very short time. More often, it was the people who came only for a year or two who ended up being there long term.

Today we begin another year of home education. My next right thing is to make breakfast, and read to the kids. My next right thing is to overcome my nature by sticking to a schedule, at least a rhythm, and to help my kids overcome their natures too. My next right thing is to feed my kids enough truth, beauty, and goodness to make them hungry to seek it for themselves.

Maybe we'll only be here for another year. Or two. It is going to be a great year.

Our homeschool plan for the year:

Josie: First Grade
Yes Mom, Please & Thank-you
Patience & Kindness

Math (Math-U-See)
Handwriting (Handwriting Without Tears)
Phonic Museum

Area of Care:
front door

Annie:Third Grade
No complaining 
Patience & Kindness

Math (Math-U-See)
Writing With Ease
First Language Lessons
Spelling Workout
Read great books

Area of Care:
dining room

Sami:Fifth Grade
See what needs done & do it
Patience & Kindness

Math (Teaching Textbooks)
Institute for Excellence in Writing
Essentials of the English Language
Spelling Workout
Read great books

Area of Care:
living room, steps,

*more on our Symposium- my favorite part! Soon . . .

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Summer 2016 recap

Birthday parties ~ Vacation Bible School ~ Cousin Camp ~ Vet appointments ~ Haiti reunion ~ visits with friends ~ playdates ~ swimming ~ visit my grandma ~ Pennsylvania ~ orchestra ~ a trip to Kelly's Island ~ Lots of walks with Lucy

It was a full, busy summer. The kids are at great ages, they are so much fun. Our favorite was visiting friends who moved away this summer.  These friends have little girls the same ages as ours, they have been the best of friends as long as we've been in Cleveland. Spending a week with them at their farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania was a bit of Heaven. It was gorgeously restful and fun.

The girls paired off and disappeared and we wouldn't see them for hours. Meanwhile Nan and I harvested her garden and made pesto and preserved vegetables or sat on the front porch reading . . . amazing.

We came home refreshed and energized, ready to dive into our school year; in theory. The reality is that we are starting late and still feeling pretty wobbly. Easing our way in is more like it. 

Turning 39 has me thinking about taking better care of myself. I visited a natural health doctor and decided to give it a try. After a reflex evaluation (Reflexology is mind-bending. I love it!) he put me on a few supplements and took me off of all refined sugar- super tricky for me because I am a big-time grazer and could survive on dark chocolate. I'm keeping a food log and go back weekly (it is the first week of homeschool; all that is on my food log is coffee and wine). 

Another thing I learned about this summer is the Clifton Strengths Finder. Our church offers a Ministry by Strengths class, which includes the online Strengths Finder evaluation. This is so interesting! I love learning how people tick. My top five in order: empathy, connectedness, input, ideation, adaptability.

Finally, I discovered a super-cheap babysitter this summer: my kids are now old enough to babysit themselves! I need at least two hours per week to write, and now that Lucy demands my every last breath mornings,  I hire my kids to babysit themselves and Lucy. The better they are (meaning the fewer times they interrupt me or disturb the peace of the neighborhood), the more they can make. Up to two dollars whoa.

Lucy destroyed the house and my sanity, the kids never stopped talking- not even once, I think I finished three books the entire summer. It was perfect.

Monday, August 1, 2016

What I'm Learning This Summer: Own Your Life

One: Own Your Life

My summer began with this book, Own Your Life. For years I have known the name Sally Clarkson and assumed I knew what she was about. I underestimated her. I began with her book The Life-Giving Home, which I loved, and this summer Own Your Life spoke so directly into my life and circumstances and is giving me months worth of insight to chew on. 

At the same time we have this puppy who demands that I own her life instead. 

What have I done this summer? Lucy is what I have done. Lucy rules the summer. 
And somehow I love her. She drives me crazy but I love her.

Lucy was probably providential, in her way, for me this summer as I have attempted to own my life, while realizing how much I allow outside influences to derail me. Jim describes me as a firefighter, constantly racing to the next emergency. I struggle to prioritize, to set boundaries, to not feel guilty. Lucy, bless her heart, is a living practice in becoming intentional.

Some ways I am learning to own my life: 
(quoted from or influenced by Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson)

To choose to accept the hidden, mundane work carried out in ordinary days as my long-term work of service and the place God is calling me to worship Him. To choose to be faithful in the hidden moments only God sees.

Daily to ask myself: How can I bring grace, beauty, and order to each day, and live as though it is a place of worship?

To resolve:
To be a joyful person.
To practice being thankful.
To see God’s fingerprints each day of my life, as I know my children long to have a happy mother.
To live every day by faith, choosing to believe that God is real, He listens to prayer, and He will provide the grace to get through every trial.
To love, as much as possible, all who come into my life.

Don't prioritize your schedule, schedule your priorities.

In order to live a flourishing life of influence, I will choose to own my life- to take responsibility for my choices, attitude, will, and actions, knowing they will have consequences for eternity. My integrity is built when no one but Christ is looking.

Cultivating faithfulness is to begin and end my days with prayer, to spend time in God’s word, to accept limitations by faith, to choose an inner life of integrity. I will choose to find light in this darkness. No matter what happens, I will be as obedient as I can to bring joy into this place, to create beauty in the wilderness, to exercise generous love, and to persevere with patience. I choose to believe that wherever you are my faithful companion is the place where your blessing will be upon me.

Measure your life by how well you have loved. In the moment that you love well, you are the most like Jesus... following the pathways of love will lead me to the most deeply gratifying accomplishments of my life.

I have been feeling a little lost, and the Lord is so good to feed me with just the right book at just the right season. There is much more to learn and to become. I am so thankful for these words this summer. Lord, make them true in me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

July 27

Faith is a mysterious process of following the voice of God, accompanied by hard work and wisdom. -Sally Clarkson
When I try to write there are two things which present themselves, every time: one is who do I think that I am to have anything at all to say? There are so many brilliant people saying brilliant things, let them do this job. The second is that it is selfish; there are many more practical things requiring my energy and attention.

I tried not to write this year. I surrendered it, obeyed the nagging voices. I gave all of my energy to the practical and the necessary. I am a firstborn and by nature, if nothing else, utterly responsible. The year was crammed full, and much easier than writing.

It is easier to fly through the day by reaction than by creation. It is much simpler to do what needs to be done than to wait and listen. Like Martha I am every woman: set in motion, finding my identity by what I can accomplish while at the same time complaining about it.

My negative voices tell me that writing is both selfish and arrogant. But my year long experiment found that the opposite is true.

Writing is an act of listening. It is a way to pay attention.

I want to live a listening life. I love to listen, I believe it is the way God made me. Writing is a way- one way- of listening.

I am watching friends of mine flourish, finding purpose and passion in many different ways. Not all by writing, but I think, at the heart, these friends who are finding their life's work or meaning: what they are doing is listening. At their center they are kneeling and listening, and out of that comes this beautiful work and beautiful living.

There will always be practical work to be done. There is a time to write novels and there is a time to clean toilets and there is no formula. The only rule we are given is to abide in Christ; seek, knock, ask . . . listen. We will know what to do.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 26

I woke up this morning on the bottom bunk. We go through this routine still every few weeks, they all want a turn to sleep with me. I will miss this of course. When I woke my first view was of the backyard and it surprised me, how pretty it is in the summer morning light, how ordered and green.

Last summer it was this:

and this:

Last summer was mud everywhere, and before that a forest of overgrown shrubs and a drainage problem. I didn't want to even look out the window for a year. It seemed like such a terribly long process but little by little it's improved. We fixed the drainage problem, put in a patio, added some landscaping and swings, and a dog.

There is still a corner that's a mess, waiting for a shed. Some days all I can think about is that corner and miss all of the beauty and progress.

Working retail is a perspective on how fixated the United States is with this, perfection. I see how hard people work to achieve some impossible perfecting of their homes or bodies, missing the great delight of life in the pursuit. It makes me more grateful for our simple life and little home and small improvements. It makes me want to stay small and quiet and ordinary.

Today is one of our first full days at home of the summer. I love waking up and knowing we don't have to go anywhere. I am a bit anxious that summer is passing and I'm not summering. You know, summering- to putter, to dawdle, to loll. Today is for lolling. 

Annie is listening to the Chronicles of Narnia on audio. Sam is downstairs playing lego. Josie is pestering me for ways to earn money. I am giving her a dollar to not ask me anymore questions for a few minutes. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

July 21

I am claiming some space for writing in the morning, Lucy our puppy curled up beside me on the sofa. This is not as idyllic as it sounds. Lucy, of course, is not permited to be on the sofa, but after dragging her off so many times and trying to write, I give up. It is the one place she will sit calmly for two minutes and not be chewing on chords or furniture or causing me to jump every five seconds . . . (I just jumped). Having a puppy is a lot like having a toddler but more . . . ambiguous. All day long I am wondering does Lucy need exercise, is she bored, does she feel included, does she feel loved? Is Lucy hot? Is she cold? Was I too harsh with her? And then she pees in my shoes. 

We spent the weekend visiting friends. What a dull sentence, how loaded with life! I met these friends years ago when we lived and worked together in Haiti. Surely it wasn't a perfect community but my memory claims it was. No, better than perfect; for a time. It will never happen again I'm sure. Life doesn't go on, it just grows taller and broader with people we've loved. 

It was so good to be together and to remember . . . remember the way we could talk and talk, remember the smoky air, remember the breezes. Life was just beginning, I believed in everything. I was utterly selfish, I was utterly hopeful. 

I can't stay up nearly so late now. I've learned to be quite responsible, much more afraid. Sometimes you need to reach deep, deep down into your life and remember what is real, what you wanted after all. 

I've been thinking about the fields white unto harvest and how we are called always to the present, always to what is growing right beside us. But things grow from what is planted, the past lives on and I think we get to choose, to a large extent, what grows. I can't go back to Haiti but I can write, I can teach my kids, I can love people here. There is so much living to be done.

Summer is blowing past and I'm soaking up the moments. It is the best time of the year. 

"She conceived of life as a road down which one traveled, an easy enough road through a broad country, and that one's destination was there from the very beginning, a measured distance away, standing in the ordinary light like some plain house where one went in and was greeted by respectable people and was shown to a room where everything one had ever lost or put aside was gathered together, waiting.” Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The way things begin, again

It is Spring Break for Spring Cleaning here this week. Projects which have been staring at me for a year and a half I'm finally tackling, flower beds need digging, don't even look at my windows. Seasons are changing and I am claiming some space for change too, space for thought, for order and beauty and loud music while cleaning out the closets.

Our co-op, Classical Conversations, finished last week which brings some change to our homeschool and space to my brain. We will continue through the summer, but at a much more relaxed pace. We all are looking forward to restful learning.

It was seven months or so without pause, every hour planned, and it was good for a season. Like running a race, knowing there is a finish line, and finishing feels really good now too. Being overcommitted can be clarifying, it makes you realize what you need and want, and what is distraction. I learned this year that while I don't mind a fast pace, I don't want to do it for long. It crowds out things which to me are more necessary, like books, conversation, home.

Beautiful things happened in the evenings while I was at work this year. Jim and the girls, the Lord knit them together. They had good conversations. The girls all prayed to receive Christ this winter while I was working, and I don't regret not being there. I needed to be away, this was his time with them.

This Sunday we got to see Sam and Annie be baptized, Jim with them, our friends and family all around.

The girls baptism on Sunday feels like a chapter ending and beginning, in several ways. The babies we are raising have their own Shepherd now. Our work now is to help them hear His voice, to learn to follow Him for themselves. It is the beginning of their own story with Christ, the story they have to tell. There is much more I would like to say here, but not today.

The girls' friends are coming for the day. Friends they've grown up with, friends they do not remember not having. Six years of friendship is a long time when you're six, eight, and ten. In a month these friends are moving a state away. I don't know yet how we will cope, how next year, or this summer, will look. It is the beginning of a new story, a hard beginning.

Isn't this the way all stories begin; with beauty, and loss.
To be lost, and eventually, found.
Buried in the likeness of His death, raised to walk in newness of life.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


The top of her purple hat peeks just above the snowball she is trying to push. I watch her try with all her might, first fists, then turn and lean her back into the the thing. It is too big dear, but she doesn't stop. She runs for help, her sister appears and then the neighbor boys, together now. The mound takes on more snow and heaves a foot or two. It has become a neighborhood effort, this giant snow thing, sky darkens, they lose their hats, porch lights turn on, they heave, again and again, without why or what for? Never pausing to calculate the distance or find a lever long enough but just keep on, moving the world, down the sidewalk.

So much of life is just getting on, again, the small thing, again and again. Repetition repetition.

The girls have been out in the snow daily, five times a day. They finish their math and race out the door, I drag them back in for piano, out again. It is 7:00 am and Josie just came to me in her pajamas, please can we go outside? Have they noticed it freezing out there? 8 o'clock. Wait til 8.

I hold my mug at the window and watch them, thinking about these habits of an ordinary life. They gather themselves, become eventually more than they are. My grandmother lives on in my kitchen not for the way she baked bread but because she baked bread ten thousand times, because she lived a life of love and flour, water, salt.

Bread is a good habit, it makes a good life. Books are a good habit. Helping, listening. Beauty is necessary, and patience, prayer. I would like to make a habit of quiet, a habit of hugging, a habit of noticing the good, however thorny it may be.

Today is an ordinary Tuesday in January. We will practice piano, repeat repeat, recite our history facts and math, again, again again. We will read a little, form letters, sip tea. We will take a walk.

Outside the kids are packing snowballs, light and round, full of force.