Monday, February 28, 2011

February Hike

What a beautiful cold day. Hints of spring in the air...whispers of green starting to grow.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Importance of Growing Up

There's been much discussion this week around here about gray hair; specifically, mine. While we were talking to some friends at the nursing home, we mentioned Leah's upcoming birthday and how "old" I felt that my baby was going to be 7. Delaney piped right up, "Yeah, mom has gray hair! She colors her hair!" - loud enough that the entire hall could hear. Children are the Lord's way of uncovering your last lingering shreds of vanity, I do believe.

Later in the week, the topic came up again. Delaney said I looked young (I think it was when I was dressed to go to the Y with them?) and that I should keep coloring my hair. I said that I would stop sometime -- I hadn't really decided when -- and that all the gray would be there in its full glory. D is now on a mission to decide what the exact right year is that I should begin to look like an "old woman".

I don't really know when I'll let it go; honestly, I don't care much. As my good friend Dellie once taught me: "it's just hair." What I do want is the maturity, the wisdom, the patience, the deeper love that the Lord gives those who continue to walk in His way for years and years, those whom are easy to spot: gray hair, big smiles, and open arms.

"Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness." (Prov. 16:31)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Their Cunning Ways

So, the more my kids understand me, the better they get at manipulating me. They may, in fact, be getting close to knowing me better than I know myself. I must stay on my toes.

Let's say that it is late afternoon and they want to watch a DVD or show of some sort. The strategies:

Levi's method: "Mom, I practiced my piano and all the chores are done. Jesse and I just got an extra tub of corn brought in. Can I help you with supper? (Me: no, but thank you!) Well, do you think we could all watch a short DVD?
Unpacking the Manipulation: Oh, how can I resist a checked-off to-do list?! He knows I love it when things have been accomplished. It is sooooo hard to resist rewarding that kind of laundry list.

Delaney's method: "You're probably going to say no, but, can we watch something?"
UtM: Who wants to be the Parent of No all the time? She tugs, tugs, tugs at my guilt-strings.

Jesse's method: Ummm, nothing. That boy is utterly incapable of manipulation so far. He's just all Jesse, all the time.

Sara's method: "Mom, there's this really neat show about science on PBS right now and I was wondering if I could turn it on and see if everyone wants to watch it with me?"
UtM: She has been sent. She has been coached. She has been told what to say. She plays this role well and figures she has nothing to lose. She never forgets a line.

Leah's method: She turns on the TV.
UtM: She remembers an occasion at some point in her life where this worked. Most likely during soccer season. Therefore, she will continue to rely on this strategy.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Books, books, we got books

"A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest."
— C.S. Lewis

I feel a bit shortchanged from my childhood (in relative terms, mom!). There I was, reading for hours/days/weeks/years on end, with nary a book list in sight. Other than a deep, long-lasting and well-deserved love affair with all Laura Ingalls Wilder books, I basically grabbed whatever I could get my hands on. Most of it, I will say, was book-candy.

Reading is highly esteemed and elevated in this clique we call homeschooling, and book lists abound. However, after forcing myself through many "read-alouds" from some of these lists, I can see that the "it's a classic!" argument sometimes gets too high of priority. Sure, some books simply stand the test of time. But I also suspect that some have made it onto these lists because they have moved up after less "morally acceptable" classics got knocked off. I'm in the "learning the list-makers" phase.

Things I have learned:
1) Shorter is usually better at our phase. Honestly, some of these books must have been short stories that unnecessarily got stretched out.
2) We are NOT the Wisdom and Millers family. All books that detail the idyllic farm life where Johnny pleasantly brings in the milk each morning for his sisters to use the cream to make butter will be scrapped from our lists.
3) Yes, I have to force them a little bit to get them into deeper books and harder reading. But, I'd better be SURE that book is worth their time and effort or my reading suggestions will lose clout quickly.
4) If I can read us all one great, laugh-out-loud-and-cry-too book each year, we have done well.
5) Little House books still rule.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

On My Mind: Being the Church and $$

Spending a whole year in James with the kiddos is very interesting. We move slowly through verse and yet circumstances/books/verses/discussions have all kept coming up through the seasons that add meat and complement to where we are in James. Hmmmm....

For example: one verse from Luke has really stuck with me since this past summer -
"When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you;"

In order to invite those in need, I have to see them. I have to have my eyes open, and have my eyes opened. As with most things in the past, when I pray ask God to lead me, He uses my willingness in ways in which I never would have imagined. This all then leads me back into James 2, where I am seeing that this whole living out of my faith is very personal, very in my face, very day-to-day. I know I have shown partiality, I know that I have overlooked those in true need. And then, of course, there's this:
"What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?"

Hello. Then this past week I read on Cindy's blog a very good commentary on something that Eric and I have always been troubled by: how are we showing partiality right in our church meetings? Our activities of fellowship? We have been on both ends: the ones who have been given bags of groceries or anonymous envelopes of money (tears of gratitude!) and the ones who were able to give. But aren't traditional churches set up these days in America to be prohibitive to giving to the poor right in their midst? If we are in the pew and get passed the plate, we are expected to put something in for the salary(ies), the electric bill, the missions to the poor that are "out there". Then everyone can meet at the restaurant after "church" for a great $40 fellowship meal. Isn't this part of the reason the truly poor and needy and invisible people stay "out there" and our church meetings have become so uniformly middle-upper class?

The Church (universal) has to be a safe place to come as we are. Our lives have to be opened to sharing the tangible gospel of Jesus Christ by living open, knowing that nothing is "mine", all is to be shared, given away, used up, including myself.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


How could I ever live anywhere but the midwest? Would I survive? Would my seasons still feel like seasons if they didn't look like seasons?

In this, the dead of winter, I am hibernating, and it is good. I read deeply. I think and think and think. I crave learning new things because I have time. I clean things that were not touched through the entire fall sports season. Even as I get frustrated with inane tax codes and HSA babble, I love to do all the taxes and get the sense of great accomplishment when they are done. It makes me feel like I'm right back in the office with my dad, helping do the farm books in a warm house in the cold of winter (ok, this house is not warm like their house, but my extra slippers and sweaters compensate).

I find new music that will sustain me throughout the year, when I don't have time or the inclination to find it. I visit. I plan, and plan and plan. I cook differently -- everyone does this, right? I do not make my comfort-food-only-I-like-it-tuna-noodle in July. That is a winter food. We make soups and more breads, and casseroles and apparently, lots of things with melted cheese.

I have too many ideas, ways to make things better, ways to help, ways to get involved. Dangerous. Can I make it out of winter without having taken on so many things that I will kill my spring-summer-fall? As I am learning in every season, this means waiting on God, listening to the Spirit before I say yes or say my ideas out loud. My prayers, my trust deepens in the slow time of winter.

Trips to the library mean many evenings where all 7 of us have our noses in books and some music quietly playing. Or craft supplies left out for days. Piano practice and playing gets deeper and longer.

I love winter. I don't love it for it's cold and ice and gray days (although I do love it's annual bug-killing cycle, and how it rests the earth). I love it because of spring. How could there be spring without winter? How could I work hard without rest? How could I know joy without knowing sadness?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Given Time to Think...

When my parents had their own home built and we moved in, I was 6 years old. Nearly all of the 30+ years since, they have a had a couch in front of their big picture window in the living room. My favorite spot soon became a corner of whatever couch was there, staring out the big window. I would take breaks from reading whatever book I was in and daydream endlessly while looking at the weather...the landscape...the brother outside working while I was in a nice warm house.

I see a little Heather developing in Sara. Of course they all have been fascinated by the winter storm over the past few days, keeping me updated on every development and venturing outside at regular intervals yesterday to play hockey with duct tape and hiking sticks. But today it's too windy. It was starting to snow heavily, too, as Sara took advantage of a lull in schoolwork to sit on our couch and stare endlessly out the window at the "blizzard", the many downed limbs from last night, and the regular snow plows. I sat beside her quietly and we made occasional comments.

"That's really a lot of limbs down," she noted.

"Look at that wind whipping around the barn," I pointed out.

"I'm glad Jesse and I fed the cats before the snow came," she said.

"I"m so glad we're in here and not out there," I added.

We sat and just watched for a while more.

"God must have a big, big, big, big memory to figure out what each next snowflake is going to look like," Sara said quietly.

Amen, girl.