Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Hole in the Sky

She woke to the luxurious smells of organic decaf mixing with the crisp cool air swirling in through the window, which was raised open six inches to welcome the humidity-free freshening. The soft thrumming of a helicopter hidden in the still-darkness (at least that's the impression she had of the sound's origin in those first waking moments) wafted in with it. How strange...

The strangeness captured her attention, and as she mulled it, she gained inspiration. Time to blog again!

Our summer arrived in late-August this year, and didn't stay long. We made the most of it by delaying school an extra two weeks to devote as much time as possible to soaking up Vitamin D and swimming at the lake. I hope we'll remember and take solace in what we were thinking come next April 30th, when our battle with spring fever is raging as we face those last two weeks of school...

Even though school's starting a little late, I'm still not quite organized. Monday I pulled a late-nighter to catch up on housework and prep work, and was kept company by the made-for-TV movie The Ranger, the Cook, and the Hole in the Sky.

And for some reason, this time I "got" it! Our family views this video a few times a year, but I've never before understood the meaning of the phrase "the hole in the sky." Perhaps I just needed to view it by myself in peace and quiet. Perhaps all the planets were finally in alignment. Or perhaps it was God's perfect timing? I mean, He's leading us down a strange new path with regard to school this year, and we'd just studied diffusion in Biology that day...

To me, the elusive "hole in the sky" is now an illustration of our memories diffusing into history. As we tread forward, they waft in our wake like the breeze through my window, spreading out behind us like a fragrance, thinning as they expand backward into the vast open space we call the past, floating gently away... Yet we cling to their essence and it lingers, often teaching, perhaps more valuable in diluted, objective form.

In the movie, a young USFS ranger reflects on his memories of the summer of 1919. Will you indulge me as I take a few moments to reflect on my memories of our short summer of 2009?

As I review photos, I see this has perhaps been our Summer of Welding. I think 900 photos of welding flash may have done my camera in, but through photo journaling I've learned a lot more about my husband's trade, his skill, and the mightiness of God--and got some great shots!

We researched and enjoyed our first garden--raised bed, organic, prolific for its size, and free of deer and rabbits thanks to my husband's "stinky shirt" invention.

Somehow we also managed to indulge in more play time with extended family this summer, swim and ChiRun in a downpour, help our kids begin babysitting and lawn mowing businesses, teach them to dive, and spend four days camping with friends on the North Shore of Lake Superior (boy, was that water cold!).

In August we pickled our own green beans; hiked in to a small lake where, for the first time in years, we gorged on thimble berries and gobbled fresh wild-caught rainbow trout roasted over a campfire; and FINALLY got our boat running!

A birthday arrived again this August as well. Do you remember The Paris Party? This year it was a Swimming-Supper-Spa Slumber Party, and prob'ly the most fun of any party I've hosted to date. We had so much fun planned that it ultimately took two days to accomplish it all. NOW I think I understand better why God tells us we need to set aside a whole week for Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles, and other holidays He talks about in Leviticus (and beyond)! He's got cool stuff planned!

Remembering the china from last year, the birthday girl combined information she gleaned from a summer community ed class and Sarah Masters Buckey's novel, Gangsters at the Grand Atlantic, to plan an elaborate 5-course meal, then designed and arranged her own absolutely elegant table setting:

The action included swimming, burying cold guests in warm sand, trying out the lifeguard chairs/duties, and log roll races down the beach into the lake.

The menu included:
  • Course 1 (soup) ~ Apple Compote (a warm fruit soup)
  • Course 2 (fish) ~ GoldFISH crackers and sliced cheese (to some guests' relief, the birthday girl only likes walleye, and we didn't have any), with an abundance of chilled sparkling apple juice for beverage (it was on sale)
  • Course 3 (salad) ~ Fresh garden veggie tray, and fresh fruit platter with fruit dip
  • Course 4 (entree) ~ Frozen cheese pizzas enhanced with each guest's creative design of turkey pepperoni and more cheese
  • Course 5 (dessert) ~ Triple-tiered strawberry angel food cake stuffed with hidden Hershey's Hugs, glued together with Cool Whip...with full aerosol cans of real whipped cream on the side. (Yes, it was indulgent. Yes, it was decadent. And yes, I have some AMAZING blackmail pix archived for "someday!")
The slumber party activities included a freezing cold foot spa (the water heater died for awhile right after everyone got their five-minute post-swimming/pre-supper showers), viewing The Spiderwick Chronicles and Peter Pan, rearranging the birthday girl's bedroom, and munching cold pizza and a new nearly-patented secret snack creation currently called "Peppzoni." We forgot the pillow fight, but oh year.

After an elegant but simpler breakfast of bagels and strawberries, we enjoyed a chocolate facial spa (check out these recipes/suggestions), complete with Lindt white chocolate truffles and, while-U-wait, more foot spa, fish crackers, and juice. As soon as all the gigglers were glowing from head to foot, they wanted to head back to the lake. Goodbye glowing faces! Easy come, easy go, I guess. Ah, c'est la vie...

Beauty. Birthdays. Beans. My summer diffuses through a hole in the sky.

At this time I have a strong sense--stronger than ever before--of being right in God's will and timing for our school year. Perhaps that's all that really matters here today.

Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths,
And my age is as nothing before you;
Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor.
--Psalm 39:5

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My Face Shall Not Be Seen

If your eyes are like mine, this picture is hard to look at straight on. In the past, I've foolhardily ignored all warnings and captured glorious shots by aiming my camera straight at the sun. I love to photograph my husband while he's welding, so whether intentional or not, I've also captured a lot of welding flashes (if you'd like to see my best shots, find me on Facebook). But this is the closest I've ever come to photographing an illustration of glory too bright to gaze on.

And [Moses] said, "Please show me your glory."

Then [God] said, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will give grace, and I will have compassion...But you cannot see My face; for no man shall see me and live...Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock...It shall be, while My glory passes by...I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen." --Exodus 33:18-23

...while My glory passes by...I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand...while I pass by.

We often echo the cry of Moses, "God, let me see You," and experience disillusionment when He doesn't show Himself. What the...? If He's real, where is He? Why doesn't He "pass by" here? Why does Moses get a miraculous encounter and we don't?

Well, let's see. To be fair and scientific, are we comparing apples to apples? Are our motivations and attitudes the same as Moses'?

In general, in a

Why did Moses want to see God? In our search for evidence, our insistence on proof, we often say, "I'll believe it when I see it." The one belief we truly buy into is that we can't know something for sure unless we've experienced it for ourselves. But in the Bible God calls that leaning on our own understanding, and warns us, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." --Proverbs 3:5,6

Moses knew the Lord even though he hadn't seen His face. Early in Exodus, Moses stepped out in faith just a little. God met him where he was, and revealed Himself a little. As Moses became more familiar with God, God revealed more and more--more about Who He is, what He can do, how we can live successfully, etc. And over time, Moses' faith grew. The cycle continued, and their relationship deepened. Moses learned that he could trust God. By chapter 33 of the Exodus, Moses didn't want to go anywhere without God! In fact, he didn't want to go anywhere unless God led the way! So by the time Moses asked to see God's face, he was not motivated by a need for proof; rather, he was motivated by a longing to see the Lord, Whom he loved so much.

And God loved Moses, understood the longing behind the impossible request, and made a compassionate choice. A cleft is a place where the rock is cracked open a little, making a small shelter, a shallow cave. God tucked Moses into the cleft of a rock, and further shielded him from harm by covering him with His hand, just as my husband's elbow shields us from the intense brightness of the welding arc in the second photo above.

You know what? The Bible says Jesus is a Rock:

  • Then He looked at them and said, "What then is this that is written: 'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.' ?" --Luke 20:17
  • "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." --Matthew 7:24
  • "Therefore it is also contained in Scripture, 'Behold I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and He who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.' " --1 Peter 2:6

What if, when we cry out, "Please God, I need help! If You're real and You're there, please show me Your glory! Please save me!", God chooses to hide us in Jesus the Rock just like He hid Moses in that cleft? He says He will save us from harm, and that Jesus covers us, or shields us, from the punishment we deserve for our sins. What if it is through Jesus that He hides and covers us...while He passes by?!

Often after we walk through a time of fiery trial, we can tell He's been there ( shall see My back). Perhaps it is because His glory is too great that we cannot see Him in the midst of our trouble, but can see His hand on our lives afterward. Perhaps that's also why, in Ps 94:22, King David (the shepherd boy who killed Goliath, had to flee and hide in caves from King Saul, and later fought numerous battles as king of Israel) wrote “…My God is my Rock. I go to Him for safety.”

How can we go to God when we need a safe place from someone who is hurting us, or when we are afraid, or other times when we need Him?

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication (asking in earnest humility), with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." --Philippians 4:6-7

Because it would be unloving, God cannot show us His face; but He can and does reveal Himself to us. He can and does save us. How exciting! Salvation excited King David, too. In his very next song, Psalm 95, he wrote: “Come, let us sing with joy to the Lord. Let us give a loud shout to the Rock who saves us. Let us come to him and give him thanks. Let us praise him with music and song.”

Though His face shall not be seen, He IS! May His glory be revealed to you!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Visual Migraine Simulated

Not that I've researched them thoroughly, but as I sit here having my second visual migraine in three days, I thought I'd share:

Mine happen in black and white and start more peripherally.  Still, like sneezing in rush-hour traffic, not the thing you want to experience while driving.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lucrative Fender Benders & Driving 55

This blog entry could be called a lot of things, but I've had this particular title picked out for almost a month now. My second choice might be "Jeremiah 29:11, part 2." To reiterate, "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you..."

Today, without apology, I am going to write long. This is the first day I've had free to blog since May 1st, and I need to process. This might be more of a blessing for me than you, but of course you're welcome to participate. Or not.

We're not risk takers. We don't pay interest, investing's not our thing, and we're not entrepreneurs. Business ventures don't give us a rush, and we never want to own our own. But there comes a time in every man's life when he's got to go after that thing for which he feels he was created. Hopefully, this is that time. Hopefully, our little purchase will help keep the economy going. Hopefully, we really are onto God's plan and not just deceiving ourselves, thinking it's His time for this dream because we want it too much. I'm excited to watch my husband fly.

The month of May is always crazy around here. Besides the spring cleaning, end-of-school year activities, graduations and weddings, we also have fishin' opener, sucker spearin', a big family birthday bash, and the end-of-year dance recital that completely consumes about a week. It's fun, but there's no margin for mishap or more activities.

Or so we thought. This year we were stretched, and managed to negotiate both mishap AND more! This year, when spring finally broke winter and we went through our normal "spring restlessness routines"--the restlessness that makes our good friend want to put his house up for sale, makes me feel like traveling, and makes my husband want to buy a portable welding rig so he can practice and test for pipeline work--we decided that of those three desires, which are annually as dependable as the changing of the season, the rig was the desire that had a decent chance of being lucrative (there're two new pipelines going through our state this year). So my husband updated his research; then we prayed, and got on eBay.

As it turned out, we got to travel and buy a welding rig. To make a long story short, in early May we found the welder.  It was more inclusive (and expensive) than we were expecting, and it was on the east end of Long Island, which was a long way away through places we never want to go. After much pondering, prayer, and nearly puking (remember, I'm making this short), by mid-May we'd reached an agreement with the seller. Besides agreeing on the price and payment method, he agreed to haul the equipment out of the metropolis and into Pennsylvania. We were scheduled to leave the Sunday evening of Memorial Day weekend, meet the seller Tuesday morning in PA, and be back in time for dance recital practice Wednesday afternoon. Theoretically, according to Mapquest, we had 38 hours to drive roundtrip. We had 65 hours to do it in, which meant we should be able to stop for at least eight hours of sleep each night.

Searching for the rig and making a 3-day trip to Pennsylvania added the "more" to our busy May. The mishap came the Friday before we left. Or more exactly, it came late on the Friday afternoon--the TGIF of TGIF's!--the Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend... 

It started at 2:55pm, when I lost my cell phone. It's missing captured my attention as I was gathering my normal "errand paraphernalia" to head out the door to an extra dance practice. It was time to I spent an extra ten minutes looking for that phone. Finally we left without it, pulling onto the highway into heavy holiday traffic just as the school buses were leaving the school. We still had 25 minutes to travel 15 miles (including in-town driving), so time was tight but we could make it. Halfway there, the bus in front of us braked to turn onto a country road.  The three or four vehicles directly behind it braked also, including the guy pulling his boat directly in front of us.

You understand the domino effect, right? And if you're of driving age, you've prob'ly experienced the domino effect in heavy traffic. The longer the line of braking vehicles, the less response time the next driver has? The stop came up fast and I had to brake hard, but I managed to stop a full car's length behind the boat motor's propellor. And I thank God! Because as I checked my rear-view mirror to see how the traffic behind me was handling the domino effect, I'm pretty sure my mouth hung open as I watched in surreal wonder the bright yellow bullet racing up.....uP.....UP!...and just barely beginning to slow right before it plowed into the back of our vehicle! No screeching brakes, not even a terribly loud crash--just a good solid thump. It's just a guess, but I think it hit us at about 40 mph. It pushed us forward about half the distance to the boat, then our daughter had time to yell from the very back seat an incredulous, "Did we just get hit?!" before it hit us a glancing blow on the rear right again so that we were pushed up to just shy of the boat's propellor. A second later I giggled with relief as that boat pulled away unscarred, its driver completely oblivious to the dramatic close-call that had just taken place... It was 3:20pm.

No one was injured (except perhaps an unseen angel?). No airbags went off. The other car had a lot of damage and a big hole in the radiator from our receiver hitch, but our vehicle was still drivable--just a sagging bumper and a few clinging flecks of sunny yellow paint.  Thankfully, the other driver, a sweet teen who was flustered but sincerely concerned about our welfare, had her cell phone, and the highway patrol arrived shortly. An hour after the accident, we arrived at practice. Everyone else was still there, and the other moms loved on us and kept my kids for another round of practice while I drove to the insurance office.

The next day the body shops were closed and we were busy getting ready for the family birthday party and our trip to PA. We looked up, down, inside, and out for my cell phone, calling it several more times, but it was nowhere. could that be? I could still remember places I'd "last seen it," and called the businesses in case I'd left it there. We had a second phone we could use on our trip, but that wasn't our favorite plan. Besides, again, this was surreal. We purchased cell phones primarily so we'd have them for emergencies, and the one time I had an emergency, I couldn't find my phone.  And it was because I couldn't find my phone that I had the emergency! If it'd been with my other errand paraphernalia where it "always is," I wouldn't have been in front of that teenager, behind that bus or that boat!

On Sunday afternoon just before we hosted the party, our daughter solved the Missing Phone Mystery. It a bag of potato chips?! 

Okay, yes--I'm caught and would be wise to confess: On the way home from my first batch of errands Friday, I snuck a grab bag of Lay's original potato chips. Potato chips have been my vice since I was eight, and they're a habit I've finally almost completely kicked. They are not at all a part of my functional medicine doctor's current plan for restoring function to a severely ailing part of my anatomy. However, it was lunchtime and I was desperately hungry, short on time, and chips were the best snack I could come up with since I had to stop for fuel and there was zero time for a second stop at a grocery store. No one was along for those errands--I was picking up surprise gifts to give our kids at the end of the recital--and when I got home I threw the bag of chips into the bag of surprises and went straight to my room. In my room, I ate a few--only a few!--while I quickly wrapped the surprises. Since everything about this errand was sneaky, my door was locked. That doesn't mean I was left alone, though. When someone pounded on my door for some emergency need, it frazzled me so much that I quickly threw everything on my bed into hiding...absentmindedly hiding my phone in the potato chip bag, then hiding the evidence of my guilt in the snack cupboard when no one was looking... On Sunday afternoon, just before our late birthday party luncheon, our daughter was famished, and, like-mother-like-daughter (thank God!), went for the chips.

And thus, she became the hero of the day. Amidst great gratefulness and celebrating, I let her eat the rest the chips in the bag right before lunch. (My little sister will vouch that coming from me, that's kind of a huge reward. When we were young I repeatedly conned her into sneaking down to the small grocery store on the corner to provide me with my habit. Her reward? A chip! Of course, I was saving her from my pain...)

Sunday at 6:00pm we said good-bye to our gracious guests, who took our kids and finished cleaning up the party as we headed east. By now we'd figured out the trip was going to take longer than Mapquest estimated. The truck we were driving is very low geared, and the fastest we could drive was...55 to 58mph.

2,300 miles, at 55 miles per hour...

Well, we had time to get a good look at the country!  ;~)

Just FYI, the roads in northern Illinois leave much to be desired. Avoid them if you can! Some of the toll roads are in better shape, but many are torn up for construction. And the signage around the toll booths, esp in the construction areas, is contradictory and confusing. On the way out we avoided Chicago, but on our return trip we tried cutting through on toll roads. At one interchange a 30mph ramp was blocked off at the bottom and traffic was actually directed OVER the median! And the reason we decided to try Chicago on the way back is because the roads we took to avoid it on the way out, even the major interstates, have lots of unmarked potholes--well, I wouldn't really call them potholes; they're HUGE 1'x2' holes, 8-12" deep!--that you can't see until you're almost in them. We were told the roads in southern Illinois are better.

Just FYI...

Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania were all 55mph. We stayed on the Indiana and Ohio tollways, stopping only at the oases/travel plazas where we didn't have to get off the toll roads. Fuel was reasonable, bathrooms were big and clean. The only food offered was fast, but it doesn't take long to get across those two states.  For those few hours, you could prob'ly survive on snacks you bring along. And since we were traveling at 55mph we didn't have the expected margin for sleep, so all we really needed for sustenance was caffeine. The treats we tried from the fancy chocolate stand seemed "lardy" and granular to us. And though I could not find fingernail clippers for sale at any of the eastbound plazas, I was finally able to purchase a pair at a westbound plaza on the way home.

We wiled away the hours collecting these travel advisory tidbits, enjoying the scenery, and comparing our thoughts on life, family, and the entertaining counsel we received via Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University CD's. We arrived in Snow Shoe, PA, at midnight Monday night, eased into a truck stop, snuggled in amongst semis, and slept in our truck. Sometime in the middle of the night we were wakened by squealing pigs, but they serenaded us right back to sleep and we were unaware of the semis leaving until we awoke for the day at 6am.

Breakfast with our new New York friends was unhurried and fun, and the welder was just as much a dream in actuality as it appeared to be online.

After a couple hours of going through the equipment and hooking up the trailer, we headed west just as it started raining. We treated ourselves to a late afternoon Campfire Meal at The Cracker Barrel, then pushed hard for home. Chicago traffic is mild at 1am, but let us remind you once more to expect the unexpected--interchange ramps that are closed but unmarked, bumpy medians, and the occasional five-lane toll road with two middle lanes removed. Our memories of these sights, plus a few more Dave Ramsey CD's (there are 11 in all), kept us entertained the rest the way 55mph. We didn't make it back in time for dance practice, but thankfully we have family with servants' hearts who were free to play chauffeur. We made it home Wednesday night in time for supper.

The days have flown since then. Dress rehearsal, getting estimates for the fender bender (which turned out to be quite lucrative!), filling out the state crash report (which is quite sobering), a grad party followed by an end-of-year dance party, two recital performances (the best ever!), our first organic garden (growing slow this year, but we've harvested our first radishes...), community ed classes in babysitting, drama, and manners(!), an end-of-year homeschooling picnic, pipewelding practice (for the whole family), 900 dance and 300 welding photos to sort, finishing up "44 days of finding and seeking" the audience for Alicia's new book, and even an afternoon of fishing at the bridge. Whew! I'm glad SUMMER will officially be here in a few days!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Finding an Unseen God (It's here!)

Truth is dead.  God never lived.  Life is filled with pain.  Death is the end of life...

These beliefs formed Alicia Britt Chole's worldview as a young woman. "I sincerely believed that there was no God," she says. "As a young Atheist, I simply considered myself a realist who preferred unanswered questions over fairy tales." Then one day, without warning, Alicia's Atheistic worldview was shattered. 

Alicia's new book, Finding an Unseen God: Reflections of a Former Atheist, is being released today.  Creatively written, Finding... opens a window into Alicia's surprising spiritual journey. With warmth, intellect, and compassion, Alicia invites us to carefully consider what we believe and do not believe, while she paints a vivid portrait of a God who relentlessly pursues even those who deny Him.  

You can watch her short (2:13) video trailer here, and, if you're interested, order a copy of the book from Alicia or Amazon.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Skills, Scars, Fashion, & Inflection

From yesterday:

Pointing at the old stitch marks where he cut his finger while cleaning the turtle bowl, he demands, "Mom, how is God ever going to use this scar for anything?" Then, without hesitation or need to search, he points to other reminders of old accidents, "...And what about this one? And this one? All they're ever going to be is useless scars that remind me of times He didn't protect me from pain."

Oh, my dear son...

Sometimes it's hard to imagine how any treasure can come from our misfortunes. God calls us to walk by hopeful trust (faith) rather than understanding, but that's hard for me to explain to my youngsters. And a little bit hypocritical. After all, I've watched more victories rise from ashes. I have more testimonies--more understanding to go with my faith. Over time, Father God has mingled bits of understanding with my scars and my baby steps of faith to build my faith bigger. Now I'm to tell my children they "just have to step out in faith"??? How can I do that? Rather, I think what I have to do is: a) continue to step out in prayerful faith myself, believing He's going to help our children plow through similar stages, and b) seek Him for how to encourage them along the way.

But our children don't want the resistance of a plow nor the time and struggle of plowing; they just want answers. They want answers that make all their confusion go away... Right now. From us. Despite all training, testimony, head knowledge and actual proof to the contrary, our son still operates almost as though WE are God--kind of a "vicarious faith." Sometimes I feel like such an unintentional stumbling block between him and God that I live in relieved wonder that I'm still alive! (Whew! I live another day! He's still fixated on us, but the Lord hasn't chosen to wipe out his idols yet!)

The discussion about scars led to discussion about skills. The Lord says His yoke is easy. Theoretically, that should mean it's fairly easy to score a passing grade on our God-given assignments! I think we often expect our burdens to be heavier, though, and we discount the "skills training" God puts us through because we don't even realize He's giving us a work out!

For example, last week our children were delightfully surprised when I pointed out that by taking advantage of the privilege of going to play at their friends' house for the day, they were actually also serving the Lord. Their stay with their friends freed up their mother to chauffeur someone home from the hospital. How light was that burden?!

And today our son practiced skills of a different sort, and even moved up to the next level. Again, he just thought he was having fun:

"Mom. Mom! Can I please take my raft out? Will you please come down and watch so I can use it?"

Raft-Poling 101 (No, I have no idea how the Lord will use this for His glory, but based on all I know of Him I have to believe it will be good and life-changing!) ;~)

Raft-Poling 201 (Um...oops? Okay, I guess it's time for a dip! Yes, son, I'm sure it IS very cold--the ice has only been off our swamp for a week... But look, you amazing guy!--You just got great training! You learned and developed new skills! You saved your pole and spanning board from floating away, swam safely to shore even with wet heavy clothes weighing you down, recaptured your raft, and poled it back to dry-dock! And you did all that REALLY FAST!!! The last time you capsized into freezing water, your dad and I were right alongside of you, swimming and available to help. But THIS time, you did it solo--just you and God. And you did it VERY WELL!)

There was a tiny bit of blood on one toe when he emerged. It seems unlikely to leave a reminding scar.

Other skills in our children's developing repertoire:
  • Pipefitting/Engineering
  • Short-order Cooking
  • Fresh-water/Marine Biology/Chemistry
  • Reading/Writing
  • Art/Entertainment
  • Worship
  • Fashion
  • Mimicry/Inflection
  • Photography/Films
  • Biblical Studies
  • Nutrition/Exercise
  • Sports & Survival Strategies
  • Organic Gardening
  • Home Economics
  • Childcare/Parenting/Providing
  • First Aid
  • Fire Science/Natural Resource Management
  • Business (don't forget Business! Remember The Walking Stick?!)
  • Travel & Change
  • Customer Service
  • Relationships: The Art & Science of Loving Others
  • Discernment: The Art & Science of Seeking Truth
  • Wisdom/Discipline: The Art & Science of Loving Self
So many interests/skills/ wonder we struggle to identify their "bend."

I wonder where they are going?

What an exciting mystery!

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." --Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Garbage Swirl

This week we are studying Australia and Oceania (the Pacific Island countries).  Included in our study is the giant garbage swirl that stretches from Japan to the US.  If you have 7.3 free minutes, check out this interesting Feb 2009 video featuring Algalita researcher Charles Moore:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I was about my son's age when, during the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Quebec, 14yo Romanian Nadia Comaneci made history by scoring the first perfect 10 ever (that's 10.0! The scoreboards weren't even set up to display it correctly!) in an Olympic gymnastics routine. Nadia went on to score six more perfect 10's and win seven gold medals during those Games. At that time, she was the youngest gymnast ever to compete. Nadia and her Romanian teammates inspired millions, gained fans worldwide, and raised the bar on gymnastics forever.

I always wondered what happened to Nadia after the Olympics. When I visited Romania a few years ago, the students I was meeting with sought common ground by asking if I knew of her, but she was actually before their time--they were not yet born in 1976. Recently, though, I came upon a fact-based TV movie about Nadia's life before, during, and after the Games, and found fresh inspiration. The movie is called simply Nadia, and I haven't checked other sources but it is at least available via Netflix.

Nadia was recruited by her coach, Bela Karolyi, at a young age, and shortly thereafter determined that she wanted to be a champion. Her coach was equally determined to make her one. They were both tough-minded and focused, which was a winning combination through the Olympics. Within weeks of their return to Romania, however, several factors led to the entire team being removed from Coach Bela and moved to the national gymnastics team in Bucharest (Romania's capital). In the midst of the turmoil that followed, it became clear that Nadia was completely dependent on Coach Bela. He had developed her into an incredible champion, but she had no understanding of why he demanded the sacrifices he did. In Bucharest Nadia struggled not only with her sudden and unexpected fame (by nature she was a quiet, shy, sober girl), but also with controlling her diet, training herself, relating to both old and new teammates, defining what a new personal best would be in gymnastics, and processing stressful family issues. In an amazing finale before her retirement, Nadia was reunited with her coach. They both worked hard to free her from dependence on him, and she made a great comeback at the World Games in Ft. Worth, Texas.

This fuller story of Nadia's life inspired me to acknowledge, again, my dependence on my Coach. Without Him, I am clueless. All He asks me to do is love, and yet without His guidance I am often baffled at how to do that. Nadia's story also breathed fresh energy into my desire to freely be the "champion" He created and sacrificed Himself for me to be.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  --Ephesians 2:10

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Kimi Says It For Me

Just before our last snowstorm this squirrel and his companion discovered the homemade feeder that hangs outside our dining room window. The birdseed was easy fodder, and the duo thrilled us as they indulged in acrobatic frenzy.

I just got my own taste of their joy. As I was searching for millet recipes (new seeds we're trying), I think I might've stumbled upon a kindred spirit in Kimi. She serves rich fodder, easily attained...encouragement, affirmation, and grounding, at the very least. I think you'd find her humble wisdom uplifting, too.

She explains in words more eloquent than mine why blogging here continues at a snail's pace.

Now...I'm going back to Yangcheng for a final cup of organic green tea with my kids and Gladys Aylward at the Inn of Eight Happinesses before we remount our mules and continue toward Tokyo.  

Ciao!  (I s'pose the Chinese don't wish each other farewell the same way the Europeans do, but we're not overly focused on languages this year.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Where Seldom Is Heard...

Since I grew up with them, it took me awhile to become sensitive to expletives. They weren't a part of my parents' speech, but they were common in any conversation with certain members of my extended family. So for a long time they were "just part of life" for me. They weren't part of the way we talked at my house, but they were words that were easily overlooked (which kind of meant they weren't serving the speaker any real purpose, right?). Then for awhile after I left the covering of my parents, expletives became a part of my speech as well--especially when life was frustrating or painful (and much of it was).  Insulated by past exposure, I suppose, I did not feel much conviction that I was paining God when I used them. In my mind I was just being transparent, voicing the sincere state of my heart...

Then I met this diamond of a guy, and we drew closer to the Lord together, got married, started a family, and...well, as our words began to fall on little ears and shape young destinies, what came out of our mouth mattered more and more. Restraint became a virtue of high value--a legacy we definitely wished to hand down! But virtues are hard to pass on if you don't live them. Between my husband and I, I was the first to become sensitive to the verbal environment we were creating. He was the busiest and most frustrated at the time, working a full-time job plus tripling the size of our house while we lived in it (it's still small by modern American standards, but it was just a hut then...), and from time to time the expletives flew as freely as the hammers. It got to the point that they caused me almost physical pain (the expletives, I mean--the hammers always flew into people-free areas), so finally I prayed and then approached my husband, who found favor with me, gave my words weight, and reigned himself in.

Oh yes!--I LOVE that man!  ;~)

So we gained victory over one enemy of the tongue. But we had another, perhaps stronger and more vicious, enemy to go. It's an enemy my grandmother gently warned me about through her favorite folk songs... 

Not my gold mining grandmother, who left me many legacies and much wisdom, but never sang to me. Rather, I'm sharing now about my almond farming grandma (who was born on 12/12/12--we always thought that was cool). The Great Depression taught her to live lean, and she learned those lessons well. She came to take care of us once when my mom had to have surgery and recuperate away from home for a spell, and during many after-school tea times she told us about her life during the Depression--the drought, the shortages. These things left indelible prints on her family. For the rest of his life my great uncle knew exactly where on the county road to turn off his pickup so he could coast into his garage and come to a stop without having to use any more gas than necessary or his brakes! I remember how thankful Grandma sounded when she told about having only a piece of cornbread with molasses on it for breakfast, and then another for lunch at school, everyday for months and months... Adversity grew firm, unyielding character in her, and while she loved us, sometimes she rebuked us, feeling we were ungrateful or wasteful. That was part of the legacy I suppose she felt responsible to pass on.

And now, in hindsight, I can see that she passed on legacy cloaked in song as well. When I was about six or seven we vacationed with Grandma in Yellowstone Park. Quite a large chunk of the family traveled together on this particular trip, so we had to take a lot of vehicles. I got to ride alone with Grandma in her car for a long time, and we spent the hours talking and singing...and singing, and singing! We sang "Daisy, Daisy, Give Me Your Answer True" and "My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean," and a whole bunch of her other favorite folk songs. Our repertoire would not have been complete without "Home on the Range."

Do you remember Home on the Range?  "Oh give me a home/where the buffalo roam/and the deer and the antelope play.../Where seldom is heard/a discouraging word--"

There!--that's it!--a discouraging word (counsel that takes away our confidence, hope, or courage) is kin to our second enemy, a disparaging word.

According to my American Heritage Dictionary, to disparage means, "to belittle; to reduce in esteem; to degrade." Recently we watched the movie Appaloosa, which is not a blockbuster production but it DOES include a nice little sketch in which the law-enforcing duo of Ed Harris and Vigo Mortensen remind us of the value--the need--for self-discipline and restraint with regard to disparaging words. Back when "Home on the Range" was first being penned, people reminded each other, "Everbody's got their faults, but there's no need to be disparagin' about 'em."

Times have changed. We no longer remind each other that there's no need to be disparaging. Rather, it seems like we often expect it. We expose and ridicule each other's faults as a matter of course. Even our psychologists encourage us to refrain from restraint.  They counsel us to express our true feelings (albeit in a "healthy" way--whatever that is...) rather than keeping them pent up.

Along with expletives, I grew up in an environment of disparaging words. Again not so much in my home, but in the world just outside it. My graduating class was the first to attend our high school all four years--the first "real" Viking graduates, raised up beneath the lingering shadow of the vanished volcano, Mt. Mazama.  That was our claim to fame, but we also had the more dubious distinction of heading up the Me Generation, and, according to several of our teachers, we were the worst back-stabbing class they'd ever seen grace those hallowed halls. In my world, belittling was also "just part of life." To cope was to do it back, and many of us learned the pattern well. Apparently we took the older generation by surprise, for while they scrambled to figure out how to neutralize our viciousness, we railroaded 'em (as well as each other).

Now I'm a mother, listening to the disparaging words my children throw at each other to defend themselves when they feel threatened, and I wonder how to teach them that these words are not "just part of life." How can I help them to stop--pause and pray, that they might look from a different perspective and walk through a trial in secure joy--before they blow a gasket? How can I help them feel and communicate regret, compassion, empathy, and willing, loving restitution to those they wrong, rather than acting on the natural inclination of fear that they'll be punished? Perhaps it's a lot like potty training? Pray for perfect timing, catch them just-in-time several times, so they can experience what to them will be the "new and improved" way--the "unnatural" way--God's way? Am I called and empowered to be God's neutralizer for this situation, or, not feeling particularly empowered, am I just called to pray and leave it in His hands???

I feel weary of the world's noise--disparaging words, name-calling, expletives, and ranting. I am even weary of my children's noise. In my heart I know I can live and love even in the midst of this noise, but I struggle to endure it with joy. I love logical arguments (and well-thought-out is good, though less than fully developed is okay), presented and discussed in a normal speaking tone using a voice of reason. I prefer that discussions don't start unless there is some commitment to finish them whether an agreement is reached or not. I welcome humor and light-hearted bantering, but am burdened by mockery and bickering. HOW do the rest of you cope?

A gentle word turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. --Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)

A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back. --Proverbs 29:11

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. --Proverbs 16:24

UPDATE:  Funny... As I post this, old high school classmates are quite suddenly contacting me through Facebook!  What's THAT all about?!  ;~)

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Learning Curve

Yesterday a friend left a comment on another post: " is a journey, not a destination."


And here is what I learned during my journey yesterday:

Legumes (dried beans, peas, etc., that we rehydrate and cook up into chilis, soups, and all kinds of wonderful Mexican and Asian recipes) are prebiotics. This means they are the "food" that probiotics (the good bacteria--flora--in our small intestine) need in order to live and thrive, so that the rest of our food gets digested and used properly. Without prebiotics, any probiotics we consume in fermented foods such as yogurt, kombucha tea, acidophilus, etc., just enter our intestines to starve and die and cause more work for the organs responsible for waste-removal.

I learned all this because as we slowly rebuild my diet following a fairly strict detoxification regimen, looking for allergens as we go, legumes are once again causing the typical intestinal discomfort/side effects they've caused all my life (which, in turn, has caused me to avoid them!). Since allergens can affect us with an almost infinite list of symptoms, I wasn't sure if I should stop eating legumes or keep going.

"Keep going," my doctor said, "There's a war going on in there right now, between the good guys and the bad guys.  But the good guys will win.  It'll get better."

Keep going.  What an apropos description of --and prescription for--this season of life's journey...

"Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us nothing but vegetables and pulses [legumes] to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be examined. [The steward] consented and tested them... And at the end of ten days, their features appeared better in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king's delicacies."  Daniel 1:12-15 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why Write?

One of my blogging buddies, East Side Professor, just gave her Creative Writing class a blogging assignment: "Why Write?" It's a nice introductory assignment, and it seems like they're having fun with it. Their responses sent me down memory lane...

In the beginning I felt honored and excited, but what I remember most clearly--poignantly--is the hopeless feeling that sunk in soon when, as a freshman English major, I was placed first-thing into an upper division Expository Writing class where I rubbed shoulders with fantastic writers in their junior/senior years of college. Though I had a great yearning to write, I quickly realized I knew nothing of value to say and couldn't even say "nothing" creatively. Though some freshman are surely more prepared, more mature, had limited perspective and ability to see or pull value from my up-to-then experiences. I didn't even know what there was to know, let alone what my analysis of it would be.  Why write?  Because the teacher said so...

Later--several years, lifetimes, majors, and colleges later--I picked up the mantle of "writer" again, purely for outlet as opposed to career goal, now from a more colorful palette of experiences mixed with tears and deep reflection. I wrote not for assignments or to tell others anything, but to get deep emotions out so I could look at them and heal. My Creative Writing prof found these unsolicited offerings "fresh" and "inspired," and encouraged me to submit them to magazines, but...I didn't write them to tell others...

During that time I did discover a couple important truths with regard to my writing, though. I love to write poetry, but sometimes it feels limiting.  To write well, I need more freedom:

I wish to write 
without pressure of rhyme or meter or cadence...

And while there are important things to be said about peace and chaos and power, shifting boundaries to record, and lessons to learn from historical and current world events, I am most drawn to capture, record, and dwell on simple snapshots:

I wish to write
the taste of melting butter and honey
on steaming homemade fruit dumplings,

the sound of a deep earthy melody
perfectly tuned to universal lyrics,

the glory of a crisp, clean panoramic alpine vision
unmarred even by man's footprint

the feel of your skin brushing mine,
the warmth of humanity beside me

the chara of our newborn son breathing softly in sleep
and our little girl giggling when we tickle her drooly chin...

Okay--I admit I added that last stanza just now. Before I experienced it, I could not have fathomed the immense comfort I would take from hearing our son breathing as he slept in his crib a few feet from our bed, or the joy of our daughter's happy baby coos and giggles. But that's the beauty of writing, eh?  We can review, add, delete, cut, paste, and "give scope to the truth!" (Did Chaucer really say that, or did the scriptwriters just give scope to the truth in A Knight's Tale?) But these things are true, lovely, just, and of good report--valuable! (Phil 4:8,9)

Since college I've had ideas for a novel or two. My 50-page pilot excerpts are tucked away in my files, started but unfinished because I have no gift for strategy (I borrow that line from The Princess Bride often) and still don't know what it's really my job to say. What message does the world need to hear that hasn't already been said repeatedly and eloquently? There's nothing new under the sun. Wisdom has come. It's available. Does the world really need me to reiterate it?!

It's been said, I think in Rory Noland's The Heart of the Artist, or perhaps by a wonderful mentoring friend somewhere along the way, that some of us are more artistic, and some of us are less, and that it takes a bit of artistry to see the wonder and glory of God. Therefore, it is the job of those of us who can see it to show/communicate what we see to those who can't, that they, too, might see the wonder and glory of God.

And I believe God wants to be known.

And I am His servant.

So for me, after all these years, that's "Why write?" Write that we might realize, remind ourselves, and reveal the wonder and glory of God in our lives.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Bravery = having the behavior or character to walk through a situation or do something right even though it frightens one.

Today marked the culmination of our son's most recent worst fear. He's been dreading President Obama's inauguration ever since the election. His fear? That executive orders will outlaw homeschooling; that Democrats will insist on funneling all young, pliable minds through public school for mandatory "tolerance" brainwashing, thus unfairly revoking all kinds of rights and imposing terrors one can only imagine. (And one DOES imagine them!)

My husband and I have been praying and talking our son through his fear repeatedly since it began, but he's been unable to grasp God's peace. Beneath our calming admonitions he's remained steadfastly anchored to his own version of truth. Apparently it hasn't been God's plan to inspire us with the spin that would set him free and give him hope. While we admire and applaud his adherence to his beliefs, he has bordered on irrational. And the topic has popped up at the oddest times, in front of anyone and everyone. If, years ago, our children hadn't come along to be the miraculous catalysts that taught us to surrender our reputation and put on good poker faces at the drop of a hat, we'd have certainly mastered these feats in the past three months!

So our viewing of today's historical inauguration began as a tumultuous tempest. I have to commend our son, though. He's becoming a young man of valor. Despite his strong feelings and desire to bail out of the living room, he found the strength and courage to obey when I told him he HAD to stay and watch and listen, keeping his rage in check and his ranting quips to himself.

Now close your eyes and imagine, if you can, how still and quiet a young man can become as God meets him right where he is.  That is the picture of our son as he listened to the speech--well prepared and delivered by his nemesis--about fear and hope... 

There is still no trust (I'm glad. President Obama is human, inexperienced, a stranger, and a politician. He's fallible, not much older than me, and doesn't seem to have done much more than me except accept a lot of money. As a human being and a leader, he warrants respect, prayer support, and a chance.  But trust? I hope his wife and kids can trust him, but I don't know him from Adam and so far he doesn't have much reputation. Trust is not a part of the package.), but our son's fear has been replaced with wariness, and we are reveling in a peaceful "wait-and-see." Ahhh, thank You, Lord!

I love and value this time in my son's life. Watching a baby grow is amazing. Watching a young child grow is pure fun. But watching a young boy grow into a man, a squire into a knight--that is the embodiment of hope itself. I consider it a privilege to give my son room to grow. But for his sake I also look forward to the time when he'll have the maturity and understanding to appreciate truths like the message Susan posted today at Forever His.

A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.  --Proverbs 29:11

Thursday, January 8, 2009


This week I learned:

"Chara, the Greek word for joy, means calm delight. The greatest concentration of chara in the New Testament is found in John 16, where Jesus uses the word four times within five verses. Between a warning of coming persecution and the darkest hours the disciples would ever know, Jesus speaks to them of joy...For the disciples, the fact that Jesus rose from the dead became a permanent anchor in their lives of joy--not a giddy form of denial, but a calm, ever-present delight."
--from online devotional "a joy that is full" 
by alicia britt chole, http:/

This definition of joy captures me. As we studied biblical holidays last year I felt uneasily challenged by God's commands to celebrate and feast joyfully for whole weeks at a time. These words painted a picture for me of long-lasting large-crowd high-energy giddiness, which seemed like a lot of WORK! Since an important element of each holiday seemed to be refreshment, I was confused. What really seemed preferable and possible to me, especially as we were learning so many new things, were celebrations marked by...calm delight.

I was so excited when I opened my devotional email Monday morning and found that my heart and scripture actually agree on this point!  :~)

I find that chara is not limited to biblical holidays or grave circumstances. Sometimes we find it in the strangest, most unexpected places. While I am not walking in as dark a place as the disciples in John 16, I was blessed with chara at God's provision for me again just this afternoon. A month ago when I placed an order for 20 lbs. of organic skinless boneless chicken thighs, in the online photo they appeared to be one solid, frozen mass. Since then I've wondered how I was going to defrost all those thighs enough to divide them into 2-lb. packages without ruining them. When they arrived today I was on the phone concluding a lengthy editing session, and was completely delighted when I opened the box and found ten 2-lb. packages! While I did not climb on the table and dance a jig or whoop and holler into the phone, I had to ask my caller to give me his ear while I shared my "calm delight" and recently acquired understanding of chara! (He did so lavishly.)

I guess my joy hasn't worn off yet--I'm sharing it with you, too!  ;~) Organic chicken thighs will not be an ever-present delight in my life, but today I can certainly relate them to my permanent anchor, Christ. May the fact that He rose from the dead give you a calm, ever-present joy as well.