Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Drawing Words

When you enter my home, whether by the front door or through the kitchen, I have words waiting for you.

In my entry, you will find a mindful list of "Faith, Love, Wisdom, Joy" above the front table*. They are earthy brown, like water and dust; mindful thoughts meant to draw our focus inward, outward, upward.

While recuperating from surgery one year, my dear Mom came to care for me, M, and the kids.  A souvenir of that visit lingers in the heart of our home in her beautiful script.  I chose the words and translations, and as we sipped tea and chatted she wrote.
"Benvenuto" as you pass from the kitchen to the family room - Welcome to all in our home.
"Benedire qui Abondanza" above our pantry - Bless this Abundance, to express our gratitude for His provision.
"Dios Consolare a Forza" above my kitchen sink - God's Comfort and Strength, for times of prayer and reflection as I wash and rinse and clean and pray.
And "Inspiracion" above the door from our kitchen to the garage - Inspiration, to remind us what we are to be as we go out into the world, God's breath.

When we first moved here to NC, my sons shared the expansive bonus room and I had great fun decorating it in a seafaring theme, thrilled to own a home again and make it our's.  Along the wall next to each of the boys' beds I stenciled scriptures in deep blues, and prayed that they would wash over their hearts and minds:
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand?
And who is the Rock except our God? 
The Lord thunders over the mighty waves.

My Mom sent me an apron a few years ago.  I love aprons too.  It is pink and brown and blue and has a beautiful chocolate cake on it.  Heavenly, and Yep... it's got your name on it! and Never Fear... Cake is Here! decorate it in happy celebration.  It was my number one apron until this past year when it got a sister, my current favorite.
A golden yellow with very French coloring and adornment and a lady with a large letter Q on her crown graces the front with a gentle smile.  I laughed out loud in delight when I first read it.  It reads, She rules her world with the heart of a lion and the patience of a Saint.  I have now appointed my Mom my official apron purchaser, but she'll be hard pressed to outdo herself after this one.

I have plans for other words.  In our downstairs' bathroom I have long envisioned these from the proverbs for consideration as we spend a moment seeing ourselves in the mirror, "As water reflects the face, so man's heart reflects the man."

My own bathroom is the color of dried roses.  In golden letters I envision painting, "The fragrance of the rose always lingers in the hand of the giver."

We have a wide, white border that runs around our dining room, and when I have the courage I intend to take on this, a version of Psalm 128,
"How blessed is one who fears the Lord and walks in His ways!  You will eat the fruit of the labor of your hands and happy you will be.  Your wife will be a fruitful vine, and Oh!  Look at your children, like olive shoots around your table!  Behold!  Thus are we blessed, reverently and worshipfully fearing the Lord."

When the time and energy come together.... maybe one or two will be this year's Summer project....
What about you?  What words do you desire to set before other's eyes?


Saturday, January 22, 2011

An Earthly Castle - A Heavenly Home

When I look back to the years of my childhood dreams of my future, several things fly around my visions of memory.  I can hear myself singing over and over with Doris Day, "Que Sera Sera"; I see my toy box painted white and covered by my mother with perfect renditions of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves; there was the mix of earthiness, danger, rescue, and happily-ever-after in the fairytales she read to us; there I am doing my best go-go dancer moves on the hassock, or hamming-glamming it up in front of a mirror as I prepared for my acting-singing career; and of course there were all the endless options of ventriloquism, plate-spinning, impersonators, or tightrope-wire routines to choose from on the nightly talent shows.

One thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to raise my five children.  Yep, I was the oldest of six and wasn't quite sure if I had what it took to do my own Mother's job, but I thought I could take on five.

Later on, more serious possibilities presented themselves.  Primarily they fell into the camps of social work or something of a journalistic nature.  I recall reading the line from a poster in my English class repeatedly, "Hitch Your Wagon To A Star."  Upward into the heavens, even the sky was no limit for the possible destinations our dreams could take us.  But as my teachers encouraged me to consider the path I might choose in which to develop myself further and find fulfillment in the adult world, I would inwardly ask, "What about my children?  If I were to pursue any of these other courses, who would raise my children?"  In high school, an internal calling I'd held as a child was carefully chiseled into the woman I was becoming.  I would try to prepare myself for the possibility of singleness and career; but if I were to marry there was no question.  I would be a Mother.  Period.  That had been my dream all along, underneath all the fantasy and flights of imagination.

I was blessed to marry, and flash-forward, here I am twenty-five years later.  Those five beautiful ideas of mine-own have faces, and personalities, and hearts that far out-surpass any imaginings I had of them. My own life was given to the Lord nineteen years ago, and underwent a radical shift in how I see everything, including my role as a wife and mother.  The heavenly journeys-end that I might have imagined from my school-room poster has nothing on what I now place my hopes in.  Life's twists and turns, tragedies and challenges, wonders and charms, are all instruments of divine fashioning upon my life and nothing is simply what we see.  

The life of a humble homemaker.  It's all I really ever wanted; and it truly is all I ever could have wanted.  

Children are a heritage from the LORD, 
   offspring a reward from him. 
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior 
   are children born in one’s youth. 
Blessed is the man 
   whose quiver is full of them.                   Psalm 127

In thanks,

For connected reading go to Keeper of The Home.  

Thursday, January 20, 2011


A little while back, I came across a recommendation for Jasmere.  They work something like Groupon, but a bit different.  There is a starting bargain price, but even that can go down a bit lower if we get a whole boatload in on the deal. Since I am all into saving money, I signed up right away - especially because they were giving me the opportunity to purchase glass straws for smoothies!  I have wanted some ever since I found out about Strawesome, and this seemed like a perfect Christmas present for myself.  I held onto the coupon for a while, as I'd gotten word that some new styles would be coming out after the first of the year.  In the end, I wound up with six of these beauties.  Oh - and a few little cleaning brushes as well.

One each in Autumn Amber, Going Green, Pink Sapphire, Brilliant Blue, and Amethyst.  And the Winter Bliss as well - which looks a bit like a little snail curled up on my straw.  More Spring Fling-like to me, but adorable just the same.

The girls and I used them for the first time today.  I-just-love-em!  Your girlfriend's favorite color in the classic black carrying case?  A perfectly thoughtful and uniquely memorable gift.

Right now I have them living in a mason jar on the counter, but I might have to treat myself to the multiple straw carrying case at a later date.  So thumbs up for Jasmere and Strawesome from me!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Preserving The Ties That Bind

I have a dear friend I have begun a new friendship with.  She and I were spending an evening together with our children recently, sharing a meal, good times, and building blocks of getting to know one another.  In discussing our mutual decision to homeschool, she declared with great passion, "I need every moment I can get!"  That sentence explained perfectly what I have always felt regarding the responsibility we have to train up our children before releasing them to the world.

I cannot begin to imagine what contrasts there would be had we not had the years we did with our boys;  but I have no doubts that there would have been tremendous differences.  They have each come to the day when we waved and drove away from a campus, leaving them to now deal with a greater weight of independence than ever before.  Retaining those bonds of attachment was vitally important and required deliberate and conscientious efforts over the years.  Once we came to the day we lived long distances from them, it served to provide a reliable sounding board for reaching out, for counsel and connection.

As I review the parenting past and present my husband and I share, there is clearly a strong base of that which we have come from and the examples our parents gave us, along with a goodly dose of our own self-educated searching.  Our temperaments compliment one another in fairly consistent balance with ringing in accord more often than not.  I am almost finished with the book Hold On To Your Kids and it has been a fantastic light to shine back upon various decisions we have made over the years.  This issue of Attachment is HUGE, folks, and is critical to being able to reach our kids and connect over the things that matter. And virtually everything matters on some level, believe me. As I've been reading this book, a few memories have come to mind.

Around the time when D was nine or so, he developed a decided aversion to me.  My husband retained his privileged status of "My Main Man" for this son.  (Years later, same-said son had remarked upon a list of those gigantic things of childhood, "You know, mountains, bears, Pop, the ocean."  Clear hero worship.)  So anyway, I had always had a bit of an animated relationship with this one son, but we had descended to new depths for reasons unknown to me.  Suffering from the rejection I was feeling, I went complaining to my husband (who always took his side), in a weak hope for some help.

"Just keep on loving him," he said. "Don't make your decisions based upon his ugliness to you right now.  He doesn't know he still needs you, but we do."

Man, was that hard to hear - and yet I knew immediately that this was counsel born of Godly wisdom. So, I began my covert operation of swooping in and dispensing random bits of love to my prickly boy.  I would tussle his hair as I walked by without a backward glance, give him a quick squeeze from behind and move on before he could react, compliment him with a smile and look away as though I were a simple flash of light.  I knew that D was responding with scowls and frowns, but holding to the truth of what my husband had said, I stayed with it.  And eventually, not only did it pass, but I must tell you - I had a better son than I'd had before.

Years later a friend surprised me by asking what the secret was to my good relationships with my sons.  She had three daughters of similar ages to my boys and things were going quite well on that front; but coming along behind was her son.  At the time, he still retained the sweet spirit of a loving little boy; however, as she looked around she saw that often those relationships between Mothers and Sons grew cantankerous and abrasive.

"Just keep on loving them," I answered her with a smile. "Whenever my sons have appeared to struggle with having me around, or act like I'm embarrassing, or in any way communicate to me that I'm not wanted, I make sure I show up.  It's a balancing act, and I vacillate between being a bit over the top sometimes or coming alongside them mildly, but I never let them push me away.  They may not know that they need you, but you should never forget it."
 “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
   and out of Egypt I called my son.
But the more they were called,
   the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
   and they burned incense to images.
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
   taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
   it was I who healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
   with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
   a little child to the cheek,
   and I bent down to feed them.                       Hosea 11:1-4

Monday, January 17, 2011

It's On Again - Round Six

My hands momentarily left the wheel last night as I drove home from attending a glorious wedding in Macon, GA held over this past weekend.  What brought such delight to my clapping hands?  Well, the announcement of the next Three-Minute-Fiction-Challenge hosted by NPR.  The rules are simple:
Our contest has a simple premise. We're looking for original, short fiction that can be read in less than three minutes — that's no more than 600 words.
Each writing assignment has its own distinctive parameters, and Round Six is as follows:
 At some point in your story, one character must tell a joke. And, one character must cry.
To be clear, the character who tells the joke can also be the character who cries, and the crying does not have to be in reference to the joke. Just at some point within your 600-word story, those two actions have to happen,
Listening to the Judge of this Round, I sighed inwardly in despair.  She is not a fan of the Knock-Knock joke.  Aaah - a strike against me from the get-go.  While I am one who is quick to laughter despite my serious nature, and moderately moved to tears over touching sentiment, I am definitely not a joke-teller.  This will be a very daunting assignment for me.

Still, as I showered this morning (one of my most fruitful places of inspired thought) I had a story line come to me.  We'll see if it will stand the test as it undergoes the pre-tumbling process of thinking through, or the beginning sketches of composition; but inside I am still clapping my hands at the fun of it all.

Join me?  If interested, you can find out more at NPR's website.  And once again, I'll post the story I enter right here, at a later date.

The following is an original I made up while returning from our weekend's adventures yesterday with my kids.
Me: Knock-knock
L: Who's there?
Me: Attorney
L: Attorney who?
Me: A turney road we must travel as we make our way home.

If only my dear L were the Judge, it'd be in the bag.  She just loves my jokes.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A View From The Wall

At the moment, my current reading has two particular books riding the top of my waves of thought.  The first is Unchristian by Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, and the second dovetails beautifully with it, Hold On To Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate'. The first is written by Christians and supported by findings from the Barna Research Group.  The other is secular, but I find its interpretations and conclusions resonate with my own experiences as both a child once and now a parent of twenty-five years.

Neither book is for those looking to browse and capture enough in a brief perusal.  Although I consider myself a Reader with a capital "R", both leave me with so much to chew upon and mull over that I have found the going to be rigorous; yet there is so much of value and weight within that I continually rest and then return to feast upon the wisdom these men have unearthed. Each chapter is a veritable tome in itself, and in my frustrated desires to extract all that is shared upon their pages, I have envisioned a book club in which I and others could spend time in worthy consideration of the contents. Personally, I could do so page by page - there is that much here.

Being the adoptive Mom of two daughters, I have found myself exposed to all kinds of issues and challenges that my parenting of three biological sons had not prepared me for.  In our country, if you haven't read about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Hoarding or Gorging, Oppositional Defiance, Bi-Polarism, Identity Issues, and so on prior to adopting, you will find yourself searching fearfully for answers in these dark realms at a later date.  Your answers might not lie within any of these spheres, but your familiarity with these challenges will be the greater because you had to look.  Adoption does that.

It is because I am an Adoptive Mother that I know something about the issues of Attachment.  Neither of these books are specifically about adoption, and Unchristian does not directly address Attachment but there is this ethereal unknown that wafts through the pages while describing the young today.  Hold On To Your Kids calls it right out and names it.

I have been befuddled as to the reason why so much change has occurred within the young.  And I'm not talking about the vast technological advances, or changes in hair or clothing styles that make them feel so much hipper than the rest of us, or the fact that we now can talk, and text, and email and send pictures from a spot outside of our own homes.  I am addressing the far more basic issues of relating; of respect, and compassion, and responsibility being replaced by a predominance of avoidance, and bravado, and contemptuous disdain.  Growing up, the killings we heard of on the news were primarily political, and most often far from our own backyard - I recall television scenes of soldiers in Vietnam, and the whispers about the Black September group.  My own kids have not only had to deal with extremism on our own soil, but have become familiar with the added element of randomness, snipers picking off unrelated ordinary folk in Washington, numerous shootings in schools by fellow classmates, even a police chase-down of two people with a van full of weapons that ended bloodily in our own little town here in bucolic North Carolina.  When we lived in Sacramento, CA it was a frequent enough occurrence for me to have to close the blinds tighter and whisper words of comfort to my babes while helicopter strobe lights raked the peace and quiet of their slumber.

These two books are giving me answers.  Both are watchmen upon the wall, sounding a hue and cry for us to wake up now to what we are allowing to happen, and are a help to equip us to deal with the changes.  It is not enough to just protect your family behind the wall; you need to prepare your children to deal with what is on the other side and recognize what is happening out there.  One family at a time is slow going but worth the effort - especially when we see the alternative.  When I heard about the tragic shooting in Arizona this week, it was the first time I didn't simply wonder "Why?"  I felt like, sadly, I understood at least in part.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Food - The Smell Test

It has been over a year now since I picked up a book from the library with the tantalizing title of Eat Fat Lose Fat.  This book led me to finding a whole section of the population who eat and live an alternative path that smacked deliciously of common sense.  I began making changes in our home as I learned more and as I found them to be a practical fit with our family's time, money, and structure.  My hat is off and across my proverbial breast to those who sprout and grind their own wheat and can things fermented and otherwise; I have not quite crossed those bridges.  But we do soak our oatmeal and nuts, and buy things from sprouted bread to raw milk, butter, eggs, and cheeses.  I hope to make more changes in the coming year with a goal of greater knowledge and health.  At present I am waiting with anticipation for the arrival of Real Food On A Real Budget - a late Christmas gift from one of my sons.  The aspiration of this title is probably my number one resolution for 2011 and I am hopeful of finding solid nuggets of help and wisdom within its pages.

Some moments of learning come from movies (Food Inc. and Super Size Me) or reading blogs, others are highlighted in books, still more are found in the conversations with those more experienced than I.  And then there are those humble Eureka moments where light dawns in a moment of common sense.  We have greatly reduced our stops at fast food joints, and when we really have to (primarily due to a lack of pre-planning, I confess) it is with a good dose of misgiving.  Well, the other day my husband had a hankering for a burger from one of the local drive-thrus and stopped there for dinner with a couple of our boys.  One son left half of his burger and some fries in the car to eat once they'd returned from a movie.  I know, yuck.  But it was a cold night, and he's nineteen.

Anyway, when they returned to the car and opened the doors it .... well, to put it quite bluntly, it stunk!  As my husband relayed this story, I nodded my head in connection.  We all really love this one fast food place, it is very popular and beloved in our area of the States; but as soon as we are finished, I can't wait to get all the trash out of our car.  I find the smell intolerable.  " In fact ", I said to M, " it smells like garbage."

That sentence just sort of lingered in the space between us.  Our other food, what we make for ourselves, doesn't smell like that.  Hmmmmm...... light bulb.

This has further encouraged us to make sure to be prepared on outings with a piece of fruit, a homemade sandwich, even a granola bar (store bought - another of those things I desire to conquer.)  Undoubtedly, we will probably stop by a Jack-In-The-Box or Chik-Fil-A from time to time; but we have added one more step of greater motivation in maintaining good health on a daily basis.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Relationship See-Saws

The bonds of family and friendships sure are challenging, aren't they?  I mean, so much focus and work goes into a good, healthy relationship.  I love having a large family, and would open my life and arms to more if the Lord were to call us to, but the six people I live with now fill my days with quite enough.

Actually, my oldest moved out and on again this week. This time he is residing and working in our state, so that is good. We are e-mail correspondents once again, and I actually like that.  Not necessarily that I prefer it, but I am comfortable with this form of communication.  I do not find it so limiting.  Not so many years ago, far more people kept up and nurtured their relationships by way of letters. Yes, despite the current surge in texting, I believe this was so.  There is just such a real-ness, a human-ness, to telling somebody about something and how it delighted and tickled you, that simply cannot be captured in LOL.  I appreciate the thoughtfulness writing requires of us, and the gifting of ourselves that goes into the journaling of an exchange of the day's events, our thoughts and reflections.  We are deepened by it, as is our recipient reader.

My yesterday was quite the challenge.  Some of my family were on highs of accomplishment, others on lows of trying to find satisfaction in what is rather than what would be; some gave me the contest of immovable will (which will be moved), and others revealed tests to deal with which I never would have anticipated in my wildest dreams.  To each I responded with the words and grace the Lord provided. What a difference that makes - versus my own minimal wit, strength, patience, and abilities.  And blessing of blessings, I'm pretty sure they all went to bed feeling well loved.

A good day.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Reading, Reading, Reading... and Finally a Wee Bit of Writing

I have been on an absolutely delicious book binge, and I'm not done yet.  I just picked up eleven more books at my beloved library, and promptly got a recording that same afternoon that I now have four more waiting for me.  Ok, I have to admit I am feeling a bit out of control at this point.  I have been spending my holiday off from homeschooling in the utter indulgence of reading; I know my regular life will soon resume and forcibly put an end to my wild feast of literati.  But I still have a few days left.

My last thoughts at night as I close a book are often a fervent wish that I might have another twelve more hours added to this day in which to fill my eyes, mind, and heart with more words.  So, couple this indulgent spree to the other blessings of time spent with family and friends and there you have my explanation for my blogging absence.  I have desperately missed blogging as well, however, so this evening is as good a time as any to return.  I have come across a few other bloggers that have posted a piece containing the contents of a list; the author's various items or subject matter that they'd not gotten to post on in the past year of 2010, but wanted to make some sort of note of.  I liked that idea very well.  I don't know if I'll get back to these, but here were a few things that I have spent a good deal of  ruminating time with under the ol' thinking cap - but did not find the time I felt necessary to devote to them.  In scattered order...

1) Sierra Leone' nine years after her civil war.  On my way to meeting a friend for coffee back in November, I listened to part of a piece done by BBC World Service.  I have to admit, the tragedy in my own life at around the same time overshadowed what was happening in this far away country almost a decade ago.  Listening to the people being interviewed was mesmerizing, and I was truly touched.  The thoughts, confessions, and reflections on the past drew me in with irresistible cords, but it was the closing conclusions that most struck me and remain something still that I will undoubtedly come back to write about.  For that time, I will save this here:

2) Posole'.  I have a killer recipe for posole'.  I had no camera battery when I made this last, so I just wouldn't blog and share without a photo.  It will be here at a later date.

3) The value of writing by hand.  I heard this excellent piece on the value of writing by hand vs. using the computer.  If I can ever find it online, I would be oh so grateful.  Here's a good alternative site for a springboard, which tells itself in the title: http://www.pittsreport.com/2010/12/how-writing-by-hand-makes-kids-smarter/   And could also be good: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100731603  Frustrating.  I wish I'd made note of the one that birthed the desire for this particular post, but I'm coming up empty.  Here's another that might be for me to read when I'm ready, although I'm not sure if it's about handwriting or simply writing: http://www.helium.com/items/414608-reflecting-on-the-value-of-writing 

4)  The prayers of a righteous man availeth much, from James 5:16.  This was an area of deeper and sweet understanding that I had opened to me in the closing of the year.

My hopes and prayers for you are that you are greeting this New Year with anticipation, peace, and thankful hearts.  I know I sure am.  The Lord's loving faithfulness sustains me.  May you find in Him the rest and strength your souls need.

God bless you all.