Monday, November 30, 2009


I loved our house on the acreage, though having a zillion people help sort it, inventory it and haul the contents off was more than a bit of humble pie. Basically cause our house was messy. Just for the record I'd like to justify a little bit about why that was so.

1. There were a lot of people in it.
2. The people never left, as in we homeschool, so the majority of the people were there the majority of the time.
3. We did a lot of stuff. We had a lot of hobbies. We were curious about life. We tried things out, explored, got messy, made mistakes (think Ms. Frizzle).
4. We had a lot of books; we are a family of bibliophiles who use books, wear them out, get curious about the next thing.
5. We were busy with life. We cooked 3 meals a day, from scratch, usually for a whole passel of people, canned, chopped wood, homeschooled, read, walked the dogs, gardened, talked,etc. All of those activities detract from mess-organization.

We lived in our home. We lived on our property. I wish it hadn't been such a mess, more ordered, more organized, but I'm glad that we spent hours and hours outside gardening together, and hauling wood, homeschooling and talking and praying together and all of the other things that we did, even when the house needed cleaned. Cause we did enough of that, too.

I'm a bit anxious about what this move will mean. It will mean a lot more "comfort." There's a dishwasher, a heater, a small yard, etc. It's neat and modern and contains a lot of what one expects in a middle class neighborhood from a not-to-cheap/not-too expensive home. So, a lot of what we've spent our time doing on the acreage -the homesteading things- won't need done. For that I'm partially grateful cause frankly I've been feeling way over 40 lately. But the hours that we spent together working hard won't need to be done and there will be a lot more "leisure" time. I've already seen the effects of some of that and it's not really something I'm pleased with. Too much computer/"free" time and one has bored, uninterested, cranky kids on their hands. Living in a house, versus hotel, will, of course, change some of that, but I've been considering just how off the grid we've lived, in so many ways, for the past 14 years, both in New Mexico and in the Territories, and how that has shaped and molded each one of us.
It's a new season, that much is certain. And between on the edge of panic attacks I've been fighting off I'm curious to see what it holds. But for certain, right now at least, it won't contain our home. Our quirky, curious, beautiful friend of a place that was a big pain in the patooey, that was the perfect back-drop for Christmas, that held hopes and dreams and all of our mess and that is now empty and sitting alone in a valley.
It's o.k. really. But, True Confessions, I've cried and grieved over the house and the acreage and the place we knew as Home.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Housing Update

We leased a house on Saturday. Nice living areas, a fireplace in the basement, good natural light and some trees in the back-yard. Front of the house.
Miss. Flower

The kitchen. Large, open, tons of cupboard space with sliding glass doors leading out to a deck and the back-yard.

The downstairs living area.
As soon as we procure beds and bedding we'll move in. We can put in a dog run, which is a relief, as our older, bigger dog is behaving like the last month has worn her out. I can relate.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Viking Man hates stuffing and I love it. I have a killer recipe that I make once a year, he eats an obligatory serving and tells me I am the best cook in the world. That he loves my laugh. And asks if anyone has told me that I am beautiful lately. 24 1/2 years later and he still thinks I'm great. Love is blind in so many ways, but I'm o.k. with that. I'd rather be loved by someone who sees the art in me and whom I love back, than not.

I drive my kids nuts. I am too bossy and too scatterbrained as well as generally irritating, but smart and funny and a good Momma and Flower hugs me and says, "your the best Mom in the whoollle wide world" and Cub says, "I love you Momma" and Feche-Boy kisses me everynight and gives me a hug and says, "Good-night, Mom, I love you." and KB and I do the Mwah Mwah kiss cause I'd like to think I'm more elegant that I am and she truly is, and Miss. R FB's and emails and calls and keeps in touch and asks our opinions and tells us that she appreciates us and has a beau that she likes and cares that we like, and we do.
And our parents are alive and well and still married. Our siblings are our friends. We have a church that has been family in so many ways.

I am thank-full. For all that we have. For what's to come. For the surprise of a new day. For family that we live with and those far away that we love. For friends. For a new season.

Happy Thanksgiving
to you and yours and may the richness of your blessings overwhelm you with JOY!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gathering Places.

I've been thinking a lot about "Gathering places" and gathering times in my life as I near Thanksgiving- which is as big a gathering day as it gets in North America. I think of the places I've gathered in the past, almost 1/2 century, and realize that my life has been full of gathering places, that have been far more important than I've realized until now. It's always about the women in my life and "their" homes, though the husbands and Dads are always present, dressed nicely and glad for family to enjoy and feast with, but out of place with a whole day of not working.

The first gathering place I think of is Grandma Rummels. House immaculate. Frugal to the core. Food, hearty and plentiful and made with love and care. Cooking was her craft. Huge bowlfuls of perfect mashed potatoes, with a mound of butter nestled on top, platterfuls of homemade noodles, gastronomical perfection. If we could have, Sue and I would have eaten only potatoes and noodles. But there were also green beans and perfect sweet corn and peaches and some kind of meat, with rich gravy, and Beefsteak Tomatoes sliced into thick slabs and peppered and a zillion desserts. And always the uncles and aunts, who somehow didn't have many kids of there own but loved and adored us because, not only were we their oldest brother's oldest son's kids, but because they were kind and good. Aunt Dollie, who wore too much rouge and caused scandal by walking into the room with it on, even though she'd been part of the family for decades. She smelled sweet and fragile, always asked us to sing and would sit and listen with tears in her eyes, like we were the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, showing up to grace her living room. It was a little boring, cause children were supposed to be seen, but not often, and definitely not heard, unless they were singing. Still it was safe and friendly and warm and inviting. Money was a taboo subject but it was understood that hard work earned it, debt was evil and frivolity, meaning spending on anything beyond food, shelter and basic clothing was sin, as was jewelry, movies and most of the world outside of their corner of it.

And then Grams house in the BIG city. Stuffed full of animals and books and notions and knitting and coffee, which we were privileged to drink, and accouterments and other luxuries that I don't remember but the smell of Grampas tobacco pipe and Grams' knitting and the kitchen. It was friendly and full of life and always warm and we were so loved and wanted there. We'd eat de shrveined shrimp and think we were elegant and cultured, and go shopping with Gram and out to lunch and basically get to buy whatever we wanted because Gram was a working woman and had owned a dry cleaner store, probably before women had the vote, and now worked for a BIG company in the BIG city. Gram was our friend. It was personal. She knew what we liked and gave us money to pursue our dreams. She taught us to knit and payed for our lessons and talked about books and the things she was reading and about her work. And Uncle Hank and Grampa were at home when we got back to admire the clothes and records and to say that we deserved to be spoiled and Grampa would pull 1/2 dollars out of our ears and hand them back to us and give us ice-cream in cool 1/2 pint cartons between meals. Gram took us to every single Disney movie ever made and when I'd go visit her from college we'd spend the week-ends going to movies and out to eat and talk and laugh. Whenever I had a crisis, from age 8 on up, Gram would let me cry and tell me, "it'll be alright, Baby." And I knew I was one of her babies and it would be alright.

And Mom's house. With familiar dishes and food, like green bean casserole which I will, probably to my chagrin, admit that I secretly LOVE, and always new and interesting food. All of us, including Dad cooking and getting dressed up and making an occasion out the Holiday. And flowers on the table and everything clean and neat and tidy. With a football game on later, or maybe a movie, or more friends over and popcorn, inevitably, because our family believed it had it's own tier on the food pyramid, which is a belief I still hold to. And frequently after feast hikes in the damp, late fall. Full of wet leaves, and the smell of someones wood fireplace and the crisp air burning off platters worth of food. And going back to the house to snack or not but to continue the lack of routine and wash dishes together.

And my Mother-in-Laws house. Comfortable. No pretense. No formality. No china. But familiarity and ease and Aunt Doris' clan and familiar people all getting caught up on how things are and have been. And kids and ping-pong games and maybe a puzzle or a board game. And routine and stability.
My house has been a gathering place for our immediate family, and at times, those folks that we've gathered along the way to journey with, or family that occasionally visits, like the many Easters in New Mexico. But, mainly for the 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 of us as our family has grown. China from great-grandma, and a menu that's planned with familiar favorites and new recipes and always flowers, cause flowers are a must for any occasion. And when KB was little, homemade, hand print place cards. And pictures around the table, with the feast laid out, and everything clean and neat and just-so. And good music on thanks to Miss R. or Viking Man and sparkling cider. A spectacular desert, which is just as important as flowers. Perhaps apple or pumpkin pie or a truffle or ice-cream, or all of the above, crafted and beautiful as well as delicious.
We've lost memories and our gathering place this month and we've cried over the memories that we won't be making this season. But, Viking Man has comforted us all with the thought that God holds all of our memories in His vast store house of knowing and they are safe with Him. We don't have to remember everything. And that has taken a huge weight off of my shoulders and allowed me time to remember some excellent things, and gathering places and seasons that have shaped me, comforted me, guided me, molded me. And the knowledge that all of those gathering places are with me, despite the place or lack-thereof.
May your gathering places be blessed this week. May God hold your memories, both those past and those to come and may you be blessed this season.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I am a refugee living in the lap of luxury.
Free laundry, pool, hot breakfasts, stove, refrigerator, clean linens, towels and
hot, running water.
And we are sad, grieving, feeling a profound sense of loss.
House burned and charred.
Stuff thrown out.
Season change.

But I've been wondering a lot.
(cause Justice rears its head and demands to be reckoned with)
About other mothers and their crying children
whose homes have been burned by war, terror, hatred;
things more profound and chilling than bad wiring.
That are homeless and wandering.
Hungry, shoeless. Dirty. Cold. Illiterate.
And we talk insurance numbers into the thousands of dollars,
maybe even higher
and worry about what was lost.
When others have nothing and no hope of reclaiming or restoring.
I'm humbled.
As I ride the elevator.
And clean my clothes with designer detergent.
And brush my teeth in running water.
And soothe aches with hot tubs.
And cry, with soft white tissue in hand.
And eat hot food, made with love, by those who care.

And I wonder.
At other mothers.
Whose children cry.
But have no blanket to cover them.
Or new toy to snuggle with.
Or nourishing food to feed them.
Or good book to enrich their souls.

I wonder.
At their burden.
And mine seems...pretty shallow.
Not so much.
What's to come.
More of what we had.
Enough. More than enough.
And there are so many that live with nothing.
And we have so much.
So much.
I am humbled.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Out of the Mouths of Babes and Why Memory Work is Important.

Today was a hard day for the not-so-littles. Friday we spent lots of time looking at rentals together. Yesterday was spent at the property and, thanks in great part to faithful friends, got the last of the stuff out of the house. Yesterday was clean out the basement day; dark, damp and smoky. I don't use the words, "faithful friends," lightly. If you were there yesterday, THANK-YOU!!!

Today, we drove out to the house in the morning to get things under cover before the season of rain and snow start in earnest. Today Flower and Cub fell apart. They were mad, angry, irritated, and sad.sad.sad. It started with a discussion about rental properties and barn cats. We had a bumper crop this year and are up to 6. These are not your typical stand-offish, 1/2 wild barn cats. This are loved on, named (first, middle and last), taught to neck-ride cats that have been found and cuddled since day 1. Rental properties and roaming barn cats aren't a great fit. That realization hit over breakfast.

Next up was a discussion about stuffed animals and where the vast and decades old (we've had kids for a long time) collection of Beanie Babies, (thank-you Grandma Donna!) went. Lest you think I joke we counted Beanies into the 100's. Each one inventoried long before fire and insurance forms made their way into our lives, played with, and loved on by certain kiddos in our family. Smoke and small stuffed animals, no matter how cute, don't scream "Keep Me." That realization hit about bed-time tonight.

KB and I were planning the week and the discussion turned once again to the house. Flower started crying, recalling memories she had of singing on the front porch together, running out the front door in the freezing cold and dark of night to look at the latest astronomical wonder that GeekDad had announced, eating breakfast on the porch in the summer, walking to the river, all the while crying, crying, crying. KB tried to calm her saying that we weren't sure what would happen to the house yet and Miss. Flower, who has been an excellent, but not always happy about memory work, student began quoting one of our memory verses from last year, "to everything there is a season, a time to build up and a time to tear down." And the tears flowed. Poor little thing.

We've often been told that our "kids are just smart," or "not everyone can do what your kids can do." All of which might be true on any given day (though if you joined us for homework these days you might laugh at just how dull we are can be). Yea, I'm pretty sure my kids are smart. But, I also know that my kids are trained. Flower has been doing lots of memory work for the past 2 1/2 years. She doesn't even begin to love it. She doesn't like how tedious it is. She'd rather be playing. She'd rather have a girl party and paint her nails. She'd probably rather be cleaning toilets. Seriously. But despite all of that she's had to participate in memory work, including memorizing large portions of Scripture. Tonight I realized that not only does she understand the words of Scripture that she's memorized, but that she can apply the theology in profound and meaningful ways.

And I am humbled. I am in awe. I am crying with my wilted little Flower that is feeling burdened and sad, but knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God is in control and gives and takes away. An I am trusting that the God she believes in will hear her faithfulness and her sorrow and gather her tears and her memories and relieve her burden.

Cub admitted tonight that he didn't want to go to church, that he was mad at God for taking his house and the property and his cats and the dogs and the toys (no mention of clothes out of him, imagine that!) and he was pretty sure that he shouldn't go to church feeling like he wanted to punch out a window. Then he asked me if he was bitter. Which provided an opportunity to talk about getting committed to anger and frustration and disappointment and how important forgiveness is and that God is big enough to take all of his anger, which seems overwhelming to him, but is nothing to a mighty God, and loves him anyway. And he cried and went to church (though, True Confessions, we let him read a book during the service).

And now they are sleeping. I truly believe, and say frequently to my offspring, that sleep is cheap medicine. And I pray that God is restoring them as they sleep and that they wake up refreshed and full of vigor. Cause tomorrow, little do they know, we're actually gonna get some school done, including Memory Work.

A blessed Sabbath!

Friday, November 20, 2009

7 Quick Takes

Heard back from contractors and it looks like one the biggest decisions that we have to make about the house is already made.
Jen at Conversion Diaries, host of Quick Takes, mentioned that when she nurtures her Diet Coke addiction, her craving for sugar heightens as well. I can't find the source but read an article years ago that Diet drinks with caramel (like Coke and Pepsi) cause tumor growth. Something to think about.
In another Quick Take Jen shared that she feels the old decluttering adage of "you'll never miss it" is a lie. Throwing away stuff by the ton, literally, which is one way to declutter but not what I would personally recommend (due to fire and smoke damage) has caused me anxiety all week. Not sure what we'll miss yet as we are becoming hotel rats.

Looked at houses to lease for 6 months this week, that will allow lots of kids and dogs. It's not a long list.

Actually did some school work with the kids this week. Feche Boy asked about signing up for on-line Latin. Still need to replace some school items.

Walked through Sam's on the way for yet more antibiotics. It was interesting to see full carts, some already carting Christmas gifts and ornaments, because we haven't done much actual shopping for the past month (In part due to my gifted shopping friend, Tamara- thank-you, Tamara!), in part due to the fact that don't have a permanent residence. We usually decorate for fall in late September and the day after Thanksgiving pull out all of the Christmas decorations. Viking Man has a twinkle light obsession and a 3 story farmhouse and 10 acres provided him with the room he needed to light up our world. Twinkle lights were stored in the basement so they are long gone. Here I am sad over twinkle lights and the normal routines that I've counted on like cooking all next week and China on Thursday and picking a tree out the next week-end and the old Christmas ornaments and the twinkle lights. I am in a pitiful mood.

Got "Bucket List" to watch tonight. I figure it's a good time to evaluate what we still want to get done on this side. It certainly seems like now is an obvious turning point in our lives. I've been thinking about my sister and how the morning that she passed away she was all set to go swimming and then scrapbooking. Hoping that she got done all of the things that she wanted to do, that she loved all the people that she was called to love, and that there were no regrets. And that's how we are trying to do things- with no regrets, but it sure feels like the water is murky right now. Really murky.
As always, hope on over to Jennifer's at Conversion Diaries for more Quick Takes.


Feeling wrecked and de-railed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

WW: Still laughing.

Who really knows when they get married what "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health" will really mean? It's been a rough fall but we are still believing in God's sovereignty and still laughing! (sometimes at each other = ).

Monday, November 16, 2009


We have been, what seems to me, insanely busy, and totally out of any semblance of a routine. The kids have had a great time using the hotel swimming pool and the close proximity of friends, but inversely spending way too much time on the computer and not doing any reading. We did get laundry caught up today, washed tons of dishes, and looked at rentals, but the math that we were going to get done, didn't. Primarily because we never did find the math books. This is not a good thing. Truly, it was what I grabbed on the way out the door the morning of the fire.
We had a long work day at the property last Saturday and hauled 2 concrete trucks worth of household stuff to the dump, plus a pick-up truck worth of appliances. The first and second floors, as well as the attic are empty, and 1/2 the basement. Still to go are the 1/4 basement that is mostly charred whatever, which I think we'll just take shovels to, and 1/4 basement that was the workroom. What's left fills a not-so-large pod.
Through it all the animals are doing o.k. but the kids are discontent. They are bored and anxious, want to be with their cats and dogs and are having disturbing dreams. Shocker.

It's odd what has been meaningful to them throughout the last couple of weeks. Viking Man and I sleeping in the same bed- which we didn't at our first locale because they were all in the beds with us and the sizes weren't conducive to that many people and sleep. Watching familiar videos together, that we know most of the lines to and quote at odd times, which we did tonight (thanks Michelle, for the loaners!) and for holding hands together before we pray, including whoever might be joining us. Rituals and routines that say, "All is well, despite havoc."
Read a great little book about that many years ago by Alexandra Stoddard, "Creating a Beautiful Life." Which is what we're attempting to do, in the midst of the mess.

Mr. Hopkins, Miss. R's beau, emailed me the morning of the fire,
"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified." Isaiah 61:3
We certainly have had a lot to give thanks and praise for, and I'm praying that we all find JOY unspeakable and that it embraces us like a garmet. I've found it interesting that I've had the opportunity to share about the accident that the kids survived 5 years ago, but they left KB with part of her skull missing several times lately. It is still a powerful testimony to God's miraculous saving grace and I found myself crying today as I shared the story with a friend. Another tragedy that wasn't. God's power to save is greater than anything else. Anything.
Back to earth, we've heard from contractors and it seems like the insurance company has made some decisions. We need to make some of our own and soon, regarding the house and what's next.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Anchors and Why You Need the Church, Part II

Not only has our church been amazing, but people of faith around the country have stood in the gap for us in tangible ways in the past three weeks. My in-laws Sunday School at Stillwater U.M. Church in Dayton, Ohio:; the students and staff at Boyce College:; friends who I've only met on-line at The Well Trained Mind forums:; our friends Melissa Molstad and her mom, Pamela Opland, who loaded us down with every.single.Mary Kay moisturizer and lots of other fun MK stuff as well; Reid and Hope Friese, owners of CherryBean Coffee Company,who have given us boatloads of free coffee, warmed up food and kept our house key besides, friends from in the area (like Lori and Mike and Cyndi and Stan - we LOVE you guys!!) and other friends from as far back as college who knew Sue, friends we homeschooled with years ago in NM, as well as those around the country who have sent letters and gifts of money, games and toys, and words of encouragement. My long time friend, Laura, who has gone through fires and trials of her own, and has been my friend through thick and thin sent me this Willowtree ornament: Celebrate, With Joyful Anticipation. What a sweet reminder that there is always more ahead because God knows the plans that He has for us, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give us a future and a hope, when we search for Him with all our hearts.

Why I have needed the church is because we've been walking through a valley. And the church has been there to be the hands and feet and heart of Jesus to us as we've been walking. Chances are that you'll walk through a valley soon, if you aren't already. And two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. (Ecc. 4:9). You need the church, because you'll need the support and love and encouragement that only a community of faith can give. And honestly, it needs you. Because if you are not going through a valley yourself, someone else is, and you are being called to be the hands and feet and heart of Jesus to someone who needs to know they are loved and cared for.
You need the church and it needs you. It's that simple.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Anchors & Why You Should Go to Church

I hope I've said it before but just in case I haven't I'd like to say that our church rocks. You can read about it here: The Church at the Gate, under the leadership of Pastor Steve Hickey is a conservative, Bible believing, charismatic group of people who believe in putting their faith into action. You can see this in many ways; for instance, the fact that there are people meeting in our church and using the rooms and the building pretty much every single day, morning, noon and night. Secondly, during every election our church comes out in droves to campaign and pray for our government and issues that are up for vote.

Our church has put their faith into action in so many ways that have affected us personally in the past 3 weeks that I probably won't even remember them all. They have showed up to put plywood over axed out windows, done laundry, fed us, clothed us, prayed for us, provided hot showers and shampoo and toothbrushes, shopped for clothes and medicine, given our kids toys and gifts, taken them for days as we've worked, shown up to sort and inventory and throw away, hugged us, gifted us monetarily, cooked for us, and told us over and over that they loved us.

4 days after the fire that burned us out of our house, my sister died. At that point our church made sure that we could get to the funeral, prayed for us some more and sent a monetary gift to the Multiple Sclerosis Society in Sue's honor. I can not even tell you how deeply touched I was by this specific act of generosity and care.

And now that we are home again, we are overwhelmed by friends in church and from church that are calling to find out how we are doing, asking us what we need, checking to help us find a rental and on how the kids are doing, grabbing us to give us a hug and telling us that they have been praying for us specifically each and every day.

Today we started up our modified TDA (The Daniel Academy) program again and during devotionals we read the following from "The Little Pilgrim's Progress," You know what is the use of an anchor. If it is firmly fixed the sailors do not mind how rough the sea may be. The anchor holds their vessel safely, though the waves may be tossing and the wind roaring all around them. So if you love the King, the hope that He will help you will keep your heart from failing. And, though you may be in the greatest danger or difficulty, you will never be really afraid."

Our anchor of late has been the Lord, Jehovah Jireh, and His church. And, specifically, our church, The Church at the Gate.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

WW: House Fire

The upstairs bathroom- all of the porcelain is smoke stained.
The master bedroom.

The kitchen.

The corner where we first smelled burning plastic. The fire was already burning under the kitchen floor and had gone into the vents and was burning whatever was in front of it.
A good idea of what all of the vents are now looking like.
The basement stairwell.
The vent in the boys bedroom, right next to the chimney (which the fire had also gotten into).

The stairwell upstairs. This wall was knocked out to get to the fire in the chimney.

This used to be the hall going downstairs to the basement. Now a breezeway to the kitchen.

The kitchen. We can't go into it because the timbers under it are burned to a crisp.
One of the dining room windows. Axes and wood window frames are not a winning combo.
From the back door looking up the stairwell. The kitchen is on the left.
"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress. My God, in Him I will trust. Surely He shall deliver me from the snare of the Fowler, And from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover me with His feathers. And under His wings I shall take refuge. His truth shall be my shield and buckler. I shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
Psalm 91: 1-6

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Puddleglum and Life's Purpose

I cry and grieve and heave trash bags full of life's stuff to the front yard.
Awaiting a bigger dumpster to haul it away, where it will live unceremoniously as land-fill.

Stuff, after all, is what there is too much of.
Getting in the way of people, vision, callings.
But, true confessions, I have doubts. I question. I want comfort. I want a place of rest. I want beauty, if only in a couch these days.

I watch idealistic children, those we've raised, who have plans and purposes way beyond comfy couches, challenge me.
But I'm middle aged enough to question. Have we chosen well?
Did we really follow a greater calling?
Or are we lunatics?
If I blame him, am I off the hook? Do I have to participate in owning the crazy part of how we've lived and why?
Banking on ideas and prayer that sounds like we are people of the corn instead of mature, educated, thoughtful and deliberate.

doubts and questions. Yes. And my man answers that it's all about Puddleglum. How's that for an educated repsonse? The hope of what we live for beats all hollow the reality others have. Truly. I'm spared my own melancholiness by a children's story that is part of the DNA of our family so much that we all know the reference and refer to the character as a beloved member of the family.

And I'm comforted. I can rest. I'm assured. The reality is that I'm too timid to be a pragmatist. I need more. I need hope and beauty and comfort and the assurance that I'll see those I've loved again who have died. That there is a greater purpose than the mundane. That the stuff is secondary to the hopes and plans my God has for me.

Me and Puddleglum and my idealistic Man and our idealistic children and C.S. Yep. My people. Our hope.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Me & Mother West Wind

As we are sorting and bagging and throwing most of our household possessions away I am caught off guard by what hurts.

My mom was adopted, but remained motherless until she was 8 years old. When she was 8 my Grandpa married the women who became my Grandma. She's 93 now and a shadow of herself, though her eyes are still soft and brown and warm and full of life. Her nickname was "Kitty" and if you knew her you'd know that it fits.

My mom couldn't read when Gram first came to the house so she made it her mission to teach her.
They spent every morning of that first summer together with Gram reading mom Shakespeare. Then Mom would read to Gram. At the end of the week, as a reward, Gram would take Mom to the 5 & Dime in their Windy City neighborhood and Mom could pick out a Mother West Wind book. She had a small collection of Original Mother West Wind stories, with the original covers and the original 35 cent price on the cover.

When Mom was sick and she and Dad moved for her health they downsized everything and somehow the Mother West Wind stories made it to me. I'd loved them as a child. The stories are sweet and the pages are soft and the hardback covers are sturdy and the covers are simple and lovely. They held a place of honor, in my mind at least, in the built in bookshelf in our living room.

Right where the fire was bad, the smoke horrible, the fire hose turned on full blast. The bookshelf burned and while there is some of the books left they came out of the bookshelf as one chunk, charred and burned and frail and damaged.

I'm grieving for the books. And for my mom who never got better but died instead; for my sister who is gone and with whom I've shared books and stories all of my life; for my Gram who has valued education and being a woman and faith and family and who is now frail and wispy; and for my house, which has been a home and a place of safety and refuge, which is empty and burned and full of choking smoke.

A book is such a small thing, really. But like KB said, our home was a home of ideas, like the books we've read so many times they've become part of us and the people that we've loved, imperfectly but for years,, so much that to imagine the world without them seems incomprehensible. Ideas and possibilities and hopes and dreams. And it's hard to go to the next thing yet because this season of throwing away and saying good-bye is intertwined with so much at once. The house and my family and memories and people and stories and good and hard.

I am trusting, once again, in words. Spoken by a man whose ideas and hopes have captured and captivated me for a quarter of a century. Words, stories, hope.

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." John 12:24.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Richness of a Christian Funeral

My pastor recently blogged about the "Poverty of modern Christian funerals. You can read about it here: He links an article in Christian Century, describing the current trends in Christian funerals, which you can read about here. I read all of this with interest a couple of weeks ago, totally unsuspecting that I would be trekking east to attend the untimely funeral of my sister.

I've always liked my brother-in-law. I've known him since I was 15 and we've been good friends ever since. He is a solid, smart, funny, practical and wise man. He loved my sister well, despite a chronic illness that changed her personality, humor and abilities. I have the highest respect for him and love him all the more for his faithfulness and love for Sue. And honestly, for the funeral that he created. My sisters funeral was decidedly Christian, recognizing the hope of heaven. It allowed us time to cry and grieve together, was full of ritual and liturgy, songs that ministered to our heart hurt and focused on God's saving grace. For that I am forever grateful. The ritual of funeral allowed us to say "good-bye" to our daughter, sister, wife, mother and friend,with dignity and peace and also allowed us the opportunity to focus on the fact that we would see her again.

Doug chose a beautiful spray of roses for the coffin that was huge and colorful. Before they lowered the coffin, the pastor gave roses to the women, starting with her daughter, my sister and I. He handed me a red one and I cried. Cried for the love of my sister; cried for the loss that is now in my life; cried for what's to come. Cried for the hope of heaven and for healing. Thank-you Sue, for the beauty of your life. Thank-you Doug for celebrating it well.

From An Acceptable Time, by Madeline L'Engle, (with a slight revision), "All I know is that Sue gave me great riches, and we would, all of us, be less than we are if it weren't for those we love and who've loved us who have died."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


It's been a long week, full of family and loss, tears and thoughts. Read a Madeline L'Engle book on the long way home after visiting my dear 93 year Gram in Chicago. Words heal.

The biggest laugh I had all week was in the middle of Nowheresville, IN in a vile little truck stop bathroom. I'm talking nasty. You could smell the sewer 10 feet from the bathrooms, they were stained and unclean, with not enough water, soap or paper towels available. But, sometimes a nasty bathroom is better than no bathroom and this was one of those times. I pulled out a required feminine product and there written on the side was this little gem,
"Live dangerously."
Seriously. Who gets paid to come up with this stuff? The real joke was in thinking just how dangerous using the aforementioned bathroom was.