Saturday, October 30, 2010

Art Works

Life is a balancing act, isn't it?   Robin commented yesterday that she needs to find a good co-op for the very reason that 2 are, very often, better than 1. We are doing so much more, again, this year than we could ever do on our own, thanks to a great co-op.
 Take  A R for instance... 

 Mrs. S., Bird Lady and art teacher extraordinaire! The kids created everything from penguins to phoenix's. And, seriously, how many of us do paper mache at home?

 Cubs paper mache bird: Fred, the Evil Duck (he's 10, what can I say?).

 Mrs. F does a great job with the younger classes- she is fun and directive and has awesome projects!

 Flower, creating a calender page. She loves art! This project incorporated creating a grid, seasons, dates, writing and creativity, developing fine motor skills. Life skills for 2nd graders!

 Some of the creative Jr. Highers with their mosaic project led by Mrs. H- church history and art. Love it!

 Arent' these cool? Each and every one beautiful and unique!

 Fall themes. Pumpkin art  and cats whose eyes glow in the dark! 

It's hard to balance the demands of homeschooling.  A bit easier with a little help from some friends!

Friday, October 29, 2010

All the Usual + Some

Weekly Review
1) We did school. Math, Science, Writing, Reading, Geography, History. We went to Tutoring Center, where the boys took classes (poetry, history, geography, science, writing, chemistry, Lit and Oral Interp). We'll be going to co-op where the kids will sing (I am loving Cub singing Handel's Messiah throughout the house!!), create art; Cubs class made the coolest paper mache birds! and participate in a unit study (Flower is taking geography and has fascinating facts to share each and every week. They just finished up South America and she has not stopped talking about Mrs. H's , who hails from Brazil, presentation for 2 weeks! Feche is taking Financial Peace- a perfect unit study for High Schoolers. Ballroom dancing has made it into the week's extra curriculars and my lanky 16 year old, who is constantly in motion, has discovered that he loves to dance. Move over Fred Astaire!

Sunrise coming home from the airport.
2) We hosted the Electrician and Plumber this week. Can you hear me singing "Ode to My Dishwasher?"  We worked on the house. Our new door knobs, polished silver, look smashing against the mocha stained poplar wood doors and trim.

3) We spent hours at the airport, waiting on KB, who was trying to get re-routed due to our "Weather Event"  We got up at the crack of dawn to take KB to the airport the day after her scheduled flight. She is back in GA as Campaign Barbie.

4) We made paper snowflakes in honor of the first snowfall of the year. Flower was mesmerized and cut paper for hours this week.

Flower and Friend showing off their S.American Llamas.
5) We watched  movies. Loving Leah (which I highly recommend) and Back When We Were Grown-ups (which we liked but it didn't rock our world) and Feche's Shakespeare class spent an evening with Kenneth Branaugh and King Henry V.

6) We read. Feche- The Last of the Mohican's; Cub-  Signing Their Lives Away; Me-Obama Nation. Out loud- Meet the Remarkable Adams Family. Feche would like to edit the entire Romantic Period. I find this funny because his writing pseudonym should be "Ramble Man."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Barbie Judaica

Oy vey!  Tefillin Barbie doesn't look very semetic to me. Nevertheless Tefillin Barbie fits right in with our love affair of all things Barbie as well as creating scenes from toys, especially legos and playmobile.
It aso fits in with our infatuation with the Hebraic culture. Watched Loving Leah this week. Terrific flick. It's kind of like My Big Fat Greek Wedding goes Jewish.


My family is of German descent but Sue and I were Irish twins. I am tall; at 6 feet she was taller with perfect posture thanks to scoliosis and a Harrington rod. She had braces, twice I think, and we both ended up with crooked teeth. She was studious and earned "A's". I didn't study. She was popular and outgoing. I was shy. Seriously.

We both played instruments, a requirement that came with being our father's offspring. She played the trumpet, I played flute, piccolo and sax. We both loved creating with our hands, read voraciously  and loved  the great outdoors, a requirement that came with being our mother's offspring. Plants of any variety are a weakness for all of us that were in my Gram's circle of influence, green thumbs the lot of us. Sue had kids and worked and never moved far from home after a stint on the east coast earning her Master's degree. I had a bunch of kids and moved all over the country and have homeschooled for forever. She took regular vacations and had a maid and went for massages and had lunches weekly with girlfriends. I garden and read and homeschool and call job interviews vacations. I look like Mom, she was the spitting image of Dad's Aunt Carrie. In college we'd have to pull out our driver's licenses to prove that we were sisters, but people always commented that we walked the same and had the same mannerisms. We were a lot alike and totally different.

It's been a year since we received the phone call from my Dad, saying that Katie called and Sue had died. Viking Man and I had gone to Monday prayer at church. It was his idea, spur of the moment and he whisked me away in the middle of dinner. The prayer team was praying with someone else when we got the call, in the hallway of the church.

How is it that siblings anchor one to the world? A simple bond and one often taken for granted. We grow up and look at each other as adults and wonder how on earth did we all grow up in the same family? We have different lives, values, places of residence, hopes, dreams and families. And still I felt like a rope anchoring me to dry land was cut when I picked up the phone and heard Dad say that Sue was gone. In so many words like he told me that Mom had died. Poor Dad; having a child die before you is one of the great injustices of life.

She'd tried to call on Sunday afternoon, calling to check on me because of the fire. But I'd turned my phone off  because we'd had tons and tons and tons of calls, wonderful people, calling to express care and concern and I was so exhausted and tired and worn out and emotionally drained from talking and listening and accepting people's concern and stuff and food and sympathy. Flower and Cub were pitiful and huddled in chairs and we spent the afternoon watching a stupid video together, being worn out and weary together under a blanket in the lounge at the retreat center we were staying at. Because of that I missed her last phone call. She tried to call me over and over again on the last day of her life and I missed each and every call.  I tried to call her back on Monday morning, but she was already gone, never having heard back from me. I wasn't expecting her to go quite yet. We'd seen her just weeks before, on her birthday. She was wobbly from M.S., but not sick, not sickly, just her same old bossy, hard headed self.

I came undone that Monday. Within a four day period our house burned to the point of being totaled, my oldest daughter spent a night in an emergency room 5 states away having a blood clot around her heart monitored (fall-out from the swine flu she survived) and my oldest sister died. My husband sang me to sleep that night, stroking my hair and telling me that Sue was in the arms of Heaven, dancing with joy, wobbly no more.

I miss her being in this world, gone one year ago today. The world contained her when I made my entrance and I just expected that we'd be in it together- well, for a long time to come. She was my first friend and my oldest. And I miss knowing she's home, even if I'm not, knowing she'll call on my birthday, check on Gram each Sunday, keep track of everyone. But I have a hope. That we'll be reunited once again; this time our true selves. Until that day, I am consoled by knowing that she lived with courage and chose life and vibrancy and faithfulness over careful stagnancy.

Meet you on the other side, Sister Mine.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bittersweet: Shauna's Charmed Life

Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist is a cool book. Even the cover-- baby blue with a beautiful chocolate brown photo of some delectable morsel. The writing is good. Very good. There are nuggets to be found in what Niequist has to say: thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way. And it is a touching reflection, written by a hipster, of how to weather the hard knocks of adulthood. But I feel conflicted by this book.I'm conflicted because I do like the writing and was drawn into Shauna's world of friends and food and laughter and the disappointments of life. Shauna's not only a gifted writer but a foodie with a gift of hospitality and her accounts of dinner parties and meeting friends or family in Paris, or Florida or Fiji were mesmerizing. She sounds like someone who would be a friend and one can imagine themselves flying along with her to exotic locations, eating frittata's or thin crust homemade basil pizza and drinking red robust wine or tequilas poolside. 
And honestly, I had no expectations of this book when I first received it. I'd never heard of it before and was given a review copy.

So, you ask, what is the conflict. It's apparent early on that Shauna is a person of faith, the publishing company is, after all, Zondervan, and many essays contain reflections on struggles to come to terms with a professional crisis of sorts, as she and her husband leave the church they've worked at for several years,  as well as secondary infertility. Shauna writes with eloquence and self reflection. Shauna has good things to say. Shauan is talented.
 But the thing that bothered me about this book was the underlying secularism. The author has lived a charmed life, and during one of the darkest periods of her life she is jet-setting around the world, staying at lake side cottages, eating gourmet and organic food and drinking all manner of concoctions. I was a bit surprised that she even admitted to college parties hosted where the main offering was trash-can punch. This from Bill Hybels daughter. O.k. so I'm a fundie at heart. Certainly people can drink, but I was left wondering, well, really about her maturity level; like, at what point do you own your faith and live that out?  Cause there just seems to be a bit of living in the world, but I'm elite so it's alright going on. Her chapter on Girls Gone Wild relects that. "I want businesses and government systems and certainly churches to be led more and more often by women. I believe that men and women would both benefit from it in dozens of ways. But if that’s going to happen, I think we have to declare a princess-free zone. No tiaras, no Girls Gone Wild, no pretending we can’t carry things." I agree with the starting point but the conclusion goes way beyond... This from the woman grieving her lack of fertility. Assumptions that the roles and rules are what you expect them to be; redefining the normal cause it suits, until it doesn't.
And like I said, I had no prior expectations, but as I was telling my husband about this book I found myself having a difficult time explaining just what the heart of it was- was it faith and trust in God. Was it faith and trust in self? Time heals?  Life disappoints? Shauna can write?
I think it comes down to her chapter near the end, "Your story must be told." She writes, "When Christ walked among the us, he entrusted the gospel to plain old regular people...if you have been transformed by the grace of God, then you have all you need to write your manifesto, your poem, your song, your battle cry, your love letter to a beautiful and broken world."
And Shauna did that in this book and most likely her first as well, Cold Tangerines. But it's a bit too post-modern for me. One just tells their story and what exactly happens after that?  I mean, I'd like to know for sure just what it was that Christ did for her that her parents or her charmed life didn't provide, but honestly I'm not clear.  In fact, I don't see it at all. From where I sit this book is a collection of very well written, at times funny, at times touching essays, snapshots taken from Shauna's charmed and charming life.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Burned Out: 1 Year Later

It has been a year today since our house fire and four days from the anniversary of my sister Susan’s untimely death. It has been a year of loss, upheaval, grief, tears, cold and pain. It has been a year of generosity and God's deliverance and miraculous answered prayer. It has been a year of God reaching down for us, parting the Red Sea for us, leading us to a new season even as we grieve over the season that was ripped from our hands.
I don't think I've cried as much in my whole life as I've cried this year. I've been so cold, so often, hot showers, hot tea and 3 quilts don't warm me. I've been discouraged, depressed, and sad beyond belief, questioning the decisions and choices we've made, angry at the time, energy and money we've expended only to throw resources, books and tools in the trash. And, at the same time, overwhelmed by the transformation that has taken place, both in our house and in our lives.

I have been worn thin and worn out at the hard work that this year has demanded. We cleaned out the house and threw literally tons of possessions away, too smoke and fire damaged to be restored. We sorted again and cleaned what was left. We created a line-item inventory of every item that was lost, it's cost, how long we'd owned it, manufacturing number and a couple of other details I’ve blocked from memory; an inventory that included tens and tens of sheets with 30 lines and totals on a page. Oh, that was grievous, inventorying 90% of the possessions of our lives. It was an up close and personal look at what we've invested in, how we've managed, what we did well and had left un-done. If the judgment seat is anything like it I thank God that Jesus Christ will advocate on my behalf because I would surely be un-done by the moral inventory of my life!  And then sorting through bids and making decisions about whether to restore or bulldoze our home. And finally, as we moved from the hotel to a leased house we gathered items as mundane as measuring cups and socks, and gratefully accepted gifts of clothes and furniture and books and curriculum and pictures and gift cards and meals and more. Making decisions about the house, tending to each other and the kids whose stress worked it self out in many different ways, and to my husband who has suffered through more rounds of pneumonia and bronchitis and antibiotics than I hope we ever see again.
 We continue to re-build and build-up, which is a far more comforting place to be than tearing down amidst the choking smoke and devastation. But still the heavy demands and amount of work to be done have created overwhelming days and situations. I have been worn and weary from the hard work, emotionally and physically. I have taken more Tylenol this year for aches and pains than I have, literally, taken over the course of the rest of my life. I have also spent more time awake at night, more time anxious and fretful and afraid about how things will work out, if we've made the right decisions, if we are on the right path, worried about my kids and my husband and feeling that my life has unraveled before my very eyes. The number and enormity of the decisions that have had to be made, along with so many opinions and demands from so many fronts at once, have taxed us to the limit.

Through it all I am grateful. Grateful that this old house is being, parts of it done, restored. It is a simple 4 x 4 farmhouse, but it is on a sweet piece of property, statuesque in its own grand way and full of memories of the west being settled and the history of farming in our country, and most importantly to me, my family. God has brought to fruition many of the dreams we had when we first moved here 7 years ago; fitting because 7 is the number of completion: new windows and HVAC and wiring and plumbing, remodeled bathrooms and kitchen and finished fir floors, completed basement and attic, refinished woodwork and even a new sidewalk and shrubs.

Because of the events of the past year I know I will never be the same. Some of the ways I've changed this year are obvious to me already. I am more tentative, more wary, more disbelieving and I feel tender and raw, like a burn victim with new skin so much of the time. Unsure of what will hurt but anxious that most everything will. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not. I am more aware, acutely aware, of how tentative life is, how tenuous people and relationships are, how fragile the composition of this thing we call "our lives" really is. Who are we really, when we’ve been stripped of place and possessions?

I have always been a praying person, but as I shared in Bible Study this week, prayer no longer bubbles forth, at the ready for people or situations, spoken, shared or whispered privately. I still pray but the heart-felt and easy adoration I have for the Lord has been hidden or lost somewhere. I am more likely to cry than to raise my hands or face in adoration and I wonder, perhaps cynically, at those who easily say or sing words like, “What ever you want, Lord, take from me. All I have is yours” I wonder at those who give from the extras instead of from the need or the desperate want. Do they really mean it? Would they so easily say those words if their choices were wrested from them or if their money didn’t matter? Would they be who they think they really are if their wardrobe or car or jewelry or haircut or house or money or fertility or career or freedoms were gone? I don’t sing those words as easily any more. Because as much as I have been barely o.k. with my stuff being taken, as old and decrepit and shoddy as some of it was, I’ll tell you quite honestly that I don’t hold my kids or my husband or my family or my friends, or, if we’re going to be honest, my stuff and hopes and plans and dreams and big ideas in my hands as lightly as I think I do. I don’t want them taken or sacrificed or gone before their time. I don’t want to sing, glibly, that all I have is someone else’s, even when that someone is the Master of the Universe. And the reason is selfish; what if He makes good on what I say and takes what is His after all?

I’ve considered my response to so many, “It could have been worse.” And it certainly could have been. No one died; well, no one died in the fire at least. The house is becoming beautiful, we’ve learned new skills, survived the ordeal, hopefully grown stronger. But in the overall scheme of my life, this fire has been in the top 5 disrupting and paradigm shifting events of my life, down on the list from committing my life to Jesus Christ, my mom dying and moving to CA and surviving my husband’s graduate program.

I have held these competing thoughts and emotions in my head and my heart all year, loss and gain; death and life; despair and hope; bondage and victory; defeat and success. I’m not good at ambiguity or complexity and I’ve dropped a lot of balls, missed things, lost items and contacts and hopes along the way. And I’m not making excuses, but many days it was all I could do to just do what I was confronted with, nothing more. Even now, I feel confronted, in the New York in your face sense, by demands that are dictated by the season and timing I can’t change and I have lost my kids homework assignments and friendships and a dream or two along the way. I find myself embarrassed, ashamed really, and sad about that too. I wonder if I will ever move beyond the ocean of tears and wracking sadness that has welled up within and overflowed way too often. I know I will. I know that God’s healing and sovereignty will usher in a new season soon enough. Even now I no longer cry in the car when I think of Sue, or in bed in the middle of the night suffocated by tears as I did in December and January and February, wondering in angst if homeschooling and mothering and investing in our family so purposefully has been worth it. The healing has been slow but it is there, sure and steadily growing.

My wise friend Mary shared a story with me just weeks ago. About a group of nuns that had prayed that their service might bring about the end of the reign of Terror in France. For some horrific reason they were slated to die by the guillotine. As they were escorted to their execution, they sang a hymn of praise. One by one they died, though the remaining nuns continued to sing praise to the Almighty. And as their voices thinned, those who had come to watch and heckle the execution joined in. By the end, the audience, rather than jeering and jesting, were moved to praise. And because of the bravery of these courageous nuns the people saw the unjust horror of the Reign of Terror and it was overturned, in part due to the humility and prayerfulness of these nameless women.

I am healed and encouraged by this account. Not that I consider a house fire and the loss of a family member the same as being martyred. But it assures me that there is a story before and behind and beyond the story that I see. My small part to play is just that but there is a bigger drama going on, a drama of intrigue and fascination and healing and restoration. Perhaps my heartache this year will be worth more than just a house re-build. Perhaps it will go further than we know, bringing about in some small way His kingdom or His healing or His purpose. In that I find rest and even joy.

From my friend Janell's blog. Aren't they lovely?

The Pro-Life Movement Mourns the Loss of a Heroine

George Grant has written a beautiful tribute to his friend, Dr. Mildred Jefferson. who now resides in the presence of the Lord.

As well as being the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School Dr. Jefferson was a stalwart pro-life advocate. Her credo was unequivocal, "I am at once a physician, a citizen, and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow this concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged, and the planned have the right to live."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

WW: Utter Kitchen Chaos

Two steps forward, one back. Just another day in our life. Yes, the kitchen sink is on the floor. Yes, the contents of all of the bottom cabinets and drawers are in tubs in the dining room. Yes, we are still eating and living here, using paper plates and washing dishes in the downstairs bathtub, homeschooling, sanding doors, painting everything, reading, watching flicks, talking on the telephone, being bouyed by the love of friends & fam, who call and check on us and pray for us and study the Bible with us and homeschool with us, trying to maintain our sanity, (o.k. that's mostly me, not being able to find Q-tips on Sunday almost put me over the edge). The new normal. Just another glitch- new counter top (this time one where the seams match!), shaving the back edge, gluing and screwing in the counter top and reinstalling the sink. Adding another new skill to our repertoire. Good thing Viking Man also goes by Dr. Handy Man.
And that thing about visual order that I mentioned needing here. Guess God isn't in agreement with me yet.  I am closing my eyes and saying over and over again,
"Embrace the Journey, Embrace the Journey, Embrace. the. journey."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Words that Changed the World

We were given the opportunity by generous friends to go to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit along with the Omnimax show of Arabia last Saturday. A long but interesting day as we drove to the Cities, saw the exhibit and drove back.

 The "Arabia" movie was very pro-Middle East, showcasing the rich and diverse history of the Persian Empire, the golden ages of the area, including the Nabatean Empire and the Frankincense trade (which was basically tanked by the Christianizing of the area as wide spread poly theism waned), a cursory look at Islam and the importance of Mecca, and finally a glowing review of the strides toward cutting edge education and modernization that is taking place within Saudi Arabia. Thought provoking on many levels. We did a cursory study of world religions a couple of years ago which included National Geographic's "Inside Mecca" film. Good contrast.

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit was very well done. Each attendee was given a hand-held speaker to guide them through the exhibit. The exhibit covered a vast amount of information, including Jewish life and customs, the languages of the times, the Essenes and their compound, and finally the Scrolls. There were only 5 fragments on display; Leviticus, Genesis, a fragment from the Common Law, Psalms and Enoch. The scroll room especially, was heavily guarded, dark and  surprisingly crowded.
While the exhibit was extensive and included tons of information I was surprised at how little new info we learned. I felt, in many ways, that it was just a hands on exhibit of Gus Jenninga's "Intro to Biblical History" I took back in 83'. Maybe, too, because we've been reading "Biblical Archeology Today" for several years, but both Viking Man and I were hoping that there would be something new and revelatory and were slightly disappointed.
The speaker guide basically gave the same information as the writing on the exhibits. Reading and listening was overload for me and I ditched the auditory guide and read my way through. Despite the museums efforts to control the crowds the number of people were distracting. People were so focused on listening that it was impossible at times to move past a display and the lack of awareness by others as far as personal space and manners got old. The fragments were tiny, the room dim and the writing so very small. I was shocked at how small the writing was. Amazing that something so old and almost decrepit can change the way the world thinks and demand that realities denied be considered truth.

Very much worth going to.

Friday, October 15, 2010

WR: Rich Despite Myself

We did the bare minimum on school this week- workbook pages on science, writing, ETC, math. Feche kept up with Chem, Lit, Poetry. Afternoons consisted of sanding doors, painting plywood to cover the insulation on the NW backside of the house, tearing out shrubs, dirt moving and rearranging plants. I felt in a funk and 1/2 sick all week, having a hard time waking up and going to sleep at 9:30 with my hoodie on and zipped up.
Viking Man and I got twin speeding tickets this week and both felt like it was a terrible, horrible very bad week for a number of reasons.
Mainly that it's been odd and  full of concerning news, stressful numbers and moves in the academy that point to continued loss of freedoms. Read a book this week by a "fresh, young voice," and was struck over and over again, not only by her ability to wordsmith, but by her ability to integrate secularization into her life of faith. While I don't doubt her sincerity in belief, her seeker-sensitivity bias and glittery life-style detracted from her believability on oh so many levels.
I'm feeling seeker sensitive myself and relating to Riley on National Treasure. Why can't God just hand us the map with instructions to, "Go here, spend wisely" or google "Path for (insert name here)" and come up with the right results?
Someone clever is thinking, "That's what prayer is." Then why is it so often prayers lay unanswered, the lame continue to hobble, the blind can't see, bills remain unpaid and jobs that provide little to no fulfillment let alone benefits are shown up to, coddled and attended to? My list sounds hollow and weak but it's the mundane that is wearying. Prayer without power, or simple answers is a weak religion indeed but I am seeing the lack of power all over the place, particularly in my own life and in the lives of those I love.

I don't like it. I want answers, results, health, vibrancy, perhaps even a bit of the glittery life-style I read about this week.
It's shocking to realize that I'm old enough to have concerns over my children's friends, many of whom are adults. That, while I live a life rife with dreams unrealized, I see kids growing up but not necessarily growing in faith or maturity and I feel concerned. Mainly cause I love them and see their God given potential and want them to live with answers and results and health and vibrancy.
And in the midst of a week that caused us to contemplate a move to Australia (think literary, not literal) I spent the day amongst a group of people whose faith community ministered to me on a profound level. Not only have they provided the structure to our homeschool this year in the form of Tutoring Center and Co-op, they have included my kids and me, embraced us and, honestly, brought laughter and normalcy to my life when I feel so fragile and tender, like a burn victim with new skin, almost afraid of letting anything touch me cause it will hurt. Sitting at the park with the sun sparkling as it does only in the fall, people talking peacefully about the good things of life, children frolicking and full of joy at being together and the fun Feche had dancing the night away- these things put some of the harder points of the week in perspective. Good, and God, prevail in the midst of trials and difficulties, worries and concerns.
So, again, a weak week for academics from Moi, but rich anyway because of the love poured out by the adept and loving leadership and teaching of many women who are pouring into the lives of my kids despite their many responsibilities and children of their own.
THANK-YOU Janell, and Ana and Caitlin and Nancy and Margy and Sarah, and Janell and  Patty and Susan and the many others who are making homeschooling work for us during this season of upheaval and tentative healing in our lives. I thank God for each one of you in my every remembrance!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Feeding the Hunger

We have had so much help on the house I was thinking it would be cool to make a path or a wall and carve or etch every one's name on it who has contributed: Donna, Bob, Neil, Laura, Nickole, Ryan, Laura, Aaron, Ellie, Leanne, Jeremy, Mike, Lori, Tamara, Mark, Pam, Linda, Jeremy, Jen, Don, Ricci, Toni, George, Travis, Charles, Besty, Lori, Dan, Chris, Tim, Miss R, Viking Man, Feche, KB, Cub, Flower and so many, many others. And concurrently, I keep thinking of the line in Master and Commander, when they are repairing the ship and the grunts say to one another, "Lucky Jack has spilt so much blood aboard  that it runs in the vein of this ship"  Ah, yes, there's a bit of our blood in this old house. Seriously. We keep the first aid kit and a pack of bandages, scissors and tweezers at the ready. And not only blood. Last week I think I left the top 4 layers of my hands behind. The wood stripper we finally found that was effective in stripping the 80+ year old cracked and onewiththedoor varnish ate through gloves and skin as well as stain. And speaking of hands, there's the splinters. Tim and I, at least, were fishing planks of wood splinters out of our hands, despite gloves. Energy? We've invested enough of that I'm not sure we'll ever get it back.
Along with all of the excitement and enthusiasm we're experiencing in creating something beautiful out of something worn and beat, I feel...churned up. Last week was hard work, yes, but full of fellowship and like-minded people being proactive (a far better feeling than the one we had last year about this time as we threw, threw, threw away). Talking about theology and the deep things of life, joking and bantering, eating and serving, being in communion despite age and church and background differences. The work was exhausting but the camaraderie energized and we spent each night, late, despite the physical exhaustion,  around the campfire in the barnyard, roasting marshmallows, telling and sharing favorite stories and gazing at God's glorious display of stars and planets. And now that our young friends have gone and we are back to business as usual  I find myself feeling discontent. Wanting "home" more than ever, knowing here isn't but not really sure where it is I'm longing for. The taste of heart fellowship has whetted my appetite for more and the lonely country we find ourselves in once again doesn't satisfy.

I dreamed, early this morning, about my Mom, who has been gone for 11 1/2 years, and my younger sister, sporting Sue's hair cut instead of her own and looking eerily like her.  I woke up feeling out of sorts and troubled. Looking, yearning for a place, the substance of dreams I have repeatedly. Rooms, houses, grounds. Paradoxically I am consumed by a place- this house. Readying it, beautifying it, living in it amongst construction, and while consumed by it, not feeling settled.

Last week this place felt like home for the first time in a year, despite the fact that most of our possessions continue to reside in attic bins, sleeping in the living room, sharing bathrooms with shower curtains for doors. It was full of joy and laughter and servant hearted sacrifice, good food and fellowship and the joy that comes with hanging out with others who share a faith in SomeOne bigger than troubles and heartache and longings for home so intense that make one want to weep with the hope of it.

Last week made real this statement by Shauna Niequist, "Sometimes the most spiritual things we do are the most physical, the most tactile. Feeding people is one of those things, whether we're helping to feed hungry people, or feeding the hunger in each one of us on these dark and heavy winter nights" (Bittersweet). It's been a trying and difficult season and it's not over yet. But we've been bouyed, fed, continually, by the love of our brothers and sisters, young and old alike, who have worked sacrifically alongside of us, sharing our hope of what's to come. And for that, we give thanks.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Love in Action

Cub excavating a "bones." Archaeological find
from the Prehistoric Indian Village.

Cub and Bug

We have had a crazy week. Cub did some excavating. Business as usual on Monday- math, reading, writing, science. Tutoring Center on Tuesday had Cub doing a grasshopper dissection which was cool and gross all at the same time. We found the SOTW CD's ( Yippee!) and that's pretty much what Cub and Flower did the rest of the week cause Tuesday evening (late) Miss R. and 3 Boyce Men arrived by minivan to work on the house. Business of the week was floors and doors. The guys sanded the floors on the 2nd floor for 3 days straight as well as did their fair share on the doors. KB, Miss. R, Feche and I stripped and sanded 80+ year old varnish off the 2nd floor doors and frames (which we took apart) while Viking Man superivised and built a false wall/dust catcher at the base of the stairs so that we can catch the dust from sanding the floors and stair case.

Wild Man Tim. Floor Sander Extraordinaire!

 Our Dream Team. Tim, Miss R., Dan-e-El and  Chris Jason Bourne.
 The whole gang. Everybody worked HARD.

Some of my beautiful people.
 Fun was included & consisted of LOTS of LAUGHS, theological debate, nightly campfires (the guys brought a tent and camped out), eating together and a romp about the hills. The notsolittles acted as support staff and set, cleared and wiped down tables, put away food, and were the runners. The weather was purrfect; warm and dry. And, bonus, we got to see Miss. R's beautiful face yet again within a matter of weeks.
This past week was love in action. 4 college students, spending their own money to travel 14+ hours one way, to work on someone else's house for their fall break. We were blessed beyond measure. Lessons weighed, not so much on academics, but heavily on diligence and generosity of spirit.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Zoo Pics

Our planned trip to the Henry Doorly zoo did not start off on the right foot. A flat tire delayed our leaving by several hours, causing us to miss dinner (again) with our friends and the hotel that we stayed at did not have the advertised pool (argh!). Depsite all of that the day at the zoo was a blast. The aquarium and the jungle were our personal favorites in a zoo chock full of great exhibits and attractions. The aquarium reminded me of the Monteray Bay Aquarium- one of our fav places in CA! The weather was perfect and the crowds were minimal.  We saw a ton of animals and even managed to fit in dinner with our friends on Saturday evening! Good friends and good food. A perfect ending to a fantastic field trip! 

Fish faces.

Taking on the jellies. You've got some serious thrill issues, Dude! Awesome.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Wealth and Riches

Friends of ours just gave away their Lexus. They have what could be considered wealth by the world's standards but they are as rich in spirit as anyone I know. They have lots of nice things, but they hold those things loosely in their hands. They are humble, kind and compassionate. I am so blessed to call them friends.

A blessed Sabbath!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tuesday Afternoons

We spend one afternoon a week in the library while the boys are taking classes at Tutoring Center. Last week Flower was snuggled up on my lap while I read her books when the public school across the street let out. Within minutes the library was bursting with color and sound and kids everywhere. Apparently, the kids go to the library to await their parents who pick them up at some point. It causes me to sit and ponder how different my kids world is from those who wander the public library for an hour or two after school. First of all, there are really young kids there. Some either really small for their age, or under the age of 7. They leave for school at o'dark:30, spend the day with a teacher or two, surrounded by peers, then released to a public facility where they spend anywhere from 1/2 hour to 2 waiting for a ride. My kids spend the day surrounded by siblings and parents, monitored, looked after, attended to. Personal attention to their personal needs.

One of Miss. R's college-mates called her spoiled on that point. He simply could not fathom that if she didn't get a concept we camped there until she'd mastered it, had curriculum chosen to fit her needs and was encouraged to embrace her passions and dreams, which were different than everyone elses in our one house school. Similarly, a friend from church joined our weekly Bible study after spending a long week-end at a retreat with 2 of our kids. His comment was, "Your kids are people of excellence. I could tell that they had had a lot of personal attention." Interesting to me how personal attention, attention to the details of a child's life, like holding them on a lap during story time, choosing curriculum to fit their needs, etc. can produce, at least from someone elses perspective, people of excellence.

One little girl followed me that Tuesday for 20 minutes through adult non-fiction. I said, "Hello" to her and she smiled and continued to walk 2 feet behind me, waving and saying "hello" every time I glanced at her. We chatted for a few minutes when I asked if she was looking for a particular book. I don't think she was really that interested in the Finance section. Maybe she was looking for a mother figure to give her an encouraging word or she has seen me reading to Flower and hoped that I'd do the same for her. Maybe she was hoping I'd ask her how her day had gone, look her in the eyes; see her, mirror her, reflect back to her her thoughts, ideas and hopes for the day. I hope someone did.