Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Making Decisions

When our children were much younger, Eric and I used to depend on rock-paper-scissors to make many decisions for us.  Who should change the baby's dirty diaper?  Who should get up to comfort the crying child in the night?  Who should feed the baby in the high chair?  Who should respond to the call from the bathroom for "help"?  For these decisions we often immediately put out our fists for the challenge.  Now, I think that this led to an equitable sharing of these duties, but Eric thinks I won more often than he did.  (Winning, of course, means NOT having to do the unpleasant chore....)Obviously this method won't work for any weighty decisions, but for mundane things it's great.  Now I realize there are people who take rock-paper-scissors VERY seriously.  But for us it remains a lighthearted way to make a quick decision about things that don't really matter in the long run.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Words of Wisdom

Just came across this blog post about the busyness of the Christmas season.  Sally at Eternal Echoes has elucidated my thoughts exactly:
No wonder we are weary, we have lost the ability to truly rest, and have forsaken the wonder of waiting, replacing anticipation with headlong rush of activity adding stress to a season that sends bank accounts and relationships spiraling into disaster. How tragic that parents are judged not by the love, care and concern that they have for their children but by the size of the parcel they are able to provide. I speak to mothers who sacrifice bedtime stories and cuddles for part-time jobs simply in order to buy that latest toy for a child whose head has been filled desire for a toy that has been advertised solidly from September onwards. I speak to families stressed out by not being able to buy the approval of relatives and friends. I hear it from my own children as living on student loans they struggle to resist the perils of the season!
Advent is not about chocolate filled calenders it is a season of repentance and fasting just as Lent is, it is also a season of preparation, one that calls us not to look to the babe in the manger but rather to the risen Christ WHO WILL COME AGAIN.
The rest of her post is equally thought-provokoing.  It's nice to see others are pondering these issues and writing about them.

Hat tip to Dave Black for the link.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.--George Santayana

Sixty-eight years ago today Japanese navy planes attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  Most of you who read my blog probably don't need a long description of this event and its consequences for our country.  That's not what I'm writing about today, although it's a fascinating subject. When I was in high school I read everything I could get my hands on about WW II, and wrote a lengthy research paper on the Battle of Midway.  Names like Nimitz, Yamamoto, and the Enterprise, Hornet, Kaga, and Akagi still bring back memories for me of studying that battle in depth.

What's on my mind today, however, is this:  today will pass, for the majority of Americans, with little thought of the historical import of Pearl Harbor.  In February 2008 journalist Steven Knipp wrote for George Mason University's History News Network:
In 2001, the U.S. Department of Education reported that nearly six out of 10 high school seniors knew so little about their own nation’s history that many are basically historically illiterate.
The rest of his article is worth reading, if you can stand to read about just how uninformed American teenagers are these days.  I wonder how much they know about World History?

I don't have the time to get into the "Who is to Blame?" factor, especially since right now I'm supposed to be doing school with my own children, whose schoolwork has devolved into sitting across the table from each other seeing who can roll their tongue or turn it over.  Is it the schools' fault?  Parents?  TV? iPod? Video Games?  Individuals?  I really don't know.  I'm merely lamenting the fact that most people I know don't care about history, don't know about history, and apparently haven't learned anything from history.  As a Christian who believes God's Word is true AND historical, I value history highly.  It makes me sad that most people do not.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Pictorial Essay

The pies the kids and I made the day before Thanksgiving: (guess who made the apple pie?)

Our table set for the Thanksgiving meal:

I treasure the cornucopia that was always on our table when I was a kid:

Our Christmas tree!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Better Than Emeril....

Two weeks ago a member of our church blessed our family in a way we've never before experienced. While I taught my Tuesday afternoon piano lessons, a young man name Micah came and cooked a delicious meal for our family. Micah has gone to cooking school, and his skills are impressive. Here's how it worked:

Earlier in the week Micah sent us an ingredient list for a lemon-and-garlic themed meal. My only labor in the meal (besides grating some cheese....) was to go to the store and purchase the ingredients. At about 4:30 Micah arrived with a huge bag of his own cooking implements: utensils, a stand mixer, roasting pan, etc. He set to work in our kitchen, and soon the smell of roasting garlic permeated the air. My piano students were sniffing appreciatively as their lessons ended.

After a lot of work on Micah's part, and a teeny bit of effort on mine (the aforementioned grating of cheese,) we had delicious, better-than-restaurant-quality food: lemon-garlic-herb-roasted chicken, cheesy-parmesan-roasted garlic potatoes, wonderful lemon-garlic haricots vertes, and a citrus cake with lemon-cream cheese frosting for dessert. Eric and the kids and I were all wowed by the flavors of each dish. Bobby now thinks I should always use roasted garlic, parmesan cheese, and real cream to make mashed potatoes. Everything was seasoned perfectly, and we all ate too much! I should have taken pictures.

What a blessing this was to me and to our whole family. I know that Micah loves to cook, but he did so much work that night that I felt guilty for not helping out more. As a busy home-schooling mom and wife it was an incredible feeling to just sit back and let someone else do all the work. He even did most of the clean up! We are thankful to God that He has added Micah to our Christian family. Not only is he a good cook, but he's fun to hang out with, too. Bonus. Better still, he's planning on cooking for us again. But first I'm going to cook Indian food and have him over to eat with us. I'm already planning: dal makhani, naan, chole.....

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Once again...

we are at my favorite place on earth, Seneca Lake. One reason why I love it here:

My older daughter took that picture last night as we sat around the fire talking, toasting marshmellows, eating s'mores, and drinking coffee.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Two Trees

During our family Bible study this morning we discussed something that I had never really put into words before. We were talking about how the Bible is not only God's Word (inspired, inerrant, infallible) but also a great work of literature with all types/genres of writing in it(narrative, poetry, philosophical exposition, hymns, law, etc.) as well as all literary devices and great over-arching metaphors throughout. It's the greatest work of literature of all time. One of the symbols we see throughout the Bible is the tree: in the Garden--the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; in Psalm 1--the godly man as a tree planted by the water while the ungodly man is the tree that withers; in Revelation, the tree of life; and finally, the cross as a tree. We also see fruit used as a symbol: in the Garden (although I believe it was a real, edible fruit, it's also symbolic,) and the fruit of the Spirit; the word fruit is used 75 times in the New Testament.

Now the thing I had never really put into words before: In the Garden, Adam and Eve ate fruit off a tree, thus losing the innocence wherein they were created, and falling from that state into a state of sin. On the cross, Christ the Firstfruits of man ("But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" I Cor. 15:20) was placed up on a tree and sacrificed atoning for our sin and allowing us to one day--in heaven--return to that state of innocence.

I think I need to do a word study on tree and fruit in the Bible to examine this symbolism more. I mean, I've always known that these words are used frequently, and I've heard sermons about them, but the idea of the fruit coming down off the tree and then Christ being put up on the tree is one I had never truly meditated on before...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Conventional Wisdom Says I Should Be Happy...

...but I'm sad. Google the word "mother-in-law" and you'll find these website gems:

"Mother-In-Law Stories and Mother-In-Law Jokes,"
"Mother-in-Law HELL » Mother-in-Law Advice and Mother-in-Law Stories,"
"Dealing with Mother-in-Law Conflicts - FamilyEducation.com," and
"I Hate My Mother In Law | An Anonymous Group with Personal Stories ...."
Lovely, isn't it?

Most people assume that I would be happy that my mother-in-law and father-in-law left today to go to Kenya for a year to teach at a boarding school for missionary kids and other American students in Africa. (I think they also have African students.) And while I'm happy for them that they have this incredible opportunity, I'm sad for myself, my husband, and our children. We have been blessed to live near them from 1996-2002, and now again from 2007-the present. My mother-in-law is one of my best friends, and I talk to her on the phone nearly every day. My children love going to "Mimi and Papa's" house, and are a teeny bit spoiled by their grandmother (not in a bad way at all---just a little bit of indulgence now and then.)
While we lived in North Carolina from 2002-2006 they frequently came for visits, even surprising the kids a couple of times, and Eric and me once! My heart is too heavy right now to write much more....this is going to be a weird year not having them around....

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

On Preparing for Another Homeschool Year

I'm spending time this week cleaning out school shelves, organizing curriculum materials, and preparing for the upcoming school year. As I look at all that needs to be done, it's overwhelming. This is my next-to-least favorite part of homeschooling. Therefore, I have to remind myself of these things:

God is with me, His Holy Spirit indwells me, and He will give me the strength to get it all done.

I have done this for seven years already, even while we lived in India and during Bobby's chemotherapy.

My kids are doing well academically, and enjoy learning.

No, they aren't lacking in socialization.

It is worth all the effort.

Now that I have my shelves all organized, it's time to get started on lesson planning.

Oh, and my least favorite thing about home schooling? The paperwork we have to do for Chatham County Public Schools. We used to joke that they probably just stick it in a file box under somebody's desk....and then we went to get Caroline's attendance/student status certified (in order for her to get a learner's permit for driving.) We found the right office, and told a nice man at a desk what we needed. From where do you think he pulled our file? A plastic file box that was by the man's feet under his desk. I AM NOT KIDDING.

Now back to work......

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Our 18th Anniversary

Today is Eric's and my 18th anniversary. We met about 20 years ago, and I knew within a few weeks that he would be my husband. But that's a story for another time. What I want to write about today is the major events of our marriage. Just for fun.

July 5, 1991--married in Houghton, NY
May 1993--Eric graduates from Houghton College, I finish my Master's Degree from UB
February 17, 1994--Caroline Ruth born
May 1996--Eric completes Master's Degree from Alfred University
July 1996--we move to Springfield, GA
May 15, 1997--Mary Charlotte born
July 1998--we move to Rincon, GA
December 1, 1998--Robert James a.k.a.Bobby born
November 2000--Mary has cerebral aneurysm repaired successfully
July 2001--10th anniversary getaway at Jekyll Island
July 2002---we move to Wake Forest, NC
January 2005--trip to India
May 2006--Eric receives MDiv. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
October 2006--we move to India
March 2007--we return from India
March-May 2007--Bobby undergoes chemotherapy for Diffuse Large B-cell lymphoma
May 15, 2007--Mary turns 10, and Bobby finishes chemo
June 18, 2008--Eric called to pastor Chevis Oaks Baptist Church
February 20, 2009--Caroline gets learner's driving permit
May 15, 2009--Mary turns 12, Bobby celebrates two years in remission
July 5, 2009---18 years of marriage!

You can surmise the many things I've left off this list, and the details of each story. This list is a bare-bones outline of major events in our lives over the last 18 years. Along the way we have grown in our love for each other and our trust in the Lord. We have learned more (not everything yet!) about patience, suffering, trust, and God's providence than we knew at the beginning of our marriage. I thank God every day for my wonderful husband. I pray that we will continue to grow older together, ministering to each other and to those around us. Deo volente....

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Blessings of a Christian Heritage

Something I've been ruminating on lately is how much I take for granted having grown up in a Christian home. There are a couple of reasons this is on my mind. One is that we had VBS last week at our church, and we had several children come from our community who had no previous experience with church. None. Some of these kids had never been in a church, never heard the Bible read or taught to them, never sung a song about the Lord. WOW. The other reason is that I have met and talked with several adults lately who, although they are Christians now, are suffering the consequences of their childhood/upbringing without any Christian influence. Their whole world view is different from the world view of someone who has been raised with a Biblical world view. They are struggling to learn what the Bible says about how they should live their lives, and to change how they live accordingly.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I'm perfect, have the perfect world view, and live a perfect life. Far from it. But I was blessed to grow up in a home in which: we studied God's Word together as a family; I saw my parents serving, worshiping, and praying; I was taught about modesty, sobriety, stewardship, and self-control (among other things); I learned that Christians CAN have a sense of humor, have fun, and have joy; I learned how to think Christian-ly (sorry for the made-up word.) My world view was shaped and molded in an environment that fostered both intellectual and spiritual pursuits.

Throughout my adult life I have been reminded often that not everyone grew up the way I did. Not everyone had parents who advocated lots of reading and musical development, cultural literacy as well as spiritual growth. Not everyone had parents who modeled a good Biblical marriage and parenting. Not everyone has been blessed as I have. Does this make me better? NO. Why did I have this advantage? I don't know. It surely humbles me...drives me to my knees to thank God for my parents, my in-laws, my husband, my children, and makes me appreciate them more.

I'll keep pondering it. And I'll keep it in mind as I counsel, pray for, and talk with others whose life experiences are vastly different from mine.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On Getting Bitten (for the second time) by a Hamster

We got Mary a Russian dwarf hamster like the one pictured above for her birthday on the 15th. It's a cute little thing named Lizzie; only about four inches long fully grown. It bit me the first or second day out of fear, and I forgave it. After all, she was in a new place with strangers, right?

Tonight's incident was a little different. She was running around in her little clear plastic ball while Mary cleaned her cage and changed her food and water. Next thing we know, Mary is saying, "Um...Mom...Lizzie got out of her ball...." WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Sure enough, there in the kitchen was an empty, open hamster ball. What to do.

Eric got a flashlight and quickly located the rodent under the stove. We pulled out the drawer under the stove, and there she was, hiding from us. Now, here is where I should have checked online for how to pick up a scared hamster. I SHOULD have gotten some of her food or a treat, put in in my hand, and then gotten her to climb on my hand. Better yet, I should have made Mary do all of that. But no, I had to be dumb and just reach in there and pick her up. She squeaked bloody murder and bit my thumb. HARD. Blood-drawingly hard. Painfully hard.

Lizzie is now back in her cage, and I have a band-aid on my thumb. We live and learn!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spoke too soon...

I finished my last post by promising to write about why we were having a respite from troubles. A day or two later I got sick. Upper respiratory infection that led to acute bronchitis and then to allergy-induced asthma. So here I am 2+ months later finally writing. I still think our family is in a relatively calm period of life. The kids are all pretty healthy, which I used to take for granted but never again. Eric is truly enjoying ministering and preaching at our church Chevis Oaks Baptist, and I'm also enjoying being part of life there as well as home schooling the kids, teaching piano lessons, and generally loving life in our new home. We are so blessed to have the friends that God has given us. Our house is perfect for our family. Our church is an alive, loving place with people who really love the Lord and want to grow spiritually. So what if I was sick for a month and a half? As my husband/pastor so eloquently reminded us Sunday night, we all deserved the Lake of Fire, but God has saved us from that. So what else could be that bad?

I do think there are reasons for our current season of calm. (Oh, Lord, please let it last a little longer!) The first is that we needed this after two and a half years of transient living and uncertainty. The kids in particular needed a sense of stability and peace. The other reason that I'm seeing more and more is that Eric and I both need a place of calm and quiet to refresh ourselves since being in ministry takes a lot of energy. We have people in our church who are dealing with
tough issues in life, among them: marital difficulties, illness (their own or a relative's,) job insecurity, children in crisis, unanswered spiritual questions. In order to be able to help them/encourage them/talk to them/cry with them/pray with them we need a fairly calm life of our own. To take on others' burdens is a privilege, mind you. I find it actually blesses me and strengthens me to be there for others. But if Eric and I were dealing with crises in our own lives, we wouldn't be able to help others.

Since we don't know the mind of God I won't dare to guess what our next real trial will be. Please don't misunderstand, our lives aren't perfect (whose life is?) We have to budget our money, discipline our kids, pay taxes, clean the house, do the laundry, pay the bills, etc. But these are merely the normal tasks of life. During this time we need to be sure to stay in God's Word and not slack spiritually. Isn't it funny how we tend to cling most tightly to the Lord in times of trouble? Should I be praying FOR a trial? Or should I be thanking God we're not in one right now? Or both?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What We Did to the House

Today our friend Tom Lingenfelter came and installed a beautiful storm door for us. Eric's parents blessed us with the storm door, and Link, as we call him, blessed us by installing it for us. Once it was installed it became clear that we would have to change out the light fixture just outside the door since the door banged into it and could only open a third of the way. Link took it down, and I ordered a new one. This whole process started me thinking about everything we have done to this house, with a HUGE amount of help from family (especially Eric's mom, Charlotte,) and friends: Ralph and Vickie Benson, Mike May, Kenny and Betsy Collins, Tom and Mary Lingenfelter, and a few others I'm probably forgetting. I'm trying to remember everything:

--Stripped old wallpaper in kitchen.
--Fixed walls in kitchen.
--Painted nearly every surface, including all ceilings. Closets were left alone.
--Tiled the dining room, kitchen, pantry and laundry area.
--Replaced ceiling fans in Caroline's room.
--Replaced carpet in living room, hallway, and three bedrooms.
--Replaced moulding around fireplace.
--Had a window/hole/pass-through thing cut between kitchen and living room.
--Fixed ceiling fan in one bedroom, replaced remote control for it.
--Replaced all outlets (Eric did most of this, electricians did a few GFCI ones.)
--Installed hood microwave over stove.
--Re-floored master bathroom.
--Removed old whole-house water filter that was gross and disgusting.
--Had electricians repair doorbell, broken light switch, and a few outlets.
--Finally, today, had storm-door installed.
--In about a week, we'll be putting in a new light fixture outside over the door.

There are probably other things I'm forgetting, but those are the main ones.The bulk of the work was done by Eric and all those other people I listed. I did a lot of painting and wallpaper stripping, but I was trying to keep the kids doing school for the three weeks it took to do all of this. The kids also did quite a bit of painting in their own rooms in the afternoons after school. God blessed us greatly with friends who know how to do all of this stuff and who volunteered their time and labor. We could never have afforded to do all of this otherwise. We now have a house that looks and feels inside like a brand new home.

PRAISE THE LORD! His mercy and grace are never-ending. He has taught me in great detail over the past couple of months that He will provide all of our needs (and many of our wants!) according to His riches in glory. When Eric and I sold almost everything to move overseas, I had great fears and doubts--What will we do if we have to come back? Should we put everything in storage? What if? What if?
Eric always steadfastly maintained that God is in control and would provide if that happened. Sure enough, since we came back He provided us with a place to live and then with this house, furnished by donations, outfitted with love by our family and church family. What have I learned? Well, I can't truthfully say as Buttercup says in The Princess Bride "I will never doubt again." However, I do know that what Westley says is true: "There will never be a need." My sin nature will arise and I will probably doubt, but there is no need. God will provide.

NEXT POST: Some reasons I think God is letting us have respite from troubles these days...

Monday, February 09, 2009

New House, No Voice

So, we've moved into a new house. We bought it on Dec. 29th last year, and spent a month renovating. We painted every surface including ceilings, tiled the dining room and kitchen, and re-carpeted all but one of the rooms. And be "we" I mean our whole family, Eric's parents, and MANY friends who volunteered time and talents to make it a beautiful home. We are so blessed! Our church family threw us a house-warming party, and ALL of our furniture was donated except the couch and love seat (which we bought new, and have yet to be delivered.) Even the TV was a gift. God has shown us over and over how He provides for his children. We moved in on Jan. 24th, and have been enjoying it ever since. My desire is to have our home be an oasis of peace for our family and for anyone who comes over to visit.

On a different topic, I lost my voice last Thursday and have not been able to talk out loud since. I can force it to come out as a raspy thing that sounds like I've been smoking for thirty years (no, I haven't!) The kids say my Roz-from-Monster's-Inc. imitation is spot-on...."Wazowski, did you do your paperwork? Your stunned silence is very reassuring." But seriously, it hurts to talk at all. Therefore, I'll be having Caroline call the doctor for me in a few minutes.

Now that we're back on-line I'll be writing more often.