Friday, October 29, 2010


      We intuitively know that beauty follows order.  It's hard to find the lovely beneath those thick layers of crud and clutter.  If I can clear a little space, make a pocket of loveliness, I have somewhere to rest my eyes.  Beauty to cheer my heart.  Ally found marigolds.  They are the only flower blooming in the yard right now.  She filled our little bottles, treasures unearthed in the yard, a little adornment for the windowsill.
     One definition of adorn is to lend beauty to.  The word is from French and before that Latin.  Ad-ornare meaning "to" and "to decorate."  But it seems the stem word of ornare is ordo, and ordo is order.  A little order to lend its beauty to our home.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Not Catering to Public Opinion

     Bryan advised me to regularly write posts using the words, "all those other psycho homeschoolers."
     After three months of chaos, yesterday we put hundreds of books back on the shelves.  The walls behind them are now a wonderfully warm yellow.  The trim is white.  I keep the bathroom door shut so I don't see the work there is left to be done.  I'm ready for a little beauty and a lot of order.
     My basic goal in home organization is to be able to find most things, most of the time.  I'm not quite up to being able to put my hand on anything in my house in thirty seconds.  When my kids are looking for Meet George Washington I like to find it with other American history books.  If we can't find it, I tell them to choose another book (yes, I have a relaxed educational philosophy).  When I feel mad thinking about an area,  I tackle it, throw out the junk, line up the books and breathe a sigh of relief.  I need a workable, livable home.
     Yesterday I laughingly asked Bryan if I should organize our books by subject and alphabetically by author, "like all those other psycho homeschoolers."  He wisely advised me that if I did, I'd have to make four kids keep it that way.  Then coming back upstairs with another load of books he told me to use those words regularly in my blog.  He was joking, but I think I will.  It's nothing personal against psycho homeschoolers, I'd probably love to know them, and maybe I envy them.  But sometimes people seem a wee bit carried away.  For now, I'm happy with my system (when it works).
    Someday I might change my mind.  Someday I might be convicted about my lack of homekeeping skills.  Then I'll change my ways.  I'll organize our fiction library by author's last name.  We'll use the Dewey Decimal system and make labels for the spines of the books.  Or, better yet, I'll use the Library of Congress system; my kids will have an advantage in college.  I'll write an authoritative post advising everyone else to do the same.  A homeschool magazine will come calling and I'll write articles on organizing your home library.  Someday I'll be an expert, I'm only lacking a little conviction.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Literacy - A True Tale

     My husband, Bryan, loves sports.  Though he was a Bible major in college, in real life he coaches college soccer, and loves his job.
     Recently, in Austin, between games, Bryan planned a trip to an art museum.  That, in itself, is humorous, Bryan isn't a lover of fine arts.  In the museum, Bryan walked through with two young ladies, one a foreign student with a different cultural heritage.  Together they discussed the paintings and what they might be about.
     "I think in this one they're bringing the king something to eat."
     Bryan looks carefully at the distorted reality  (I've suggested it was akin to Pablo Picasso's art) and realizes this is no feast, this is a head on a platter.  Bryan begins to tell a carefully detailed story of John the Baptist.  He turns to find he's gathered a crowd.  Behind him are standing members of his team, several other patrons, and most interesting of all, the curator.  Bryan laughingly asks the expert, "Well did I get that all wrong?"
    "Oh, no.  I've never heard anyone tell the story in that much detail before."  Then the curator moves on with them to the next painting, Samson and Delilah, and so Bryan begins another Bible lesson.  The curator was entirely unfamiliar with Samson.  He understands color and composition but not the subject matter of the artist.
     Bryan and his ladies moved on, not realizing they were being shadowed until they were stumped by one painting and hear from behind them, "The French invasion of Haiti."  Throughout the rest of the afternoon the curator joined them in conversation, sharing knowledge with Bryan.  Bryan, though ignorant of art, has an inside knowledge of the tradition it's rooted in.  Bryan can't discuss forms or schools (and neither can I!), but Bryan knows the greatest story, the men who lived the plan, and the God who rules over all.
     I laughed as Bryan told his tale.  But it's not funny.  A smart, successful man has no understanding of the Biblical truth shining in his gallery.  And crowds of people aimlessly pass, unable to appreciate the message.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


     There will be a famine in the land, not for bread, says Amos, but for the Word of the Lord.  God's people would be hungry, unable to fill their souls and be satisfied.  I'm beginning to think we live in a hungry time.
     We've been watching Ken Burns' National Parks series and I am awed by the powerful prose of John Muir, lover of the wilderness and wildness.  John Muir, so literate in the true Word, infused his writing with Biblical images and crafted verses in praise of the temples and cathedrals of Nature.  He claims to have memorized all of the New Testament and two-thirds of the Old by the time he was eleven.
    I think our standard of literacy has changed.  Frances Ridley Havergal, who wrote Take My Life and Let it Be, mem­o­rized the Psalms, Isai­ah, and most of the New Test­a­ment.  I can only wonder how.
     This isn't a minority opinion.  Classical Christian educators have written about our culture's failure to join in the "Great Conversation" of Western Culture.  The unbeliever of today doesn't have the Biblical background to understand all of the nuanced references to the Word that the writers and artists of the past employed.  We all, I'm sure, know even Christians who seem to comfortably wed a love for Christ with Biblical illiteracy.
     But in a famine, food is costlier and more scarce for all.  What if I think myself full, but am emaciated and weak?  What if all the reading, studying and memorizing I've done is but a crumb from a well supplied table?
     We had a Sabbath School teacher once who spoke of the hours we've invested knowing God increasing our capacity to enjoy Him throughout eternity.  He said God fills every cup to overflowing, but how big is our cup?  I think that I come greedy for the goodness of God, and hold out my cup, like a German beer stein.  What if I find it's a thimble?

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Geography Quiz

     Ally is thirteen now.  She is all sweetness toward the Lord and her family, swims a mean 100 meter, cooks sweet potatoes like mad, and makes a white pizza that guarantees I eat too much for dinner.  Ally is so very diligent, working through her math every day, then thrills me by gushing over Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain because with each new episode he compares Biblical and English history.  She's the kind of girl I like to have around.
     Rising to the top of all other passions, is a love for geography.  She puts an atlas on her birthday and Christmas list, then the next birthday and Christmas list.  She puts those crazy books on the scale to see how weighty her reading is (the heaviest is 13 pounds) and carries them around to peruse in her free time.  Studying doubles as an upper body work out.  Before I ever wrote my first word here, I promised her a day a week to include a geography quiz.  She'll write her own questions and the answers will immediately follow, so no peeking!  Ally decided to start off nice and easy, but she'll build up to harder questions in time.  I've been working on a picture to accompany this, but it's been overcast and gray here so I'll try again next time.  Here we go...
Southern U.S. States
1.  Mobile River and Tuskegee University are in what state famous, before the 1930's, for its cotton?
2.  Mt. Magazine, the highest point at 2753 feet, and Crater of Diamonds State Park are in what US state?
3.  If you were to visit the John F. Kennedy Space Center and the Everglades National Park you would     travel to what state?
4.  The Blue Ridge Mountains are in the Tar Heel State, bordering South Carolina.  What is the name of the Tar Heel State?
5.  The Cumberland River which flows through Nashville, is the capital city of a state which was also home to Elvis Presley, a rock and roll singer.

Answers: 1.  Alabama  2.  Arkansas  3.  Florida  4.  North Carolina  5.  Tennessee

Friday, October 22, 2010

Genuinely Ordinary

     After yesterday's post, a little follow up is appropriate.  I didn't get everything accomplished.  Yesterday's clean laundry is still folded and in the laundry basket.  Truthfully, though, sloth and laziness aren't measured only by the outcome, but by the attitude of my heart.  Just ask the mother of a two year old how hard she works compared to how many tasks she finishes in a day!  Heart examination is called for.  Yesterday I was willing to push myself a little.  Work a little longer.  Think a little more deeply.  Now I'm praying I can do it again today,  that God changes my heart from the inside out, bit by bit, over time.
     So the truth: it  never all gets done here.  I might write about that.  But I want my blog to be irrepresibly cheerful and hopeful.  I'm such a pessimist, a little optimism will do me good.  I want to remember the good.
      I live in an adult world, but I'm writing words I want even my seven year old daughter to read.  I won't be dishonest, but I'll filter so that what's found here is the good, the true and the lovely.
     No perfect people live here.  Wouldn't it be nice if they did?  But then I wouldn't fit in at all.  I won't write about their weaknesses.  Here I'll filter their lives through a lens of love.
     When I post pictures of my house, I won't show you the mess, the dishes in the sink or dust bunnies on the floor.  We have that here, in abundance.  Again, I'm looking for the lovely.  Focusing the camera in a little closer and finding the ideal.
     I'll be real.  Honest.  Genuine.   I won't exaggerate, I'll look for the good that's already there and showcase it.  But if you meet us in real life, we are so very ordinary you'd hardly notice us.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Chore of the Day

     Reading World Magazine this morning, I was challenged by Joni Erickson Tada.  She’s fighting another battle, against breast cancer this time, in one campaign of the war.  Though people want to pray for healing, she tells us she wants to be set free from her laziness and sloth.
     Do I want to be set free from my laziness and sloth?  Do I pray for that freedom from sin more earnestly than I seek a few quiet minutes on the couch?  When I despair over laziness and sloth in my children, do I see how closely tied their sin is to my own?
     When I’ve asked Sam to hang his shirts in his closet, it requires not just my asking, but thirty seconds of my time to walk in and check the closet, and maybe another minute to send him in to finish the job.  Ally knows she washes all the breakfast dishes, but sometimes they’re still in the sink at lunch.  It takes not only her diligence, but my own to get the job done.  I’ve grown a bit in grace and now I labor to see character formed in my children.  Still, I need diligence to hang all the clothes in my own closet, and wash every dinner dish in the sink.  I need diligence to not just begin, but to finish every job.
     Today I need to pray to be set free from my sins of sloth and laziness.  I need to pray I scrub the toilets, which really is my chore for today.  And fold the laundry, finding it all put away at the end of the day, because I ought to every day.  I need to pray I take time to play on the floor with Arden and not be anxious to play on my own.  I need to pray I take time to check written papers, and hear about history readings.  I need to pray I make dinner, and do it well, though cold cereal sounds so much easier.  I need to pray I leave time at the end of the day to read the Bible.  I need all the diligence Christ can form in me, to do my job as homemaker and mother, and do it well.  I want to be like Jesus, and He did all things well (Mark 7:37).
     I don’t know how to root out sin, except by prayer, except in Christ.  The measure of a good day shouldn’t be found in the fun I had, or the things I bought, but in quiet, unnoticed obedience.   And now, I need to get up and live it.             

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Our Friend Sal

      Yesterday Arden snuggled beside Kara on the couch, feet tucked up and leaning into her.  Bold and confident Kara reads Blueberries for Sal.  We've read that book so many times, picking memories all the way.
     Earnest Ally, Flighty Sam and Baby Kara picking blueberries among six foot bushes and we chant out together plink, plank, plunk.  We had read it, and read it and lived it sans the bear.  I know we're not the only ones.
     Even earlier I remember the first time I read it to Ally, on another couch, another house, a faraway state.  Back in the days when my girl and I would read an hour at a time til my throat hurt and we'd hit the books again in the afternoon.  When Little Sal and Little Bear are all mixed up on Blueberry Hill, Little Ally tenses; she knows they'll be found out, laughs out when they are found, and breathes out when they go home with their mother.  I knew we'd read that book a hundred more times, because that's one good story.
     In another house, and another state Little Kara opens a present, her very own hardcover copy of Blueberries for Sal.  A book we chose hoping someday she'd sit with her own little ones and read of buckets and blueberries and bears.  And she loved that book.  She loved that book so dearly she carefully cut out a page and I found her on the living room floor coloring Sal.  All those line drawings, just begging for one more artist to add her touch.
     Yesterday I mentioned to Kara that it wasn't possible to read the story to Arden, it's missing a page.  Oh no, she'll just tell Arden the missing page of the story, and read him the rest.  We laughed, our memories all mixed up on Blueberry Hill, and Jolly Kara says, "Well, it does look like a coloring book."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why I Write

     I've resisted blogging for years.  I'm convicted you ought to do all things well.  No half-hearted, shoddy efforts.  Although in real life I get by with a mediocre effort, because that's real life and I'm exhausted at the end of every day.  If so many people were blogging, and some so well, I didn't want to disappear into the uninspired, unread masses.
     Bryan, however, kept enouraging me, telling me I have wisdom to offer, searching for time in my days to sit and type out my ideas.  The crux of his argument was that I like to write, and so I should write regardless of the outcome.  I do like to write.  If you could get inside my head you'd find me composing sentences, and reworking the words, ten or a hundred times over.  I ponder how to describe the quality of autumn light, sun warmed hair in the garden, or golden sun on the honey floor and how it reminds me of the blessings of heaven.  It's my secret life.
     I decided to blog, not for my audience, but for myself; for the pleasure of setting out line by line the thoughts that fill my days.
     Yet, as soon as my first words were on the screen, I did have an audience.  An audience I had to shoo away, "You are not allowed to read over my shoulder."  Not because of the content, but sometimes a mother needs a little space.  When the words are done, I move aside and let my lovely girl, who's watching my life so closely now, sit and read.   Then three more excited faces crowd in, though one only thinks he can read.  And Bryan comes in the door and asks, excited, "Did you blog?"  I have an audience.  You, if you read this, are welcome, but I'm writing for them.
     Like so many other things in my life, I thought I was doing this for myself.  Instead, I'm doing it for my family.  That is just the way it ought to be.

Monday, October 18, 2010


     Naming our four children wasn't easy for us.  My favorites, Annika and Silas, were soundly rejected by Bryan.  We both loved Emma, yet you won't find an Emma in our house.  You will find Kara.  Her name wasn't on a list at all; it belonged to her all in an instant.
     Naming a blog was easier, but brought back memories of all the pressures inherent in naming.  You want a name to express so much, to encompass who you are and a whole host of  future hopes.
     My favorite idea is already taken, and I was hung up on that for awhile.  How could I go on when the perfect name was already taken?  I moved on to Psalm 84 and the idea of a swallow nesting by the altars of God.  But the name just wasn't coming and discussion degenerated into phrases like, "Surely goodness and lovingkindness will swallow me all the days of my life."  We moved on to Isaiah 44 and poplars by streams of water.  Blossoming Poplar was floated, which I liked, liking Tulip Poplar trees, but had to pass on because I didn't want the name to exalt my own life.  Someone else needs to be exalted here.
    Sam was an idea factory.  Running Rabbit, except I don't have much to do with rabbits.  Anything to do with rabbits.  Or Homeschooler at Large, except I want to write about a fair bit more than just homeschooling.
     In the end it was Bryan who named the blog.  He was the perfect winner.  He has been the encourager.  The force moving me to act and stop thinking.  That his idea sits in the header is absolutely right.  It proves how well he knows me and what I want in life.
     A nomenclator is one who assigns names.  It is from the Latin, literally a slave reminding his master of  names of the people they meet.  Except, of course, he's not my slave.  But we walk together and whisper those quiet words of assistance in the other's ear.  Bryan, the nomenclator.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Choosing a Desired Haven

"Then they were glad because they were quiet, so he guided them to their desired haven.  Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness...."
Psalm 107:30-31
In Him alone I find rest and a quiet haven and I am glad.