Monday, August 29, 2011

Musing on the Deeds of the Lord

Consider the word muse. Webster's 1828 Dictionary includes these definitions: to ponder; to think closely; to study in silence.

Now, think of amuse. When you are amused, you are entertained, diverted. You are also a-mused, you are not pondering, thinking, studying. I admit, this isn't a dictionary definition, if you look up the etymology of amuse, this isn't what you'll find. Nevertheless, this is true. 

A little time and space to muse or meditate on the things of God is good for our souls. Though we go to great lengths to avoid it, a little boredom, a dearth of amusements, may provide space to seek after God. Long, quiet nights and days of silent work gave the ancients a wealth of time to consider God and ponder His works. I can't duplicate that wealth, but I can, I am determined to, create quiet, allow what we call boredom, as opportunity to set my mind on the things of God.

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.
Psalm 63:6

I will remember my song in the night;
I will meditate with my heart,
And my spirit ponders.
Psalm 77:6

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
Psalm 1:2

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Caterpillar ID

I am a would-be naturalist. I would be one except that every time I try to identify a snake, lizard, or turtle I can't distinguish one brown creature from the next. Though we stock our shelves with field guides, I only find them helpful in learning more about the birds or moths I already know.

Today we found a three inch caterpillar in the grass. Naturally, it's coloring didn't seem to match any other caterpillar we could find pictured on the internet. This is why I can't be a naturalist. Here the caterpillar is, making his way around the old butterfly cage:

Arden first reported that the caterpillar had no eyes. Then Arden returned, laughing, he had been looking at the wrong end. Hilarious.

I immediately thought of tomato horn worms. I have terrible memories of plucking hundreds of tomato horn worms from my garden in Colorado. There's just one problem: this guy isn't really the same color, nor the color of any other cataloged caterpillar.

There is help, even for a naturalist as ignorant as I. We stumbled upon a website by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System designed to help even an idiot identify their child's latest acquisition. If you scroll all the way down the page, there's a simple diagram of a caterpillar followed by a series of questions to identify your specimen, based on how many abdominal prolegs it has. If you're like me, refer back to the drawing once (maybe even twice) to figure out what an abdominal proleg is.

We think, perhaps, our friend is a tobacco hornworm. I can call him our friend. Our garden has been dead for several weeks. And he's moved in with our family. All of the budding naturalists can sleep happy under our roof tonight.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On My Trail

Here are the words I've been reading today, the pictures I've seen, that have impressed me. There is a vast disparity in the subject matter, and that's me. I'm rarely focused on only one thing at a time.

Sally Clarkson's post My Sweet Mama Is Now Gone From Me Forever is a precious reminder that being a mama is all about giving life. We give life not simply by giving birth, in fact that is the easy part. A good mama gives life to her children until the day she dies. I read with tears, feeling inadequate for this calling, especially when I consider yesterday.

Yesterday Arden's behavior was on a downward spiral. I think he was having a hard time adjusting to the school schedule. Things weren't going his way. He wasn't going our way. We battled it out all afternoon. I was reduced to being the kind of mother I don't want to be: the angry, yelling, exhausted, mopey mother. Bryan put him in the tub after dinner. I made my way upstairs determined to have a few sweet minutes with him before bed. A few minutes to wash him, brush his teeth, cuddle him, read him a Bible story, enjoy some smiles, a few kisses and remember that everything was alright.

"Hey mom, want to see something?" In retrospect, yes was the wrong answer. But I had said yes, and saw the tidal wave rush up the back side of the claw foot tub and gush onto the floor. The most gracious response I could summon was to walk away.

By God's grace I have another opportunity today to be a life-giving mother to my children.

And  now for the disconnect: I discovered Michael Yon. I have a secret, though not-so-secret anymore, fascination with war. I come from a family of peace-niks (nobody is allowed to mention this to mom!). My husband, though he supports some military engagements, is a man of peace. The subject is in discord with my own personality, but I can't help myself, I'm fascinated. And so, I bookmarked Michael Yon. The dispatch Tracer Burnout drew me in, and captivated me. There are not only US troops, and Afghan troops, but an entire civilian population in desperate need of our prayers and the grace of God.

Life. Eternal life, bubbling over from the wells of salvation, is a universal need.

Monday, August 22, 2011

First Day

We started school today. No bells or whistles. No games, no treats. A few quick pictures on the front porch, then we cracked open the books.

Of course, things didn't go smoothly. We couldn't remember where critical items, like math answer keys, were. Only last week that I organized everything, so clearly there is some logic to the mindset that believes we should keep everything out all the time. There may have been one frustrated moment when I griped that it was a terrible first day. I was hoping for some magic over the summer, but the same students, with the same weaknesses, showed up today.

My students woke up this morning and everything I love about them is also still true. One is amazingly diligent. One can fly through math lessons. One adores spelling. Who doesn't love a child who begs to do spelling? Arden is thrilled to finally, officially, be of school age. He asked to do three hours of "spelling," which is really phonics done with the spelling equipment. We didn't. He counted by two's and five's upside down on his head on the couch. Best of all, we've already deviated from our read-aloud list for the year. We started Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green because now he's on a Robin Hood kick. And there is nothing more fun than a new kick.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Moment of Our Day

Hope your day held just a few moments that were equally as lovely.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


A couple years ago, clear back when Arden was three or four, we toured a little Civil War battle site, the Battle of Hartsville. Heard of it? Probably not, and that 's okay. The tour consists of nothing more than a few hundred feet of walking trail overlooking a hay field, explanatory signs and a couple of roadside markers. That was Arden's first battle field he'd visited since becoming a fully conscious human being. He was impressed. Awed. He rode along in the van digesting what he had seen, planning for the future, then asked the impossible:

"Mom, will you watch my first battle?"

Tomorrow begins soccer pre-season here at our house. The Coach is excited. Recruiting went well last year and things are looking up. Tonight the team did "FWOC," which is Fun Without Coaches, just in case, like me, you had no idea. Team bonding. One stop was at our home. (So technically it's not totally devoid of coaches.) Bryan and I met them on the front porch, walked up the driveway to the backyard with them and then our kids ambushed them with Nerf guns. Bryan and I laughed when someone screamed (I know the grammar's wrong, but this is what she said), "There's more." Four, a veritable horde.

A sophomore was was suddenly standing there beside me. Purple hair. Art major. A clumsy butterfly covering her face from the face painting activity. When she arrived she had said, "A butterfly, of all things!" There were some rocky times last year, days of not knowing where she stood. But tonight in the dusk she reminded me that someone is always listening. At some point last year I must have told the story of Arden's dream of glory. People take away from every moment more than we realize. What are we giving?

Tonight in the dusk she said, "It's his first battle, and you're here to see it."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The New Ugly Room

I'd love to tell you I finished off the room today, but that would be a lie. I spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone with United Airlines representatives who were in India. I realize it's not their fault, but there are some serious cross-cultural communication issues. I need them to understand me when I speak. Then I worked on Ally's ninth grade history book lists for the year. Then, of course, a few errands and a quick rain shower that fell while our laundry was on the line. So the little annoyances of yesterday remain.

In the top photo is our Elvis table. The best possible table for kids and crafts, it is almost indestructible. I love it. We plan to add little buckets full of colored pencils and pens, set up against the wall. From the photo I notice we need to hang something above the table. We'll give that consideration for a few months. Window treatments would be nice as well. Too bad we can't replace that floor, like the table it's indestructible.

Next up, the book shelf. It's nice when the books are so neatly aligned. Another organizational challenge lies in keeping things organized. Just to take the pictures I had to clean up the mess of a roving child.

Next, the desk scene. Ally thinks she may work there this year, last year she did a lot of reading on her bed. Maybe too much, now she wants to try the desk. We plan to buy a new shade for the lamp. The big printer/copier used to be on the desk, but moving it onto the bookshelf seems to have been a good choice. The room seems much cozier. I have one more shelf, but I'll need Bryan to drill a couple new holes. I plan to make a narrow shelf right above the printer to store paper on.

And finally, the piano. And what can I say about that?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Putting It Back Together

After breakfast and a quick round of cards, a game we call Charlie Brown Poker, Ally and I started painting. We spent all day Saturday painting the ceiling of The Ugly Room, the room where the water disaster lately occurred. All day I spent up and down the ladder, painting 12 foot ceilings. I was paint splattered and sore when we were done. Aren't they beautiful words though? We were done.

Then we began reorganizing furniture, dragging shelves here and there. We had to call in reinforcement to move the piano across the floor. We called in The Minions to carry all the books down the stairs and stack them on the table. Ally and I started filling the shelves.

Then we rested (it was Sunday).

Today after dental appointments I was back in the ugly room, organizing, and finding space for all those books and science kits and phonics sets. We carefully tallied how many notebooks each student would need this year, and labeled them, then lined them up on the shelf. After five hours (why do we have so much stuff?) we were left with just a few, maybe four, things I couldn't figure out where to place.

My mom called. In a weary, grumbling voice I responded to her enthusiasm over a job nearly completed. Because after all that work, I was discouraged. I love to be organized, but the process saps me dry. I prayed for help in creating a beautiful home, and for a heart that would shine beautifully in the midst of it. I asked God for perseverance and a few good ideas. Then in the end I am discontent, because it's not perfect, because when I post the pictures tomorrow the room won't wow you.

My mom just laughed and told me to let go of that perfectionism. Then she laughed again, knowing she's hardly one to talk. That's always the struggle, excellence versus perfectionism. The struggle between being a diligent, hard working homemaker, and someone who nitpicks too many details. I know I should let go, but if I do, where do I grab the rope again?

Monday, August 8, 2011


Ally created a new Pandora station. She entered "Jesus Paid It All" by Fernando Ortega and I think we've listened to it every day since. There are traditional hymns, yet not with an organ in the background, and a few new songs as well. The itunes list of songs we want to buy has been growing. Our new discovery is Jadon Lavik and his album "Roots Run Deep." Ally had that playing all morning while she cleaned house, and tonight the words from those hymns are still running through my head. It's good stuff.

I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim,
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

And Boaz

Boaz. Strength.

Boaz was the leading man in the story of Ruth, the man who married this foreigner and brought her into the family of God. He was older, well-seasoned we might say, certainly wiser, wealthy, kind to his workers, a true worshiper of the Lord. In kindness he offered Ruth the protection and provision of gleaning in his fields. His kindness, when noted by Naomi, led her to hatch a desperate plot.

He is our kinsman-redeemer, Naomi conspires with Ruth. A kinsman-redeemer was a provision in God's law (Lev. 25 and Deut. 25), a family member who would buy the desperate out of debt and slavery and, if needed, raise up an heir to the family name. The commentary I read suggested that Boaz may not have been under a strict legal obligation in this instance, otherwise why would stealth be required? But as a lover of the Law, Boaz was compelled to keep the spirit of it. A redeemer.

As instructed by Naomi, in the darkest night Ruth crept to Boaz as he lay down to sleep on the threshing floor. (In spite of the ambiguity here, I believe Ruth was chaste in all her actions. I think too highly of Ruth and Boaz to assume anything else.) She secretly laid at his feet and when discovered implored him, "so spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative."

Boaz, strength. "Do not fear," he tells her. "I will do for you whatever you ask." If a closer relative would not redeem Ruth, and Naomi then, "I will redeem you, as the LORD lives." These are the words of a strong man. He would not rest until he had accomplished it (Ruth 3:18).

There is a greater Redeemer portrayed in Ruth, a greater love story in these four short chapters. He purchased Noami back from the curse of bitterness and despair. His love paid the the cost of redeeming Ruth from the curse of the law, the cost of making her one of the people of God. This Redeemer is Christ.

Trembling, we too come to Jesus in the darkness of our souls. We hide at His feet and when found, beg for covering. He stretches over us the robe of His righteousness, He covers all our sins. He speaks the words of a strong man, the words that cast out fear. He speaks the words of love, a love that answers every whispered request. He redeems us from the curse against us and makes us the people of God. He did not rest until it was accomplished, on the cross, and now sits at the right hand of God Most High, always living to make interecession for us, His bride.
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped; therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him." Psalm 28:7

*I have enjoyed Esther and Ruth by Iain M. Duguid, part of the Reformed Expository Commentary series.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Knowing the Names Changes the Story

If you were living a a town called the House of Bread, you would have certain expectations. Just as you would if your husband's new job were to be in Pleasant Grove. Pleasant Grove conjures up pastoral images of tree shaded pastures. So, House of Bread leads one to believe there would be ample provision of bread.

There was famine in the House of Bread, and I think they may have been long hungry years. So long in fact that the man "God is King" named his firstborn son "Sickly." Had his wife's life-giving body been so poorly nourished that Sickly appeared half-starved at birth? Or had the father simply despaired of the future for his newly born child? Then as the months passed, the House of Bread remained empty. A second son was born in this dark home and as he burst forth upon this life, his father named him "Wasting Away." The baby's first cry began his long decline.

Then "God is King" turned from the King of All Life, he walked away from that house of famine and made his home in a new land. But this isn't just about where he pitched his tent. He could not escape God. God acted as King and stretched out His hand, not in grace but in judgment and took the very life this man had been struggling to preserve. He left behind sickly, wasting boys and a wife who would call herself "Bitter."

Who are they? The faithless man was Elimelech. Taking his lovely, pleasant wife, Naomi, by the hand he led her away from the hungry city of Bethlehem and into the land of Moab. He led her away from God's promises and God's law. He spurned repentance and refused to offer sacrifices for sin that might have ended the famine. Instead his hope of life was with the enemies of God's people. In Deuteronomy 23 God had excluded the Moabites from His people for ten generations. Now you know the story, don't you? His sickly, wasting sons lived long enough to marry, then followed their father into a soul hungry grave. For we cannot turn our back on the true Bread of Life and live without Him.

And so Naomi, bitter now and wishing to be called Mara, returns to her own people, but with a friend at her side. Ruth.

Ruth whose name means friend. Ruth the Moabitess, meant to be excluded from the congregation of God's people for ten generations. Ruth who sought refuge under the wings of God (2:12).

Ruth, the friend of God.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Kindergarten Read-Alouds

I made a list and sent Kara to gather all the books. She brought them back in a pillowcase. We lined them up on the shelf. There they are: Arden's Kindergarten Read-Alouds.

How did I decide what books we would read together? They must hold his interest. Boys as protagonists, if possible. A few pictures mixed in with the text. Simple, and a few harder selections to challenge his listening skills. I don't want to be bored while reading; I'm looking for a skillful story line and literary story telling. After all these years of reading aloud I am finished with boring books - there are so many good ones we could enjoy instead.

Arden and I will read other books as well. We'll read the picture books from the kids' history baskets. (It is always a good idea for a child to know a bit about George Washington. I know, it may be more easily mastered at nine, but people do tend to look askance if they ask a seven year old about G.W. and  your child responds with a dull, blank look.) We'll read classic stories, fairy tales and Mother Goose from our home shelves. We'll check out books from the library, fiction and non-fiction. Today Arden wanted to know why pandas don't eat people. We'll capitalize on that interest with a book from the library. We'll read a lot of books this year.

Here's our read-aloud list. It is like a set of goals, we may meet it, we may not. We may add to it. I'll let Arden decide the order, with just a little guidance from mom. Every moment cuddled on the couch will be precious, binding our hearts, feeding his mind with knowledge as necessary as food is to the body.

o   Farmer Boy
o   Little House in the Big Woods
o   Five True Dog Stories
o   Light at Tern Rock (Christmas)
o   Story of Dr. Dolittle
o   Charlotte’s Web
o   Stuart Little
o   Follow My Leader – Garfield
o   Henry Huggins
o   Homer Price
o   Little Pear
o   Mountain Born – Yates
o   Mr. Popper’s Penguins
o   Mrs. Piggle Wiggle
o   Balto and the Great Race
o   Bears on Hemlock Mountain
o   Story of the Treasure Seekers
o   Missionary Stories with the Millers
o   Storytime with the Millers
o   The Wind in the Willows
o   Narnia

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tuesday's Pastimes

The official temperature reading here today was 108 degrees. Outside the dining room window one poor squirrel was lying prone in the pool of water around the air conditioner. Poor thing. It's hot. We've been hiding in the house, reading aloud, slowly organizing for the new school year, although with stacks of books lining the hall, thanks to the water disaster, it is very slow going.

Tea with jam and bread.

My old address book was falling apart. Rather, it fell apart a year or two ago, and this week I finally decided to type all those names and numbers into the computer and print a hard copy. Naturally I needed something pretty to put it in. The girls and I had a good morning around the table doing paper crafts while the boys made paper airplanes. Ideally I would have chosen a black binder, but this is what we have around, maybe I'll buy a black one and trade it out later. All that remains is to fill the binder with essential household information. Not sure what that will be, but I'll start with the address pages.