W.C.E. (Worst Cold Ever)

This may be my new method of dating time: the days, months, and seasons since I suffered so mightily. Definitely a new common era.

All winter we were doing so well not getting sick. Maybe I had gotten too proud, too self congratulatory and needed knocked down a peg or ten. As I type, my throat is still in shock, leaving no room for any more complacency.

It is difficult to experience a cold while pregnant. There’s the coughing, in all its forms. The heavy cough can often stir up some nausea, and the later dry cough can catch one needing a bathroom quickly! At one point I was stranded on the toilet, coughing over a bucket in case I threw up, and only just made it there on my limited bladder tolerance.

But I have nothing to complain about compared to the man I just read about in a book called Alone. This man, Brett Archibald, fell over board in the Indian Ocean, and was stranded for 28 hours! So many people and events crossed to make his rescue possible, it was truly miraculous. During his time in the water, he came to a deeper faith in God- sometimes very angry with Him, but always with the knowledge that He was with him and responsible for his protection from many dangers, and eventual rescue.

Apparently Brett is on an inspirational speaking circuit, sharing his story with many. There’s something missing from his testimony, though: he acknowledges God as his Maker and sustainer, but there is no mention of Jesus as his Savior and Lord. I think that as he continues in a journey of true seeking, he will see this, God will show him, but for now, it is incomplete to share about God the way he has. A verse in my BSF lesson this week seemed to be making this point, among others:

For this reason Christ died, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living (Rom 14:9)

Jesus is central to everything. Anything else is just useless religion.

So, I’m at day 22 of this cold. If it reaches day 28, W.C.E., I may just have the makings of an impossible-survival book of my own.

 

 

 

 

New Thoughts

Since having my blog hacked last summer, Luke has outfitted me with a great new password. It would mean nothing to anyone but us, and I love that. No part of our present technological lives is unhackable, but it is nice to have a strong password and feel like we’re doing something in the war for the web.

I’m a book addict, I think. Yesterday I finished a book, and had a moment of panic that there was not another one to pick up. But of course there always is, and if nothing else I have my Aubrey Maturin series which numbers in the teens (I’m only on book 3) and my old standbys, Laura and Father Tim and Ralph. And, there is my read the Bible thru the years challenge, working through Exodus currently.

Two noteworthy books I have and am reading are How to Be A Christian Without Going To Church, and Revolution. The first is by a woman (Kelly Bean), the second by a man (George Barna). Together these have been such an encouragement to me as we navigate this time of our lives not going to church. Even though we don’t attend Sunday service in a building set aside for that purpose, we are still The Church, God’s called out people, learning and growing every day into His perfect plan for our lives. I’m eager to see what the future looks like for our family, without some of the traditional practices that both Luke and I were part of, growing up. God is always up to something new, and I am finally to the point of not feeling guilty, or not feeling guilty about not feeling guilty, if that makes sense. Because for me, so much of ‘doing church’ was exhausting. Being His church is already feeling much more free.

For Micaiah

‘Pet and her baby sister were so exactly alike, and so completely one, that in our thoughts we have never been able to separate them since. It would be of no use to tell us that our dead child was a mere infant. We have changed that child according to the changes in the child spared to us and always with us. As Pet has grown, that child has grown; as Pet has become more sensible and womanly, her sister has become more sensible and womanly by just the same degrees. It would be as hard to convince me that if I was to pass into the other world to-morrow, I should not, through the mercy of God, be received there by a daughter, just like Pet, as to persuade me that Pet herself is not a reality at my side.’

-Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit

Would You Rather

I love reading by the Christmas tree at night. It is just enough light to see by, but not so much one can’t start winding down from a busy day.

My compression hose went through the wash today. This week I thought of a new ‘would you rather’ question; you know, those kinds of queries that don’t have a good choice on either end. Sunburn or frostbite? Rotten food or no food? My new one is: would you rather be greatly annoyed by the constant sagging of your compression hose, or the rush of pain in your legs while you stand? At first glance, I would choose the hose, but after some months in them, I’m not so sure. Feeling like the saggy baggy elephant develops a craziness in me that I get to where the hose HAVE GOT to come off or I would go insane.

Today was hose free, but pain accompanied, as I said. I ran some errands, and while I am up and doing, I usually don’t have as much pain as when I am standing still. I went to the grocery stores, to Goodwill to drop off some bags that sat in the van a while, stopped at the library for some reserved books, and home again after my world tour.

As I walked in with two more books, I realized how many good books I’ve got in my queue right now. Another would you rather question, but where all the choices are good. Here’s what I’m working on:

Last Mitford book, To Be Where You Are. I just started, but have been delighted so far. This has been my umpteenth time rereading the Mitford series, and I even did the Father Tim ones. Though I found them dark the first time, this time they seemed sweeter. Goes to show you are never the same person when you reread a book! The title of my blog came from the Mitford books, too.

The Assault. This is a sequel to Invitation, a book by four authors I read in October. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, though it had a lot of spiritual battle stuff (Peretti is one of the authors) and kind of scary stuff. I told the ladies at book club about it, and at the time I couldn’t put my finger on why I liked it so much. Now I know. It’s all about Jesus! He shines through the darkness, and those who have a relationship with Him in the story are the most powerful against the enemy. Here’s hoping the sequel is as promising.

Little Dorrit- this classic of Dickens was mentioned in a Mitford book, so I thought I would read it. It looks promising, too. Duh, it’s Dickens! It has to be good.

I Have Lived A Thousand Years is a memoir of the Holocaust. I know nothing about it other than that. Of all the books in my pile, it is the most likely to be opted out in my would you rather game. We’ll see if I get to it.

Mommy Is Mean

That’s where we are already, only day two of being a single mom. Elijah said that this afternoon when he was supposed to stay upstairs and didn’t.

But seriously. Things are going pretty good with Luke and the big kids gone. We went to the library this morning, and each kid was able to turn in a reading sheet. I couldn’t turn in the babies’ sheets, though, because when I looked at the options for reading and encouraging reading on the back of it, I couldn’t honestly say I’d done that five times this past week. So the list is now on the fridge, and we are counting raisins when we wake up.

I didn’t mean to, but I got two books read this past week! One was A Man Called Ove, the other Only The River Runs Free.  Ove was okay, but judging from the praise for it on the front and back covers, you’d think it was a Pulitzer. As I read it I kept thinking of stories it mimicked, like the grumpy old man in the movie Up and the children from the movie Despicable Me, even the plots from my beloved Mitford books (man is alone- man gets pet- man meets interesting and challenging people- man ends up changing many lives). Is nothing original anymore?

Only The River was pretty good. It takes place in Ireland at a time when the Irish are under England’s thumb, and (at least in this story) the Catholics are the good guys and Protestants greedy and dishonest. There was a neat part where two of the characters, children, were in possession of a key and were overwhelmed with fear lest it be found. In a book given them by a godly man, it said the only place for burdens was the feet of Jesus. So they took the key to the church and hid it in a wooden carving of Jesus crucified, in the space between his feet and the cross. What a great picture for all of us, and the burdens we cannot bear. This book is our ladies’ book club selection this month, and I’d like to make something for each lady that represents a way of laying our burdens at His feet. Maybe a small box with Jesus’ feet painted on the lid, where one can put paper bits of prayers and praises? Any ideas you all have are welcome.

 

Redemptive Winds

I was reading a magazine article about peacemaking, and the thought came to me:

Have I been the victim in a conflict so long it has become comfortable? If so, am I willing to go through the painful process of resolving the conflict and reconciliation?

That is a tough one. As things develop, and I make choices to be open to change and improvement (in my heart first), I hope I can answer yes to the second question as easily as I do the first.

A quote in Little Britches applies here, too.

“You know, a man’s life is a lot like a boat. If he keeps his sail set right it doesn’t make too much difference which way the wind blows or which way the current flows. If he knows where he wants to go and keeps his sail trimmed carefully he’ll come to the right port. But if he forgets to watch his sail till the current catches him broadside he’s pretty apt to smash up on the rocks.” -Father, to Ralph

In my boat, if I have made a habit of taking every offense to the Lord, and have done all I can to avoid bitterness, those big winds of hurt shouldn’t throw me off course. But, if I haven’t been tending to those weeds of resentment and have allowed them to take root, I’m in trouble even before the storm hits. In this most recent event, I think I could see some real maturity in my reactions and responses. But it also revealed my penchant for being ready to forgive but not being ready to give when the situation requires give and take. It is a lot easier to walk away and say, that’s not worth it, they are not worth it. But people are worth it, and as long as there is hope of peace I must be willing to pursue it.

“So then, let us pursue the things that make for peace, and the building up of one another.” -Paul, to me

Pure Poetry

That had to be the shortest diet ever, or the failingest, or both. Last Thursday I decided to try some strategies from this book I had just read, and I guess that word “some” should have been the first warning. Gathering a little from here and a little from there for a diet could be unhealthy. Sunday afternoon my stomach started hurting, and only today is it beginning to feel less tender. Whew! I can’t say what caused the abdominal pain; indeed, I get sick like this every few weeks. Usually it only lasts 24 hours at most and seems to be related to one food I eat periodically. Thats as far as I have gotten on a self diagnosis, for though I am so happy to be better, I haven’t really discovered what went wrong. Our bodies are created by God to work like a well run factory, with all of the machines going. One stick in the works and the processes come to a halt.

Luke wants us writing more, and last week had us working at persuasive essays. I chafed. I languished. “I don’t want to pursuadr anyone to think or do anything! Can we just move on?”But this week has been a treat. I had forgotten how much I love poetry. To say so much with a few words is a rare talent. Today we discussed Emily Dickinson’s “I’m Nobody”, and even our biggest scoffers had to admit there was more to it than first met the eye. I’ll share my favorite poem now. I found it in a book when we were reading Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and wanted to share more poems at our homeschool book club.

SCAFFOLDING

Masons, when they start upon a building,

Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,

Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done

Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seems to be

Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall

Confident that we have built our wall.

Less Than Six Degrees

Time once again for our library’s summer reading program. The adult version has us reading up to 16 books, and various other ways to earn raffle tickets, to go toward prizes and coupons. Some years I am so not interested, but for whatever reason this year am totally hooked on reading as many books as I can and completing the ‘bingo’ card on the back of my tally sheet.

I expected to have plenty of time to read, as I nurse all day long and can’t do much else with that time. What I didn’t expect was how these books, as randomly chosen as I could have done, are inexplicably linked. let me give you some examples.

I saw on a blog I read where the lady recommended a book called Raising Real Men. I was able to get this from the library, and enjoyed it very much. It is full of great advice for raising boys, and one book they recommended in there was Now Discover Your Strengths, the manual that accompanies the StrengthsFinder test. I got that book out of the library, too, thinking it would help my older girls as well as my older guys.

Another way to earn a raffle ticket in the library program is to listen to an audiobook on Hoopla. While browsing titles, I saw a book called 5 Habits of a Woman who Doesn’t Quit. That looked like something I could use, for sure, so I began to listen. The author mentioned starting a workout program and, of course, quitting, and the morning I was listening to that, I was just about to head to Mommy and Me. I thought that was strangely coincidental, I mean, what are the odds that I would hear that right then?! Then tonight, I was listening to the fourth chapter, and in it she mentioned StrengthsFinder! Weird stuff. Something similar happened with another book last week, but I can’t remember it now. It might have even been a Little House book! Just some crazy stuff to keep this big part of my summer interesting.

Anyway, here is my book list. F means finished, S means started. Have a go at one or two and see if strange things  relate for you, too.

Raising Real Men F

Your God Is Too Small F EXCELLENT READ You can get this as a pdf, simply google the title and pdf.

Happy Wives Club F

Love Comes Softly series F

For The Love F VERY GOOD READ

Little House series F

Lessons From Madame Chic S FUN READ

In His Steps

In His Place

Joni

Prodigal Girl

Big Book of Homeschooling

All the Light We Cannot See S  (I almost finished this a while back, but quit because of vulgarity. A friend gave me the all-clear to finish it, as I had already read the worst, so I plan to fill in the place on my bingo card that says “a book you never finished” with it. It really would be one of my favorite books without these blemishes it has.)

5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit S HA HA HA

Now, Discover Your Strengths S RIVETING READ

 

Newbery Reads

Every winter I anticipate the Caldecott announcement. This highlights five or so books that have been selected to receive the coveted Caldecott medal, or several honors, for excellence in children’s picture books. Can I just say that to even think about Caldecott books, my hands feel electrified. I would LOVE to produce a Caldecott- winning book someday. At times, this goal seems as far off as the moon, other times I think, yeah, I could do that. Who knows. We’ll have to see.

Another coveted award is the Newbery Medal, awarded to children’s literature, usually chapter books. I hadn’t more than glanced at these lists in the past, other than to give my kids something to go by when picking books to read. But this year the winner was an author we had read last year, so my interest was piqued. I reserved Echo at the library, and searched the shelves for other titles that looked promising.

For the most part, I was not disappointed. These books are geared toward a younger set, but I was heartened by the cleaner language, the introduction to deep subjects like war and racial discrimination and ethics, and the great writing styles these authors had. Here is a list of the ones I have read lately, with a little opinion thrown in.

Echo has to come first. I love the time period, World War II, and I love the way Pam Munoz Ryan weaves three different stories together. Excellent! I am recommending it to our homeschool literary club for next year.

Number The Stars is also set during WWII. It tells the story of Denmark and their response to Hitler’s invasion and attempt to anhilate the Jews there. Great read.

The Underneath was strange, but really wonderful when I finished it and saw such redemption for the characters. An animal story (which some of my kids sneered at) that can be applied to humans, too.

Lions of Little Rock was terrific. I do not know much about the time when schools in the South were fighting desegregation. This was illuminating. I found the heroine very endearing, as well.

Wonder was thought-provoking. It is about a boy who has a severely disfigured face, and the time he starts going to public school (he was homeschooled, but his parents decided it was time to learn in the real world). There was more potty/youth humor in this one that I could do without, but I appreciated being challenged: how would I would behave toward someone who was hard to look at. I don’t often have that experience.

We also just discovered 101 Dalmations! It isn’t just a movie, it was a book first! I started reading it to the kids, and some of them have taken it to finish. It looked to be delightful.

…And Miguel (can’t remember the full title) was kinda interesting. It is about a boy anxious to be old enough for all of the responsibilities on a sheep ranch in Mexico. I only skimmed it, but came across a story that sticks in my mind, you’ll see why. Miguel knows a lot about sheep, and is describing what happens when they are bearing their young. He states that normally the female has a look on her face that is a blank stare. For whatever reason, when she is about to give birth, her eyes become very focused and she is all about finding a place to lay down. She is in the zone. Then, once the lamb is born, her eyes glaze over with a stupid look again. Isn’t that funny? Another cool story- when a mother loses a lamb, the shepherds will shear the dead lamb and put the toupee on another orphaned lamb, in the hopes that this mother will ‘adopt’ this one in her lost lamb’s place. It works, apparently. I am sure both of these sheep stories have spiritual implications, as Jesus was always talking about sheep, and us being just like them, but I am at a loss at the moment. Just enjoying a good story is enough.

 

Keep Trying

It must frustrate her to no end to play through that song on the piano, making bumbles and hitting wrong notes. Keep playing, I silently say to her hunched figure. There is value, possibly the most value, in keeping with a thing, and keeping on, than stopping short and moving away.

The last few months I have been melancholy. Not being the most bubbly personality anyway, this is difficult to take for me, because I feel even my lowest reserves of cheer are no longer available. Blame it on the pregnancy, but that is like saying blame it on the baby, which I do not want to do. Pause with me here and I’ll tell you about her.

She is beautiful, with two arms and two legs and a sweet face. The first ultrasound I had, the tech was in a hurry and the pictures I was able to take home were lacking her arms, just had her head, abdomen and legs. Even though this is number twelve, even though I could ably explain to my children that the picture was like a cross section of her body, I still battled some real fear that she was not all there. But, I would tell myself at low points, that is ok. Even if she is not all there physically, it doesn’t have to mean she can’t be excellent and surpassing spiritually, with an amazing potential for God. But still, I had a tough first trimester because of this, and other little things that threatened to rob the joy from this wonder. If there is another pregnancy, I am not going to see a doctor until I’m 20 weeks. So there.

Back on track. So, I know the solution to feeling down is not to check out a self-help book from the library, but I just happened upon a great one by Jon Acuff called Do-Over in the midst of my life burnout. What a shot in the arm! I’m considering buying the book, it is that good. Acuff is really speaking to people who are in careers and find themselves encountering (or needing) some kind of dramatic change. As I was reading about jobs and ceilings and markets and skills, however, I saw countless ties to my life as a wife/mother/homeschool teacher. It was such a needed inspiration to keep trying to make of my life what I can, keep reaching, keep smiling, keep hoping, keep persevering.

All that to say, here are my goals for 2016:

1. Paint/ draw/ do art more. I already have some fun stuff planned to help me meet these goals that I will blog about later.

2. Become conversationally fluent in Spanish. On the surface, this is a strange goal for a person like me to have. But I have always regretted not getting any further with learning Spanish than an almost-minor in college. When I encounter a Spanish speaker in town, I wish I was comfortable enough to connect with them in that moment, and often walk away sad. My hope is to meet and secure a conversation partner in the next few months. Meanwhile, I am learning some phrases that I would use frequently in describing myself and life; I will post those on the blog next time for my friends in Bolivia to critique, as I used Google translate for the Spanish. Ha! Addicted to Google!

3. Piano. I sit down to a piano and it is like painting, or hearing Spanish. I belong there, but, again, I have not made it on to fluency. I hope to get back to practicing and making a better effort at enjoying this beautiful instrument.

In all three of these pursuits, there is talent required, but the skill comes from consistent practice. Were I to devote time and energy to these things, I would not only improve in them, but also in my moods and attitudes. Who knows? Julia may be welcomed with a new painting, a Spanish lecture, an aria on the piano, or all three.

Here’s to a new year of trying again. Who is with me?