Friday, April 10, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Relief

Remember Five Minute Friday? It's been so long the host has changed! But here I am, recovering as a writer, so I'm trying my hand at it again.

The prompt this week is Relief.

GO

We came together. I came together with them all for the first time in a long time. Old women and young women—girls, some of them. And she told us we had come to the well.

“Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

He said those words so long ago, but He says them to us still. You’ve been through the desert. Come to me. Come to the well. You are thirsty. Drink.

And the water flowed, from our eyes, as we lifted voices in prayer. As we took steps of faith, baring our souls. The water flowed into our souls. The healing balm of Gilead came from our palms with the laying on of hands. The water from the wellspring of Life. The Giver of Life. Rushed into our hearts.


Women, we are strong. We will be strong. But when we are tired, we will come to the well. We will not be backstabbers and gossips. We will love each other well on the path. And we will come to the well together.

STOP

Okay, I may have slightly broken the rules by editing a little bit . . . I just can't leave it alone!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What I’m into—March 2015

Today, I’m trying something new—linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been doing in the month of March.

What I’ve been reading:

I’m always trying (or sometimes just wishing) to fit more reading of good books into my life. On Goodreads I made the lofty goal of reading 40 books this year! I also joined Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2015 Reading Challenge. First up was a “book I’ve been meaning to read,” Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It took me a long time to read it. I’ve heard so many rave reviews that I thought I would love it, but I didn’t. Honestly, the story really dragged until last third of the book. Also, I believe, in reality, all witchcraft comes straight from Hell. For a long time, though, I have been wanting to read this book before Camilla started asking to read it. She hasn’t asked yet, but she could absolutely handle the reading level so I’m glad I finally read it. I know a lot of Christians love this series and just dismiss the witchcraft deal as part of the story. I’m okay with that for my own reading, but I’m not sure how I feel about a book for kids that makes witchcraft seem cool. In a few years, if Camilla really wants to read it, I think I’ll allow it as long as we discuss the material as she reads. (Is that too controlling?) And then I guess I’ll have to try to stay ahead of her in the series! Other Christian parents, please chime in and let me know how you feel about your kids reading the Harry Potter books.

I've just started reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which is “a book my mom loves.” Funny, I know I’ve heard my mom mention this book before, but when I asked her what book she loves, she gave me this title without hesitation. I didn’t know she loved it that much, but now that I’ve started reading it myself, I can see why. Rich, beautifully-crafted prose is just one of the things I love about it so far.





As part of the homeschool curriculum we’re doing, we’ve read some good books together:

The Cricket in Times Square was wonderful! I remember hearing about this book as a child, and it was a really fun read. We all loved it!

Captain Nobody was all right. The story was intriguing enough to keep me reading and the kids asking for more, but I found some of the characters annoying and some plot points were not believable. I really don’t think the author has much experience with children. Perhaps he was a very responsible ten-year-old himself at one time, but I don’t know many that age who are taking care of themselves for the better part of the day, cooking breakfast for their families by themselves, and acting as a personal assistant for their realtor mother. 

Here’s what else I’ve been into . . .

Being the Tooth Fairy! My little boy has a gap in his smile now. He lost not one, but two teeth in the space of a few days! I threatened and cajoled his older sister into keeping her mouth shut about the identity of the Tooth Fairy. So we kept up the charade after the first tooth. It helped that Todd was the one who actually slipped the silver dollar under his pillow. I could answer without guilt that I was not the Tooth Fairy. After the second tooth, though, I proved Adrian’s suspicions true. In my imagination, I believe his line of reasoning went something like this: If there actually were a real Tooth Fairy and it was her job to take the tooth and put some money under my pillow, then she wouldn’t forget to do it or be too busy. No, that’s more like something my mom would do!

That’s me, folks. Mother of the year!

Watching “the baby” grow up way too fast! She’s running around, climbing stairs, and talking a blue streak! Oh, and reading chapter books. You know, she's a little advanced (wink, wink). And God forbid I put her in time out. Oh, the drama! This is what eighteen-months-old looks like.

Being “almost positive” about our school choices for next year. Well, definitely positive for Adrian. I ordered his Kindergarten curriculum yesterday. (I love Sonlight!) So he is staying home. And Camilla is going back to school for third grade. Ugh. I hate to say it because I will miss her so very much. But I think this is the best choice for all parties involved. Maybe I will write more about that sometime.

And waiting, hoping, wishing for spring! I love winter. I do. We had a great ski season this year. In March, we had one last fling with the slopes and now we’re done. We’re ready for spring. And then March 31st dropped another snowfall on us! It’s pretty, but . . . on April 1st, buds and blooms are so much more beautiful. And that’s what I’m longing for.

Still, a parting photo. I snapped this after we dropped Adrian off at preschool this morning.


That’s what I’m into. What are you into?

Friday, March 13, 2015

A letter to my children . . .

Eight and a half years ago, when I was preparing to welcome Camilla into this world, my deepest prayer for her was that she would come to know and love Jesus as much as I do—more, even. I wanted to see all my children follow Him.

I still want that—yes. But now there is more. Now it has been brought to our attention that our brothers and sisters are being martyred. Christians are being beheaded by Muslim extremists. I got an email regarding it a few months ago and I didn’t want to believe it. It’s the kind of thing you know happens sometimes—once in a great while maybe. But not regularly. Not in today’s world.

Yes. In today’s world. Regularly. Often. And maybe, in my lifetime—or in your lifetime—it will happen here. I hope not. I pray with all my heart that our nation will remain a safe and free one until Jesus returns. But even more than that my prayer for you, my children, has gone deeper to ask for a faith strong enough to die, to endure torture, for the name of Christ. I pray that our family won’t have to face that fate—here on our native soil or in foreign lands. But I also see the eternal perspective. What matters most is that we can face it if we need to. That my children and grandchildren are strong enough, that they know their Savior and love Him enough even to die for Him. As He died for them.

Furthermore, I see anew the importance of telling others that Jesus died for them. It’s easy when life is humming along, and we’re caught up in our personal business, to forget that we’re all going to die. It’s easy to put that aside and just focus on being nice and showing love. Showing love is important. It’s part of God’s plan. They’ll know we are Christians by our love. By all means, show love! But show them where your love comes from, too.

This world we live in right now is crazy. It sucks. It's crappy. I could use stronger words, but I’m writing to my children. I can’t even comprehend the devastation. And what can change it? Nothing can change the direction we’re headed except the love of a Savior. The Savior you already know. His love changes people, it changes hearts, it changes lives. It can change our world, one life at a time.

God loves every member of ISIS. I can’t quite wrap my head around that, but He wants them saved. And if He does, so do I. Imagine the difference it would make, if radical Muslims, now filled with hate, met a living Savior and were filled with love instead.

I’ve been asking myself what we can do. And now I know. We can do what we should have been doing all along. Press closer to Jesus, ask Him for a faith strong enough to endure, pray for our world, and share the good news. Let’s live our lives with a renewed resolution to do that. Perhaps you were born into this world for this purpose. My sweet Evangeline, whose name means “Bringer of Good News,” perhaps this is your calling. It’s a calling for every one of us. So let’s take up the mantle and live like we believe it.



Friday, February 6, 2015

Blocked

The New Year is already over a month old. I thought by now I'd be cranking out the blog posts, deep into a manuscript, involved with characters who are (almost) as real to me as my own children.

I'm not.

I have ideas. Lots of ideas. I sit down to write. I start writing . . . and after a little while it fizzles out. I look at it later and realize it wasn't any good. Which is okay. Or, it's good but I don't know what words come next. I have no idea what to put on the page after that.

My writing friend says it's because I spent so many years in 1860 with Sid and Rachel. Maybe.

I know that I need to nurture my creative self. And that's hard right now. Every day is full. Bursting with children to be fed and taught and nurtured. I already get up shortly after 5 am. I can't get up earlier. On Wednesday I wrote nonsense for a little while, but ultimately found it more satisfying to spend my alone time straightening up the house, vacuuming, washing dishes. You can see the results of that work right away. Even if it is completely undone in 24 hours.

I've been dragging my feet with an assignment I've given myself. Am I lazy? Is it not the right time?

Or is it what I learned years ago and that same friend reminded me of: I'm scared.

So I go back to the place I learned it. That book. And I read and think and make new resolutions. I remember the woman who gave me the book and I decide to pursue this thing.

It's hard to be creative in this season. I don't know the answer. I'm hoping to find it. Slowly, like a flower opening in spring. Right now it's all crunched in on itself. Tightly. Tensely holding on. But soon it will open to the sunlight, unfurling its petals and gracing the world with beauty once again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The tour continues . . .

Just a quick post to let all my local readers know that I'll be speaking at the Hazleton Public Library tomorrow night, Thursday, November 6th, at 6pm. I'm excited and honored to take part in PA Forward's "Speak Up for PA Libraries" program. I'll be talking about the impact libraries have had on my life, as well as sharing about my book and reading from it. You can purchase copies of One Traveler at the event and I will be happy to autograph them for you. Please come out and support me and our public libraries!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Trick or Treat!

I may not be writing here on the blog much lately, but I have been thinking a lot. This time of the year, I always think about Halloween—and why our family chooses to celebrate it.

Growing up, my Halloween roots were a bit of a mixed bag (pun intended). I remember actually trick-or-treating only once. I must have been about five. I was a fairy princess—my costume was the flower girl dress I’d worn in my uncle’s wedding, along with wings my mom made. I remember one of my big brothers dressing up as a garbage bag full of autumn leaves. It was dark and cold and exciting to be out with the big kids. Afterwards we savored our candy by the blazing fireplace.

After that, we moved to my parents’ hometown, and we never celebrated Halloween again. I don’t remember caring very much. Maybe I just wasn’t old enough to form my own opinion on the Holiday yet. Our church often had a “Harvest Festival” to give us an alternative to the demonic activity of Trick-or-Treating.

Though I wrote that last sentence sarcastically, I don’t mean to make light of an issue that many Christians take seriously. Sometimes, though, I think we Christians take ourselves far too seriously. I spent the rest of my growing-up years being told that Halloween was the Devil’s Holiday. That it was a time when witches worshipped Satan. That it originated in occult practices and as a follower of Jesus, I couldn’t participate in it at all.

I kind of believed that. I have never liked the scary, ghoulish, demonic images tied to Halloween. I believe that evil is a real force in this world, that Satan exists and is the Enemy of our souls. I want to stay far away from anything that glorifies the Enemy.

As an adult, though, I’ve come to the place where I don’t view trick-or-treating as evil or demonic. I’ve heard a lot of different arguments for and against Halloween. Refusing to celebrate it because of its Pagan origins just doesn’t hold water for me. If you’re going to refuse to celebrate a Holiday on those grounds, you’d better eschew Christmas as well. Maybe some of you do, and you’re certainly entitled to your opinion and your practices. The Puritans celebrated neither Christmas nor Halloween.

I, however, may be a purist, but I am by no means a Puritan.

A couple of tricky treats (a few years ago).
I believe I’m here to shine a light in a dark world. I don’t think turning off my porch light on October 31st does that. (Of course, in my neighborhood, nobody but the wildlife notices that it’s on.) I don’t believe telling my children they can’t dress up on Halloween or forcing them to dress as Bible characters encourages them to love Jesus. They love dressing up—who doesn’t? This year they love dressing up like Batman and Princess Anna. Like all children, they love candy. Halloween is part of our culture. I may be countercultural in some ways, but this isn’t one of those ways. The reasons aren’t compelling enough. We don’t run around like crazy going to every trick-or-treating event within a 20-mile radius. Some families do that, but that’s just not our style.  

We do dress up (or the kids do, at least). We let them go to Halloween parties. If we have an outreach at church, we attend it as a way to participate in our community (since we live in the country and nobody trick-or-treats on our street). If our church doesn’t have an event, we might trick-or-treat in another neighborhood.

Honestly, the most confusing part of Halloween for my kids has been seeing that some Christians don’t celebrate it at all. It’s good to discuss these things, though, to learn that every family makes different choices. That someday they might make different choices from the ones we’ve made. The important question for me is “How will this affect eternity?” What I’m realizing is that our cultural traditions are intertwined with Pagan rituals to such an extent that it would be nearly impossible to separate them. To try would be putting all my energy into something that won’t make an impact for Christ on my children or my world.

So we celebrate. Christmas. Halloween. Embracing all of the light. All of the good and precious parts. I will point out the Christian roots of Halloween. The importance of the birth of Jesus. Yet, also appreciating the joy that comes with tradition.

Another tricky year at the Treats. 
You can read more about the Christian roots of Halloween here. Though I’m not Catholic, I like the idea of stressing All Saints Day in your celebration. (Protestants can celebrate All Saints Day as well.) I love FIMBY’s take on Halloween discussed in this post. Modern Mrs. Darcy talks about her feelings here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

On playing catch-up and trying to mother well

We are immersed in summer mode in the Treat household. We finished up our homeschool year the week of my last blogpost, which means Camilla is finished with 1st grade. Now, I swore that we would do some math and a lot of reading over the summer . . . but have we opened up the math book since June 6th? Or has Camilla even touched her Flashmaster? We’ll just have to do better next week. (That’s what I keep saying, anyway!)

We have been reading, however. I’m working on 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker (loving it and it’s totally challenging me), Camilla is reading In Grandma’s Attic and Todd is reading Good Call by Jase Robertson—he’s been sharing some tidbits from this as he reads and I’m enjoying it, too. I’ve started reading The Princess and the Goblin out loud to the kids, and while they seem to like it, for whatever reason they just don’t want to sit and listen to me read lately. Or not that book, anyway. Maybe it feels too much like school.

We’ve also been spending tons of time outside. We’ve been camping twice already! I’ve been thinking of doing a summer series on camping . . . who’d be interested in that? Anyone . . . anyone . . . ?
Is this not the cutest 9-month-old ever
A proficient bike rider--he takes after his father! 
Sleepy snuggles!

Always on the hunt for a creature of some kind.


Treasures in the creek!

Clearly, we torture our children dragging them outdoors!
Or maybe not so much . . .
Just had to include all those beautiful shots of our kids camping, but on to other news . . .

I’ve discovered that my internet addiction goes far beyond Facebook. In fact, just after giving up Facebook (ostensibly for good), I found myself wiling away my writing hours reading about the O.J. Simpson trial. It was the 20-year anniversary, you know! And, in spite of the fact that I never really cared about the trial when it was actually happening, I do remember watching the chase on TV. So this June, I pored over all the gory details and even told myself it was research, because I have been thinking about writing a murder mystery. I mean, that thought has crossed my mind from time to time. I may not be writing one now, but who knows? This knowledge could come in handy someday. So you see, there are even better ways to waste time than reading your Facebook feed.

Speaking of summer mode . . . two weeks ago, a certain child’s behavior was over-the-top unbearable. I mean, beyond anything I’d dealt with before in terms of defiance. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail for the sake of said child’s privacy. I will just say that I had never heard her announce direct disobedience in this way before. Over the course of two days, we had some dire consequences, some good conversations about what was going on with her, and she and I prayed together several times. I encouraged her to start reading her Bible and praying in the morning as soon as she wakes up. We’ve talked about this before, but she needed some reminding and it seemed especially pertinent considering the behavior I was seeing. I explained that it’s hard for us to change our actions on our own. We all want to sin sometimes, but God can help us grow and learn to do the right thing if we allow Him to change our hearts. But we need to spend time with Him for this to happen. Now, I think I’m pretty good at explaining God’s grace, at reassuring my kids that I love them even when they misbehave, and I tried to do this throughout these conversations. Last week, while the younger kids got to play at Grammy and Grampy’s, my eldest had to come with me while I did some writing (one of the “dire” consequences). I suppose I inspired her. She began writing a little novel of her own . . .



And now I question how well the concept of “grace” is coming across to her. Am I teaching my kids they have to perform to receive my approval? Or God’s? Am I brainwashing her and trying to make her into a robot? I don’t even think I used the word “good” in our conversations, but somehow she got the impression that being “a good girl who loves God” was something she should strive for. Loving God is the goal, absolutely! But being "good"?  Doesn't scripture tell us, "There is none who does good, no, not one?" (Psalm 53:3)

It’s back to the drawing board for me. As soon as I think I have something figured out, I’m blindsided. I just keep praying I don’t royally mess up these children.