Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What I'm Into--April 2015

Spring is finally here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I was beginning to wonder if it would ever come. I think that happens to me every year—at least when we’ve had a long, cold winter. It’s been so good to get outside this past month in the sunshine and green grass. There are even some flowers blooming!

What I’ve been reading: 

I finished A TreeGrows in Brooklyn. It was a beautiful book. Not a quick read for me, but full of rich, weighty words that touched my soul. I have to share this passage, close to the end. As I read it, my eyes filled with tears. This is exactly the way a big sister would want her little brother to say good-bye to her. Before she goes away to college. Before she gets married. At the end of the long childhood years they’ve weathered together:
". . . Monday, I have to go to school. And while I’m there, you’ll be getting on that Wolverine train for Michigan. There’ll be no chance to say good-bye to you alone. So I’ll say good-bye now.”
“I’ll be home for Christmas, Neeley.”
“But it won’t be the same.”
“I know.” He waited. Francie extended her right hand. He pushed her hand aside, put his arms around her and kissed her on the cheek. Francie clung to him and started to cry. He pushed her away.
“Gee, girls make me sick,” he said. “Always so mushy.” But his voice was ragged as though he, too, was going to cry.
 Isn’t that just beautiful? In college, I had a professor who would read a passage he especially admired and say to us, “If I wrote those words, I could die happy.” I guess that sums up how I feel about this book.

The kids and I read StrawberryGirl. When I started it, I thought the Florida backwoods dialect was going to be annoying, but it wasn’t. It was fun. So much so, that sometimes I slipped into the rhythm of their speech without thinking about it. Okay, I only did that once, but still . . .

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this to the world. (Because, you know, the whole world reads my blog!) I got sucked into The Hunger Games this month. A few years ago, I thought about reading the books but talked myself out of it because people told me I would find them too disturbing. They were still on my “someday” list, though. A couple weeks ago, Todd and I were looking for a movie to watch on Netflix. Have I mentioned my dissatisfaction with the movies available for streaming via Netflix? They have some great TV series available, but the movies are limited and sometimes I miss our old one-dvd-at-a-time plan because there were so many good movies available that way. Anyway, the second Hunger Games movie was available—Catching Fire. I wasn’t thrilled with starting the series with the second movie, but Todd was eager to watch it, so I gave in. And now I’m hooked. I loved the dystopian future perspective. Well, I shouldn't say I loved it. It was brutal, but I found it so creative--and important. Todd keeps teasing me that I’m going to get into Twilight next and I keep disdainfully saying that Hunger Games is not like Twilight. (I haven’t read Twilight or seen any of the Twilight movies, though, so I can’t really judge them.) After seeing Catching Fire, I went on to read The Hunger Games (the first book) in approximately 33 hours. On Friday, I rented the movie from Redbox and discovered that I had ruined the movie by reading the book. After we watched it, I ranted to Todd that the book was so. much. better. Now I just have to clear 48 hours in my schedule before I crack the spine of the second book. I can’t wait to find out what happens to Katniss and Peeta! Oh, and Gale, too. Please excuse my enthusiasm . . .

Other happenings from April: 

We had a wonderful Easter, celebrating our risen Savior. I don’t think I’ve blogged much about it, but we have a new pastor at church now—and a new worship team. Todd is super-stoked to play drums with some very talented musicians. It’s not an exaggeration to say that they rocked out for Jesus on Easter Sunday! Also, my kids looked adorable!





I helped host a baby shower for a friend at church. It was a blessing to celebrate this new little life as we look forward to her baby’s birth. 
Camilla with the mother-to-be!
We took the kids to Philadelphia for a field trip with some other families from our homeschool co-op. It was so cool! We toured Independence Hall and saw the Liberty Bell. I loved seeing Ben Franklin’s old stomping grounds. You know, history is my thing. I think the kids learned a lot too, but they were mostly happy to hang out with their friends.
The two big kids by a guard house at Independence Hall.  

And one thing from early May:

I can’t write a post without sharing some super-exciting news! Early Monday morning, I was honored to be present for the birth of this sweet baby girl!

My dear friend, Susie, asked me to support her during labor (along with her husband and some awesome nurses). The only other births I’ve attended have been those of my own children. While those were sacred experiences in themselves, now I can say with more conviction that the birthing room is Holy. I felt so blessed to be part of the team of people cheering Susie on as she worked with the Creator to bring forth life. This woman has proven herself a rockstar mom for the fifth time!



I’ve often wondered what my passion for natural childbirth might lead to in the future. I’ve toyed with the ideas of being a Bradley Method Instructor or perhaps a Doula. Witnessing birth was so amazing, I just might pursue something like that in the future, when the kids are a little older.

For now, my plate--and my heart--is full. I’m looking forward to the rest of May. Let the renewal and healing of spring continue!

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.