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What does a hen do all day? Nothing but walk about in endless circles, pecking at this or that--yet she is one of the most creative and productive of God's creatures.
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I have half an hour, here in a rare morning at Panera, before a doctor's appointment. Since I am at Aladdin rehearsals every weekend, I have lost my usual Saturday morning sanity break, so I am grabbing some time alone while I can!
Rehearsals have been such fun, though. I love the kids, and I am learning so much from the other directors. It's helpful to see other's teaching styles with the various elements of dance, vocals, character development, blocking and more.
The older boys finished up their first semester at eAchieve, their virtual school. B17's course load will remain the same, except he will begin a new college class. He took Speech last semester at Gateway, a local technical college, and did fine. This semester we applied--through the Youth Options program, which means the school district pays for it--for a class at UW-Parkside, which is here in town. The only one that was approved that was also offered this semester was Intro to Philosophy. Not the first class I'd want him to take at a secular school, but at least his dad was a philosophy major in college, so he'll be able to give some perspective on the material. And hey, free college credit is a beautiful thing.
Blondechick will also be at Parkside this semester. She officially transferred and will be taking a full load of classes, as well as continuing to work as a waitress several nights a week. Right now she is basking in Florida--a last hurrah before classes start next week--with her dad, who is attending an industry conference and moderating a panel discussion on the Affordable Care Act which goes into effect in 2014.
But the rest of us went to the Wisconsin Dells last week, to stay overnight at a waterpark called the Kalahari. We found a great deal online through Travel Zoo--it was $150 a night for a 2-bedroom, 2-bath suite, which included six passes to the waterpark and two passes to their indoor theme park, which has laser tag, rock-climbing, etc. We gave those to B17 and B13, and the rest of us had more than enough to amuse us at the waterpark for two days. Outside, the temps were in single digits, so it was perfect timing! It was a nice way to celebrate B22's birthday week and the halfway point of the school year.
B13's fall semester was lackluster. He is tempted by video games and a novel he is writing, when he should be doing school, and it's hard for me to monitor him when all of his school assignments are online. He can't work at his desk in his room anymore; instead he has to sit where I can see what's on the screen of his laptop. Still, I can't be in the room with him all the time. I am certain we will not do a virtual school with him again next year, but we were torn about what to do for this semester. With the goal of cutting down the time he spends in front of a screen, we dropped one of his elective classes for this semester, and we also decided to let him take an F in his social studies class for this coming semester. (It's only 8th grade; it won't appear on any transcript). History is usually his favorite subject, but he has hated this class. The online textbook is boring and unwieldy, and he spends more time trying to find information in it than he does learning anything interesting.
Instead, I am having him read the 10-volume A History of US, by Joy Hakim, and take multiple choice tests covering the material. He will research and write an essay every other week covering a topic of interest that comes up in his reading, so I'll get to work on writing with him, something I've been wanting to do. He'll also read biographies that we have in our homeschool collection. We'll continue this plan for 9th grade, too, and that will be his American History high school course. The best part is, it was someone from the virtual school who gave me the idea of substituting my own curriculum for the remainder of the semester, so I don't feel too awful about ignoring those assignments each week!
The two younger ones are ticking along nicely. B7 and I do his lessons from the virtual school, and I modify them sometimes so that we can more quickly move into reading time! He and Chicklet are really getting into their library books, bringing home lots of easy chapter books--Magic Tree House, Junie B Jones, Hardy Boys Secret Files series, Rainbow Magic Fairy series--that they can dig into. Chicklet has her workbooks, and she's doing Teaching Textbooks for math and really enjoying it. We are also doing Calculadder math drills daily. I don't remember why, but the timed tests freaked out my oldest two, so I gave up on it with them and never tried it with the middle two. But B7 and Chicklet are willing and eager to try to beat the clock every day, and I am so thankful to finally have something working well for learning facts!
My last piece of news is that next week, I am going on vacation. Not a family vacation--just me. My aunt and uncle in southern California are graciously hosting me for six days! This aunt is my dad's sister, and she used to come to the farm in Ohio with her son, my cousin, for about a month every summer when I was growing up, so I feel close to her.We also look alike, family friends in Ohio always tell me. Since my grandma passed away, we don't rendezvous in Ohio like we used to, and when they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past fall, I considered going, which started the whole plan evolving, Now it's almost here, and I can't wait! So much to do, though, to get ready to be gone.
That took more than thirty minutes.
Perhaps my next post will be from sunny CA, but I am not promising. I may be too busy vacationing from all responsibility!
(This is why you use a knife and cut your meat into bite-size pieces, B17, especially when your father's camera is out.)
B22 actually ended up with two jobs during the holiday season--we were so thankful! He worked at a downtown toy store beginning in the late summer and in November he also was hired by Marshall's, a small department store, for just 8 hours a week. However, he was considered a seasonal employee at both places, and after the holidays ended, both jobs ended as well. But he has some good experience on his resume now, and good references, and he made enough to begin paying back his college loans, have a little in savings, and a little to spend on soundtracks and new speakers for his iPod.
I am so thankful for the help he is getting through the local Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. He has to call in every Friday and tell them what jobs he has applied for, and they follow up with those employers. Right now, it's tough. No one is hiring in January.
So it's a good thing he has a class to keep him busy. There is a technical college here in Kenosha called Gateway, and he has decided to work toward their associate's degree in Graphic Design. We are hoping that some of his TIU coursework will transfer, as electives at least. The class he's taking this semester is on designing presentations in a number of different software environments. It's four hours once a week at the Racine campus, which is nearly 30 minutes away. So far, he's enjoying it very much!
For his birthday, we went around the table and said why we were thankful for B22. Recurring themes were his willingness to play Legos with his three younger siblings, his sci-fi knowledge, his steadfastness in the Lord, and his faithfulness with his chores. Since he has more time, he has all the biggest chores--doing dishes, vacuuming the main level, putting away all groceries, cleaning a bathroom, remembering to put out the trash and recycling bins each week. He is so reliable and consistent--such a help and a blessing to us all!
For Christmas and his birthday, he asked for books--Star Wars graphic novels, Eragon's Guide to Alagaesia, The Inheritance Almanac, Awakening: The Art of Halo--and a Lego set, the Star Wars Striker-class Republic Starfighter. With an iTunes gift card he received for Christmas, he purchased the Sherlock Holmes movie soundtrack and the Halo 4 soundtrack, and he also is enjoying the newest Owl City album which his brother shared with him. The other thing he asked for and received for his birthday was for his dad and brothers to watch a movie with him--Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn.
Happy Birthday, B22! Your faithfulness in the Lord and in our family is a blessing to us all. May your 23rd year hold many good things and new adventures!
Time for a little recap of the family news, eh?
First, the holidays. On Christmas Eve, we held our usual Christmas Eve service at Light of Christ.
|B13 as crucifer at the service's candlelight beginning.|
|Father Rooster gives a children's homily. No childcare on Christmas Eve; it's a short, early, family service, over by 6 p.m.|
|Our hosts, who are also newlyweds!|
We also deviated from our usual pattern on Christmas Day. Instead of everyone coming to our place, we opened presents at our house in the morning, then drove into Chicago to spend the rest of the day with Brother Rooster, our sis-in-law, and our niece. They put out a beautiful spread for us, including prime rib and baked Brie, and it was a wonderful family time.
|Grandpa and my sis-in-law.|
|These Christmas cardigans once belonged to my Ohio grandpa.|
We were supposed to leave on Wednesday, the day after Christmas, to drive to Ohio to be with my family, but a blizzard struck Indiana and we had to delay our trip until after church on Sunday. So we were in Ohio over New Year's and when we returned, we were already a day behind in school (which helps explain why I am only now blogging about the holidays, in mid-January!). But it was worth the rearrangement in plans.
|My brother driving the tractor with his wife perched behind him; the kids are our two youngest and most of theirs.|
The exciting news is that Pilot Brother and his family have moved in next door to my parents! They are living in the old farmhouse that used to be my grandparents' home. They will be breaking ground in the spring on a new house, and they will have a pony, chickens and more. It will be that much more reason to go visit. More people, more cousins, more fun!
Here's another reason to visit. Blondechick and I will need our baby fix!
|Our only nephew/boy cousin, and the youngest of 5...all 7 and under!|
Aladdin rehearsals have begun in earnest, and oh! I completely forgot to post the results of auditions and my first experience with casting! I had to leave for all discussion of male leads, because both B17 and B13 were up for Aladdin and other leads, but when I returned, I discovered that B17 was cast as Aladdin, and B13 as the zany Prince Zorak; he is also the captain of the palace guard and has a number of guard lines. Chicklet and B7 both did well enough at their dance callbacks to be cast as "Mini Genies" in a dance number with the big Genie. They are also Bazaar Townspeople, and B7 was given an extra role as a Child in a marketplace scene--I had nothing to do with that, either--so he gets a mic and three speaking lines in his first show! I have been soaking it all up at rehearsals, helping out and learning as much as I can as an intern.
Hope your holidays were memorable and your New Year is off to a good start! Add a Comment
You know what's annoying?
“Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.”
“The best years of a woman's life - the ten years between 39 and 40.”
So we held our annual meeting right after church, along with a catered luncheon. We even had visitors who stayed for lunch and the meeting! And it was a good report. We are financially healthy, and we are bringing on a communications coordinator part-time, which will fill a need that's been driving me crazy since the beginning. Our coordinator will keep her eye on various balls and make sure we don't drop so many--to mix a couple of metaphors--since we have no full-time staff to do that. She's also going to help with publications, which are currently non-existent, excepting the bulletin, but she'll be reformatting that and also developing our website and a church newsletter. Thanks be to God!
We're also developing our youth group and a healing ministry, and we are going to start house groups in three different geographical locations. Woot! And our vestry is taking an exciting first step toward bringing on a full-time priest. They will be looking at what it would take financially, and discerning how and when we'll know that it's time to take this step. Our total budget is only $90,000, so it seems a long way off, but God will provide when it's His timing.
I had my own mini-epiphany in church. I entered the service with a heavy heart, having mostly to do with the holidays ending and facing re-entry to real life today. I had been praying about the new year, pondering what God might be saying to me and what "one word for the year" He was speaking to me, and though part of me was optimistic and eager, another part of me was discouraged that life circumstances always seem to overwhelm my good intentions and resolutions.
Father Rooster's sermon was on the Wise Men, and as he talked about their actions, I thought: They went on a journey! They saw the light, they made preparations, they left everything and went on a journey. They didn't know how far it would go or where it would lead, but they put their eyes on that light and they followed.
I felt like God was saying the same thing to me: Fix your eyes on Me; I am calling you to a journey. But Lord, I thought, I get so stuck in daily details, emotional ruts and unhealthy patterns, things that pull my eyes down to focus on the mud around me. I just can't keep my eyes on the Light! Entering a new year, I felt defeated before I even started.
So I told all this to a prayer minister, during our communion time, and he prayed for me. He reminded me that after the Wise Men had seen Jesus, and it was time to go back to their ordinary lives, God showed them in a dream that they should travel a new way home, and not go back the way they had come. He prayed for God to show me a new way for my journey.
Even though I don't see clearly what the new way is to be, his prayer gave me the encouragement I needed. I feel a strengthening of my resolve to find time for the practices that help me keep my eyes on the Light. It's not hours and hours that I need, but frequent, intentional moments of prayer, Scripture reading, journaling, listening to worship music, intentional reading, intentional conversation, starting our homeschooling day with prayer, maybe even Scripture memory. (Yes, this post really inspired me.) And fewer moments on Facebook, probably.
More ways than one, I said in the title. Thank God, who shows us new ways.
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On New Year's Eve, it was seven years. Seven is a number of completion, in the Bible, isn't it?
Guess I need to either wrap it up, or keep at it for another seven!
It's been harder and harder to find time for writing. Seven years ago, the critical mass of our family was still at home, and barely into the teenage years. (Our oldest was nearly fifteen, but concerned more with Legos and sci-fi than any typical teenage interests.) Our chicks were mostly in the nest and under our wings; two weren't even school-age yet. I could count on some time in the evenings after they went to bed; we had a good routine, and I knew what I was doing, more or less. It was a good time to begin blogging.
Today, four of our kids are 13 or older, and for their privacy, I can't blog much about them or the challenging parenting transition to teenage issues, episodes and crises which has consumed an awful lot of my attention in recent years. Half our kids are now driving, have jobs and classes outside our home, and stay up later than I do. It's hard to keep track of everyone's schedules, let alone establish routines. We are in a bigger, less cozy house in a community in which we have fewer and newer roots. Our family feels scattered and unfocused compared to seven years ago.
And yet, 2012 felt like the year of maybe getting my feet underneath me once again. I'm actually finding moments to breathe and think about being proactive and intentional, after years of feeling I could only react to the crisis of the week, whether it was figuring out schools or doctors, or buying a car or adding another driver to our insurance, or dealing with an engagement (or a broken engagement), or choosing a college--or paying for college. We've had so many new things to sort out, but finally, it doesn't seem like a huge new thing every time I turn around. Knock on wood!
So I think I will keep blogging, and maybe even find a little more to say in 2013. I am tremendously thankful for you readers out there. It encourages me so much to hear that someone is blessed by words I put together. My purposes for blogging are many, including keeping a family diary, if you will, but I am also inspired by the desire to encourage others, by faithfully telling my story and how God continually meets me, even in the messiness and struggle of life.
If you like, celebrate this anniversary with me by leaving me a comment! I'd love to hear who you are, where you are from, and anything else you'd like me to know. It's always so nice to hear from you!
As always, I am surprised at how many books I read this year. I think more than half of them were audiobooks, which I listen to primarily in the car or while cooking. A good number of those were children's books and re-reads, because often, I just needed another audiobook for the car, and I think a good book is worth reading more than once. I also read a lot of plays this year, since I have been teaching drama classes. I'd forgotten how enjoyable it is to read plays! I placed them all together at the end.
I also notice that I only have a few nonfiction books on the list. I have been chipping away at the same half-dozen for the past six months and haven't finished any of them. I keep starting new ones that look good. Well, there's always next year.
Here's my list!
The View From Saturday (E.L. Konigsberg)
I really enjoyed this book years ago, and I re-read it to remember why! It has a unique structure, with four children each narrating part of the story of how their lives came to intersect on a 6th grade quiz team. Their stories are interspersed with the story of the championship round they are engaged in, in the present, and with the story of their teacher, Mrs. Olinski, who chose each of them for the team. Themes are accepting those who are different, accepting one's own uniqueness, sticking up for others and the value of one's own experiences. This book starts out slow and builds, so it may not be the best for a struggling reader, but avid readers will love it. By the author of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, one of my all-time favorite children's books.
A Father's Tale (Michael O’Brien)—At A Hen’s Pace review here.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Alan Bradley)
A Duty to the Dead; A Bitter Truth; An Impartial Witness (Charles Todd)
The Thirteenth Tale (Diane Setterfield)
Entwined (Heather Dixon)
This is a re-telling of the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. It was very engaging, a little dark, and had a realistic quality that made it seem less fairy tale-ish and more like a movie (which I won't be surprised to see it made into). Imaginative, suspenseful, romantic and a book for dancers. I enjoyed the audiobook reader very much.
Paradise Valley (Dale Cramer)
Set in Ohio, where I grew up, this story is based on the true story of the author’s Amish forebears who moved to Mexico rather than comply with an Ohio law that would force them to send their children to public schools and begin the slow unraveling of their culture and faith. Their venture south and their experience as pioneers in Mexico, amidst bandits and ethnic barriers, took me down a little-used path in history.
Seabiscuit (Laura Hillenbrand)
This was a re-read for a book club discussion. I love how much historical detail this author put into this novel; it’s an education on horse-racing and on our country during the Depression era. It’s a Cinderella story--not just for the horse, but for jockey, owner and trainer.
Come On, Seabiscuit (Ralph Moody)
I LOVED this version of the Seabiscuit story! I thought I had read every horse book out there, when I was a girl, but somehow I missed this one. It was interesting to compare the two tales. This one stresses how often Seabiscuit was raced before he was a 3-year-old, weakening his legs and causing frequent injuries later, hampering his bid for greatness, which he still achieved, despite the obstacles.
Black Heels to Tractor Wheels (Ree Drummond)
In this audio version, the Pioneer Woman herself reads the love story of how she and Marlboro Man got together. I remember reading the first 20 or so installments on her blog, but then I fell off the blog-reading wagon when we moved and have never been able to climb back on. So it was fun to hear the ending. I even got Blondechick to listen to this one; it’s an over-the-top romance that is sweetly wholesome. We both loved it.
Remarkable story about a homecoming queen who decided to forego college and live in Uganda, ministering to orphans; she is now the 21-year-old adoptive mother of fourteen girls and a blogger at . This is a life-changing story—so inspiring!
The Bag Lady Papers (Alexandra Penney)
This book was $1 at Dollar Tree, and I was attracted by the cute cover and subtitle: “the priceless experience of losing it all.” Unfortunately, this wealthy woman, who lost her life savings in a Ponzi scheme, didn't have any priceless wisdom to share. Her idea of penny-pinching was having to sell one of her several homes, cut back on her maid’s hours and start taking the subway instead of a taxi around NYC. At least it was a quick read.
The Rose Rent (Ellis Peters)
I love the Brother Cadfael mysteries. This was the second time around for this one, one of the best.
The Little White Horse (Elizabeth Goudge)
I’ve been a longtime fan of this novelist from the 40’s-50’s, but I had never read any of her children’s books. This one was delightful! It has the fullness of a classic fairy tale, and I see from all the commentors on Amazon that that’s exactly what many people consider it to be. I am putting this one on Chicklet10's shelf immediately.
A Circle of Quiet; The Summer of the Great-Grandmother (Madeleine L’Engle)
Last year, Sherri at Semicolon recommended these books to me in a special comment for New Year’s, so of course I had to read them! And I’m so glad I did. They are excerpted from L’Engle’s own journals and are full of nuggets on creativity, writing, meaning, faith, family and being. It was especially rich to read The Summer of the Great-Grandmother, which chronicles the decline of L’Engle’s mother’s health, at a time when we were experiencing the same thing with my mother-in-law. I will re-read A Circle of Quiet sometime; it was so full and inspiring to the writer in me. Thank you for the recommendation, Sherri!
Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
Read this my freshman year in college, and all but Miss Haversham had become pretty foggy in my memory. It was time for a re-read! It's a wonderful story, but I'll go out on a limb here and say perhaps a little editing would not have gone amiss, because it dragged a bit in spots.
Jo's Boys (Louisa May Alcott)
I read Little Women and Little Men when I was young, but never knew of this one. It’s about the boys in Little Men, grown up and starting to launch into the world, and Mother Jo’s advice and prayers for them. It’s a little preachy, but well-intentioned and quaint.
Katherine (Anya Seton)
My sister-in-law recommended this one, knowing that I liked historical fiction (thank you, Sis!) and when the librarian saw my interlibrary loan request, she smiled approvingly. I'm totally going with the plot summary on Amazon, because it's so hard to succinctly summarize this wonderful epic: "This classic romance novel tells the true story of the love affair that changed history—that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family. Set in the vibrant 14th century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenets—Edward III, the Black Prince, and Richard II—who ruled despotically over a court rotten with intrigue. Within this era of danger and romance, John of Gaunt, the king’s son, falls passionately in love with the already married Katherine. Their well-documented affair and love persist through decades of war, adultery, murder, loneliness, and redemption."
I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith)
This is an off-beat little novel (by an author better known for 101 Dalmations) that I re-read about a teenage girl living with her eccentric family in a British castle that is falling down around their ears. Interested American young men have moved in nearby, and the family’s devoted hired boy makes a bid for love as well. Fascinating and delightful characters and story all around.
Marriage to a Difficult Man: The Uncommon Union of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards (Elisabeth Dodds)
I heard Stuart and Jill Briscoe on the radio recently, recommending this biography. It is an intriguing look at not just a marriage but a remarkable family and a whole time period, the Great Awakening, when new colleges were opening every year in the East. Filled with primary sources, it still has a novel-like story line. Most of us know Jonathan Edwards as the author of one of the most famous sermons of the period, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," but there is a lot more to appreciate about the man, including the way he honored, entrusted and took counsel with his wife, and how he taught his children, including girls, who weren't often educated at the time, while unwinding with a pipe in the evenings.
A Voice in the Wind; An Echo in the Darkness; As Sure As The Dawn (Francine Rivers)
Wow, I really enjoyed this trilogy, set in ancient Rome just after the time of Christ. A cast of characters from all walks of Roman life—a gladiator, a Jewish slave girl, a wealthy Roman family, a physician, furtive Christians—explore beliefs, philosophies and attitudes that one recognizes in our own society.
Dear and Glorious Physician (Taylor Caldwell)
Have had this book on my shelf—a long-ago recommendation from my mother--and it finally seemed like the perfect time to read it while I was also listening to the trilogy above. (Not simultaneously.) This story is also set in ancient Rome, and it is an imagined life of the physician Luke, the Gospel writer. It is based on the author's years of research and travels in the Holy Land, and has an epic feel. The trilogy above is more accessible, but this is a more rich and literary work, more nuanced in its questions and themes.
The Hunger Games; Catching Fire; Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins)
The parallels in this series with the culture of ancient Rome are unmistakable. “The Games” are cruel and evil in both, and one can’t help but think of reality TV also and how it exploits lives. I think these books are provocative in all the best ways, raising lots of issues for discussion with teenagers. And it’s a good story!
The Gift of the Magi and Other Stories (O. Henry)
I love short stories, and I especially love O. Henry’s gentle wit.
Words (Ginny Yttrup)
This is a beautiful and poignant story of a non-speaking girl abandoned by her mother and a 30-something woman artist with a great void in her heart. It's a story that stirred up my emotions and longings in a way that few books have done, though my story is completely different. Powerful.
Gaudy Night (Dorothy Sayers)
I needed an audiobook for the car, and it was fun to revisit this one. If you have never read these detective novels or seen the BBC movies based on them, you have missed out!
The Tale of Despereaux (Kate DiCamillo)
I LOVED this story! It’s a quintessential fairy tale, with themes like love, loyalty, truth, courage and longing. There is a princess and an evil villain (a rat), as well as a hero (an unusually small mouse with unusually large ears). There is death by soup, and a royal ban on soup and soup spoons. I loved the narrator addressing me as “Dear Listener.” (In the book, does it say, “Dear Reader”?) Chicklet loved this one too. Now we want to see the movie!
The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories (Elmore Leonard)
As I said, I love short stories. These are all set in the old West, but you don't have to love Westerns to enjoy these memorable characters and tales.
The Cookbook Collector (Allegra Goodman)
Thank you, Nancy, for recommending this one! So many interesting characters in this book, but it centers on two sisters, their significant others and how the sisters come to more and more self-knowledge through the events of the book, including discovering long-lost Jewish family. Set in the “dot com” boom time leading up to 9/11, one sister is a CEO on the East coast and the other is a bookseller and tree hugger in Berkeley.
Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
I read this in college, but, as I told a friend recently, I couldn’t remember a word of it; or rather, I could only remember three words: “Heathcliff” and “Wuthering Heights.” I enjoyed it much more this time around, with no pressure to finish by Friday! It’s quite the Gothic novel, dark and brooding and tragic.
Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp (Philip Pullman)
I thoroughly enjoyed this retelling, with its humor and directness. Found an interview with the author in which he explains, “My aim was to tell the story swiftly and lightly in the clearest language I could command. Swiftly, because one of the things I enjoyed in the original was the way the narrative disposed of one character before turning to another: 'The Moor abandoned his quest and journeyed back to Africa with a heavy heart. So much for him. As for Aladdin...' "
In the same interview, this gem:
What's more, I detest the assumption, common among people of no talent, that the way to engage children is to talk about things that come out of bodily orifices. Children can talk about those things among themselves; they need to know that such conversations ought to stay in that circle. What they need from adults is wit and they don't get it often enough.
I haven't read the whole thing yet, because it's a day-by-day devotional and I haven't had it for a year yet, but it's too wonderful not to recommend. These words of Jesus, based in Scripture, seem written right to me. Blondechick20 loves this one too.
Doubt (John Patrick Shanley)
This play is the one that got me started on my play-reading kick, because I actually auditioned for it, just for experience--knowing that the odds were slim that I’d get the part of either the 20-something woman, the 60-something woman or the black woman. This is an excellent play, raising questions about faith, doubt, certainty, uncertainty, and how we know what we know. Look up the movie--it's excellent.
Our Town (Thornton Wilder)
One of my all-time favorite plays. Wilder says in this play what Ann Voskamp says in One Thousand Gifts: Appreciate this moment, right now; don’t take life for granted. Wilder’s play makes you ache, though, while Voskamp shows you how to turn that ache into thanksgiving.
Death of a Salesman (Arthur Miller)
I figured I should read this classic since I never have read it or seen it. It also makes you ache. I’d love to see it performed.
Steel Magnolias (Robert Harling)
Ah, but this one is my favorite. If you have never seen the movie, please please do. It will move you to tears. And yet I have never burst out laughing so often as I did while reading this play. I'm not usually a laugh-out-loud kind of girl, so that was quite fun!
The Glass Menagerie (Tennessee Williams)
Another classic I had never read, although I saw the movie long ago. Poignant and sad.
The Matchmaker (Thornton Wilder)
Oh, what a perfect comedy! If you’ve seen Hello, Dolly you know the plot. The language and characters are delicious; each one has at least one brilliant monologue. I had the script because B17 was in it several years ago, playing Malachi Stack, and I also saw Wheaton College perform it years ago. One of my very favorites!
Cyrano de Bergerac (Edmond Rostand)
Read this play in high school and loved its witty wordiness, and French bon mots, back when I was taking French. It was just as enjoyable to re-read it as an adult. B17 and I also watched the Gerard Depardieu movie version (which is in French, with subtitles--and is excellent), because he was reading it for school. It's really a wonderful play.
The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet (Peter Bloedel)
Okay, not a classic, but based on one—or more! This is Shakespeare’s story as Dr. Seuss would tell it, in iambic pentameter, with Seussian characters and references, and of course, it does not end up a tragedy. I read this one too many times to count, because…I had the privilege of directing this play.
Ahh, 2012...it was a good year!
For more year-end book lists, check out the special year-end edition of the Saturday Review of Books, hosted by Semicolon.
"Behold, I bring you news of great joy which will be for all people:
Gaudete Sunday...Rose Sunday...Joyful Sunday. It's the third candle on the Advent wreath, the pink one.
The others are purple, for penitence. In Advent, we wait in darkness for the Light of Christ to come on Christmas. But the rose candle is a promise of hopes fulfilled, of joy that comes in the morning.
A world where innocents are murdered...in a moment...is a dark world. In our service this morning, we remembered, by name, the children and adults who were killed in Connecticut by a young man with mental illness, of nearly the same age and diagnosis as my oldest son. I grieve for these lives, and for their families, and for parents of challenging children everywhere, and I wonder if now my son's employers will think twice about keeping him on after Christmas. It is a dark world.
Yet in the darkness, Emmanuel. God with us.
Often in the darkness we ask: Where is God? How can He allow suffering and injustice? And we miss the miracle: In the darkness, God is with us.
We are not alone. He has not abandoned us, alone and without hope or promise. He saves, he redeems, he comforts, and he will not leave us alone in the dark, however much we doubt and suffer and struggle and ask where He is.
He is the pink flame of joy in the midst of darkness all around. Not just light in the darkness...joy in the darkness. Because of Him, the darkness cannot overcome us.
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Seems like it to me.
I remember when December was the month that lasted forever. "How many days till Christmas?" Bantam7 asks me each morning, and while the days seem to crawl at his age--how I remember!--at mine, they fly by, like calendar pages in an old movie, being ripped off in fast motion to show the passage of time.
Advent is supposed to be a season of waiting, of expectation. Pregnancy is the image that comes to mind--slow and ponderous, just as Mary pondered miracle and promise, great with child and expectation as the donkey plodded toward Bethlehem.
We live in a day of speed and instant everything, impatient with anything traveling at a donkey's pace (or a hen's). We are impatient with God, with others, with ourselves. If we have to wait, it means something has gone wrong.
Waiting seems like a waste of time, which we always wish for more of. Waiting means longing for something we don't have yet, and we hate not having it yet. Waiting can be a time of anxiety, when we don't know what will happen at the end of our wait. Waiting isn't fun.
But waiting is good. Scripture is full of admonitions to wait on the Lord. Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit. To long for Christ's return...for God to work in this situation...for health...for peace...this is waiting with a purpose, with a prayer, with expectation. Like Mary.
But how, in a busy season and in a culture of speed, do we wait?
Well, you could slip into a quiet church and listen to the silence and ponder. I like to imagine this one.
You could do family devotions every night during Advent, building expectation and creating beautiful memories of waiting together. This just doesn't happen at our house, though.
Or, you could make lists! I love lists. So how about an Advent list--not a Christmas list of material goods--but a list of concerns, worries, people, situations that we can't control. Let's write them all down, put them before God, and tell him we are going to wait on him to make the next move. Really just wait. Not pray through the list every day. (Okay, we can turn that worry that won't quit into prayer, but we are not pulling out this list to go over it daily.) We are going to WAIT on the Lord during Advent, and see what He will do. Or not do.
But I suspect that the waiting will change me. And that, I think, is the point of waiting.
And of Advent.
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Tomorrow, we are driving down to our old stomping grounds in DuPage County for a church service--a Consecration Service to dedicate a new building to the Lord.
Church of the Resurrection (one of Light of Christ's mother churches and our home church for 17 years before we moved to WI) has been a mobile church for 22 years or more. When we first joined, they were worshiping at West Chicago High School. When we outgrew that auditorium, we moved to Edman Chapel at Wheaton College for two years; then it was on to Glenbard West High School, where they have been ever since.
We had no storage there at the high school. (We are incredibly blessed at Light of Christ to have a storage room at the Kemper Center!) Everything--sound system, Sunday School and nursery supplies, altar, banners, lectern, etc.--was kept on large wooden carts on wheels, that were loaded up after church and pushed up a ramp onto a truck. No access to anything on the truck during the week! Then on Sunday mornings, everything had to be unloaded from the truck, unloaded from the carts and the truck parked elsewhere. In severely cold weather, there was always a story about how the truck wouldn't start. The volunteer who drove it had to get there at some ungodly hour like 4 a.m. to have extra time just in case, and even then, there was often a story of how God provided some person or means of getting it started when the usual tricks didn't work.
Over the years, this congregation has attempted to find a building, or a piece of land, in a very land-locked area. They've looked at warehouses, old grocery stores, and the rare church building that has come on the market. They've looked at parcels of land, all far away from where they want to be, and even settled on one in Winfield that wasn't too far out, a few years ago. They began the process of getting zoning and city approvals--we had just moved, so I don't remember all the issues, but I remember the heartbreak that many of our friends went through as the needed approvals were refused, despite what had seemed like an open door initially. Many questions arose: Weren't we following the Lord's leading? Did we hear wrong? Why didn't this work out?
It was another two years or so before a property came on the market, an old warehouse right in downtown Wheaton (near FE Wheaton Lumber, if you know the area). A parishioner who is in real estate heard about it just days before it went up for auction. He was able to buy it for about the price of the land alone, and he offered to sell it to Rez at that price if they wanted it. The more they looked into whether it would work or not, the more perfect it began to seem. It was not far from Wheaton College, which was important for the large number of students who attend and participate regularly; there was adequate parking; there were no significant zoning hurdles; and its border on one side is Lincoln Marsh, a nature preserve. Overall, a great location in every way!
The warehouse itself is no ordinary warehouse, either. It was designed by David Haid, a distinguished Chicago architect who is probably best-known for designing the window-walled residence which is the site of the car-crash-through-the-window scene at the end of the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Like that building, this warehouse is also notable for its light and the placing of windows. Along the front of the building, which is the longest wall of the sanctuary area, there are windows for the top 20 feet or so.
Same angle, closer up, months later...
You can see they are building up the stage, and that curved portion on the left wall is a choir shell. Pretty great to have that huge service door in back, too, huh? (All the better to bring on large set pieces for the Easter Vigil!)
Here's the lobby area outside the sanctuary. The wall on the left will be a changing display by the many artists at Rez.
And another lobby entrance which will house RezCafe, the coffee house area.
And now, what relief that the Winfield parcel didn't work out! For just a fraction of the millions they would have had to spend to build from scratch, Rez now has a building--a really cool building--with room to grow! (There is room for a basketball court in just one of the many spaces they are leaving unfinished for now; in fact, it's right through the doors at the far left in the photo above.)
More photos, including the whole top floor of offices and Sunday School classrooms:
What an exciting time. We've only been waiting 20 years or more for this day to come...and now, it's here! Praise be to God!!!
(Slideshow below includes the last Sunday at Glenbard West and the procession from the high school to the new building, with stops at the old Ministry Center and Wheaton College.)
Sometimes God leads by circumstances.
So Blondechick is attending Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL. It's a private Christian college that's not too difficult to get into, it's close to home, and she got a voice scholarship. Overall, it's been a good experience for her, but we have had to question whether it's worth the hefty price tag. Papa R's income is high enough that we get little aid other than loans, and what we are expected to pay is far more than we can afford on a pay-as-you-go basis (especially after she switched her major and lost $1,000 a semester).
Up till now, God has provided us with lump sums--through bonuses, tax returns, a gift, the sale of our camper--that have paid the bill each semester. Five semesters in a row, including B21's year there, and each time, it has seemed like clear direction from God, that the money was provided.
For this next semester, we just don't have the lump sum. No cash bonus yet, with the new company, and we now have a high-deductible medical plan with no dental or prescription coverage. So it looks like we're going to need a good chunk of our savings to pay for wisdom teeth surgery in January for B17, and other ongoing health expenditures.
So we've been praying and talking to Blondechick and the TIU financial aid office. The plan now is for her to live at home next semester, take a few classes at the local UW school, keep waitressing at Olive Garden, save up, and defer the decision of where she wants to finish school. I'm planning to take B17 on some college visits this spring, and she may come along, but she's just not eager to go away to school. (Who would guess that our most extroverted child would be so keen to stick close to home?)
After the initial disappointment, she's now looking forward to moving back home. When she's been home to visit, she has hated to leave and go back to the dorm. She says she feels most herself here, and one thing she is concentrating on, personally, is who she is in Christ, and living from that center. Not trying to be what the world tells her to be, which is all wrapped up in appearance, image and personality; it's been easy for her to play that part, but she's in a different place now. It's been good--so good!--to see her respond with her whole heart to God's working through circumstances in her life recently. This move home, though a disappointment, has that same feeling of being something painful to give up, that God will use for good if one just lets go.
We're eager to see how he continues to lead her through this next phase of her journey!
(Digression: Have your visits to the library movie shelves become rare? When the kids were younger, I was a frequent customer, but with teenagers in the house--so opinionated!--our crazy schedule, and the ubiquitous nature of movies these days, it's rare that we all sit down to watch a movie together. If we manage that, there are usually new releases that we must see. I rarely watch movies alone; with Papa Rooster gone frequently on business trips, I'm more likely to spend the evening reading to the kids or writing a blog post than watching a movie.
But there it was on the library shelf a week ago! I thought we might have time over Thanksgiving break for a family movie, so I brought home a few hopefuls. But we didn't get to them, and now they were coming due, so Chicklet10 and I snuggled up tonight with my laptop. Other people still had schoolwork to do--their loss!)
And it was better than I hoped--better, maybe, than the book! The story is a biographical account of a Catholic family in Defiance, Ohio, written by one of the daughters. Dad was an alcoholic who drank up all his pay, yet their mother, by "contesting"--entering contests to write jingles, poetry and limericks advertising products in the 1950's and 60's--managed to win a constant stream of prizes that kept the ten children fed and housed, with occasional extras like bicycles and toasters thrown in. (The subtitle of the book is "How My Mother Raised Ten Children on Twenty-Five Words or Less." Best. Subtitle. Ever.)
I can see why the movie was a sleeper, though. Some of the scenes with Dad as a drunk were uncomfortable to watch, though very well done, I thought--not overdone, but still you'd think twice about explaining to younger children. I bet it struggled at the box office because there isn't really a big audience for this kind of heartwarming drama that touches on so many uncomfortable marital and parental issues!
And yet, as a psychological study and example of health in the midst of dysfunction, and choosing joy in the midst of difficulty, this one's a winner. It is remarkable how this woman (played brilliantly by Julianne Moore)--without being a doormat--could continually model cheerfulness in hard times, love and kindness for her difficult husband, and some measure of faith mixed with a good dollop of "God helps those who help themselves." Mom firmly believed in God and regular church attendance, and the timing of the largest prizes certainly was beyond coincidence. She was obstinately happy in her circumstances, choosing laughter instead of tears and smiles instead of anger. Who doesn't need examples like that? I'll be watching this one regularly, I think!
One reason I liked the movie better than the book is that the movie humanized the father, played by Woody Harrellson. The screenplay did a brilliant job of showing the somewhat loveable man underneath the alcoholism, a man you could almost understand that she could remain committed to, something which didn't come across as clearly in the book, I thought. Also, the movie's storyline was more focused. The book had delightful excursions into the world of couponing, contesting and other facts about the era, and it included great detail about specific contests the mother won, all the various jingles she wrote as entries, and all the prizes she won. But the movie was able to weave this flavor throughout, visually and in Mom's narrations, without the longish interruptions to the story's flow. For these reasons, I give the movie the edge over the book. (Has anyone else enjoyed both, who could weigh in?)
Chicklet10 loved the story, and she enjoyed watching the child actors, who kept getting replaced by older children, and then young men and women, as the characters aged and left home. (Also, there was a scene at the end, which showed the actual ten children, now adults in their 60's and older, playing themselves going through their mother's belongings after her death; all grew up to be successful, stable individuals.) I felt that the content was not inappropriate for Chicklet's age, as it did not totally villainize the father, and though it showed the children's fear of him, he did not show violence toward anything but inanimate objects. And his few swear words were actually sort of hard to understand, because he shouted them out the door or in the other room, or the soundtrack had the TV volume louder than him yelling in the other room. (How thoughtful and refreshing, huh?)
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It has been 20 years since that first little bundle of pink entered our world...
..and it feels like we've been living in a Legally Blonde movie ever since! Heh, heh, ha.
So thankful for this young woman! What a blessing she is. Fun and funny, there's never a dull moment when she's around. She has courageously faced trials in the past few years, and keeps clinging to Jesus and growing stronger in her faith and in who she is in Him. It's a joy to watch God working in her life and see her respond!
She recommends this book. ("Seriously the best thing that ever happened to me.")
So do I. I bought it for her, and the book in the background, Words, too. (I know, I need to post some book reviews.) I am so glad it is speaking to her.
So thankful that she can be home, with her family, on her birthday, on Thanksgiving!
At her pointed and specific request, we shall celebrate her Thanksgiving birthday with a very special ice cream cake.
So thankful to God today--for family, for friends old and new, near and far, for the blessings of life, health, abundance, comfort and joy!
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Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know all that lies beneath the surface, all the worries, the fears, the anxieties. It comes out as frustration and impatience, but really, it is all about fear and worry--that I am not doing enough or doing the right things, or raising my kids right or teaching them the things that really matter. I worry about our money and how we spend it. I worry about our kids and their problems and choices, and what I can do to help and teach them better. I worry about my health and my stress level. I worry when Papa Rooster and I aren't on the same page. I feel lonely sometimes, even in the midst of a large and noisy family, even in a church filled with good friends. Sometimes I just want someone to hold me and let me cry on their shoulder. It's hard always being the grown-up.
But you have called me your child and told me to call you Father. You have instructed me to give all my cares and anxieties to you. You want me to find strength in you, not in myself. You have said not to worry about tomorrow, for each day has enough trouble of its own.
Yet you also have given us a whole book of instructions teaching us to be wise and not foolish, the Proverbs, which strongly recommend thought for the future, responsibility and hard work...so I know it is not wrong to have these concerns. It is my attitude of worry, rather than trust, that is wrong.
I have to do my part: mothering, housekeeping, budgeting, taking care of myself, teaching my kids and communicating with my husband. But I don't have to bear the whole weight of responsibility for how well or how badly it all turns out. In fact, I have no control over outcomes. I act as though I do, quick to blame myself for anything that goes wrong, thinking I should have managed things better, and quick to self-congratulate when things go well. But I don't have to live as if it all depends on me--Heaven forbid! In my weakness, you are strong. Apart from you, I can do nothing. In repentance and rest is my salvation, in quietness and trust is my strength.
I was catching up with a friend last week, sharing some current worries, and she said comfortingly that those are really hard things to walk through. I laughed and told her that actually, these things feel relatively inconsequential compared to the stress I've carried for the past few years, which is finally lifting a bit in several areas, and I'm actually feeling emotionally lighter than I have in a long time. Suddenly, the tears began to flow, and my friend pulled me in and hugged me tight as I sobbed. I wasn't sure why I was crying, but it felt like such a relief just to say out loud that things had been really hard.
I do tell God, daily, how weak and helpless I feel. I do pray fervently for his intervention in my life and circumstances. I do have friends to share my struggles with. I think I mostly put my trust in God, and I often experience His joy and peace even in the midst of difficulty and struggle. I can be my bubbly, cheerful self and it's not an act. But it is also true that it takes energy to hold myself together when I just want to fall apart. It is stressful when I can't be completely open about struggles with one of our teens or in my marriage. It takes energy to be the anchor of the family when I feel like running away. I get tired of being strong. It can even be an effort to trust God, when I am so tempted to give in to anxiety and fear.
These have been stressful years, and they have taken a toll. They have been harder than they needed to be; I know I have trusted too much in my own strength to get through them. But as I write, I can give thanks to God for his strength and help, his mercy and care--and his grace. I am amazed at His answers to my prayers. In each of the areas that have been so difficult, I can rejoice in the ways He is working. He is managing outcomes that I could not have engineered, couldn't have dreamed of or hoped for. All are still works in progress, not free of concern or stress yet. But God's work, not mine, is so evident. It is proof that I can trust, that I can lean, that I don't have to be anxious or worried.
Still, it's a hard habit to break. Oh Lord, forgive my unbelief.
In your weakness, I am strong. Apart from Me, you can do nothing. In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength.
Lord, have mercy, daily, upon me.
Years ago, I found myself struggling to get out of bed and face the day.
Okay, sometimes I still feel that way.
But it was years ago that I pulled together a collection of Scriptures and quotes that somehow help me move, on bad mornings, from "defeated before I even start" to "a little more confident that I can do this again today, with God's help."
I've been wanting to participate in "Walk with Him Wednesdays" at Holy Experience, so each week I will unfold a section of this "liturgy" in hopes that it will bless others!
So, ready to join me on Wednesdays? Here we go!
A Liturgy for Mothers
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. (Ps. 81:10)
Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not;
lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs.
Instead of the thornbush, the cypress will come up.
Instead of the nettle, the myrtle will come up. (Is. 54:2)
These promises bring tears to my eyes on tough mornings. It is a test of faith, first thing. Do I really believe them?
I confess, right away, the things that block God's generous provision and action in my life.
Lord, I confess the things that constrict my heart: [fill in the blank]
My list includes things like pride, judgment, criticism, selfishness, grim determination, stinginess, self-hatred, self-sufficiency, fear of suffering, lack of trust, lack of love.
These have bound my heart and made it small and dry.
I confess my desire to control my children, husband, schedule and circumstances. I confess that I cling to my agenda too tightly. Help me let go of my plans for the day and embrace Yours.
After admitting all this...I am ready to receive these words:
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Him, the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death.
Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.
I am grateful to be reminded:
Every branch that bears fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (Jn 15:2)
No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. Remain in me and I will remain in you. (Jn 15:4)
For I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. (Gal 2:20)
This last assertion is so powerful.
I once had a vision of sorts, while in church, of Christ IN me, in my physical body--along with these assurances: "When you gave birth, I was IN you. When you nursed your infants, I was IN you. When you wipe their bottoms and their noses, or extend a cup or a plate of food to them, I am IN you."
Not I, but Christ. (Gal 2:20)
How is possible that He hallows my flesh, that the incarnation is happening every moment of my life? That we, his followers, form His body on earth as he inhabits each one of us?
He is in me, whether I fail or finish well. Whether it's a day to be proud of--or one to forget.
There is forgiveness...and there is grace. Somehow Another delights to live in me, and it is his righteousness, not mine, that makes it possible.
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In Part 1, we began by preparing our hearts with confession and the receiving of forgiveness. As mothers, we are so aware of how often we blow it! We ended with the declaration, "Not I, but Christ in me."
This next quote unpacks that idea so practically:
I will cease striving in my own strength and goodness, and walk in Yours. I will celebrate my smallness, my inadequacy apart from You. Apart from you I can do nothing. You alone are my righteousness. I will live in the present moment, always looking to Christ, always practicing His presence, always moving in tandem with him. (Leanne Payne, Restoring the Christian Soul, changed to first person)
For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. (2 Cor 4:7)
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses...in hardships...in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:9-10)
My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:9)
There is something so restful about accepting that I am small and He is great, that I am weak and He is strong.
My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. Find rest, oh my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, O people, pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. You, O Lord, are strong and You, O Lord, are loving. (Ps 62:1-2)
In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. (Is 30:15)
May your unfailing love rest upon me, O Lord, as I put my trust in You. (Ps 33:22) Let me know how fleeting is my life. (Ps 39:4) My times are in your hands. (Ps 31:15) Teach me to number my days aright, that I may gain a heart of wisdom. (Ps 90:12)
It is good to praise the Lord, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night. For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.(Ps 92:1-2,4)
I shall run the way of Your commandments, For You will enlarge my heart. (Ps 119:32)
This verse brings back to mind the opening call to "enlarge the place of your tent." It is God who enlarges my heart and makes me capable of more than I am in my own strength. This verse also begins a turning of my thoughts to the responsibilities of the day before me, especially the challenges of parenting and educating children.
Stay tuned for Part 3, the final section, which moves into specific prayers from Scripture for a mother’s day.
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Part 1: Confession and forgiveness
Part 2: "Not I, but Christ"
This final section focuses on Scripture prayers for the day ahead.
The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Lord, I want to please you, not myself!)
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest of righteousness if we do not give up. (Gal 6:8-9)
Fill me with courage to seek what is great and become worthy of it. (the virtue of magnanimity)
Give me humility to be a servant to my family, as You washed the feet of others. Never as a martyr, but filled with holy humility and love.
Fill me with the wisdom that comes from above, that is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)
-set my heart on things above, not on earthly things (Col 3:2)
-rid myself of anger, rage, malice, slander and lies (Col 3:8)
-be clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and love (Col 3:12)
-bear with my loved ones and forgive (Col 3:13)
-be ruled by the peace of Christ (Col 3:15)
-be indwelt by the word of Christ as I teach, admonish and sing...with gratitude (Col 3:16)
-to reprove, rebuke and exhort with great patience and instruction (2 Tim 4:2)
-not to embitter and discourage my children (Col 3:21)
-to encourage and help (I Thess 5:14)
-to be patient, kind and joyful always (I Thess 5:16)
-to pray continually, giving thanks in all circumstances (I Thess 5:17-18)
-to have a gentle and quiet spirit (not angry and protesting) (1 Peter 3:4)
-to do what is right and not give way to fear (1 Peter 3:6)
Help me not to be angry, and in my anger, not to sin. (Eph 4:26)
Set a guard, O Lord, before my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips. (Ps 141:3) Let me be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to take offense and get angry. (James 1:20) Help me do all things without grumbling, fault-finding, and complaining (Phil 2:14), but instead to encourage and help. (I Thess 5:11)
If I have the ability to speak life to you, to encourage you, to help you, to make you feel good, to cause you to believe that you can make it, but I choose instead to discourage you, to tear you down, to make you feel mieserable, to cause you to want to give up and quit, there is something wrong with my mouth. (Joyce Meyer, Me and My Big Mouth)
Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and will teach you what you shall say. (Ex 4:12)
These passages are so significant to me that I like to come back to them here:
Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left. And your descendants will possess nations and will resettle the desolate cities. (Is 54:2-3)
Behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and your foundations I will lay in sapphires. Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies, and your gates of crystal, and your entire wall of precious stones.
All your sons will be taught of the Lord; and the well-being of your sons will be great.
In righteousness you will be established; you will be far from oppression, for you will not fear. (Is 54:11-14)
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost...and delight yourself in abundance. (Is 55:1-2)
For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace.
Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up, and instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up. (Is 55:12-13)
Final thoughts to go into the day:
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree planted in the house of the Lord. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green. (Ps 92:12)
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Thy consolations delight my soul. (Ps 94:19)
May the God of peace sanctify me through and through. The one who calls me is faithful, and He will do it. (1 Thess 5:23-24)
They tell me it has been 25 years since my graduation from Wheaton College.
I can't quite believe that. Somewhere inside this seasoned mom of six and wife of 25+ years, I still feel like a college freshman. Wait, make that a college senior. (I do not feel anywhere close to a recent high school graduate.)
I can't write off the ensuing 25 years, for so much has happened in that era, but still, what a formative time those four years of college were!
I am watching my own daughter, now a college sophomore, make a slow transition into the adult world, with adult responsibilities. And I know I traveled that same road when I chose a college 6 hours from my Ohio home, which ended up taking me even to Europe--on an unchaperoned train-and-hostel trip with three other girls--and regularly into the just-as-foreign Windy City. By the end of those four years, I had met "the one" and graduated as a married woman. What a whirlwind of growing up!
My one regret of college was that I went steady with a guy, all of my freshman year and half of my sophomore year, and I started dating my husband at the beginning of our junior year. Though I don't regret dating my husband, of course, I do feel like I missed out on girlfriend time.
But God has a way of redeeming things. I was in a small Bible study with three other friends during my last two years at Wheaton. The four of them, plus my wonderful roommate--God sure was good to me there--made up my wedding party. It was through one of those three friends that I found traveling companions for our memorable trip to Europe.
At our 20th reunion, I discovered that some of these same girls, from the Europe trip and the Bible study, had formed an email group to stay in touch and share prayer requests. In the group were other girls that I knew through mutual friends and from being on the same dorm floor. I casually asked them to add me to the list too, not realizing what a sisterhood I was asking to join--and they have become a significant force in my life in the last five years! We have shared deeply and prayed one another through crises, decisions, adoption, divorce, retirement, sudden death of a husband and other tough stuff. Girlfriends, indeed. Thank you, Lord!
And I get to see three of them this weekend!
Also get to see Professor Brother and his wife--it's their 20th, so they are coming from Kansas--and we'll other friends from our class. I am excited!
But still disbelieving. I am actually not old enough for this.
But if they go this quickly, here's to another 25!
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The best-laid plans...and half of them have come to naught!
We started out this school year with confidence that everyone was set for the year. They were all enrolled in virtual schools; they had their laptops, their curriculum, their teachers. We'd all done this before. I knew I'd be hard-pressed to assist them all, but the older two could handle it, I was confident.
Six weeks later... and I have pulled Chicklet10 out of her virtual school, and B17 has dropped two classes and added two others! It's been a rocky beginning.
As a homeschooler, I am used to previewing curriculum before I choose it for my kids. Most parents in the public schools do not have that luxury, I realize, but it is one of the great gifts of homeschooling. Through our selection of assignments, we can make sure that our kids are spending the most time on activities most suited to their needs and abilities, with the right amount of challenge.
I just could not stand by and watch Chicklet, in 4th grade, have to scroll through paragraphs and paragraphs of low-interest, wordy, non-fiction text and then answer droves of questions requiring her to search back through all that material for a certain phrase. She was having to read more stuff about evaluating literature than actually reading any selections. I can see explaining first and third person to fourth graders, but third person limited? Third person omniscient? Third person objective? She had paragraphs and paragraphs of details about all the functions of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. (For fourth grade, I'm delighted if they can name the three branches; I'm thrilled if they know that they mean the President, the Congress and the Supreme Court!) She needed my help to search and find answers to questions like "What are the three categories of symbiosis?" (The answer was buried in a paragraph of text, not numbered or set off with bullet points, and the categories are multi-sentence explanations, not easily condensed into a word.) The last straw was a social studies assignment for her to read the Declaration of the Rights of Man (the French declaration of independence) and compare it to the American Declaration (neither written at a fourth grade level)--and highlight the similarities. Really??
Early on, she had been so hopeful that she would be able to work independently, but about the third week, she said, "Mom, I feel like I am not very smart." I began to spend more time helping her, so it wouldn't take so long and be so frustrating, and that's when I realized the problem was the curriculum. It's the first year they have offered this level, 4th grade, of Lincoln Interactive. It's a curriculum we had used and loved for second grade, and B7 is doing great currently in Little Lincoln, 2nd grade. I gave them my feedback...and pulled her out.
Since then, she has read Sarah, Plain and Tall, Skylark, The Courage of Sarah Noble and Sam the Minuteman with excellent comprehension and enthusiasm. She's doing several pages a day in various workbooks for math and language arts, with lots of time left over for reading, which she loves and which is what I believe 4th graders should spend most of their time doing. That and memorizing math facts, and writing--and none of these were frequently assigned by the other curriculum!
For B17, it was also a matter of difficulty. He was so lost in Spanish 2. Papa Rooster, who took two years of Spanish in high school and was a bright student, finally took a look and said it looked more like Spanish 3 or 4 to him. The guidance counselor readily agreed that the Spanish 2 course was very difficult, and she approved our thought that he switch to Latin 1. His brother is currently taking Latin 1 as an 8th grader, so I was able to preview the curriculum(!) and I could tell that B17 would learn more from a year of Latin than from Spanish 2. They are now both enjoying Latin class.
The only problem, in high school, is that even a simple choice like that can have ramifications for college acceptance. Unless B17 takes Latin 2 next year (not his plan), he will have two years of a language, but not the same language. How badly will that hurt him? My hope is--not much. It would be fine with TIU, where his sister is, and Taylor, for example, doesn't require but recommends two credits of foreign language, no mention of it being the same language. Still, some colleges want two years of the same language, and he doesn't know where he wants to apply yet.
The other tough decision was to pull him out of Algebra 2 where he was confused and getting more lost every week. It's covered on the ACT, and many colleges want to see 3 years of math through Algebra 2, so it was a hard choice. But the Algebra 1 class he had taken in 9th grade was a slower-paced class called Algebra Survey which may not have fully prepared him for Algebra 2. With input from the math teacher and guidance counselor, we decided to put him in Algebra 1 as a junior and plan to take Algebra 2 as a senior. Since then, I heard of a college math professor saying he wished everyone could take Algebra 1 twice, because that foundation is so important for any higher level math, so we are feeling good about that decision. B17 is, too.
He's also taking speech at a community college, once a week for three hours. So far, he's doing well, and the plan is to take a college class each of his remaining semesters. He'll enter college with some credit, and it will build his confidence before he is faced with a full courseload.
Meanwhile, B13--who you may recall ended up at the local middle school for the second half of last year--is struggling once again with motivation. He really, really does not want to go back to the public school, but he may require the structure. He actually did have a good experience last year and thought the work was easier, but he hated how many hours he was trapped in school. "Every day is the same," he once complained, which made me laugh, because so many people would think that homeschooling would be more monotonous! Maybe now that we finally have B17 and C10 settled, I can shift my attention to B13 and help him stay on top of it. The middle school girls, however, will be delighted if he returns to public school!
Thank heavens B7 is chugging along steadily in second grade, doing Little Lincoln online. He is a good reader for his age, which helps. I am familiar with the curriculum, since we used it with C10 two years ago, and I am comfortable tweaking the lessons to make them less laborious. Really, he can just write "S" or "P" instead of "singular" or "plural," don't you think? Or maybe I can take fill in the word web as he brainstorms ideas for a paragraph? B7 is such a willing fellow, but he balks at too much handwriting in one day, and I think it ultimately interferes with learning, at his age. He enjoys the 5 minute instructional videos and games, and overall, I like the program a lot.
So, six weeks in, and I am still not sure that we are settled. But after our rocky start, it looks like a smoother road ahead.
So I haven't been able to write a blog post in the past couple of weeks because every spare moment has been consumed by...makeup!
Dress rehearsals for Narnia, the Musical, begin in less than a week. I don't think I've ever had so much makeup and hair to think about for a single show before! I've even chaired the makeup committee for this show when we did it before, but I had a co-chair who was an artist, and he did all the animal face designs. If you think about it, there are only six humans in the whole show.
This time I've also had to order costume pieces that were missing. No Santa wig and beard with the suit? No bull horns with the Bull costume? No headbands or hoods on the animal costumes; you want the kids' hair shaped into animal ears?
Couldn't find any suitable Tumnus horns online--for sale, that is--so I'm going to try to fashion my own with Model Magic. My friend who made them for our other Narnia production sent me instructions--I'm hoping they come out half as good as hers! (And what happened to them, anyway?)
And the emails--trying to communicate and meet with my committee to try out designs, and draft and train teen helpers, and write up instructions for parents, so they can help their kids can do as much of their own makeup and hair as possible....
I am dreaming makeup and hair.
Yep, every spare moment! Add a Comment
I'm BAAACK! What? No time passed for the rest of you?
I've been in Narnia, a land not normally inhabited by humans. A visit from Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve is a big deal. So who lives there? Narnians!
These are woodland Narnians. A couple of my teen helpers did leaf-and-vine designs on all of them.
Here is a Pixie. My very own pixie, in fact. :) Another teen helper painted all 8 pixies every show.
There are fairies in Narnia. The Fairies were all teenage girls able to do this elaborate design on themselves and outline it with gold Aqua Glitter. (No, they did not wear old shirts for costumes--that is a cover-up, required when cast members are eating or applying makeup.)
There is a Witch in Narnia! A White Witch who makes it always winter and never Christmas. Here she is with her henchman, Scratch, the Dwarf. One of the other moms, who had never done stage makeup before but who had been an art major in college, took on the White Witch as her project. From hair design to finishing touches of silverleaf, it took 45 minutes or more to get her ready, but the results were worth it. She looked fabulous onstage!
The White Witch is accompanied in her dance numbers by Cruelies, who are evil spirit-types. The directors wanted them to be nearly faceless, so we covered their lips with makeup and added this creepy-looking design around their eyes. It was simple enough for them to do themselves, and it looked great!
There were other Evils who joined the White Witch's army. I encouraged them to go crazy with wrinkles, bags, shadows, wild-and-wooly eyebrows, and super-teased and messy hair. This girl gave herself a unibrow!
Mr. Tumnus, a Faun, plays a leading role in the story. Fauns are half man, half goat: bare-chested, with facial hair. With prosthetic ears, he was nearly there, but for the finishing touch, I handcrafted horns out of Model Magic and mounted them on a headband. He looked distinctive from all the other characters on stage, especially when frozen into a statue!
Finally, Narnia is full of Talking Animals.
Here is me applying finishing touches to the Bull, Aslan's military commander. He may be hard to recognize, but that is my 13-year-old son.
The costume and a little bit of distance make him look more Bull-ish. All of these designs look different on stage than they do in these close-ups. We have found that subtle does not play well in our extra-large theater with not-great lighting, so bolder and bigger is better!
All of us on the makeup team found that we were our own worst critics. (I think this time I made the white area around his mouth too wide; his face looked longer and narrower when the white did not extend beyond the edges of his mouth or as far up onto his nose.)
The Beavers proved to be quite a challenge, but we finally got them right, I think. I did Mrs. Beaver's face and Mr. Beaver's hair "ears" every time. Here you can see how a slight change in a design can make a big difference. I blended out the white around Mrs. B's eyes a bit too much this time, and I didn't darken her nose as much as his is. He looks better because there is more contrast of light and dark on his face. Also his eyebrows really complete his design. I made hers more feminine and "plucked" on purpose, but imagine her arch thickened just a bit--see what that would add? Also, I had trouble with the brush I used to do her whisker dots too, and that area got smudgy when I tried to fix them. The crispness of his looks really good by comparison. Just little stuff...but it's making notes like this that helped us get better each time!
Okay, that was for anyone googling "bull makeup" or "beaver makeup." All done critiquing.
Here is a creative use of hair to make ears, on our Deer...
We had a Rabbit and a Hare. We gave them both the same makeup design. She had to flip a little girl over her head in one dance, so we made her a French lop, with her ears on the sides.
...and an Antelope are all good Narnians.
But in the Green Room, a Talking Leopard can be friends with a Hag...
..and a Squirrel can play cards with an Ogre (who creatively gave himself a black eye, you can see!). It's like the Peaceable Kingdom! (Don't you love his hair?)
Finally, we have the magical White Stag. If you catch him, he'll give you three wishes! Our Stag had a Doe for a dance partner, and their ballet interludes during scene changes was one of my favorite parts of the show. She remained a Doe for the whole show, so her makeup is more elaborate (lots of glitter which showed up well under the lights) while his was as minimal as possible. Why? Because he had a quick change into the Professor, who appears in the very next scene! So less white, less black on him--which had to be wiped off in a flash, and a few wrinkles reapplied. Off came the antlers, and on went a pair of horn-rimmed glasses--and some folks didn't realize it was the same young man! I was pleased at how his hair looked white in this costume, and gray in his Professor sweater.
(As a makeup tip for anyone googling--because it can be hard to get dark hair to look white--I painted his hair with a Graftobian Disguise Stix in white to start out, especially on sideburns and bangs, then sprayed with Streaks'n'Tips white hairspray. The Party City brand was very wet and only turned the hair gray; Beyond the Zone Color Bomb hair spray is not as good either. The Graftobian Glitter Gel was cheaper, more glittery and less sticky than Ben Nye's Glitz. We used Ben Nye Magicake Aqua Paints for most of our designs. For the White Witch, we used a color called Blue Spirit as the base, and went with a creme base for more comfort and blendability.)
I have some makeup experience, but can you believe that the other five moms on my committee had never done makeup before?? Didn't they do a fabulous job? And though you always lose some control over the designs when you have the kids doing themselves--cough, Evils, cough, cough--there is no way we could have got 80-some cast members ready any other way! And they learn so much from doing it. I was SO PROUD of the kids, my team, my teen helpers and the RESULTS. The makeup was a huge addition to the whole illusion of sets, costumes and props creating the wonderland of Narnia! Add a Comment
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