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Viewing Blog: At A Hen's Pace, Most Recent at Top
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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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1. Giving

Last night, I heard an older, wiser priest say that in his ministry, he's seen two blocks to the work of the Holy Spirit:  unwillingness to forgive, and unwillingness to give.

I've thought about the need for forgiveness to clear blockages in our lives before, so my mind instantly went to his point about giving. As I held it up before the Lord, wondering if there was something He wanted to unblock there, or a ministry He wanted us to give to...I was surprised to hear Him say, "You're doing it already. It's your house."

I guess it's apparent to my readers that I've been wrestling all summer with the decision we made to buy this house, and I'm still holding it up before the Lord. I know we bought the house He indicated. I know we are exactly where He wants us; I've received confirmation after confirmation. It's just that I wouldn't have picked a house that needed this much work, especially when we're not the handy types who can do stuff ourselves. (Although Papa Rooster did actually take apart the framing around a pocket door last week to get it back on track, which was a project of several hours, and it's almost as good as new, except for the shrieking the door makes as you close it the last four inches or so. It's our early warning system, telling us when the half bath is occupied.)

I felt God asking me to view the money we're investing in this home differently, to see it as an investment in a ministry He has prepared for us. Among other things, it's a ministry of hosting and hospitality, which we've always done, no matter where we've lived. We've often had college students live with us, especially back in our Illinois home, and right now, we have a young man living in our basement. On Saturday, we ended up hosting a meeting of 16 leaders here, when our reservation on a room at the Kemper Center got bumped. It worked out so beautifully, I was amazed!

This house also seems like it's a place that ministers all by itself. The view alone soothes the soul. Every day Lake Michigan looks so different; it reminds me of the infinite creativity of God. But the house itself has a warmth and a peace that is palpable. A neighborhood teen, a friend of the young man living in our basement, visited us for the first time one night, and he said to me, "You know, your house is a warm house. I noticed it when I was here for the estate sale. It has a very warm feel to it." He's not the only one that's made similar comments, but it was interesting because he didn't know our family, and he sensed it in the house before we ever moved into it.

I have to admit that I get concerned about appearances, though. Investing in my own home doesn't look like sacrificial giving; I get to benefit by living in a spacious and beautiful place. But I would gladly have bought the tiny cottage two streets over! For my frugal personality, it's hard to spend money on myself. I can gladly write checks to missions, but to have to write a large check for a roof--just a small roof, at that!--just for maintenance; there's nothing that feels like ministry about that. The Lord also knows how much I'd prefer the security of money in the bank, not invested in a house. But He's saying, "Trust me for the future. I'm asking you to view your home as something more than a place for your family to live. This is My work, and I want you to invest freely in it. Do not fear the judgments of others. I understand how this is a sacrifice for you."

It was my idea to sell our old house and downsize, so we could more easily live on less. It was practical. It's what we needed to do, if we were going to transition to a full-time pastor's salary and have some financial security. It was an old and dear friend, a priest who visited us from another state, who challenged us, ""But did God tell you to downsize? Maybe God doesn't want you to downsize." And he was right. God asked us to do something that, for me, was even harder.

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2. Summer's End (Back to School)

It all starts today:  public school, our classical homeschooling co-op, the worship school and theater classes!


So here's the quick low-down for the school year.

The two oldest are not going to school, but working. B23 continues to work a couple shifts a week at a dollar store. He's not fast at unpacking boxes, but he's faithful to arrive at work at 5 a.m.! Blondechick21 just finished a summer of nannying for an attorney she knows from church, who invited her to come work part-time at her law firm this fall. She's hoping there will be enough filing and data entry to turn into a full-time position there! She's the only one not living at home; she's staying with a couple from our church who are graciously renting their second floor to her. It's a charming space, with alcoves and swing out windows, with views of lovely gardens in the neighbor's yard. If the bathroom weren't in the basement with the spiders and other creepy crawlies, it would be perfect. ;)

B19 is going to the School of Worship--the same school that Blondechick went to last year. It was such a rich year of discipleship and mentoring for her, and it seems like B19's class is going to be another great group of students. He anticipates lots of "bro time"--13 out of the 25 students are guys! He'll be in class from 8 to 3:30 daily--a big time commitment.

B15 will begin his sophomore year at the public high school. He's excited to be in Chorale this year--the school's top choir--and in Madrigals again. He took driver's ed this summer and has his permit, but  we are not sure about letting him get his license when he turns 16 in February--can't afford a sixth driver on our policy! We are hoping the two oldest can get some more hours at work and be able to start paying for their portion. Meanwhile, he has a ride to and from school with a neighbor who's a senior--a blessing that will net him several more hours of sleep a week compared to taking the bus.

Chicklet-almost-12 will be homeschooled again this year, but B9 is going to go to the local elementary school. We are in the same high school district in our new location, but it's a different elementary and middle school; the middle school has a terrible reputation, but the elementary school is outstanding, we hear. As I prayed about this year, I kept feeling a nudge from the Lord to put him there. 

It wasn't an easy decision, because I am excited about our next year with our homeschooling co-op! We were a Classical Conversations community last year, but to have more flexibility with what we do, we decided to become a co-op instead. We are still using the CC curriculum, with some modifications, but we are free to adjust the schedule, teachers and class sizes as we like. I'm especially eager to tweak the grammar and writing portion that I teach to 4th - 6th graders, to make the material more engaging, to focus on grammar usage as much or more than on memory work, and to include some more enjoyable writing assignments.

B9 has friends in the co-op too, which is the main reason why he didn't want to go to school. But I have a feeling that I'm going to be pretty distracted with house projects, at least for the fall, and I'm afraid I just won't have much patience or energy to sit with him and make sure he does his work. It's very tempting to delegate that task to someone else! Also Chicklet will get more done without him around, and she needs to have a good year, being in sixth grade, her first year of middle school. On the other hand, he will have homework, and there will be school communications and deadlines to stay on top of, and lunches to make and pay for, and all those things add up to a big chunk of time also.

I had trouble sorting out all the pros and cons, but couldn't get away from the feeling that it might just be a good thing for him to go. It will probably be more of a challenge for him than what I would be able to commit to providing this year, and I think he'll benefit from being pushed by someone other than me. A little positive peer pressure never hurt either, and he's quite social. We met his teacher and saw his classroom, and now he's pretty excited to start. We'll see how it goes!


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3. This Week's Project

So. There is a newish roof on the main part of the house, but this balcony had some issues, we knew.





First the railing came down...and yesterday the roof came up!


It's a good thing we decided to go ahead and take care of it before winter, the roofer said. It was pretty wet underneath the tin.


A big pile of rusty tin roof!



They cleaned and dried everything, then put down a new layer of fiberboard.


Then new roofing material rolled out over that, and the seams were heated and melted together.


Since the balcony was in deep shade when they finished, I thought I'd wait to get a nice sunny picture of the new roof in the morning. But it's raining! Guess we got the new roof on just in time.


The new white metal railing will be installed next week; then the roofers will come back and lay flashing around each post to make sure all is water-tight.

The roof is an extra-thick rubber membrane with gritty sand-like stones as a top layer. It's fine to walk on and put patio furniture on, and hopefully light enough in color that it won't be too hot. We'll probably get an indoor/outdoor area rug or two, next spring, plus we'll need some more chairs. Always something!

But so glad we did it now.

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4. Yes, But How Are You?

It has been a stressful summer.

Sold a house--very emotional and grief-filled.

Lived with friends--fabulously wonderful! (More on that.)

Bought a house--also very emotional, and a decision that was--and continues to be--faith-stretching.

Trying to get settled in new house--hasn't been easy. We keep getting distracted by house projects--floors, plumbing, kitchen, have to do something about the chimney and the tin roof/balcony--and can't seem to get unpacked. Plus some rooms don't exist yet--where do we put those belongings now?

So how am I doing, really?

And the answer is...

I feel quite well, considering everything. Though I am easily overwhelmed with all there is to do, I can only do what I can do in a day, and the rest can wait till tomorrow. We have the whole church coming over for a house blessing on Sunday afternoon. We still have boxes everywhere, and piles of stuff that I don't know where to put or haven't had time to sort, but it's okay. The house can be blessed, friends can visit and rejoice with us, and I'm not hiding the fact that this is my life right now!

Although the summer's events have been emotionally draining and I am mentally and physically very tired, I am buoyed up by a strong sense of rightness about it all. So many little confirmations make me believe that God is leading us down this path. It's been a rocky, uneven path, with overgrowth that we have to stop and clear away at points, but He keeps beckoning us to keep following, even with the occasional smiling reminder that He never promised it would be an easy path, but that it would be worth it in the end. He's used so many people to confirm and encourage us.

Here's one example--the friends who invited us to live with them while we didn't have a house. It ended up to be about 7 weeks total, and those weeks exactly coincided with the wife's recovery period from a sudden and serious abdominal surgery. She wasn't allowed to drive or go to work, and as a strong extrovert, it would have been a very difficult time for her. In her own words:

Your family's presence saved me from the loneliness and false sense of uselessness that would have hit me hard during my convalescence had it just been [my husband] and me.  You also saved him from being overwhelmed by having to meet all of his wife's needs for socializing.  Although he has never complained of being overwhelmed by me, I think I could have approached the limit.  When I was home on maternity leave with [her son], I became a garrulous maniac that made store clerks run the other way - really!  God was definitely providing for everyone.

For our family, staying with this couple felt like several weeks in a vacation condo with them! They have a beautiful, large, restful home. Our kids loved their dog, their neighborhood, their jokes and their food. They both love to cook, so every day we'd make meal plans early enough for someone to pick up groceries, and then we'd all help chop, prep, bake and/or grill. The husband is a massage therapist, so we took advantage of his conveniently located office (in the next room over from our bedroom), and the wife is a psychologist, which made our mealtime conversations extra-stimulating. The two husbands began most days with morning prayer together, and the wife and I have one of those friendships where we never, ever, run out of things to talk about, so it was fabulous for us both to have so much free time at the same time. Our time there was such a gift, and the timing was a strong confirmation that we had done the right thing to sell our old house when we did.

Another huge stressor this summer has been a situation at church. It has paralleled our move in some ways--emotionally draining, filled with grief, and faith-stretching. It's been the same kind of rocky, uneven, obstacle-ridden path, but God has been continually sending us the encouragements to hang in there. People we've been praying for have started coming to church, have started asking the right questions about their relationship with God, are being transformed in huge ways! Visitors have come--and come back! There has been a new freedom in our worship and in individual expression and gifting. This Sunday, one of our disabled youths is giving the sermon!, in partnership with an elder. There have been so many encouraging things alongside the challenges.

So I am well. Exhausted, but well. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 comes to mind:  "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."

The previous verse also applies:  "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

It is the Lord who is sustaining me, empowering me, working through me and encouraging me!

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5. Gift

It's funny to me that I ended my last post with a paragraph about how this house feels like a gift. "Gift" is on my mind again today, but with a whole different set of thoughts, so I'm glad I already gave some context last time!

I was speaking to the Lord this morning about His gift, and wondering if He knew that it would require a good bit of maintenance. I suspect that He did, but one can't help but have a few mixed feelings about a gift house when one is expecting a plumber for the sixth workday in a row. At what point is it okay to look a gift house in the mouth? ;)

So we had this tiny leak in the basement. Just a few drops. It would get a little worse, then seem to dry up. We had plumbers here giving us quotes on the third floor attic project, and one of them spent a little time looking into it and gave us his free opinion that it must be the second floor shower drain. Probably the pan under the drain was made of lead--typical of an old house--and typically they crack.

He didn't get back to us about actually doing the work, so we called a friend's cousin that we used before in our old house. He came over and agreed that could be it, but he suggested we gamble that the lead pan was replaced in the 60's when the bathrooms were updated, and instead we try the much cheaper option of resealing the grout, which needed to be done anyway.

That didn't stop the leak, but in the process, he figured out it couldn't be the pan. It looked like it might be a bad pipe, though, so it would be a simple fix to just replace it--very accessible, right there in the ceiling of the basement.

Okay, I wasn't home for this part, but the pipe?  It was a boiler pipe, not a plumbing pipe. Oops. It began to shoot out water and awful black sludge that had built up in the system that we never would have known about otherwise. They had to move boxes and stuff in a hurry and they ruined a couple of my towels, but hey, in a plumbing emergency, who's going to call their wife and ask where the old towels are, right? (I've been rehearsing this regularly as part of my forgiveness process. :)

Anyway, it was a providential mistake in the end, because it meant we got the bad pipe replaced and the boiler flushed out too. But the plumber was stymied as to what was causing the leak. He found a sink drain problem in the half bath that needed attention, but it wasn't causing the leak. He finally had to open up a wall to see what was going on. Yes, he had to cut a hole--not one but two, as it turned out--in my 111-year-old plaster dining room wall. I couldn't watch. At least our new access panel will be covered up by bookshelves for the foreseeable future.

But there was nothing! Everything was bone dry where he expected to see water damage.

So they moved the fridge again, because the leak was directly under it, just to contemplate--and this time, they noticed a tiny bit of dampness around a crack in the vinyl tile underneath it. A little digging revealed that the subfloor underneath was completely rotten. It appeared that the fridge might be leaking, but we couldn't feel or see any water coming from it. Our plumber feared one last possibility--that "some redneck plumber" may have put plumbing where it didn't belong, under the lower cabinets. Since we were about to put in a new floor, he had to rule out that possibility, so he cut a little hole to investigate that and found no pipes. It had to be the fridge. (Later, after it was pulled out, it began leaking in earnest. It was nice to know for sure, finally!)

And that is why I had to buy a new refrigerator and a new floor. To put in the new floor, he had to move the 50-year-old stove out, and he begged me to just buy a new one already, especially since the warming oven above the stove didn't work. But I knew if I bought a new stove, I also had to buy a new range hood or a microwave to put in the gap where the old warming oven had been, so I resisted for awhile. Our renovating budget was supposed to go to the third floor project, not the kitchen! But after his dire predictions about how much it would cost to fix the old oven and how much longer it would last (not long), I gave in. God must want me to have new appliances.

Fridge, microwave, stove--check. I picked it all out in about 15 minutes, based on price, size--there were only about 3 refrigerators that would fit in our space--and the sales guy's recommendations. It all happened too fast. I had looked forward to planning my new kitchen! I thought I'd have lots of time to read appliance reviews and play around with ideas for the floor, countertops, backsplash and wall paint color. I've gotten better at winging it in many areas of my life, but I still enjoy planning, so I struggled with feeling a little out of sorts about the whole thing. I went to bed exhausted, worried that my quick decisions would not be good ones, wondering what God was doing with the rearrangement of priorities and refusing to think about the plumber's bill.

As it turns out, I'm thrilled with my appliances and my floor, and the plumber, an acquaintance who has become a friend after six days in our home, practically donated most of his services. Another gift!

In the midst of all this, I got a note from a friend who had spend a Sunday afternoon with us recently. She wrote, "Now I can see why God gave you guys that house. As we were driving away, our daughter said, "I never wanted to leave that deck." She spoke for all of us. You both have such a miraculous gift of hospitality--and I can't imagine any better setting for it. The wide Lake Michigan vista backdrop and the sheltered "secret garden" backyard--the vast and the protected together-- the two archetypes that speak most deeply to my heart, and I imagine I'm not alone. And I can't think of anyone who would use it better than your family."

Another friend, not normally a guy who speaks this way, told us in the midst of all the plumbing problems (and getting disappointing news and quotes on other work that needs to be done) that we should not let ourselves be discouraged, that we should still believe in God's purposes for us in this house.

Between the two of them and the Lord speaking to my own heart, I'm in a good place again. Even though the time spend on the kitchen set me back another week in the unpacking--and we scheduled a house blessing for this weekend! There will be boxes everywhere, but I'm eager to dedicate this gift back to the Lord, for His purposes and plans.

Old fridge and flooring

New fridge, new floor

Old stove with oven above

New stove and microwave (electrical outlet for microwave to be installed soon!)


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6. New House

So we have a new house. :)

Yes, we are living there now. We had to wait another week after we closed on July 14, to have the floors refinished and then wait for the fumes to diminish. We still have barely any furniture moved in, though--just beds, our dining room table, a couch and various chairs.

We've been gradually getting everything we had brought with us to the garage and basement of the friends we were staying with, plus I have most of my kitchen and pantry items out of storage and mostly unpacked now. But we still have three storage units full of the rest of our stuff that we need to bring in to the house! One more week till the floors are fully cured, so we tell ourselves it's probably better to wait and not cover them with boxes yet anyway. And hey, we've already paid for the storage.

What you really want to see is pictures.

Probably not smart to post a photo here of the front of the house, but here's the back. The part under the sloped roof is the original 1903 brick Victorian. The part under the balcony is a 1965 addition. This back side of the house faces east, toward Lake Michigan.


Next we have the view from our balcony on the night we moved in. There was a Twilight Jazz concert at the bandshell, and you can even see a sailboat on the lake--it's a little white dot near the cloud line.


Our garage and back yard--


The 1965 addition. The wall on the right is brick, the original exterior wall. We did not re-do these floors--they haven't been covered by carpet and still look pretty good. 


This is the view across the front of the house, standing in the living room, looking across the foyer into the dining room. That's a smaller foyer leading to the front door, to the left, and between it and the dining room there is a roomy closet. In this photo, the floor guys had just sanded the living room floor.

Our 111-year-old floors are old-growth Oregon fir.

Master bedroom floor before...


And after!


A few more "afters"--

Here's the finished dining room, with the original 1950's wallpaper that I'm keeping, for now!


The living room (we're keeping the blue for now)...


and the other bedrooms.

B23 will get the smallest bedroom. No wallpaper, faces the lake.

Chicklet11 and B9 are sharing this room for now. Rosebud wallpaper, faces the street.

Everybody loves the wallpaper in the bicycle room! B19 and B15 are sharing this room with a lake view for now.
In the interests of getting something posted today, I will save kitchen and bathroom photos for another post! But here are a couple shots of the attic, which has been a preoccupation lately, as we've been talking to contractors about finishing it.



We plan to put a master bedroom at this end, and a library/office for Father Rooster in the end with the stairway, with a dormer out toward the lake to create a nice seating/meeting area as well. We'll put a bathroom in the existing dormer area towards the middle, with the three low windows in the first photo above.

One last photo. While we were waiting on the floors, we had a friend pressure-wash and stain our deck!


This was taken at 9:30 a.m.--we have dappled sunlight on it almost all morning. (Isn't our neighbor's house beautiful?) We've spent a lot of time out here already.

The second floor balcony is going to be a great outdoor space as well, once we deal with the peeling paint on the tin roof; we've been consulting on that too. We think we'll cover it with plywood, a rubber membrane and indoor/outdoor carpeting. But first we'll wait for the dormer in the roof above to be completed, since they are likely to set up equipment on the balcony during construction. Dominoes!

So many dominoes! I don't want to move a lot of stuff into the basement until we have shelves set up, and I don't want to set up all the shelves until the floor is swept, and I can't sweep the floor until.... It's the same story with the garage, the mudroom and other areas I'm trying to organize.

So I'm off to organize! But first let me say how thankful I am, every morning, for the gift of this house. That word--"gift"--just keeps coming up for me, tied to the house and this whole move, in so many ways that I am still unwrapping and receiving almost daily, so to speak--it seems like there is more to this gift than I even imagined, and we are receiving gifts related to it, too. Our kids feel it too, even the ones who were the most reluctant to leave our other house, who were not excited about us buying an old house--they are falling in love with this house, the neighborhood, "Lake living," and something intangible about being here. I think it has to do with being where God wants us.

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7. Finishing Up the School Year Strong

With all the house excitement, I‘ve neglected to post anything about the end of our school year, but it’s worth mentioning! We had two graduations—B19’s from high school, and Blondechick’s from the School of Worship. We had a nice closing program for the Classical Conversations group which Chicklet11 and B9 were in this year, in which I taught the Essentials class. B14 completed his first year of high school successfully. We had a graduation party for B19, after our move, at the house where we are staying, so that’s done. Overall, it was a good school year indeed!

B19 is our first “homeschool graduate.” I have to use quotation marks because the irony is that he really wasn’t homeschooled at all for high school. For 9th grade, he was at a Christian school. For 10th and 11th grades, he was enrolled in a public virtual school; he took two college classes as a junior as well. For his senior year, we planned for him to take two classes at the public high school and two classes at the local college, in order for him to graduate from high school with about 18 college credits. He stuck to that plan first semester, but second semester he ended up taking only one class at college so that he could add another high school “class”—an internship at an elementary school, since he’d like to become a teacher for that age group. He enjoyed those fifth graders very much!

We didn’t do the homeschool graduation ceremony, since he really wasn’t part of the homeschool group. We had an open house, and we created a diploma, although we still have to print it out and give it to him. (Minor details!) I also need to create an official transcript for his high school years, adding in all the college classes he took and also his one homeschool class—a PE credit I gave him for all of his running, lifting and working out almost daily, for the last three years. Easiest class I ever taught!
He took this lovely lady (a friend from his church) to prom on his 19th birthday!
His immediate plans are to work this summer—he seems to have a niche as a shoe salesman, working at two jobs this summer, having left his first job awhile back, but all three at shoe stores!—and then go to the School of Worship in the fall--the same nine-month program that Blondechick just graduated from. While there, he may be discerning a call into ministry as well. He had a great year helping with the Campus Life group at his high school; he's led a few kids to the Lord and prayed for scores after sharing his testimony at the Christian school he used to attend, and also at two Youth for Christ fundraising banquets. Teacher, pastor, church musician…he’ll probably end up being all of these things in church settings, but as for a career and where he’ll pursue further education, we will be praying for God’s direction during the coming school year.

Blondechick had a wonderful year at the School of Worship. She grew so much in her faith, her knowledge of Scripture, her awareness of God’s presence and voice, and in her musical abilities.  She was required to take keyboarding and music theory, and be on a worship team. She learned chords and chord structure so she could accompany her team on the keyboard, and that helped her learn songwriting as well. Now that the school has ended and she’s no longer on a regular worship team, she’s been finding joy in writing her own songs.

Blondechick performing her own song at the Songwriting Showcase


 She’s a little unsure as to what comes next for her. She doesn’t want to return to college—she has no career goal that requires a degree, she really didn’t enjoy taking classes, and the college environment was not a good one for her. She’s nannying three days a week this summer and working part-time at a law office too. She hopes to be able to afford a small apartment, and see what God has in store for her! She and B19 have been attending the church that is affiliated with the School of Worship, where there are many young people their age, and we are so thankful for the good friends, pastors and mentors they have there. God provides!

B14 had a successful year in the public school, finishing up with good grades and nice affirmation from his teachers. This past spring, he was selected to be part of an improv team that was preparing for a big competition which took place this past weekend. His team finished somewhere in the middle of the ten teams that competed, but it was a lot of fun for him.  Chicklet11 and I also enjoyed the day-long event. B14 was invited to be part of an All-Star Jazz Choir that is rehearsing and performing this summer, and this week he's at an overnight camp with our Christian theater group, which was a meaningful experience for hm last year. When he returns, he’ll start a summer PE class at the public school. We are thankful that B23 is able to help with all the driving for his activities!


 Chicklet and B9 got off easy this spring, since we were busy packing for our move. Our Classical Conversations group kept us on track through the end of April, and I was just thrilled with how much they learned this year through that program alone! After that, they had a minimum amount of reading and math to get done each morning, and we’ve been sticking to that, some days, even this summer. They have handled the move so well, and they love being at our friends' house. They've been been busy playing together happily and creatively, seeing friends, and being outside. This past week, they’ve been making movies and camping out in the backyard.

I leave you with a short video of them performing a groovy little number at the CC closing program. It was their favorite "history sentence" put to music, and Chicklet made up the choreography!


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8. Not Happy With Google

Smaaack!!

That was the sound of me kissing my dear little blog after a week of not being able to access it.

Let me just use the power of the internet to say I am not happy with Google, who owns Blogger now. For the past week, every time I tried to log on to my blog, I got a message--from Google--that said they were working hard to restore my access; try again in a few hours.

Days went by--not hours--and no change. So I posted my issue on a Google/Blogger Help Forum and got no response.

More days went by--still no response from Google--and finally I figured out on my own that the issue might be that somehow Blogger thought I was my husband, because somehow his account has become linked with mine on my laptop, and I noticed his account was marked the default account. I kept signing in as a different user, but apparently it wasn't signing him out completely. After some poking around the internet, I ran across a list of Google products that do not support multiple users, and Blogger was on the list. After a bit more searching on how to change the default account, I was able to completely sign him out and log myself on, and finally--it worked!

What a relief!

It's making me think hard about transferring my blog to another platform, though. I've been happy with Blogger for a long time, but not with Google. I hate that Google links users--why?? I hate that with Google it's impossible to switch my primary email on my profile--I am stuck with an account I didn't even mean to create, never used, never will use. I hate that they link products--why do I have to sign in to Google to sign in to Blogger? And if my son comes along to check his Gmail account on my laptop one fine day, then I will have TWO other Google profiles linked to my account. And they have products--like Blogger--that get confused when you have multiple users!

Nope, not happy with Google. But thrilled to be able to access my blog again!

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9. Settled

I do apologize to my blogging friends who are not also my Facebook friends--in all the press and pressure of the last couple weeks, I didn't even post a short update! But it has been less than a week since we heard, on the same day that we closed on our old house, that our offer was accepted! We will close July 11 on the house that I mentioned in my last post. It's weird--I still wonder what we are doing buying this house--but the experience has been like getting caught up in a river current carrying us inexorably in this direction, and along with that current of events has come a peace and reassurance that God is the one moving us along. The house doesn't seem like a final destination--it's more like getting started on the right road. I'm just eager to see where it leads!


So that's settled. We have a place to live, in just another month or so.

We are also getting settled into our generous friends' home. Papa Rooster and I have our own bedroom in the basement, and B23 and B15 are sharing a bedroom upstairs. Chicklet and B9 sleep on a huge couch in the basement family room, inches away from a wonderful Lego storage area and a Wii. (We've never had one, so this is like the best vacation condo ever to them.) We have our own full bathroom down in the basement, and I should mention that this basement has 9-foot ceilings and windows everywhere, so we couldn't be more comfortable. Two other generous families are hosting Blondechick21 and B19, separately, and they are happy and comfortable as well.

Now if I could just find everything! During that last week in our old house, it was so crazy. I kept having to drop everything to drive to a theater in Milwaukee an hour away for the show Chicklet was in and I was helping to direct. (If I had guessed that we would sell our house so quickly, I would never have agreed to be on the directing team--but it was a great experience, despite the awful timing!) At the end, others packed up all the stuff that you leave till last because you use it all the time, so of course that's the stuff I've been struggling to find. We were running out of boxes, too, so it got packed in laundry baskets, trash cans, duffel bags, etc. along with all the stuff no one knew what to do with. We weren't allowed to put household chemicals or food in storage, so we have all the household cleaners and toiletries from 5 bathrooms, plus the kitchen and laundry room, and boxes and garbage bags of pantry items to sort through as well--all in the garage and storage room at the house where we are staying.

Unpacking and repacking--that's my plan for this afternoon! And just in time, I hope, because the lady of the house is coming home from the hospital in the next 24 hours or so! She had to have a sudden abdominal surgery that has kept her there for nearly a week now. The one silver lining of the trial--which thankfully she can't really appreciate--was that she wasn't here for the worst of the invasion of her home.

So many people at our church, and neighbors and other friends too, have been so much help to us in the last month. People lent us boxes and brought us meals. They packed box after box. One woman--new to our church--cleaned all five bathrooms, God bless her!! Friends took our two youngest kids. They moved our furniture and many, many boxes into storage. On moving day, Blondechick put out the word to her classmates at the School of Worship, and a half dozen international students showed up to do much of the heavy lifting in exchange for pizza and Coke! They had such great attitudes and servants' hearts, and it seemed like God's timing because they were all killing time between graduation and their flights back to Switzerland and Germany. They didn't have jobs or school like the other young people that would have liked to help us out but couldn't on a Tuesday--we'll hit them up again in another month when we have to move it all one more time, but hey, it will be a fresh team! And there were those that spent the better part of a week helping us already...and will do it all again in a month, we know. We had friends still at the house with us at 1 a.m. when we carried out the last box. We are truly blessed...and so, so thankful.

But we are DONE. And as settled as we can be, for a few weeks--or nearly so!


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10. Sacrifice

There are sacrifices, and there are sacrifices.

When we first were presented with the idea that Papa Rooster might come on full-time at LOC in the next year, we prayed. We talked, we crunched numbers, we prayed some more, and we felt reasonably certain that the prudent thing would be to downsize. Our mortgage was our biggest monthly expense, and it seemed reasonable that we could find something else somewhere in Kenosha--not as big, not as nice--that could house our family of eight and still be the ministry center our home has always been. It would be a sacrifice, but God would provide, and it would be worth it.

That prudential wisdom was confirmed by PR feeling a strong sense of the Lord telling him "Sell the house now." We responded as quickly as we could, and when our house was almost ready, we put it up for sale by owner. We assumed we'd end up listing it, but if God wanted to save us money and bring us a buyer, we were giving Him a chance. And He did!

Selling our house was easy--way easier than we expected. But buying was a different story. As we began looking at houses, it became clear that it would not be easy to find something in the neighborhood near our church facility, which was our deep desire. It was also the prayer of many in our congregation, we discovered, independently, which kept confirming our own sense of call to that location. Earthly wisdom would say that a short drive away is still close, so we looked at a number of possible houses that were a little farther out, but they seemed all wrong. They were too far away. 
We felt God nudging us into a certain small radius from the church, in order to be where He wants us to be and to do the ministry He wants us to do. 

This was not the sacrifice I was prepared to make! I wanted lots of options to choose from. Instead, 
our list of possible homes shrank to nearly nothing. We had seen all six or seven properties available in that neighborhood, and they were either too big and expensive or too small for our family. I was really looking forward to downsizing and having a smaller, cozier home that would be easier to care for. Instead, it began looking more and more like we were going to have to buy something almost as big, that cost more than the house we are leaving. Could this really be what God wanted? And yet, He gave us peace and continual confirmation that indeed, He did.

Furthermore, thanks to miscalculation and miscommunication, instead of receiving a hefty tax refund as usual, we owed for the first time in twenty years--exactly the amount that we had in savings, which we had planned to use as a down payment along with our tax refund and whatever we make on the sale of our current house. That circumstance made us investigate whether we should take money out of our 401K for a down payment, in order to afford something in a higher price range. We talked to a CPA and crunched more numbers. By then we were wishing we had thought of this before we sold our house, but much as we hate to leave it, we knew that it wouldn't have been right to refinance and continue living in our current home. We felt a peace that God was very intentionally relocating us. That was what this move was about. To be where He wanted us, we might have to tap retirement funds in order to buy a more expensive house--a sacrifice of a different sort than we had planned.

We began to ask everyone we knew, including total strangers out gardening, if they knew of anyone in that neighborhood that might be interested in selling. We followed up on several leads. One that kept coming up was this one house whose owner had passed away. It wasn't for sale, as far as we knew, and if it were, it would be too expensive. It was really close to our church facility though--the location was perfect. If it were to come available, we would have to seriously consider it.

Jumping ahead a bit, it did become available for us to see, though it is not on the market, and it has become clear to us that God wants us to pursue this house. We brought friends, family and church leaders with us into three very different houses, of different sizes and price points, and there was nearly unanimous agreement that neither of the other two were "it." This house, however, feels special, and some of our leaders felt clearly that this house was connected to God's mission for Light of Christ, as well as for our family. No one can draw a diagram on a napkin to explain it, but that conviction just won't go away, even as we consider the difficulties of buying this house. 

Because it will be expensive to buy and make livable for our family. It is honestly not the ideal house for us. There are two other comparably priced properties available which could work as well and have been fully updated--why not buy one of them instead? It's been a sacrifice for me to turn my back on them. It doesn't make sense on an earthly level. It's kind of another sacrifice--not to be able to explain rationally why we should spend money this way, when it goes against every grain of my frugal, common-sense being.

We are going to make an offer and see what God will do. We invite you to pray with us!

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11. Holy Week Report

My heart is so full! What a glorious Holy Week it was.


This year, I don't have a lot of time or pictures, since we didn't have a photographer at any of the services, so I can't do the kind of picture post I've done in previous years. Instead, I am just going to let the words of others speak for me. These were all collected from social media, so I am trusting that their authors don't mind. (If anybody wants credit, let me know. :)


Attended my first Easter Vigil last night at Light Of Christ. Loved it!!! Next year I think we are going to make attending Light of Christ for all of Holy Week a priority!


Wow! What a wonderful Easter Vigil service! Jumpin' priests, clappin' deacons...and bells and alleluias everywhere! Praise God for his love and mercy!


Here's a little video of what she's referring to, when the whole congregation acclaims "Alleluia! The Lord is risen!" and bursts forth with a "Holy Noise":




Easter Vigil at Light of Christ is always a powerful experience, and last night was no exception. Particularly moving to me was to witness the baptism of a girl who recently came to faith. Charlotte Mason wrote, "What a thought of joy at the baptismal font, of consolation throughout life amid the tossing of the waves of this troublesome world, is this of the divine Spirit coming to us, also, in the likeness of a dove." The divine Spirit came last night - in the baptism, in the prayers, and in the worship. I know I did not bring Him - I found Him there. He brought to my mind a vivid remembrance of the day when I was 16 years of age, sitting in my room, and I came to faith. What an indescribable gift, and one that is renewed every day.

The little girl referred to is Chicket's friend. What a beautiful moment. It was so wonderful to have her whole family there!

Every Easter Vigil is wonderful. Each one has its own golden moments. Last Saturday was no exception.



This year we had welcome gifts for visitors!

The altar on Easter Sunday morning

Here is the teaser video I put up on Facebook of my two sons in rehearsal for the Ezekiel reading, in the valley of the Dry Bones:



And here is a little more. Let's just say that when they actually gave the reading, B18 had a black folder in hand, not an iPhone...!



I wish I had recorded snippets of others. All went so well. I was so pleased!


Finally, this moving excerpt from a parishioner's journal about a previous Good Friday service at our church. I loved it because I had a similar sense of joy and love fill me this year at the veneration of the cross, when we place the cross on the ground and invite everyone to come forward and pray, with their hand or head upon it.

"_________ preached. He stressed how Christ paid for us completely, with no merit or contribution from us. Normally at Good Friday, I feel that I am to feel sorrow for Christ's suffering, or sorrow for my sin. I feel that I am to be somehow sad, dressed in black.

"At the veneration of the cross, I walked up to the cross, knelt down by it, and touched my head to it. I was at the base of the cross. In my mind's eye I looked up towards the top of the cross. I saw the cross not against the rug but against a clear blue sky with sunlight streaming around it.

"The music started. Instead of sorrowful tunes, it was a light and happy piece. I felt the joy well up in me that was supposed to be reserved for Easter. Good Friday is the black and sad day, but I felt warmth and joy. The sunlight from my image of the cross seemed to radiate directly to my heart. I felt as if Christ’s love was complete. I held up my hand to receive the streaming light. I remembered my confession from today. I felt the light stream back to the situations where I had sinned. I felt Christ’s mercy wash over me and cover each of those sins completely.

"__________ sang Rock of Ages. The joy and delight in my heart was complete. It was in the cross that I found the perfect joy of Christ’s love. I understand now why Catherine [of Siena] said that this love should motivate us to serve God completely – she basked in that love every day.

"Then we said the confession. My normal mood is to focus on sorrow for sin and humility. I make myself feel sorry for my sins. I wear it like a weight, like pouring ashes over myself. Suddenly the words of the confession seemed to light up on the page, as if the letters were actually in gold. The words were pure joy. I saw that I was 'lucky' to pray this prayer. It was a feeling of good fortune. It was like winning the lottTery – to say these words was to enter into the fullness of Christ’s love and mercy. I wanted to laugh. I almost whispered the words. Confession as the sweet and joyous pleasure – because by being nothing, I had the great reward – Christ and His love.

"The images were so real to me – I knew I had consolation from God. I knew I would forget it – so I had to write it down."


If anyone else wants to draw my attention to a social media posting that I missed, or send me their impressions, I would gladly add them!

Wish I had time to write more. We had so many little hitches in the first part of the Easter Vigil service, for example, but Father Rooster took lemons and made lemonade with them in his wonderful Vigil homily. Even the mistakes gave glory to God!


Praise Jesus! He is risen, and by his stripes, we are healed!

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12. House Update: The Long Version

Where to start??


Everything has happened so fast!

The story so far:  Anticipating that Papa Rooster would be able to quit his sales/consulting/executive job and become full-time priest at Light of Christ sometime in the next year, we crunched some numbers and realized we needed to downsize in order to live on a much smaller salary. Even with all six kids presently living at home, four of them are 15 or over, so while downsizing may be cramp us all a bit in the short term, it seems reasonable for long-term living. It wasn't a decision based on numbers alone; we also felt like God was asking us to do it, which was the more important thing in our minds.

That was last year, and our target date to put the house up for sale was mid-March. Our hope and prayer was that the whole transition would go quickly and we'd be done selling, buying and moving early enough to still have a summer left over! We had our basement family room and two bedrooms repainted. I spent many hours spackling and touching up the paint in high-traffic areas. In February, a team of women from church helped wash walls, windows, woodwork, light switches and more. We had the carpets cleaned, and then while we were waiting for mid-March to arrive, I decided to post the house on Craigslist, just to see what might happen. Then someone told me you could list your house on Zillow, as a for sale by owner, so I did that too.

And we started having a few showings. First friends or friends-of-friends, none of whom were really ready to buy. Then we had several that came from agents who had seen it on Zillow. Our date in mid-March had arrived, and I was anxious about whether to go ahead and list it as scheduled with our realtor. The pace of the showings we were getting was so manageable, and both Papa Rooster and I were dreading listing it because we knew there would probably be a lot of showings on it initially, and all the activity of constantly cleaning and leaving just felt so out-of-synch with what we were calling everyone at Light of Christ to do during Lent--which was to enter into the season not with activity, but with increased time given to prayer and listening. We envisioned this as a "first chapter," a way to for our congregation to prepare for the next season, or "second chapter," after Lent when the leadership would begin to take more action toward figuring out how to bring Father Rooster on full-time.

But God moved faster than expected and brought us two offers at once, just three weeks after we listed the house on Zillow. One was for our full price, but had a home sale contingency; we negotiated with the other buyers and ended up settling on a price just under our asking price.

It all happened so fast that our hearts and minds could barely keep up. Suddenly we weren't sure about selling! Had we heard wrong? Were we really supposed to give up this house? We called on others to lift us up in prayer, and we started hearing back some great words of reassurance. "In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." "Watch...watch what I am about to do, unfolding the plan that is already secure." "It is the offering up of your 5 loaves and 2 fishes...all that you had to feed yourself...a costly sacrifice, but watch what God will do with it!" We even found confirmation on the lips of our neighbor, the realtor we were going to list with, who said, "You really got that divine intervention thing goin' on, because let me tell you, NOBODY gets two offers at once and gets basically the asking price on their house just 3 weeks into a FSBO! That just NEVER happens. God must really be lookin' out for you!"

(Later, we began to wonder if we had not set our price high enough, even though it seems we did very well, but the interesting thing is that I didn't change anything on Zillow--nothing indicates that the house is under contract--and we have not had even one more inquiry since the day the buyers came through. Another confirmation, it seems, that God did it.)

So we have begun looking at houses. Papa Rooster and others in our church feel strongly that our next house will be in the same neighborhood as the Kemper Center, where our church meets--not just a 5 minutes' car ride near, but walking distance. Narrowing the neighborhood down that much makes this a pretty tall order for God to fill! The Kemper Center is right on Lake Michigan, so we can't look west of it at all. To the north just a few blocks is the commercial district of downtown. Most of our options lie east or south of it in what is called the historic district: Big old showplaces that need work, are overpriced and have really high taxes because they are so near the lake, or small bungalows, cottages or Victorians that need work, have high taxes and are too small for our family. Moderately sized, moderately priced homes are largely unavailable in this area.

We found one that we seriously considered for a couple days. It would have been quite a snug fit for all of us but it was doable because it had one thing that hardly any homes in this area have--a dry, square, finishable basement. We could have added two more bedrooms and a small office in the basement, and still kept the large family room that was already finished there. Plus there were three decent size bedrooms above ground, a kitchen beyond what I could ever have asked for or imagined, a 3-season sunroom, a gorgeous living room with hardwood floors and lots of windows, exactly what our ideal living room would look like, an attached garage (another thing that you just don't get in the historic district), two beautifully re-done full bathrooms...all on just a bit smaller scale than Papa Rooster was comfortable with. We invited friends from church to come, especially to look at the basement with us and make sure it was finishable as we wanted--which it was--but they all said they had trouble seeing us there; they thought it was just too small, and the layout didn't open it up enough on the main floor.

It was hard for me to accept, even though God actually woke me up and spoke to me in the middle of the night--even before our friends weighed in--telling me that this house was an Ishmael. I knew it was Him, I knew I was going to have to accept it, but when I woke up in the morning, I really struggled. I can totally believe that we can find something bigger, but I struggle to believe that we will find something bigger that is still affordable on a pastor's salary, and this house was already on the way upper end of affordable. And doggone it, even if this house was an Ishmael--not God's chosen way of providing for us, just as Abraham's son with Sarah's maid Hagar was not the son God had promised--it was an Ishmael I could totally love and be happy in! Our kids were so disappointed too. So many neat things about the corner lot and yard, the location, and the many charms of the house.

We have basically looked at all possibilities in the area now, and all we can do is wait for something new to come on the market. Thankfully, it's still early in the selling season, which seems to have been delayed this year because of the hard winter. Our closing date, when we have to have all our belongings out of our house, looms just six weeks from today. It's been so difficult for me to even think about packing, since I don't know where we and our stuff are headed next. Friends have offered to put us all up in their home for a transition time of a few weeks, but where should we store all our stuff--short-term, or long-term? Will we end up needing to rent something for a while? What to store, what to get rid of, what can be inaccessible indefinitely, what will we need access to?

So I haven't began packing, really. It's Holy Week, and Father Rooster and I are doing our best to push house worries away and enter into the journey, which began last night with a beautiful Maundy Thursday service. We washed each other's feet, and I am grateful to say that he has handled my conflicting emotions and disappointment so well, in a way that has pulled me closer to him rather than separating us. He's had a sense all along that we wouldn't find our next house before Easter, and I am doing my best to trust and have faith.

Today, we have a Stations of the Cross service this afternoon, and a Good Friday service tonight. Tomorrow, I have a full morning of final run-throughs and sound checks for the Easter Vigil readings that I am directing. I think they are all going to be really good again this year, and not because everything is super well-rehearsed--it's not--but I can just sense that the Holy Spirit is going to fill each one beyond what we have rehearsed or can give in our own abilities! Plenty of cracks for Him to fill in. :)

I am also excited that Chicklet's friend, mentioned in the last post, is being baptized at the Vigil, and her whole family is coming! Her mom came with her to Palm Sunday last week and really enjoyed it. We really loved their family; we got to know them better when we had them over to discuss the baptism. We all agreed that our daughters' friendship has been such a special thing for both of them--they are two sweet peas in a pod! A big bummer for the two of them that we are moving. We will have to go to extra lengths to get them together. 

A blessed Holy Weekend to all!

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13. Watching God Work

It's been an exciting Lent so far!

That's not one of the usual adjectives to describe Lent, I realize. But it's been true this year. As a church, we've been calling our congregation to pray very specifically this Lent for Kenosha and our church's role here. We take our name, Light of Christ, literally. We long to be Christ's light dispelling the darkness of a depressed city and of lives that are shadowed by darkness and hopelessness.

We have been meeting in groups throughout the week to pray. Though I haven't been part of all these meetings, it's been exciting--there's no other word for it--to hear how God has been leading folks to pray, and how He is answering those prayers!

I can't tell other people's stories, but just in the past week, several things happened that I can share. On Sunday, one of Chicklet's friends came to church with us. Afterwards, she told Chicklet she had never been baptized and she wanted to be! The next day Blondechick21 talked with her about what it all meant, and prayed with her to commit her life to the Lord. The odd thing was, we weren't praying specifically for this little girl; we had never even thought to invite her to church before, I must confess. But we had been praying specifically for God to send another friend for Chicklet at our church, since one of her church friends had moved away. On the same Sunday that this new friend came, we found out that Chicklet's one remaining friend at church is also moving away, which would have left her the only girl her age at church. But now she has this new friend, if her parents allow her to keep coming with us. And even if they don't...look what praying that specific prayer for Chicklet brought about in her sweet friend's life!

Then at Campus Life this week, at the public high school that B15 and B18 attend, a whole bunch of kids gave their lives to the Lord. It was a move of the Spirit--the leaders just invited people to come forward if they needed prayer for burdens to be lifted. Kids started pouring forward, to the point that the guitarist, who was just strumming, asked B18 to take over so he could go help pray for people. I can't help but wonder if B18's ministry in music, then, became a factor, since I believe when gifted people are operating in their gifts, the Spirit's power is poured out! (And it's become clear recently that B18 is not only musically gifted, but also spiritually gifted to minister through music--another exciting thing to see!) Our sons never heard an exact number of kids who prayed to receive Christ, but they both say "it was a lot."

Another incident this week was a conversation I had with a mom who didn't know if she had ever been baptized. Should she be? She had never really thought about it. Her kids weren't baptized and she didn't know if her husband ever had been. I told her different denominations have different beliefs about sacraments, but that just as most of us all agree that taking communion is important (though we may not agree on how often), baptism is the other sacrament that most denominations would agree is important, if not necessary. We talked about what the Bible says about it, that it goes hand in hand with salvation. And like Eucharist, if the Lord even just strongly suggested it...why wouldn't you? She sounded eager to discuss it with her husband, and--who knows?-- maybe that whole family will be baptized now, because of that conversation.

Finally, our house. Along with all this prayer going on, there has been a sense of preparation for the things God is going to do at our church, including the provision for how to pay a full-time rector. (Hearing last week that one of our key families is moving away did not seem like a step in the right direction, either!)  But it's not a time to act, to plan, to figure it out; it's a season to pray and to prepare. The fulfillment will come later.

In prayer, we decided not to take action with our house right now either. We were going to list it with a realtor this weekend, but we will wait till Lent is over and list on the Friday after Easter. It is still informally for sale by owner--I've listed it on Craigslist and on Zillow, and we've had about one showing a week through those avenues--so if God wants to bring us a buyer during Lent, He certainly still could. But during Lent we won't have that flurry of activity and stress that comes when you first list a house, and I'm praying that it won't be needed at all--that the right buyer would come along before then, and that we would be able to sell with the bare minimum of effort and stress on our family. In any case, we invite you join us in prayer for the right buyer to come along in exactly God's timing, especially when our next house, which I know God is preparing for us even now, is available!

Meanwhile, we have a little more time to chip away at projects that need doing in the house. Why does it seem like no matter how much I get done, the list stays the same length??

Thank you, Lord, for the encouragement of seeing You work! May others be encouraged also, toward prayer, toward trust, toward faith in You..


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14. New Season, New Deacon

It's Ash Wednesday, and we had a somber, silent service. We are in the season of Lent now.

But last Sunday, it was a joyful celebration as we ordained one of our own to the office of deacon.

Here he is, with his family--and with our new Bishop, on his first episcopal visit to Light of Christ!


An ordination is a pretty special service.



You can't tell at this angle, but there are three women in the crowd above laying hands on and praying aloud for our ordinand. I'm one of them!


Our kids, who remember Bishop Stewart a bit from our old church, were the first to step up close to him when he called the children forward.


But none of the kids were shy when the Bishop asked them for a group hug!


The Light of Christ clergy team with their bishop. (Father Rand, on the far right, has his own church now, a seedling plant out in Big Rock, IL, but he's been a partner at LOC so long--he comes faithfully, once a month or so--that we still happily claim him!)

Deacon Luke will be ordained Father Luke eventually, Lord willing...and then who knows where God will take him? But for now, we are so happy to have him serving as deacon at Light of Christ!

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15. February News

Oh my. I really am in trouble if I'm down to once-a-month posts!


But there are reasons....

To kick off the month, two more birthdays! We held simultaneous birthday gatherings for the newly-minted Bantam15 and his friends--in the basement, watching a movie--and the new Bantam9--in the big bedroom, building Lego creations. We served pizza in shifts and then birthday brownies and ice cream. Friends of B18 and Blondechick stopped in, so we fed them too. The more the merrier!

B15 has recently become fascinated with the land of Norway, since he is one-quarter Norwegian. He asked for and received a wallet with the Norwegian flag AND the Norwegian coat of arms as embellishments. We also gave him a travel guide of Norway, which he has found most engaging. His big gift, however, was a phone. It's a hand-me-down, older phone that used to be his brother's, without internet and without texting. But at least I no longer have to call his friend's phones to find out where he is or work out how he's getting home, which was getting embarrassing. Yup, I had all his friend's cell numbers in my Contacts!

B9 wanted little green army men and a B9-sized army gun. Check! He also wanted Legos, so we suggested that his friends chip in toward a biggish set to be purchased AFTER we move, hopefully, since Mom is in major decluttering mode now and was not keen for him to receive another half-dozen smaller Lego sets as birthday gifts. He also asked for The Action Bible, a graphic novel-like retelling. His grandparents had given him the Action New Testament last year for Christmas and he loved it so much that he wanted the whole thing, including the Old Testament. It appears to me that it was his favorite gift!

In other news, we are getting our house ready to put on the market. Our church is still figuring out how they are going to do it financially (that's a prayer request, if you think of it!) but the plan is for Father R to go full-time in the next year, and we feel strongly that we should downsize before that, if possible.

So I've been pushing hard to declutter, deep-clean and get some painting done. The only way I've been able to work on it--and still keep homeschooling and teaching my classes--is to chip away at it in all my free moments. (Thus my lack of time to spend blogging!) I've spent days with my kids culling their stuff and organizing their rooms. I've forced myself to deal with all the stuff I've shoved in the closet and under the bed in my own room. I've rearranged kitchen and bathroom cabinets to make room for many things we ordinarily leave out, so these areas will show well--and be easier to clean quickly! I cleaned out one of our storage rooms and got rid of many things we've been--well--storing. I've been using our 15-passenger van as a temporary storage unit for stuff heading to St. Vincent DePaul's, our charity thrift store of choice--and we filled it up! It feels good to lose weight.

I've had help too. Ladies from church came over to help wash walls, woodwork, light switches, window panes and crevices, which was such a help! We hired a friend to paint the basement (last fall) and two bedrooms this winter. I've been busy spackling, paint-matching and touching-up many dents and dings all over the hallways, doorways and walls. The older kids are doing bathrooms and cleaning up their bedrooms. B23 boxed up many books, went through files and drawers and found lots that he could part with. (He reported the same feeling of losing weight in his life!) Papa Rooster will be doing the same in his office storage area. Chipping away is not his cleaning style, so he'll take a day off of work here sooner or later to get it done. I hope one day is enough; he has a lot of stuff to get through!

The plan is to list the house in mid-March, after The Wizard of Oz closes--and we are in tech week already! I've been helping with lights this time and learning a whole new vocabulary. Did you know you can patch lights, as well as park and bump them? Stage lights don't have light bulbs; they have lamps. I am learning the limitations and abilities of technobeams, LEDs, pars, fresnels and gobos. It's overwhelming, especially programming them, but also quite fascinating and--oh yes, I have to say it--illuminating!

It's good knowledge to have if I continue directing shows--and I am excited to be on another directing team for the spring! Chicklet and I (and maybe B15) will head north to the Milwaukee chapter of our Spotlight theater group. They are doing a show called Pridelands, inspired by The Lion King. I will be assistant director, and as a little relief from cleaning and teaching, I've been reviewing the script and DVD's of past performances, and bouncing ideas off the head director. We have such a stimulating Facebook message thread going with all our ideas for the show!

So my spring could be pretty busy, especially if our house sells quickly. But it could also take a year, as our old house did, and this is a more unique house. With the bedroom and office spaces we added in the basement, it has a total of 7 bedrooms, plus 4.5 baths. Please pray for the right buyer, as well as the right house for us to move into! We've looked a little--enough to know we will be able to find something--but the priority has been to get this house ready first. We've had a couple people come look at it already, before it's listed, and it would be great if one of them bought it, since we wouldn't pay a realtor's commission in that case. 

I forgot to take "before" pictures, but maybe I'll have some "after" photos to post soon. But this week--and for the next two weekends--we're off to see the Wizard!

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16. January News

You know you're neglecting your blog when...you miss two family birthdays!


Mine was back on January 9th. I treated myself to a morning alone at Panera; all six kids ate dinner with us--a rare occurrence these days--and Chicklet11 made me birthday brownies. Everyone gave me handmade cards with sweet notes in them, and most indulged my request to play a game of Trivial Pursuit together. A great day!

Eldest Bantam turned 23 on January 21st. His birthday fell on a Tuesday, which is the day that B8, C11 and I are gone all day at Classical Conversations, with just an hour or so before classes at Spotlight Youth Theater. So we had birthday dinner the night before. Once again, we had everyone around the table, at least for 20 minutes or so! (Blondechick had to leave before pecan pie, the birthday dessert he chose, which B14 helped to make!)

He asked for and received a couple of Halo books and an official Halo hoodie. He is so proud of it, and he looks very handsome in it.


But his big gift was one he bought himself, from a friend--a secondhand XBox 360 and a subscription to a gaming site. He has been waiting a long time for this, and he's so excited.

We had actually promised to buy him one if he could get his weight down to 170, which he has not quite achieved. He was at 250 after his first year in college, and he easily got back down to 200, his pre-college weight, but he's been stuck there ever since. He knows our fear is that the XBox will encourage him to be more sedentary, so ever since his friend offered him this deal, he's been demonstrating a renewed commitment to exercise and low-carb, veggie-heavy lunches. He lost 8 pounds in about 10 days and it's noticeable in his face. So hopefully he'll keep it up, to prove to us that we didn't make a mistake in allowing him to have it early!

I mentioned theater classes. This session I'm teaching Drama 1, with a Charlie Brown theme. B8 is in my class--one of just two boys--and he's Charlie Brown in our showcase skit. (I asked another drama teacher to help me with casting of the boys, to be sure of impartiality!) B14 is taking Improv Prep. If he makes the cut at the end of the session, he'll be on the Kenosha Improv Team next session, and compete again in June, as he did last year. Chicklet11 auditioned for and made the Project Dance Jr. class, which is a two-session commitment, so she'll be taking it again this spring. She is learning lots of technique and really loving it. She begged to be allowed to take another class besides dance, so I let her take a voice class which is performing songs from Thoroughly Modern Millie for Showcase. She is so happy to learn the words to songs she heard me practicing last summer!

Rehearsals have been going on for The Wizard of Oz, as well. Chicklet11 is excited to be the Coroner of Munchkinland, with little solos and one big one: "As Coroner, I must aver, I've thoroughly examined her, and she's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead." She's also a Jitterbug Dancer, which will be a fun number! B8 is a member of the Lollipop Guild, which gets me, because that's the same part that B18 had back when he was B9. He is also a Flying Monkey, which he's really excited about, because they get to wear Heelys onstage! I am so thankful I bought a pair at Goodwill a couple years ago, even though they were too big for him then. They're expensive!


B14 is a Jitterbug Dancer (fun for him and Chicklet to have the same part--a first!), a Winkie one of (the Witch's guards) and a Tree who throws apples at Dorothy to frighten her and sings back-up harmonies to the Tin Man's solo. He will be wearing stilts for that scene, and on the first day they were practicing with them, it was a little more exciting than anyone expected.


After he and his friend had the hang of them, they jacked them up to the highest setting, about 4 feet off the ground. He was doing fine until he tripped on a folding chair leg, stumbled into other folding chairs and finally fell forcefully into a glass window. He bounced away from it as he hit it, but the window shattered and he was cut on his hand and arm and just nicked his chin. Fortunately, it was right at the end of rehearsal, and I was only two minutes away. (I often send B23 to get them, but this time I was the one coming to pick them up--thank the Lord!) There were other parents there too, arriving to pick up their kids, including a nurse who was helping to stop the bleeding when I arrived. We went to the ER and determined that he did not need stitches. We deferred an X-ray on his sore knees--at worst, he might have a patella fracture but it seems more likely that nothing was broken.

He was really shaken up, and we all were so aware of how life-threatening the accident could have been. We are so thankful to God for his protection, and that his injuries are so minimal.

On the plus side, now he has a great story to tell, with a scar to prove it! How many people can say that they've fallen through a glass window while wearing stilts??

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17. Classical Conversations Booklist--Cycle Two, Middle Ages

This fall I decided to try making a photo record of the books we've read for homeschooling. I am always asking Chicklet11 and B8 to keep a list of books they read, which they never do, and I haven't been much better myself. This is the first year since we started homeschooling that I am not keeping detailed records of everything we do each day, since I consider the Classical Conversations (CC) program and curriculum comprehensive enough, with our added math program; what I've done at home is flesh out the CC memorized concepts. So if I had to show someone what we've covered, it's all there in the CC manuals. I have to say that it's given me a new freedom to follow our nose on whatever threads we are most interested in, and since we're not doing daily workbooks, the kids think it's a treat when I have an appointment and I leave them a list of workbook pages to do!

But I did want something to remind me of all we've enjoyed together, and I was inspired to take a photo before I returned a bunch of library books. Then I tried to remember what we had read previously and gather those books together too. I haven't photographed any of the kids' free reading choices, but these are most of the books we've read together.

  
These are all books we're reading on an ongoing basis. My absolute favorite of these is A Child's History of the World, by Hillyer. (So much more enjoyable to read aloud than The Story of the World, in my opinion. I would lose the kids' attention when I read SOW, but they don't want me to stop reading CHW!)

The Usborne Book of World History is a great pictoral, summarizing resource that we've used on and off for years. I am really impressed with A Child's Introduction to Poetry, which came with Chicklet's virtual school curriculum last year. It has a two- or three-page spread on each major poet or poetry type, with sample poems, explanations of vocabulary and images, whimsical illustrations and includes a CD. I especially like how it delves into what a sonnet is or what a limerick is, giving lots of examples.

Tales of the Not Forgotten is a favorite with my little mission-minded girl. The tales are pretty long so we break them up, but I tend to take breaks in between each one. I'm not sure I really like The Everyday Bible. I heard it recommended as a good Bible for younger kids to read aloud because it's written at a 6th grade reading level and the vocabulary is aimed at brand-new Christians, but you definitely lose beauty and familiarity of language. We've been reading Mark aloud, taking turns reading, but we're going to switch to one of Paul's letters after the semester break, to see if I like it any better.
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This photo documents a departure from the Middle Ages, back when we were doing the musical Hercules, and they just HAD to read some other Greek myths too! They read all of these to themselves, so I can't really comment as to quality, but they enjoyed them all. They also browsed D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths, a perpetual favorite here.

They read all of these to themselves too. They especially liked the Sir Gawain stories. These were a follow up to the Arthurian stories below.


I read all of these aloud to the kids, except for the red Martin Luther biography which I made both of them read to themselves (since we had it on our shelves, it was short, and it fit our time period). All the rest I can highly recommend. If you've never read any of the D'Aulaire's fine books, you must hie thee to a library forthwith! The Robert D. San Souci books about Arthur, Lancelot and Merlin were wonderful too--really well-written with beautiful illustrations. 

I reviewed Spy for the Night Riders, exciting historical fiction with Martin Luther as a main character, here.We really enjoyed it, and we started another of the Trailblazer books right away! Starry Messenger is science in a Caldecott-winning disguise--elaborate illustrations with tiny text of Galileo's own words; it's all about Copernicus' theories and Galileo's discoveries. Michelangelo is by Diane Stanley, my favorite author of illustrated children's biographies. Michelangelo's story was great, but I see I forgot to photograph my absolute favorite bio by her, Joan of Arc. B8 was so transfixed by her story that he stopped coloring to come sit next to me, hanging on every word. I didn't realize that transcripts of her trial still exist, so this biography was fully fleshed out with her own words. Riveting!

Here are a few of our science books for the semester, since we started studying space. The Reasons for Seasons and The Moon Book are both by Gail Gibbons. The Childcraft volumes have been fun too. How We Get Things tells how things are produced or how they were invented. Look Again is more of an art book; just realized, we haven't actually read it yet! They read other Easy Reader science books to themselves too; I just didn't round them all up.

And before we move off of science, I must proudly record the fact that we dissected owl pellets this semester. They were sent to us by Chicklet's virtual school last year, but we pulled out before we got to that unit. Though she kept begging to dissect them, I kept putting it off. This year we decided it would make a perfect family presentation for CC--and it was!

Last group. Peter the Great is another excellent Diane Stanley biography. Gutenberg was a library book with nice illustrations, but as a biography it just didn't have that magic that I look for in a good one. The Golden Treasury of Poetry is one of many poetry anthologies we own, but this one includes seasonal poems, so I pulled it out to read all the Christmas poetry. (I posted one on Christmas Day!)

B8 loved Days of the Knights, an Eyewitness Reader with lots of sidebar information and detailed drawings. Medieval World is another Usborne Book; I like to flip through it and point out things we've memorized for CC and help them see how it all ties together. (It's a nice pictoral supplement to A Child's History of the World.)

But my favorite resource in this photo is Tales from Shakespeare. Written in 1807 by Charles and Mary Lamb, they retain the Shakespearean vocabulary and turns of phrase while abridging and explaining the story for children (and fortunate adults--this is such a great way to enjoy Shakespeare!). The sentence structure is so complex that they can be challenging to read aloud--but I enjoy them more for that.

I would encourage anyone who is homeschooling (or "afterschooling") to supplement curriculum with these types of picture books, even if your kids are reading chapter books. First of all, they are a nice length to snuggle up with and read aloud for a short period, even if it takes a couple sittings for some of the longer ones. Even older kids enjoy the pictures, and the images help them remember facts. Also, there is no better way to introduce or review complex history or science, I think, than in a kids' book that highlights the main points so you easily recognize them as such. I love the Usborne and Eyewitness books for that reason.

We are eager for second semester to begin! I have a basket of books for us to choose from.

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18. Books Read in 2013



In Sunshine and In Shadow (Mark Helprin)
This may be my favorite novel by this wonderful author. It's about an unlikely New York City romance between a wealthy blue-blood singer/actress and a young Jewish man returned from the war to find his father's leather goods factory on the verge of financial ruin. There is something exquisite on every page of this book, whether it's in a character description, a circumstance, a well-crafted metaphor or a poignant moment. Fresh and so beautiful.

A Red Herring Without Mustard
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows
(Alan Bradley)
I have a soft spot for 11-year-old detective Flavia DeLuce, a smarty-pants chemist who lives on a British estate her father can't afford to keep up. Her private lab, inherited from a dead ancestor and located in an unheated wing of the huge old house, is the site of her precocious criminal investigations. Especially delightful read aloud by British reader Jayne Entwhistle.

Agatha Christie's
The ABC Murders (Poirot)
And Then There Were None
Crooked House
At Bertram's Hotel
(Miss Marple)
Murder at the Vicarage (Miss Marple)
Halloween Party (Miss Marple)
When I'm in a hurry at the library, I grab an Agatha Christie for my audio selection. They are so reliably enjoyable and well-written. We listened to And Then There Were None on a road trip--my favorite of the ones I read this year--and the kids (the younger three) were totally engaged and intrigued. We didn't quite finish before the trip ended, so we sat around in the living room and listened to the final CD for another hour after we got home. (Unheard of!) Then we had to go research on Wikipedia to find that there are multiple film versions, and we wanted to watch them all. (Hmmm, we should get going on that project!)

La's Orchestra Saves the World (Alexander McCall Smith)
Set during World War II, this is a delicate story about a young woman, forced by circumstances to leave London and move to the countryside, who does what she can to support the war effort; she raises vegetables, works for a chicken farmer, and starts an orchestra.

O. Henry's Complete Short Stories
I love short stories, and O. Henry is a master. Deft character development and a surprising climax are features of most of his delightful tales of love, family, life, death and villainry.

Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens)
This delightful classic is a nice length for kids. Listened to this (a second time) on a short road trip with the younger three kids and they really enjoyed it the characters and story.

By The Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Farmer Boy (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
We are slowly getting through the Little House series! We keep taking breaks to read other books. I enjoyed Farmer Boy more this time around. It was so interesting to see the contrast between his family and Laura's, especially the comparative wealth and variety of food and clothing options that a stable farming way of life could bring. Makes you realize how much poor Ma gave up to move all over the West with Pa, starting over again every few years.

Tom Sawyer
Huckleberry Finn
(Mark Twain)
I grabbed the audiobook of Tom Sawyer at the library because our theater group was performing the musical version. I ended up listening to most of it alone, and I decided to follow it up with Huck Finn, which I had not read since I was in junior high, when I didn't enjoy it a bit. I think I was just desperate for reading material at the time, and I was probably too young for it. It's more of a convoluted tale than Tom Sawyer, and a more serious work. Tom Sawyer is tighter, more light-hearted and a better read for younger kids, but there is more meat for discussion in Huckleberry Finn.

Karen Kingsbury's
Redemption series (Redemption, Remember, Return, Rejoice, Return)
Firstborn series (Fame, Forgiven, Found, Family, Forever)
Sunrise series (Sunrise, Summer, Someday, Sunset)
The Chance
When Joy Came To Stay

Obviously I was on a Karen Kingsbury kick here for awhile! I had read the Firstborn series before--it's about the director of a youth theater group patterned after the one my kids are involved in--and I had always meant to read the Redemption series, which came before. So I snapped it up when someone offered it to me, and then I had to re-read the Firstborn series and follow the characters on through the Sunrise series. These are moving stories about believable characters facing real-life tests of faith and family. I was not crazy about The Chance--seemed so contrived--but When Joy Came to Stay was a well-framed story about mental health issues (depression) and the power of transparency before God and man.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Ian Fleming)
The three younger kids and I really enjoyed listening to this on a road trip. It was interesting to compare the book with the movie and discuss why the film makers made some variant choices in order to make a better movie than if they had stuck to the book.

The Art Thief (Noah Charney)
This audiobook was near the Agatha Christies in the library, and I took a chance on it because I enjoy art books and mysteries, and this was both. As a mystery it was just okay. But since the author is a professor of art history and an expert in art criminology, and he managed to lecture a good bit one way or another, I found it an interesting read about art, artists and art thieves.

The Little White Horse (Elizabeth Goudge)
For years I've had this little gem on my shelf and never read it! So glad I finally did. I can see why J.K. Rowling called it her favorite book that she read as a child. There was not much about the horse--to my slight disappointment, since I loved horse books as a child--but it's a most satisfying fairytale filled with wonderful characters, a castle, a cottage and more. Delightful; I can't wait for Chicklet to read it.

The House of Dies Drear (Virginia Hamilton)
Another road-trip audiobook. The younger three really liked this because of the ghostly hauntings and the mystery aspect; I thought the treatment of blacks in 1968 was well-described and thought-provoking. Educational and entertaining--a win-win.

Five Children and It
(E. Nesbit)
Another one of those children's classics that I've owned and never read until now. What if you could be granted a new wish every morning, one that would disappear at sundown? And what if things kept going wrong with your wish? Clever, funny, thought-provoking and very enjoyable.

An Unquiet Mind
by Kay Redfield Jamison
This is the autobiography of a clinical psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of bipolar disorder, who has the disorder herself. Informative, intriguing and sympathetic.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
(Jen Hatmaker)
Nonfiction has to be pretty entertaining for me to get through a whole book. I do fine with articles, but it takes me years to finish nonfiction full-length books. I read this one in record time, though, because the author--a pastor's wife and popular speaker and blogger--is hilarious, and the topic really resonated with my own philosophy (which I am just beginning to articulate and apply to more and more things in my life) that "less is more." She picked seven areas to limit, for a month at a time. She gave herself only seven food choices, allowed herself only seven clothing items, only spent money in seven stores, fasted from seven media types, gave away seven things a day for a month, adopted seven "green" habits to reduce waste in her life, and mutinied against stress by observing seven "sacred pauses" a day (basically praying the liturgical hours). Entertaining and thought-provoking.

Though Mountains Fall
(Dale Cramer)
This is the sequel to Paradise Valley (which I read last year) about an Amish community that forms in Mexico, loosely based on the author's own family history. I enjoyed both as audiobooks, something to listen to while cooking.

Spy for the Night Riders (Dave and Neta Jackson)
The Trailblazer books feature famous Christian historical figures. This one was written from the perspective of a young student/clerk of Martin Luther's, who accompanies him to the Diet of Worms where he was accused of heresy, and is with him on the return journey when Luther was apprehended by friends and whisked away to live in safety at Wartburg Castle, where he translated the New Testament into German. It was quite exciting, with every chapter ending in a cliff hanger which had B8 and Chicket begging me to keep reading, and it dovetailed nicely with our history studies of the Middle Ages for Classical Conversations, which included mention of the Protestant Reformation. We own a lot of the Trailblazer series, but the older kids never ate them up. I think it's because I never read them aloud and it seems that is the best way to enjoy them!

The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis)
I've read this, I've listened to the radio drama, but the best way to experience The Screwtape Letters is to listen to John Cleese read them. (I have it on cassette tapes, but I just googled and discovered it's on YouTube now!) I think this is one of Lewis' finest books, giving such perspective on the role of the church, God's love for his creation, His plan for mankind, resisting the devil and recognizing his machinations, even re-casting death's role in life--all with such clever humor and logic! A remarkable book.

The Whipping Boy (Sid Fleischman)
Listened to this children's book with just Chicklet in the car, somehow--oh, it was driving back and forth to Hercules rehearsals, while B14 preferred to listen to his iPod. She loved this story of a spoiled prince and his scrappy whipping boy who end up running away from the palace and living on the streets, where the prince finally learns to behave like one. It was a nice addition to our history studies of the Middle Ages this year.

Pullman Car Hiawatha (Thornton Wilder)
This one-act play really impressed me. I'd love to direct it somehow, somewhere. Our Town has always been a play that deeply moves me, and PCH seems like a precursor to Our Town, with seeds of ideas that Wilder developed more fully in later plays. It takes place on a train traveling across the Midwest. One of the passengers dies, and then in Wilder's magical realistic way, we pull back and see the event from a geographical, theological, cosmological, meteorological perspective represented by characters like a farmhand in Ohio, a hobo living under a bridge that the train passes over, and the planets.

Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines (Clyde Fitch)
This three-act play was in the same anthology of American playwrights as Pullman Car Hiawatha, and I thought it a fine little light-hearted Victorian romantic comedy.

Entwined (Heather Dixon)
This audiobook was on last year's list too; I thought Chicklet and B14 might enjoy it in the car, as we traveled for the holidays, and they did. It's a well-embellished retelling of the fairy tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, with a lot of other interesting characters besides the princesses. (I have a dream project in mind based on this book--I think it would make a great musical for our youth theater group!)

Sister Wendy's Book of Meditations (Wendy Beckett)
Sister Wendy, art critic and Catholic nun, meditates on the themes of Silence, Love, Joy, and Peace, illustrated by a beautiful piece of artwork on each page. This book has taught me how to appreciate abstract art more than I ever could have on my own, and the meditations always settle me into a place of peace and joy.

Though I can't say I read any of them entirely, I also read, on something close to a daily basis, the Bible, Jesus Calling, the Divine Hours, Reader's Digest, and The Week (the magazine), plus many articles and blog posts recommended by Papa Rooster and my Facebook friends.

The kids and I did a lot of reading together as well, and I am working on another post covering our explorations of the Middle Ages and other topics covered in our Classical Conversations curriculum this school year.

Overall, it was a good year of reading!  For more book lists, visit Semicolon's special edition year-end booklist round-up!

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19. Happy New Year, Happy Blogiversary

Eight years ago on New Year's Eve, I started this little blog.


It's been a busy year, and it's a busy night. We have friends here to eat, pray, play Scrabble, watch Call The Midwife and see the New Year in. 

I haven't been able to keep up with blogging as well as I used to; I know things slowed down significantly this past year. But still, blogging seems to me to be something worth doing, so I shall endeavor to continue, with God's help.

It's been my tradition to invite your comments to help encourage and celebrate with me. It's always a treat to hear from long-time readers as well as new ones. Anything you'd like to share about yourself, suggestions, questions, compliments or observations are all welcome and so encouraging!

Happy 2014 to you all!!

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20. Christmas Everywhere


 Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight!
Christmas in lands of the fir tree and pine,
Christmas in lands of the palm tree and vine,
Christmas where snow peaks stand solemn and white,
Christmas where cornfields stand sunny and bright.

Christmas where children are hopeful and gay,
Christmas where old men are patient and gray,
Christmas where peace, like a dove in his flight,
Broods o'er brave men in the thick of the fight;
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight!

For the Christ-child who comes is the Master of all;
No palace too great, no cottage too small. 

~Phillips Brooks

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21. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

"The Herdmans were the worst kids in the whole history of the world." That's the first line of this play, spoken by the main character, Beth. Alice and Maxine (Chicklet) chime in with anecdotes.

"And they wrote this really dirty word on the back of Naomi Waddell's favorite turtle, so now Naomi can't take it to the YMCA pet show. Her mother won't let her. ...And that's not all. They did it with fluorescent paint, so it glows in the dark. When you can't even see the turtle, you can still see the word."

The other blondie with Chicklet is her best friend, but they fooled everybody into thinking they were sisters!
Maxine in Sunday School, prior to casting the Christmas Pageant. "There are no small parts, just small actors," the class parrots, but they admit they don't know what it means.

"I know what it means!" Maxine declares. "It means the short kids have to be in the front row of the angel choir, or else nobody can see them!"

Then the Herdmans show up and volunteer for everything. Here Claude (B8), Ollie and Leroy volunteer to be Wise Men. "What's a Wise Man?" Claude asks.

Me as Mrs. McCarthy, helping spread the gossip. "Did you hear about the Christmas Pageant? ...How else could the six of them end up in a Christmas Pageant, when they ought to be in jail!"

The Herdmans toss around the Baby Jesus as they debrief about their morning in Sunday School.

Imogene says, "Well, [if I were Mary] I wouldn't hang around out in the barn. I'd go get a room." Claude retorts, "She said there wasn't any room!" "Then I'd throw somebody out!"

Mrs. McCarthy interrupts the dress rehearsal to let Mom know the ladies are making applesauce cake in back. Mom takes the opportunity to ask if she could borrow my niece for the Baby Jesus and I react in horror. "Grace...NO! I could make up some lie and tell you the baby's sick or cranky or something, but the truth is, she's perfectly healthy and happy and beautiful, and we all want her to stay that way. So we're certainly not going to hand her over to Imogene Herdman!"

Then I discover smoke in the ladies' room and call the fire department. It's just cigar smoke--Imogene Herdman was smoking cigars in the Mary costume in the ladies' room--but the applesauce cake burns up. (That's B8 on the back of our friend the fireman, the father of Chicklet's blonde friend.)

The actual pageant, with Maxine as the Pageant Narrator. 
(Memorizing her lines doubled as Scripture memory! ;)

A total stranger asked me afterwards, "Was the Narrator your daughter?" I asked how she could tell, and she said, "She looks just like you!" Best compliment ever.

Of course the Wise Men would have had binoculars, right? And that's a ham Leroy is holding in his other hand. B8 follows with his imaginary prop, a gold box. (Good thing it was a dress rehearsal!)

(click to enlarge)
A lovely tableaux. Gold, frankincense, and ham.

(In the script Beth says the ham was such a sensible present, and I never even questioned it. But my husband, raised in the New York City area where he was a minority because he wasn't black or Jewish, pointed out that a ham was not something that a good Jewish couple would even touch. Oops.)

"The Women" debrief after the pageant. "The best one we ever had...and I'm not sure why...."

Cast photo!

The "twins" mug for the camera.

B8 rockin' the Wise Man costume.

It was the best Christmas pageant ever!!!

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22. Twenty-Seven Years



It's our anniversary!

What a crazy time of year to get married. What were we thinking?

Our anniversary always feels more like a hurried peck, squeezed in amongst the busy-ness that is December, than a slow romantic kiss. Too many other things on our minds--Advent observance, Christmas preparations and celebrations, year-end business to conclude, performances and parties to attend, extra shopping, menu planning and housecleaning, and travel plans.

It's easy to take "us" for granted. After all, we're not going anywhere!

But I thank God for my husband, who knows me better than anyone--especially the icky parts that I hide when outside of my own house--and he's still around.

I can't find an actual author for this quote--(who is The Great Kamryn anyway?)--but I saved it just for this post:

"The truth is that the more intimately you know someone, the more clearly you'll see their flaws. That's just the way it is. This is why marriages fail, why children are abandoned, why friendships don't last. You might think you love someone until you see the way they act when they’re out of money or under pressure or hungry, for goodness’ sake. Love is something different. Love is choosing to serve someone and be with someone in spite of their filthy heart. Love is patient and kind, love is deliberate. Love is hard. Love is pain and sacrifice, it’s seeing the darkness in another person and defying the impulse to jump ship."

He could have jumped ship at many points in the past 27 years. Me too. By God's grace we've learned, over and over, how to find our way back through our own hurts and resentments to be with each other in all the pain of filthy hearts that are willing to trust that the other will forgive and love again.

It's not easy.

But I'm thankful to be doing it with him--my best friend.

Happy Twenty-Seven Years, Honey!

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23. Performance-Full!


It's opening night! B8, Chicklet and I are ready!



It's opening night for Blondechick, as well! She's singing with the choir at three performances of this multimedia holiday gospel presentation this weekend.

And we have auditions tonight, too! Chicklet, B8 and B14 are all auditioning for The Wizard of Oz, the next Spotlight show (performances in early March). They'll go right from auditions to their performances--

B8 and Chicklet to Best Christmas Pageant Ever...

....and B14 to Ye Olde Christmas Feaste, an 8-course medieval feast complete with jesters, fencers, dancers, tumblers, beefeaters, litter bearers, stewards, pages, wenches, lords, ladies, brass fanfares announcing each course, and the accomplished and expressive Madrigal Singers, all elaborately costumed in medieval dress. Papa Rooster, B18 and Grandpa Rooster went last night and they said it was fabulous. The younger kids, Blondechick, and I are so disappointed that we won't get to see it this year because our performances fall at the same times.

Fortunately, as B14 says, "I'm so glad I'll probably get to do this three more years!" We'll look forward to next year.

B14, B8 and Chicklet potentially also have callbacks to squeeze into their schedule on Saturday morning, and we also have Grandpa Rooster here through the weekend. Papa R is doing photography for the Feaste and our show (photos soon!), plus writing a sermon.

***

So happy we are homeschooling and the younger kids and I, at least, have been able to adjust our schedule accordingly! Lots of intangibles to be learned from each production we are a part of.

We're on a break from Classical Conversations, so we haven't had homework and I haven't had lessons to prep--a nice break! We've been using the time for reviewing our CC memory work, pushing hard on math fact memorization, and keeping lines and auditions fresh and ready to go.  The kids have been doing lots of extra reading this week while I've been busy Christmas shopping (mostly online) and wrapping/bagging, and they also got out the paints several days this week. The word "bored" never crosses their lips!

Speaking of bored, my funny director sent me this note by email after I emailed her my bio for the program:

I did not realize you have six kids! And you're homechooling them???? I think you should get another side job. You probably have 23 min per day spare time, and I'd hate to see you get bored. LOL.

Speaking of quotes, two others really made my week. A little boy in my Drama 1 class, on his way out the door on the second night of class, told me (in a nonchalantly approving way), "You're a really good teacher." Then at one of our dress rehearsals for Best Christmas, a little girl, apropos of nothing that I could see--we were changing our costumes--said to me, "You're awesome!" I have no idea what she was referring to but I have to conclude that she likes my acting, because that's the only thing I do there besides sit and watch rehearsal or shush children backstage.

Encouragement! Everybody needs it. I'll take it!

So proud of my brood this weekend. Oh, that reminds me of another quote! One of my Facebook friends commented on my status about our schedule this weekend, "What a great example of how to use your God-given gifts for Jesus!" I certainly pray that God shines through us all in this performance-full time!

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24. Symbolic


I was shopping at Charming Charlie's for Christmas presents, since I had a coupon for $10 in free merchandise. It's a store that sells accessories--jewelry, scarves, shoes, purses.

I was in the clearance section looking at small necklaces for Chicklet11. She could use something silver and basic now that she's getting to an age where she can remember to wear and keep track of her jewelry.

I saw lots of recognizable little animals and such, but then a charm caught my eye because I couldn't identify at first. Was it...what I thought it was? A razor blade?

The practice of "cutting" wasn't really on my radar screen until I had teenagers, but now I know kids and adults who struggle with this compulsion. I know there are websites and Facebook groups for cutters who proudly self-identify this way. This kind of thing must be marketed to them, but still:  Is this something this store was really interested in promoting? Right there next to the owls and ballerina slippers?

Should I say something? I so often look the other way, but this was truly disturbing to me.  The Edmund Burke quote rushed into my mind:  "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." And I had nothing to lose, I decided.

When I had picked out my gifts, I carried my purchases to the register along with the disturbing necklace. As the pleasant cashier rang up my items, I held out the necklace and asked if she could tell me what that charm was. She took off her glasses and looked at it closely. Her brow furrowed and she said, "I think it's a razor blade, but let's ask [my associate]." She called over a young woman, probably about 20, who immediately identified it and then offered, "We have larger ones too, with bling, right over there."

"Well, I was actually questioning whether Charming Charlie's knew what it was, and whether it's appropriate for..."

She cut me off. "Oh, it's not religious or anything. I mean it's just like a cross. It doesn't mean anything."

She left and I looked at the cashier, who was also the manager.  "I know people who struggle with cutting themselves, and it's not something I would think your store would want to promote," I said.

She nodded, as it dawned on her that that's what the razor blade represented. "Thank you for bringing that to my attention, she said. "I'll talk to my supervisor about it."

***

Not religious? Like a cross? Did she even know what those words mean? What would she say IS religious??

And could she really believe that a symbol like a razor blade or a cross is devoid of meaning? I understand that crosses are everywhere and if you're not a Christ-follower, they don't mean much to you.


I understand that a necklace like this one might mean nothing to a lot of shoppers or sales clerks. But it speaks volumes to a middle school girl who struggles with self-hatred, or whose best friend committed suicide with one of these, or someone who compulsively punishes themselves this way.

I don't know the answer. There are dozens of images of charms like this one that come up in Google. My little comment was about as impactful as dropping a pebble in Lake Michigan, and I know there are far worse things that many kids are exposed to regularly.

My heart is saddened mostly by our unwillingness, as a culture, to protect children and the innocent and vulnerable. We flaunt our rights to make a statement without caring how it affects others.

I don't see religious symbols in the same category as a razor blade, even though they make a statement too. I wouldn't have been offended by a charm symbolizing another religion besides my own, and I wouldn't use the word "flaunt" to describe someone wearing one. I would hope that a religious statement would be a symbol of good, not evil, intention to the wearer.

Or would it be just a meaningless symbol to them?


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25. Thanksgiving Edition



1.  The biggie? I'm so thankful for God. What do people do for meaning, purpose and significance in life if they don't know Him? I like to control things, and when things are completely out of my control, I can trust that He has a plan and a higher purpose for circumstances that are not how I would order them. I just re-listened to John Cleese reading C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters--which I cannot recommend highly enough--and it reminded me of God's perspective on the world, on human beings, on suffering, on pleasure and joy, on the Church, and more. So much truth! Makes me thankful for a God I can trust in, fully and completely.

2.  I'm so thankful for our church and all the people in it. We are in an interesting season right now, a season of prayer and listening and discernment. There is a sense that we are being called forward into a new phase. We have been in survival mode, so to speak. So many of us in our small community have been experiencing crises in our lives, our families, and our finances; it's been all we could do just to keep the wheels on at church. But it seems God is calling us to move forward, and right now I am thankful to be surrounded by prayerful, discerning believers and leaders.

3.  I am so thankful for my husband--the priest of our church and the spiritual leader of our home. No one sets a better example of godly leadership! I am so thankful, especially with four sons, for a father who models engagement with God in such a natural way. Whether he invites them to go for a run or join him in Morning Prayer, they respond positively. When he talks theology with friends, they enjoy sitting in on that too. They hear his sermons regularly, and they see him reading and preparing for them, as well as disappearing into his office to work at his "real" job to support us, which he does so successfully and so faithfully. Yup, so thankful for him!!

4.   My heart is filled with thanksgiving for our children. They are such a source of joy to me! I love watching each one develop in a unique way. Each is so different, and God is at work in each one's life in a different way. They all have unique gifts and challenges. The sight or thought of each one of them always fills my heart with thankfulness and joy.

5.  Because I don't know how much longer we will live in it, I am especially thankful for our spacious and beautiful house. Although I am honestly eager to return to a cozier size house, with less square footage to care for and fewer bathrooms to clean, I know I will miss these days when we all have plenty of space to spread out in, and no need to create a shower schedule! I will certainly miss my extra tall kitchen cabinets and all the counter space I have now. Each day I am thankful for one more day here. Hard to believe it will be six years in May.

6+.  I better keep it short and just list a few others: all our friends at Spotlight Youth Theater and at Classical Conversations, good neighbors, good health, financial provision, reliable cars, and the little things--comfy couches, music of all kinds, reading books aloud to B8 and C11, B18 sitting at the kitchen counter telling me about his day, Blondechick practicing worship music on the piano, the sun shining on the dining room table, B14 singing out snippets of madrigals as he wanders through the living room, a smile exchanged with Papa R, B22 cheerfully putting away groceries, a new boombox that plays CDs and tapes and works!, a morning by myself at Panera, a good audiobook to listen to while I cook, and laughter around the Thanksgiving table.

I am one blessed woman.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; his love endures forever. 
~Psalm 118:1



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