Sometimes I wonder how schizophrenic our family's educational choices must appear to others.
We really have tried it all, it seems--homeschool, public school, charter school, private school, virtual school, Christian college, state college, technical college, even college-for-high-school-credit.
True, for many years, it was only the first two--homeschool and public school. (That's not so insane, is it?) The rest were prompted by our move to Wisconsin, and our kids becoming high school and then college-age students. Because we lack a crystal ball, we've been gaining experience by the trial-and-error method. And...because God uses it all. And because one kid is not like another.
Because we are Wisconsin residents, we have this virtual school option. It has been nice to take advantage of. With all the other things going on in our lives when we first moved up here, it was great to have someone else making assignments and grading them, and holding us all accountable during a crazy time. It was a lifesaver that first year we tried it, for B14's 6th-grade and Chicklet's 2nd-grade year.
It was also the perfect thing for B17 to switch to after 8th and 9th grade at a private school. For many reasons, we wanted to bring him home and he wanted to come home, but he did not want to be homeschooled and I did not want to homeschool him! The virtual school was a great solution.
This year, however, the virtual school just hasn't worked out so well.
I already wrote about our decision to pull out Chicklet10, early in the school year, and I described some of our difficulties with B14 here.
After deciding that we would replace his social studies curriculum with our own approach, it was only a short leap to the conclusion that we could just do the same with his other classes...and it made such a difference when he no longer had a reason to be on a laptop! Suddenly he was reading again. He was getting his work done in a reasonable time, and he was playing piano for fun again. He started playing games with his younger brother and sister when they were all finished with academics. Overall he seemed to regain motivation and become his old self again.
And he admitted that he had been spending hours playing online video games before. As I suspected! He was just so quick at switching to a school screen when I would check on him or make him sit at the kitchen table, and I could rarely catch him. I couldn't sit with him for hours on end, making sure he was only doing schoolwork. We probably could have installed some kind of software that could have helped, but when I did searches, everything I found was designed to block certain sites; what we needed was a blocker for everything except sites we designated. (I'd still like to find one--please let me know if you know of one!)
So no wonder he was unmotivated by math problems and Latin exercises. How could they compare to the excitement of a life-or-death mission? I can't fault the virtual school for his poor choices, but it seemed clear to us that virtual curriculum was no longer a good option for B14.
Then all we had left in virtual school were B17--who was and still is doing his own thing, in 11th grade--and B8.
B8, in second grade, had really enjoyed it at the beginning, but he was getting bored. Increasingly, he began copying his big brother's bad habits, and was sneaking onto Lego.com when he was supposed to be watching the short instructional videos. The workbook pages were often too easy for him, or they were too time-consuming for what they were worth. Though this curriculum had challenged Chicklet when she was in second grade, it wasn't a great fit for her brother.
And I began to think how nice it was in the days when I didn't have to scan and send anything in, when I could let them read all day if they wanted, and not feel like we still had this other busywork that had to be completed before we could call it a day of school. I thought of all the field trips we took when my oldest three were in elementary school, without counting the cost of getting "behind." I thought of the things I would have B8 focus on if he didn't have to do seemingly arbitrary assignments every day. I thought of how, instead of spending time concentrated on one child, B8, I would rather spend that time with all three, reading aloud and doing unit studies.
So I pulled out B8 too. The school was sorry to see him go, because apparently we were exceptionally diligent about getting work turned in. (I just can't ignore a checklist, I guess, and other people's expectations!) But I was NOT sorry to see the laptop go back, because the kids all knew the password to it, which the school had set and we didn't have admin privileges to change. Every time I went to the grocery or took a shower, somebody would be tempted to sneak on it. Good riddance, I say.
And we are enjoying our new-found freedom immensely! Each one is doing short lessons targeted to his or her needs, for grammar, spelling, writing, handwriting, vocabulary and math. For science, they choose a book from my shelf of elementary science books, and all three have been reading Usborne's Starting Point Science (we have all four volumes and they rotate). They also watch Bill Nye, the Science Guy DVD's from the library. For social studies, they read. We are focusing on American history this year, so they've read biographies and other chapter books, and we watched the John Adams mini-series recently too.
For reading aloud, we're taking a break from the Little House series--just finished Farmer Boy--and have started The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. We're also doing a poetry unit, with a book that came with Chicklet's curriculum, A Child's Introduction to Poetry, and I love it because it's more than just a poetry collection; it explains poetry categories, such as narrative poetry, lyrical poetry, nonsense verse, limericks, haikus, villanelles, etc. They are writing their own poems too! For Bible, we have been reading Journey to the Cross for the Easter season, which goes beyond telling the story, explaining Jewish and Roman customs of the time period. We're also memorizing Colossians 3:12-17.
We now have more regular trips to the library, and Chicklet and B8 always are engrossed in their finds for a few days after our visit. Chicklet and B14 continue piano, B8 is starting spring soccer, and they all attend theater classes too. B14 was selected to be on the Improv Team from our area! His team will compete against 8-9 other teams in June, and he can't wait. He's also taking a voice class. B8 is in a voice class as well, and Chicklet is taking dance, covering two styles--Hip Hop and Modern.
We had a nice Spring Break, spreading it out by doing lessons on Tuesday/Thursday for two weeks, and we also went on a couple field trips with friends. (Maybe I'll do a short post about that separately.)
So we are not regretting our drop-out status. We are learning just as much...and enjoying it more!
Schizophrenic? I prefer to think of ourselves as "flexible" and "responsive to student needs."
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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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Sometimes I wonder how schizophrenic our family's educational choices must appear to others.
Then the congregation is seated and we begin to recount salvation history through a series of Old Testament readings, beginning with the Creation.
Isaiah 55:1-11. For this reading, these men sang "Come to the Waters" composed by our friend Steve Williamson at Church of the Resurrection. Papa Rooster got to sing it together with his brother and his dad--a treat for them and for all of us. (The three of them are together on the left.)
(Though I "directed" them, most of the good moments they came up with on their own, such as when the bones remain seated after the text says "and they stood on their feet." B17 cleared his throat and repeated the line, more loudly, before B14 suddenly heard him and jumped to his feet. B14 added a lot of funny facial expressions to the bones too. This is such a strange story that you just HAVE to milk the comic potential in it!)
watch and listen to it here.) This young lady, who has played many lead roles in musicals, is headed off to college next year to major in vocal performance. She read the scripture so expressively and joyfully sang the women's refrain: "Sing, O daughter of Zion, shout aloud, O Israel; Rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem."
After the Old Testament readings, we always renew our baptismal vows as a congregation, a powerful moment of affirmation of belief. Then my brother-in-law sang the Don Francisco song, "He's Alive!" and just before the chorus, Father Rooster shouted the Easter Acclamation, "Allelujah! Christ the Lord is risen!" and the congregation responded, "He is risen indeed! Alleluia!"
Photo credit--all photos by Andrew Barkules, 4/30/13 Add a Comment
I don't have photos. (Yet.)
|Well, here's one, from the very start of Holy Week--beginning our Palm Sunday service|
Christ has died so that we may truly live!! He's risen and reigns over heaven and earth!! Alleluia!!
I am so thankful, for things heavenly...and for earthly matters too.
--for Christ, my Savior
--for his love, care and delight in me
--for the Church. I know it's hip to criticize it, but it was God's idea and I am so grateful for it.
--for Light of Christ. We have never regretted moving to Wisconsin to help start this church. What a work of God it is! We have been blessed with such wonderful, wonderful people in this small congregation.
--for "the body in action." During Holy Week, all kinds of gifts and services are poured out behind the scenes. This year, we needed stairs and a scrim constructed, communion bread baked, a new sound system built,wood supplied, bulletins prepared, curtains sewn, flowers ordered, emails exchanged, schedules made, rehearsals held, food prepared and much more. The family who lives across the street from our rented space opened their home for the week to anyone who needed a meal or a place to hold a meeting, and another woman provided food in huge quantities. Our tech team (including B17) provided sound and light for multiple music rehearsals, dramatic reading rehearsals, liturgical rehearsals with clergy and acolytes, and the actual services. There was a coordinator for each service--and a "coordinator of coordinators"--to make sure all the little details were prepared and planned. It was such a community effort!
--for the Holy Spirit. We plan and prepare and rehearse...but there is just no human accounting for what happens when God multiplies our small loaves-and-fishes of effort. Each service was like a vessel we shaped, but God filled. Newcomers, little kids, young people and old-timers were moved in mysterious ways. Praise the Lord!!
--for the joy of the Lord. He is risen indeed! The resurrection is such a joyous event to end the week celebrating, but it is made even more joyous by the journey we have traveled together. We walked the spiritual journey from darkness to light alongside the time-bound and earthly journey of labor and cooperation as a community throughout the week. The joy that rewards the accomplishment of earthly service mingles with joy in Christ's love, forgiveness and salvation--and there is much rejoicing!!
My heart is full. What a wonderful week. Thank you, Lord!!
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This has not been my year for a super-meaningful Lent.
But it's okay.
The one practice I've been keeping up is the daily devotional Jesus Calling. I've been reading each daily paragraph twice, morning and night. Such an encouragement to pull away, to look at the bigger picture.
"Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." It's the answer to so many problems, great and small.
The between-time hours, though, have been so full. And as I write, I realize that lately, what life has been full of is many joys and fun challenges! In addition to routine labors and responsibilities, of course. But so many exciting things in the works.
Let me count them.
Aladdin! Yes, it's over. But the photos remain! Papa Rooster was the professional photographer this time, and one of the things he offered to parents, besides a cast photo and the usual groupings, was a souvenir photo book of photos taken during performances. He's been teaching himself InDesign so that he can create each page as a photo collage, and I've helped him a bit with layout for some of the pages. It's going to be a beautiful book! I've also helped him organize the parents' orders, tally them, order them, and organize the prints to hand out. We also created a production disk of photos from the show, with B22 on the job of burning those and creating labels with the Aladdin graphic. I have a new appreciation for how many hours go into photography besides just snapping the picture!
My One Act class! Two weeks ago, all 14 students "auditioned" with a monologue and then we did cold readings from the script. My teen aide and I cast the show that night, and the next week, we passed out scripts and did a read-through. We discussed the characters' personalities, relationships, ages and motivations. Next week we'll start blocking it. We have two hours a week to rehearse until our performance on May 21. It's called "The Taming of LaRue," and it's a comic Western loosely based on "The Taming of the Shrew." The kids have lots of potential and it's going to be fun to pull it out of them!
Tom Sawyer! Auditions were last weekend and rehearsals start tonight. B14 was cast as Judge Thatcher, Becky Thatcher's father. He's about the tallest boy in the cast this time, so it seemed inevitable that he would end up in an adult role. Chicklet10 is Ruthie, a School Child, and B8 is Boy 2, also a School Child. (He was the "Child" in Aladdin, so our little joke is that he's moving up the ladder, since as "Boy 2," he now gets a gender and a number!) We haven't seen the script yet, but since they are named characters, they probably each get a line or two, and B14 will have quite a few. I will not be on the makeup committee, as usual; I asked to be on tech, so I can learn more about those aspects of directing. Now that I've been an intern director, I'm eligible to be on a directing team "for real," and I want to keep expanding my knowledge of all that goes into it!
Easter Vigil! For the past four years, I've been the director of all readings for Easter Vigil, plus the Passion reading for Palm Sunday. At our Easter Vigil, these readings are rarely just straightforward reading; we add music, dance or drama to accompany them. (See photos from last year's Vigil.) I wasn't really up for doing another year, but found myself in the role again, being urged to simplify as much as possible. So we are repeating several things from last year, performing two readings as songs, and using fewer kids. It's a bummer, really, since we have so many kids at Light of Christ, but it does simplify things from a rehearsal standpoint. (Next year, I want to take just two or three of the readings, not all nine, and then I will have time and energy to better incorporate more children.) The other thing we did to simplify was to cut--gasp!--one of the optional readings, Isaiah 4:2-6, God's Presence in a Renewed Israel. I had no inspiration for it, and when I saw it was not listed on The Lectionary Page for this year, we all agreed we could let it go. I also delegated the Passion reading this year, which we always do as a reader's theater type choral reading. So thankful for Abbi, who took that on, and for Mrs. A, who created a schedule for sound checks for Saturday morning. (And for John, who gave ideas to get me going, and Lisa who is Master Coordinator for all of Holy Week and forced me to set helpful deadlines!)
Holy Week! Now that the administrative elements are over--emailing people to ask for involvement, creating rehearsal schedules, more emails, creating "scripts," sending followup emails--what's left is what I'd call the fun stuff. (Although as I type that, I wonder if I'm going to enjoy five rehearsals back-to-back from 3:30 to 8:30 or 9 on Monday.) Besides reading rehearsals, I also am singing in one music rehearsal, and then there are nine final run-throughs/sound checks on Saturday mornings.
Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday! It's the big week of our church year, and our whole family is psyched! Blondechick is singing for several of the services, and B17 is running sound at all those rehearsals and services, and learning a new sound system we just purchased because we are meeting in a new location now. We had a minor calamity of sorts when we learned that the Kemper Chapel, where we normally hold all our services, had been rented out for a wedding on Holy Saturday. Because of the impossibility of moving everything on Saturday night to be ready for a Sunday morning service, we had to find a new location for all of our Holy Week services. The best option, after we tested it out by meeting there on Sunday mornings, turned out to be the Simmons Gymnasium at the other end of the Kemper Center, and now we are considering meeting there permanently on Sundays. Although it's a gym, it's beautiful. Stay tuned for pictures!
Homeschooling! What's new about that, you ask? One by one, we've ended up withdrawing kids from the virtual schools they were enrolled in, until now only B17 remains laptop-based in his lessons. The younger three are now spending a lot more time reading, and we are all loving it. More on that in a post to come.
Spring Break! Friends from our old stomping grounds are coming up for a day next week, or maybe we'll meet them in Chicago, if it's good weather. We have passes and Groupon deals to several museums we are going to visit after Easter, with friends, and I think we are going to take a day here and a day there and call it spring break.
Summer plans! They are a-percolatin'. Not fully brewed yet, but fun and exciting to think about.
Thank you, Lord, for all these joyful, enjoyable things to plan and do and think about. Thank you for my kids, husband, friends, church, and theater group to do them with. A couple nights ago, I dreamed that I was working in a maternity unity in a hospital, and there were all these babies there in the nursery, and being born in other rooms, but there was a hurricane or tornado on the way. Do I fear that something will happen to wipe out the joy and excitement I’m feeling? I pray for your protection for all these new things; like all children, they are Yours.
I like that title because it's alliterative and descriptive, but I could never, in a million words, say ALL that I would like to say about Aladdin! It was one of my favorite theater experiences ever.
Much of my enjoyment came from being a part of it from the beginning, as the intern director. From auditions, callbacks and casting on through rehearsals and a hair-raising production week--(we missed an entire dress/tech rehearsal due to a snowstorm)--it was such fun to be a part of the whole process. I couldn't have imagined a better team of directors to work with and learn from.
And the kids! They were just amazing. I saw such dedication from dancers, actors, vocalists and "triple threats." It was really rewarding to work with them.
Another reason this show will be unforgettable was that nearly all our family was involved! We had four kids onstage--for the first and probably only time. B22 ran a spotlight, I directed, and Papa Rooster was the parent photographer who took backstage shots (for a "behind the scenes" photo CD), headshots (for the program), and costume shots (for candy bar wrappers sold as souvenirs, and for badges parents could purchase which identified them as the proud parent of the cast member[s] pictured). For the first time ever, he was also the professional photographer, who took the cast photo and other professional group or individual shots, as well as photos during shows which can be ordered through his website individually, on a disc, or in a photo memory book. Big learning curve for him, but a great opportunity to do what he loves and is so good at!
I don't know how I can possibly choose from among the hundreds of photos he took, so I will limit myself to just a few of our kids' big moments...and encourage you to go check out the rest! (I will post a link once his website is ready to go live.) Such beautiful costumes and colors...it was visually stunning. I wish I could post video of the dancing too--such high-energy, Bollywood-style, FUN stuff!
So here's a taste! (Click to enlarge each image.)
|It was B8's first show, and he got to wear a mic and deliver a few lines of advice to the snake charmer. ("Maybe, if you'd play some better music, the snake would come out.")|
|After singing throughout a |
|...and Aladdin gets to catch his breath during a flashback scene of simpler times when his mother was still alive. This sweet trio was such a touching moment, every night.|
|Meanwhile, Jasmine has to endure the attentions of another suitor, Prince Zorak (played by B14), "the most sought-after prince in the known world, with the best education, training, and of course..."|
|Aladdin takes Jasmine to his hideout, where he and his friends perform a fun musical number to introduce themselves. "Jasmine, you ain't seen nothing near/ The kind of friends you've got right here...."|
|But the Palace Guard bursts in to arrest them. (It's okay if you snicker at B14's turban. We all did. Sometimes it was totally lopsided; sometimes it looked like a diaper. It added comedy to his character.)|
|This was a tech rehearsal, and the mini-Genies aren't blue, but I like this "Going up!" shot of the end of Act 1, with the Magic Carpet spread out in front (and B8 in green, there in back.) Strobes and a sound effect were added too.|
|In Act 2, B14 (back row left) also got to be in "Prince Ali's" (Aladdin's) entourage, in the hardest and best dance number of the show. He really enjoyed this third role.|
|At the end of the number, he and a friend carry his brother out on their shoulders!|
|The Magic Carpet Ride looked really cool with blowing clouds projected on the backdrop and dry ice creating clouds onstage.|
|It became a little less romantic--and cuter--after the Mini Genies joined in the number. Usually they were in shadow, but this shot was from dress rehearsal. (B8 in front, C10 in back, in matching green.)|
|Aladdin and friends escape and sneak into Jafar's lair dressed as women. That's B17 (Aladdin) in red there in front.|
|As he dances with Jafar, Aladdin's head covering falls off and Jafar recognizes Aladdin! A swordfight ensues until Aladdin snatches up the lamp and Jafar breaks it with his sword, freeing the Genie and doing away with himself.|
|In the front row, in green, B8 and Chicklet 10 sing "oooo's" as the wedding party arrives. See B17 in white in back?|
|And you'll have to enlarge this one...all four on one stage! (B14 is behind the Sultan, to left of Jasmine.)|
|My job was to hit Play on the computer for each song, sound effect and piece of transition music. It's no one's favorite job--just a little stressful to always get the timing right--but I was finally feeling a bit more comfortable by the last show!|
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I had such a sweet time in California with my aunt and uncle!!
Totally in catch-up mode now, and struggling to find time to write a post about it. I have pictures--but they are located in several places, from which I don't normally upload to my blog, so that's another obstacle.
And Aladdin is just around the corner! We move our sets and light/sound equipment into the theater this Saturday. I'm busy selling tickets and realizing I need to immediately borrow or order shoes for the older boys, and buy and dye canvas tennies for my younger two. Oh, we need no-show socks too. And Showcase is tomorrow night too--yikes! Better make sure they have what they need to wear for that too!
I am also scrambling to pull together curriculum and a lesson plan for B14. Last week, I took him out to lunch for his birthday, and in a heart-to-heart conversation, he convinced me to let him drop the virtual school altogether and go back to pure homeschooling, which he remembers fondly as the last time he enjoyed school. He says the computer has taken over his life, since he started virtual schooling, and I agree! So, one more thing to add in to this week. Mostly, I just want to get him reading again.
But my California trip was a blessed time of R & R. My aunt and uncle are so gracious and easy to be with. We didn't do lots--the big day was going to a set where McDonald's shoots most of their commercials (my uncle's brother works there), and visiting the Nixon Library on the way home. On other days, the big events were walking around the neighborhood, going down to the ocean at the San Clemente Beach and Dana Point, going to Costco and a few other errands, and going to dinner at my cousin's house. We were in the car heading to Saddleback, Rick Warren's church, when I became ill, so that was disappointing. Slept it off and felt fine after that, though; my body seemed to be confused by the time change, different food and caffeine at odd times.
My aunt and uncle have the gifts of conversation and laughter--my cousin too--and I mostly just enjoyed sitting around and talking and laughing! It had been years since I had seen them all, and it was so good to catch up. I also enjoyed hearing about their experiences in the past; I heard many stories I had not heard before or could only vaguely recall. My uncle is quite a character and tells a colorful story! And it was inspiring to see their faithfulness to God, and His hand at work over the course of their lives. It was so good just to laugh, relax and worry about nothing while I was there! (Noooo stresssss....)
I soaked up what warmth and sunshine I could, too, though it was quite chilly while I was there. I hadn't been to CA in 17 years, and I honestly didn't remember it that well. I'd forgotten how hilly it was, and how exotic all the plants are, and I couldn't believe how green and beautiful it was, even in February! I can really see why so many people love it there. It was a great place to get away.
Still hope to post some pics later!
Thanks so much, Aunt and Uncle, for a wonderful time and for taking such good care of me!
I have half an hour, here in a rare morning at Panera, before a doctor's appointment. Since I am at Aladdin rehearsals every weekend, I have lost my usual Saturday morning sanity break, so I am grabbing some time alone while I can!
Rehearsals have been such fun, though. I love the kids, and I am learning so much from the other directors. It's helpful to see other's teaching styles with the various elements of dance, vocals, character development, blocking and more.
The older boys finished up their first semester at eAchieve, their virtual school. B17's course load will remain the same, except he will begin a new college class. He took Speech last semester at Gateway, a local technical college, and did fine. This semester we applied--through the Youth Options program, which means the school district pays for it--for a class at UW-Parkside, which is here in town. The only one that was approved that was also offered this semester was Intro to Philosophy. Not the first class I'd want him to take at a secular school, but at least his dad was a philosophy major in college, so he'll be able to give some perspective on the material. And hey, free college credit is a beautiful thing.
Blondechick will also be at Parkside this semester. She officially transferred and will be taking a full load of classes, as well as continuing to work as a waitress several nights a week. Right now she is basking in Florida--a last hurrah before classes start next week--with her dad, who is attending an industry conference and moderating a panel discussion on the Affordable Care Act which goes into effect in 2014.
But the rest of us went to the Wisconsin Dells last week, to stay overnight at a waterpark called the Kalahari. We found a great deal online through Travel Zoo--it was $150 a night for a 2-bedroom, 2-bath suite, which included six passes to the waterpark and two passes to their indoor theme park, which has laser tag, rock-climbing, etc. We gave those to B17 and B13, and the rest of us had more than enough to amuse us at the waterpark for two days. Outside, the temps were in single digits, so it was perfect timing! It was a nice way to celebrate B22's birthday week and the halfway point of the school year.
B13's fall semester was lackluster. He is tempted by video games and a novel he is writing, when he should be doing school, and it's hard for me to monitor him when all of his school assignments are online. He can't work at his desk in his room anymore; instead he has to sit where I can see what's on the screen of his laptop. Still, I can't be in the room with him all the time. I am certain we will not do a virtual school with him again next year, but we were torn about what to do for this semester. With the goal of cutting down the time he spends in front of a screen, we dropped one of his elective classes for this semester, and we also decided to let him take an F in his social studies class for this coming semester. (It's only 8th grade; it won't appear on any transcript). History is usually his favorite subject, but he has hated this class. The online textbook is boring and unwieldy, and he spends more time trying to find information in it than he does learning anything interesting.
Instead, I am having him read the 10-volume A History of US, by Joy Hakim, and take multiple choice tests covering the material. He will research and write an essay every other week covering a topic of interest that comes up in his reading, so I'll get to work on writing with him, something I've been wanting to do. He'll also read biographies that we have in our homeschool collection. We'll continue this plan for 9th grade, too, and that will be his American History high school course. The best part is, it was someone from the virtual school who gave me the idea of substituting my own curriculum for the remainder of the semester, so I don't feel too awful about ignoring those assignments each week!
The two younger ones are ticking along nicely. B7 and I do his lessons from the virtual school, and I modify them sometimes so that we can more quickly move into reading time! He and Chicklet are really getting into their library books, bringing home lots of easy chapter books--Magic Tree House, Junie B Jones, Hardy Boys Secret Files series, Rainbow Magic Fairy series--that they can dig into. Chicklet has her workbooks, and she's doing Teaching Textbooks for math and really enjoying it. We are also doing Calculadder math drills daily. I don't remember why, but the timed tests freaked out my oldest two, so I gave up on it with them and never tried it with the middle two. But B7 and Chicklet are willing and eager to try to beat the clock every day, and I am so thankful to finally have something working well for learning facts!
My last piece of news is that next week, I am going on vacation. Not a family vacation--just me. My aunt and uncle in southern California are graciously hosting me for six days! This aunt is my dad's sister, and she used to come to the farm in Ohio with her son, my cousin, for about a month every summer when I was growing up, so I feel close to her.We also look alike, family friends in Ohio always tell me. Since my grandma passed away, we don't rendezvous in Ohio like we used to, and when they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past fall, I considered going, which started the whole plan evolving, Now it's almost here, and I can't wait! So much to do, though, to get ready to be gone.
That took more than thirty minutes.
Perhaps my next post will be from sunny CA, but I am not promising. I may be too busy vacationing from all responsibility!
(This is why you use a knife and cut your meat into bite-size pieces, B17, especially when your father's camera is out.)
B22 actually ended up with two jobs during the holiday season--we were so thankful! He worked at a downtown toy store beginning in the late summer and in November he also was hired by Marshall's, a small department store, for just 8 hours a week. However, he was considered a seasonal employee at both places, and after the holidays ended, both jobs ended as well. But he has some good experience on his resume now, and good references, and he made enough to begin paying back his college loans, have a little in savings, and a little to spend on soundtracks and new speakers for his iPod.
I am so thankful for the help he is getting through the local Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. He has to call in every Friday and tell them what jobs he has applied for, and they follow up with those employers. Right now, it's tough. No one is hiring in January.
So it's a good thing he has a class to keep him busy. There is a technical college here in Kenosha called Gateway, and he has decided to work toward their associate's degree in Graphic Design. We are hoping that some of his TIU coursework will transfer, as electives at least. The class he's taking this semester is on designing presentations in a number of different software environments. It's four hours once a week at the Racine campus, which is nearly 30 minutes away. So far, he's enjoying it very much!
For his birthday, we went around the table and said why we were thankful for B22. Recurring themes were his willingness to play Legos with his three younger siblings, his sci-fi knowledge, his steadfastness in the Lord, and his faithfulness with his chores. Since he has more time, he has all the biggest chores--doing dishes, vacuuming the main level, putting away all groceries, cleaning a bathroom, remembering to put out the trash and recycling bins each week. He is so reliable and consistent--such a help and a blessing to us all!
For Christmas and his birthday, he asked for books--Star Wars graphic novels, Eragon's Guide to Alagaesia, The Inheritance Almanac, Awakening: The Art of Halo--and a Lego set, the Star Wars Striker-class Republic Starfighter. With an iTunes gift card he received for Christmas, he purchased the Sherlock Holmes movie soundtrack and the Halo 4 soundtrack, and he also is enjoying the newest Owl City album which his brother shared with him. The other thing he asked for and received for his birthday was for his dad and brothers to watch a movie with him--Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn.
Happy Birthday, B22! Your faithfulness in the Lord and in our family is a blessing to us all. May your 23rd year hold many good things and new adventures!
Time for a little recap of the family news, eh?
First, the holidays. On Christmas Eve, we held our usual Christmas Eve service at Light of Christ.
|B13 as crucifer at the service's candlelight beginning.|
|Father Rooster gives a children's homily. No childcare on Christmas Eve; it's a short, early, family service, over by 6 p.m.|
|Our hosts, who are also newlyweds!|
We also deviated from our usual pattern on Christmas Day. Instead of everyone coming to our place, we opened presents at our house in the morning, then drove into Chicago to spend the rest of the day with Brother Rooster, our sis-in-law, and our niece. They put out a beautiful spread for us, including prime rib and baked Brie, and it was a wonderful family time.
|Grandpa and my sis-in-law.|
|These Christmas cardigans once belonged to my Ohio grandpa.|
We were supposed to leave on Wednesday, the day after Christmas, to drive to Ohio to be with my family, but a blizzard struck Indiana and we had to delay our trip until after church on Sunday. So we were in Ohio over New Year's and when we returned, we were already a day behind in school (which helps explain why I am only now blogging about the holidays, in mid-January!). But it was worth the rearrangement in plans.
|My brother driving the tractor with his wife perched behind him; the kids are our two youngest and most of theirs.|
The exciting news is that Pilot Brother and his family have moved in next door to my parents! They are living in the old farmhouse that used to be my grandparents' home. They will be breaking ground in the spring on a new house, and they will have a pony, chickens and more. It will be that much more reason to go visit. More people, more cousins, more fun!
Here's another reason to visit. Blondechick and I will need our baby fix!
|Our only nephew/boy cousin, and the youngest of 5...all 7 and under!|
Aladdin rehearsals have begun in earnest, and oh! I completely forgot to post the results of auditions and my first experience with casting! I had to leave for all discussion of male leads, because both B17 and B13 were up for Aladdin and other leads, but when I returned, I discovered that B17 was cast as Aladdin, and B13 as the zany Prince Zorak; he is also the captain of the palace guard and has a number of guard lines. Chicklet and B7 both did well enough at their dance callbacks to be cast as "Mini Genies" in a dance number with the big Genie. They are also Bazaar Townspeople, and B7 was given an extra role as a Child in a marketplace scene--I had nothing to do with that, either--so he gets a mic and three speaking lines in his first show! I have been soaking it all up at rehearsals, helping out and learning as much as I can as an intern.
Hope your holidays were memorable and your New Year is off to a good start! Add a Comment
You know what's annoying?
“Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.”
“The best years of a woman's life - the ten years between 39 and 40.”
So we held our annual meeting right after church, along with a catered luncheon. We even had visitors who stayed for lunch and the meeting! And it was a good report. We are financially healthy, and we are bringing on a communications coordinator part-time, which will fill a need that's been driving me crazy since the beginning. Our coordinator will keep her eye on various balls and make sure we don't drop so many--to mix a couple of metaphors--since we have no full-time staff to do that. She's also going to help with publications, which are currently non-existent, excepting the bulletin, but she'll be reformatting that and also developing our website and a church newsletter. Thanks be to God!
We're also developing our youth group and a healing ministry, and we are going to start house groups in three different geographical locations. Woot! And our vestry is taking an exciting first step toward bringing on a full-time priest. They will be looking at what it would take financially, and discerning how and when we'll know that it's time to take this step. Our total budget is only $90,000, so it seems a long way off, but God will provide when it's His timing.
I had my own mini-epiphany in church. I entered the service with a heavy heart, having mostly to do with the holidays ending and facing re-entry to real life today. I had been praying about the new year, pondering what God might be saying to me and what "one word for the year" He was speaking to me, and though part of me was optimistic and eager, another part of me was discouraged that life circumstances always seem to overwhelm my good intentions and resolutions.
Father Rooster's sermon was on the Wise Men, and as he talked about their actions, I thought: They went on a journey! They saw the light, they made preparations, they left everything and went on a journey. They didn't know how far it would go or where it would lead, but they put their eyes on that light and they followed.
I felt like God was saying the same thing to me: Fix your eyes on Me; I am calling you to a journey. But Lord, I thought, I get so stuck in daily details, emotional ruts and unhealthy patterns, things that pull my eyes down to focus on the mud around me. I just can't keep my eyes on the Light! Entering a new year, I felt defeated before I even started.
So I told all this to a prayer minister, during our communion time, and he prayed for me. He reminded me that after the Wise Men had seen Jesus, and it was time to go back to their ordinary lives, God showed them in a dream that they should travel a new way home, and not go back the way they had come. He prayed for God to show me a new way for my journey.
Even though I don't see clearly what the new way is to be, his prayer gave me the encouragement I needed. I feel a strengthening of my resolve to find time for the practices that help me keep my eyes on the Light. It's not hours and hours that I need, but frequent, intentional moments of prayer, Scripture reading, journaling, listening to worship music, intentional reading, intentional conversation, starting our homeschooling day with prayer, maybe even Scripture memory. (Yes, this post really inspired me.) And fewer moments on Facebook, probably.
More ways than one, I said in the title. Thank God, who shows us new ways.
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On New Year's Eve, it was seven years. Seven is a number of completion, in the Bible, isn't it?
Guess I need to either wrap it up, or keep at it for another seven!
It's been harder and harder to find time for writing. Seven years ago, the critical mass of our family was still at home, and barely into the teenage years. (Our oldest was nearly fifteen, but concerned more with Legos and sci-fi than any typical teenage interests.) Our chicks were mostly in the nest and under our wings; two weren't even school-age yet. I could count on some time in the evenings after they went to bed; we had a good routine, and I knew what I was doing, more or less. It was a good time to begin blogging.
Today, four of our kids are 13 or older, and for their privacy, I can't blog much about them or the challenging parenting transition to teenage issues, episodes and crises which has consumed an awful lot of my attention in recent years. Half our kids are now driving, have jobs and classes outside our home, and stay up later than I do. It's hard to keep track of everyone's schedules, let alone establish routines. We are in a bigger, less cozy house in a community in which we have fewer and newer roots. Our family feels scattered and unfocused compared to seven years ago.
And yet, 2012 felt like the year of maybe getting my feet underneath me once again. I'm actually finding moments to breathe and think about being proactive and intentional, after years of feeling I could only react to the crisis of the week, whether it was figuring out schools or doctors, or buying a car or adding another driver to our insurance, or dealing with an engagement (or a broken engagement), or choosing a college--or paying for college. We've had so many new things to sort out, but finally, it doesn't seem like a huge new thing every time I turn around. Knock on wood!
So I think I will keep blogging, and maybe even find a little more to say in 2013. I am tremendously thankful for you readers out there. It encourages me so much to hear that someone is blessed by words I put together. My purposes for blogging are many, including keeping a family diary, if you will, but I am also inspired by the desire to encourage others, by faithfully telling my story and how God continually meets me, even in the messiness and struggle of life.
If you like, celebrate this anniversary with me by leaving me a comment! I'd love to hear who you are, where you are from, and anything else you'd like me to know. It's always so nice to hear from you!
As always, I am surprised at how many books I read this year. I think more than half of them were audiobooks, which I listen to primarily in the car or while cooking. A good number of those were children's books and re-reads, because often, I just needed another audiobook for the car, and I think a good book is worth reading more than once. I also read a lot of plays this year, since I have been teaching drama classes. I'd forgotten how enjoyable it is to read plays! I placed them all together at the end.
I also notice that I only have a few nonfiction books on the list. I have been chipping away at the same half-dozen for the past six months and haven't finished any of them. I keep starting new ones that look good. Well, there's always next year.
Here's my list!
The View From Saturday (E.L. Konigsberg)
I really enjoyed this book years ago, and I re-read it to remember why! It has a unique structure, with four children each narrating part of the story of how their lives came to intersect on a 6th grade quiz team. Their stories are interspersed with the story of the championship round they are engaged in, in the present, and with the story of their teacher, Mrs. Olinski, who chose each of them for the team. Themes are accepting those who are different, accepting one's own uniqueness, sticking up for others and the value of one's own experiences. This book starts out slow and builds, so it may not be the best for a struggling reader, but avid readers will love it. By the author of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, one of my all-time favorite children's books.
A Father's Tale (Michael O’Brien)—At A Hen’s Pace review here.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Alan Bradley)
A Duty to the Dead; A Bitter Truth; An Impartial Witness (Charles Todd)
The Thirteenth Tale (Diane Setterfield)
Entwined (Heather Dixon)
This is a re-telling of the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. It was very engaging, a little dark, and had a realistic quality that made it seem less fairy tale-ish and more like a movie (which I won't be surprised to see it made into). Imaginative, suspenseful, romantic and a book for dancers. I enjoyed the audiobook reader very much.
Paradise Valley (Dale Cramer)
Set in Ohio, where I grew up, this story is based on the true story of the author’s Amish forebears who moved to Mexico rather than comply with an Ohio law that would force them to send their children to public schools and begin the slow unraveling of their culture and faith. Their venture south and their experience as pioneers in Mexico, amidst bandits and ethnic barriers, took me down a little-used path in history.
Seabiscuit (Laura Hillenbrand)
This was a re-read for a book club discussion. I love how much historical detail this author put into this novel; it’s an education on horse-racing and on our country during the Depression era. It’s a Cinderella story--not just for the horse, but for jockey, owner and trainer.
Come On, Seabiscuit (Ralph Moody)
I LOVED this version of the Seabiscuit story! I thought I had read every horse book out there, when I was a girl, but somehow I missed this one. It was interesting to compare the two tales. This one stresses how often Seabiscuit was raced before he was a 3-year-old, weakening his legs and causing frequent injuries later, hampering his bid for greatness, which he still achieved, despite the obstacles.
Black Heels to Tractor Wheels (Ree Drummond)
In this audio version, the Pioneer Woman herself reads the love story of how she and Marlboro Man got together. I remember reading the first 20 or so installments on her blog, but then I fell off the blog-reading wagon when we moved and have never been able to climb back on. So it was fun to hear the ending. I even got Blondechick to listen to this one; it’s an over-the-top romance that is sweetly wholesome. We both loved it.
Remarkable story about a homecoming queen who decided to forego college and live in Uganda, ministering to orphans; she is now the 21-year-old adoptive mother of fourteen girls and a blogger at . This is a life-changing story—so inspiring!
The Bag Lady Papers (Alexandra Penney)
This book was $1 at Dollar Tree, and I was attracted by the cute cover and subtitle: “the priceless experience of losing it all.” Unfortunately, this wealthy woman, who lost her life savings in a Ponzi scheme, didn't have any priceless wisdom to share. Her idea of penny-pinching was having to sell one of her several homes, cut back on her maid’s hours and start taking the subway instead of a taxi around NYC. At least it was a quick read.
The Rose Rent (Ellis Peters)
I love the Brother Cadfael mysteries. This was the second time around for this one, one of the best.
The Little White Horse (Elizabeth Goudge)
I’ve been a longtime fan of this novelist from the 40’s-50’s, but I had never read any of her children’s books. This one was delightful! It has the fullness of a classic fairy tale, and I see from all the commentors on Amazon that that’s exactly what many people consider it to be. I am putting this one on Chicklet10's shelf immediately.
A Circle of Quiet; The Summer of the Great-Grandmother (Madeleine L’Engle)
Last year, Sherri at Semicolon recommended these books to me in a special comment for New Year’s, so of course I had to read them! And I’m so glad I did. They are excerpted from L’Engle’s own journals and are full of nuggets on creativity, writing, meaning, faith, family and being. It was especially rich to read The Summer of the Great-Grandmother, which chronicles the decline of L’Engle’s mother’s health, at a time when we were experiencing the same thing with my mother-in-law. I will re-read A Circle of Quiet sometime; it was so full and inspiring to the writer in me. Thank you for the recommendation, Sherri!
Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
Read this my freshman year in college, and all but Miss Haversham had become pretty foggy in my memory. It was time for a re-read! It's a wonderful story, but I'll go out on a limb here and say perhaps a little editing would not have gone amiss, because it dragged a bit in spots.
Jo's Boys (Louisa May Alcott)
I read Little Women and Little Men when I was young, but never knew of this one. It’s about the boys in Little Men, grown up and starting to launch into the world, and Mother Jo’s advice and prayers for them. It’s a little preachy, but well-intentioned and quaint.
Katherine (Anya Seton)
My sister-in-law recommended this one, knowing that I liked historical fiction (thank you, Sis!) and when the librarian saw my interlibrary loan request, she smiled approvingly. I'm totally going with the plot summary on Amazon, because it's so hard to succinctly summarize this wonderful epic: "This classic romance novel tells the true story of the love affair that changed history—that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family. Set in the vibrant 14th century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenets—Edward III, the Black Prince, and Richard II—who ruled despotically over a court rotten with intrigue. Within this era of danger and romance, John of Gaunt, the king’s son, falls passionately in love with the already married Katherine. Their well-documented affair and love persist through decades of war, adultery, murder, loneliness, and redemption."
I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith)
This is an off-beat little novel (by an author better known for 101 Dalmations) that I re-read about a teenage girl living with her eccentric family in a British castle that is falling down around their ears. Interested American young men have moved in nearby, and the family’s devoted hired boy makes a bid for love as well. Fascinating and delightful characters and story all around.
Marriage to a Difficult Man: The Uncommon Union of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards (Elisabeth Dodds)
I heard Stuart and Jill Briscoe on the radio recently, recommending this biography. It is an intriguing look at not just a marriage but a remarkable family and a whole time period, the Great Awakening, when new colleges were opening every year in the East. Filled with primary sources, it still has a novel-like story line. Most of us know Jonathan Edwards as the author of one of the most famous sermons of the period, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," but there is a lot more to appreciate about the man, including the way he honored, entrusted and took counsel with his wife, and how he taught his children, including girls, who weren't often educated at the time, while unwinding with a pipe in the evenings.
A Voice in the Wind; An Echo in the Darkness; As Sure As The Dawn (Francine Rivers)
Wow, I really enjoyed this trilogy, set in ancient Rome just after the time of Christ. A cast of characters from all walks of Roman life—a gladiator, a Jewish slave girl, a wealthy Roman family, a physician, furtive Christians—explore beliefs, philosophies and attitudes that one recognizes in our own society.
Dear and Glorious Physician (Taylor Caldwell)
Have had this book on my shelf—a long-ago recommendation from my mother--and it finally seemed like the perfect time to read it while I was also listening to the trilogy above. (Not simultaneously.) This story is also set in ancient Rome, and it is an imagined life of the physician Luke, the Gospel writer. It is based on the author's years of research and travels in the Holy Land, and has an epic feel. The trilogy above is more accessible, but this is a more rich and literary work, more nuanced in its questions and themes.
The Hunger Games; Catching Fire; Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins)
The parallels in this series with the culture of ancient Rome are unmistakable. “The Games” are cruel and evil in both, and one can’t help but think of reality TV also and how it exploits lives. I think these books are provocative in all the best ways, raising lots of issues for discussion with teenagers. And it’s a good story!
The Gift of the Magi and Other Stories (O. Henry)
I love short stories, and I especially love O. Henry’s gentle wit.
Words (Ginny Yttrup)
This is a beautiful and poignant story of a non-speaking girl abandoned by her mother and a 30-something woman artist with a great void in her heart. It's a story that stirred up my emotions and longings in a way that few books have done, though my story is completely different. Powerful.
Gaudy Night (Dorothy Sayers)
I needed an audiobook for the car, and it was fun to revisit this one. If you have never read these detective novels or seen the BBC movies based on them, you have missed out!
The Tale of Despereaux (Kate DiCamillo)
I LOVED this story! It’s a quintessential fairy tale, with themes like love, loyalty, truth, courage and longing. There is a princess and an evil villain (a rat), as well as a hero (an unusually small mouse with unusually large ears). There is death by soup, and a royal ban on soup and soup spoons. I loved the narrator addressing me as “Dear Listener.” (In the book, does it say, “Dear Reader”?) Chicklet loved this one too. Now we want to see the movie!
The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories (Elmore Leonard)
As I said, I love short stories. These are all set in the old West, but you don't have to love Westerns to enjoy these memorable characters and tales.
The Cookbook Collector (Allegra Goodman)
Thank you, Nancy, for recommending this one! So many interesting characters in this book, but it centers on two sisters, their significant others and how the sisters come to more and more self-knowledge through the events of the book, including discovering long-lost Jewish family. Set in the “dot com” boom time leading up to 9/11, one sister is a CEO on the East coast and the other is a bookseller and tree hugger in Berkeley.
Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
I read this in college, but, as I told a friend recently, I couldn’t remember a word of it; or rather, I could only remember three words: “Heathcliff” and “Wuthering Heights.” I enjoyed it much more this time around, with no pressure to finish by Friday! It’s quite the Gothic novel, dark and brooding and tragic.
Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp (Philip Pullman)
I thoroughly enjoyed this retelling, with its humor and directness. Found an interview with the author in which he explains, “My aim was to tell the story swiftly and lightly in the clearest language I could command. Swiftly, because one of the things I enjoyed in the original was the way the narrative disposed of one character before turning to another: 'The Moor abandoned his quest and journeyed back to Africa with a heavy heart. So much for him. As for Aladdin...' "
In the same interview, this gem:
What's more, I detest the assumption, common among people of no talent, that the way to engage children is to talk about things that come out of bodily orifices. Children can talk about those things among themselves; they need to know that such conversations ought to stay in that circle. What they need from adults is wit and they don't get it often enough.
I haven't read the whole thing yet, because it's a day-by-day devotional and I haven't had it for a year yet, but it's too wonderful not to recommend. These words of Jesus, based in Scripture, seem written right to me. Blondechick20 loves this one too.
Doubt (John Patrick Shanley)
This play is the one that got me started on my play-reading kick, because I actually auditioned for it, just for experience--knowing that the odds were slim that I’d get the part of either the 20-something woman, the 60-something woman or the black woman. This is an excellent play, raising questions about faith, doubt, certainty, uncertainty, and how we know what we know. Look up the movie--it's excellent.
Our Town (Thornton Wilder)
One of my all-time favorite plays. Wilder says in this play what Ann Voskamp says in One Thousand Gifts: Appreciate this moment, right now; don’t take life for granted. Wilder’s play makes you ache, though, while Voskamp shows you how to turn that ache into thanksgiving.
Death of a Salesman (Arthur Miller)
I figured I should read this classic since I never have read it or seen it. It also makes you ache. I’d love to see it performed.
Steel Magnolias (Robert Harling)
Ah, but this one is my favorite. If you have never seen the movie, please please do. It will move you to tears. And yet I have never burst out laughing so often as I did while reading this play. I'm not usually a laugh-out-loud kind of girl, so that was quite fun!
The Glass Menagerie (Tennessee Williams)
Another classic I had never read, although I saw the movie long ago. Poignant and sad.
The Matchmaker (Thornton Wilder)
Oh, what a perfect comedy! If you’ve seen Hello, Dolly you know the plot. The language and characters are delicious; each one has at least one brilliant monologue. I had the script because B17 was in it several years ago, playing Malachi Stack, and I also saw Wheaton College perform it years ago. One of my very favorites!
Cyrano de Bergerac (Edmond Rostand)
Read this play in high school and loved its witty wordiness, and French bon mots, back when I was taking French. It was just as enjoyable to re-read it as an adult. B17 and I also watched the Gerard Depardieu movie version (which is in French, with subtitles--and is excellent), because he was reading it for school. It's really a wonderful play.
The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet (Peter Bloedel)
Okay, not a classic, but based on one—or more! This is Shakespeare’s story as Dr. Seuss would tell it, in iambic pentameter, with Seussian characters and references, and of course, it does not end up a tragedy. I read this one too many times to count, because…I had the privilege of directing this play.
Ahh, 2012...it was a good year!
For more year-end book lists, check out the special year-end edition of the Saturday Review of Books, hosted by Semicolon.
"Behold, I bring you news of great joy which will be for all people:
Gaudete Sunday...Rose Sunday...Joyful Sunday. It's the third candle on the Advent wreath, the pink one.
The others are purple, for penitence. In Advent, we wait in darkness for the Light of Christ to come on Christmas. But the rose candle is a promise of hopes fulfilled, of joy that comes in the morning.
A world where innocents are murdered...in a moment...is a dark world. In our service this morning, we remembered, by name, the children and adults who were killed in Connecticut by a young man with mental illness, of nearly the same age and diagnosis as my oldest son. I grieve for these lives, and for their families, and for parents of challenging children everywhere, and I wonder if now my son's employers will think twice about keeping him on after Christmas. It is a dark world.
Yet in the darkness, Emmanuel. God with us.
Often in the darkness we ask: Where is God? How can He allow suffering and injustice? And we miss the miracle: In the darkness, God is with us.
We are not alone. He has not abandoned us, alone and without hope or promise. He saves, he redeems, he comforts, and he will not leave us alone in the dark, however much we doubt and suffer and struggle and ask where He is.
He is the pink flame of joy in the midst of darkness all around. Not just light in the darkness...joy in the darkness. Because of Him, the darkness cannot overcome us.
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Seems like it to me.
I remember when December was the month that lasted forever. "How many days till Christmas?" Bantam7 asks me each morning, and while the days seem to crawl at his age--how I remember!--at mine, they fly by, like calendar pages in an old movie, being ripped off in fast motion to show the passage of time.
Advent is supposed to be a season of waiting, of expectation. Pregnancy is the image that comes to mind--slow and ponderous, just as Mary pondered miracle and promise, great with child and expectation as the donkey plodded toward Bethlehem.
We live in a day of speed and instant everything, impatient with anything traveling at a donkey's pace (or a hen's). We are impatient with God, with others, with ourselves. If we have to wait, it means something has gone wrong.
Waiting seems like a waste of time, which we always wish for more of. Waiting means longing for something we don't have yet, and we hate not having it yet. Waiting can be a time of anxiety, when we don't know what will happen at the end of our wait. Waiting isn't fun.
But waiting is good. Scripture is full of admonitions to wait on the Lord. Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit. To long for Christ's return...for God to work in this situation...for health...for peace...this is waiting with a purpose, with a prayer, with expectation. Like Mary.
But how, in a busy season and in a culture of speed, do we wait?
Well, you could slip into a quiet church and listen to the silence and ponder. I like to imagine this one.
You could do family devotions every night during Advent, building expectation and creating beautiful memories of waiting together. This just doesn't happen at our house, though.
Or, you could make lists! I love lists. So how about an Advent list--not a Christmas list of material goods--but a list of concerns, worries, people, situations that we can't control. Let's write them all down, put them before God, and tell him we are going to wait on him to make the next move. Really just wait. Not pray through the list every day. (Okay, we can turn that worry that won't quit into prayer, but we are not pulling out this list to go over it daily.) We are going to WAIT on the Lord during Advent, and see what He will do. Or not do.
But I suspect that the waiting will change me. And that, I think, is the point of waiting.
And of Advent.
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Tomorrow, we are driving down to our old stomping grounds in DuPage County for a church service--a Consecration Service to dedicate a new building to the Lord.
Church of the Resurrection (one of Light of Christ's mother churches and our home church for 17 years before we moved to WI) has been a mobile church for 22 years or more. When we first joined, they were worshiping at West Chicago High School. When we outgrew that auditorium, we moved to Edman Chapel at Wheaton College for two years; then it was on to Glenbard West High School, where they have been ever since.
We had no storage there at the high school. (We are incredibly blessed at Light of Christ to have a storage room at the Kemper Center!) Everything--sound system, Sunday School and nursery supplies, altar, banners, lectern, etc.--was kept on large wooden carts on wheels, that were loaded up after church and pushed up a ramp onto a truck. No access to anything on the truck during the week! Then on Sunday mornings, everything had to be unloaded from the truck, unloaded from the carts and the truck parked elsewhere. In severely cold weather, there was always a story about how the truck wouldn't start. The volunteer who drove it had to get there at some ungodly hour like 4 a.m. to have extra time just in case, and even then, there was often a story of how God provided some person or means of getting it started when the usual tricks didn't work.
Over the years, this congregation has attempted to find a building, or a piece of land, in a very land-locked area. They've looked at warehouses, old grocery stores, and the rare church building that has come on the market. They've looked at parcels of land, all far away from where they want to be, and even settled on one in Winfield that wasn't too far out, a few years ago. They began the process of getting zoning and city approvals--we had just moved, so I don't remember all the issues, but I remember the heartbreak that many of our friends went through as the needed approvals were refused, despite what had seemed like an open door initially. Many questions arose: Weren't we following the Lord's leading? Did we hear wrong? Why didn't this work out?
It was another two years or so before a property came on the market, an old warehouse right in downtown Wheaton (near FE Wheaton Lumber, if you know the area). A parishioner who is in real estate heard about it just days before it went up for auction. He was able to buy it for about the price of the land alone, and he offered to sell it to Rez at that price if they wanted it. The more they looked into whether it would work or not, the more perfect it began to seem. It was not far from Wheaton College, which was important for the large number of students who attend and participate regularly; there was adequate parking; there were no significant zoning hurdles; and its border on one side is Lincoln Marsh, a nature preserve. Overall, a great location in every way!
The warehouse itself is no ordinary warehouse, either. It was designed by David Haid, a distinguished Chicago architect who is probably best-known for designing the window-walled residence which is the site of the car-crash-through-the-window scene at the end of the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Like that building, this warehouse is also notable for its light and the placing of windows. Along the front of the building, which is the longest wall of the sanctuary area, there are windows for the top 20 feet or so.
Same angle, closer up, months later...
You can see they are building up the stage, and that curved portion on the left wall is a choir shell. Pretty great to have that huge service door in back, too, huh? (All the better to bring on large set pieces for the Easter Vigil!)
Here's the lobby area outside the sanctuary. The wall on the left will be a changing display by the many artists at Rez.
And another lobby entrance which will house RezCafe, the coffee house area.
And now, what relief that the Winfield parcel didn't work out! For just a fraction of the millions they would have had to spend to build from scratch, Rez now has a building--a really cool building--with room to grow! (There is room for a basketball court in just one of the many spaces they are leaving unfinished for now; in fact, it's right through the doors at the far left in the photo above.)
More photos, including the whole top floor of offices and Sunday School classrooms:
What an exciting time. We've only been waiting 20 years or more for this day to come...and now, it's here! Praise be to God!!!
(Slideshow below includes the last Sunday at Glenbard West and the procession from the high school to the new building, with stops at the old Ministry Center and Wheaton College.)
Sometimes God leads by circumstances.
So Blondechick is attending Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL. It's a private Christian college that's not too difficult to get into, it's close to home, and she got a voice scholarship. Overall, it's been a good experience for her, but we have had to question whether it's worth the hefty price tag. Papa R's income is high enough that we get little aid other than loans, and what we are expected to pay is far more than we can afford on a pay-as-you-go basis (especially after she switched her major and lost $1,000 a semester).
Up till now, God has provided us with lump sums--through bonuses, tax returns, a gift, the sale of our camper--that have paid the bill each semester. Five semesters in a row, including B21's year there, and each time, it has seemed like clear direction from God, that the money was provided.
For this next semester, we just don't have the lump sum. No cash bonus yet, with the new company, and we now have a high-deductible medical plan with no dental or prescription coverage. So it looks like we're going to need a good chunk of our savings to pay for wisdom teeth surgery in January for B17, and other ongoing health expenditures.
So we've been praying and talking to Blondechick and the TIU financial aid office. The plan now is for her to live at home next semester, take a few classes at the local UW school, keep waitressing at Olive Garden, save up, and defer the decision of where she wants to finish school. I'm planning to take B17 on some college visits this spring, and she may come along, but she's just not eager to go away to school. (Who would guess that our most extroverted child would be so keen to stick close to home?)
After the initial disappointment, she's now looking forward to moving back home. When she's been home to visit, she has hated to leave and go back to the dorm. She says she feels most herself here, and one thing she is concentrating on, personally, is who she is in Christ, and living from that center. Not trying to be what the world tells her to be, which is all wrapped up in appearance, image and personality; it's been easy for her to play that part, but she's in a different place now. It's been good--so good!--to see her respond with her whole heart to God's working through circumstances in her life recently. This move home, though a disappointment, has that same feeling of being something painful to give up, that God will use for good if one just lets go.
We're eager to see how he continues to lead her through this next phase of her journey!
(Digression: Have your visits to the library movie shelves become rare? When the kids were younger, I was a frequent customer, but with teenagers in the house--so opinionated!--our crazy schedule, and the ubiquitous nature of movies these days, it's rare that we all sit down to watch a movie together. If we manage that, there are usually new releases that we must see. I rarely watch movies alone; with Papa Rooster gone frequently on business trips, I'm more likely to spend the evening reading to the kids or writing a blog post than watching a movie.
But there it was on the library shelf a week ago! I thought we might have time over Thanksgiving break for a family movie, so I brought home a few hopefuls. But we didn't get to them, and now they were coming due, so Chicklet10 and I snuggled up tonight with my laptop. Other people still had schoolwork to do--their loss!)
And it was better than I hoped--better, maybe, than the book! The story is a biographical account of a Catholic family in Defiance, Ohio, written by one of the daughters. Dad was an alcoholic who drank up all his pay, yet their mother, by "contesting"--entering contests to write jingles, poetry and limericks advertising products in the 1950's and 60's--managed to win a constant stream of prizes that kept the ten children fed and housed, with occasional extras like bicycles and toasters thrown in. (The subtitle of the book is "How My Mother Raised Ten Children on Twenty-Five Words or Less." Best. Subtitle. Ever.)
I can see why the movie was a sleeper, though. Some of the scenes with Dad as a drunk were uncomfortable to watch, though very well done, I thought--not overdone, but still you'd think twice about explaining to younger children. I bet it struggled at the box office because there isn't really a big audience for this kind of heartwarming drama that touches on so many uncomfortable marital and parental issues!
And yet, as a psychological study and example of health in the midst of dysfunction, and choosing joy in the midst of difficulty, this one's a winner. It is remarkable how this woman (played brilliantly by Julianne Moore)--without being a doormat--could continually model cheerfulness in hard times, love and kindness for her difficult husband, and some measure of faith mixed with a good dollop of "God helps those who help themselves." Mom firmly believed in God and regular church attendance, and the timing of the largest prizes certainly was beyond coincidence. She was obstinately happy in her circumstances, choosing laughter instead of tears and smiles instead of anger. Who doesn't need examples like that? I'll be watching this one regularly, I think!
One reason I liked the movie better than the book is that the movie humanized the father, played by Woody Harrellson. The screenplay did a brilliant job of showing the somewhat loveable man underneath the alcoholism, a man you could almost understand that she could remain committed to, something which didn't come across as clearly in the book, I thought. Also, the movie's storyline was more focused. The book had delightful excursions into the world of couponing, contesting and other facts about the era, and it included great detail about specific contests the mother won, all the various jingles she wrote as entries, and all the prizes she won. But the movie was able to weave this flavor throughout, visually and in Mom's narrations, without the longish interruptions to the story's flow. For these reasons, I give the movie the edge over the book. (Has anyone else enjoyed both, who could weigh in?)
Chicklet10 loved the story, and she enjoyed watching the child actors, who kept getting replaced by older children, and then young men and women, as the characters aged and left home. (Also, there was a scene at the end, which showed the actual ten children, now adults in their 60's and older, playing themselves going through their mother's belongings after her death; all grew up to be successful, stable individuals.) I felt that the content was not inappropriate for Chicklet's age, as it did not totally villainize the father, and though it showed the children's fear of him, he did not show violence toward anything but inanimate objects. And his few swear words were actually sort of hard to understand, because he shouted them out the door or in the other room, or the soundtrack had the TV volume louder than him yelling in the other room. (How thoughtful and refreshing, huh?)
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It has been 20 years since that first little bundle of pink entered our world...
..and it feels like we've been living in a Legally Blonde movie ever since! Heh, heh, ha.
So thankful for this young woman! What a blessing she is. Fun and funny, there's never a dull moment when she's around. She has courageously faced trials in the past few years, and keeps clinging to Jesus and growing stronger in her faith and in who she is in Him. It's a joy to watch God working in her life and see her respond!
She recommends this book. ("Seriously the best thing that ever happened to me.")
So do I. I bought it for her, and the book in the background, Words, too. (I know, I need to post some book reviews.) I am so glad it is speaking to her.
So thankful that she can be home, with her family, on her birthday, on Thanksgiving!
At her pointed and specific request, we shall celebrate her Thanksgiving birthday with a very special ice cream cake.
So thankful to God today--for family, for friends old and new, near and far, for the blessings of life, health, abundance, comfort and joy!
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Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know all that lies beneath the surface, all the worries, the fears, the anxieties. It comes out as frustration and impatience, but really, it is all about fear and worry--that I am not doing enough or doing the right things, or raising my kids right or teaching them the things that really matter. I worry about our money and how we spend it. I worry about our kids and their problems and choices, and what I can do to help and teach them better. I worry about my health and my stress level. I worry when Papa Rooster and I aren't on the same page. I feel lonely sometimes, even in the midst of a large and noisy family, even in a church filled with good friends. Sometimes I just want someone to hold me and let me cry on their shoulder. It's hard always being the grown-up.
But you have called me your child and told me to call you Father. You have instructed me to give all my cares and anxieties to you. You want me to find strength in you, not in myself. You have said not to worry about tomorrow, for each day has enough trouble of its own.
Yet you also have given us a whole book of instructions teaching us to be wise and not foolish, the Proverbs, which strongly recommend thought for the future, responsibility and hard work...so I know it is not wrong to have these concerns. It is my attitude of worry, rather than trust, that is wrong.
I have to do my part: mothering, housekeeping, budgeting, taking care of myself, teaching my kids and communicating with my husband. But I don't have to bear the whole weight of responsibility for how well or how badly it all turns out. In fact, I have no control over outcomes. I act as though I do, quick to blame myself for anything that goes wrong, thinking I should have managed things better, and quick to self-congratulate when things go well. But I don't have to live as if it all depends on me--Heaven forbid! In my weakness, you are strong. Apart from you, I can do nothing. In repentance and rest is my salvation, in quietness and trust is my strength.
I was catching up with a friend last week, sharing some current worries, and she said comfortingly that those are really hard things to walk through. I laughed and told her that actually, these things feel relatively inconsequential compared to the stress I've carried for the past few years, which is finally lifting a bit in several areas, and I'm actually feeling emotionally lighter than I have in a long time. Suddenly, the tears began to flow, and my friend pulled me in and hugged me tight as I sobbed. I wasn't sure why I was crying, but it felt like such a relief just to say out loud that things had been really hard.
I do tell God, daily, how weak and helpless I feel. I do pray fervently for his intervention in my life and circumstances. I do have friends to share my struggles with. I think I mostly put my trust in God, and I often experience His joy and peace even in the midst of difficulty and struggle. I can be my bubbly, cheerful self and it's not an act. But it is also true that it takes energy to hold myself together when I just want to fall apart. It is stressful when I can't be completely open about struggles with one of our teens or in my marriage. It takes energy to be the anchor of the family when I feel like running away. I get tired of being strong. It can even be an effort to trust God, when I am so tempted to give in to anxiety and fear.
These have been stressful years, and they have taken a toll. They have been harder than they needed to be; I know I have trusted too much in my own strength to get through them. But as I write, I can give thanks to God for his strength and help, his mercy and care--and his grace. I am amazed at His answers to my prayers. In each of the areas that have been so difficult, I can rejoice in the ways He is working. He is managing outcomes that I could not have engineered, couldn't have dreamed of or hoped for. All are still works in progress, not free of concern or stress yet. But God's work, not mine, is so evident. It is proof that I can trust, that I can lean, that I don't have to be anxious or worried.
Still, it's a hard habit to break. Oh Lord, forgive my unbelief.
In your weakness, I am strong. Apart from Me, you can do nothing. In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength.
Lord, have mercy, daily, upon me.
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