Wednesday, November 30, 2011

When the Waters Rise

Crash. Pound. Crash. Pound. The waves have beat mercilessly against the shore of my little life today. This body of water, typically so majestic and powerful in lovely ways, has turned insistent and almost brutal.

I know my experience is not unlike tens of thousands who have heard these words before. But when it becomes personal, and the whole shoreline shifts, you instantly receive new ears and the waves grate, their sound is no longer a pleasing rush but a demanding roar.

I'm not alone, (nor are any of us), we who have been tsunami surprised that a precious one is gravely ill, and who have to immediately see the world in “new” ways. Clinical ways. Ways that suggest hope-”This is very treatable”. And then the paradox- “He's got a big fight ahead”.

Danger, the flag flies on the beach. The undertow here is life threatening. Oh, I feel it. It doesn't just bury my feet as the briny sea curls around the back of my ankles, incrementally drawing me down in the sand. Although I am only ankle deep, the waves threaten to drown me.

“Laura, he has Leukemia.” First a bone marrow biopsy and then, most likely, a willing walk into the abyss of chemotherapy. So much has changed in less than a day. Horizons loom and the unexpected squall is suddenly and powerfully in charge.


Salt stings my eyes-my own and the deep deep sea's. I yield - make sure I don't rush through the moment because I've learned that the blessing may be right here, when the waters rise and the benign sand becomes a malignant mire.

Why do I counsel my heart with words like, “Well, if there's ever been a time to live what you believe, it's now?” Of course that's true. But, humility instantly renders me ashamed, recognizing the fundamental proposition of that kind of self talk, suggesting that I get to determine (based on circumstances) what events call for faith.

Fight or Flight. Conventional wisdom suggests that I will make a choice for one or the other in the current of this roiling water. And given the Creator's design, it's true I will do both, sometimes concurrently.

Faith. That is the life preserver, the protector of my heart. God's living Word – praise, poem, prose leaping off the page, and petition beating back the waves.

Sea shifts. Hasn't changed really. Creation always bears testimony to it's Maker, and for a minute I was fooled, but now I'm found.

Ocean depths are a comfort as they remind that even in their vast measure, they only dimly reflect the riches of the Father's love for me.

Currents no longer threaten, but give comfort, although powerful and I am incapable of standing against them, they are directed by a Loving Hand who works for good at ALL times. God controls the seas and I need not fear.

This is very uncomfortable, but having been lost in the waters before, I won't quit the shore. I will raise my hands and say, “Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless his holy name!”

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gratitude after Thanksgiving

It'll take awhile to recover, we've been so blessed, and that means busy!  And while blog posts bounce around in my head, I'm more likely to be sorting laundry, working on updating chore charts and lesson plans, and setting out a few Christmas decorations than I am to be found tapping out thoughts at the computer. I've got some catching up to do and some planning ahead in these short weeks of giving thanks and then anticipating the celebration of the Christ child.

However, I don't want to get so busy that I miss the mandate and the opportunity to give thanks.  So today, a few pictures and a few more sentences to declare that God's been good to me.

Lacking any mechanized farm equipment...

I'm thankful for willing sons, strong backs, and plenty of room to position the last round bale of hay for the cows.

Same round bale has produced hours of play, peril, and adventure in the barn as the children have cuddled their cats, sailed the high seas, saved the world, and daydreamed while it sits in the barn...

Cousins came, games were played, delicious food abundantly shared, and the beginning of a long time Christmas Crafty idea got underway...

Sweet girl rushes to get ready for Sunday School, she can hardly wait for this week's lesson, the Lord is at work in her heart!

Wonky light makes it difficult to get a picture, (and lack of skill), but we're having fun riding back and forth on weekend farmer husband's old tractor toy-the old has been made new

We've been waiting until cousins came to celebrate birthdays, another year together, the sweetness deepens, as families move far away this is a precious blessing

And after the feasting, a pot simmering with rich deep broth, getting ready for winter hearty meals

The list grows longer-
Weekend farmer husband takes me on a date - it's been almost 22 years since we said "I do"
Big box home improvement stores offer vast inventory and as our office/barn project tarries, helpful employees are becoming friendly acquaintances
Oh the joy of worshiping in freedom and hearing The Word faithfully taught
Home educating pattern on Monday's, when we're all gathered, wrapped in blankets, giving thanks and praying together before the school week begins
Washing machine (newly repaired and still under warranty) spinning, humming, and accompanying our reading while towels get clean

Really, the list could go on, the more I consider, the more I discover.  But for now, the privilege and responsibility of serving my family calls, and I am content to stop typing, go do, and the gifts will continue to grow this grateful contentment.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pride and Prejudice-A Thanksgiving Tradition

Several years ago, weekend farmer husband invited our older sons to join in one of our favorite post Thanksgiving traditions.  We watch, (uninterrupted), the A&E version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Back then they thought it was great-after all -not only is it a compelling story, but the parents in these parts are known for always being able to think of some chore/project to do, so being invited to watch TV for better than 4 hours is a deal you should take!

Alas, those boys are quite a bit older now, and there's no way in this moment that Pride and Prejudice holds any sway against epic computer games and virtual time spent with real life friends.

So, what's a mama to do? Require them to participate, of course, and try to cook my way into their circle of influence.  Because they're teens and boys, they're basically skin stretched over an endless appetite.  So, it's as if Thanksgiving never happened.  What?  Me still feeling sluggish from yesterday's abundance and them telling me they're hungry?

Well, there it is, my opportunity.  I'll feed them well while watching weekend farmer husband's and my favorite movie.  And, to sweeten the pot, we're sharing the experience with all our children this year and two other families whose company we really enjoy.

Tomorrow will tell.  Of course, they'll be hungry.  But maybe, just maybe I'll hear, "That was fun, Mom."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Morning Light

Early morning and I are not well acquainted.  Although I can, and when required, discipline myself to rise early my preference and the better pattern for our family is for this body to remain in bed until after 7am.  Sometimes, however, I am fortunate enough to have a lovely long night's rest and the fledgling light of the eastern sky beckons.

 This morning I was up and at 'em before dawn. The coffee slipped down my throat and wakefulness stirred in my bones. I was drawn again and again to the changing light, shadows, and patterns of sunrise on our little farm.

Now, my mad photography skillz will probably leave you wanting more...
More editing.
More composition.
More focus.

Hopefully, as we're getting acquainted, you're coming to terms (as am I), with I'm more capable with words than with a shutter.  But, having rarely suffered for lack of gumption in my life, I keep trying and snapping away.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, (ok, in the sticks...).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Burrowed deep under its blanket of dark, the sun set hours ago. Countless ideas have flitted through my head over the course of the day-some I thought I might like to put to words and share in this place. But now, following hours of home keeping and home educating, parenting, chicken chasing (yup, they got out of their yard today), and various other diversions I'm mostly tired and fresh out of ways to capture the meaningful things that seemed so clear earlier.

But, not really. Was I not made exactly for this? To worship through work, love through labor, and to end my days tired-fresh out of ideas is exactly where I belong.

When I'm out of ideas I'm more reflective on what has been-not what I'd like to see become. Tired puts me at the foot of the cross, completely aware of how limited I am, and how the only way to truly live is to expend all my energy living confessionally and weary so that His strength is made perfect in me.

Moving over the keys, I discover that today was good. Monday's are by far my most difficult day of the week, and when afternoon closes in thick and I am thin, I begin to wish the day away. Oh, each stroke of that sentence makes me cringe. God has told us to number our days not wish them away.

So, once again, I'm moved to practice purposeful gratitude and my vision clears. I can number this day, chronicle the gifts, and like the sun sunk beneath the western sky, fall into the unreached depths of God's goodness.

As I number, I rediscover the things that make me tired generate the richest gratitude:

Hands of sons and daughters that have been trained to serve, build, restore.

Pink gloves protect hands that assist her daddy as #1 electrician assistant.  It is these hands that completely finished the job of rewiring the hay loft-20 feet in the air!

A time to celebrate, when it 's your birthday you choose the meal, and it was a delight to prepare:

A November gift of sunshine generates one of our high kilowatt production days:

Woke up to fragrant coffee warm in the pot, and clanging and banging of dishes-weekend farmer husband delays his work day for me so I could begin my tasks with clear counters and a clean sink.

Same weekend farmer husband sneaks upstairs before my eyes are fully open, makes our bed, opens our curtains, and put away our folded laundry.  Beautiful gifts of service.

A physical therapist who helps heal broken bones.

More hay and fresh bedding for cows, grown furry in their winter coats.

First born son still home...soon, so soon, we will bless him as he travels far away to learn, prepare, and engage in building a future.

Falling off our chairs laughter after dinner, telling tales of the day.

Music banged out on the piano keys by four year old hands, she only hears beauty and harmony, and sings the same mixed up words to a favorite hymn.

And, this, the chasing, numbering, seeing it all-another day to count as a deposit of contentment.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Dreamer and the Doer-A Pinterest Progress Report

Confession-I have a pitifully small memory bank for lines from movies, tv shows, or commercials. If I was ever in a focus group for super bowl commercials before they aired, the whole event would be cancelled I'm so lame at catching what is catchy. That being said, I'm trying to remember who/what uses the slogan “If you can dream it, you can do it?” Although I can't remember their product or idea I can remember the phrase.

Some people are doers. I've got a couple of those in the family. But, truth be told, we've got more dreamers in our bunch. There's a new idea to share at least every 10 minutes. Our time together is exciting, dynamic, creative, and wide open to possibilities. We're always pulling those doers off their task and inviting them into the next adventure!

Photo fun after some girly hairdo time

Thankfully, our doers have been given quiet spirits and they give abundant grace. Generally, they respond with at least respect to the newest distraction, and often with humor.

If I had to measure myself on a doer/dreamer scale I'd say I'm about 60% dreamer and 40% doer. My husband is an incredible mix of about 80% dreamer and 90% doer. I know, you math people, just give your head a shake and keep reading...

Thank goodness for tutorials - it gives this hair impaired mom a chance!

This combo makes us great at both dreaming and getting big projects done. The small stuff though? Well, we regularly come to terms with pockets of the house and farm that quickly run to chaos and have determined that not everything needs to be neat or on track with any written routine or planned approach in order to first, be content, and second, to be productive.

All this disclosure is the lengthy preamble to the subject of this particular post. Some of you will immediately understand what a blessing and responsibility Pinterest is for us dreamers...there are so many images, ideas, resources...I feel like Alice in Wonderland, falling down, down, down into the rabbit hole when I log in. I click, and click, and click, and pin things to boards and redesign my life for hours-without ever leaving my chair. When the fog lifts I can't believe there hasn't been a grown up in charge of things around here. What happened to her? Are there any responsible adults around?

Had never considered this before...keep green onions in water with a light source and just keep snipping what you need.  They'll keep growing!

Conversely, if I want to source printable pre school work sheets, Pinterest is a powerful search tool that makes it easy and efficient to find what I need and proceed. Same is true for recipes, crafts, photography tips...the list goes on. So the dreamer can be gently constrained by the organized genius of the site-what a blessing!

Back to the slogan-it's not true. Just because I can dream it does not mean I can ,(or will), do it. But, thanks to Pinterest I have had some success at trying some new things and have had the pleasure of dreaming as well as enjoying the satisfaction of a job well done!

Yum-have severed this several times and earned rave reviews!

Here's the recipe for the salad-I've seen it all over- just one of many blogs sharing this crowd pleaser.
  Our family especially enjoys 2 parts balsamic vinaigrette to one part poppy seed dressing, cabbage in addition to lettuce, and recently we've used gorganzola cheese instead of feta.  Can you believe it-I make enough so that the teens lick the bowl clean for their bedtime snack! :-)

Wouldn't you like to tell me what projects you've enjoyed lately?  A community of kindred dreamers and doers sounds kind of nice, huh?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Evening Idyll

Day is done and the sun has tucked itself into the west. Harvest moon glows bright and wispy clouds play across the sky, dancing with beams and wind. Power, lost earlier in the afternoon, surges back on and the barn hums with electric light and echoes with happy hens settling in for the night. Somewhere an iHome broadcasts a story, a signal that weekend farmer husband is enjoying a project while he listens. All the children are at home and supper is simmering on the stove.

Beautiful, yes? Sure there's been unfortunate conflict, messy grace, irresponsibility, and the expected outcomes of broken people living together. But, the pursuit of the rich, lovely, and good gives perspective and turns me toward the giver of the gifts.

What a good God to give me such overflow. I am needy and empty coming to this writing place following a long and challenging week. And the words He brings first as I tap along are the ones that bring into sharp focus the idyllic experience He has me in the middle of, and I see.

This week:
Karl and Lucy share a cozy corner.  We are endlessly entertained by these two!
Discovery! A hidden clutch of eggs.  Funny expressive four year old face.

While waiting for power to be restored we finally get to carving some pumpkins!

-Great progress on building an office in the pole barn.  Safety with power tools, electricity, structural elements...
-Mother J.O.Y- firstborn daughter invited to sing descant with me in church.  What rich worship to stand side by side with my girly.
-Abundant eggs.
-Long phone call with youngest brother-quite overdue!
-New ideas, hope, encouragement for farmer husband.
-Coming to same page with firstborn son as he's putting future plans more and more into motion.
-Hugs, hugs, hugs, and more hugs from giant man boy and verbalized expressions of love.
-reading success in home school.  a hard fought victory.
-Following Compassion bloggers this week.  Crystal clear water in my cup brings tears.  Electricity humming through wires and lights to split the darkness brings humility.  Four (gulp) cars force hard questions.  Loving hard on our children this week and praying that the Holy Spirit will make it clear how to respond.
-Solar panels on barn quietly providing.
-Hot coffee in a big mug.
-God's word to counsel my heart and reveal His character-the scriptures never grow tiresome.
He is always good, gratitude marks the way, grace overflows, and contentment deepens.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An Ordinary Room

Really-Bookshelves aren't just for books?

Skimming through one of the back issues of Country Living magazine that I've kept, I glanced over an article where a well known designer “transformed” an ordinary room, (hmmm, "ordinary" looks a lot like my living room), into a vibrant and welcoming space. 
Pinned Image
My eye was drawn to one caption in particular-”Bookshelves aren't just for books”-next to a before and after shot of built in bookshelves. As you might expect, the after shot was visually breathtaking and the before picture-well, let's just say it paled in comparison.

Chuckling, I turned that idea and the images over in my brain since I had literally just taken a break from my own massive bookshelf project. No kidding! Does that ever happen to you, when the events of your life seem to randomly coordinate with a blog you just happened to check on or a blurb in the news? The laughter stemmed from the irony of a new conflict.

Moments before I had been so thankful for many more linear feet of bookshelves because at last  I can handle the massive collection of books we've accumulated over years of life together and home educating. But, with just one perfectly staged photo, I found myself in an inner dialogue about how to “display” my books and favorite decorative items for the greatest visual appeal.
Pinned Image
Now, I'm giving myself a little talking to. Really? Not just for books? But that's why we built them-for books!Giving my head a shake I'm headed out to the pole barn to retrieve another box of, you got it, books for my new shelves.

Although I'm all about having a lovely home where beauty and function meld into a whole environment, I'm even more about making sure we follow our own vision and principles for establishing our homes and carefully apply advice offered from outside sources, but don't singularly measure the outcome based on it's photographic appeal. And, I'm sure the designer was simply passing along a tip for those of us who tend to think fairly literally or maybe too practically about our homes and would enjoy the dimension that design would lend to our rooms. Good design is very satisfying and something I like to pursue, so you won't find me critical of designers or people who follow what they suggest. (full disclosure here-I'm even a little envious of folks who can/do work with designers-I think I'd really enjoy that opportunity)
So, I probably will root around in the pole barn (after all, I'll already be there), for the boxes of decorative items that remain unpacked since our move. A glass bottle, a small picture, a candle or two, certainly there's space on my shelves. But, in my home, function has it's own kind of appeal and the beauty of it is that my ordinary room is transformed into a lovely space by one of my favorite decorative items-books on the shelves!

Techie friends-please pardon, (and PLEASE help) I'm slow to learn all the formatting skills required to properly run a blog. *blush* I don't yet know how to link pictures to their source-thanks for your grace.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Beautiful Life

When I'm willing to be transparent, a beautiful life has escaped me for most of my years.  Like many,I've had seasons of bitterness, loss, arrogance, anger, and foolishness. And sometimes, if I was paying enough attention, I had brief moments of understanding, grasping that in the mix was also joy, love, beauty, and goodness.  Shamefully, I dismissed many of those precious glimpses as aberrations and consistently measured my life as half empty and steadily my heart grew cold.

And then, in the most unlikely way and at an unlikely time, God's Holy Spirit grabbed hold of that stone and breathed into me the warm breath of life, joy, beauty, blessing, and gratitude.  Awash in grace I was led again and again to scriptures, songs, people, books, and blogs that helped to quicken tender new shoots and in time nourishing growth took over my shrunken spirit.

Many years ago I marveled at another woman who seemed much like me, at least we shared similar roles.  She blogged, I read, and God undid me.  Words, pictures, humility-these drew me in, but gratitude kept me coming back.  She practiced gratitude.  Daily writing, doodling, capturing, grasping at thanksgivings that seemed unlikely and fleeting she encouraged making practical the pursuit of gifts.

And I followed.  Scratching out in seasons of plenty and in dark days of suffering, my list grows.  Beauty marks my days and life is good.

This week-
sweet girls rekindling early friendship
clean barn, prepared for guests (the human kind), blue blue sky making solar panels glow, and a lovely sunset conceived on the horizon
joy in fellowship, friends like family sharing in our vision, laughing, celebrating, warming by the fire later in the evening

a new orange kitty to be a forever snuggle friend who loves dogs and ice cream!?!?!
and, still, plenty of pasture to satisfy the palate and need of this beauty and her companions, even though we break ice off the surface of their waterer in the mornings
-eggs a plenty
-sons and daughters who serve others well, are hard workers,and love and respect their dad
-freedom to worship as my husband and I choose at a church rich in biblical teaching and community
-an invitation to sing with the worship musicians on Sunday mornings
-a brief but welcome mid week getaway with the children to rest and rediscover Lake Michigan
-deep, growling (almost) lower register tones on a new grand piano
-the love of a Savior- vast, unmeasured, free. 
-this. a beautiful handwritten gift of heart words in my real mailbox on Saturday.
-eyes to see, ears to hear, a spirit to receive beauty
-hardworking weekend farmer husband who leads with his labor

Growing, the list multiplies, beauty layers on, I look for it, God reveals, and contentment is the ongoing gift.

Friday, November 4, 2011


Getting sleepy. That's how I describe this season at Liberty Farm. Most of the trees have shed their autumn finery, the garden lies fallow and we're dressing her with leaves and rich organic matter. The last apples are dropping from slender branches and a settled feeling is creeping over the land.

We waken to morning frost and steamy breath pouring out of our nostrils as we tend to chores. How soon until the water freezes in troughs and we'll need to break it up? No longer do we just dash outside without a scarf or warm cap. Funny how as we're settling into something slower, we need to add more steps like making sure the chicken's light is on or gathering eggs before they get so chilly.

Electric blankets are at the ready-old farmhouses, no matter how renovated, have precious little insulation! Yarn and craft supplies lie in wait for afternoons of reading and listening to stories. Both crockpots are permanently on the counter.

It's like we're getting all cozied up. You too? I used to dread, I mean d.r.e.a.d., winter. Now I welcome it, well at least some of it. I welcome the rest, the intentional comfort, the quiet, and the slow. I look for the joy on my children's faces when they realize there's enough snow to ski or they've completed a Christmas craft.

So, while we get ready to pile on the blankets and snuggle down for winter we're coming into fullness. The fullness of many months of labor. Pantry and freezers are full. Full bales of hay diminish as the cows fill their bellies. Nesting boxes are filled with eggs each morning. And while life gets temporarily drowsy, hearts store up blessing, gratitude grows, and we are filled.