Monday, February 27, 2012

Meeting you here on Monday

At first I was a little lost.  I have grown so accustomed to my habits of using, (and yes, wasting), my time at the computer that I had to regularly stop and evaluate the pattern of my activity and decisions.  Now, it's not easy, but it's normal to stem the impulse to log in to Facebook, or visit whatever blog I might fancy at the moment.

And, in the newness of this pattern there's a stirring.  Our home is stirring - projects long rejected in favor of something else are getting done.  That must be why I'm so willing to share photos of under my kitchen sink with you...

This space.  Everyday activity happening here - actually there's almost an alarming frequency with which we run the dishwasher, reach for a rag, pull out a fresh garbage liner - the kitchen is almost always open, and it's most often in need of systems analysis and improvement.

It's been so easy to ignore - because I'd rather chase somebody else's idea for how to deal with chaos under the sink than get into my own.  I  do research on the internet instead of preparing the proper dissertation on the condition of my home.  I claim to be an eager student of this at home role, but in recent months have spent more time studying others instead of doing my homework.

So, the first obvious sign of change in this Lenten practice has been a clearing of my mind, a cleaning of my heart, and real practical household work getting done. I've been adapting the 40 Bags in 40 Days project my friend Sara has encouraged and instead of filling a bag, I've set specific tasks to be accomplished.

My camera has been begging for greater understanding.  I think my mad photography skillz are improving, but I've so much to learn.  I thought I'd start with reading the manual.  I'll only say that this was not a natural move for me.  Perhaps you'll get a chuckle when you study the picture below and I tell you that of the two manuals that came with the camera, I saved only one. Who needs two?  And now. (four years later), my hasty dismissal is coming home to roost.  Slow down, Laura, slow down.

ahem - I neither read nor speak Spanish!!!!

As we settle into the new normal of Firstborn son being absent from our every day I've turned to recipes, cooking, and the family table as a way of making connection and coming together.  When we linger we tell stories, laugh, lean into the comfort of each other's presence, and are renewed.  

Handiwork has kept us focused while we do school work.  Our library basket has overflowed with books.  And, there's been sweet fellowship around bowls of fragrant hot popcorn and piles of pets, people, and blankets on the couch while watching movies.

Seed catalogs arrive daily, and we overflow at the prospect of redeeming this farm again this season.  And for this moment, we don't worry about pests, disease, blight, drought.  We just anticipate with joy the fullness of the harvest.

And, as is my habit and delight, the harvest of thanksgiving and gifts this week has yielded its abundance.

February's Gifts:  46-55

  • My father, breaking fast, struggling with the problem of pain, and finding comfort in God's Holy Word.
  • Firstborn son's safe arrival.
  • A medical emergency, Firstborn son available to help, serve, comfort.
  • Bright foliage on new houseplant.
  • A note on the counter, for my eyes only, from Weekend Farmer Husband.
  • Teenage girls, gathered together to enjoy Downton Abbey
  • Skype and real time video chats with loved ones far away
  • Homemade Chai Tea- creamy, spicy, comforting, warming.
  • Sunday afternoon nap.
  • Friends who know my interests and care for my heart

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why I'm Gone - and When I'll be Back

I don't have a grand plan.  My motivation is neither hyper spiritual or mature.  I've just been moved by the Holy Spirit to spend my time for this short season in other ways.

Certainly it's no way to grow a blog - and I do want to increase here.  In recent days I've been surprised and pleased at the impact my most recent post had.  Although it didn't generate the most hits ever in the short history of this blog, it did produce the highest number of emails, comments on facebook, IM conversations, and phone calls.  Something connected between you and me that caused you to not only reach out to me, but as moms (parents), and fellow travelers you entered in to what I wrote, felt it for me, and most surprisingly felt it for yourself.

It would seem that this would be the perfect time to post more often, dig deep into the connective tissue of experiences and ideas we share, and bring you along so that you develop a regular presence here.  Finally, I should capture all the scribbled notes scattered on my desk and organize my content and delve into the topics I think we'd all be interested in.

But, I'm not going to.  In fact, I'm going to radically restrict my being here -  and all spheres of the internet and computer that I frequent.  And, yes, I'm doing it for Lent.

Not that long ago Weekend Farmer Husband and I were compelled to change churches and we moved from one body that had and practiced a rich history of liturgy, formal worship, and observance of the church calendar.  Our current body has a different tradition and although we are well fed spiritually, there is an absence of the more formal elements of worship.  I miss those practices.

So, for more reasons than I'll write here, (and all of them positive), I'll personally be observing Lent this year. I'm "giving up" some of my time and attention at the computer to enter in to the difficulty of the crucifixion, the quiet of Christ in the tomb, the waiting for the fulfillment of His promises, and the glorious break of dawn on Easter Sunday when the church universal proclaims as one, "He is Risen indeed!"

I'll be checking email 1-2 times a day.  I'll forego facebook.  I'll set a timer (15 minutes ?), and instead of trolling through Pinterest for the newest idea, I'll be sorting and digging through my own boards to follow up on some of the plans and opportunities that are waiting for my attention.

And here?  I'll be here once a week.  Several of you in just the last 36 hours have personally requested that I keep writing.  You tell me you're encouraged and fortified by what we share here.  My journey and the markers on my trail help you find your way.  So, I won't abandon the practice of chronicling gifts and meeting up with the community of thanks givers.  It's good to be together.

Several of you have started conversations with me in recent days - we don't have to stop meeting with one another.  I cherish your comments and will read each one.  And, I  invite your emails (address available in my profile).

Monday, February 20, 2012

I Know - And, I Don't.

I know a lot of things.  Just like you, my head is filled with facts, memories, email addresses, birthdays, expertise, and a wide variety of valuable as well as trivial bits of information.

So, when I say I know I'll find my way through this, I can speak with some confidence because the whole of my experience points to the truth of that self assurance.  I know tens of thousands of other mothers have done it.  I know I'm not the only mother who did it today.  I know tomorrow other mothers will do it, and on it goes.

What I don't know is how to speak into the grief and longing and loss and upset this has produced.  And I don't know how long it will last.

I didn't know that my little girls would cry themselves to sleep last night, or that the older of the two would ask to be wakened so she could say goodbye - again.

I didn't know that my youngest son would curl himself into my side, and let wet fall wild down his cheeks.

I didn't know Weekend Farmer Husband would pray with such passion and eloquence.

I didn't know that the next two in line would alternate between wild productivity to take their mind away, and just as quickly as they were moving, slump down into silence and loss of place.

And I didn't know that although I've had intellectual purchase for better than twenty years that this day would come and that it is good, that I'd know so little.

I know he'll be back, Lord willing.  I know this is a first of many steps in establishing his future as a provider, contributor, and Kingdom worker.

I know he's ready. He left - leaned eagerly into the adventure of independence, internship, and opportunity.  I know it's the first of many leavings, and that Weekend Farmer Husband and I have been making ready for this and will continue for him and the others.  I know that the empty and lost that I feel is an opening for the Father  to fill with His gifts - whether that be a keener sense of absence or something new and exciting that I cannot conceive, I know not.  I know it is good.

And, I know how to count.  The gifts and the goodness.  I know how to number the seemingly unconnected and unnoticed moments into the connected whole that reminds me of God's goodness.  I know to keep counting and wait for the gifts I cannot see or feel today. And, I know I've been blessed.

Before he left, he held me long and strong, looked into my river running eyes with clear blue gaze and spoke words of love.  And I knew what to do.  Together we walked into the dark of a new day - literally and symbolically, set the course, and with shimmery courage I waved him away.

 I know I'll remember this moment like the one when he gulped air for the first time, and that both moments will forever seem like it was just a moment ago.

February's Gifts : 31-45
-Old Faithful, better than 265K miles, humming in the pre dawn, warm and sound, packed and ready to transport him.
-Clearance from physicians for Grandfather and Grandson to enter in to the adventure together.  Chemo, Leukemia, and Stem Cell Transplant do not derail the mission of multi - generational family vision.
-Perhaps a donor has been found?
-A tentative courageous touch begins to close the divide that the weekend revealed.
-Driving home from church the scenic way.
-Little girls in braids and ruffled skirts.
-A friend inquiring how are you and asking to go deeper.
-Health being restored, and although not 100 %, we're coming round the bend.
-Second born son, not envious of the affection evident for Firstborn, pulling me close on the couch and telling me we'll get through it.
-Had we not loved so deeply we would not feel his going so sharply.
-An eldest son and oldest brother serving, loving, and leading so well.
-Siblings banding together and being kind one to another, tenderhearted.
-Missionary biographies inspiring and convicting our hearts.
-A call to tell the gospel, the power of God to transform, with passion, boldness, and regularity.
-A full pot of coffee waiting, Weekend Farmer Husband filling the cup that Firstborn Son has so long done.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Didn't Expect to Learn This from Pinterest

Fingers curled toward palms, fists clenched in tight balls.

 Eyes shut tight, breaths coming rapidly.

Thoughts racing, whirling, condemning, loud.

Hello again perfectionism.  Self recrimination.  Making me want to crawl right out of my skin and hide from this messy, risky, flawed life.

I made a mistake this morning.  I doubt that many people even know.  Possibly no one.

I was enjoying my morning routine, and was feeling optimistic about all the creative and productive things I could do today. (Interpret this to mean I had logged in to Pinterest...)  I saw an image that I pinned to one of my boards, and described it naming the blog where I think I saw it.  Don't really know why I did-after all, the magic of Pinterest is that you don't have to keep track of sources.

Fast forward hours later and I'm just settling the little one down for a nap, and f.r.e.e.z.e.-the realization that I'd typed in the wrong blog paralyzes me.


 Really?  Paralyzes?  Sadly, yes.

Unable to function, I quickly move to my computer to right my wrong, and before I know it, I'm following old and unproductive paths more concerned about getting things right than savoring sweet afternoon nap time, or more importantly having maturity enough to remember there's grace enough for the likes of me.

See, I profess to live for Christ alone and by grace alone.  If that's true, why is a little speck like me so concerned about her presence in the vast cyber world?  The God of the Universe has covered me and made me righteous, and instead of letting air fill my lungs and peace restore my mind, I rush to log in, click, delete, edit - phew.  I've made things right.

Have I?  Seems to me there's only One who can get it Right.  And I think, because He loves me, He sometimes draws me hard up  against my lurking sin problems and imperfections and compels me to hide myself in the shadow of His wings.

Because that is the only right place, in His shadow.  I create structures, routines, personas, constructs-all kinds of "Laura Made" places that with a few careless key strokes crumble.

What mystery that God takes my failing frail life and uses my weakness to show Himself strong.

So, now that I can breathe again, I understand that there is an appropriateness to giving credit where credit is due, and taking care to properly cite sources.  I'll be quite a bit more cautious in the future, and that seems an okay position since I believe that it's good stewardship to guard intellectual property for others and myself.  Obviously, my fingers have uncurled enough to type.

Why write it all down so publicly? Well, I started all this to mark the days of authentic living, messy grace, sincere relationship, faith forming, struggle, abundance producing life together.  Perhaps I'll come to learn that marking the dangerous and difficult parts of the path is where grace and God's goodness is most generously evident, and that should always be public.

(And, following all of this, I've removed the pin.  I don't want any evidence to remain of me trying to do anything right...Less of me.  More of Him.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love is Patient

Many of my family members and friends are familiar with the often quoted, encouraging, convicting, and well phrased text of I Corinthians 13-the love chapter in the Bible.  If you're not familiar with either the specific text or the Bible itself, I heartily recommend this short passage to you.  You will not struggle to understand or appreciate it.

Sometimes love puts you in unanticipated circumstances and tests you beyond what you think you can do.

Love takes many forms, and last night a mother's love was at the forefront and tested well.

Our regular sniffing, stuffy, discomfort took a turn for the worse.  Suddenly, instead of tucking the little one in with a prayer and a kiss, I was whisking her down the country roads, concerned that she simply wasn't able to get enough air.

All is well. Although she had a really rough spot last night, she'll rally.

While in the Emergency Department, I saw early signs of Valentines Day celebration.  And, as the clock turned yesterday into today, I don't think I imagined a flurry of fun and good wishes as the staff enjoyed themselves.  For sure the little one saw quite a bit of candy! It seems love is in the air.

Coming home in the wee hours, reversing the drive on freshly fallen snow and in solitude, I prepared myself for an even longer night.  Helping her to sleep sitting up, I held her until my arms were stumps and my back on fire.  And still, I held fast. Loving. Patiently waiting for morning and for the eventual relief of her distress.

And it came.  Finally, just before lunch, her inflamed bronchial passageways gave way, and increased air brought comfort and a hard won deep sleep.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cuddling and Cough Medicine

Perhaps this is the case for you too, it seems every February, no matter how healthy our habits, we are laid low with some sort of respiratory crud.  We're not super duper sick, but everybody is slowed down, sleepless from stuffy noses and coughing, and generally sub par.

Clear lungs, nasal passages, and throats are taken for granted until they swell up inflamed, demanding attention.

Sleeping prone is suddenly a thing of the past and there aren't enough pillows in the house to prop everyone up.

Books on tape, favorite movies, sermons, and quiet games have an increased presence.

And I don't even put the assortment of remedies cluttering the counter away until this all passes.  It's an all you can stand buffet of honey, lemon, cinnamon, cardamom, tumeric, cayenne pepper and the night time dose of Afrin and Delsym in the hope of a few sound hours.

My favorite cough medicine by far is a steamy tub or shower and then a long cuddle on the couch, propped up in the crook of my arm, swaddled in blankets, and endless stories.  These are the times when I'm especially glad we've rarely culled out any of our picture books for the quarterly goodwill clean out.

There's a big stock pot on the stove right now simmering with rich new broth.  You better believe it's soup for supper tonight!  Its aroma fills the house and comforts with its familiarity.

We may still have a few rocky days ahead.  But we are cheerful, although sleep deprived, and so mindful of the blessings of our secure home and the time to heal.

February's Gifts continue: 13-30

  • almost done with our introductory study of human anatomy, and in our discomfort we're our own laboratory for comprehending we are fearfully and wonderfully made
  • warm apple pie made with apples we can still get from a local grower
  • encouraging bone marrow biopsy results for my dad
  • soft couch, warm blankets, and stacks of picture books
  • Weekend Farmer Husband successfully chasing down wires and circuits and slowly resolving our multiple electrical puzzles that came with the house
  • Yummy recipe for a soothing healthy drink that even the most "discerning" of us are enjoying
  • Big bowl of greens scraped clean
  • books on tape
  • Pandora radio
  • Boxes of tissue everywhere-what relief to wipe a runny nose.
  • Afrin and Delsym
  • Kids faithfully checking nesting boxes so we get eggs before they freeze
  • a surprising but welcome increase in interest for our 2012 farm shares
  • hospitality-savoring a long evening with another family sharing our table
  • all six children gathered round for evening meals- the countdown roars in my head until it is only five
  • brothers banding together all weekend long sincerely enjoying one another's company
  • home education allows for a purposeful slow down, steady progress forward, but time to heal
  • and, finally, after a long night shift with coughing, compromised breathing, and wakefulness, crawling back into bed and not being wakened until day was well underway and sunlight streamed through my window
Linking up here later today.  Won't you consider joining me?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Beautiful Irony

It's no surprise to you, and for that matter to me either, that I was wakened before the clock started keeping time today.

In the early dark I snuggled a little one, played games, prepared a snack, and prayed.

Prayed for my dad. Prayed for my firstborn son taking the ACT today-(something he never planned to do).  Prayed for little one to overcome a head cold.  Prayed for Weekend Farmer Husband, already in his office.  Prayed that the coffee would work its morning magic. Prayed.

And slowly, the hands on the clock began to turn.  Darkness turned to light.  And, any early sign of spring that I wrote about yesterday was clearly gone.

The frigid air and nascent sun made light twinkle on snow and shadow play on branches.

And I welcomed the day, aware of the irony, and danced in the sunbeams.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Winter and Spring-Dancing Together

Typically, when January stretches into February, our family and homestead are still a little on the sleepy side.  Winter limits our desire and capacity to keep pressing on with outside projects, and home educating and life together curtails how many indoor projects we allow to disrupt the flow of our days.

Like many places in the country, we're having a mild winter.  It keeps our spirits up since we're not under the thumb of grey, snow, and ice.  We have greater freedoms to be outdoors and it's quite a bit easier to be out n' about.

But, the gardener in me gets a little worked up.  It's far too early to be planting without benefit of a cold frame or green house, (and, my dear growing friends, please feel free to correct me- I can hardly wait to get soil under my fingernails!), but because of gentle days full of sun and 40+ degrees it hardly seems enough to be looking at seed catalogs and doing all the behind the scenes thinking, planning, and readying for the season ahead.

So, our thoughts have turned to grand plans.  Who knows which, if any of these, will come to fruition, but a little dreaming mixed in with planning is inspirational and motivational!  As we haven't even lived on the farm for two years yet, and there had not been a pattern of cultivating soil, (it was a horse there are parts of the pastures that are pretty rich; great for the grass the cows love so much), we're still very much involved in planning how to build good soil.  Most of our resources need to be directed at creating a hospitable environment for all the billions of micro organisms we're inviting.

But, there have been bits of cardboard, plastic straws clipped to different lengths, paper clips, tape, and note pads strewn about.  Each plays its part in counter top greenhouse models.

We've watched a number of documentaries about gardening, food sources, and entrepreneurship as well as adding inspirational and how-to books into our weekly library trip. My Pinterest boards grow daily with tips and gorgeous photos of gardens in full blown glory.

Several families have indicated their interest in partnering with our venture which is likely to include chickens.

And, the local excavating guys have been here to talk about grading our land, expanding our pond, and moving tons of dirt.

Here's the rub:  when hard winter is still upon us, I'm able to shove these visions of spring and the season ahead to the back burner where they must remain while I stay intent on home education.  We've always enjoyed the short days and indoor time for extra reading, catching up or working ahead on lessons, and the school days being more full since the outdoors doesn't call to us as urgently.  I'm finding that even though I see patches of green grass outdoors and they sing an early siren song, I must exercise the discipline and commitment to stay the course indoors.

There's no pity here.  I'm not feeling sorry for myself, nor should you, and I hope I'm not coming across as a whiner.  This is a personal reflective pep talk of sorts, and maybe you'll benefit from what I express.  How we're each in a season-perhaps it's learning, (like us), suffering,
(like my dad, ), waiting (like my firstborn son), and I can only begin to wonder and imagine what season you're in.  Perhaps it's recovery, or planning, or building.  And, I suppose, although I've not dug into this thought, that it's possible to be in more than one season at a time.

Isn't that a little like mild winter?  Winter and Spring dancing together, causing me at the same time to accomplish the task before me, and get ready for the work ahead?

So, here's the plan.  Today I'll settle in to our schooling and enjoy the bits of dreams on my counter.  I'll think of you and wonder what you're putting your shoulder to today.  I'll will myself to be fully present for the task without missing the anticipation of what's to come.

Seems to me what I'm trying to write about is hope.  Yes, that's it.

Like the hymn, "Great is Thy Faithfulness", Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.

 May that be our portion and our blessing. I would recognize that as no small thing, and count that phrase among 2012's Little Things.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Timed Writing

A good in real life friend of mine writes over at The 4 Minute Blogger, and he occasionally posts witty, thoughtful, and surprisingly long posts considering that at the outset he determined to allot 4 minutes a day to writing.

{By the way- it's been quite some time since he's written...maybe this will be a little uptick in traffic and he'll get re-inspired...? }

Sometimes we chuckle together as fellow bloggers since we've learned that given our personality, distractable lives, technical difficulties, and every day responsibilities, it's very unlikely that 4 minutes will remain a realistic limit, although it is still a catchy name.

Oh, the days are full,aren't they?  And no matter how many pithy, winsome, charming, and beautiful posts I write in my head while doing something else, the real nitty gritty of it is that to regularly engage in this space is a commitment of time on many levels.

When my kids are taking formal writing classes they have an instructor who practices timed writing drills in her classroom.  A great benefit to their budding craft, they are forced to organize and present their material in the time allotted, and then anticipate that their work will be peer and teacher evaluated for feedback and a grade. I've observed their skills grow stronger the more often they engage in this type of exercise.

Up to this point I've been pretty generous with myself and not put a great deal of structure around how this place of writing grows.  But, I think I'm to a point on many levels where I need to look square in the face of the gift of time and parcel out enough, but not too much, for practicing presence in this place.

There's no greater message here.  I'm not pulling back or taking a blog break.  What's happening, I think, is that I'm coming to understand how valuable this time of thinking, developing, chronicling, and journaling is becoming.  And therefore, I want to keep time here-protect and preserve it.

I glanced at the clock before I began and "allowed" myself  30 minutes.  Twenty of those 30 are already gone.  So, I must close out this Monday afternoon ramble, upload some pictures I took for us, and engage in the precious moments of chronicling the gifts I've chased and have so abundantly received this week.


Last week I confessed that I've been writing a list of gifts for so long now that I've quite lost track of what number I'm on.  Since I link to a community of lists I've decided that I can at least begin again to number the gifts by month.

February 2012: #1-#12

  • Having great fun and creative reward using new to me technology to photograph and capture the days.
  • Struggling for days and days with private rebellion and this song undoing me as I prepare and practice for singing with a worship team.  The struggle persists, but I am softened, contrite, and seeking restoration.
  • A precious friend inviting the three youngest over for play every Monday afternoon-loving me with service.
  • The house kitty amusing all the children so that they crowd into our tiny bathroom to observe him walking the edge of the tub, ferociously batting at the fuzzy something suspended on the surface of the water.
  • Yummy recipes found on Pinterest-yielding the time spent there productive since we've been making what we pin.
  • Sweet saints at church inquiring about my parents and offering to be tested for a stem cell match for my dad.
  • Glorious, glorious, glorious weekend sun pouring out warmth, and golden hope.
  • Quiet cozy curled up in blankets time with Weekend Farmer Husband relishing a day of rest.
  • Firstborn son giving gifts of service and time.  His teachable spirit.
  • Rich, artful, soul reaching books.
  • A friend I've met only once, writing from wisdom and experience and encouraging me to grow intentionally in the practice of my faith.
  • Have I mentioned the sun...? :-) Oh. My.  My heart is still singing and my knees bowed down to Creator God for giving us such a day yesterday.
Well, for the record, I've exceed my time limit by better than 10 minutes-but I'll not fret.  My cup overflows and although I cannot ever get those moments back, I'll never regret chronicling the abundant life.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Split Second

Every once in awhile one of my older offspring check out what I've had to say in this space, and typically they offer encouragement and useful feedback.

Yesterday's post generated a brief flurry of real life comments from some of the kids like;

"Oh, man.  That's so true."

"Yeaaaaahhhh, that's pretty much it, mom."

I cannot even tell you how it pleases me to hear them agree rather than go back and relive the specific events that gave way to grace and greater understanding.  I'm breathless with awe at the abundant mercies of God in our life together.

One of their observations, however, merits a brief update.

They identified that although I allowed a tiny little look into some of the tough stuff (I know, I barely said anything...) I managed to create a visual contradiction.  I chose a cute, smiley, calm, and who would believe me picture of the one who's taught me so much about being kind.

I was reminded that this series of photos was more appropriate.

It was a particularly dynamic morning and every split second we were catapulted into the fullness of what this young one brings us. I just kept clicking.

Weekend Farmer Husband and I often encourage one another to remember that it's not always important to evaluate how the moment/event got started, but instead to measure progress by how we end up.

Looks like by God's goodness it all turned out okay!