Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste . . .

I don't want to sound too paranoid, but I think I've uncovered a plot.
Sunday afternoon, I noticed my daughter was wearing a snowman sweater, and what had it been doing?
Right. Snowing.
I've been wondering if there was an explanation for all the snow this year, and especially this early spring snow. Spring is supposed to be the season of flowers, little green buds on trees, and warm weather. Not snow.
I hated to blame Sunday's snow on my daughter.
Imagine my surprise -- dismay, really -- when I found this little guy hanging around on my study door:

Here's my theory: all those decorative winter snowmen are responsible for the snow. I'm practically sure of it.
So, I've banished snowmen to a dark closet in the basement. I'll let them out again sometime early next winter, when snow sounds like a good idea again, but for now they have been retired.
Please join me in preventing them from causing any more snow showers.


The Hours Are Long . . .

A friend told me once that “the hours are long, but the days are short.”
As the days go by, I am convinced she was so right about that!
Here it is, March 31 already, and this year is one-quarter over. The snow squall of this past week-end notwithstanding, it seems as if we were celebrating the new year just last week, and here it is, spring.

We had another reminder of how quickly time passes this past week-end. A friend of our family was married last Saturday, and almost all of our kids (and some of their kids) were home for the celebration. Once again the driveway was filled with cars, the kitchen was busy, and there was laughter, conversation and sometimes commotion all through the house.
Everyone was dressed up in wedding finery, and I couldn't help remembering mornings when it was a scramble to convince them that really, socks should match and hair looks much better when it's combed neatly.
None of them need those reminders any more, and they do their own scrambling.
They've all grown up, and so quickly!
The hours sometimes seemed to go on forever, with the need to be consistent, to discipline, to help and oversee and manage -- but the days?
The days are short.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Making Something

The Lenten services at our church are amazing.
The music, accompanied by violin, is lovely and haunting. We've used a liturgical setting by Marty Haugen for the past 9 years, and the congregation sings it with a depth of skill, feeling, and meaning that comes from knowing it well.
I think sometimes we underestimate the grace of congregational singing. There is something about singing well together that brings a sense of being whole and healthy. Each of us sings our own part, and each part of the whole makes the whole lovely and strong. Together we are making something -- a song -- offering it in worship to God.
That must be pleasing to Him!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lullaby, and Good Night . . .

Do you remember someone singing you a lullaby?
Last night I went to sleep to the sweet sound of quiet rain whispering on the roof and in the trees outside my bedroom window. It was as pretty and soothing as the lullabies I remember my mom and dad and my grandmas singing to me when I was a little girl.
Both my grandmas were lullaby singers. Grandma CvT was somewhat businesslike about it, lacking confidence in her singing ability, while Grandma McK was more playful. She sang an Irish lullaby most often, as part of a bedtime ritual that included a warm bath, talcum powder, and hair-brushing. Then, once settled into bed, she'd read a story (she was especially fond of Peter Rabbit and his adventures), sing a lullaby, hear prayers, then tiptoe out of the room, closing the door softly behind her.
My mom sang just because she liked to sing, while my dad sang because he believed it would help us go to sleep quicker (his nightly goal!). I thought my mom had the most beautiful voice in the world.
One of the things we lose as we gain adulthood is the pleasure of being sung to sleep.
Unless it's a quiet, rainy night.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring Is . . .

It's not news that spring is a season of extremes.
The weather can be frizzly, with frigid temperatures and mixed precipitation, or it can be sunny, bright and warm -- or something in between.
Huge trees put on green almost overnight, and in the yard tiny flowers pop up in the grass -- delicate snowdrops, tiny anemones, pastel pushinka.

Colors vary from shades of gray to bright, pulsing swathes of sky blue, new green, or daffodil yellow.
Tiny birds trill and geese honk; dogs bark and kids yell; quiet misty rain brings up the smell of good black dirt while warming sun is a reminder to turn the compost pile.
If winter is like old age, then spring is like childhood or early adolescence.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday's Challenge . . .

I came home this afternoon to find a large limb from one of the locust trees in the flower bed, crushing the bright, brave yellow crocus.

No problem, I thought. I'll just go move it off the flower bed.
Dug into the dirt, smack up against both a basement window, nudging the front stoop, that limb wasn't in a hurry to move.
I'm tougher than this, I thought.
Oh, eventually I did manage to maneuver the large limb off the crocus and out of the flower bed.
Then I decided it looks like a lovely lawn ornament, and came inside.
To rest.
Tomorrow, as they say, is another day.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Mornings . . .

I was thinking today about how Sunday mornings have changed throughout my life, how as a child I loved to walk to our church a few blocks away for Sunday School, then stay for church. I loved the stories, the music, and the kind people who made coming to church fun.
As a teen-ager I sang in our church choir, and loved the music we sang. Then as a young adult I turned away from God for awhile, but when finally I came back to church I discovered how much I'd missed Him. Those were the Sunday mornings of diapers and disasters -- you know the kind: the spilled milk, the lost socks, the tangled hair and tears, the hurrying out the door while trying not to yell and completely undermine the purpose of going to worship.
That's when I learned the real value of a Saturday night well spent: baths, laying out clothes for Sunday morning, getting something ready for breakfast ahead of time. Usually BH made pancakes for our appreciative gang of kids while I helped the littlest ones eat and dress. We even occasionally made it out the door on time!
A local radio station, not usually our favorite, (the home of easy-listening music) had a Sunday morning program called Sounds of Faith, a nice mix of traditional hymns, contemporary Christian music, and gospel quartets. The host made small talk throughout the two hours. That program encouraged me while I was working, and helped me get ready for worship!


As our kids got older (and wanted to sleep later!) we began attending a contemporary service later in the morning. We weren't as rushed, and the radio station had pulled the plug on Sounds of Faith, but our CD collection filled that gap. Sitting in the service with our sometimes-surly teens and pre-teens was a lesson in focusing, and hoping that somehow, they would “get it.”
I never minded going to church, and during most of these seasons it's been the thing that gets me through the week. Sometimes a sermon or a song or an encounter makes me squirm; I've had a lot of changing and growing up into Christ to do, and I have a feeling the job isn't finished! but I was -- am -- hungry for the Word, for the fellowship, for the opportunity to worship. I've come to realize that those things are more dependent on my attitude than they are on whatever is happening in the service -- if I come ready to receive, I always find God there, ready to give!


We didn't offer our kids a choice. They were coming with us to church, period. As they got older we explained that we considered this part of their training, and part of our responsibility as their parents. What we did give them was an out when they graduated from high school. At that point, we told them, they would have to make a decision about their own faith. We'd be glad -- thrilled, even -- if they continued to come with us as a freely made choice, but we wouldn't press them if they decided not to come along.
When BH accepted a pastoral call, we lost the pleasure of sitting together in church. We only had one child still at home with us full-time. That child came to church with me -- not always too happily -- but the day came when he graduated high school and left home for sailing ships, service, and adventure. For the first time since I was a young girl, I sat in church alone, but God brought a most precious gift: one of our daughters and her family moved, and began coming to church with us.
As time has gone by, all our kids live out a measure of faith. They've seen the worst of church life -- the bickering, the pettiness, and the faithlessness that sometimes afflict God's people; but they've also seen the best of it: the times when we live out and live in God's presence among us in Christ. They've experienced love, compassion, and caring; they've seen tremendous examples of spiritual maturity and strength. They sometimes struggle with faith, they sometimes question it, they try to live it out honestly, and wrestle with all that that means. I am confident that whatever they need, God has, and is, and will supply.
Most Sunday mornings now are more leisurely, more quiet. I sit expectantly in church, grateful for the privilege of being there. I look around, amazed at God's work, His willingness to meet us as we are. I'm touched by the music, by the Word, by the preaching. I think about sitting in church with my parents, my grandparents, my brothers and sisters, my husband and our family, friends I've come to love.


The time will come when some Sunday morning will be the last Sunday morning I go to worship. Perhaps I'll be aware of it; more likely I won't. Death can come suddenly, and things we think might go on forever just stop. Or infirmity might keep me home, or confined to a hospital or nursing home where I'll be dependent on whatever church group is kind enough to bring a service to us.
But what a rich gift it is right now, to be able to go to church, to worship freely and openly, to hear the Word preached, to sing together in worship, to love and be loved. What a privilege to be nourished, encouraged, and sent out into the everyday world to live out the faith we've just celebrated -- what a rich gift it is to be part of God's family in faith.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Little of This, A Little of That . . .

I know St. Patrick's Day is over, but I noticed this morning that the grass is greening up so nicely that today feels like a celebration of “the wearing of the green.”
Speaking of St. Patrick, my friend Megan posted about St. Patrick's Day -- you can read it here. It's a funny thing about corned beef and cabbage -- my friend Jane and her husband made it for one of our church Lenten soup suppers last year, but she wasn't happy with how it turned out; the rest of us thought it was delicious! I like what Megan writes about why St. Patrick deserves our attention, though.


There was an interesting juxtaposition on The Today Show this morning.
One story concerned the new First Family and the emphasis they put on manners for their daughters. Evidently the Obama family works at teaching their girls to be well-mannered. They believe those standards are important, because good manners make life more pleasant and ease social situations as well as family life.
The other story was a brief news clip about the Pope's trip to Africa and his comments about condoms. It was reported that his statements about how condoms make the AIDS problem worse would render the Church even more irrelevant.
I thought his comments about condoms simply pointed toward how the standards of the Church -- abstinence outside of marriage; fidelity within marriage -- might help make the AIDS epidemic less virulent. Those standards are helpful in minimizing the effects of sexually transmitted diseases as well as the transmission of the AIDS virus.
Both of these are worthwhile and helpful goals, so why is one set of standards -- good manners -- to be applauded and adopted, while the other set of standards -- responsible, faithful sexual behavior -- are counted as “irrelevant” and foolish?


BH is excited about grilling out this evening. That means a trip to the store for the season's first charcoal and something for the grill. And that means less cooking in the kitchen for me.
Which reminds me of the commercial I saw yesterday on television. A young couple has discovered a whole meal that can be “steamed” in the microwave in its own bag. There aren't even any pans to clean up, and they can enjoy a “home-cooked” meal!
Whatever happened to actually cooking? It's usually cheaper, more nutritious, good stewardship of resources, and even fun.
I like quick and easy, and if you check out our freezer you'll find a few Lean Cuisine and Bertolli dinners we can make in a pinch.
But it seems as if we lose something when we always go for quick and easy. There is a lot of pleasure to be had in making a meal the old-fashioned way, by starting from scratch and enjoying the textures, smells, and tastes of food. When we are cooking or baking, our kitchens become a welcome-home station for our families, a place of service that speaks our love for them.
It's nice to have the choice, of course; I just don't want to pass up the opportunity to spend more of myself actually cooking instead of just opening up one more plastic-bag supper.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring . . . Cleaning

Another sunny day, although a bit cooler than yesterday. I have a sniffly almost-three year old to keep me company this morning while I take care of a few chores. Somehow the spring sunshine and warmer temperatures make me want to shine up the house.
Is that part of what sent our grandmothers into spring-cleaning mode? I remember my grandmother, whose house was always immaculate, getting excited about spring cleaning. I couldn't understand what there was to clean or why she would want to clean it, and I certainly didn't want to be anywhere close enough to help, although I didn't mind the results!
Not only did she keep her home clean and orderly, she ironed her sheets. This only sounds crazy if you've never slept under ironed sheets -- they're heavenly soft and cozy! Every time I stayed at Grandma's those smooth sheets were a treat.
When I became a wife and mom I struggled with simple home maintenance, much less cleaning, but the good example my mom and grandma set encouraged me to keep trying, and what I soon realized is that cleaning is about much more than cleaning!It's about making a home, a place where my family could be comfortable and healthy.
Slowly I began to acquire the skills I needed to accomplish that goal, and to appreciate what a blessing it is to maintain an orderly, clean home. Not perfectly, not yet -- but certainly better than when I began!
And now, with all this sunshine and warmer weather, I'm doubly inspired to sort out, recycle, and clean!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Now, Spring

What a gorgeous day -- sunny and warm. This is the day we were waiting for every time ice piled up on backyard branches and slickened up the streets.
What is it about a day like this that makes me forget my to-do list and just head outside? Suddenly I'm thinking of things like breakfast at the picnic table, coffee on the swing, long walks in the evening -- the small pleasures of spring and summer.
Our forsythia bush looks as if it is ready to burst into bloom, and the daffodils along the back fence seem to get taller even while I watch. I know the weather report promises cooler temperatures later in the week, but today -- today it's spring!

Lenten Musing . . .

Who is Christ to you?
I've been thinking about that question this Lenten season.
For some of us Christ is irrelevant. We've figured out life, the world and our place in it, and what we've figured out makes sense to us, so why would we need to clutter it up with some kind of deity?
To some of us, Christ is easily dismissed: a myth, the refuge of the superstitious, or perhaps just a pretty story.
To some of us, perhaps, Christ is an idea, an intellectual exercise. We figure there must be a plan or some kind of organization that makes sense of the world we live in, and we like the idea of that plan having his face. Or Christ is a vehicle for music, for art, for good works that make us feel better about ourselves.
For some of us Christ is a convenience, someone we can pray to when we want or need something. Maybe he'll answer our prayer, or not; we just have to figure out how to ask so he'll say yes.
For some of us Christ is a savior, a friend, our Lord. That makes obedience relevant to our lives. George MacDonald talks about the importance of obedience as the only way we can be one with him. The idea of obeying what Christ asks of us is not one we talk about often.
It implies He has a claim of some kind on us, that we owe Him something.
What do you think -- who is Christ to you? Does He have some kind of claim on your life?
Does obedience to Christ matter? And if so, why?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Spring Cleaning, Winter's Return, and Preparing for Fun

It's cold this morning, with the kind of brisk chill that reminds me winter is still a viable alternative to the lovely spring weather we've had the last few days.
All that warm weather put me in the mood to clean. Spring cleaning is a hopeful thing, as in “I hope if I get the house cleaned up, the cobwebs down, and find a place for all the things we don't need or want anymore, the rest of the year will be as fresh and light as these first days of spring seem to be.”
Spring cleaning is a way of preparing our house for all the fun things the rest of the year has to offer -- family dinners and picnics, drop-in company, breakfast at the picnic table, quiet cozy evenings.
It's the idea of preparing a place where all those family activities can happen that entices me to sort and stow, dust and vacuum, wash and mop.
Speaking of preparation, there are other things to prepare for, too. Check out my post on Inspired Bliss for more.
And even though the weather has temporarily turned cold again, don't forget it's time to get ready for spring!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bits and Pieces . . .

Delicate, tiny snowdrops are blooming in the yard, and despite the forecast for colder weather this week, it feels as if spring is actually almost here. We've had our first tornado warnings, too, so it must be official.


I'm not liking this early “spring forward” schedule for daylight savings time. It means early morning's first light comes later, and that makes it feel more like winter. Very early in the spring, birds begin to twitter and chirp and even sing at first light -- if hope is a melody, they are singing it. But with this month-too-early daylight savings time, they are singing later. It makes me feel like a curmudgeonette.


Speaking of birds singing, this morning BH and I were enjoying a quiet breakfast when suddenly we heard a cardinal trilling. We listened as he warmed up and showed off for almost a minute, and I continued to hear him singing throughout the morning. What a blessing!


I just started reading 3 Cups of Tea, the story of Greg Mortenson and the schools he builds in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and already I think I'm in love with this book. The writing is gorgeous, the story compelling, and I know almost everyone else in the world has already read it. It's hard to put down but with everything else going on around here, I'm doing well to get a chapter a day in.


Speaking of everything else, it's been a busy couple of weeks. If you'd like to know some of what's been going on, you can read about it here, here, here, and here. Add in a heavy homework load, a few other real-life obligations, and the usual stresses of modern life, and you'll understand why a. I haven't blogged much lately, and b. I'm tired!


How about you -- what's been going on with you?