Friday, December 28, 2007

Bombadil and Smith

Well, I'm going to try explaining what I hinted at in my last post. Essentially, Tom Bombadil struck me just the other day as being rather like a wildly jolly and unpredictable man named Innocent Smith in G. K. Chesterton's book Manalive! Here are some similarities they share:
  • big man, but able to move quickly and nimbly
  • laughs at danger and evil
  • mysterious and enigmatic
  • wears brightly-colored clothes
  • possesses quite a hat
  • would go to the ends of the earth for his wife (to court her again or fetch water lilies)
  • seems to arrive at the right time to help in a way that wasn't expected
If anyone else has read both and would like to add to the comparison or mention contrasts, be my guest! If you haven't, I recommend both books highly. Manalive! really is a fun book, especially worth reading with someone. And I'm in the middle of The Fellowship of the Ring at the moment, which is as always wonderful in more ways than I can say. But I'll save that for another post. :-)

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Chestertonian Christmas Poem

G. K. Chesterton was a great Christian writer who not only influenced the Inklings, but might even be a match for C. S. Lewis's wit and Tolkien's humor. I know I've mentioned him before and I shall again, perhaps very soon. (I have a theory about one of his characters getting into LotR, but I'll save that for later.) I present to you now, for your delight and wonder, a poem he wrote that is fitting for this special night:

The House of Christmas

There fared a mother driven forth

Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.

The crazy stable close at hand,

With shaking timber and shifting sand,

Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand

Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,

And strangers under the sun,

And they lay their heads in a foreign land

Whenever the day is done.

Here we have battle and blazing eyes,

And chance and honor and high surprise,

But our homes are under miraculous skies

Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,

Where the beasts feed and foam;

Only where He was homeless

Are you and I at home;

We have hands that fashion and heads that know,

But our hearts we lost - how long ago!

In a place no chart nor ship can show

Under the sky's dome.

This world is wild as an old wife's tale,

And strange the plain things are,

The earth is enough and the air is enough

For our wonder and our war;

But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings

And our peace is put in impossible things

Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings

Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening

Home shall all men come,

To an older place than Eden

And a taller town than Rome.

To the end of the way of the wandering star,

To the things that cannot be and that are,

To the place where God was homeless

And all men are at home.

For those who read my blog and haven't talked to me recently (or ever) in real life, yes, I did graduate. Hurrah, and thanks be to God! I'll do more regular catching up on my doings soon.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The glory of glorifying the Glorious One

"Though this be madness, yet there is method in't."
~Polonius, from Hamlet~

This is my last week of regular classes. Next week is finals, and finally a week from tomorrow I shall graduate with my English degree. It has been wild, but it's already exciting to get to see small glimpses of the God's mighty plan behind and under and through it all. To Him be all the glory, for my grades, sanity, and so so much more!

I did not finish my NaNoWriMo novel. 15,000 out of 50,000 words was not bad for a first try, I think. I am definitely planning to try again next year. I refuse to be depressed and gloomy about my budding pages. The characters I met are alive and vibrant (to me, anyways), and the place they live is only frozen in time until I can get back there and finish writing their story. I intend to do it, and many more stories besides! Thanks to all who were encouraging me last month. The only reason I keep writing is because of you. And, of course, God. :-)

He's been working on me these last few days.

Monday was a horrid day. I woke up grumpy because I hadn't finished all my homework, so I rushed through an assignment, left a messy room, and was late to my first class. Then I found I had left my book at home and could only pretend to work on an in-class activity. By my next class, I felt ready to burst into tears, so I skipped it, which made me feel guilty on top of everything else.

It was not even any one thing that had me depressed. Maybe my pile of four papers, a creative project, and studying for a test for next week was a huge part of it. Maybe it was the ice on my windshield. Maybe it was the fact that I missed my morning cup of coffee. Anyway, I ended up with a headache, and after supper took a nap, which is usually the most effective medicine for me.

Around midnight I woke up. Headache was gone and replaced with such a comfortable cozy and relaxed feeling that I gave into it and went back to sleep. But I got up around 4:45 a.m., did my Bible reading, journaled, and finally cleaned my room while listening to the MP3 of Raising Dragons. The rest of the day (besides class time) I spent finding addresses, agonizing over proper forms of address, and carefully writing both on my graduation announcements.

After I finished late that night, it was such a satisfying feeling.

And then I watched the Prince Caspian trailer that was just released. :-) Not as thrilling and satisfying as watching the first one, and I might say something about my Puddleglum-ish complaints on it later. There are several weighty ones. But it was a small taste of what still might be a wonderful Narnia film, and I went to bed content.

That morning when I woke up I realized a small part of what God had done. He had used a headache, a messy room, and my act of writing announcements to remind me that I am not Him. I get too upset when I realize I can't do everything perfect, when I should remember that only He has that job covered. Papers too will pass away. Only His Word and people will endure (not that people are immortal on earth, but they will never cease to exist wherever they end up). What a relief to remember that! And it wasn't just remembering factually, in my brain: it was a huge perspective change.

I think doing the announcements was a huge part. I sometimes wonder if I am more encouraged when I send things to other people than they will be to get them. :) In this case it was just a plain announcement. But it made me think about other people, and my smallness, and my joy overflowed with the thought of God's hand.

God is bigger than the boogy man... and bigger than scary papers. All glory be to Him!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving and such

Here's a picture of a few members of two clans having breakfast at our house on Thursday. :-)

We have had a blessed Thanksgiving (and surrounding days)! Every good and perfect gift is indeed from God, and He has been gracious to me and my family in many ways this year. We had our dear friends from New Mexico come down to spend a few nights, and ((except for Sam, who we missed very much but spent time with good friends in Iowa) it was the first time in years that all us kids were together! Emmy, the 7-month-old newest addition, who they are in the process of adopting, was often the life of the party! Huge black eyes, and forever finding string, crumbs, and unidentified objects to put in her mouth.

As always there was tons of food, both the formal meal type from "the meal" and the fun snacking sort. C
offee was quaffed by the potfulls, tea and hot chocolate coming in close behind. We've had an almost constant fire in the hearth, which old fat Bella enjoys as much as the people do. What all did we do with our dear friends besides eat? Well, we talked, played board games, played parlor games, played instruments (see above) and sang, did homework (a few of us desperate ones did it together, and it was actually a bit sociable and productive both!), read quietly, read aloud from our collected novels (finished and un) , watched too many silly videos on YouTube, did dishes, watched The Muppet Show, played in snow, made snow ice cream, watched Amazing Grace, wondered what to do next, and of course spoke in accents. Altogether, it was a regular get-together for our families, if a bit more crowded than usual. But no less quirky and edifying! :-)

The "Winter Weather Advisory" grey on the left, spreading conveniently right where I would drive, is why I shall not return to school until tomorrow, after the storm has moved on and the temperature, sun, and traffic help melt any ice. I've hardly missed any classes this semester, so I shan't feel very guilty about skipping a day.

Meanwhile, I'm quite content to plug away here at homework, which at the moment consists of reading
Little Women for American Literature. :-) Quite different from my normal depressing school fare! I also need to read King Lear, though shall refuse to let it spoil my cheeriness.

Only two more weeks of school, then Finals week, and then in less than a month I shall be a graduated English major, ready to get down to the serious business of writing, homemaking, serving, and seeking the Lord in a new season of life!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Pendragon: Sword of His Father

I love seeing Christians doing things in the arts well. Even more, I grow excited when they do not just go with their talents into the secular realm, but band together to do big, ambitious things well for Christ. A candle is bright, but many candles make a more powerful bonfire.

So I was thrilled to see the trailer of an upcoming film made by very talented and dedicated Christians, called Pendragon: Sword of His Father. A historical retelling of the story of Arthur, it focuses on young Briton named Artos Pendragon, who must bring hope to his people as he leads them against invading Saxons.

I love historical films, especially with plenty of courageous, virtuous men and women, and I'm drawn rather especially to anything remotely medieval (i.e. Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, and such have the right flavor, though they aren't technically set in our own medieval time period). Even watching the times... is exciting! It looks great. Parts look rather low-budget (which it is), but nevertheless I think I could get lost in the story quite easily. :-) I wish I could have been an extra or involved somehow- talk about having too much fun dressing up! ;)

Their website is here, and a large version of the trailer is here (it does take a while to load, so if you'd rather, see the smaller but faster one on the website). My dear penpal, Charity, told me about this Pendragon film earlier, but sadly I didn't get around to looking into it until now. What I was missing!
(Pictures are from the website blog)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Since people have been asking...

Alrighty, the story thus far is posted to my new blog! Though I didn't want to, I decided I must make it fairly private, because (with quite a bit of revising), I just might try to publish the basic plot. If you'd like to read it, tell me your e-mail address and who your are, and if I'm certain you won't run off with all my ideas, I'll send you an invite. Those of you who might read this but don't really know me or think that sounds like too much trouble, don't worry. I'm fond of my own story, of course, but it's a monster of unedited rambling. If you wait for the published version to come out in a few years it will be much nicer. Then you can carry the story on camping trips or or up into trees.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Coming Soon!

Well, I went to sleep last night (rather by accident...;) before quite catching up on words for NaNo. But I'm about there. Thanks for the plea for more, Charity, and thanks to all the Istres last night for supplying me with fabulous names for characters. (Thanks to Mr. Istre, there will probably be a Phineas showing up somewhere!) As soon as I get home tonight and can finish up a scene, I plan to share it with you. :-) You'll be able to find it by going to my profile, and then going to the new blog I created called (tentatively):

~ The Thistlebanes and Elanor Grey ~

I'm so excited! I had an epiphany about the main plot over the last few days, so the string of events I've been coming up with may actually go somewhere now! ;-D

Monday, November 05, 2007

NaNo Begins!

Call me crazy if you like. It's an accurate statement. ;)

On Thursday, November 1, I embarked on the great adventure called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer's Month), the challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. The purpose is quantity quantity quantity, practice, and loads of crazy fun. I'm on day 5, am hooked.

I'm already attached to my main characters, so far including
1. The Thistlebanes, a homeschool family that owns a coffee/book shop
2. Sandra Page, a professor at the community college who lives next door
3. Elanor Grey, a mysterious girl who moves in with Sandra Page and struggles to adjust
4. Another mysterious character (Muhahah! These are always useful, and plan on having plenty!), a man, who is snooping around the Thistlebane shop

Do I have my plot worked out? Ah, no. Ideas? ... maybe. ;-D Yes, I definitly have ideas, but hey, my main characters don't know who the bad guys are either. I'll find out when they do, possibly sooner. Hopefully sooner. :)

I'm not sure I've ever been so amused by or taken such great pleasure in corny lines and nutty similes of my own. I let them out to sit solemnly on the page, in hopes that when enough come out, their shyer relatives, the rare Original Phrases

If anyone would like to see the whole funny bulky thing, I might start another connected blog for that. Let me know. In the meanwhile, here's a few snippets for your amusement.

After the older children left the shop with her husband, Mary Thistlebane bustled about at the pleasant necessities of morning. After her quiet time, this included waking the three youngest boys, tempting them out with news of fresh cinnamon rolls after they did their morning chores.

"Mommy, can we go on a walk today?" asked Henry, who was heartily supported by choruses of, "Yes, Mommy, to the woods!" and "We can take our cimmonin wolls!"

"And your schoolbooks?" She grinned and tickled Henry, producing giggles.

“We can do that stuff later,” decided Jacob.

“No!” Jarred jumped in now. “Mommy, can you read to us while we eat?”

Mary laughed. “I think that sounds like a wonderful plan, Jarred. I tell you what. Why don’t we do a bit of everyone’s plan?”

So after chores, they trooped out to the front of the porch, which was wide and wrapped around the whole house. It was amply supplied with wooden rocking chairs, a swing, and a picnic table, but the three boys thought it would be “funnest” to not use any of this civilized grown-up stuff. They promptly spread out the blanket on the smooth wooden planks, half of it overflowing down the steps to the walkway. Jarred had the idea of pillows. Soon their spread of various quilts and cushions would have rivaled a sheik’s tent in luxury. Then with Henry bearing the bag of schoolbooks (reluctantly), Jacob with a small tray of sloshing milk-filled glasses, Jarred with napkins and pencils, they led their mother out to see their set-up. She was carrying the plate of steaming rolls, of course, crusty and brown.


I think my words flow out most quickly and pleasantly when I'm describing food. ;) Here's another bit, this time a bit more ominous...


Roger was bringing out an extra tray of chicken sandwiches to the front when a strange customer caught his eye. Not that a well-groomed man in a business suit was anything unusual. His starkly black-and-white peppered hair was what mainly drew Roger’s attention. But the first really odd thing was what happened after Beth welcomed him at her register with a cheery, “Hello, sir. What would you like today?”

He didn’t speak for an uncomfortable moment. It was not one of those customer silences of “Goodness, shall I order an Earl Grey in a delightful antique cup and saucer, or a hearty brew of fresh-ground coffee in a splendidly plump earthen mug?” Roger knew, and knew Beth did also, that this was not one of those pauses. The man was looking into Beth’s eyes in a way that made Roger decide to stay up front for a bit to arrange the displayed cups and mugs better.

“I hope you don’t mind my asking,” the man finally said in a decidedly northern accent, as well as in a way that said decidedly he decidedly wanted an answer, “but has school not started yet around here?”

“Which school do you mean, sir? Shadow Ridge college starts today, I believe.”

“Of course. And the public and private schools?

“Most of them started two weeks ago.”

The man nodded. He glanced at Roger, who smiled politely.

“We go to a school that is in session year-round,” Beth provided. “Some might think it’s for misfits, but actually you’d be surprised at the silly number of over-achievers who attend.”

She said this entirely straight-faced. Roger knew their father might not like all this volunteered information given to a nosy stranger, but Beth was in the habit of thinking up such great responses to people’s questions about school that always made Roger want to laugh.

“Does this school not meet today?” the man prodded.

“Sir, it does indeed. We work here to fulfill some business management and economic credits. It also helps pay tuition.” She smiled primly at the man, who smiled back and ordered a coffee and sandwich.

The moment Beth looked down at the register to ring up the order, Roger saw the man frown. It was only a slight squinting around the grey eyes, subtle lines etching a hair deeper into the forehead, and a tightening around the lips. But sophisticated as it was, Roger saw it. It was not the usual confused expression most of the victims of Beth’s humor wore. This man, Roger decided, was not fooled by clever talk.

When he had his coffee and sandwich, he sat at a window table near the corner. He ate with the efficiency of a machine, but slow and deliberate. After every third careful bite of sandwich and slow draw of coffee, he peered out onto the street. The rest of the time his eyes crept about the shop, from table to table to wall to counter to the opposite end where the bookshelves began to blend in with chairs. Roger even saw his eyes rise to the ceiling, though his head barely lifted.

And then his eyes were fixed on Roger.


Dun dun duuuun... ;) I hope you enjoyed these little snippets. Do have a wonderfully blessed day. Now I'm off to write more!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sonnet and Shadow

A fruitful class: We read sonnets in my Shakespeare class last week, so a few nights ago I decided to finally write a sonnet of my own. I've wanted to do this for some time. Sonnets have a pleasant, unstilted rhythm because iambic pentameter is close to the way we naturally speak, which may be why I found mine easier to write than I expected! Still, I'm not quite satisfied with all the lines, so any suggestions or comments would be welcome.

On content: I've been thinking lately about how little we can know about what's inside another person, and the joys and perils that fact presents. This sonnet helped me think through and see things that hadn't occurred to me before.


Does shadow lure because it is unknown,
Not evil-stained for all to see and mark,
Nor is it stamped with virtue, clearly shown,
But holds itself enshrouded, secrets dark?
Can it be right for good to hide its face,
For servant heart to work beneath the floor?
Why can we not draw out to light the base,
Monsters unmask, all foulness to abhor?
Why can we not know deepest depths of heart?
"It would be simple, thus, to judge," we deem.
Yet so fell man, by grasping for that part;
In never was ours first to grant esteem.
For God was wronged, He fully knows my sin,
Yet sees first Christ, my only Good within.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A different sort of publisher

I came across a new publishing company called Marcher Lord Press from a link on Bryan Davis' blog. Their purpose is to publish Christian speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, time travel, ect.), the books that are intriguing and well-written and lie outside the boundaries of normal Christian-bookstore fluff. Well, they don't call it fluff. But it's for those who like to read things other than romantic historical fiction. I'm excited to see what they'll release first! And I'll have to remember this publisher when I finish a certain manuscript...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Theology Thoughts: Two Calls

As some of you know, I've been thinking about theology lately (in between Shakespeare and Benjamin Franklin and depressing World Lit books... or rather, during all these, which gets interesting). I am very out of practice in thinking logically, boldly, and humbly, all at once. So I want to use some blog posts to explain and wrestle with some thoughts and concepts and seeming confusing conundrums. Sometimes I might just post a quote or verse or idea that made me think. Here's something I read today I found interesting...

John Piper on God's General vs. Effectual Call:

"But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24) but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." Notice carefully that Paul preaches Christ to Jews and Gentiles indiscriminately. In that sense all are called. But that is not the sense in which Paul uses the word. He says that out from among those who hear the general call there are those who are "called." And the difference is that those who are called in this narrower sense stop regarding Christ as a stumbling block and as folly. Instead they regard him as the power of God and the wisdom of God. Verse 24: "But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ [becomes] the power of God and the wisdom of God."

The call of God that Paul has in mind is not like the call of a pet: "Here Blackie. Here Blackie. Come on girl." Blackie may or may not come. The call of God is like the call of Jesus to the corpse of Lazarus: "Lazarus, come forth!" The call contains the power to produce what it commands. It is an effectual call. That is why Paul can say in Romans 8:30 that all "those who are called are justified." The certainty of their justification lies in the fact that the faith by which men are justified is produced by the effectual call of God.

From this sermon by John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:

Besides these two types of calling, there are other areas where God does something general and specific. General revelation is what everyone knows about God, as He has revealed Himself through nature. But it is the special revelation of the Bible that reveals Him most truly. There are the general gifts of grace and lovingkindness He sheds abroad to all His creation (rain, sunshine, air, etc.), but there is also a specific lovingkindness for his children that is so much more, which is salvation and all-satisfying joy through Christ. Everyone gets the general. Only a few the specific.

So, how do we know the difference between these general and specific things in Scripture? What are the implications of there being a difference at all?

Hmm. I must get back to my paper Shakespeare paper, but hope to think and write more soon. In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts! :-)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Not-so-everyday News

Because it's so great. :-)
(For more, see the whole series of reports

Monday, September 10, 2007

Authenticity Quotes

Here are some quotes that stuck out to me from a recent
Boundless article:

We long for reality, even fake reality.

One irony in our culture is that, for all of our praise for "spontaneity" and "radical free choice," we are remarkably conformist. In a way, we are conformist in practice (all wearing jeans) while being nonconformist in principles (believing widely contrary ideas about honesty). Yet we should be personally flexible but morally predictable. We should agree on important values and then apply them in wide-ranging, freedom-inspired ways.

Authenticity practices a gracious honesty, and it takes wisdom to know when is the best time to say the fullness of what we think and feel.

Authenticity doesn't mean we never act insincerely. This sounds rather odd, but "pretending" is, at times, essential, inevitable, and ethical. In Faking It, William Ian Miller acknowledges that although insincerity conjures up many negative connotations, "I am not a hypocrite ... for pretending to find interesting what is dull, ... [n]or am I a hypocrite for putting on a somber face at the news of the untimely death of a person I didn't especially care for."
"Let us pretend in order to make the pretense into a reality." ~C. S. Lewis~

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Again doth life speed on apace!

Recently in the life and times of Rael:

  • Returned to Abilene for my last semester as a senior English major
  • Had a tea party on my bedroom floor with one creative mom and four lively kids
  • Began 4 college classes (World Lit, American Lit, Shakespeare, and Lifetime Wellness)
  • Watched LotR (the extended edition, of course, in 1-disk-per-morning/night installments) with S and Mrs. I.
  • Began walking almost every morning on a darkening county road with neighbor ladies.
  • Took a wild sunset ride on a four-wheeler (Mrs. I was driving, thank goodness!)

Whew! And that's just a bit of it. At the moment I'm sitting in the quiet English Department workroom; we student workers are allowed to do our own thing when there's no work to be done. After a while I'll head out to help with AWANA Cubbies.

Tonight is the first club meeting of this school year! How cheering it was last year to greet those shining, chubby (often mischief-inclined) little faces every week! Games are fun, and puppets, and story time, not to mention crafts and the all-important snack time! But to help them learn God's Word is the most priceless responsibility. I pray the words will come back to them later in life, as they do to me even now, so many years after being in AWANA myself.

Though perhaps they'll remember the references better than I. ;)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


In footie pajamas or Sunday best, us kids were often called upon to give recitations when I was little. We lined up on the raised brick in front of the fireplace, singing rousing versions of "The Battle of New Orleans" or "Great Granddad." To the last, we always added the crucial "Hm, musta stuck to him!"

Why did these memories awake? This morning's Bible reading.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."

We memorized a good bit of Psalm 91, and it was often part of the recitals. We spouted it off quickly, as children often do with any memorized words But the lyrical quality of the first glorious sentence stayed with me.

And images quietly engraved themselves.

Fiery arrows raining down.

Huge wings to hide under.

Over my childhood years, these wings grew in my mind. They protected and nurtured like those of Fledge the winged horse, though of course much bigger. Like the golden wings of the great eagle in Rescuers Down Under, though these wings never needed rescuing.

Part of my "grown-up" self is revolted at the idea of comparing God with something birdlike. Birds can be rather nasty, even mean. But perhaps angels had wings before birds even were, so wings may not be essentially bird-ish. And maybe birds are only meant to reflect in some small yet tangible aspect something about their Maker.

He wants me to run and hide under His wings now, as readily as that child on the fireplace brick.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sewing with T&T

Greetings from Lady Rael's seamstress corner!

Today after a wonderful time at the used-book store (everything was 75% off!), lunch, a nap, and reading (Brother Andrew's book Light Force), I set myself to work on costumes. Time is slipping away!

I'm almost to the hemming stage on Whit's, and am having a jolly time on my grandmother's clackity Singer whilst listening to the antics of Agatha Christie's
Partners in Crime. Tommy's just got into a scrape, and I ought to get back to work so Tuppence can get him out of it.

Right ho, old beans, I'm off then! ;-)

(By the by, the gel in the picture is the Lady of Shallot in her tower, I think. I'm certianly glad I'm not doing a huge complicated tapestry, and can look out the window without danger! But her hair is a bit like mine, though it doesn't always fly upward... ;) And her dress is quite loverly!)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Drawing from a lad

This was a gift from one of the three boys in the younger group of kids at the art camp. I was told the figure on the left is him, the larger face in the middle is me, and I think the wonderful lips floating on the right would have made Larry the Cucumber happy.

Little Diego... Didn't he do an amazing job of writing his name perfectly backwards? He was probably about seven years old, and just made my heart want to melt. Always had something to tell me, with the wide eyes of one who craves attention. The two other little boys were cute and hilarious, but I was drawn to Diego. He had a bit of a stutter, so sometimes his narrations dragged on. I loved them.

One day he had a bad case of asthma and couldn't come to art camp. I used to have trouble with asthma too. Again, my heart went out to him.

Sometimes I wonder why God gave me so much experience with brothers (all five of them dear and different). Am I going to end up with a clan of wonderfully wild lads of my own? Or will I be called to mother some young fellow who's own can't. Long ago I thought I might work at an missionary orphanage. I keep forgetting that longing, and it keeps sneaking back. The Middle East, China, and Europe especially seem to whisper.

I tend to either jump at or completely ignore my visions. I must learn patience! I don't know why the Lord seems to keep suggesting this area of ministry, but that's okay. Maybe I'll end up as a missionary's wife. Maybe I'm simply called to support missionaries from afar. Maybe some day He'll show and lead me to do something daring, like Amy Carmichael's mission to Indian girls, or maybe He wants me to open my eyes to the needy here, to the suffering families on my block, in my church.

Where is He calling me? May I never deafen my heart to His whisper, and season radical compassion with godly discernment.

Diego didn't come today, the last morning of art camp. I missed him. The hole his absence left reminds me to lift him to the Father, who knows and loves boys so much more than I.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hobbit thoughts

Having finished The Return of the King last night, I was inspired to write downs some thoughts that struck me especially on this viewing. Here is one, and more may follow later. (Images are from here.)

“Throw it in the fire! What are you waiting for?”

He struggled. He tried. The bravest, best hobbit had come all this way and made so many sacrifices.

Just let it go, Sam pleaded. But he can’t. The Ring has taken hold. No, Sam. The Ring is mine.

At that moment, even as we mourn with Sam for his friend, we know that what flashes in those eyes no longer wants deliverance. It is horrible as Anakin turning to the Dark Side, Obi Wan powerless to stop his friend’s self-destruction. Worse, in Frodo’s case, because he can’t even claim reason and love to be his downfall. It is a gut-like, hungry evil, and has consumed all the goodness that tried so hard to fight.

Does sin really make us this hideously disgusting to the One who loves us most when we are fallen?

And he disappears, even as do all who grasp for control and mastery. Wraiths, ghosts, empty- counterpoints of fellowship. Some never know the bite of loosing their Precious, or the saving hand offering life freely.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Update and Quotes

Quick update on my doings:
  • I'm working at the museum's art camp again, this week and next. Fun fun! The thing kids will say, not to mention make! :-)
  • Several medieval costumes are still under construction, and I haven't even started mine yet! They're so much fun, though. I've done a bit of hemming while watching The Lord of The Rings with my family, in semi-daily segments.
  • Being responsible, when one slips into laziness, is rather frustrating. During summer I'm at my worst habit-wise. As in keeping track of days, and filling out forms on time. :-(
  • For anyone who's wondering (C and Mr. I. ;) My man has yet to come forward and show interest in courtship. Whoever he is, wherever he is... ;) Patience is much needed by me!

“Marriage teaches us that even the most intimate human companionship cannot satisfy the deepest
places of the heart. Our hearts are lonely ‘til they rest in Him.”

~Elisabeth Elliot~

“You can make the clock strike before its hour by putting your hand on it, but it will strike wrong. You can tear the rosebud open before its time, but you will mar its beauty. So we may spoil many a gift of blessing which God is preparing for us, by our own eager haste. He is weaving our lives and has a perfect plan for each. Let us not pull the threads!”

I wish Thy way.
But when in me myself would rise
And long for something otherwise,
Then, Holy One, take sword and spear
And slay.

-Amy Carmichael

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Summer-y: Pipes

My little- rather, my youngest brother (seeing as he’s taller than me now), Whit, got a bagpipe practice chanter for Christmas, and during the school year he’s taken lessons from a teacher at his school. For free. This summer he’s gone a few times to her bagpipe practice group that meets in a church building, and each time the pipers have been eager to work with him and basically give him more free lessons in between their own practice. Perhaps they’re afraid the art is dying out, and they love it too much to ask for money before passing it on.

Well, the other evening I went with Whit to practice to watch and listen and let my Scottish blood tingle. I was quickly interrogated as to whether I played too (no), whether I wanted to (perhaps some day), and at that I was handed a chanter and guided by one big burly man (with a reddish-blond beard), while Whit was interrogated on his practice or lack thereof and worked with through a new song. Our mom had left for a quilter’s meeting across the street, so when we came out I informed her that I now had a borrowed practice chanter and the ability to play the scale! More like honk and puff and screech out the scale, but at least I know where the notes are and how (after a bit of blowing) to make something a bit like a note emerge.

The moral of the story: If you’re around a bagpiper and have some slight wish to play the instrument someday, beware! ;)

Summery-y: Brothers, Tea, Movies, Silliness…

What have I done with brothers? Hmm. Dishes, making fruit salad and zucchini bread, laundry, listening to Adventures in Odyssey, library trips… Whit and I have been having a nice pot of tea every night and watching an episode of The Waltons. We just ran out of Earl Grey, though, to which I am a recent convert thanks to my friend Catie. ;) I’m also trying to finish sewing a lovely grey skirt that should help my wardrobe a lot. Yesterday Isaac and Whit’s friend Daniel came to spend the night, and we watched the first three Star Wars episodes. We were going to watch the last three today, but I think the boys are having more fun on the computers.

Patience, Rael needs to learn. Been wanting to have a Lord of the Rings marathon too, she has. But marathon watching all the time not good it would be! Getting worse are her sentences, so stop now she must. To write later she will try.

Summer-y: Art Camp

For the last two weeks, my mom taught art classes for kids at a nearby museum, and I got to be her paid assistant! That was a blast. The first week we made books, and the second it was imaginary things/creatures (the most fun). It’s heart-wrenching, meeting kids from broken homes, bashing heads with a few difficult-yet-lovable ones, wanting to take home the sweetest little shy ones, and then saying goodbye, hoping to see them next year.

Some of those kids acted like they’d never played with paper and glue before. Some liked to copy the examples, while others went off in wild directions with painful enthusiasm. We had to go from saying, “Don’t use all the pipe cleaners; someone else might need some!” to “I can’t tell you exactly how to do it. Be creative, and use more paint!”

Among other things, they made a multitude of pipe-cleaner princesses, robots made from tin cans, a mermaid playing basketball, a UFO invading a castle while the people were out shopping (one of my favorites), and a wardrobe door that opened into a forest of popsicle-stick trees and a sky of white button-stars on a felt background. And it was a delight to see tables and floor covered with so many feathers, beads, buttons, sequins, googly eyes, pieces of cardstock and tissue paper, pencils, scissors, and web-like strings from the glue gun (operated by myself, with peeling fingers and huge popularity as reward), that one could tell at a glance fun was had by all. Then there was cleaning up on Friday. But t’was more than worth it! In a few weeks I’ll be helping some other teachers with two more weeks of it, but I don’t think it could be quite as enjoyable as doing it with my own dear creative mum. :-)

Summer-y: Books

My summer reading thus far:

(Warning: long post ahead!)

The Silmarillion
– J. R. R. Tolkien

In my records, it looks like my third time to read it, but I it felt more like the fourth... Still wonderful, less confusing each time. You must read bits aloud; Tolkien’s language is poetry. Part of this I read for my Monsters in British Literature class, but of course I had to re-read it all.

Love Your God With All Your Mind – J. P. Moreland

Not extraordinary, but a good reminder that we Christians are indeed called to use our brains for the Lord, and have more reason for seeking understanding and being logical than anyone else!

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë

I can’t believe I never read this before! Brontë lacks Jane Austin’s witty humor and is indeed darker, as I heard before, but the romantic in me was swept up with Jane in her story. Plenty of dark and stormy nights, and brooding mysterious characters, and fires and mean aunts, and the lively not-exactly-pretty heroine whose morals are even stronger than her strong independence. It seemed a bit feministic in spots, at least for the time it was written, which may be its one drawback. Still, I very much enjoyed it.

The Story of Liberty – Charles C. Coffin

This is a reprint of a history book for children from the late 1800s. It chronicles the story of liberty in Europe, starting with the Magna Charta and goes all the way to the Pilgrims. My mom read this to us years ago for homeschool, and I had such vivid memories of its impact that I had to read it myself. This is no dull textbook! It reads like an exciting tale, focusing in on important characters and painting them in striking ways so that we remember them. I want to read this one to my children. Coffin also wrote a sequel mainly about the early days of America, called Sweet Land of Liberty, which I still need to read.

Pilgrim’s Inn – Elizabeth Goudge

I credit my discovery of this gem to Lanier and Gretchen of the Young Ladies Christian Fellowship. After noting some names of their recommended authors, I began to watch at the used bookstore and library. My goodness. I haven’t been this enthralled by characters like this in a long time. Goudge’s writing is a delight, like fresh cold water, and I hated coming to the end because the people were already my own dear friends! As Gretchen pointed out in a recent post, there is a bit of a trend to romanticize nature, which I hadn’t consciously noticed. Maybe because it’s one of my own faults. But it also made me more thoughtful of how we can love people despite their oddities and flaws, and yet want them to get better too. There is so much insight here. Definitely one of my new favorites.

Elizabeth Elliot – Passion and Purity

I read this about five years ago, and was amazed at how different it seemed! Back then, at seventeen, I knew it was a good book, but everything was still vague and theoretical. Maybe because I was more emotional, I was also hungrier for pure theory on how God wanted romance to work. Now having been at college and felt a bit more the rigors and pains of waiting for my man, sometimes thinking I knew who he was, I connected Mrs. Elliot’s own story so much it was almost frightening, and her advice was exactly what I needed.

The Black Caldron – Lloyd Alexander

This was just for fun. I read this first of the Prydain Chronicles a while back, and just now got to this one. Based on Welsh myths, these are just fun books. My favorite characters may be the lovable-Gollum character, Gurgi, or the bard Ffleddurw Fflam, whose harp strings snap when he stretches the truth, and who fights much better than he sings (but of course thinks highly of his barding skills). A bit predictable and not the greatest philosophy, but makes me hungry to learn Welsh and read the original myths.

G. K. Chesterton – Orthodoxy

Chesterton was a Catholic writer from about a hundred years ago, and this delightful little book of his keeps jumping into my thoughts and conversations weeks after I finished it. I read some Father Brown mysteries before, and in our online Thinklings group we went through the hilarious tale of Manalive!, but this book may be up with Mere Christianity on my list. It seemed almost every sentence could be a quote. Chesterton’s exposition on his journey to becoming a Christian is, as he says, not in the general way of apologetics. He doesn’t prove Christianity is true. But he shows in more ways than I can count why it might be, and perhaps even more, why it’s the most appealing. I’m not doing this book or its author justice. Just read it if you haven’t.

Princess Academy – Shannon Hale

My mother dear read this and wanted me to read it. It’s a story about a mountain girl named Miri whose village is prophesied to be the home of the future princess. A school is started to educate the girls for a year before the prince comes to choose his bride. It’s full of twists and surprises and interesting descriptions of a village that exists entirely to mine marble-like stone called linder. And of course teen-aged girls and a mean school teacher. (Are school stories going to be overdone by the time I finish Melod’s story? Grr.) I enjoyed this, but I may have spent too much time not doing other things because I had to find out what would happen. Interesting, but not my favorite.

Law and Liberty – Rousas John Rushdoony (Currently reading)

My dear pen pal gave me this for my birthday, but until now I haven’t been disciplined enough to get very far into it. It’s good stuff, written in the mid-sixties, about how true liberty only comes from laws based on Biblical morality. It’s reminding me of why it’s important that Christians be involved in politics, and even the purpose of law:

“Laws grounded in the Bible do not attempt to save man or to usher in a brave new world, a great society, world peace, a poverty-free world, or any other such ideal. The purpose of Biblical law, and all laws grounded on a Biblical faith, is to punish and restrain evil, and to protect live and property, to provide justice to all people. It is not the purpose of the state and its laws to change or reform men: this is a spiritual matter and a task for religion. Man can be changed only by the grace of God through the ministry of His word. Man cannot be changed by statist legislation; he cannot be legislated into a new character. The evil will or heart of a man can be restrained by law, in that a man can be afraid of the consequences of disobedience.” (Rushdoony, page 3)

The Cross and the Call – Aaron Gruben (Currently reading)

This is an extraordinary epic tale of a young man named Peter who goes on the Crusades, rather in the vein of G.A. Henty, full of good characters, adventure, mystery, history, and the call to Biblical courage and wisdom. I can’t tell you to buy it yet, because it’s a manuscript I’m reading for a friend, but when it is published I think you will never find a more interesting, more researched book written by a vet student! ;)

Summer Summery intro: Hello again!

For all my dear friends who have not seen a letter from me in ages, or have fruitlessly checked my blog and seen neither hide nor hair of me (nor the written equivalent), please accept my apologies. My excuses are of course very good and interesting, as are those of all procrast- ehem, that is, highly-occupied people… Anyways, here is a series of catch-up posts, broken up so we can pretend I’ve faithfully written them over several days instead of in one day’s spurt. ;)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Home again, home again...

Well, here I am, in the little house in the town again, with my mother and four very tall brothers. The youngest two have shot up while I was away, and Isaac turned 15 the day after I came back! But I was already their “little” big sister, so not too much has changed. ;)

I’ve only one more semester of this “there and back again” business. It’s funny, I seem to be making a habit of odd graduations. In homeschool I was in my own class and had my own ceremony (at a sweet little church, surrounded by dear friends and family). And I have no clue what December graduations are like, but I can already tell it will be strange to finish mid-year. Then it’s on to book-writing, hopefully and more adventures unknown!

One of the difficulties in Christian work is this question— “What do you expect to do?” You do not know what you are going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing. Continually revise your attitude towards God and see if it is a going out of everything, trusting in God entirely. It is this attitude that keeps you in perpetual wonder— you do not know what God is going to do next. ~Oswald Chambers~

Perhaps I should carry this quote around with me to read to everyone who’s been asking this difficult question. Not that some plans are unwise. But I mustn’t let impertinent worry spoil this perpetual wonder!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Linguistics letter

A Linguistic Language-Learning Letter

from a Little House in the Country

Greetings, my dear family and friends afar! This semester at the little house out in Abilene with the Istre family has been flying by, and will soon be done! The four kids are as lively, creative, and hilarious as always. Rosie has yet to have her calf, and keeps increasing in rotundity. My head has felt a bit overloaded and stressed as well. Linguistics, for example, is intensely interesting, but there are so many new terms and concepts it sometimes seems like learning another language! As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been challenged to tackle hard things with vigor lately; it turns out writing papers this semester seems more taxing than usual. So, since I must write a paper for my linguistics class, I thought it would be exciting to write it as a blog post for your education and enjoyment! I want you to have a taste of what I’ve been learning, and telling it back is an excellent way to see if I understand it myself.

Lately we’ve studied first language acquisition, which comes about in different stages. My textbook notes five stages, ranging from 1 to 4½ years old. This is where the bulk of language acquisition takes place. Yet according to an article titled “Linguistic Development” by Andrew Matthews, “The period from 5 to 12 is evidently one of linguistic refinement. The language that a child employs is perfectly capable of enabling communication with others. It lacks the subtlety, ambiguity and expressive power of adult speech.” Ambiguity? Yes, sometimes, but one delightful thing about young children is their shocking habit of speaking their mind. But that’s another matter. The point I noticed was that, as young as the Istre kids are, Steele (age 5) is the only one who’s still close to those stages of language acquisition. So I set out for the last few weeks to make note of all the odd things he said and how he said them. Helped by Chelsa, his mom and my secret informant, I recorded quite a few. I shall present them now with explanations and conjectures on the linguistic terms and principles they exemplify, and on how they show Steele’s progress in language acquisition.

Before I get into it, I’d like to explain that my notes mainly have to do with phonology (the study of language sounds) and morphology (the study of word formation). There are actually two other areas linguists usually study in conjunction with these, namely syntax (the study sentence formation) and pragmatics (the use of language in specific contexts). But the first two have been the most interesting to me in class, and for the sake of space I’m only analyzing these areas. But I do hope that bit is at least halfway as interesting to you as it’s been to me!

Phonology - study of the sound of language

One of the first things I noticed when I began to listen carefully was that Steele still leaves out his "r"s. This is terribly cute, for starters. For example, he says not “free” but “fuwee,” not “lobster” but “lobstew.” I don’t know if he’s eaten green eggs or ham before, but he likes most food, so I think he would eat them “hewe” (here) or thewe (there). I know for a fact he likes “gwapes” (grapes). He’s so fun to be “awound.” These words exemplify two things I’ve been learning. They confirm my textbook’s statement that liquid consonants (r and l) are usually acquired rather late, and glide consonants (w and y) are generally used to replace them (Parker 181). Steele has mastered the “l” liquid, but since he hasn’t quite got “r” down he’s putting in “w,” the next-closest consonant sound.

There’s something else about “fuwee” (free). Steel puts in an extra vowel sound in there. This is a kind of assimilation, the changing of a sound to make it more like another sound (which is outlined on a class handout from Contemporary Linguistics: An Introduction. This particular instance of assimilation is called epenthesis, when a vowel is inserted to break up consonant clusters, which can be difficult to say at first. Sometimes children used epenthesis until they’re 7-9 years old (Parker 183).

Another instance of assimilation I noticed was when Steel says “upposed to” instead of “supposed to.” This is deletion (taking out a segment of sound), which may spring from the fact that the preceding word is usually a contraction ending in “s” (“he’s,” “she’s,” “it’s,” rather than “I’m” or “you’re”) and if that’s mostly the context he hears it in, he might not have distinguished yet that the word is “upposed” to start with s. Or perhaps it’s because the emphasis comes so late in the word that only the later part of the word is distinguished. This is all my own guesswork: I haven’t found an explanation of it yet.

There’s one last example of assimilation Steele used that was brought to my attention. I didn’t hear this one in casual conversation, but his dad prompted him to say it in that slyly casual way dads have. Steele has been in love with trucks, tractors, and any of their distant relations for a while. One of these was a machine is an excavator. Now, apparently he’d known about the moving stairs that to him sounded like the name of the machine, so he called both stairs and machine “ecsalator,” switching the “s” and “c” sound from “escalator” in what is called metathesis. (For the record, he doesn’t say “pasketti” for “spaghetti” anymore, but that was the same principle at work, just as his older sister used to say “pecuter” for “computer,” and some in my own family said “mazagine” for “magazine.”

Those are the examples I found where Steele exemplifies some aspects of phonology I’ve been studying. Now on to wonderful morphology!

Morphology - study of word formation

One of Steele’s most-used words in his everyday play relates to his favorite fearsome toys- his “cavemans”. Everyone knows adding s makes words plural, right? Steele does, anyways. But he still has to learn this irregular plural. One class handout shows the progression to using the proper plural on irregulars, and though it doesn’t chart cavemans-to-cavemen, it does show mans-to-men. Unfortunately, the other Istre kids have taken to calling Steele’s little guys “cavemans” also, even though they know the correct form, so it may take lots of gentle correcting from their mom to make the poor “mans” into “men.”

That was a noun. Steele’s also still in the process of learning irregular verb forms. We heard him say, “They hanged onto it.” Oddly enough, if the “hanging” was the executionary sort, this would have been proper, but in the sense Steele was using it (and the sense used more often), the past tense form is not achieved by adding the suffix “-ed.” The same handout just mentioned also shows she progression of proper past tense verbs, some irregular, and the form of “hang” Steele uses correlates with the same stage as “cavemans.” He’s actually quite consistent!

One day recently I was provided with yet another excellent example of Steele-talk, this time because of colored pieces of chocolates. The kids were sorting their allotted M&Ms and making color-coded charts and graphs comparing the amount of each color. Ah, the joyous spontaneity and deliciousness of homeschooling! Then of course they had to choose which to devour first. Steele, being the logical fellow he is, decided, “I’m going to do yellow because that’s the lessest one.” This is an example of using the most common inflectional suffix, this time for a superlative adjective. Yet it stands out because “less” is irregular in its suffixes, unlike fast/fastest, or hard/hardest.

“If he be’s the boss…” Alas, those tricky being verbs! Steele knows one often adds an “s” to make verbs third person singular present tense. But from my class notes I found that learning the auxiliary verbs, the proper forms of “be,” is the final of seven typical segments of morphemes children learn. So Steele’s right on track.

I suppose I have one example of something he said that fits more in syntax. But it’s too good not to share. One day at lunch, he proudly held up an empty grapevine stem saying, “Look, Mommy! There’s none gwapes.” Later while organizing toys, he used two interesting negatives: “The monsters don’t have no noses,” then “Look Mommy, the monsters have none noses.” What a complicated language we have, where even after two variations of negatives he still doesn’t get the form correct! But here I noticed him in the process of acquiring the right form despite its complexities, and what a thrill it gave me to hear him announce, “Mommy, I didn’t want none — any sauce!”

And that wraps up my foray into how Steele is helping me learn and remember concepts and terms from linguistics! This study of language is intensely interesting, but there are so many new terms and concepts I’m still not entirely sure I know what I’m talking about even here. But writing out the terms and examples of them in real life helps. It has amazed me at how logical and systematic the Lord has made our little minds from birth, so that we grow and progress to be able to (hopefully) better communicate as older children and adults. I’ve enjoyed watching this take place this semester with all the Istre kids in their various levels of language development. It may turn out to be more fun than watching Rosie’s calf come out into the green sunlight. Could even that elicit the mirth and amusement provided by “gwapes” and “none noses”?

Works Cited

Matthews, Andrew. "Linguistic Development." 05 June 1996. 24 Apr 2007 .

O’Grady, William, Michael Dobrovolsky, and Mark Aronoff. Contemporary Linguistics: An Introduction. 2nd ed. New York: St. Martin’s, 1993.

Parker, Frank, and Kathryn Riley. Linguistics for Non-linguists. 4th. Boston: Pearson, 2005.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Not quite Paul Bunyun...

How odd, and beautiful to have snow the day before Easter! The only thing is, I wish I was better at splitting wood.

I did a bit of practice this morning, trying to get some for the woodburning stove, but I mainly learned that the effort
  1. warms one up wonderfully,
  2. produces blisters on unpracticed hands,
  3. is much trickier than it looks, and
  4. takes muscles I seem to have neglected.
I felt a bit like Eustace attacking the Sea Serpent, and breaking Caspian's second best sword in the process. Silly, but at least I was doing- er, attempting something hard I generally don't do. ;-) I am glad for strong men! But to be a good helpmeet some day, and a good servant wherever I am, I must practice "girding my arms with strength" like the Proverbs 31 woman. I'll bet most pioneer women knew how to split wood. One never knows what life skills will come in handy some day!

Partial inspiration for this post comes from the challenging "Do Hard Things" articles on the Harris twins' blog, such as this one.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Procrastination Paraphernalia

One way I play around in the middle of writing an important paper is to discover my various titles.

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Her Grace Lady Rael the Lackadaisical of Bumswick by the Hole
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Hehe. Has a rather hobbity sound to it, no? It's almost but not quite so grand is "
Duchess Rael the Incontrovertible of Leg over Wallop."

My homework-avoidance surfing has also led to discovering the newest trailer for Spiderman 3. Here it is, if you care to look. NOTE: I shan't be doing this posting-of-video much, so take comfort! I think it's too easy to get carried away, not to mention that few video clips are so important to me life that they must take the place of quality postings. But oh my, how shall I be able to focus on finals, knowing this is coming out?

(BEWARE- 'Tis quite unsettling, a bit violent, and if you like Spiderman it may produce dreadful impatience.)

Each trailer has been creepier and creepier! Unless this goes the dreaded way of the last X-men and is drowned in too many subplots, it looks to be just as good as the last two. Maybe I should try being more like Puddleglum, though. That way, if it's totally ruined, with no moral depth and a horrid ending, I shan't be let down. Hm...

Thinking such gloomy thoughts shouldn't be this hard!

I must now go back to paper-writing, accompanied by Constant Comment. I shall try to keep visions of the evil Spiderman from swooping through my head. He ought to obey, since I am such, erherm, a peculiarly-titled aristocrat.

Lackidaisical indeed... Do you ever get the feeling these "randomly-generating" programs know a bit too much and are too deliberately accurate in their so-called-randomness?