Monday, December 22, 2008

Scribbled Thoughts by Light of the Tree

My older brother, Sam, is flying in tonight. Little-big brother and mother dear just left for the airport to pick him up. I would have liked to go, but I must stay here and be ready to be another brother's ride from work. But Sam will be here for somewhere around a glorious week, I think, and I'm looking forward to many quiet cups of tea, good conversations, and watching the new Pendragon film with him.

Our Christmas tree lights are LED, blue-white, and very bright. I like them. I also like our live tree, about 5-feet tall not counting it's potted roots.

Earl Grey and Panattoni bread go wonderfully with black-and-white Robin Hood episodes.

This is turning into a thankful post. Why ever not?

Our cat, Bella, was meowing very insistently to be petted, and proceeded to be quite lovey, without a bit of her usual propensity to lovingly bite.

Oh, and books! How could I forget?

There's Dickens, for starters. I just finished Great Expectations yesterday, and though I still liked Bleak House better, any Dickens novel is bound to be brimming with hilarious, lovable, ridiculous, and despicable characters, not to mention such writing and wisdom!

Though tempted to go straight into A Tale of Two Cities next (on Muglin's recommendation), upon studying my bookshelves my eye landed on Five Children and It. I read somewhere recently that Lewis or someone else I admire was fond of its authoress. I love a good children's book, so into its pages I fell. What a treasure! A bit of slight language is all I've seen wrong with it so far. The sparse, naratorial style of children's experiences reminds me much of Lewis, with plenty of common sense tucked into the tale of five siblings and their encounters with the sand fairy. Hilarious, charming!

And whilst my dear mother finished a project, I found it a perfect opportunity to read aloud to us both from Lorna Doone. Now there's a good book! A whole post, or series of posts, ought rightfully to be dedicated to this epitome of the manly virtues. It doesn't take us many pages to grow heartily attached to the refreshing, honest, young English farmer, and I for one want my boys (if I am so blessed with them) to grow up to be very much like John Ridd. But the merits of the story go far beyond even that of its main rough-but-humble character. Adventure, romance, and humor of some sort leaps from every page. We've been eating this one up.

Aside from devouring good stories, I have been so blessed to have brothers come home, and to be able to help cook for them, and fix their coffee (almost regularly) in the mornings, and to be able to drive to the duck pond with Little Big Brother in an attempt to catch "wee beasties" in a jar of water for his observation under the microscope. One a quiet day, I never imagined how much noise scores of lively ducks could make only by thapping the water with their feet!

About time now to get the Next-youngest Brother from work now. Littlest just called, and said the airport is crowded. I'm thankful the Lord of all Mercies is watching over all the travelers this
night.
(Added Later) Because I hate posting without a picture, and I'm woefully inept at keeping batteries in a camera and said camera handy along with necessary card reader and all such accouterments... here's another lovely old painting from my computer files. Isn't it pretty? To tie it into this post, I'll add my long hair to my thankful list. Mine may be just a hair shorter (ha ha, that was painfully lame) and sometimes wavier, but as often as I've been bemoaning it's sameness, I should just be nicer to it and thankful it can grow this long. :-)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Frozen Fingers

This morning I drove out to some friends' house (who have been out of town) to feed their animals, and was greeted by freezing temperature and a cold wind. I hurried to feed the goat, sheep, chickens, chicks, and dog, having to break the ice in their water containers, and hauling water from the house because of the frozen pipes outside. I often long for a farm and critters of my own... but I seem to forget about this side of chores. I felt like whining like a little kid about my stiff and throbbing fingers, they hurt so badly from the cold! My fingers still ache, twelve hours later.

Over the past few years, I've noticed something strange. I love this season, this month of December, but I find myself wishing the day itself would not come. It's always disappointing. Christ is born, yes, for which I rejoice! But the pain remains. The waiting is what tears my heart, and draws me to a glorious hope, fulfilled in part, but still waiting. "Rejoice, rejoice, Immanuel has come to thee, O Israel!" If Christmas is a time of hope, we still wait for something not yet here, and we will keep waiting after the presents are opened and forgotten.

It seems fitting to celebrate our hope in the cold and dying year.

Lately I've felt keenly my failings, my sin, my stubborn refusal to grow and mature. Like the silly guinea, shrieking, running against the chicken wire and the corner of the barn as if it could sqeeze through a hole two inches wide. As if it were a camel desperate to fit through that needle's eye. Foolish and rebellious enough to think everything's against it.

Left to myself, I run the wrong way constantly, going from one wrong extreme to the other, driving myself into desperation and constant worry. Fear drives out hope, hope for the husband and family of my own I long for, hope to have the character of a noble, wise, godly woman, hope to make a difference for eternity in at least one life. Left to myself, I wander off into mindless distractions. Left to myself, I am alone and dying

But now, in the cold darkening nights, remember! In the shock of cold, in the bitter pain of frozen fingers, remember! In the selfishness and grasping around me, which creeps into my heart and leaves only loneliness, remember! Remember that into the humblest of families, in the lowest of places, the God of the universe came down as Man. The Word came in humility to whisper in my ear, "You are not alone."

My Maker knows, and sees. And He did not leave me to freeze into stone forever. The change is started, and the pain only proclaims it. His death rescued me from Hell, His life rescues me even now from my sinful flesh. He left, but will come again. And with that final coming, neither fingers nor heart will ever freeze again.
~
Look up, you whose eyes are fixed on this earth, you who are captivated by the events and changes on the surface of this earth. Look up, you who turned away from heaven to this ground because you had become disillusioned. Look up, you whose eyes are laden with tears, you who mourn the loss all that the earth has snatched away. Look up, you who cannot lift your eyes because you are so laden with guilt.
 
“Look up, your redemption is drawing near.”

Something different than you see daily, something more important, something infinitely greater and more powerful is taking place. Become aware of it, be on your guard, wait a short while longer, wait and something new will overtake you! God will come, Jesus will take possession of you and you will be a redeemed people!

Lift up your heads, you army of the afflicted, the humbled, the discouraged, you defeated army with bowed heads. The battle is not lost, the victory is yours—take courage, be strong! There is no room here for shaking your heads and doubting, because Christ is coming.
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer ~

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saving by Organizing

"Instead of thinking of staying at home as a prison sentence, think of it as another job to help save you money, reduce family stress and add more family comfort."
This quote is from the article The Cost of Clutter, which I came across through the LAF website. I'm still working to be better organized, and this is very motivating. It explains many of the practical ways I count staying at home as a job. An interesting read!

Monday, December 08, 2008

What Am I Up To?


Isn't this a painting by John Everett Millais lovely? I personally love seeing autumn leaves on the ground. I don't get tired of them until, oh, maybe February or March.

For those of you who might be new to my blog (dare I hope I might be attracting new readers, with my pitiful irregularity of postings?), and just 'cause for others, I thought I'd do an update on what I'm doing with my life these days.

I consider my main job to be helping my wonderful mom, artist and homemaker, who is single and teaches Latin at a small Classical Christian school. She's done more than her share of housework raising and teaching me and my five brothers over the years. Now I'm glad to be able to help out with the endless dishes, laundry, cleaning, cooking, errands, and keeping house for her and my three brothers still at home. With two brothers still not driving, I also get to take them to school, work, and church and sports stuff. I have so many hats which I'm still learning to juggle, and sometimes it turns into a humerous mess! But what better practice for being a patient wife and mother of a big family someday! ;)

As to cleaning, I should mention I don't do this nearly as much as I should - mainly enough to keep things in somewhat decent order. So I'm not in too much danger of being like Mrs. Joe (see previous post) just yet, except in attitude, as when I just cleaned the bathroom mirror to find it covered with with water splatters! Tell me, reader, if you have ever cleaned a bathroom mirror or metallic faucet, do you not sigh just a little to see the shine covered with spots?

Once a week I help out with a Bible memorization program for kids at our church, called AWANA, and have enjoyed getting to know my group of third-grade girls this year. After the Christmas break, I'll be helping with a Good News Club, which involves sharing the gospel, Bible stories, missionary stories, and songs at a public school after classes once a week. I'm excited about that!

Aside from reading and writing, I've been doing all sorts of fun and crazy things, like learning how to make a kilt when my bagpiping brother needed one (those things are tricky to make, but so expensive to buy!), sewing tea cozies, making my family cheesecake just because, and helping my youngest brother compose a limerick about Spam for his teacher. :-)

I never know what I'll be called on to do next with such an artistic mother and creative, off-the-path brothers!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Wrong Sort of Clean

I've just started reading Great Expectations (after a disappointing disguised-as-fantasy-but-actually-a-"Christian"-romance book, which I stopped halfway through). This will be the second longish book of Dickens for me to read which is not for a class. I like it already, though it does start out drearily. Poor little Pip. He's an orphan, and his older sister and husband are bringing him up, though she's not the motherly sort at all. She's a good example of what I do not want to be like, either as a housekeeper, sister, or mother. She says some very mean things to poor Pip, but here's a quote I found convicting regarding housekeeping:

"Mrs. Joe was a very clean housekeeper, but had an exquisite art of making her cleanliness more uncomfortable and unacceptable than dirt itself. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and some people do the same by their religion."

~Charles Dickens~
Great Expectations


I must remember that the very purpose of cleaning house is for the comfort and blessing of those around me. Sometimes I forget. And my life lived to God should also be a blessed and joyful thing, as inviting as a welcoming house which, though best kept clean (or godly), must firstly be filled with love.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Jane Austin vs. NaNoWriMo

(my inner debate) "What about that novel over there? Why don't you finish it" "It is...tolerable. But not Austin-ish enough to tempt me."

Oh dear. Today and tomorrow are the last days of November, and thus the last days of NaNoWriMo. I have about 6,000 words to go. It might be pulling teeth to get them.

It was probaly a bad idea last night to start watching the A&E Pride and Predjudice... "Just a litte," said Rael. Ha.

Now, the problem was not that it took much time. After a full day of writing (I cranked out almost 5,000 words yesterday!), it felt like a well-earned treat. I didn't even finish the first disk before I started dozing off and had to hit the bed.

But now that I've already written the turn of the climax in my story, I'm feeling rather unmotivated. Sure, the heroes are surrounded by hordes of evil minions, but we know they'll get out of it. Then it's all happy ending stuff.

At the moment, I'd much rather keep remembering why the long P&P is my favorite, savoring the lines, and chuckling at the humor. A cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows would go along nicely.

But no! Must keep writing! Must must must!!!!!! Lizzy and Co. will still be there when I'm done! Hmm, maybe if I can get out 3-4,000 words starting now, I'll be able to watch more, guilt-free.

I needn't be thrilled to death over my story at the moment to write it, I suppose. Maybe I'll fall into it again as I write, but otherwise, the main thing is to get my words on paper and get my characters out of trouble. And then to get back to Lizzy and Co.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

NaNoWriMo Exerpt

I think I'm going to finish my novel this year! 6 more days! My printed chapters are making quite a pleasingly thick little stack in the blue notebook. :-) Just to attest that I am still writing, I thought I'd share a small sample. My characters are walking in a huge, gloomy, evil forest, almost as horrid as the nagging feeling in my head trying to tell me I won't get 50,000 words by midnight no November 30. Ahhhh!!!! But with such an opportunity to write quick corny songs, how can I not finish? ;-) It's most definitely far too much fun. Muhahaha!


~~~


"We are walking in a strange web of darkness that can only have been made by Ukka the Ma’lae.”

“Ah, well, we know we’re on the right trail, then!” said Melod brightly. Looking around at the gloomy faces, he added, “I think this calls for a song!” No one answered, so he took out one of his smaller whistles, piped a little intro, and began,

“When the woods are dark, and the sky is black

And the shadows sneak behind your back

And the scheming Demon lurks ahead,

We know we’re headed true!


When the sun don’t shine, and the wolves attack,

And the food’s all eaten from each pack,

And we’ve forgot – what is a bed?

Our journey’s nearly through!”


Somehow, this song didn't have quite the cheering affect Melod was looking for...

~~~


I can still invite anyone to read the tale thus far, but to do so I must have your email. And your word that you shan't try to steal my wonderful prose and poems.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Come What May



Thanks to the suggestion of my friend Charity, I watched a grand film last night when I probably ought to have been writing. Of course it wasn't your fault, Charity - but I do tend to snap up distractions rather easily when I should be working on big projects ;) I highly recommend it, especially if you love to see well-done, epistemologically-sound films done by homeschooled Christians. The acting was great, the story compelling, and the issues the characters struggled with vital. It is an excellent pro-life story, and an excellent character-affirming story. Again, I say to you, I highly recommend it. :-)

Watch the film in five streaming segments here.

Visit Advent Film Group's home page here to learn more about the film and watch trailers.

I think it would be grand to get to help directly with one of these sorts of films some day. If nothing else, I can cook, and I hear food is a much-needed necessity in such endeavors. ;)

Monday, November 03, 2008

"NaNo what O?"


"What have you been up to, Rael?"

"Well, I'm doing this thing called NaNoWriMo..." Thus I begin, and is it any wonder I'm met with confused stares?

National Novel Writing Month is an event, a challenge, a crazy and frantic month of scribbling or typing, wherein the participants attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in November.

That's approximately 1,667 words a day, roughly 2 and 1/2 pages (single spaced, 12pt font).


I attempted it last year.

Here's the official site explaining it.

Though this year I don't have a school work load, I do have my family and various responsibilities to think about. As much fun and as useful an excercise as NaNo can be, I'll need to be careful not to put sacrifice more important things on its alter.
But handled carefully, it could be a monkey barrels of fun. Muhahahaha!

Three days in, I am on track so far, wondering if this will be the year of a completed NaNo novel.
If anyone is interested in reading what I've done thus far, I am posting it on a private blog, but can send you an invitation to read it if you promise you won't steal all my clever plot ideas and stunning prose. ;)

This year my story is about a boy who has been a slave nearly all his life, but must set out on a quest to find and rescue his father, who has been turned into a monster. It is very deffinitly fantasy, and I'm sure will at some point contain all the stereotypical and overused elements of that genre. But maybe some original stuff will show its face now and then.

That's rather one of the points of NaNoWriMo. You just focus on writing lots, and once your inner editor stops hyperventilating about all the hokey things you actually let stay on the page, the stage is set for refreshing and surprising things to begin happening.


And if anyone wants to do this with me next year, or jump in now (you'd only need to write about 5000 words today to catch up), let me know, and I'll do all I can to badger- excuse me, that is,
encourage you to join the madness- er, I mean fun. ;-)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pendragon Clips Coming


In between sewing, cooking, cleaning, reading, and plotting out my next NaNoWriMo adventure, I've lately spent a bit too much time haunting certain film websites, particularly those for The Widow's Might and Pendragon; Sword of His Father.

Yesterday I was thrilled to learn that, over the next few weeks, Burns Family Studio will be releasing a few scenes from the film, culminating in a new trailer! They even have a "Countdown to Release" feature (currently at 23 days).

If you feel incline to support this Christian film with a $45 donation, you will receive a special copy of the film in the mail as soon as it's finished!

Until the Pendragon film arrives in our mailbox, I'll look forward to a special movie night, enjoying the benefits of this effort for excellence in Christian storytelling and filmmaking!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Columbus Day! (and Happy Thanksgiving, in Canada)

"In fourteen hundred and ninty-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue"

And in two thousand and eight I have been grinding wheat, making bread, cleaning kitchen, making toast (butter, cinnamon, and sugar, on half a flat bread...Unique, yes. Tasty, yes!) and listening to Doug Phillips speak on How to Think Like a Christian. Whit has been in the kitchen with me, working on math, since he didn't have to go to school (Hurrah!). Very communal. I have my hermitish tendencies, but I actually do like people. Brothers especially. :-)

Vision Forum's
Behemoth has arrived! They have a few free downloads every day, which is where I aquired Doug Phillip's talk. I've also been eyeing several independent films...

Finally, a bit of writerly excitement. My current book, Melod's Song, has been moving along! Last week I finally wrote several scary scenes (frightening to me, because they needed to do so much and were so crucial to the story), and now am mainly filling in the gaps. Then it will be down to re-working the middle bits and editing and polishing, then, out into the wide wide world, to see if it can find a home with a publisher!

Shouldn't be any harder than sailing over an ocean to unknown lands, should it?


That is all I have to say,
So have a Thankful Columbus day!

(EDIT: Thanks to my Daddy, who noticed I at first had Columbus discovering the New World way back in the 1300s! Oops. That is now corrected. At least I got the nintey-two bit right...)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

When Christians Act Like Monsters


"God created us for his glory, He created us twice for His glory, once when we were born physically and once when we were born spiritually, and when we start doing things that are the opposite of glorifying God it's the opposite of what we were created for, what we are in essence. We are something alive trying to be dead again, and that sounds pretty monstrous to me."


~Catie G.~

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bye bye, birdies

(Written this summer)

I have a sad tale to tell. Don't worry, it is not quite a tragedy, and no one dies. Yet, it involved saying farewell to some dear feathered friends and our hopes of our own fresh eggs.

The birds had seemed happy in their newly moved coop and run. They were nearly six months old, the golden age when chickens usually start producing their little treasures for their fond owners to eat. We
were all fond of them, and still thrilled with our counter-cultural experiment that seemed so obviously practical. "Why doesn't everyone have chickens in their backyard?" I kept asking. Though we were still a bit anxious that neighbors not become bothered by our fowl, their quiet clucking was never anything so loud as some dogs' racket.

Our story started one fine morning around 6:15. It was fine, that is, until we were awakened to a horribly croaking squawk from the back yard. First I thought maybe a neighborhood cat had found it's way into the coop and was killing my birds. But on investigation, there seemed nothing wrong with them at all. They took turns making the dreadful noise. I tried talking with them, pleading with them, distracting them with fresh food and water. But in vain.


Then I found an egg.


It was cracked, as the first ones are generally weak-shelled. And I remembered that of course, this is what they do when they begin their egg laying. They have no clue what's going on! Later when they figure out they aren't dying, they just make very loud pleased sounds.
A couple things

I should mention about this neighborhood. It is not wealthy or extravagant, but tidy and neat and well-trimmed, like a middle-aged business woman who likes people to be predictable and respectable. It is not the country, not does it seem to show any signs of encouraging farm-like, country-ish endeavors. The houses are rather close together, too. People there, especially in summer, are most likely
not eagerly getting up at 6 a.m. to listen with pleasure to what sounds like a chicken's dying shrieks.

I can't say I would blame them. I could have enjoyed just a bit more sleep myself.


Well, we could not just let the dear old things croak away until we had an angry mob at the back gate. I could see that happening any minute. We hastily constructed cages out of crates and boxes and put the noisy things in the garage, which thankfully muffled some of the noise. Then it was a somber time in the house, a time of facing the facts.


We decided that, as good an idea as it had been, we had to say farewell to the feathered ladies. For the sake of peace and tranquility.

Then there was the question of what to do with them. No, I was not ready for chicken soup...not quite. Their noise was maddening, but they were my friends. And am not yet a tough enough country girl to learn to wring or slit necks. Thankfully, after a few phone calls, we found them a good home out in the country, with a sweet former homeschooling family, amongst other birds of their own feather.


Besides coming home to an empty, dejected coop, the saddest moment was after Mrs. L and I put the chickens in their new home. She reached into a few nesting boxes and gave me seven lovely eggs to take home. White, brown, and a beautiful blue-green. The colors of eggs I would have bean gathering every day, if it were not for

The Noisiness of Croaking Hens and the Nearness of Cityfolk Houses.

(Could be a book, hu? Or maybe a 50s-style sci-fi film, with creepy music and corny special effects?)

Things gained from the Chicken Experience:

1 - Before starting any such crazy project as backyard chicken raising, one should do extensive research! It would have saved lots of time, supplies, chicken feed, and emotions to have remembered or known how loud they would be. Sounding louder, of course, because they were so near neighboring houses. With some things, I'm sure it works just fine to jump in and learn as you go. But that didn't work for us and chickens.

2
- Even though the Chicken enterprise didn't work the way we hoped, I learned a lot, and hopefully can someday have a chance to try again. Perhaps I might live in the country again. In the meanwhile, I am firmly resolved to keep my hand striving after ways to live frugally, creatively, and to be a homemaker and farm-girl in all the ways I can that don't endanger any chance of friendships with the folks next door or across the alley.

3 - Because of getting in touch with the L. family again, I've since been buying their eggs at an extremely reasonable rate. which is a blessing. At least I do get to enjoy "my" chickens' eggs, even if I can't see their perky selves each day. We've even enjoyed a few guinea eggs now and then, too! I've been encouraged by this opportunity to buy locally, to have such a connection to what I'm feeding my family, not to mention a deepening relationship with a godly Christian farm lady who won't hesitate to step into the chicken coop in heels and a skirt. :)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

After a Summer's Silence

My dear friends, and whoever else might chance upon my blog:

The summer has come and gone, without seeing one new thing posted here. So, to summarize high points of our crazy wonderful lives,

  • finished painting, yard-saleing, and moving!
  • learned to park the suburban in the back, between the car and fence, without fear of wrecking (Hurrah!)
  • led a journaling workshop for girls
  • visited family in Colorado, old friends in New Mexico, and were visited by family in Texas.
  • mother taught two weeks of art camp for kids at a museum, and I got to help!
  • drove across parts of east Texas several times. Every other hill or so, my mother would say it was her favorite part of Texas. She said the same thing while we drove across New Mexico and Colorado, too... ;)
  • watched the 7-and-1/2-hour-long Bleak House mini-series (*cough* twice *cough*) and plunged into the even-better book. Astonished and falling quite in love with Dickens' writing. Such characters he paints, and with such paint!
  • wrote a good bit of my novel
  • drank lots of coffee
  • read lots of books
  • watched too many movies while drinking tea with fellow conspirators, my mom and youngest brother
  • made lunches
  • cleaned (now and then)
  • organized
  • listened to audio dramas and books on tape/CD/MP3
  • ate oranges
  • discovered the most scrumptious chocolate coffee cake recipe
  • sewed cloaks
  • journaled
  • played in rain
  • laughed
  • cried
  • pondered
  • puzzled
  • and even went roller skating, with much fun and bruises
It was busy, varied, and I hope God-honoring. I'll try to come around more often. The fall writing bug has bitten me bad lately. And it's been rainy and cool, perfect writing weather! So beware! The main danger to my writing is finding too much good stuff to read. ;)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Painting

More painting today. We are still not moved into the new house, because there are so many walls and ceilings with cigarette smoke stains, and hideously dark-brown cabinets, and I begin to wonder if there's any point in scrubbing paint off myself when I'm only going to get another coat. ;) We're getting it done, but probably won't be seriously moving stuff over there until school's out.

Things to be thankful for:
  • millions (so it seems to me, their painter) of kitchen cabinets
  • the fresh, clean look of what we've done so far
  • a mother of incredible indefatigable energy, patience, and hope
  • being able to listen to lots of exciting audio books from the library
  • manual labor that, in moments of quiet, provides great opportunity for story-plotting!
  • a tangible metaphor*

*I realized last night, in the midst of a grumpy attitude and desperate slopping-on of paint, that a Christian's sanctification is a little like a house being painted. It seems to take forever, needing several more coats at least, and still there are bad brush strokes and sloppy drips, but we mustn't stop seeking perfection because we can't get there all at once. Persevere! Look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith! And oh the glory when the dingy, dark, and dirty is covered slowly in glorious white! I couldn't keep being quite so grumpy after all those thoughts came rushing in. :-)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Excellence


It can be challenging to set our sights on excellence, particularly when we're hearing that we're already there. One of life's great lessons, which we all must learn, could be expressed in the phrase, "That was nothing. Watch this." Challenge yourself and others to call the normal things normal and save that word excellent for things that really are.

~From a letter quoted in Do Hard Things~


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Misty-Morninged Tuesday

This morning was misty, softened in wet fog that moistened branches, gathering, to fall in a whispering rumor of rain. The air was not cold, just cool enough to be crisp and refreshing.

Now the sun's come out and the mist is vanished. Soon I'll be off on my weekly grocery shopping, but first I must say something about yet another book.

This abundance of good books I've lately been in should make me wary- what if I'm soon to run out? ;) I suppose then I'd just have to work harder at writing my own, and/or begin re-reading old favorites.


Anyway, I just finished reading the
The Little White Horse, and I'm left with a joyous satisfaction. It was lovely, a cozy sort of beautifully written tale, almost a modern-day fairy tale...except it's set in the 1800's, and written before the Chronicles of Narnia, so it's not quite modern, especially not in a bad way. It had bits of mystery and danger, though some might not like the overflowing cozy sweetness of it. Some also might not like the suggestions that lots of children are a blessing, pride and curiosity can be a curse, and one of a woman's high duties is to love and honor her man. I loved it especially for those reasons! It had a few strange parts to it, I admit, and I'm not sure about all the author's theology, but for the most part I highly recommend this one, especially if you like the works of L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, and George MacDonald.

My only other recent news is that yesterday I successfully made two Good Shepherd Pies! As my mother said, it is very hearty, simple food, and doesn't really take special ingredients but it takes either a lot of time or plenty of hands. Because I've never made it before, and because it to so long, I count it a good challenge that I took on, though it gave me sore feet from running about the kitchen so much! ;) But I think I could go faster next time. Everyone ate it, and there was still plenty for left-overs, so I count that meal a definite success!

(I know I must learn to take better pictures, but at least we're getting one here!)

P.S. I was excited to use freshly-ground pastry whole wheat for the crust. Though it could have been flakier, and I'll have to work on it, it was definitely lighter and less tough than crust made with regular whole wheat.

Monday, April 21, 2008

How it should be


And when the Old Parson read the Bible to his people, he did not read it in the sing-song sort of way that the parsons in London had read it, a way that had made one want to go to sleep. He read it as though it were tremendously exciting; dispatches dictated on a battlefield, or a letter written only yesterday and bringing great news. And when he preached, taking as his subject the glorious beauty of the world, and the necessity for praising God for it every moment of the day or else standing convicted of an ingratitude so deep that it was too dreadful even to be spoken of, it was as thrilling as a thunderstorm.

~from The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge~

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Remembering His Benefits


Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

And forget none of His benefits;

~Psalm 103:1,2~


Way back when I was a smallish child of six, I wrote my first journal entry.







Translation: “One day, me, Sam, and Mama went to a wedding.”

It was my first wedding to attend, and I was duly impressed (both with the ceremony and, of course, the cake and punch afterwards!) so I apparently thought it an event deserving of record. This morning I got out that first old journal to read, laugh over, and remember. I might share some especially funny entries later, if anyone would like to see them. :-)

I’ve been thinking – for all my years of journaling (my spelling and handwriting have improved just a little, and perhaps I'm more wordy now), how often have I deliberately written careful letters and thoughts for future generations? Am I actively seeking to record God’s providences in my life? Am I keeping a record of my life story to pass on to my children so they can see that God’s faithfulness? And am I seeking to always remember, myself?

I can look at that first journal entry now and be grateful for so much. Attending that wedding was one of many opportunities my mother took to teach me that marriage is wonderful and serious, a promise before God meant to last a lifetime. I’m sure I wore a dress, and I can be thankful that I was always provided with only modest clothes, no matter how young I was. I was six, and that made me remember that I’d already learned to read and started to write (some might look at my scribbling and phonetically-correct spelling and disagree!), and the “One day” beginning showed my early love of stories.

I’ve been reminded again just how surely thankfulness cures misery, boredom, and plain old grumpiness. Not saying a vague and hurried, “Thanks, God, for everything… now, make everything better, please.” Um, nope. Not that I would know that doesn’t work from experience. *cough*

Of course we can be brief in our prayers, and of course when we don’t know specifics of something, God does. But I think He likes us to be specific when we can. And it’s so good for us! I find this in the (to often procrastinated) joy of writing thank-you notes. To write them, to speak of specific things people have done for me, is to remember my blessings and how special people are to me.

And thanking the Lord, especially recording those blessings, is a great way to glorify and delight in Him.

Here, the shepherd-poet David remembers God’s benefits to him:

Who pardons all your iniquities;
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit;
Who crowns you with lovingkindess and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
~Psalm 103:3-5~

A truly thankful heart is a delight, because it focuses on what we’ve already been given, on remembering, on pondering God’s faithfulness. Even if it’s only through the clumsy scribbles of a child, our Father is glorified. And though we’re only on earth for part the Great Story, even our frail hands can help in the telling.

(Image: Frodo writing in the Red Book, from The Return of the King)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Do Hard Things - book review



This is what we call the Rebelution: throwing off the shackles of lies and low expectations and returning our generation to a true and very exciting understanding of the teen years—not as a vacation from responsibility but as a launching pad for the rest of our lives.

~Alex and Brett Harris, from their new book Do Hard Things~


I pre-ordered several copies of this book, knowing it would be above average. It finally came, and indeed, it’s not your everyday book written by teens. (Um, there aren’t many of those, are there? Let’s say it’s not your everyday book, period.)


In the book, the Harris twins offer an expanded, in-depth look at the rebelutionary concept of doing hard things. They talk about the myth of adolescence and the potential the teen years hold. They detail five kinds of Hard Things. And they show practical ways they can be accomplished. Much of the content is familiar to me since it’s similar to articles on their blog, but it’s great to have a book-length look at Doing Hard Things.


It’s challenging. Maybe especially to those of us already past our teen years who know we could be doing more, striving for bigger and better things, and we don’t even have the excuse of being teenagers anymore. Of course, part of the whole point of the book is that being a teen is no excuse, and that they should and can rebel against low expectations. But the Do Hard Things mindset is something all Christians should have. It’s just incredibly sensible, useful, fulfilling, and possible to do so at an early age.


The stories are probably the most challenging parts of the book, since they are real-life (historical and modern) examples of teens doing real-life hard things from overcoming sickliness, buying and learning to use recording equipment, running political campaigns, beating procrastination (ouch!), designing top-quality survey programs, captaining ships, and more. Alex and Brett also do a consistent, thoughtful job of backing their points with Scripture, making their message all the more powerful.


I’m not quite finished with the book. It’s a good length. The cover design is really cool. It has an intro by Chuck Norris, if that interests anyone. (Half a year ago, I had no clue who this cool guy was who got all the jokes made about him…”You don’t know who Chuck Norris is?!?!?” was usually followed by uninformative silence. Now I know he’s a real person, not some mythical character, and I chiefly think he’s cool because he’s a Christian and admires the Harris twin’s character and message.)


I may put up more quotes from the book later, or talk about some hard things I’m attempting. For now, I recommend buying the book (or here's a cheaper autographed one) and/or reading the blog. These guys have a message that is changing lives because of its grounding in truth. I think God is using it to change mine, and only time and effort will tell where He’ll take me next.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Breaks, Boxes, and Biddies

As I claimed I actually do more with my life than read and order books, it is high time I gave a bit of an account of my doings. Think ye 'tis so? I agree.

The Break
This past week I finally made it back to Abilene to visit my college family, the Istres. That visit itself would be material for a dozen posts if I were being as regular a poster as I still hope to be. For now I'll just say I hung out with rabbits, chickens, cows, kitties, and mice, got caught up on the continuing saga of the Lox and Thingamamjigs (which the kids are writing and illustrating in spiral notebooks), eagerly studied Chelsa's homemaking notebook and showed her mine, and did so many fun things with the dear family it is hard to remember them all. Perhaps the quiet, unremarkable times just being with them were the most precious.

(From top left, going clockwise) Here Sierra, Steel, Samantha, and Sterling work on one of many Lox and Thingamajig books.

One of my favorite days, though, was Thursday, after the main chores and school had been done. We all went down to the (not so) Clear fork of the Brazos River, which runs along the back of their land. Sometimes the kids' daily exercise is a walk down the road, but this was much more exciting for me. I didn't plan on getting in, yet before I knew it, I was almost up to my knees helping them move a log to make a bridge. The log turned out too short, but once I was in I realized it had been far too long since I'd waded in a river. The day was perfect and sunny, the rushing water cold around my toes in their blue foam shoes, and I felt like a kid on an adventure. After going upriver a ways, most of us sat on the grassy bank to dry, while I began to read aloud from The Hobbit. Such a delightful morning. Not even spots of murky water (and thoughts of leeches) or a wet skirt could dampen it. ;)

The Boxes
As I said, last week's visit could fill many more blog posts. So for now I'll move on to what else has been happening in my family since my return. We have been doing precisely that: moving!


I knew we were moving to another house fairly soon, perhaps around May or so, but I came home to a very frumpled house that was fairly on its way to being dismantled already!

Oh.


The Lord has shown me that I'm not quite so selfless and composed and patient as I like to believe. Why can't we do things this way, or put this here, or do it in this order? This house doesn't even have __________ (f
ill in anything not normally in a smallish, oldish, oddish sort of house). What a horrible color on the inside of those cabinets! Not to mention all the other things I'd rather be (and/or feel I ought to be) doing.

But what a grand opportunity to practice patience, thankfulness, and cheerfulness in following the Lord where He takes us! May it not be wasted.


Above: So, I didn't get a photo, but this afternoon I was over at the new(to us) house cleaning. It was actually pretty fun, though it would have been more fun if I'd worn an apron. ;)

The Biddies
Finally, my most exciting news. I have new pets, wonderful creatures I brought home from the Istre farm. Four beautiful, chirpy young chickens. Don't laugh... well, alright, I give you permission if you must. Nevertheless, I am serious about raising these quirky birds. Do I know what I'm getting myself into? Not entirely. But I'm fairly certain these pets will be more exciting and productive than any old cat, dog, or hamster.

Left: Whit working on the chicken coop, while the friendly Rhode Island Red and the shyer Barred Rock check out his progress

If anyone has ideas for good chicken names, I'd welcome them. They're all hens. I'm thinking something classic and respectable for the lovely young ladies, yet not too frilly for everyday use. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy is the closest I've come, but that doesn't quite fit, somehow... ;)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Upcoming: Do Hard Things

Do you like challenging books? Like ordering things online? See my new sidebar banner?

This to let you all know about the revelutionary, eherm, Rebelutionary book coming out soon that specifially encourages and challenges teens to rebel against low expectations by doing hard things. I'm not a teenager anymore, technically, but have been very challenged by the Harris twins' message. I actually ordered the book from Barnes and Noble, since I had a gift card to use, but pre-ordering from Amazon will do loads to drive up the publicity. People need to know about this book. So, think about buying it.

(More about my life later. I am doing more than reading and ordering books. ;)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Auralia's Colors

Auralia's Colors, by Jeffrey Overstreet

I don’t often impulsively buy books, but this was one. The cover looked so cool, I had to pick it up and feel it. And the back had a review by Kathy Tyers, author of the Firebird series. AND then I saw the author had written some stuff for Christianity Today

Ah ha, I thought! A fantasy book written by a Christian! Could it be good, or more than good?

The plot sounded promising. After reading a chapter or so in the store, I was hooked. I still had money on a gift card, so I got it, almost as excited to be supporting a Christian fantasy writer as to have a new exciting story to read. But of course, the story’s the main thing. ;-)

This tale Overstreet weaves is enchanting. Not only is it an interesting and unpredictable plot, with unpredictable and charming characters, but his language sneaks up on one with stunning bits of poetry. And there are deeper truths shimmering on the edges, mysterious and creative, but as sure as the coming sunrise.

It has been a long, long time since I have finished a book that left me with such a swirling sea of emotions inside.

It was deeply , and sad, and horribly haunting.

So many things happened toward the end, loose threads nearly forgotten woven back in with great weight and purpose. Such beautiful loss, and fragile hope. It will take me a while to soak in the ending. What does one do with one’s self after finishing such a moving story? I already want to re-read certain echoing passages that clearly whisper truth.

Be forwarned. It ends well, but there are other threats looming, and the sequel doesn't come out until September.

(Disclaimer/Warning: It is quite violent and gruesome in spots, and a few made-up words used in name-calling. And there are certain sorts of sin hinted at a little more than I prefer. ;( So this is definitely not a children’s book. I suppose it’s a little worse than That Hideous Strength, though mostly the same sort of nastiness. Nothing bad claiming to be good.)

Edit: Thanks to one poster's comment, I found and changed my spelling error. My apologies to Mr. Jeffrey (not Jeffery) Overstreet.

A tiny exquisite exerpt

The forest went on dreaming while Auralia folded her thoughts and set them aside for the night. She sat on the cliff edge, swinging her feet into space as if she might find a foothold and walk away on the air.

~Auralia's Colors, by Jeffery Overstreet~

Review of this book to follow as soon as I finish reading it. Be excited; I am! ;)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Laundry: fighting a long defeat?

Today I fought the laundry beast, and for today I think I've nearly won! For today. Of course it shall rise again, in all its filth, wrinkles, and smelliness. But this, and other things, such as the ever-returning dirty dish, must be met with relentless courage down the years, knowing still they will come back.

This makes me think of what the elven lady Galadriel said about Celeborn her husband:


'He has dwelt in the West since the days of dawn, and I have dwelt with him years uncounted; for ere the fall of Nargothrond or Gondolin I passed over the mountains, and together through ages of the world we have fought the long defeat.'

The long defeat. They were fighting and resisting evil for thousands of years, knowing they could not defeat it wholy, and yet they counted it not done in vain.


I suppose their sacrifice makes a few loads of laundry seem rather small.

"Pleasures forever!"


Thou wild make known to me the path of life;
In Thy presence is fullness of joy
;
In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.
~Psalm 16:11~

This was the verse I copied down in my journal from my reading this morning. God's promises to his children are so amazing that often I'm too preoccupied to slow down and ponder them in all their weight. Too rarely do I seek His wisdom, His presence, His right hand! Yet His goodness and mercy keep following, following...

On top of the overwhelming promises, this verse is also lovely poetry! I highly recommend reading the Psalms out loud, since they were mostly songs in the first place. I don't do it enough, but speaking the words slowly and expressively sometimes helps me notice more things.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Elf "Magic" in Lothlorien

'If there's any magic about, it's right down deep, where I can't lay my hands on it, in a manner of speaking.'

'You can see and feel it everywhere,' said Frodo.


'Well,' said Sam, 'You can't see nobody working it. No fireworks like poor Gandalf used to show.'


~

'I fancy now that she could do some wonderful things, if she had a mind. I'd dearly love to see some Elf-magic, Mr. Frodo!'

'I wouldn't,' said Frodo. 'I am content. And I don't miss Gandalf's fireworks, but his bushy eyebrows, and his quick temper, and his voice.'


'You're right,' said Sam. 'And don't think I'm finding fault. I've often wanted to see a bit of magic like what it tells of in old tales, but I've never heard of a better land than this. It's like being at home and on a holiday at the same time, if you understand me.'


~ ~ ~


'And you?' she said, turning to Sam. 'For this is what your folk would call magic, I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem to use the same word of the deceits of the Enemy. '







~Colored-pencil drawing by J.R. R. Tolkein, black-and-white pencil drawing by Rael Henson~

Monday, January 14, 2008

Piper on Romans

While cleaning, cooking, and puttering, I've been listening to John Piper's sermon series on Romans. It's been amazing, because the gospel of God's grace is amazing! After listening to seven sermons, he's only covered 15 verses, so it's going to take me a while to get through them all. But I love going slow through the Bible, being able to savor and ponder and study powerful little words and phrases, and thus better understanding the whole chapter, book, and unified Scripture.

Piper revels and delights in God's glory and grace with a passion that shakes my soul. He's also one of the most wise and thoughtful men I've heard preach. And what he says is sometimes uncomfortably convicting. Oh that I can better come to know and love my Lord with that sort of rock-firm fervor, and that I will have a greater desire to share His grace with others!

~~~

When you hear good news about how to escape from a common misery, you become a debtor to tell the good news to others so they can escape the misery too. You owe it to them. Why? Because if you withhold the good news of grace from others, as if you were qualified for it, and they were not, then you show that you have never known grace. The grace of God which calls us (verse 6) out of our darkness and bestows eternal covenant-love on us (verse 7) creates what it commands. We don't qualify for it beforehand.

Grace is precious beyond words. It is our only hope as sinners. We don't deserve it from God. And no one can deserve it from us. When it comes to us freely, we are debtors to give freely.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Monday, January 07, 2008

A Morning-in-the-Life of Rael

The following is a summary account of my day thus far. If it gives anyone ideas or encouragement, fabulous! But I expect its main purpose shall be informative, both to a few sweet ladies (Charity and Chelsa, who commented encouragingly on my last post), and to myself, in case I get frustrated later and need some encouragement. It sometimes helps to remember what one has done already by God's unending grace!

5:45-ish
For breakfast I made Mommy and Whit an omelet, which they split. I fluffed up the egg whites by hand with a whisk, and was surprised at how lovely and poofy they stayed! I do need practice folding the things in half neatly. I filled it with cheese and already-cooked bacon. There was also toast. For myself I ended up with a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich since I'd already put the whisk and bowl in the dishwasher... "Keep your station clean!" is indeed good advice, but sometimes it might be good to consider more use of the same dish before loading it.

6:15
Quiet time reading Bible and prayer journaling.

7:15
I planned to start off writing here, but found that after an hour of sitting I was restless. So I got up and puttered for about 15 minutes, opening blinds, feeding the cat, etc. My fidgets did get out, some, and then I sat down to write.

7:30
Wrote more of Nibbles' story. Didn't quite finish, but I'm practically at the climax! I had to go slow for a part to think up some rhymes. Took a small break or two somewhere in here.

10:00
Felt written out. Took a 15 minute break.

10:15
Cleaned both bathrooms. I have a list of big chores that ought to be done at least once a week, and this was the one I chose for today (because I'm not so fond of it, but expected to have lots of enegry today). I left an hour for this one, but finished by 10:50.

10:50
For this next chunk of time I wrote ambiguously, "Make lunch, eat, clean kitchen, check and answer e-mails, etc." I decided to check e-mails (and my blog for fresh comments) first. Answered one, which took a while because I love talking to the family. ;) After a few minutes too long reading a blog, I got up to investigate the kitchen for lunch ideas. I was expecting my mom home about 12:30, and wasn't sure what she'd like. We had some yummy soup in the fridge, which is quick to heat up, so after some deliberation decided to not cook anything fresh except maybe a desert. So I set about making a lemon-rosemary crumb cake. The picture looked so delicate and savory! It took longer than I expected, but came out wonderful, if rather subtly timid on flavor. While it was cooking I made a fruit salad. Yummy! I love it when I make myself take time to fix food, which has been far too rare in the past.

2:00 p.m.
Ate fruit salad and crumb cake. :-) By this time I knew I was not on schedule, having planned to be done with lunch and writing this post at 1 p.m. But that's alright.

I'm going to work at the MCA concession stand from about 3:30-5. Parents with kids in basketball have to fulfill a certain number of volunteer hours, or let older children fulfill them. :-) I might run by the library before coming home.

Stay tuned for more of my home-ish doings later! May the Lord recieve all the glory for anything good I do. He is more than able!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Thoughts on Coming Home


As I mentioned before in teeny tiny letters, I have officially graduated from college with a B.A. in English. Yay! :-)

How does it feel? Well, I'm thrilled! Ecstatic. Thankfully relieved. And terribly nervous, in a mostly good sort of way.

Ever since I was little I have wanted to follow in my dear mother's footsteps and be a homemaker. Over the years this desire has grown. Many of the decisions I have made, and hopefully many more to follow, have been practical ways of preparing for my future calling. Choosing English as a major, which is a useful area of study for anyone, any time or position in life, and not simply a degree only justified by a following career. Attending a university only 2 and 1/2 hours away from home, so I could visit frequently. Living with a close-knit, God-centered homeschooling family for my last three semesters who gave me unending encouragement, ideas, delight, and vision. Only taking small part-time summer jobs to leave room for time with family, at home or abroad. And finally, despite many confident assertions from professors that I was "graduate school material," returning home to live with and serve my mother and brothers.

I think it will be the best way to prepare for what I'll likely be doing the rest of my life once I get married (being a helpmeet and mother), but even if that never happens, I believe it will be the most sensible and fulfilling and God-honoring place for me to be.

It's going to be an adventure quite unlike my last big quest for a college diploma. Actually, it might be very similar to my old days of homeschooling! Here are some similarities:
  1. I'll be home a lot, working on self-motivation for lifelong learning.
  2. I'll have lots of chances to waste time, or redeem it amazingly.
  3. I'll be able to spend more time with my family and friends, to more freely serve the Church and the needy.
A big difference between now and my "official" homeschool days: I am done with Saxon Math! Um, that is until I have my own kids... hopefully they can get assistance from their father or a math-minded uncle. ;)

Another difference will be the new responsibilities I want to take on seriously (cooking), new habits to form (regular hours of writing each day*), and the challenge of sticking to my own schedule while still being flexible to allow for the bending wind-breath of the Still Small Voice. . .


Tomorrow will be the first day my family goes back to school, and my first official day of not being in school or working. Oh, wait, I shall be working! My job will begin around 5:15, because three days a week, Whit has basketball practice at 6:30 A.M.! I shall try to feed him, but he knows it won't be wise to eat much before a tough workout. Then I have the rest of my day divided up... I might post tomorrow on what my plan's specifics, and how things turn out. :-)

If anyone has advice, thoughts, or words of wisdom, I would more than welcome it!

*Because of course I still intend to write books. Long ones, and many, muhahahah! ;-)