Monday, May 26, 2008

The Quality of Mercy

"The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice."

The first line of this passage from Shakespeare's play The Merchant Of Venice came to me in the middle of the night in response to Benny Phillips' sermon yesterday morning on the parable of the unmerciful servant. He recounted the story of the man who owed millions and millions of dollars -- more than he could ever hope to repay -- and plead for mercy from the king, who granted it. But then this man turned around the beat up a guy who owed him a few months wages. I guess I'll just let you read the story for yourselves...

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." Matthew 18:21-35

Benny reminded us that if we have received a transfusion of God's grace, then when we are wounded by others, we should "bleed mercy." In other words, mercy for our sins has not been effectively received into our own lives if we can't show it to others when they sin against us. Who are we to hold a grudge? As Benny mentioned, in Corrie TenBoom’s book Tramp for the Lord (a sequel to her more famous book The Hiding Place), she recalls the time after World War II when she met up with one of her former concentration camp guards at the end of a talk she had given on forgiveness. I have the book, so I thought you might like to read some of the story.

"Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: "A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!" And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course -- how could be remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze. "You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk," he was saying. "I was a guard there." No, he did not remember me. "But since that time," he went on, "I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein,"--again the hand came out--"will you forgive me?"

And I stood there--I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven--and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place--could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? It could not have been many seconds that he stood there--hand held out--but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. For I had to do it--I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. "If you do not forgive men their trespasses," Jesus says, "neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what their physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was a simple and horrible as that. And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion--I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. "Jesus, help me!" I prayed silently. "I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling." And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

"I forgive you, brother!" I cried. "With all my heart!"

For a long moment, we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely, as I did then. But even so, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Romans 5:5, "... because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."


"For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy.
Mercy triumphs over judgment." James 2:13


“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."
Jesus in Matthew 5:7


"But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable,
gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits,
impartial and sincere." James 3:17


"Go and learn what this means,
‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’
For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus in Matthew 9:13


"He has showed you, O man, what is good.

And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

"Good for good is only fair;
Bad for bad soon brings despair;
Bad for good is vile and base;
Good for bad shows forth God’s grace."

(Welsh folk saying)


"Being all fashioned of the self-same dust,
Let us be merciful as well as just."
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in "Tales of a Wayside Inn")

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mommy Brain...

After a week of tummy flu in the house (of which I had the mildest case of six of us, feeling only nauseated) and another night of fitful sleep, "fog" is about the best word to describe my brain yesterday, or really all this past week. Nonetheless, I have kept busy with house projects the past several days -- sorting papers, organizing bookcases, repairing books, cleaning out the pantry cupboards and consolidating containers of baking supplies.

In a family this size, food seems to fly off our shelves. A mom's got to do what a mom's got to do, so off to Super Wal-Mart I went after lunch yesterday. (Thad went to Sam's Club for me in the morning, but I, suffering acute cabin fever, was determined to still get out of the house and go do the main grocery shopping!)

I reckon I did well enough there, but I realized as I drove away that I had forgotten to buy soft cotton training pants for Melody. (I had tried the plastic coated ones, and even written her name on them with permanent marker because she LOVES to see her name in print, but she complained that they were too scratchy and tight. My teenagers still remember wearing that kind and told me to have mercy on her. She didn't mind the Gerber cotton ones with the thick padding, but we had only three pair left over from Ben's training days -- not enough to make it through even a single day of potty training. Indeed, she wet three pair yesterday afternoon, and scored one in the potty. But I digress! Back to my errands...)

I had frozen foods in the car, so I decided to stop off at the house, unload the groceries, and take a quick trip to the local kids' consignment store and Dollar General to see if either had any decent cloth training pants. Joanna came along. I sent her over to the Family Produce Store to pick up some fresh fruits and veggies and went on my quest for undies, to no avail. At least we found cantaloupes for 99 cents (they were $2.50 at Wal-Mart) and cherries for $2.29 a pound ($3.99 at Wal-Mart), as well as some limes, sweet Italian peppers, orange peppers, and more. I love this place, which is owned by a Syrian family.

We decided to swing on over to nearby Target, where we found some pretty pink flowery princessy Gerber undies, and I bought a diet Pepsi to keep myself awake. A few blocks away from home, Joanna spotted a blue wicker rocking chair at someone's curb on East Boulevard. We've gotten some of our best furniture this way (including my very favorite recliner chair that I'm sitting in now), so she asked me to pull over. Then she wanted me to back up so she could get a better look. I heard a crunch. I pulled forward. I saw someone's hub cap behind us and I hoped we hadn't punctured a tire backing over it. The rocker that Joanna had seen turned out to be broken, so we drove home.

We found Lydia in the kitchen starting to prepare a gourmet meal of chicken parmigiana. I took some of the younger kids for a walk to keep them out of the way. Melody hearing a dog, chirped out, "Dogs barf!" No, dogs bark, KIDS barf, I thought, recalling how many of my own sick kids I'd had to clean after up this week.

While Lydia was whipping up her gourmet meal, Andrew decided to use the limes to make limeade to serve with dinner. After using our electric juicer and adding the sugar and water, he took a taste test. Uh oh... Tasted a little salty! Um, I guess that means that when I was cleaning out the pantry cupboard a few days ago, I mistook an unlabeled plastic container of salt -- and added it to the five pound canister of sugar! Oops! Fortunately I was able to scoop off the top few saltiest inches and dump them down the sink. There was still a little salty flavor in the next layer, so I measured out two more cups of it to make an apple sauce cake. We even chopped up some fresh cherries to add a little extra zest to an old recipe. It turned out really well, although the teenagers said I added too much flour which made it crumbly to serve. In my defense, I will say it is because the sugar was still a little too salty and I was trying to counteract it.

All in all, dinner was delicious. The chicken parmigiana was particularly yummy, though I must confess I made Lydia leave the spaghetti sauce off mine. (I've told you before what a picky eater I am. I just don't like the combination of chicken and tomatoes for some odd reason.) Lydia had also concocted a new dish of pasta, Greek vinaigrette salad dressing, and cream cheese. Scrumptious! And my apple/cherry cake was "moresome" (as my old college roommate would say). Don't ask me for the recipe -- I wasn't measuring most of the ingredients! But you do know there was sugar and salt in it, don't you?

After dinner Thad pulled me aside with a little question: "Did you hit a curb today? We're missing a hubcap!"

"Oh, um, uh... You see, it's on East Boulevard!"

You may think of me as a reasonably intelligent human being (at least I hope you do!), and most of the time I can pass for one. But there are these times when Mommy Brain strikes again. Did I even stop to think that the hubcap lying on a street I saw after I heard a crunch might be mine? And what's a little salt in the sugar?

I did it again this morning... Ben was up barfing in the middle of the night and came into our room to say it was all over his bed. (I vaguely remember hearing him and then Thad jumping out of bed, but I managed to roll over and go back to sleep while Thad cleaned it up. He's a champ! Naomi also got sick in the wee hours, but took care of herself. She's a champ, too!) Anyway, this morning, Ben needed a little something mild for breakfast and asked for buttered toast, which I made for him. Several minutes later he came in and asked, "Where's my toast?" Oops! I had absentmindedly served it to Carb Queen Melody, who, accustomed as she is to eating about three breakfasts a day anyway, certainly did not complain. But at least I didn't put his toast in the sugar canister or leave it on East Boulevard!

(P.S. Update on June 5: The tummy flu actually went on for another week and I got a bad case of it. Thad had to buy a new hub cap, because the one I left on East Boulevard was too damaged. On the bright side, Melody has done really well with her potty training! Yeah!)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Holy Wild

Dear friends,

Books find me in odd ways. At times I find one that I hadn't seen in years, one that had been squirreled away on an obscure shelf, but one that I need to read just now, lying in a conspicuous place, obviously put there by 2 year old hands guided by angelic ones. And sometimes new books hunt me down, too. This is the tale of just one, The Holy Wild: Trusting in the Character of God, by Mark Buchanan. It is not exactly new, but new to me at least.

But first, a flashback. Many of you have heard me tell of God's mercy on me in recent years in in calling me to a deeper place of authentic faith in Jesus and a thirst for the Scriptures. You also probably know that he has rekindled in me a treasuring of his divine beauty and how that overflows into our creativity. I wish I could write more on this right now, but you can always go poking around on my web site or this blog if you are interested in that. That is the backdrop for this post, anyway. My reading habits have taken a definite shift in that direction, hence my appreciation for what Gary Thomas writes and what Sara Groves sings. Another recent favorite is One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God by Sam Storms.

But back to The Holy Wild. A few weeks ago I was cyber-sleuthing resources for a friend and came across a church web site on which the pastor mentioned some of his favorite authors. I love this idea! It gives you an idea of the philosophical/theological well a guy is drinking from. Anyway, his list included Canadian pastor Mark Buchanan. I had never heard of him, and I didn't think much of it at the moment, just tucked it away in my mental files. The next day, however, when I was helping my daughter Mary pack up her bedroom prior to her wedding, she handed me a book that she didn't want anymore -- a Christian publisher's sampler of chapters from recent books. In it were two chapters from The Holy Wild. Intrigued, I devoured them with that kind of "aha!" feeling. He was saying what I have been trying to say about my own experiences of the past two years -- but much more articulately! And I thought that maybe I would order that book soon from CBD.

Then a day or so later Mary handed me a promotional gift certificate, to a local spa, that would expire that day. Someone had given it to her, and she hadn't had the chance to use it. I called the place, booked myself for a facial (a rare treat!), and jumped in the van. Afterwards, I decided to take a trip to Long's Christian Bookstore, which was just down the street (in an area of town where I rarely get to go) and find some books my son Andrew wanted for his 11th birthday. I ventured into the clearance room, and there on the shelves were several hardback copies of The Holy Wild (missing only their dust covers) for a mere $3 a piece. Sure I bought one! Just a few days later, Long's sent me a $15 frequent buyer gift card (I usually go to their other outlet location) so I went back and bought four more copies to give away. On Friday, I read a little piece of it to Thad. He liked it, and so Saturday night, he wanted me to read some more, which paved the way for some good husband and wife communication. I'm grateful for that, too. This is when reading gets practical, when it makes a real difference in key relationships. (Little did we know we would both be up in the middle of the night with little Melody, who has the tummy flu still. He is so tender with our little ones when they are sick, and so helpful getting everything cleaned up. Our life is definitely wild during these times!)

But that still doesn't tell you much about the book. Rather than me rattling on, I'm just going to pick some quotes, interspersed with my comments.

"I coined two terms in that book [Your God is Too Safe]. The first one, borderland, describes the condition of stuckness -- a conversion without regeneration, an initial encounter with Jesus that doesn't lead to a life abiding with Jesus. It's an acquaintanceship devoid of intimacy, dependency, obedience. People on borderland have grown comfortable with boredom. They have settled for a God "on call," a God available for crises and fiascos, who does a bit of juggling with weather patterns and parking stalls but who otherwise remains unobstrusive as a chambermaid, tidying things up while you're at brunch, leaving a crisp sash of tissue around the lid of the toilet bowl to let you know all is in order. The problem, obviously, is that this god--so kind, so shy, so tame--has nothing whatsoever to do with the God of the Bible. This god resembles not even remotely that God whose Spirit broods and dances, the God who topples entire empires, sometimes overnight, the God who reveals himself in the Christ who looks big men in the eye and says, "Follow me," and then walks away, not waiting for a reply. The God who calls us off borderland. The other term, the Holy Wild, describes life with the God who is. The Holy Wild is what life, drunk to the lees, lived to the hilt, is like -- the life where we walk with the God who is surprising, dangerous, mysterious, alongside us though we fail to recognize Him, then disappearing the minute we do. It is the terrain where God doesn't always make sense of our sad or bland lives, our calamities and banalities, but who keeps meeting us in the thick and thin of those lives."


And so, too, I have found myself drawn to the Holy Wild in the past couple of years. I hadn't used that term, but that's what it is. God has so many surprising ways of gleefully ambushing me with his presence. My funeral trip to Salt Lake City a few months ago is just one example of this. At the end of my poem Over Utah in January (written in an airplane):

Yet in the valley I see manly habitation
In patterned rows, casual curves beneath the mist
Nestled in yet beckoned to a deep and high communion
Only bold ones venture beyond certain fringes
Strive upward, breathe hard, ascending steep, behold
Some faithful cannot climb but still lift souls to see
To know and long to know
Others seem content merely to stroll in evenness beneath, below
Oblivious to wonder

I am in the sky looking down
Then gazing up in awe at Him
Who gazes down in grace on me below
On me, who sees and longs to know

I never want to be one who is "content merely to stroll in evenness beneath, below, oblivious to wonder." That's boredom in the borderland. I want to be trekking in the Holy Wild, to be "beckoned to a deep and high communion" of seeing God in all his majesty (the one who exults over us with loud singing and dancing!) and then seeing other people as ones who need to be deeply loved with his gracious, tender, compassion. He sends them onto our path, even the unlikely strangers, as we have eyes to see. (This might also be a good time to reread my poem Corpus Christi as well.)

Mark Buchanan is an extremely poetic author, even in his prose. I like that. As you probably guessed, the poetic in me has reawakened along with a renewed faith in the past two years. I have always written poetry, but it has changed in nature, taken on a more lyrical quality in free verse. It is as if my heart is singing from deep inside, with wild abandon, as I did in Rhapsody in M, of the one who "makes merry melodies in me" because of his myriad mercies. He writes (and I excerpt in snatches, with ... in between sections):

"And so it is with God. Our creativity, as least in part, comes from resting in His creativity until it seeps in. It springs from prayer. Not the busy chatty prayer we often do, but the other kind: prayer as emptiness, prayer as silence, prayer as stillness. Prayer as the absence of wanting and asking. Not the clamoring man waking his neighbor, desperate for bread, but the suckled child curled up, satisfied in the mother's arms.... I look at the holographic strangeness of water, the shifting surface, reflecting, revealing, hiding, disclosing. One minute, water will lie still and everything above it--faces, sky, mountain, trees--will imprint on its silvery surface an image as clean as a photograph. The next, the light will shift, a breeze will stir, and everything above and beneath the surface splinters and disappears. Then another shift of light, a dead calm, and the surface melts away to unveil the water's buried secrets... I let these things be, and I simply dwell in their presence... There is nothing mystical about this. This is not a slipping toward pantheism, where every rock bluff or grass tuft brims with divinity. This is simply an act of reverence for the God who makes things, and respect for all that He makes. And then sometimes, God shows up and makes the stones sing. He sidles up alongside, like an artist whose work you are admiring in a museum slipping in just behind your right shoulder and telling you one small, illuminating story about what he was thinking when he made the thing you're looking at. It's not what I bargain for, this moment when God touches and speaks anew the thing He's made. Well, it is, but I've learned that there's no use making demands here. It just happens, or it doesn't. But when it does, it is both wonderful and ordinary, a mystery suspiciously familiar."

And finally, in his chapter A Haven for Fools, on God's wisdom displayed in the "folly" of the cross...

The book of 1 Kings tells of the great wisdom of Solomon and offers one story to illustrate it. Two women come to the king, each claiming to be the mother of the same baby. Solomon says, "I can't tell who's the real mother. Bring me a sword. Cut this child in two, and give half to each woman." One woman cries, "Do it!" The other cries, "No, give the child to her." Solomon knows instantly who the real mother is: the one who would give the child away. That's wisdom, knowing that love would rather see its child alive and whole in someone else's arms than dead and dismembered in his own. The wisdom of God puts a new twist on this. God wanted to see us alive and whole in his His arms, but sin was killing us. Sin was the sword that would sever us. So the King had Himself cut in two instead. It took the Son of Man, the Son of God, dying on a cross to make us whole and to get us back into the Father's arms. With all the wisdom in the world, we never would have figured that out. But when we see it, when we grasp it, we boast in nothing else. We trust in no one else. At the cross God made a way, and you and I can rest there for all eternity."

You can find The Holy Wild: Trusting in the Character of God  at CBD (or hardback). To see the book and read the first chapter, you can click on the title in the previous sentence and click on "excerpt."

I hope you will be as blessed as I was, not only by the book, but also by the God of the Holy Wild!

In his mercy,

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Come Weary Moms!

Dear blog friends,

This is part of the new issue of my Hope Chest Home School News which I sent out this morning. It's a little late for Mother's Day, but oh well, nobody's perfect! Enjoy! If you want to read the whole thing (which adds in a lengthy excerpt from one of my home schooling books) click here: Full edition of Come Weary Moms!


I know many moms struggle with weariness because of the overwhelming response I received when I wrote "My Glorious Dishtowel" last fall. I've been stretched to the max lately. Just think: my oldest daughter got married last week, my youngest daughter is potty training, and there are 8 kids in between who have their own unique needs and challenges! And that's just the start of it. We are not "just moms"! There is so much more going on in our lives! And there is so much more rolling around in my brain and heart and life right now that it often puts me at wit's end. Like many of you, I struggle with keeping my temper. One of the books I'm reading right now is Defuse: A Mom's Survival Guide to More Love, Less Anger by Karol Ladd. I'll review it in the next issue or so. Right now, CBD has it on sale for $2.99, and you can get free shipping on orders over $35 if you order by Friday using this code: 282035BGFQRN. Click on the title above to see it at CBD.

Our last day of home school co-op was last week, and I'm really going to try (again!) to keep my kids on a reasonable schedule this summer. My plan is to keep my five younger ones (ages 2-11) busy with me each morning for a couple of hours doing Bible time, singing, reading aloud, games, and practical projects around the house. They will get free time in the afternoon as they prove that they can handle it. We are also going to try getting to the YMCA at least three times each week, because exercise boosts a mom's energy and keeps kids calmer. I know it is going to be a real stretch for me to keep to a schedule, since I'm a "fly by the seat of my pants" sort of mom. But I've got to do something to curb the chaos! Can you relate? And yes, I will be sure to do some stuff to "take care of mom." And I invite you to join me! Our church, Metro Life, is having a ladies' retreat in June with author Elyse Fitzpatrick. For more information, click here:

On Sunday morning, Thad invited me to go into the Metro's bookstore and pick out something for Mother's Day. To my surprise, I found a new CD there from Sovereign Grace Music that I hadn't known existed. The title immediately grabbed my attention: Come Weary Saints. That would be me right now! We took it home and listened to it, and I know it will be especially encouraging and refreshing to those who are going through seasons of difficulty, disappointment, grief or pain. The blurb on the SGM web site says, "Come Weary Saints is an invitation to redirect your focus to the God whose love has been forever demonstrated at the cross of Calvary. As you listen to these songs, may your faith and joy in the Savior be strengthened for the challenges you face, now or in the future." If you click here Come Weary Saints you can order the CD, listen to song samples, watch a video clip of Bob Kauflin talking about why they made it, and even download a free song, "I Have a Shelter." Highly recommended! It's getting constant play on my MP3, and I've already gone back to buy two more copies to give to friends. (Note about music styles: this is contemporary praise and worship, though a few of the songs are on the mellow side.)

"Come to Me"
by Joanna Knowles

The CD title Come Weary Saints just reminded me of a poem that my 15 year old daughter Joanna wrote a few months back. She has graciously given me permission to share it with all of you.

"Come to Me"
by Joanna Knowles

Deluge of Confusion
What should I do?
Mind whirling with emotions.
Choices. Temptations. Hopes. Fears.
What should I do?!
"I want..."
"What if...""I don't know..."
Where should I turn?
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden
and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
Words quietly admonish, comfort
Deluge of calm Dependence
Unloading every burden, one by one
At the feet of the Shepherd
Yet the Lamb.
My Savior.

This was originally posted on Joanna's blog, which is also full of wonderful pictures, including many from Mary's wedding. You can find it here:

by Jeanne Merrihew Lofgren

My Aunt Nancy sent this newspaper clipping to me several years ago, and it has always been a humorous encouragement. I presume that it was written in the 1950s, and I sure would love to meet the lady who wrote it!

by Jeanne Merrihew Lofgren

“A Mother is a maker, a mender, a moderator, and a teacher.

She makes boxer pants and chocolate pudding, law and sometimes order, castles, threats, promises and rabbit suits. She makes horses’ heads from paper bags, little suits from big ones, new dresses from old ones, sunsuits from kitchen curtains, small balloons from popped ones, stew from nothing whatever. She makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and peace when possible.

A Mother is a maker and a mender.

A Mother mends broken dishes and broken hearts, trouser knees, hurt noses and hurt feelings, trouser knees, torn jackets and torn fingers, and trouser knees. She mends old sheets, old rosebushes, old baby dolls and brand new trouser knees.

A Mother is a maker, a mender and a moderator.

She is a moderator in times of war --- civil war, verbal war, insurrection, minor skirmishes, attacks from the enemy; in times of strife, in times of injustice, in times of temper, in times of hairpulling.

A Mother is a maker, a mender, a moderator and teacher.

She teaches how to button buttons and how to say a prayer. She teaches how to hold a knife and fork, how to hang up clothes so they sometimes stay hung, how to sit still in church. She can teach a love of books and of music --- she can even turn child hearts to God. But almost never can she teach how to close a door without a bang or how to come in without bringing in mud.

A Mother can count. She counts calories and blessings, pennies and children’s heads in the car. But she never counts sheep!

A Mother is immune to surprise --- whether it is a glass of water in her desk drawer, a cat sleeping on fresh sheets in the linen cupboard, worms in trouser pockets, good report cards, bad report cards, split foreheads, split infinitives. Nothing ever really surprises her.

But sometimes a Mother reaches despair. The dryer won’t dry when all the clothes are washed and wet. The baby bites the cat’s tail and is scratched for it. Three-year-old dumps the tinker toys by the front door when you expect the minister to call. The baby screams for attention - soothing medications must be halted while Mother sprints to a relentless doorbell. There stand two neighborhood children to report, “Your baby is crying.” Six-year-old after forty-five minutes cannot spell “what”.

Eight-year-old dashes in to say he forgot, but it is his turn to take cookies to his meeting today. Fingerprints all over the house loomsuddenly vivid. The ragged edge of the rug seems suddenly dreadful. Three-year-old won’t go outside. The cat won’t come in. The gelatin won’t jell. The sun won’t shine. The stew sticks and the pudding boils over while the phone rings on and on and on. And with it and above it and through it all comes, “Mommy, come and see --- Mommy, come and see”, incessently, monotonously, unendingly from three-year-old.

Mother leans chin on broomhandle and mutters, “Next time I’ll raise chickens, Lord. Children are just too much.”

Then ten-year-old crashes in --- rough and ready, all boy --- to confide, “Mommy, at Cub Scout meeting we had to list the five things most precious to us, and I did: One, God; two, love; three, America; four, babies; and five, sunsets.”

Suddenly the baby’s eyes seem very blue, six-year-old recites from memory the entire 23rd Psalm, which is better than spelling “what”, fingerprints retreat again. Daddy walks in. Really life could not be richer. It is a glory never to be bartered.

Dear Lord, keep the chickens. I’ll carry on for now. And thank you --- from the bottom of my heart.”

Doing the Wash: Grandmother’s “Receet”
(Author Unknown)

Laundering instructions from a time when the only “appliance” was a scrub board!

  1. Bild fire in back yard to heet kettle of rain water.

  2. Set tubs so smoke won’t blow in eyes if wind is pert.

  3. Shave one hole cake lie soap in billin water.

  4. Sort things, make three piles. 1 pile white, 1 pile cullord, 1 pile work britches and rags.

  5. Stur flour in cold water to smooth then thin down with billin water.

  6. Rub dirty spots on board, scrub hard, then bile.

  7. Rub cullord but don’t bile -- just rench and starch.

  8. Take white things out of kettle with broom stick handle then rench, blew and starch.

  9. Spred tee towles on grass.

  10. Hang old rags on fence.

  11. Pore rench water in flower bed.

  12. Scrub porch with hot soapy water.

  13. Turn tubs upside down.

  14. Got put on cleen dress, smooth hair with side combs, brew cup of tee. Set and rest a spell and count your blessins.


G.K. Chesterton on Mothers

“To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labours and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.” ~~ G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Graduation days! (Mary's and mine)

It's been 23 years to the day (May 3, 1985) that I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management. Life has sure changed on campus! Enrollment has climbed from 25,000 to 50,000, making UCF the 6th largest university in the country, and there are oodles of beautiful new buildings to accomodate the growth. Life has changed for me, too. After all, I've added 10 students to my home school campus. And one of them, my oldest daughter Mary, followed in my footsteps -- and graduated from UCF yesterday with a degree in journalism!

The festivities actually started on Monday, with Burnett Honors College ceremony. Each Honors College student received a medallion to wear during graduation, as well as a T-shirt.

Does she look happy that it's all over?

Here she is with her fiance, Ryan, whom she will marry next Thursday, thereby attaining her MRS.

Ric Brunson has been a Godsend. He teaches Journalism at UCF and has been one of Mary's favorite professors. He's also a friend of our family at Metro Life Church for several years, and before Mary even enrolled at UCF, he met with Mary and me to discuss the options for journalism there. He also assisted her in applying for the Dow Jones copy editing internship, which paid off since she landed an internship with the Wall Street Journal!

Dr. Collins is another key professor in Mary's education at UCF. She took at least three courses from him along the way. Mary's friend and fellow J-school grad Amanda joins in for the picture.

A favorite spot on campus for graduation day pictures -- IN the reflecting pool!

Here I am with my sweet hubby Thad, whom I met at church just before my senior year at UCF. I guess Thad has changed a bit, too, since that picture at the top of this blog post! I should note that the day after I graduated from UCF, Thad officially asked my Dad if he could have my hand in marriage. And the rest, as they say, is history!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Packing up Mary's Memories...

We've been packing up memories! On Tuesday, I helped Mary box up a bunch of her belongings, as well as put some aside to give away, sell, or even throw away. One of the most poignant boxes is one where she has stashed some of her childhood keepsakes. She just called and said she's on her way home so we can work on it some more. I thought I'd snap pictures of some of this stuff before it leaves my house. Would you like to come along for the ride down Memory Lane?

Jesse Bear (her friend from birth) has been reclaimed from Ben and Melody, and dressed in the outfit Mary wore home from the hospital when she was born....

I also found the quilt that I designed for Mary when she was a baby. It is made from six pastel "rainbow" colors. I cut up index cards into triangle pieces, colored them, and then played around with them until I got them in the arrangement I wanted. Each piece is adjacent to the two colors it is next to on a color wheel (i.e. blue is between green and purple). So soft after all these years!

When Mary was a toddler, Thad and I flew to the island of St. Kitts (in the Caribbean) for a week to see his dad, who was working on an extended engineering job there. We brought back a mobile of little wooden parrots for Mary.

My mom then made a coordinating stained glass parrot for Mary. Our older girls each have a special stained glass made by Grandma.

This is Mary's first book, made from construction paper when she was five. She copied a Bible verse for each letter of the alphabet -- at least she got up to K for Kind. The page below was for Forgiving and the verse is "Love keeps no record of wrong." This project was the very start of the Alpha-Virtues curriculum that I started to write way back then. I made huge progress on it a few years ago, but laid it aside again. This season of life is just too busy to be writing more books.

In third grade, Mary created a charming book called Flying Colors for a Reading Rainbow young illustrator's contest. It was about a pegasus who didn't like the way she looked, so she tried changing her appearance in all sorts of bizarre ways -- painting herself plaid, polka dots, etc.. In the end, she went back to being herself, whereupon the prince whom she had known since kindergarten declared that he loved her just the way she was and asked her to marry him. Well, she hasn't known Ryan since kindergarten, but she's marrying him one week from today!

When she was nine, Mary had three wishes. She wanted a best friend, a Molly doll from American Girls, and a cat (or was it a dog?). She got the first two, but not the third. Katie, whom she met just after her birthday that year, is the maid of honor in her wedding. Molly, who looks so much like Mary did at age nine, is moving along to her new home. And the pet? Well, we never got a cat or a dog (and probably never will!) but we had a few gerbils and hamsters and even a dwarf bunny along the way. Let's just say we're not very good with small animals, and none of them survived long!
When Mary was 16, I asked the readers of my home school e-magazine, The Hope Chest, to send along birthday greetings and blessings. I bound them into a little book -- and she still has it! I hope she reads it again soon on the cusp of embarking on her newest adventures!

Well, that's it for our trip down Memory Lane! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!
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