Friday, July 21, 2017

Every Perfect Gift


I have a sensitivity to annoying sounds, so I thought it was going to be painful for me when the kids practiced their piano. Nevertheless, Dwayne and I wanted to give the girls the gift of music, so we started providing them with lessons. To my surprise, the kids' practice is one of the most soul-soothing sounds in my life now. Like birds singing from the trees around our house, or the laughter from upstairs where the girls are playing with their dolls, the sound of our piano serves are a reminder of what is good, true, and beautiful in my life, in all of life! The playing makes me to stop whatever I am doing, even if only for a moment, and acknowledge the Giver of every perfect gift.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

"We Have Eternity."



I will often pray while I exercise. The two really go together for me so naturally.

In one case, I am pursuing spiritual goals. In the other case, my goals are physical.

But prayer and exercise, similarly, both take faith and action, then more action and more faith...

So naturally, while lunging with kettlebells, I was talking to God about my dreams today.

I want to accomplish so many true, beautiful, and good things with my life.

All these things are the things God Himself has called me to do, so in faith, I take action, and I expect to be able to do them.

But time keeps passing.

"We have to hurry." I told God. "There isn't much time!"

I felt very mortal there for a moment. One tends to feel their mortality when they are exercising with kettlebells.

At my remark, I heard the Spirit of God offer a sharp rebuke to my spirit,

"We have eternity," God said.

The words totally wrecked the way I was thinking at that moment.

I could almost see my error as a castle in my mind being torn down.

But then, before the same words had even finished entering my mind, and devastating my thinking, they had also, almost at once, filled me with the most complete courage for all the work that God has called me to do.

God can do that.  He can tear me down and build me up almost at the exact same time.

His work in my spirit is similar to what weight-lifting does for my body.

Lunges with kettlebells in hands really tear up my legs. But even as they tear, the muscles just come back stronger, more perfect.

God's Spirit works just like that in my soul.

The words, "We have eternity," served to rebuke and encourage me all at once.

I may get it all done before I die. Or I may not.

It doesn't really matter.

I have forever with God to enjoy perfecting the works He has given me to do.

My life is, was, and will be, simply,

the forever with God that has already started for me.



Saturday, July 8, 2017

Hydrangeas


I have been enjoying seeing what all comes up in my new yard this spring and summer. I consider every single blossom a gift, since I didn't plant them, but nevertheless, here they are!

The previous owners planted hydrangea bushes along our front walk.  The bushes are almost as tall as me! (Perhaps they have actually been neglected and need to be tended.) But being so high allows me to see the blossoms from inside the house through the windows and I consider that an advantage.  The flowers on the bushes turned from bright white to a delicate violet that subtly grows more saturated with color by the day.

I indulged myself and cut the largest of all the blossoms off and brought it inside to my kitchen table. I didn't know how well it would keep, but I've had it there for a few days now, and it is still fresh and beautiful. Tiny bluish blossoms drop onto the table from the underside of the flower throughout the day, but since I wipe my table free of crumbs once or twice a day as it is, because of my kids, this is no real inconvenience.

Hydrangeas have been a favorite of mine since my teenage years when I saw them in my friend's bridal magazines.  So when I got married, I ordered them to go in my assorted wedding bouquet.  Back then, I lived in the south and hydrangeas are not common down there, so it was a mystery to me how these flowers even grew! But they are everywhere in New England and it is a joy to have full grown bushes of my own now!  

Friday, May 26, 2017

Piano Lessons



Our kids are taking piano lessons once a week and practicing everyday.  The teacher actually comes right to our house.

I am not actually taking lessons myself, but I watch the lessons and I practice everyday and I have the ability to ask our teacher some of my questions, which is nice.

We always thought it would be annoying to hear our kids learning piano, because it was always irritating to us when we visited a place with a piano and we heard them banging on the keys before.  But it isn't like that when the kids are practicing everyday at home.  My husband and I have both been surprised that we don't feel annoyed at all by the sounds of their playing.  It is actually really pleasant and soothing to hear them practicing. Perhaps this is because their playing is more ordered now, since they are practicing scales or working on specific skills or songs.

And playing for myself at the beginning, the end, or even when I sit for a few minutes in the middle of a busy day, is such a blessing. It refreshes me and I find I can get up from the piano relaxed or even more energized for tasks.

We prayed for more music in our lives and God is being faithful to answer that prayer.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Watercolor Lessons


My oldest daughter is gifted in art and enjoys it so much. I have prayed that I will be able to find ways and means of fostering her God-given talent and interest.  

We recently moved and I made a new friend here and she mentioned that she's got an art degree and gives lessons, and I was like, "Really?!" She usually teaches groups, but we couldn't go to any of the times or places where she already teaches. So I was brave and I asked her how much it would cost to have her come to our home and give us private lessons, three lessons and specifically on water color, because I didn't think I could commit to more time or money than that.  I found that the price was right, so I made the deal and I purchased all the supplies we would need to dive right in and make the most of the few short weeks studying with a master. I know so much of learning anything is just doing it. So we are trying to paint everyday for the next few weeks. 

We don't ever take an extensive break from schoolwork for summer like many people do, but we do stop a lot of school work we do during the fall/ winter/ spring and we try to add special stuff like this. So my daughter has agreed to paint at least one picture every single day as part of her "schoolwork" for the next few weeks. 

She's got a hard life. 

I sit through her lessons with her and try to paint something, too. This way, it is something I can be more fit to help her with throughout the week, and something we can do together. (We didn't have the easiest school year, so it's been a time to feed our spirits and connect over something she really enjoys.) 

I can't paint with watercolors everyday like my oldest does, but I have been able to paint three pictures so far.  Her little sisters are also painting with watercolor everyday, too, but they don't sit in on the formal lessons. I did not think it would be wise to have them there, since they are so young still. I wanted my oldest to get as much of the teacher's attention as possible, so she could make as much progress as possible. And I knew I could paint with the little ones on my own time, and even teach them some of what I learn, etc.  

God willing, this might lead to more lessons in the future.  I know there is a world of other mediums out there: acrylic, oils, pastels...  But, I am grateful that my daughter has this opportunity to focus on watercolor and move towards mastery in that.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Psalm 19 Recitation

I made it a goal to memorize twelve Psalms this year.

I finally learned Psalm 19. It took a few months longer than I expected.  Here is the recitation.



Now I will begin working on the next Psalm on the list.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Book Discussion


Last night I hosted a book discussion on The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis and invited the ladies in my Classical Conversations group.  Four people came and it was a rich discussion that went on twice as long as the three hours planned for it.  This book is only three chapters, but it's dense reading! Lewis uses a multitude of examples and vocabulary that are unfamiliar to modern, American society.  None of us came to the discussion as an expert. But one of the ladies studied Philosophy in college, so that was helpful. Also, all of us came to the discussion with respect for objective moral law, or the Tao, as Lewis put it in the text, so that made the discussion coherent and productive. Together, we summarized, or tried to summarize what Lewis is communicating in each chapter. We shared quotes, asked questions, and discussed numerous topics as they related to the book, or as they were brought to mind by the discussion. This morning, I am thankful for my friends and I feel encouraged to be connected to women who love Jesus and have a desire to follow Him with their minds.  My own plan is to read the book again this week, for a forth time. But, truly, the book is that challenging, and with the discussion fresh in mind, I feel like I will come away with an even better understanding of the ideas in the text.  

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Contemplating Good Books and Healthy Food

I have started to read Cicero "On the Good Life."  I've had the book for several months, but we have been in a busy season of transition, and perhaps more importantly, I have been reading too many other things to begin.

As I picked up the book this morning to read a little more of it today, I said to myself, "I really need to focus and get this done."  But then a split second later, I realized that attitude is all wrong.

I said to myself, "No. That was the way I used to think about learning..." when I was in modern school. Each subject was studied for a grade, for a diploma or a degree, for an accomplishment, as an end, and then, at some point, I was supposed to be totally done with that subject. And, far too often, that model of education fostered the idea that I was also done with learning altogether or worse, that if I wanted to be a learner again, I needed to go back to school in order to do it. How silly!

My view of education is totally changing now that we are practicing the Classical model and homeschooling.   No, this book and others like it are not just projects to be finished just as soon as possible, so that I can move on with my life and from now on say, "I've read Cicero." to satisfy my pride or impress others.  No, this is the sort of book that I should probably read again, and go back to in reference, and contemplate for decades.  I should build a relationship with this book and books like it.  It should be more of a habit, less of an accomplishment.

In that way, reading good books like Cicero is similar to a having a healthy diet. I am a part-time health coach so I live this and see it all the time. We all know that we should not think, "I just need to focus and get this healthy diet over with, so I can go back to my regular life. I just need to lose all this weight, so I can hurry up and go back to eating doughnuts."  That's an erroneous attitude and mindset that will fail anyone in an attempt at weight loss and weight maintenance.

And like an education is supposed to be an ongoing journey and a life-long relationship with good books and ideas, a diet is an ongoing journey and life-long relationship with healthy foods. It isn't something you finish. It is something you constantly contemplate and experiment with. It's a lifestyle.  Andrew Kern says the same thing about Classical education; "Classical education is not an end. It's a life."

We approach far too many things in life with that "Okay. I just have to get this done, so I can move on." attitude.   (And now I wonder if we do that because of the way we were educated.) We miss the point!

I suppose there are some books or media or even some foods that we should just binge upon.  I think it depends on the quality.  Downtown Abbey is great fun, but it's not something to contemplate for years like the great books such as Cicero or C.S. Lewis or even more, The Gospel or John or Galatians. I may buy ice cream once or twice a year for a special occasion. We will eat it up quickly and it's great fun, but we don't keep it around.  We do, however, keep foods like asparagus, almond milk, and protein powder in the kitchen all the time.  They bring us life, so those are foods that are worthy to keep around.

So in the same way that I eat healthy foods, I continue my journey with good books like Cicero, in no big hurry, because learning is not something I ever want to be done with or something that I ever want to have gotten over.  No, learning is a life I want to live and be living.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Psalm 1 Recitation


I have made it a goal to memorize twelve Psalms this year.  

I plan to share my progress here via video for the sake of accountability, motivation, and fun.

I think these videos will also provide me with a sense of perfection in a very traditional sense of the word, meaning that my task will be totally complete and in the past tense.      

I drew a little sketch in my journal that illustrates the Psalm and commemorates the occasion for me (and my supportive husband was a good enough to take the video.)   

This is the first of the twelve I have memorized well enough to say throughout the day at any time without reviewing or having any prompts of any kind; Psalm 1.  








Curiosity Abounds

In an effort to steward the gift that God has given me in this new home, I've allowed myself time to take walks. As a result, I've got a growing fascination with the mosses, fungi, and lichens that grow in the woods around me.  Painted with infinite shades of one or two colors, they are each glorious in their own right.  So I am arming myself with the appropriate field guides.  I can't wait to be able to call these beauties by their names and discover details about how they work.