Saturday, December 31, 2016

My New Lawn

My new lawn is quite unkept, but I really like it that way.  I do plan to rake it and trim the overgrowth, but that's only so that I will be able to see more of the beautiful rocks and mosses and birds.  There are many "prettyish kinds of little wildernesses" like the ones in this photo.  Lady Catherine might not approve, but my heart just sings.

Friday, December 30, 2016

This Year's Christmas Gifts and The Stories Behind Them

This year each child got one thing they really wanted from us.  

With the move, we just didn't have time or energy or money to go all out. 

Our family and friends sent some wrapped gifts in the mail and meant for them to be opened Christmas morning, too, so the girls did have more than one thing to open...  

But, in all, this was a really simple Christmas.  

And, I have to say, I think we got it right this year. 

In years past, we bought a lot more stuff, so the girls would have more to open.  But every year, there would be gifts the girls never even played with.  That grieved me.  

This year, the girls have been playing with their gifts every single day since Christmas and they are still talking about their gifts.    

The prices of their gifts were not at all equitable, but the value of the gifts are the same in each girl's estimation, so we don't feel bad about not spending the same amount on each kid. 

Each gift was thoughtfully chosen.

Here are their gifts and the stories behind them:   

"Can I have a new dress-up dress? Did you know? There's a red princess now..."  

The story behind the gift: 

Her old dress-up dress was an Elsa costume from Halloween. It got so torn up, it just had to be thrown out. Even Adele agreed to throw it away, because it was so shredded, so you know it was bad if a four year old agrees it can't be worn anymore!  

We did have other dress-up dresses. But those dresses were too big for her, purchased for her sisters when her sisters were bigger than she is now.  She did try to wear those, but they were so long and the fabrics so slick that it caused a serious tripping/ slipping hazard for her little legs on the wooden stairs. And after almost slipping a few times, she agreed, through sighs, that she would not wear those dresses. 

"I will just wear my mermaid costume instead."  And she did.  That mermaid costume was from Halloween two years ago. It was really tight on her now that she's grown, but she she wore it everyday after we agreed she can't wear the bigger dresses.  

So she went without an actual dress-up dress for a few weeks before Christmas. Imagine her face when she saw this red one with the princess she told me about months ago!   It was priceless!  

"I would like some more characters. I really like collecting things."  

The story behind the gift:

Avril has a bunch of figurines similar to this already, thanks to family members.  She's proud of her collections and she plays with them almost every day and adds to them when she gets her allowance saved up.   So this was a perfect gift for her. And she'd never seen these particular figurines, so it was even better surprise.       

"Can I have a new tablet? I miss my games. And I really miss being able to read it in bed without the light on." 

The old tablet was dropped one too many times and the screen was so badly broken that finally, glass chunks were falling off of it! It had to be thrown away. 

Our family has a lot of paper books, and we have so many book shelves already, that we have started purchasing electronic books, too, in order to save space.  

This kid reads a lot and reading is good and she can't read the electronic books we have without her own device and no way is she going to use mine when she drops hers so often!

So she gets another chance to take better care of a new tablet.  The condition is that this tablet must always be used with a screen protector and a case, something we should have insisted on before.  You live and learn, right?  

I know how much I love reading, too, and while I don't use a tablet for reading, I know how much I love my Kindle Paperwhite, so I am happy for her.       

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Sick Day Soup

Adele was showing signs of being sick when she woke up yesterday. So we got out the puke bucket ready. And she eventually did throw up a few times.

I kept her close to me on the couch until I figured she was probably done throwing up.  At that point, she was perking up, talking a lot, and even wanting to play with her sisters. So I knew from experience that her appetite would be coming back within the hour, but that she really shouldn't have any sugary foods that would further weaken her immune system.

So I made her some savory soup, and she actually ate it! So I think I'll record the recipe to use again, when the time comes.

Sick Day Soup


Two cups of prepared, frozen bone broth, beef (or chicken)
1/2 cup dry barley (or rice)  
One small carrot
Three green beans
One heaping spoonful of minced garlic
One teaspoon dry onion flakes
One half teaspoon dry parsley
Two chunks of pink Himalayan sea salt and a dash of corse Kosher salt

Optional ingredients: 
1/4 cup cooked beef (or chicken) (I had left-over primed rib.) 
Ice cubes to taste

This much will make two small servings/ one regular serving.  Increase all the ingredients in proportion to how much you want to make/ have left over. 


Thaw the container of frozen broth in hot water until it will pop out of the Tupperware it's frozen into.  Then put the chunk of frozen broth in a saucepan on medium heat and let it totally melt. (I used two cups of frozen beef bone broth.)

Add barley and turn up the heat, so that the soup will begin to boil as you add things. But then turn it down to low/ medium to simmer once it starts to boil.

Chop the carrot and green beans into tiny pieces and add them to the soup.  The barley is still hard at this point.  

Add the garlic, dry onion, parsley, and salts. Garlic, because it is good for your immune system.  I would have used fresh if I had had it.  And sea salts, because electrolytes!  And I use Kosher salt, too, for flavor.

I had some cooked beef, so I chopped that up and added it. (I had left-over prime rib, so I added 1/4 a cup to the soup.)

Adele, a.k.a. "Baby Bear," needed a total of two ice cubes to get this to the temperature that was "just right" for her. Then she ate it and perked right up.

I had a serving, too, since it looked so good, and it was cold outside, and I figured that I will certainly be fighting whatever it is she's got now, because that's reality for moms.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My Favorite Quote from "On The Incarnation" by Saint Anthanasius

If someone I respect tells me they like a book, I will read it as soon as possible. If someone I respect tells me they like a book enough to read it every single year, well, you can bet I will read it right away!

That's what happened with "On the Incarnation"  by Saint Anthanasius; A person I admire says she reads this with her family and friends out loud every year during Advent. So then I had to read it!

The language of the book is very complicated, so I will want to read it again and again in order to feel like I have an understanding of what all is being said.  But, one passage, in particular, made my spirit sore on my first reading and I wanted to share it here.

As I read this passage, I pictured all the fairy-tales, superheroes, villains, devils, Greek and Roman Gods, and even the greatest leaders in human history.  Images of all these flashed through my mind's eye as I read this passage...

"For since human beings, having rejected the contemplation of God and as though sunk in an abyss and with their eyes held downwards, seeking God in creation [genesis] and things perceptible, setting up for themselves mortal humans and demons as gods, for this reason the lover of human beings, and the common Savior of all, takes to himself a body and dwells as human among humans

and draws to himself the perceptible senses of all humans beings, so that those who think that God is in things corporeal might, from what the Lord wrought through the actions of the body, know the truth and through him might consider the Father.  

Being human and thinking all things in human terms, on whatever they cast their sense perception there they saw themselves being drawn and taught the truth from all sides:  for if they were struck by creation, 

yet they saw it confessing Christ as Lord’ 

if their minds were predisposed towards human beings, such that they supposed them gods, 

yet comparing the words of the Savior with theirs, the Savior alone among humans beings appeared the Son of god, for there were no such works among them as done by the God Word; 

and if they were predisposed towards the demons, 

yet seeing them put to flight by the Lord, they knew that only he was the Word of God and that the demons were not gods; 

if their minds was then fixed even on the the dead, so as to worship heroes and those said by the poets to be gods, 

yet seeing the resurrection of the Savior they confessed that the former were false and that only the Word of the Father was the true Lord, and the one reigning even over death.  

For this reason he was both born and appeared as a human being, and died and rose again, dulling and overshadowing by his own words those of all human beings who ever existed, so that form wherever humans beings were predisposed, from there the might raise them and teach them of his own true Father, just as he himself says, “I came to save and to find that which was lost.” (Lk 19:10)

My heart just soared in worship to God for Christ while reading and seeing these words.

I thought next of the words of Tolkien when he says that in Christ, "Legend and History have met and fused." Indeed they have! It is His truth in a story that causes us to love stories. He is all in all.

And so as this Christmas season ends, this quote has helped me praise God with renewed understanding and vigor for all He has done for us in Immanuel.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

We're On The Map!

There's a map at the beginning of the book "My Brother Sam is Dead" by Collier and Collier and it shows all the significant places in the novel. We looked and then did a double take to find we live on this map! All of these places are within walking distance of our new house!

We think it's cool that we settled right in the middle of a place with such interesting history. But, truthfully, the same could probably be said about anywhere. If you have the right perspective and information,  any place could be exceedingly interesting, I am sure.

Nevertheless, we are excited to be learning new things that will help us better appreciate our new home in Redding.

I did finish the novel yesterday and it was, in total, very depressing.  But it shows the complicated nature of war and the ethics and morality behind the way real people really acted.

Note: I would not read it to my younger children, four and seven, but my oldest, who is twelve, is ready for this sort of thinking and I will definitely have her choose an issue that she thinks is interesting from the book and write an essay about it.  

Monday, December 26, 2016

Feather Identification #53 Wild Turkeys

We've deduced that the two barred feathers we have found in our yard are both from wild turkeys.

It was a bit of a let-down to find out they were from turkeys.  I won't even lie.

We see hawk-like birds perching on our trees, and soaring around almost everyday, so we were hopeful that these feathers belonged to them and would help us identify them.  But we will just have to work to get a better look at those birds through our binoculars, so as to find out what they are.

To identify these feathers, we used The Feather Atlas on The U.S. Fish and Wildlife's Website.

It looks like one of the feathers is a primary wing feather from a female. Note: This feather looks absolutely perfect for a quill.  Now I can't help but wonder about quills, and quill-making, etc.

And the other is a tail feather, probably from a male.

Further, secondary evidence that these feathers belong to turkeys and not another bird:

our neighbor says whole flocks of wild turkeys will come and stay on the property

and the range map of the wild turkey puts them squarely in our new neck of the woods. (Or is it the other way around and we are in their neck of the woods now?)

and Dwayne and I heard the same bird call you can hear at the link above one night as they moved through the woods next to our house.  Turkeys make quite a ruckus between rustling dry leaves and gobbling.

#53 Wild Turkeys

Sunday, December 25, 2016

More Exploring, More Curiosity

If it's sunny and anywhere over forty degrees, we usually end up on a nature walk.

We noticed these bright red berries today.  We didn't see any berries yesterday, though we were on the same path, looking at the same vine.  This confirms to me that it's good to come to the same trails again and again even if you think you've seen it all.  What is this vine is called?

The girls discovered magnificent ice cycles forming on the surface of puddles.  The girls took off their gloves, scooped them up gently, and held them up to admire the designs. But only very briefly, because the heat from our fingers made them melt fast. How does ice form on the surface of water?

These interesting seed pods looked somewhat like miniature thistles to me. I went to touch one and this many of them ended up on my glove. So, naturally, I went to pull them right off, but they just kept ahold. They only broke off in pieces, exploding tiny seeds all over my gloves. Now I wonder what these tenacious little things are called.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Exploring Putnam Park

We took the short drive to the other side of Putnam Park and took a walk over there.

In the photo above, you can see the two rows of stones piles that go on for a hundred yards or more. Each pile represents where a hearth of a soldiers' barrack once stood.

This hearth is standing where a captain's quarters used to be.  Avril made us all laugh when she stood inside the fireplace and yelled, "Diagon Alley!"  (Harry Potter fans will get it.)

We marveled at all the massive rocks and moss. The rock formation above is said to have a cave. But since it is a tad icy, we decided not to climb and explore for it.

This rock looks precarious from this angle, but the other side is massive and quite flat, so it isn't going anywhere.  We keep an eye out quartz crystals forming on the surface of the rocks. This one was the largest we've seen so far, bigger than a quarter.

We have so many questions! All the time spent in nature is making us interested in many new things. We'd like to learn how to:

better identify rocks and crystals, trees, plants, and various berries.
how to make an outdoor hearth.
how to build an outdoor oven.

And we definitely want to know more and more about the history of this particular area!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Old Habits, New Library Cards

It had been weeks since we had been to the library, since our last visit was about two weeks before our move, and then we didn't have time to visit our new library until a few weeks had passed in our new home.  

The girls started missing the library and asking about it within a week of the move. They expressed anxiety about finding a new library and had been eager to go.  Apparently, my desire to make them love the library by simply taking them consistently for over a year is working just as I planned.  

We got our new cards and a stack of books that we really struggled to carry out, because I forgot our library bags back at the new house.  Forgetting things like bags and cell phones are a regular occurrence now that I am in a new space. I still haven't figured out the best place is to keep everything. I have three floors now, so where should I best put my phone? And we park in the garage now, but often use the front and back doors, too, so where should we best keep our coats and mittens? Incidents like forgetting the bags reveal to me just how much I subconciously depended on repetition and muscle memory in my old space. For instance, I am constantly slamming into the floor at the bottom of the stairs here, because I expect there to be one more step before the bottom. The old house must have had one more step, and after ten years, I am finding in difficult to retrain my brain and body in all these seemingly little, but altogether significant ways.  

My book choices are shown in the photo above.  I happened upon a book about Audubon, who is of new interest to me, since I am bird-watching and nature-journaling again.  And I got a novel called "My Brother Sam is Dead" by Collier and Collier, recommended to me by another Redding resident who we met fortuitously while taking our first walk in our nearby Putnam Park. Apparently, this book is set in and around Redding, and will help me better understand the history of this area and the treasures that we been planted in the midst of.  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Preserving Artwork

With three girls who all like to draw and paint and craft, we have collected a lot of finished artwork over the years and I am certain there is more to come.

I do actually throw most of their artwork away. Gasp!  I do this simply because it would be impossible to contain it all in my home and still function. So I keep only what I really like, or what the girls really seem to like. Yet we still have so much!

I found these Tjena boxes at Ikea, big enough to hold almost everything the girls have ever made and kept. Even the larger sheets of paper can be stored in here. Those just can't be stored flat. They have to be folded over gently, so they don't crease, and then the lid will still go on top. These boxes come with tags that stick to the side, so I do also have each girl's name on each box, so it's easy for me to remember whose box is whose.

I have a few poster sized paintings that won't fit in these boxes and that I can't part with for reason or another, so those still have to be rolled, held with a rubber band, and stored in a corner of the closet.  But it is nice to have some place where most of the keepsakes can go.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016



1 large white onion, chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 carrots, peeled, halved and sliced
1 zucchini, quartered and sliced
1/2 head of green cabbage, finely sliced
2 15oz cans of diced tomatoes with juice
1 15oz cans of chick peas with juice
1 15oz can light red kidney beans with juice
1 15oz can cannellini beans
four cups of homemade chicken broth
1 Tbs Italian Seasoning
1 Tbs Basil
1 tsp Tarragon
1 tsp Marjoram
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp ground thyme
1/2 tsp sage
kosher salt and cracked pepper

Chopped or shredded chicken
12 oz small shells

shredded asiago type cheese to go on top

Throw all of this into a big pot together and simmer it until the vegetables are soft. 

My friend Wendy gave me a batch of minestrone when we moved and I just loved it.  The broth was perfection itself. So I asked her for the recipe and then adapted it, because I can't actually follow a recipe to save my life.  

I added a few ingredients, changed some proportions, and even took out the pasta altogether. What you see above is what I came up with. 

I left "pasta" in the recipe, because minestrone has it, traditionally. And note that the cayenne makes the broth a tad spicy, so that could be another optional ingredient. 

But I really like all that flavor!    


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Natural Journal

"We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so filled with the marvels of plant and animal life and care nothing for these things." -Charlotte Mason

I am going to try keeping a nature journal. Again.  

It just feels like the right thing to do to steward the gift I have been given in this new home and try and express my gratitude to God for being surrounded by so much beauty.  

I have only found time to sit and sketch and write two entries so far. But if we live here for as long as I imagine we will, I am bound to have a decent journal if I am consistent over years.  

I am critical of my work, even in pain as I draw, because I am not capable of making the beauty I want to make, but I am following the advice I give my students and my children, and I am doing it anyway.  

The only wrong drawing would be the one I do not even attempt for fear of failure or for pride. To quote another person whose writings have influenced me, G.K. Chesterton once said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." 

God has given me new inspiration in this place, so different than my last home where my only tree that brought any birds grew sick and died.  Now I live in a forest! Imagine it! I can hear the birds arriving outside even now, pouring in from all sides. 

So I look for the means to increase my capacity to appreciate so much delight and I begin again, adding to a journal I started a few years ago that I thought I might never have the heart to come back to.  But God makes all things new and is faithful to continue every good work He begins in us. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Our First Snow

We had our first real snow in the new house. 

We built a snowman and tried out the sledding down our driveway and all the different inclines in our yard. There is not one single place to just let the kids go.  So Norah and I took the little girls down in turns, because she and I can steer and stop whenever necessary.

We went for a little walk to the creek and we admired the various winter scenes.  Norah enjoyed blowing on snow-covered lichen and watching the snow melt off. "It's like spring happening in a time elapsed video," Norah said. And it was. 

The girls also enjoyed dropping snow balls into the stream and watching them soak up water.  

We came back to the house after what seemed like hours. We we're all muscle and bone tired, and very hungry.  I had been tending to dinner on and off all afternoon, so it was ready in a few minutes.  

Now we are all fed, and dry and warm. The girls are playing quietly nearby as I type this and notice how very sore I am as I continue to yawn.  It's time to curl up in bed and hope I can keep my eyes open to finish the last part of "Words of Radiance" by Brandon Sanderson.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

My New Spot

This is my favorite spot in our new house so far.  Isn't it lovely?  I took this photo shortly after we started our first fire in the upstairs fire place.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pine Trees and Unspeakable Joy

I had two prophetic dreams about this move. In one of the dreams, I was dancing through Connecticut's countryside in worship. As I finished my dance, I bowed to Lord, then I came up from the bow to find myself in a new home. ??! (At the time, we were not even contemplating a move and so the dream did not seem to make sense.)

But, there were things about the dream, symbols, that I noticed.  For instance, there were pine trees outside the window and pine cones and needles all over the ground, things like that. But, the thing I remember most was that in that house, I felt the most unspeakable joy.

My rational mind struggles with supernatural experiences like this, but the memory is so real to me, the joy was so potent, that I can bring it back to me if I concentrate. I can remember it better than any real memories I have of things that happened to me during my waking hours.

These powerful dreams have served me in a few ways through the last few months.  They brought me the motivation to continue through the sometimes grueling process of looking for a new home, even though we weren't ever really that eager to move.

The dreams also comforted me as I packed and grieved, because I was leaving a place in this world that I cherished.

Now the dreams often bring me excitement as I unpack and discover things about our new place.

So when I saw a Christmas ornament with pine branches and pine needles, my eyes were drawn to it and I thought of my dream again. That ornament was in a pair with the ornament shown in the picture above. When I saw the word, "Joy," on the side of it, I just smiled and decided that I had to buy these ornaments for my tree this year.

Near those ornaments were others, too, that made me think of my new home: a swede cardinal, wooden binoculars, a wooden camera, a flannel backpack, and a wooden doll, all bundled up in miniature clothes against the cold, sitting on a tiny, metal snow sled: all things that remind me of our new home this winter, surrounded by trees, birds, hills, within minutes of hiking trails.  I know these ornaments will serve to remind me of this significant move year after year and seeing them throughout the day already serves to bring that same joy, unspeakable, and full of glory, right back to the surface.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Stewardship, Relationships, and Experiences

A few mornings before we moved, Dwayne sat down with me and said something like, "We should think about what we want to do with this house, what it will be for, what we want the new house to mean." 

He does this at work, leading teams of people to consider their purposes and goals and families need to do the same thing sometimes.  He said he had a few ideas, but wanted to hear my mind about it.  

Within three minutes, we had decided on the three things we knew this house would be for!   The words in his head were the same exact words in mine! We were totally in sync and I just knew it was because God was leading us by His Spirit.  As well-suited as Dwayne and I are for one another, we don't often agree that perfectly. The three words we agree upon were:

Stewardship: because God was giving us something simply bigger than we had before and we knew we would have to grow in order to care for it as well as we should.  And because a big part of my job as a homeschool mom is to teach my kids how to live real life from making their own breakfasts, and perhaps more importantly, cleaning up their own breakfast messes, to organizing their days to accommodate all the work they are responsible for at that time in their learning journey and then to leave room for all the rest of life they want to live. Stewardship was the right word to express all that. 

Relationships:  because our number one, main reason for moving was to shorten Dwayne's commute and make more time together, so our marriage will be stronger, and Dwayne will have more time with our kids.  Our family will also be moving to the Danbury area soon. Relationships with Dwayne's brother, my sister-in-law, and my nieces and nephews who are coming here are the close second reason why we relocated. People are the most precious thing. Relationships with family and friends and God Himself are the main reason behind everything we do. I think relationships, with God and with other people, are the main reason we even exist on this planet. One catechism says we exist "to know God and enjoy Him forever."  So God must have people He wants us to meet and friendships He wants us to grow in and around Redding that our place in Waterbury would not facilitate. So relationships was another obvious choice for us!  

And Experiences: because our children will actually grow up here, and most of their childhood experiences will be in this place now.  And my oldest is just old enough to start youth group. The timing of that is not lost on me. Knowing how youth group events shaped my life, God must have plans for her here.  And we've got windows that allow nature to interrupt us all day long and miles of trails right outside our front door.  To me, that's God's way of saying, "Pst! Come see this!" or "Get your shoes on. Let's go for a walk."  That will mean changing my homeschool style to accommodate more nature study and my workout schedule to accommodate all the time my legs and heart and lunges will spend hiking. Homeschool and exercise are two of the things I thought I had perfected, basically. Ha! God likes to humble me. So changing my "perfect" plans will be necessary joy, because we do intend to experience all the truth, goodness, and beauty God has in store for us here.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Our New Home

We have moved to our new home in Redding and we are busy settling in.  We've been working non-stop for over a week! We get up, sit and have a cup of coffee (or two), and then we work all day until past bedtime.

Dwayne is enjoying his much, much shorter commute to work every day.  But before and after work and sometimes during the day, he is working to get us settled, too. Today, for instance, he will take a final load to the town dump on his lunch hour.

The only respites we get, if you can call them respites, are when we get to go outside and rake leaves or trim thorny branches to tend to our property.  Then we will take a half hour and go explore the land around our home.

We are delighted with every little mushroom, every interesting bump on trees, every bright clump of green moss. We are constantly explaining, "Oh!" and "Wow! Come see this!" Our spirits are soaking up the beauty of nature and we are thanking God for such a gift in this home.

And it isn't just the land. The home itself is just right for us.  It's dated, but in a way we actually like.  I am enjoying more square footage, especially in closet space. There are whole closets I haven't used yet.  The hallways are wider and that didn't seem like it would matter, but it feels amazing, kind of like pulling on your smallest jeans and having room in them, because your diet is really working.  Now we have a two car garage and we both park inside. And we have two, that's right, two fire places and we are plotting where to move the rocks in the yard for another fire pit outside.

We probably have another week of work, but the end is coming into sight. There are only a few boxes left in each room, only a few piles here and there, and only a few surfaces that remained to be cleaned.  But, of course, "the end" of this move is really just the beginning. Isn't it?  We will have to paint and make curtains and all that.  My room is a bright pink that I do not enjoy. And the girls' room is a bright blue, but they'd rather have it pink. And there are bigger home-improvement projects that will need to happen, eventually. But, thankfully, the house was in "move-in condition" and we are able to simply dump, donate, or situate the things we are keeping and start really living.

And while I will probably enjoy making this space more and more my own with wall colors and curtains, those things aren't really the stuff of life, are they? Soon, the real life God means for us to live here will begin. What will we learn here? I wonder. What will we do? Who will we meet?  Those are the things I look forward to the most. So I quickly unpack to get this place functional in order to support all the real life that is about to begin.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Home Filled With Treasure

We're moving and I have found myself grieving as I pack.

This was the first home we ever bought. We've lived here for over ten years.

Our oldest daughter was a toddler when we moved in and the house was so empty back then. We'd moved here from a one bedroom apartment before that, so we didn't have much.  I can remember how her footsteps echoed through the empty spaces.

We've had our two other daughters since then, and so we've really built our family in this place.  And now, we certainly have a lot more stuff!

I was packing up our classroom today, where I spent a lot of my time, and I was tucking all my favorite things into a box, feeling joy over each thing, and remembering how I came by them, and these verses went through my mind:

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. -Proverbs 24:3-4 

I closed my eyes and agreed with the Spirit of God and gave thanks for all the things that fill our home now and what or who they represent to us.

We have a lot of books now, so many books. Many were given to us by friends, but most we purchased, because they were recommended by people we love and respect during some rich conversation we had with them over the last ten years.

We have a tea set I wrapped up in newspaper. It was given to us by a friend who came over every week to have hot tea.

We have a house full of furniture given to us by Dwayne's grandmother who is now deceased. She cherished her Cushman maple and so do we.

We have seashells and rocks collected at the beach or on hikes with friends or family.

We have crafts, so many crafts, from Sunday school or VBS or homeschool co-ops.

Snow sleds and weights and board games...

All of these things represent someone or some little, but significant event when we were with people learning, singing, laughing, relishing life.

My house is really full, but I am not certain the world would see anything valuable here. Nothing would fetch much in the market place, not even at a yard sale. And my home doesn't look like a catalog.  

But, God confirms His word to me and I see the truth. My home, like my life, is filled with treasure. The treasures are the precious artifacts of all the people, relationships, and moments of wonder and fellowship He has given us over the years.  With spiritual eyes, I can recognize the worth of these things over and above any simply material possessions that the world may prize higher.

God has established my family in this place, so I think this house may always be sacred to me.  I pack and grieve for what is ending, but I also remember to give thanks now for all that has happened here.

And I know I can look forward to more joy, more relationships, more fellowship, more moments of wonder, and even look forward to new treasures in my new home, because the same God who dwelt so lovingly with me here calls me on and I follow.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Twelve Psalms to Memorize

I have chosen twelve specific Psalms to memorize in the next few months.

I have treasured each of these Psalms for one reason or another since I was a youth, so I know portions of them already.

However, my goal now is to know every one of them so well that I won't need any prompt at all to be able to say them to myself when I am without my Bible, like when I go hiking, or so that I won't need a Bible to be able to share them with others.

I feel compelled to plant the word of deeper than ever before.  

Teaching my kids classically is showing me the value and usefulness of memorizing precious information.  And it is showing me that "knowing" something and really knowing something are two very different things.

I want to really know Scripture.

When I consider the more distant future, when I imagine who I want to be and what I want to be capable of when I am old, I always imagine a wrinkled, but lively old woman who can tell her grandchildren Bible stories in vibrant detail without her Bible in hand.

So, now, in the same way that I educate my children, strategically, I begin with the end the that I desire for myself in mind, and I plot my course.

I want to start equipping that old woman, myself, for the noble future that she desires to give herself and her children's children.

Perhaps she will not live that long, but perhaps she will! 

And so, here is the list of Psalms I chose:

Psalm 1
Psalm 19
Psalm 23
Psalm 42
Psalm 51
Psalm 63
Psalm 91
Psalm 92
Psalm 100
Psalm 103
Psalm 119:1-32 (This one is so long, but it's a favorite, so I chose it, but I decided to focus on the first portion.)
Psalm 139

To remember and recognize the ones I am memorizing, I used a colored pencil to "highlight" the numbers, as you can see in the photo at the top.

I think once I know these well enough, I will record myself reciting them one at a time and share them here for fun and for accountability.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Citations Like Breadcrumbs

Take heed. Do not neglect to read those lowly in-text citations. They often appear useless and boring, but they can and do lead from good things to greater things, from mundane things to divine encounters with the living God.   

See, I was reading Millstones and Stumbling Blocks by Bradley E. Heath, a scathing critique of modern education that I do not recommend, but that I will probably end up quoting extensively in every day life. (Even I found Heath's "preaching" too hard and I am a member of his proverbial choir. If you think John Taylor Gatto is controversial and/or offensive, well, "You ain't seen nothing yet!")

Anyway, in Millstones and Stumbling Blocks, Heath quoted a guy I had never heard of named James V. Schall, saying that Schall said, "Why read?  Because we are given more than we are."  If I am not mistaken, that's the only Schall quote in that entire book, but that one quote so intrigued me and captured my imagination that I looked it up in the bibliography and found that it came from a book called, Another Sort of Learning.   

So I looked up that book and the subtitle sounded like just the sort of thing I would like, so I bought it on Amazon Kindle "with one click" and now I'm reading it. I am a little more than halfway done, but I am already certain I will end up quoting this book in everyday life, too. (All my conversation may end up being quotes!)

Anyway, then I Googled and read more about the author "James V. Schall" and found watched this video of a lecture he gave at Villanova.

Certainly, Schall isn't easy to watch like Jimmy Fallon is easy to watch, but, nevertheless, Schall's words fell like rain in the dessert to my thirsty soul. I knew right away that I had found a mentor in him.

Lao Tzu said, "When the pupil is ready, the tutor will appear" and this seems to be true. Apparently, I was just ready to find Schall. His rich conversation is answering so many questions I have started to ask recently, particularly those questions I have been asking God during times of meditation and prayer. That's what makes discovering Schall so significant to me.

I am certain God lead me to him. Now I affectionately call Schall "my dark oculator,"  since his glasses and suit make him look exactly like a villain in Brandon Sanderson's Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, a book series we are reading with our kids. Also, the geek in me adores the fact that Schall ends this lecture and every single chapter of his book, A Different Sort of Learning, with a list of more books and/or essays to read on a given topic. So now I've got my work cut out for me, but that's also just the sort of thing that I like.

And of all places, I discovered Schall in an in-text citation! "One good book leads to another," it is said. Like a trail of breadcrumbs, I am following this trail of ideas and it is exciting! I give God the glory. He is so faithful to answer the deepest questions in my soul. After all, it is His deeper and ongoing conversation behind Schall's words that I delight in, truly.

God counsels me in the simplest of ways, using a quote from a Godly scholar, that leads me to a book filled with wisdom, that leads me on to a another essay... But it is His voice I hear and His voice I follow on. "Deep calls to deep."  Psalm 42:7 I will delight in this trail of ideas He, the bread of life, lays down for me.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

First Things

God gives all earthly things significance,
But commands us to order our lives aright.
First things first. So then to His Immanence,
We submit our mundane purposes.

As if in judgement and with pitchfork thrown,
Up, up! goes this corporal husk and
Much is chaff, because so much is strewn!
It falls... and all is sorted as it blows.

What remains is faith, marriage, family,
Home, friends, church, and then, only then, to work.
Doing all unto God for His glory,
Delight in the gifts He has given thee.

We collect what's left after threshing to find
It all joy! More than enough to satisfy!

 -Veronica Boulden

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Season of Change

We are preparing to move, so I have had to quit all my current fitness jobs. The gyms where I work now will just be too far away from our new home. 

I teach at a few different locations, a few different days a week, a few different types of classes, so the good-bye process took a while to complete.  

In the photo above, you can see me "passing the torch" to my friend Tina who will be taking over one of my Bodypump classes.  (I made her a torch from a toilet paper roll, duct tape, and wrapping tissue.)

In the photo below, Christina, one of my faithful Bodypump participants at another location, presented me with yellow roses on my last day there.

And I took the photo below after my last class at the Waterbury YMCA, where I have been teaching various group fitness classes on and off for over ten years! I usually don't walk out of that place alone, but my last class happened to be an early morning one, so I was able to say a quiet, tearful prayer of thanks as I walked back to my van.

I have been meditating on the words of the song "Every Season" by Nicole Norman. The song is about God's faithfulness through change.  A part of the song goes, "I will offer thanks for what has been and what's to come..."  

I give God thanks for my jobs and for the relationships I have made through them. Relationships are the thing about my job that I value most, though I value so many things about what I do.  But I am hopeful that I'll get another job teaching group fitness at another gym in my new place and start new friendships there, too.