Thursday, June 28, 2012

Vacation of Sorts

It seems like we've been on vacation for days.  Not really, but we have strayed far from our routine.  That's the fun of summer!  On the day of Arielle's adventure to the warehouse, Liana and I had a delightful day of sewing.  We will soon be ready to start up our Etsy store!  For now, we are focusing on bags and have five nearly ready to go.

The next two days brought the much-anticipated home school conference that I long for every year.  It energizes me for a new school year.  There are great speakers, either other parents sharing their journeys or curriculum authors who give me insight into new books or methods to use in teaching.  The first day of the conference I took the girls and my granddaughter Lana.  They even had their own session with other girls at one point in the day.  Arielle searched the used books to provide her with summer reading, and I perused new books, longingly thumbing through, but only buying exactly what we truly needed.  I've always loved books--the feel of them, the smell of them.  Thank you, Mother, for instilling that in me.

The next day of the conference Fred gave me a gift of time.  He stayed with the girls at home so I could think and plan and check out vendors and sit in on lectures.  To top off the day, three friends and I stopped for dinner on the way home.  We sat outdoors in an unusual restaurant along an unused railroad track in the middle of town.  The restaurant served organic, locally grown meats, fruits and vegetables.  My daughter-in-law would love it here!  (Want to go, Stacia?)  We had lovely salads of bibb lettuce with cheeses and fresh berries.  Lady food--not at all suitable for my meat-a-tarian husband!

Fred had some vacation time, so on Monday we took a day trip.  We drove only an hour away, but it might as well have been in another state.  I can't believe I've lived here so long and haven't seen this part of the countryside. The beauty of the gorgeous rolling hills with farmland planted in patches of green and yellow caused even Fred to slow down and relax.  Giant cottony clouds rested lightly on the horizon and a mountain ridge stretched all around in the distance. Our destination was a cave in the midst of a pine forest.  As we hiked to the entrance, the heavy pine scent sent me back to childhood, camping in Yosemite with my family and the mixed emotions of those days.  The cave has an interesting history of entertaining guests in an underground ballroom complete with piano while World War II raged on in Europe. 

Later we traveled further north toward the mountains and visited a most unusual store full of stuffed animals.  No, not toys.  This was a Man Store with nothing much of interest for the girls and me except for the many specimens of deer arranged in their natural habitat.  Like a zoo, only the deer were dead.  It was a little unnerving.

On the way home we stopped at a place where Fred used to visit as a child with his parents and sisters. I know it holds a lot of memories for him, what sort, I'm not sure.  The pagoda was closed so we couldn't climb to the top, but we had a great view anyway of the nearby town from this high point.  Arielle thought she could see the building where Damien and Gretchen were married.  Only good times reigned that night!

To end our vacation, we stopped at a local Chinese restaurant for cheap, delicious food.  Even though we didn't go far from home, it was fun to pretend we were away on a trip.  And actually, this was one of our best family days that I can remember.  I hope the girls will tuck this away in their hearts and maybe one day tell the stories to their own children.  I want their memories to always be a picture of pure joy and love without the dark frame of raging war that so often distorts their parent's.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Leaving the Nest

On September 11, 2001, Arielle, at three years old, began her education at a Christian school nearby.  Just minutes later, on a TV in K-Mart, Fred and I watched in horror what happened that day.  I remember my strong impulse to just go and retrieve our little daughter from school, so she would be safe with us while the world was out of control.  We did not.  But we circled her school, which remained quiet and peaceful, as the radio news station reported the disaster.  

For that one year Arielle proudly rode in the front seat of her daddy's pick-up truck (strapped in her carseat) as he drove her to school each day.  She loved it, and young as she was, she still has vivid memories of that fun year.  She has always been bold and confident, never clinging to mommy and never homesick.  She was always ready for a new adventure.

Early this morning Arielle got in the front seat of the car with Fred (no carseat) as he drove her to church to meet up with others for a two hour trip to serve with an organization that sends supplies overseas to schools and orphanages in impoverished areas.  Today they will pack seeds to send to Gambia.  Arielle is excited to go.  She still loves an adventure, and she has a serving heart for others.  It is hard to let her go, not just today, but as she gradually leaves her family and sets off in the world.  She wants to visit missionaries and care for needy people, already planning a trip to Spain in her senior year.  

I have to let go and I have to learn to trust. Trust her--and I do more and more as I see her maturity and wisdom.  And trust God.  He showed me years ago that she is the "apple of his eye."  He loves her even more than I love her!  Amazing.  I know God has great plans and purpose for her life.  He chose her from the ends of the earth and graciously gave her to us for a season.  But she is his and not ours.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Finding God

We don't have to look far to find God. This morning I was reading Psalm 36.  Sometimes we read familiar passages and it's easy to just skim over the words and not allow them to really penetrate our souls.  But this time the freshness and vitality of God's words caused me to  meditate on the message.

This time of the year I love to take walks outside and look at God's creation, even in our own backyard.  His living creation gives me great joy.  My new butterfly bush is bursting with spiky purple cones and I found two gorgeous yellow lilies growing in front of the house.  Where did they come from?  I've never seen these blooms before.  Our cabbage plants all in a row remind me of Mr. McGregor's garden in a Peter Rabbit picture book.  A little gray catbird visits me among our vegetables early in the morning.  Even if I'm not outside, I hear her "mew, mew, mew" through the open windows. I can forgive the deer that ate the tops off all our new sunflowers because I so enjoy watching this beautiful animal wander across the lawn.

"God's invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made."  (Romans 1)
We see God's character in nature. He is not hard to find. We instinctively know "the heavens declare the glory of God."  (Psalm 19)  But what do they declare?

From Psalm 36:  "Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds."  I remember a day in the park when we were flying kites.  To stare into the sky for such an extended period of time mesmerized me.  I had never contemplated the beauty of the endless, boundless, eternal heavens before and connected it to God's never-ending love for his people.  Will the clouds remind us of his faithful presence whether billowy white or stormy dark?  

"Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord."  God is our solid rock,  massive and towering, our fortress.  The great abyss threatens, but he promises to save.  

"How precious is your steadfast love, O God!  The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings."  Picture a great bird overhead as it soars, casting a shadow on us below.  We hide beneath God's saving grace.

"They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights."  We have rivers teeming with life all around us. God's blessings flow generously, nourishing and refreshing us.  (I've counted 445 gifts so far on my way to 1000.)

"For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light."  God enables us to see and know him.  "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."  (II Corinthians 4)

We can see God in all of creation, but even more so, we see God in the face of his son.  One of Jesus' disciples said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us."  Jesus answered, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father."  The character of God is clearly revealed in the life of Jesus.  Read the gospels, see the Son, find God.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

End of the Year

Today is the official last day of school.  With homeschooling, we kind of just fade out rather than have a definitive end.  But today we reach 180 days, as required by law.  Arielle still needs to take a science test and finish her Algebra book and Liana will continue to have math and reading every day. So I guess we're not really finished.  But I think I will surprise the girls and take them out for ice cream later this afternoon.

Last week Arielle had a graduation ceremony at church.  She is moving into the high school ministry.  Then last night Liana also had a graduation.  She is moving into the middle school ministry.  My babies are growing up.  It is shocking to me how quickly time passes.  Any "old" mom will tell you that.  Love your children well while you have them.

Another conclusion to many months of hard work and angst:  4-H is officially over.  Well, kind of.  At least the weekly sewing marathon has ended.  We will still work on preparing for the fabric sale at the fair in August.  And Arielle has a little work to do before the regional fashion show in a couple of weeks.  But the county show is over!  Getting ready the week before?  Let's just say, I'm VERY glad it's over.  The last minute hemming and fixing and adjusting just about brought all of us to tears.  Arielle vowed to never sew again.  But that was a Friday, and Saturday changed everyone's attitude.  Liana won in her division and Arielle found out all the older girls qualify to go on the regionals.

Liana has already started a new sewing project at home and Arielle is looking through patterns to see what she might want to make this summer.  They both still have the sewing bug.