Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wintry Mix: a post with little coherence or purpose but just ‘cause.

DSC_0610The Snow-Blower Brigade is on task this morning. Can I just say that I love the sound of snow-blowers in the winter and lawn-mowers in the summer? I guess I am a mower-fan. It makes me feel like I am connected to the outdoor life and that there are more people then my little family in this world and that they are just outside my door. It’s so easy to go insular as a homeschooling family – that’s just one of the things that you have to be on-guard against when you choose this life-style. And winter can be a particularly challenging time.
Snow (weather, in general) is a great bringer-together. People are having a common-experience and bad or good we are sharing something. Granted, we are home-bound today since our regular events were cancelled due to the snow and so we don’t get to see our close friends. On the other hand we are seeing all of our neighbors who we need more of an excuse to see even though we are “within spittin’ distance” as I was informed by one Eburgian.DSC_0626
Everybody rushes out on a snow day on our street. I felt bad for John who at 8:30 was donning his snow-gear, such as it is, and putting on headphones and heading out with a look of purpose. What was he going to do? Shovel the walk, of course. Oh. Well…
Lee had snow-blown the whole sidewalk on the other side of the street long before - and Don was just finishing shoveling our walk, his walk and the next house down - and Anthony and Thomas had done the steps and were starting on the driveway. Maybe he could wipe off the top of the van? You’ve got to be pretty ambitious to get a piece of the snow-removal action around here.
Anyway, there’s nothing like a snow-day to make me feel like I have no obligations in the world other then to look around and enjoy the beauty. Well…and endlessly remove and replace mittens, boots, hats, snowpants, and keep up with the non-stop demand for hot chocolate…which is probably why I feel like no one can possibly expect anything more of me. I certainly don’t anyway.
The Maryland branch of the family is slowly being schooled in the ways of winter, although at the moment Cecilia is warming her ice-cold hand on my tummy. Not great winter-etiquette.

Here’s one little winter-tip: We fill socks or gloves with rice and, tie them up with a rubberband and then microwave for 30 seconds and use these mini- heating pads to do a quick warm-up in or out of the house.DSC_0618 Cecilia is finally old enough to join the outdoor-team…up until now she’s been kept hostage in the house with me: her little face plastered up against the door watching the freezing-fun. But generally being kept inside with me doing awful things like making hot-chocolate and cookies. But today she got all the gear on from hat to boots and joined the fray. This picture is her surveying the landscape. It’s hard to believe that she is old enough to be out there in the rough and tumble of things but there she is. All soft and pink, slipping and sliding in her red boots and making snow-angels. Goodness…another “the days are long but the years are short moment” brought to you by a baby.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Christmas Reflection on the Incarnation

Christ comes as a baby - meek and mild to our eyes. But what about the eyes of the angels? We know that angels gathered around the shepherds to announce the Glory of God come down to Earth. Where were these angels coming from? I've always imagined them to be descending from Heaven but suppose that they were here already?
"And all at once with the angel there was a great throng of the hosts of heaven..." Luke 2:13
The word for "throng" literally means "army" - and what if that is not just a figurative use of the word "army"? What if these were the battle-worn angels who had been keeping Satan and his minions somewhat in check since Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden? Maybe they had been carrying out the order to fight that long and hard war to protect humanity from utter annihilation at the hands of Satan until the King and General was to descend in the fullness of time.  "...The devil has sinned from the beginning. Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8b Perhaps what the shepherds witnessed on that consummative night was not simply an announcement for their own benefit...perhaps they witnessed the assembly of the troops. The trumpets blaring - the angels singing their battle cry: "Glory to God in the highest! and PEACE to his people on Earth!" Maybe this was the call to arms - drawing the hosts of heaven from all corners of the earth to the small place called Bethlehem - the center of the war. The center of the universe. They were being called to pay homage to their Chief, their Leader, their King and General. Faithful in battle and biding their time they now came from from every quarter to report for duty to and get their orders from the One they had been waiting for...from Christ the King. Christ the Conqueror.
To us He may appear a meek and mild Babe-in-arms but to the angel armies on both sides of that long drawn-out battle He must have appeared great and terrible. "He's not a tame lion," after all. He's come to vanquish His enemies and place man at His right hand. Victory at long last had come down to Earth.

Those shepherds must have had chills running down their spines and must have trembled as they watched the Heavenly Army assemble for the first time under The Banner of Agnus Dei. Did they know how close their Salvation lay? Did they know that this battle was being waged for their own freedom from Satan's tyranny? Victory was near at hand...laying in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes - the chosen armor of our Conqueror King.
I am praying for that heavenly vision, for eyes that see the hidden realities, the hidden battles that surround us. To see "things visible and invisible" as the Heavenly Army does. Whether the God-King appears as a wrinkly newborn in swaddling clothes or as bread and wine in my mouth I want to see Him as the angels do. When Christ the Conqueror "comes again in glory" I want to be with the shepherds seeing that great day through the eyes of the angles. I want to join the "throng" - the army - when, "…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:10-11. May we be transformed so that we are capable of seeing and withstanding The Glory in and around me.


Friday, January 6, 2012

The Epitome of “Success”

Today marks the fulfillment of a life-long dream. Nay, the surpassing of a life-long dream. If you grew up in a family that had the Childcraft series – particularly volume 11, “Make and Do” then please, don’t allow yourself to be too jealous – oh, who am I kidding? You won’t be able to help yourself.

It all started when we were rushing to beat the recycling truck to the street with all the Amazon Christmas boxes and I saw the neighbor recycling 3 or 4 child-sized boxes. THIS:DSC_0592

immediately came to mind. Particularly the image on the lower right. Sigh. We all live with so many unfulfilled dreams.
So John asked him if we could have them. Being the friendly, generous, small town neighbor that he is not only gave them to us but he later delivered a total of 11 large cardboard boxes from his new cabinets. OH JOY!

is what I managed to come up with. Complete with:

a lookout tower and:

The window idea in the inspirational picture above proved to undermine the structural integrity of the entire fort.
I am planning flashlights through parts of the roof for lighting and blankets and pillows for increased comfort.
Sadly, I am too long to make the tight corners so I can only live vicariously through my children. But frankly, I feel a bit like a self-made millionaire who is nervous about just indulging his children because he fears that they don’t value what they have. My children didn’t have to ache and yearn for this wondrous habitation for the last quarter century – it was just handed to them on a silver platter. Ah well…this is the perennial tension – how to give good things to your children without risking their own goodness.
So, to my brothers: James and Evan – eat your heart out. And Nick…you may build this:kresges

but we both know that deep down you really want to build:


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Holiday Travels and Returns

Michael is, in part, named after a dear uncle
who passed away when Nick was 13.
We have just returned from a nice leisurely visit to the homeland. The trip was filled with Christmas cheer and gift giving, the pinnacle of which was reached on Christmas Day when my first nephew on my side of the family was given to us. Healthy and happy, here is Michael Alexander. We spent lots of time trying to blind him with camera flashes and trying to infect him with our Maryland germs but he held
up well and seems none the worse for wear.

We also attended an extremely joyful wedding of an extremely joyful couple who shocked me with pulling of a very classy potluck reception. What do you picture when I read you the invitation: "potluck reception at the Mennonite hall." Do you share my vision of a large plain room lined with rectangular tables lining one wall covered with crockpots full of mini-weenies? 
Well, we are quite wrong, my friend, quite wrong! It was a lovely building lined with lit up Christmas trees (salvaged from the side of the road by members of the bridal party) an amazing live band, professional grade waiters that turned out to be the bride's 7th grade students and the food...was...the very best food I have ever had at a wedding. It is so good that I am now considering giving birth to my next child (not pregnant, by the way) in South Bend so that I can have casserole meals brought to me by those people. In the spirit of mission and generosity which characterizes this new family the "favors" were donations given in our names to one of three ministries. But the icing on the cake for me (other then the amazing icing on the cake made by the mother of the bride...she also made my wedding cake incidentally) was the corner of dress up clothes where the kids could entertain themselves and get pictures taken in their stellar duds. Too clever.

 We were able to do some visiting with friends, watch many family movies on "the eye of Sauron" as my mother refers to their new large TV, and generally enjoy the great company.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas visit in spite of tearing the kids away from their toys on Christmas day in order to try to beat Michael Alexander to St. Joe's hospital - he won by three hours. Already an over-achiever.
It was great visit even though I stupidly insisted on NOT bringing the snow gear with us. In the holiday spirit of anti-stuff I believed the forecasters instead of my 27 Michigan winters experience and told John that I did not want to

 to have to track down every mitten and boot and hat since there would be NO SNOW - it's been a warm winter! So dumb. So so so dumb.
It snowed almost every day, temperatures fell into the teens and I shaved off hundreds of goosebumps on my legs. Dumb. On many levels.
Our return trip went well. I knew it had to be smooth because we filled up on our way out of town at the BP on Plymouth. The fancy gas. Gas that is always a good .25/gallon more expensive then the other places because of it's ability to make kids sleep, the Ohio cops turn the other way as you speed by, and the m&m's have negative calories. That is some good gas.
We also managed to escape a major bathroom incident like our last trip. Did I ever share that one with you? Hmmm. That will be on its way - there's enough pee water is under the bridge that I can now laugh at it. Anyway, no bathroom incidents but we were treated to lots more fancy gas on our way home...mostly due to mom's cheesy potatoes I'm thinking.

Proud mommy bringing baby home.
Being home is good. It's a little overwhelming though to walk into multiple phone messages from the church secretary "reminding" you of multiple responsibilities which you have somehow incurred along the way (?). And then there are the library fines. I will tell you a shocking secret: I once paid over $200 in library fines at once. And you thought you were bad? Well, consider that your ego-boost of the day. These fines are not that so I can face them with stolidity.
John is conferencing for the weekend starting tomorrow and as a send off gift from the house we have a busted hose on the washing machine and a leaking dishwasher. So he's been spending the day with the house in gratitude for that thoughtful Christmas miracle.
It has been a great holiday around here...I hope yours was as filled with camaraderie, new life, winter fun, joyful celebrations and, of course, some fancy gas as ours was.