Saturday, March 31, 2007

From the Darkness

When from the darkness comes no light,

when from the weeping comes no laughter;

when in the day we hope for night

nor any comfort coming after:

grant us your peace.

When in our confidence our fear

clutch at the heart and make us tremble;

when in our joy we weep cold tears,

and in our frankness we dissemble:

grant us your light.

When in our love there is no care,

and in our yearning we are dullness;

when what we know we cannot dare,

and we are nothing that is fullness:

grant us your truth.

(Brendan McLaughlin(1971)

My mother-in-love and I attended Lenten Vespers together. The Abendmusik Vespers Choir from Vancouver performed it at a Reformed church nearby. We had no idea we would witness such beauty. The inner-sanctuary of the church was constructed to be acoustically superb; we were amazed at the perfectly held and reflected sound, the clear precision of each choral note.

The song above, When From the Darkness, was my favorite. Hearing it, reminded me of why I love the seasons of Lent and Advent and why the traditional, liturgical calendar brings me such solace.

I was raised in a variety of Christian churches, all with very little liturgy or tradition. In many ways, I am thankful for the variety of Christian expression that I was exposed to. But in other ways I felt overwhelmed by the options and entered University with a lot of confusion about how to "choose" a church away from home.

Somehow in the midst of it all, I absorbed the message that Christians should be happy and good-looking and energetic, and should have easy answers for the heartaches and struggles of the world. They might experience challenge, but should stand up tall and "get over it", because Christ brings joy, and true Christians should FEEL joy. When I experienced sadness or melancholy, it seemed contrary to the part of Christianity I knew and I felt a sense of urgency to regain contentment, to once again feel happy.

I have realized this is only half of the Christian experience. Christ does bring joy. Having a sense of contentment and faith inside does impact one's outer beauty and brings energy and meaning. But true joy often comes only after deep sadness and heartache. And true depth and authenticity comes from sitting still with that sadness, letting the melancholy sink in. And when it has done it's work, letting it move out to a wider place, where there is room again for joy.

I began to accept that Christianity can encompass all the seasons of a person's life. Faith remains as relevant in Winter as in Summer and Spring. I had a hunger to be part of an expression of Christianity that expressed in symbolic form, the whole range of human emotion.

In the end, I chose an Anglican Church. Or perhaps, it chose me.

We have been attending an Anglican church for 6 years now. The repetition and constancy of the liturgical calendar has spiralled into our life more deeply each year. It has not become tiresome and old; it has become a quieting stability in my life. I have come to love the season of Lent. It is a 40-day season of preparation and spiritual renewal beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday, the night before Easter. And it is a time to embrace sadness and heartache, to find quiet space in which to sit and rest, to be still.

Lent allows us to feel depression, and melancholy, just because, without simple answers. It recognizes the bigness of God, but allows one to feel alone, to acknowledge that aloneness is okay. It is a hovering place, a holding room, a quiet space before the relief and renewal of Easter.

After a long 40-day period of mindfulness and preparation, Easter morning feels like the first day of creation!

I am resting tonight in the hovering space, walking through this final week of preparation. And before I sleep, I will read the lyrics of another song from Lenten Vespers called Close Now Thine Eyes:

Close now thine eyes and rest secure,

thy soul is safe enough, they body sure.

He that loves thee,

He that keeps and guards thee never slumbers, never sleeps.

The smiling conscience in a sleeping breast has only peace, has only rest;

The music and the mirth of kings are all but very discords when she sings.

Then close thine eyes.

Close now thine eyes and rest secure,

no sleep so sweet as thine,

no rest so sure.
(Francis Quarles)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Last of Winter

The morning is cold and still. There is a hovering promise of sunshine in the air.

On Saturday night, the sunset was a deep magenta with swirling and shadowy wisps of cloud streaked across the palette of sky. "Red sky at night, sailor's delight," I whispered to myself, and closed my eyes with a silent prayer for sun.

I awoke at 4 am to feed Soul-Baby and couldn't fall back to sleep. I read and caught up on letters, watched a documentary online called "The Great Global Warming Swindle" (a counter to Al Gore's "An Inconvienient Truth"). Around 7 am, sharp rays of sunlight pierced through and around my curtains and filled our home with a golden hue. I stayed alive and attentive to sun throughout the day, the entire day! Glorious. Clear blue skies, gleaming green fields; it was almost too much for my eyes to take in. The world became colour again. And this morning looks like it will be the same.

We spent most of yesterday with some amazing families who came together to celebrate the baptisms of two new baby girls, born to sisters, within two months of eachother. Four of the mothers and I are part of a mom's group. My husband and I attend an Anglican church, but the other mothers in the group are Catholic. The Catholic tradition is to have a special Baptism ceremony separate from the regular church service, for family and friends.

The ceremony was beautiful and attended by many. Afterwards, we gathered at their home for a reception. It was a bustling flurry of children, nursing babies, tinkling wine glasses and lively conversation. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

The selection of gourmet foods was astounding. My favorite dessert was the super RICH chocolate torte(?) fudge cake(?)... something spectacularly chocolate and RICH (did I mention RICH?). It was topped with crushed pistachio nuts. wow-ee. And my favorite Hor'derve was warmed Brie, covered in hunny and flaked almonds on crunchy slices of baquette.

After we arrived home at 5 pm, my husband crawled in bed for a nap, chubby soul-baby laid down for a nap and my Alley-oop and I cuddled up with a wool blanket to watch PollyAnna. It was a wonderful end to the weekend.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Do It Anyway

Just this week, we put a new radio into our PRADO. When we bought it, the original (stock) car stereo was shot. So we've driven the last couple of months with only CBC 693 am to listen to. I have actually really enjoyed it, because I rarely choose talk radio over music. But now, I am enjoying the variety once again.

There are two songs this week that have wriggled inside my mind. Their poignant lyrics continue to swirl around me even as I write. I find them especially uplifting during this very LONG rainy stretch we are experiencing. We've had almost two weeks straight of dark, indoor, drippy-ness around these parts. Spring *does* come every year, right? I need to believe it does. Sometimes around mid-March (NOW!) I forget that seasons *do* indeed change.

Do it Anyway: Martina McBride

You can spend your whole life building something from nothing
One storm can come and blow it all away

Build it anyway

You can chase a dream that seems so out of reach
and you know it might not ever come your way

Dream it anyway

God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good
And when I pray it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway, I do it anyway

This world’s gone crazy and it’s hard to believe
that tomorrow will be better than today

Believe it anyway

You can love someone with all your heart,
for all the right reasons,
and in a moment they can choose to walk away

Love ‘em anyway

God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good
And when I pray it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway, I do it anyway

You can pour your soul out singing a song you believe in
that tomorrow they’ll forget you ever sang
Sing it anyway, sing it anyway

I sing, I dream, I love, anyway

Ordinary Miracle: Sarah Mclachlan

It’s not that unusual
When everything is beautiful
It’s just another ordinary miracle today

The sky knows when its time to snow
Don’t need to teach a seed to grow
It’s just another ordinary miracle today

Life is like a gift they say
Wrapped up for you everyday
Open up and find a way
To give some of your own

Isn’t it remarkable?
Like every time a rain drop falls
It’s just another ordinary miracle today

Birds and winter have their fling
But always make it home by spring
It’s just another ordinary miracle today

When you wake up everyday
Please don’t throw your dreams away
Hold them close to your heart
Cause we’re all a part
Of the ordinary miracle
Ordinary miracle

Do you want to see a miracle?

It seems so exceptional
That things just work out after all
It’s just another ordinary miracle today

Sun comes up and shines so bright
And disappears again at night
It’s just another ordinary miracle today
It’s just another ordinary miracle today

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Homeschooling Homes: May I Peek Inside?

I've just settled in with a steaming mug of Medium Roast Cafe Mbeya, Fair Trade Organic Tanzanian Coffee from Level Ground Trading LTD. My nose tingles with the aroma of a fresh homemade brew and I relish this moment of quiet.

Earlier this week, I joined our local Homeschooling Association for a home tour. My husband and I have decided to homeschool and because I feel nervous about the decision and inadequate for the task, I've started to attend monthly homeschool meetings to observe successful homeschooling families and to learn some ideas and tips for starting. I have enjoyed it immensely and have been challenged and inspired by the other men and women in the group. There are over 100 of us.

During the home tour, we took a peek inside the inner workings of four homes over a two hour period. The idea was to give us a chance to see how other families create a space for homeschooling. We were free to ask any questions and to hear about preferred curriculum.

The first woman received us at the door with a warm smile and then quickly stepped back and out of the way so we didn't collide with her nine-month pregnant belly. She looked to be in her mid to late-30's and was carrying her 8th baby. She and her husband own a farm and greenhouse on their property and work out of their home. She homeschools six of their children, since number seven is just two years old.

Their upstairs consisted of a family/music room, office, play room, kitchen, bathroom, master bedroom and school room. They recently renovated the basement to accomodate three bedrooms for the children. They have three computers divided between the office and school room. And their kitchen table was at least ten feet long. Unbelievable. Her home was well-organized and tidy and seemed to run like a well-oiled machine.

The school room had four old-fashioned, wooden school desks in a line and two more chairs at a table toward the back of the room. She had crafts and booklets and projects hanging from the ceiling like mobiles. In front of the school desks was a large office desk where she sits and teaches and marks. Behind her desk was a chalkboard and large white board. She uses a lot of Amish curriculum called Rod and Staff. And characterizes herself as someone who needs a lot of lists and schedules.

The second home we visited was more of a "loose style" of homeschooling. As we entered, I noticed two full drum sets, a set of bongo drums, a guitar and a tambourine. A LONG piece of paper (actually a BUNCH of papers taped together) lined the space between the top of the wall and the ceiling, like a wall-paper border. On it, were various pictures and dates to comprise a time line from the beginning of creation (in Genesis) until our present time. I thought this was a great idea!

The main school "room" was just off the kitchen in a nook or dining room area. They installed floor-to-ceiling book cases that hold different folders, readers, curriculum, magazines and books. The mom had a large desk and her four kids had small, old-fashioned school desks nearby. She also uses Rod and Staff Curriculum as well as Sonlight.

The third family converted their entire basement suite into a school area. The suite's kitchen was a storage area for craft supplies, toys and science project materials. In the center of the main room was a large round table and around it were bookshelves and display cases and a large desk with a computer. This family has two kids with the youngest one just three years old. She seemed very organized and her 6 year-old-son's projects looked nearly perfect, as though an adult had completed them. I suppose that is part of having only one child to focus on at a time.

This woman LOVES science projects and stumbled upon a great resource for ideas called :Lentil Science. The whole idea behind Lentil Science is the importance of using simple, everyday objects to teach science whenever possible. They teach children to calibrate a container using a scoop, pen and tape, and bowl of lentils, how to weigh a certain amount of lentils and other simple scientific experiments.

I enjoyed seeing how much she loved what she was doing and got excited about each new project of the day. She used to be a school teacher and consultant for Creative Memories Scrapbooking and seems to incorporate these areas of expertise (and creativity) into her homeschooling.

The final home on our tour was owned by a single mom in her 40's who is homeschooling her 13- year-old for the first time. Her daughter was having difficulty in school and expressed a desire to be homeschooled, so they decided to give it a try. She reads a lot of books and since she wants to be a veterinarian, they focus on curriculum and stories that involve animals.

They have a large home and since it is the two of them, they are able to spread out and study whereever they want to. The downstairs suite has a computer and TV that they use for multimedia curriculum, and the upstairs has an extra room and bathroom that they've converted into a school room with a large, cushioney reading chair and a tidy desk for writing.

For most of our time at the last house, we discussed a curriculum called Character Studies which sounds really interesting. She pulled out samples that she is using with her daughter and I jotted down some information that I want to research over the next months as I decide on the curriculum to use.

I really enjoyed the chance to take a look at what works for other like-minded families. I am excited to craft a vibrant educational space for our family over the summer.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

From a Lump of Clay

"But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of your hand."

(Isaiah 64:8)

"Does not the Potter have power over the clay...?"

(Romans 9:21a)

On Tuesday nights from 7-10 pm, after the wee ones are in bed, I drive to Matsqui prairie to take pottery lessons from Herman Venema of "Venema Pottery." He and his wife own a gorgeous property off Harris Road with a renovated farm house and immaculate, artistically-landscaped gardens.

Originally from Holland, Herman is a hardworking Dutchman, with an "I can figure out anything you throw my way" air about him. He seems to know a little bit about everything, and though his teaching style is blunt and gruff, he still manages to be extremely supportive and kind, asking questions that convey a sense of care about each student and an awareness of what's important to them.

Herman has worked with clay for over 25 years. He loves what he does and is a true master of the art. His style is simple, precise and earthy and he seems to find great spiritual significance and solace in what he does.

A Pottery lesson usually lasts 3 hours. For the first hour, Herman trims what he threw the previous week and then demonstrates a new throwing technique. We are then free to create on our own, asking questions along the way. He's not too strict about the time we finish and clean up; the last one out for the night, turns off the light and heat. His studio is open every week night for practice time, which I love. It reminds me of learning an instrument. If I only practice during the weekly lesson time, progress is very slow. But if I practice all week, doing the same new thing again and again, I can more completely build onto my foundation of understanding and move closer to mastery.

I first learned how to throw from my quirky highschool art teacher Mr. Gillis. He used to call me "K.C. and the Sunshine Band." Shortly after I completed my first piece on the wheel, I dreamed about it all night long. I remember the sense of power I had after watching a lump of clay turn into a mug, a plate, an obscure sculpture-like vessel with a chunky lid. I was addicted. And I was overwhelmed with metaphor.

Clay is hunted down and collected from the earth. (He brought me out of the horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps (Psalm 40:2) It is purified and filtered to eradicate uneven textures, and to prepare it for the potter. Force is required to first cut and wedge the clay, to pound it into a ball and to throw it against the bat so it sticks in place. The single most important step in throwinga vessel is properly centering the clay. This takes time and strength and control. The lump of clay must yield and spin to a column, curve down into a low, even beehive shape, spiral back up to a column, and then lean over to mix and surrender once again to a low, centered mound. To do this requires unrelenting pressure from the potter and modability from the clay.

And every creation is different. Even with the same amount of clay and vision, there are no two hand-thrown vessels exactly alike. And if the clay is overworked, too dry, too wet, rushed or poorly centered, it will fold back into a formless mass to be reclaimed. ANY clay can be reclaimed, some lumps just take longer to rework and to once again pound into a fresh ball, ready for recreation.

I am grateful for this chance to create with clay and to revisit an old love. It brings me joy and peace and is another tangible reminder of the moldability of my clay-self and clay-soul, lovingly centered by a strong potter who recreates me daily with passionate vision and unrelenting love.

(photo from Vijaya Morrison at Rainforest Pottery, where I was first reacquainted 3 years ago)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Little Sunshine Everyday

The weather in this part of British Columbia is unruly and unpredictable! A few days ago, I was sporting a tank top as I loaded up the Landcruiser to take my kids and their friend Ava for a day at Heritage Park. Sunday and Monday brought POURING rain, so much that major intersections throughout the lower mainland were flooded, traffic detoured in all directions. And today is drab and dreary-feeling, the sky gray with a hovering breeze, just enough to create an eery silence and chill.

On days like today, I turn on my brightest light in the kitchen, light a few candles and crank up Bob Marley. I open all the curtains, dress in bright colours, and light frakincense and myrhh to enliven the stale air with a warm-spicy aroma. Baking something yummy first thing in the morning helps. I've been enjoying the Blueberry Bounty Buns from the cookbook Vive Le Vegan! Even though we are not Vegan, I enjoy cooking a lot of Vegan/Vegetarian meals. And since my husband is extremely allergic to Dairy, I find a lot of great recipes from these sources.

Thankfully, my daughter loves rainy days. We spend time cuddled up with books in the morning until the embracing heat from our woodstove rises through the floorboards and warms our toes. She loves to have a rainy day tea party, dance to music, help me with indoor household tasks. In general, she has a very sunny personality and thinks everything is a party. I really believe God knew I needed her in my life; she is my sunshine on these dreary coastal days.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Where does the time go?

It's been too long since I added a post. And for the life of me, I can't figure out where the days have gone. I woke up with Mastitis two mornings ago and have been feeling pretty crummy, but in many ways, that is no excuse, because writing usually makes me feel better. Our two little ones got ear infections and have not been their jolly selves. We've had a couple of sunny days that have pulled us outside, the laundry had been backed up and my husband helped me do load after load this week, visitors have made their way into our home and to our table, which has been a great blessing. I guess it's all just *life*. And suddenly, days pass in a flash and I realize this hard truth when I see the date at the top of my past post.

I am organizing a Blessingway today for my good friend and the midwife for my first child. She is having her third child, after experiencing a sorrowful miscarriage. A friend of mine organized one for me before Soul-baby's birth and I was immensely encouraged as I walked forward into the experience of birth once again. I hope my friend feels similarly encouraged today.

Last night, my husband made dinner (yummy tostadas) and we watched a documentary on Bob Dylan called No Direction Home, that we borrowed from our local library. It was a wild glimpse into the young life of an incredible poet and lyricist. He was a quirky individual with a lot of heart. I especially enjoyed the interviews with Joan Baez and others who knew him intimately. For Bob Dylan fans such as I, this is a "must see".

I guess I'm full of random "catching-up" thoughts this morning, hoping to get back on track. Part of the reason I love to blog is that it is a discipline to write regularly and this is something I long to grow in. It reveals my priorities in black-n-white. And as I visit other blogs, I am encouraged when I see busy moms keeping up with the part of blogging that balances their days and their souls. SO, keep visiting! I will bring out some fresh topics in the near future. And as always, feel free to comment as it encourages me when I know my words are being read.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

From The Mouth Of Children

Earlier this week, my husband and I received this write-up from his grandmother. She is a vibrant, 80-something matriach who blesses us immensely and sends glimpses of light our way. I was touched by these answers. And reminded of the nuances required in loving another.

A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds,

"What does love mean?"

_____"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love."Rebecca- age 8
_____"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth."Billy - age 4
_____"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other."Karl - age 5
_____"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs."Chrissy - age 6
_____"Love is what makes you smile when you're tired."Terri - age 4
_____"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK."Danny - age 7
_____"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss"Emily - age 8
_____"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."Bob by - age 7
_____"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,"Nikka - age 6
_____"Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday."Noelle - age 7
_____"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well."Tommy - age 6
_____"Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken."Elaine-age 5
_____"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford."Chris - age 7
_____"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day."Mary Ann - age 4
_____"I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones."Lauren - age 4
_____"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you."Karen - age 7
_____"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget."Jessica - age 8
_____And the final one --

Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.
Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing, I just helped him cry."

Friday, March 02, 2007

Magical Moments of Make Believe

My daughter is 3 and 1/2 and full of intense energy. She wakes up jabbering about what she will do during the day, asking me what I am doing, looking around for anything that has changed in the house while she slept. Yesterday, I had shifted a chair into a slightly different spot so I could do Yoga. The moment she woke up, she tilted her head and asked "Hey! Why is that chair there?" She notices everything! This also means that she remembers everything I say, and holds me to it. I have to be ultra careful with what I suggest or promise, because to her, it's set in stone and WILL definitely happen, post haste! I have grown to love this as it forces me to say what I mean, and act on what I have promised. Her full name means "truth", and we have discovered how appropriate this is to her discerning, inquisitive and detailed-oriented personality.

We have decided to help her funnel her intensity into creative play as much as we can. In many ways, she develops her own play and it naturally overflows from the changes in her age-appropriate development, ideas from friends, and the expansion of her fertile mind. But I make a point to carve out specific time each morning for adventurous, creative play.

From the beginning, my husband and I decided to have no more toys than would fit into a medium-sized Tupperware Tote. We have gone beyond that somewhat with larger items like Alley's small, wooden highchair for her doll, a rocking horse, and one of those bead maze things with loopy pieces that you slide the bead over. And beyond the toy box, we have a Costume box and a Puppet box.

I find the greatest costumes at the MCC thrift store in our town and Value Village in an adjoining town. So far, we have a monkey, lion, tiger, ladybug, princess, caterpiller, angel, fairy, hawaiian hoola girl (grass skirt and funky floral dress) , doctor bag, and various little scarves and purses and high-heeled shoes. I have so much fun watching her merge into character, and I play along. She often wants me to call her "dentist", or "ballerina", "doctor" for an hour or so as she glides around the house and listens to my elbow or stomach with the stethoscope. Actually, after a recent trip to the doctor, she now listens in all the right places.

We've gotten into the habit of going to the library once a week to pick out new books together. This week, I picked out one called Wishes for You by Tobi Tobias. It is a heartwarming reflection of a parent's hopes for her child. And beyond a deep yearning that my children know and love God above anyone and anything, these reflections hae become almost a prayer for me:

*I hope you will have moments when you're so happy, you'll feel the sun is shining from inside you.

*I hope you will have the strength and spirit to deal with bad things when they come your way.

*I hope you will be lucky.

*I hope you will always be curious.

*I hope you will never forget how to be silly.

* I hope you and I will have adventures together--just the two of us.

* I hope you will love to read.

* I hope you will learn to make things with your own hands.

* I hope you will want to make your body strong and quick and beautiful--and enjoy the way that feels.

*I hope you will love one special person more than anyone of anything in the whole world.

* I hope that, one day when you're grown up, you will have a child--different from you, but just as wonderful.

* I hope you will love being alone sometimes.

*I hope you will know what you think and feel and not let other people tell you.

* I hope you will be able to tell your favorite people the secrets of your heart.

* I hope you will always be part of a family.

* I hope you will always remember me and know how much I love you.

Sometimes after the kids are in bed, I tiptoe into their room and say over them the things I hope they will have and will experience in their lives. Remembering specific hopes like the ones above, gives me strength for each day I have as guardian of these precious large-souled children.