31 March 2008

Baby Love

I went to a baby shower on Saturday and got to see my friend Mrs. Miller and meet baby Evangeline (what a cutie!). While there, I got to spend time with another young married gal from our church, Stephanie. She has been blogging about her baby research and questions as she and her husband prepare to start their family. One of her posts got me thinking.

Her question was:
Does having your first child change the way you view love? Do you feel like you have a greater capacity for love/compassion/self-sacrifice since becoming a parent? Or is all that the stuff of myth?

My initial response (which will show up in the post's comments when Stephanie has time to approve it - her blog has been raided by spammers, so she's having to moderate things more closely) was that the fact of having a baby certainly didn't make me less of a sinner than before I had a baby (any of them), but in the long run, the Lord has certainly used my children in the process of sanctification to mature me and teach me much about his love, which has indeed increased my capacity to love.

However, I've continued to mull this over and don't want to clog up her blog with a comment that's longer than her original post. That's why I have a blog of my own!

I think this thought that having a baby dramatically changes who you are is based on a Romantic (with a capital 'R') view of the world. Not 'romantic' meaning an ooey-gooey love story in which everyone lives happily ever after, but 'Romantic' as in the nineteenth century philosophical movement that was an over-reaction to the rationalism of the Enlightenment. The Romantic philosophers distrusted reason, preferring to rely upon their emotions for guidance and to lead them to truth. This meant that if they felt more loving, they were indeed more capable of love. This idea denies the bad news of the gospel - that we are sinners who cannot choose in our own strength to do right - and denies the good news of the gospel - that the gospel expressed through Christ crucified and raised again for our sins is the power of God at work in us. Looking through the lens of a Christian Romanticism, our emotions become the means of our sanctification and we must manufacture the right emotions so that we'll be changed.

While I don't think anything short of the work of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ can truly change us, the Lord does use earthly means, and one of those means is motherhood. Our children are most definitely ingredients in the slow crucible of our sanctification, but they are not a lightning bolt that changes everything in the blink of an eye (that's still to come!). I am also not saying that a new baby doesn't dramatically change one's life (which should go without saying, but I'm saying it anyway because I don't want to be misunderstood). Of course having a baby changes life in dramatic ways, but these changes don't necessarily equate to instant sanctification.

As Christ changes us into his image, those changes will affect our emotions. Our emotions, feelings, and sentiments will respond to the work of Christ. However, I see those changed emotions merely as a response to rather than a cause of our sanctification.

I have more thoughts jumpled up with this that I'm working to sort out, but they're best saved for another post.


21 March 2008

Precious in His Sight

Chuck and Beth Parker, on the occasion of their 25th wedding anniversary and the reaffirmation of their marriage vows.

Beth McKain Parker, 50, of McCandless Township, died March 21, 2008, at her residence. She leaves her husband, Charles Henry Parker, III; two teenage daughters, Dulcinea Marie Parker and Kendra Nicole Parker; two brothers, Richard G. McKain, II of Kilbuck Township, and Douglas S. McKain of Ross Township; and two sisters, Lauren Zwick of Avalon and Sharon Vereb of Saxonburg.

Beth was a graduate of Avonworth High School (class of 1975) and Chatham College (class of 1979).

A life-long enthusiast of Scots history, Beth served as a co-convener for the Clan Donald Society in the 1980s and resided in Scotland for a year to establish the genealogical library at the Clan's visitor center on the Isle of Skye.

She worked in administrative capacities for Andrus Architects and Holy Family Institute in the 1980s. She left the workforce to become an impassioned stay-at-home mother to her daughters.

Very involved in homeschooling and the local homeschooling community, Beth authored a website dedicated to providing quality resources to homeschooling families. She shared her accumulated wisdom with many homeschool families through this site as well as Trivium-at-Home and ClassEd online classical education communities. In addition, she was a member of North Hills Christian Homeschoolers and a former member of Cranberry Christian Homeschoolers.

Memorial contributions in Beth's name may be made to the Home School Legal Defense Association, P.O. Box 3000, Purcellville, VA 20134-9000.

With that, he swept the scythe through the grass, thinnish and full of ox-eye daisies, and sighing with a dry sound. And because the grass was so thin, you could watch the scythe, like a flash of steely light, through the standing crop before the swath fell. And it seems to me now that it was like the deathly will of God, which is ever waiting behind us till the hour comes to mow us down; yet not in unkindness, but because it is best for us that we leave growing in the meadow, and be brought into His safe rickyard, and thatched over warm with His everlasting lovingkindess.
~from Mary Webb's Precious Bane

Godspeed, dear friend. You will be missed.

18 March 2008

Honor, or What Achilles Could Have Learned

From the beginning of recorded history, we see a continual quest for honor. Achilles left the battle for Troy because his honor was stolen by Agamemnon. Gilgamesh fought Enkidu over honor. Alexander Hamilton died in a duel with Aaron Burr for the sake of honor. One's honor is to be defended, often to the death; it is more important than life.

Yet, as I watch the developing relationship between this young man and this young lady, I am struck by the honor of it all.

They each count themselves as nothing in their quest to glorify God and honor one another. He is not watching and defending his own honor and neither is she, but they are zealously guarding and defending the honor of the other. Their thoughts are not, 'Where is the line and how close can we get without actually crossing it?' or 'How many of my own aspirations and yearnings will you be able to fulfill?' but 'How and in what ways can I honor and guard you, without reference to my own inclinations?'

Because they view honor not as 'reputation' or 'acclaim' but as 'integrity' and 'esteem for one another', they have the former as they seek the latter. They have been freed from the selfishness of defending themselves and their own status. And their honor shines as they magnify the Lord together. This is honor that no one can steal from them.

What Achilles could have learned from this humble young man and woman!


17 March 2008

Gadgets, Gadgets Everywhere

…but nary a tool to use! I've been developing a more sane philosophy of kitchen gadgets than I had before. Well, actually, I can't say I really had one (and that was the problem), but I think I do now!

Since 80% of the work is done by 20% of the tools, part of my new philosophy is to limit my gadgets to things that perform more than one task. I'm not completely sure that this proportion is written in stone or absolutely accurate, but common sense says that a tool that does more than one task will be more useful than a single-use gadget.

So, for example, I got rid of my apple peeler/corer/slicer. By the time it's oiled and set up, the apples have been run through it, the little pieces of remaining core have been cut out of the slices, I've mopped up the gallon of juice that's dribbled all over the counter and the floor, cleaned up all the nooks and crannies of the machinery, and put the thing back in its box, I've spent more time and effort than it would have taken to simply peel the apples with a veggie peeler over a paper towel and then sliced them with a paring knife. (Besides, it's more fun to try to peel an apple without breaking the peel (which I can do most of the time) than to wind the ap/c/s - the kids have contests to see who can manage the longest unbroken peel.)

Instead of replacing our toasters, both of which were recently tossed out because of fraying cords, we're looking for a toaster oven, maybe one with a convection setting. We'll be able to toast as well as broil, bake, and roast (handy for lunches and won't heat up the kitchen as much in the summer). And the toaster ovens we're looking at can handle six pieces of bread, so we'll only need one. We had two four-slice toasters because of the size of our family.

Now, I'm not taking this too far. I am keeping a few single-use gadgets. For example, my Trini-tea automatic tea brewer. We use this every morning when we get up for our quiet time; I set it up the night before and simply push a button for a perfect pot of tea. It may only have one use, but it's used daily, unlike the apple p/c/s which was only used every six or twelve months - and not at all the last few years as I have many veggie peelers and many children.

As explained above, the ap/c/s really isn't that easy to use. The set-up, maintenance, and clean-up it requires cause more work than it saves. I have a few other gadgets that are also difficult to use because of awkward design, or they don't do, or don't do well, what they claim to do. They haven't lived up to the hype! If I have to fight to use something, it will sit in the cupboard taking up space and never be used, no matter how 'handy' the advertisements said it would be. Those are going, too!

So, most of my kitchen tools will have more than one use, or will have one quotidian task, and be relatively simple to use, and therefore will be used much. The kitchen will be uncluttered and more useful, as well as more fun to use.


15 March 2008

Not a Homeschooling Family

I have a confession to make. This may shock those of you who think otherwise, but {drum roll, please} we are not a homeschooling family.

We are a Christian family who homeschools. There is a vast chasm of difference between the two.

A homeschooling family finds their identity in homeschooling. Thus, homeschooling influences and overshadows almost every decision, whom they develop relationships with, whom they invite into their home, which church they join, which businesses they patronize. Not only do they find their identity in homeschooling, but they sort and categorize others into three categories: those who homeschool, those who support it but who never had the opportunity to do so (either because they have no children or because their children were of school age before homeschooling was an option), and those who place their children in an institutional school. Those in this last category are sub-divided yet again between government schools and private schools.

However, a Christian family who homeschools finds their identity in Christ, not in any choice they may make, no matter how important. This family also understands that there are really only two categories of people in the world: sinners and sinners who have been saved by grace. And that those in the first category may move into the second whenever the Lord decides to regenerate their hearts, and that their response to sinners should be modeled on Christ's, which means to love them - for while we were yet sinners Christ showed his love for us in living and dying for us. So Christian families who homeschool open themselves to relationships with whomever the Lord sends into their lives, even non-homeschooling unbelievers {gasp!}.

Homeschooling families view education in fairly narrow terms with mom and dad (mostly mom) doing most of the teaching, or it doesn't count as homeschooling. However, Christian families who homeschool know that it's not about mom and dad doing it all, rather it's about finding the best option for each child in each discipline, subject, or skill, yet staying involved and learning along with their children in the midst of each option. This might mean that a child learns mostly through online classes and tutors, with parents providing guidance and accountability, discussing the material covered in class as well as the events and conversations that take place, helping their students to progress in a mature and godly manner.

And, no, this isn't a prelude to an announcement that we're placing our children in school. Our commitment to and convictions about homeschooling are stronger than ever. It's that I don't think the insularity of some homeschooling families is biblical. We are called to be in the world, even though we aren't to find our identity, virtues, or worldview there.

I'm not sure that I have much more of a point, other than to lay this out for your consideration. This realization has taken me many years to come to, but this realization has given me liberty in our homeschooling and in our relationships.


14 March 2008

Book Review: A Perfect Mess

This was a fun read asking some serious questions about the place organization holds in our lives. The thesis is that perfection in organization not only isn't possible, but even if it were, it isn't worthy of the lofty place it holds in popular culture. A certain level of messiness is inevitable and even healthy.

The authors delve into many areas of life to support their point, from the way businesses and hospitals are run, to the atmosphere of our homes. Even though some of their side points and applications are somewhat liberal in their assumptions and gave me pause, I agree with their foundational thesis. It reminded me much of George Grant's Gileskirk lectures on the messiness of the Middle Ages and the untidy yet high calling of living in covenant community; also of Wendell Berry's contention that modern and efficient isn't always the highest good.

It helped me to remember not to compare myself with my ultra-organized friends, something that I've been doing unconsciously for years. There are areas of our home that are cluttered beyond usefulness, and those need to be dealt with (and by God's grace are being dealt with), but I really don't have to sweat the areas that are a bit messy, as long as they still work. Those areas express some of the things that are most important to us as a family, those things that make our home unique and give it personality and warmth.

As someone who has struggled with organization for years, I found this book to be a refreshing zephyr blowing across the clutter, reminding me that some things are more important than neatness and organization.


(Can you tell I've got a bit of time on my hands this afternoon and am able to finish up and post some of these things that have been hanging around as drafts for the last few weeks? ;-D)


Spring has sprung. The freesias are in bloom …

… as is the calla lily

We've begun clearing weeds from the back yard to prepare to plant some veggies and flowers in the edging around the yard. I'm looking forward to garden fresh veggies and fruits!


Spring Reading Challenge!

Well, I'm behind … again! I guess we can blame all the extra time dialling my new phone is costing me. ;-D

Here's a beginning list (I always seem to add to it as I go):

The Bruised Reed
Girl Talk
Family and Civilization
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
Who Will Make Us Wise?
The Twelve Trademarks of Great Literature
Contending for Our All
Doomed Bourgeois in Love
Le Petit Nicolas et les Copains
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
(out loud to the kidlings)

It's not a very long list right now. Hay fever has been severe this year and will last another six weeks or so. Having trouble concentrating. I'll add to my Reading Challenge Goals shelf in the sidebar the books we choose for Gileskirk after we finish Frederick Douglass, and I'll leave the books I finished for the Winter Challenge on my Reading Challenge Progress shelf until I get them reviewed.

Thanks, again, go out to Kathleen at Rock Creek Rumblings for organizing this!


12 March 2008

Whoa, Nellie!

If you call me on the phone, this is what will ring.

The phone we had in the kitchen before the new countertops didn't match anymore. Besides, I wanted a corded phone. If there's an emergency during a power outage, I want to be able to call for help; corded phones do that, cordless phones don't. I know touchtone dialing is supposed to be faster, but come on, does it really matter if I save 10 seconds each time I call someone? I've actually lost so much time searching for cordless phones that had wandered away from their cradles, that this is proving to be a net gain in the time category. This phone also won't cause lost calls because of batteries that run out in the middle of a call. And we'll save the time and frustration of having to run to the electronics or battery store to replace worn out batteries (one less errand to run and one less trivial detail to remember). It's also not possible to hang up on someone by putting my cheek too close to the receiver.

At first, I looked for the kind of rotary phone my grandmother had, from the late 60's or early 70's. They're out there, but that style just didn't seem to fit with the new kitchen (although I must say that I love the idea of the red rotary cell phone that resembles Mémère Bert's old phone (except for the color) - yes, you read that right - click on the link if you don't believe me, but don't forget to come back!). I looked at candlestick phones. Jared wasn't excited about going that far back in time. The antique candlestick phones come with a subset that contains the ringer and are quite, quite pricey; reproductions include touchtone dials set in a circle instead of a square (not my idea of an authentic reproduction). I kept looking, following links, checking out websites, and finally found this reproduction. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. It isn't just functional, it's a work of art.

This phone also a reminds us to stop and think about all the claims of contemporary society. Do cordless, touchtone phones really save us time? How much time? Is it really necessary? What's wrong with trying to slow things down a bit? Is what society is selling worth the price? Sometimes yes, sometimes no; but either way, I don't want to embrace trends thoughtlessly.

The phone is reminding us to slow down a little. Slower is good. (And, I don't even mind answering telemarketers' calls anymore. ;-D)


07 March 2008

Mercy and the Local Church

That spirit of mercy that was in Christ should move his servants to be content to abase themselves for the good of the meanest. … Christ came down from heaven and emptied himself of majesty in tender love to souls. Shall we not come down from our high conceits to do any poor soul good? Shall man be proud after God has been humble?

…And likewise those [Christians] are failing that, by overmuch austerity, drive back troubled souls from having comfort by them, for, as a result of this, many smother their temptations, and burn inwardly, because they have none into whose bosom they may vent their grief and ease their souls.

Reminded me of this, which I wrote on the chapter title page:

…we do pray for mercy,
and that same prayer doth teach us all to render
the deeds of mercy.

~Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice


02 March 2008

Book Review: Shopping for Time

This little gem just arrived last week. I'm rereading it now, with pink-ink-loaded pen in hand. I found it helpful and challenging on many levels.

What I liked:

The practical yet gracious tips for stewarding time with eternal goals in mind were so helpful.

I loved the glimpse into Carolyn's relationships with her daughters. I've wanted those kinds of relationships with my girls, but had no idea how to go about it. I'm getting a clearer picture.

The evaluation questions - not a list of rules, but questions to help each woman assess her priorities.

The gentle reminders that I'm not called to do everything, but to make sure I'm spending my time where the Lord wants me to spend it.

The sweet grace that infused the book. No standard ways of applying the principles, but lots of practical words of advice and encouragement to do what you can, not what others do.

The one thing I had to get past:

The shopping metaphor. I hate to shop and really don't understand the coupon clipping, sale brochure perusing, and time taken browsing through aisles upon aisles of things I neither want nor need. I'm more of a consumer hunter than a shopper, so when I do know what I want, I look online, find the website (or local store) with the lowest price (including shipping), and order it. {Oooh, the Wells Fargo Wagon is-a comin' down the street. Oh, please, let it be for me!}

I don't like going to stores and, more often than not, not finding the specific item I'm looking for. What a waste of time and energy. And yet, looking online, I've found some beautiful things that I love and that have lasted a long time and that just aren't available at the local mall. (It probably doesn't help that I don't like most of the women's clothing styles that are available right now, and haven't really for the last 15 years or so. I'm waiting for the sixties and seventies to go away (and never come back!) and the classic styles of the eighties to return. I see glimpses, but we've got a long way to go.)

I'm glad I pushed myself through the metaphor (I skimmed those parts) to get to the meat of this thought-provoking tome. I highly recommend it and will be purchasing copies for Anna, Judith, and Rebekah tomorrow so we can read it and discuss it together.


01 March 2008

Kitchen Progress, VIII

The last tile has been laid. Most of the grout has been pushed into joints, although we still have some facia pieces to do and a few touch-ups (and we're almost out of grout (hmm…that sounds like it should be in a poem) - I think we're going to need just a few more ounces than we have; it'll be close). The backsplash, island, and desk have been de-hazed. We're going to experiment with stone and grout seals before applying them. The boys are beginning to clear out the scraps from the backyard, which means it will stop looking like a construction zone and we can enjoy some time outside before it gets too hot.

I hope to get some pictures of the finished product posted within a couple of days.

I'm so thankful the end is in sight! It'll be nicer than I can express to have a real kitchen again and to be able to cook. We're still organizing (our living room still resembles the inside of a kitchen cabinet), but it's going well, as is sorting through which gadgets to keep and which to jetison - my new kitchen-tool philosophy is a post for another day.