Saturday, May 31, 2008

"Charm is deceitful..."

"... and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised." - Proverbs 31:30

The Distortion of Beauty

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Red Letter Day

I must write and say that today was a day for the history books! I passed my eldest daughter in the hall today, and in her arms was a basket of her clean clothes. She had taken them upstairs to the laundry room, washed them, put them in the dryer, gotten them out of the dryer, and was now taking them back downstairs to be put away - all without being asked! (Normally she is invited to put her clothes in the family baskets to be washed with all the rest.)

After a few high fives and some mock cheering, I went on to genuinely thank her very much for taking such initiative, and for being so helpful. How was I blessed with such great kids?!

Now if we can just get my son to notice when the trash needs to go out...

Conifer Climbing

Below is a "guest post" from my oldest daughter, EV. She posted this on what was then the "kids' blog," which has turned into her brother PT's blog since she and her sister OG only posted a couple of things. I like the things they posted, however, so I've preserved them here...

I had my 14th birthday a few weeks ago, and we went camping. It was so fun! We arrived at the Shenandoah National Park in the late afternoon, and after another hour or so of driving to the campground, set up camp. There was this conifer tree in our site, and we had a great time seeing who could get the highest. The branches were growing so close together (especially toward the top) that we could only get so high, but once you stopped climbing and actually sat still, you could feel the tree literally swaying in the wind.

After screaming your pleasure of this windy phenomenon at the top of your lungs down to the family (and the rest of the campground) far below, you would start to feel a little disconcerted. You can't really help it, seeing as you're almost to the top of the tree, and you're seeing the top of the mountains in the distance, and there is a strong breeze swaying the tree you're sitting on, and you have images of the whole tree snapping and falling on top of you. I sure skedaddled out of the tree when my imagination got the better of me.

The next day, I woke up to the smell of pancakes and eggs and bacon sizzling on the open fire. After breakfast (and a brief nap), we went hiking. We were gone practically all afternoon, and arrived to our "home" just in time to have bread and cheese and apples for dinner. - 'ding 1

Saturday, May 24, 2008


I'm no mindless fan of Doug Wilson. I think some of what he says is right on, and some of what he says scares me to death because it is so crazy. That said, I've stumbled upon an interesting quotation as I continue to ponder this issue of forgiveness and relationship.

“We want comfort for being losers rather than forgiveness for being sinners because forgiveness brings in its train the demand for change.” - Doug Wilson

Friday, May 23, 2008


"It's very simple," Herkimer told her. "To turn an enemy into a friend, all you have to do is love him."

"Love him? Are you sure? That doesn't sound easy at all. That sounds terribly difficult to me," Annabelle said.

"Oh, it is difficult, " Herkimer agreed. "Probably one of the most difficult things in the world. But I said it was simple, not easy."

The Tale of Annabelle Hedgehog. Published by Lion Publishing, Batavia, Illinois. Copyright 1990 by Stephen Lawhead.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."
- Matthew 18:21

I've been tryin' to get down
To the heart of the matter
But everything changes
And my friends seem to scatter
But I think it's about forgiveness
Even if, even if, you don't love me anymore

There are people in your life who've come and gone
They let you down; you know, they hurt your pride
You better put it all behind you, baby; life goes on
You keep carryin' that anger, it'll eat you up inside, baby

I've been tryin' to get down
To the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it's about forgiveness
Even if, even if, you don't love me

I'm learning to live without you now
But I miss you sometimes
The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I knew, I'm learning again

I've been tryin' to get down
To the heart of the matter
Because the flesh will get weak
And the ashes will scatter
So I'm thinkin' about forgiveness
Even if, even if, you don't love me anymore

From "The Heart of the Matter," Don Henley, 1989, The End of the Innocence

Listen and watch here

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Singing Revolution

The first time I met my future mother-in-law (who at the time was just the mother of a guy I thought was neat), she handed me a "Free the Baltics" button. She was (and still is) a beautiful woman, all the more charming for her Estonian accent when she spoke. And she was passionate about Estonian independence.

I had moved past the, "Where is Estonia again?" question by the time I met her. I had, after all, asked the neat guy with the weird name where he was from; been told, "Jersey;" and pressed further to get at the true ethnic origins of his unusual name. Then I'd had to go find my map...

But I had not even tapped into the fierce "ethnic pride" that is characteristic of these people. (His Swiss German father didn't have a chance, although Iivo did become fluent in both "extra" languages growing up.)

Now there is a chance that you can learn a bit more of their story yourself. You can see the trailer for the film here:

Poetry Time

This morning, we're off to a poetry recitation for homeschoolers. Over the past couple of weeks, each of the four kids have been memorizing a poem to be delivered before an audience this morning. I love these sorts of opportunities, and I am thankful for the homeschooling parents who take time to organize them.

EL was having a little trouble keeping her poem straight, so I asked Iivo if we could make a recording of my reading it so she could listen on the ipod and practice it that way. He said yes, and early one morning in our "noise room" upstairs, I hastily read the poem into a boom microphone (complete with headphones on... picture those video clips you see of famous actors when they're doing the "voices" for some animated film). The first time I listened to it with EL, this is the unexpected surprise we heard:

The poem being read is excerpted from "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out," Where the Sidewalk Ends, copyright 1974 by Shel Silverstein, published by Harper & Row

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Great Floral Exchange

Here's the lone blossom on the new flower we got when we traded in the passion flower. Since we posted a picture of the passion flower we didn't keep, I figured I should post one of the clematis flower we did keep.

Hopefully it will take to its new home and continue to bloom for us even this year.

Walking home through the park that is our backyard this weekend, we noticed some lovely vines growing on (and through) a neighbor's fence. One was a lovely, aromatic jasmine vine. The other? The highly exotic and purportedly very invasive passion flower! It looked just like the one we returned to the nursery on Saturday. We will have fun watching to see what the vigilant growth of that plant looks like in practice... in someone else's yard!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

East of Eden

I know it sounds crazy, but I love weeding. Yes, it is tedious, and no, I never have time enough to do it as well as it should be done, but when I get the opportunity to be alone with my thoughts while I'm doing it, I really love it.

Today it was sunny and breezy and beautiful. It was actually a pleasure sitting outside - on the edge of our flower beds - ripping and pulling at the "thorns and thistles" that were growing, unwelcome, there. I had some uninterrupted time to think... and muse... and pray through some of the current situations in my life. The Lord and I had a lovely couple of hours together.

But I realized, as I spent the afternoon sweating and dirtying my hands, that I enjoyed it on another level beyond that one. There is beauty, and power, and pleasure, I think, in the joining of the work of redemption - even at the smallest and most insignificant of levels. My flower bed looks beautiful now whereas this morning it was riddled with weeds. I have made a difference in the direction of redemption, however small and silly it may be in the grand scheme of things.

I have a friend who claims to love to iron clothes... for much the same reasons, I think.

As I pulled out each weed (or as she irons out each wrinkle), I was able to observe the progress of beauty... the defeat of disorder and ugliness. It was gratifying in its own right, yes. But it was also a spiritual allegory for me.

From Colossians 3: "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. ..

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

"Instructions for Holy Living," my Bible calls this section. And in it I am told how I am able to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He works in my life, seeing the ugly parts challenged and removed as the lovely parts are nourished and grown. Yes, the dumb "weeds" of my life will be back again tomorrow, but for today they have been held just a little at bay... at least partly redeemed by a Redeemer who loves to beautify His children. And what glorious news that I don't have to do this myself, but that I can "be confident of this, that he who began a good work in me will be faithful to carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6)!

Until that day, I'll just keep weeding...

(Colossians 3:5-17, from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973,1978,1984 by International Bible Society. Co-published by Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and B.B. Kirkbride Bible Co, Inc., Indianapolis, IN).

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Many Versions of Me

I was reading recently--in the newest "Rough Guide"--about America. One of the things they said was this:

And for all of its pride and bluster, the USA can be a land of quiet nuances: snow falling on a country lane in Vermont, cherry trees blooming under Washington memorials, crocodiles swimming through the bayou. You could easily plan a trip that focuses on the out-of-the-way hamlets, remote wilderness, eerie ghost towns, and forgotten byways that are every bit as "American" as its showpiece icons and monuments. Putting aside the sheer size of the place, deciding exactly what version of America you want to see, may be the hardest decision of all.
(You are reading content from The Rough Guide to the USA.)

Reading that has gotten me thinking, and not necessarily about the United States itself. I'm intrigued by that final sentence. "Deciding exactly what version of America you want to see may be the hardest decision of all." I think it is true of people even more than it is of countries.

What exactly do I mean? I don't really know, but I've been noticing something...

Last week I received an email from a friend whom I haven't been able to see for a while. At the end of it, she directed me to her family's blog. (It seems that everyone has a blog these days, and I love keeping up with folks this way. It is especially handy when they are in another state, or even another country, and hopes of actually seeing them anytime soon are rather slim.)

One thing I'm realizing, as I keep my own little "private" blog, is that I often have a desire to let someone know about it. Some particular something I've posted is something I want some particular person to see... the heartening sermon excerpt for the discouraged friend, the fun vacation photos for the distant grandparent, the link to the challenging and thought-provoking website for the youth group leader, even just the daily humdrum of life for those who love us very much and are the only ones who might care to read such things...

This morning, even, as I taught children's church, I had a desire to tell them I would record the scripture memory song I was teaching them and post it on my blog so they could go listen to it during the week and learn it more easily.

The "problem," I'm realizing, is that we have many selves... different personae we adopt for interacting with different folks. It isn't necessarily that we have different selves, per se, so much as that we reserve a view of many of the aspects of our true self for those few who are closest to us... or maybe that we change which dimensions of ourselves we choose to present, depending on the context of the interaction and the persons involved.

This is especially true of someone like me. I am frequently accused of being intimidating. I am often referred to as very intense, very deep, very pensive. Some who know me love this aspect of my personality, and intend it as the highest compliment. Others who know me have broken off friendship with me because it was "just too much," and they want simpler, shallower, "nicer," less exhausting.

And so, even when we consider ourselves to be persons who are very vulnerable, very "real," very willing to share whatever we're dealing with freely and openly, we find ourselves in many relationships that are not on a level that can handle that... or that even want to. There are those--particularly family members whom we rarely see--who don't even understand half of what we're talking about when we're "waxing philosophical." And we don't really "get them," either, or half the choices they make, so we just don't interact on those levels.

"Smiles, everyone, smiles" as the Fantasy Island guy used to say.

And there is, of course, a reason for the age-old adage to "never discuss religion or politics." Those who are relationally savvy keep quiet when the topics may be sensitive, stay mum when the implications of the topics may potentially offend, share certain dimensions of themselves but not others when doing so will keep everyone comfortable and happy. We do so with varying degrees of comfort, and we do so with differing levels of satisfaction and pleasure, but we do it almost unconsciously, without even realizing we're doing it half the time.

And so, the idea of actually publishing your blog and letting people know about it becomes intimidating. If you are open with your true self--all your true "selves"---on your blog, then there are those you know who may read your blog and freak out. And so, a little while after publishing it, you may end up halting discussion of the meaningful or the thought-provoking, and the blog becomes a handy place to share photos and cute stories, but nothing more.

"Deciding exactly what version you want to see may be the hardest decision of all."

That, and deciding exactly what version you want to show.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Our Passion Flower

Our passion flower has bloomed! This is what its lone blossom looks like.

The "vine expert" at the nursery said it will grow anywhere, and is the most invasive flowering vine you can plant. He warned that it would eventually grow to fifty feet and beyond, taking over houses, telephone poles, trees, fences, or whatever it happens to touch. It does not die back in the winter, just goes brown and dormant and then gets going again where it left off come spring.

The clematis, on the other hand, grows to only about six feet, then dies back each winter to the ground; it emerges again come spring. This sounds a bit more like what we are looking for in our little garden plot. I will take the kids with me to pick out the one they want, and we will try to plant it this weekend.

Happy Mother's Day to me all over again!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What is laminin?

This morning I received an email that led me on a Google search, which led me to this. Here it is, in case you haven't seen it yet.
Louie Giglio sermon excerpt

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Today I made a discovery.

Passion flower:


It would seem that the woman at the Blue Ridge Mountain Pottery, who told my daughter and husband what that lovely purple vining flower on her fence was called, was wrong! (How cute they were trying to find out the name of that plant even then, so they could get me one...)

So I am now the proud owner of the crazy paramecium-looking, spaceship-resembling "passion flower" instead of the clematis they had thought they were getting. (Ours has buds, but had yet to bloom when they purchased it, and still has not done so.)

From Wikipedia: "Passion" does not refer to love, but to the Passion of Christ on the cross. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish Christian missionaries discovered this flower and adopted its unique physical structures as symbols of Crucifixion. For example: the radial filaments which can number more than a hundred and vary from flower to flower represent the Crown of Thorns. The ten petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles. The top 3 stigmata represent the 3 nails and the lower 5 anthers represent the 5 wounds. The flower has been given names related to this symbolism throughout Europe since that time. In Spain it is known as Espina de Cristo (Christ's Thorn).

Well, that's cool and all, but the fact that large carpenter bees are needed just to pollinate the thing will likely keep it from being practical in our little home garden. Let's hope the nursery will take it back or exchange it!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Meus Decorus Matris

Proverbs 31:28 says, "Her children will arise and call her blessed."

I remember thinking early on in my life as a mother that this is a highly unlikely scenario. First of all, I am very far from the noble woman depicted in the 31st chapter of Proverbs. I am even further from the perfect mother! But beyond that - beyond a consideration of whether or not I could be considered "worthy" of such blessing - I have assumed that this would never happen to me. I don't know why... I guess it just doesn't seem very much like most children I know, who - even if they feel these things - tend to get shy and silly when they have to express them.

This morning I was proven wrong.

This Mother's Day morning I was awakened to see a piece of paper with the words "STAY IN BED" being taped to the wall next to my bed. As I lay there in the semi-darkness of my comfortable bedroom, I imagined what might be coming. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what did come.

Breakfast in bed. Handcrafted artwork. Words of poetry. Beautiful homemade cards filled with beautiful messages of love and appreciation. It was overwhelming!

Because they had bought me a beautiful commemorative pottery pitcher from Blue Ridge Mountain Pottery on the way home from our camping trip (I'm a sucker for handmade pottery!), they had been instructed not to buy me anything else. And so they had made me these great cards. What mother wouldn't rather have this than anything else in the world?! (The insides of the cards, and the loving messages contained therein, are for my eyes only! ;)

The one purchase delivered this morning was made by the father (to get around the "kids, don't buy me anything else for Sunday" rule, I assume) and it was a potted purple passion flower for our garden. Over the past few weeks, I have been admiring the beautiful purple flowers that are on vines on peoples' mailboxes at this time of year... wondering aloud what they were called, and expressing amazement that God made something so beautiful. The plants themselves look almost fake, the blossoms are so vibrantly colored. Anyway, my sweet family decided we needed one, since I like them so much. What a sweet, special memory! In addition to the trees planted when each of them was born, I have a growing collection of "memory plants" adorning my yard... this newest addition will forever remind me - when it blooms each spring - of being hailed as "meus decorus matris."

What an honor, what a privilege motherhood is!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Free Rice

Check out this site! It is a great word game, and for each correct response you get, they will donate free rice to hungry folks around the world. If you get a word wrong, they will bring that same word around again as you continue to play, so that you will eventually learn the word.

Build both your vocabulary and your awareness of world hunger and one small part you can play in addressing it!

Friday, May 9, 2008


This morning I am feeling disillusioned. Disappointed. Confused. Frustrated. I'm not sure what word to put to it, but it is something like those words above. I don't know how to even muse about my thoughts. They're intermingled and garbled and tinged with emotion. And so I stammer...

This morning, I found two equally frustrating emails. The first was a query about how our small church plant congregation felt about switching our church services from 10:00 to 9:30 over the summer months so that folks can get outside to the beach and stuff sooner. I was blown away. I thought of the high view of the Lord's Day espoused by the Westminster Catechism (Questions 115-121) and the PCA Book of Church Order(Chapter 48) , both influential documents in our denomination, and I was puzzled and grieved even at the request. Although I don't ascribe to the restrictive ideas presented in those documents (I do not believe we are required on Sunday to refrain from "activities that are lawful on other days"), I do value the day as a day set apart for different things. Do we view our Sundays - all day long - as privileged days of worship and communion and fellowship and service, or are they just another "day off" for us to play?

The second email was from the youth group leader at our church. They are planning the final youth group event of the year, which takes place next week and involves a trip to see Prince Caspian together. I wrote back asking if this was a family event, but received a reply that it was for the youth group only. This makes me sad, but it doesn't surprise me, really. In my experience, most people (and consequently, most families, most churches, most programs, most whatevers) have one focus or the other... they are either "family-oriented" or they are oriented toward isolating people into age-segregated groups. It is rare to see a place that does both things well. And so my elder two children are placed in a position of choosing... choosing between going to see this movie as part of the church youth group, or going to see this movie as part of our family. We read aloud together The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe last year as a family. We went to see that movie together. EL, then just six, actually wept in my husband's lap during the scene depicting Aslan's murder.

And we have eagerly anticipated the impending release of next week's follow-up film. We have gotten the Prince Caspian book-on-tape from the library and listened to it together over the last few weeks. We've mused aloud together about how they'll depict certain things, speculated about what they might change, pondered how we'll feel about the fact that Caspian is being depicted as a much older boy than in the book. The release of this film is basically something that our family has looked forward to with increasing anticipation over the past year.

And so the choice lies before us. I know what my choice would be. I know what my husband prefers, and I certainly know what their two younger sisters would choose. But I hate that the older two have to choose... choose between sharing this long-anticipated memory with us, or participating in the final youth group event of the year.

Why do we do this to kids? Why do we lament that they are so caught up in "youth culture," and bemuse their obsession with texting and MySpace, yet drive them at every turn to value time and interaction with each other more than with the entirety of the Body... young and old?! I think of the time my daughter was asked (during a youth group Bible study) to share the place where she felt most comfortable. She replied, "with my family," to which a youth group friend replied vehemently, "Ungh. Not me. I don't have anything in common with my family. I prefer to be with people my own age."

And there you have it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Something More

I've been pondering the article My ipod is my best friend, from the Rebelution website.

I am concerned for this generation of youth... shaped and defined by a stilted and immature and selfish world view. What are we calling them to? What are we teaching them to aspire to? What are we equipping them for? Something greater than DS or Xbox 360? Something more satisfying than receiving the next text message, or buying the next fad at the mall, or getting high on the next illegal substance, or seeing topless photos emailed to your cell phone?

Where is the remnant of Christian young people who will stand up and cry, "Enough is enough!" and dare to live counter-culturally... in the world but not of it?! Or the generation of adults who will do the same, for that matter? There is more to life than the next purchase, or the next tv show, or the next hook-up, or the next drink, is there not? There is more to relationship with our children than playing with them on the Wii, yes? It is possible to experience, and enjoy, relationships with people of all ages - all the while appreciating and cherishing the opportunity to glean wisdom from those older and pass it on to those younger - right?

I'm longing for a community of people who will challenge me in this... engage with me in it... encourage me and my children to live radically different lives for Christ, and to make a difference for the Kingdom in this world because of it.

I am challenged by John Piper's query: "Have you tasted in the word of God - especially the gospel - that the Lord is good? Have you tasted it? Not: Have you thought about it? Not: Have you decided to affirm it? But: Have you tasted it? Are there living, spiritual taste buds in your heart that taste Christ as more desirable than all else?

This is where we need to get serious. We will spread the seed of God's mighty regenerating power if we have tasted that the Lord is good. The Lord is our delight. The Lord is our treasure. The Lord is our meat and milk and water and wine. May God loosen our tongues and make us bold gospel-tellers because we are drunk with the wine of the word of God and the goodness of the Lord."

Oh, Lord, may I taste and see that You are good, and be blessed as I take refuge in You (Psalm 34:8). Teach me to take refuge in You!

Monday, May 5, 2008

NON-"Wilderness Camping"

Saturday was my eldest's fourteenth birthday. Her only request to celebrate? "I want to go wilderness camping."

Our family loves to go camping (especially me), and we love best to go to the nearby mountain areas of Virginia... hike a bit, pitch a tent, wet our feet in a stream, cook out over the campfire, sleep under the stars. But all of this has always happened within the safe confines (and relative comforts) of a campground. (Think running water and toilets and a cleared site in which to pitch your tent.)

The kicker this time was her desire (presumed and supposed, in her imagination at least... and without a full appreciation of the reality, obviously) to go "wilderness camping." A little probing revealed that "wilderness camping" referred to some sort of hazy image in her mind which meant that the experience does not take place in a campground but out in the woods somewhere. She was picturing, I think, dreamy little hobbit-style nature immersion, not the reality of hiking with all of one's gear and food and water on one's back; or the bears that want to get at your garbage (which you've had to take care to tie high in a tree); or sleeping with tree roots digging into your back, in the pitch dark, without another human being within miles of you.

At any rate, my sweet husband was willing to indulge this desire (it was, after all, the only birthday request!), and went to work borrowing and packing and preparing our packs. The two little girls were to have regular soft-side backpacks, while the two older children and we adults were to have the big wrap-around-your-waist hiking packs that carry fifty pounds of gear. (Picture School House Rock and "Unpack Your Adjectives." Come on; you remember! "It was a hairy bear. It was a scary bear...") watch here

Anyway, EV awoke on the morning of our scheduled departure, took one look at the pack that was to go on her back for the miles and miles of terrain she had envisioned crossing, and opted for NON-wilderness camping. My husband used great discretion in avoiding uttering aloud the many curse words he was muttering somewhere in his heart, and re-packed the car for a stay in a campground. SO, on this trip, we had the "best of both worlds" - steak and onions with baked beans over an open fire and MRE's from a bag.

As you can see, it was unbelievably wonderful!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Don't Blink

I'm a real sap, and stuff makes me cry pretty easily. My sister told me the other day, "I cry at commercials. It's pathetic." And I'm sure I'd cry at commercials, too, if we watched TV. Since we don't, however, for me it tends to be song lyrics.

This one is a real doozy. When you go there, though, turn off the screen and just listen to the song. The video part is pretty schmaltzy.

Don't Blink