Category Archives: a life well lived

Night and Day

I can’t believe the difference.

Yesterday I could barely move my left leg. Walking around Costco and Trader Joe’s was more of a shuffle than a walk, and worse than that, it was agony to get in and out of the car. The right knee, oddly enough, was working much better than the left. (I say “oddly enough” because it’s the right knee that I kept re-injuring over the past two weeks. Every time it would start to get better, I would catch my foot and trip on something and the healing process would have to begin again.)

You might or might not recall that I’ve been eating Paleo/primal style for the past three weeks in a desperate effort to find relief for my painful knees and joints. For some reason, the water kefir that had been keeping me pain free over the past year wasn’t working anymore.

I had a big dose of nightshades (tomato and peppers) in Monday night’s dinner — was that enough to cripple me on Tuesday? Could be. I was very careful yesterday, avoided all semblance of nightshade (tomato, peppers, paprika, eggplant — which I can take or leave, but the other stuff appears regularly on our table), and woke up this morning in much less pain. Got in and out of the car this morning without a twinge. There’s still a little pain there, in both knees, a sort of underlying barely noticeable occasional ache, but nothing like yesterday, and all the other joints seem to be humming along nicely, which they weren’t, not exactly, yesterday.

Coincidence?

Just in case, I’m going to be avoiding tomatoes, peppers, and paprika today as well, to see if the improvement continues.

Selah

According to Wikipedia:

Selah (Hebrew: סֶלָה‎, also transliterated as selāh) is a word used 74 times in the Hebrew Bible that means GOD HAS SPOKEN.  – it used 71 times in the Psalms and three times in Habakkuk  – and is a difficult concept to translate. (It should not be confused with the Hebrew word sela‘ (Hebrew: סֶלַע‎) which means “rock.”) It is probably either a liturgico-musical mark or an instruction on the reading of the text, something like “stop and listen”. Selah can also be used to indicate that there is to be a musical interlude at that point in the Psalm. The Amplified Bible translates selah as “pause, and think of that”. It can also be interpreted as a form of underlining in preparation for the next paragraph.

I used to wince at red lights. Okay, I’d more than wince. I’d complain, usually inwardly, but sometimes aloud. “Oh, no!” you’d hear me say. “Not another red light!” And truthfully, sometimes it seemed (or seems) that I’d hit one red light after another. “These lights are so badly timed,” I’d grouse. I’d fret about poor fuel efficiency. I’d worry about being — not just late, but — later.

I have a bad habit of being too much of an optimist, not allowing extra time in transit for such things as red lights, construction, traffic jams, and that’s the kind of thing that makes you late. I’m getting better…

Anyhow, back to the topic at hand. One day, while sitting at a red light, it came to me. Stewing was a poor use of my time. Did it get me anything? (Other than aggravated, that is.) No. Obviously.

What if I were to use red lights profitably? How could I use them profitably?

Give thanks in all things. While it may seem silly to you, it came to me (while sitting at a red light) that I could be using red lights as a time to praise. To meditate on Scripture. To contemplate my blessings. To give thanks. (See 1 Thess. 5:18 and Eph. 5:20)

The idea of “selah” seemed to fit. I’d heard a definition of “selah” in a sermon some time ago; the preacher had called it a time to pause and reflect on what had just been said (in the Psalm we were reading), or the deep breath before the dive into the next section, or both.

Practicing “selah-ness” at red lights has totally changed my driving attitude. Now instead of an “oh, no!” reaction to a yellow light announcing a red soon to follow, I (usually) am reminded that God is there in the midst of my busyness, my hurry. It’s a sort of tug on my spirit, a signal to slow down and think about what’s really important.

I’m sure it’s done my blood pressure some good, too.

There’s so much I want to say…

Part of the problem of trying to keep a blog (at least for me) is just getting to the keyboard. We have five people sharing one computer at our house at the moment — that’s a lot of competition.

Of course, this situation helps me in my resolution that actually conflicts somewhat with the wish to regularly update my blog. I’ve cut way back on my computer time since September. I’m getting more done in other areas of my life, but my blog has suffered.

I often think of something to say, write long, thoughtful blog posts in my head, contemplations of real life as I’m going about my business, but then I get to the keyboard and it’s all gone. Poof. Vanished into the ether.

And then there’s reality. I mean, blogs and homekeeping hints and homeschooling seem so trivial against the backdrop of the terrible events this week. The mall shooting was at a mall I used to visit on occasion. Haven’t been there in years, but people I know were there; friends of ours were in the food court at the time the shooting started.

Then in the same week, tragedy in an elementary school. I don’t have to say any more about that. You’re probably up-to-here with the news reports, and no real answers. At least I am.

Last night we went to a Christmas program at a local church. They’ve been putting it on for 25 years, a gift to the community, with three choirs, handbells, and an orchestra. It was beautifully done, polished, colorful, and joy-filled — though there were traces of tears. I wiped away a tear when the children’s choir came out with its mix of mischief and sweet song. One of the soloists in the adult choir choked up during his song, but made it through almost to the end. Somehow, leaving off the last few words of the song about the coming of the Christ Child, “When Love Was Born,” and having the orchestra finish out the phrase that everyone in the audience was thinking (having heard the refrain throughout the song), was even more poignant and meaningful.

You know, tragedy can make the everyday feel futile, and yet… The everyday tasks, the being faithful in little things, seeking the Lord, praising Him in all circumstances, that is what this life is all about. I’m afraid the bustle of life has caught up with me, and there is a lively conversation now going on just a few feet from me, and the dog is nudging my elbow, and so I can’t put down all the lovely ponderings that were going on in my head a little earlier. So all I can recommend is that you meditate on this idea. I’ll try to post more, later.

This is the day that the LORD hath made!

…you do know what comes after, don’t you?

Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

It doesn’t matter if you got less sleep than you needed last night. It doesn’t matter if you (or someone else in the house) is sick — either temporarily or chronically — and having a hard time dealing with it. It doesn’t matter if someone just dropped a pitcher of orange juice all over the freshly mopped floor.

Okay, that last bit is not something that happened in our house this morning, but it has happened in the past. More than once.

It doesn’t even matter if everything is going right, you got up before the alarm sounded, even, and the baby didn’t keep you up all night for the first time ever, and breakfast was all ready, in the crockpot and since the table got set last night before bed and the kids know — and do — exactly what they need to do between getting out of bed and breakfast, there’s really almost no work needed to get from there to here…

No matter what…

Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

(Yes, it’s easy to rejoice when everything goes right. But it’s just as easy to forget about the Lord and His benefits, and cruise along thinking how you’ve got everything together. Been there. Done that.)

 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (Phil. 4:4)

Movie review: Courageous

This will be fairly brief, as I ought to have written this review a week ago, right after seeing the movie. However, I still remember enough to give it an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

The theme of the movie is fatherhood. Five fathers, four of them policemen, one an accidental acquaintance who becomes part of a brotherhood of fathers. All swear together to be deliberate in their relationships with their children, setting high standards, being the best fathers they can, with God’s help.

Of course, things didn’t start out that way. At the beginning of the movie, the main character is… well, he’s like a lot of us. He’s busy with his job. He takes his family for granted. They’re always there. They always will be, won’t they? It’s painful to watch, but it sets the stage for the change to come.

A tragedy happens to open this father’s eyes, and he almost drowns in the pain that follows. Then out of the ashes (to mix a metaphor) arises a new determination, a focus, a goal. He asks his friends to keep him accountable, and they are moved to make the same resolve: to be real fathers to their children.

We have a range of families here. There’s the intact family with mother and workaholic father. There’s the divorced father who sees his child on weekends. There’s the intact family with a father struggling to find work, to provide. There’s the man who fathered a child and abandoned the mother.

This is no neat-and-tidy gospel presentation, although the Gospel is there. The people who made this movie show that it takes hard work to live life abundantly, as the Bible would have us live.

The makers of Courageous grow in skill and movie-making maturity with each movie. The seeds of greatness were there in their first movie, Flywheel (which we felt impelled to revisit today), visibly growing in Facing the Giants and Fireproof. There are familiar faces in each movie, not surprising, as one church is behind these efforts. There’s the same mix of tears and laughter, a deftness in the timing, realistic (and often dramatic or comedic or both mixed together somehow) dialog.

We were reduced to tears several times during the movie, often bursting out in laughter bare moments after a moving scene through the skill of the scriptwriter and the actors. At the end of the movie, the audience burst into spontaneous applause.

If you want to be moved, if you want to be inspired, if you want to be challenged in your parenting, you’ve got to see this movie.

Natural homemade deodorant

Perhaps you’ve read about all the uses for vinegar, besides salad dressing. It’s a great degreaser and mild sanitizer, for one thing. Mix it half-and-half with water and you can wash windows or kitchen counters or other surfaces.

Did you know that apple cider vinegar used to be used as a deodorant in the olden days?

I’d been having trouble for years with allergies. I’d try one formulation, and it would work for awhile, and then I’d get an itchy rash in my underarm area. Very uncomfortable, as you can imagine! I’d switch to another, and either it wouldn’t work (ah, don’t you just hate deodorant failure?), or a few weeks or months after switching, the itchy rash would resurface, and it would be time to switch again.

Mind you, these were just deodorants! I had sworn off antiperspirants even earlier, after reading about the connection between aluminum and Alzheimer’s. But how can you get along in our society with… to put it delicately, more or less… B.O.?

(European society, at least as I recall it, wasn’t quite as uptight about odor as American society. But we live in a place now where people shower daily, sometimes oftener — especially if they are runners or bikers — and everyone seems to use deodorant, except perhaps the homeless among us.)

After natural crystal deodorant went the same route as the others (It’s not fair! it’s natural, for goodness’ sake! Or maybe not for goodness’ sake. It didn’t do me any good, after awhile.) I was getting desperate.

Then I remembered something I’d read in an old-fashioned book, about elderly women smelling faintly of vinegar. (Not because they were elderly, per se, but as they were elderly they were more old-fashioned in their methods.) I began to wonder…

…and then I began to experiment.

To make a long story short, I’ve found that cider vinegar in a 4 oz. spray bottle works very well indeed. It even smells fairly nice, as I add ten drops or so of lavender and lemon essential oils to each batch I make up.

It works about as well as any commercial product I’ve used, and better than a lot of them. The vinegar smell wears off soon after spraying, leaving just a faint whiff of lavender and lemon behind. The effect lasts all day long.

So if you’re desperate to smell fresh, and unable to use anything but rather expensive natural products (and maybe can’t even use those), try apple cider vinegar. Add a little of your favorite essential oil to personalize it, and you’re on your way.

Why children need music education

 

While researching, I stumbled across this little gem, published in The Etude magazine in 1929, but still applicable today.

I admit, I had never heard of the author, even though a “well-known expert in music education,” but the essay rings true and fits well with Charlotte Mason’s writings about music. It is a call for “living, not merely existing.”

Schools seem to be in a constant state of crisis these days. Programs, labeled extraneous, are being cut, and sports, music and art are among them. More and more time must be devoted to “serious” study, so that our students can keep up with the rest of the world in mathematics and science.

…but is this the right way to go?

Not according to this author. (Or Charlotte Mason, for that matter, who was intent on exposing children to great thoughts, works of art, music, and literature, whether they were slated to become factory workers or doctors.) Come to think of it, hasn’t research shown that music and math are connected in the brain, and that learning music helps in other areas of academics? I can’t cite a study at the moment, but I know I’ve read about this in the past.

I guess I need to do more research!

This article is a good starting place for our consideration. It presents an impassioned defense of music education for all children.

Secular educators should resonate with the idea that “the birthright of the child is the means of developing developing all his faculties normally and naturally. Society owes him his opportunity for an education.” Meanwhile, those who are educating within a Biblical framework will appreciate this definition of education, as quoted by the author: “The true purpose of education is to cherish and unfold the seed of immortality already sown within us, to develop to the fullest extent the capacities of every kind with which the God who made us has endowed us.”

The author gives a rationale for music instruction and follows with some practical considerations. The child, ideally, is exposed to well-crafted music from its earliest days, learns music first by hearing, then by repetition, finally by expression, while learning to delight in sound, rhythm, and harmony. The author goes on to say,

Now that he has been given a big experience of the best of music and led to sense rhythm and its beauty, teach him that it is as readable and writeable as the language which he speaks. Lead him from the known into the unknown. Create within him the desire to read and write the lovely songs he can sing. Go one step further and help him set his own little original songs to melodies. For children live in a world of imagery and make-believe. Who knows where these dreams may lead, if rightly directed?

While I’d place much less emphasis on a knowledge of psychology than the author did, I appreciate much of what she had to say about the necessity of music (and I would go further, and add other fine arts to the equation) to the development of a well-rounded, fully functional person.

Who knows where these dreams may lead, indeed?

 

 

Falling notes graphic from http://www.webweaver.nu/clipart/music/notes.shtml

Rainbow graphic from http://www.free-pictures-photos.com/clouds/

 

Raising daughters: quotable quote

I’ve been reading Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein. In some ways it’s an easy read; her style is engaging, filled with anecdotes, information and statistics she’s gathered in her research, and just enough wry humor.

In other ways it’s uncomfortable reading for me — not the topic, which is the way our daughters are being shaped by the culture, or the sexual references that sprinkle the book (not surprisingly, as it is a book about our culture, and our culture is not just sprinkled with such references, more like heavily frosted with sprinkles on top) — but because we are somewhat different in our approach to life. Just one example: our approach to healthy sexuality. She expresses hopes that her daughter will experience premarital sex. Seek it out, even. Explore it, before settling down to a committed relationship. (I think she even used the term marriage, though I’ve lost the page marker.)

We agree on at least one point: We’re mothers, trying to guide our daughters on their journey to adulthood, wanting what’s best for them, what will make them strong, individual (able to think for themselves), fulfilled women doing what they love, making wise choices, and dare I say, making their corner of the world a better place. (We agree on a lot more points; we find many of the same things appalling, and we’ve made a number of the same choices in raising our daughters, even though we come from opposite worldview corners. However, the touchstone for this post is that we are both concerned moms.)

It’s been a sometimes dizzying tour of the Princess culture, pinkishness (I didn’t know that “pink” and “blue” as baby colors came about in the early 1900, and that “pink” started out as a masculine color), advertising and marketing, bewildering choices, femininity and feminism, and, where I’m currently reading, social media.

In the latest chapter (I still have a few pages to go) I stumbled across a real gem, succinct enough to share, and nicely summing up the previous 181 pages:

We have only so much control over the images and products to which they are exposed, and even that will diminish over time. It is strategic, then — absolutely vital — to think through our own values and limits early, to consider what we approve or disapprove of and why.

I alternate between wanting to read this with our daughters, to drawing back when I stumble over an explicit term. What I may end up doing is reading parts aloud to them. I’m not comfortable just handing this book over to our teens, though the message in the book is definitely worth pondering. How to raise our daughters in this culture that would trivialize them, tying their identity to shallow surface things: how they look, what they buy? That is the question.

Sermon Notes

Yesterday’s sermon was by a guest speaker. I wish I could tell you his name — he was pleasant but thought-provoking.

He spoke on the jealous nature of God.

My first thought:
He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree…

(you can find lyrics and videos of this song if you do an internet search)

Then I really settled down to listening and taking notes. I had a quibble at first; the speaker gave several illustrations of jealousy which sounded more like envy or covetousness to me, you know, wanting what someone else has. Arrgh, I’d give you an example or two but I didn’t write them down since they didn’t make sense to me in the context of jealousy.

I haven’t taken the time to look it up or do a word study yet, but my impression of jealousy is that it’s something you feel regarding a possession of your own, like a dog with a meaty bone.

(God can afford to be jealous. He owns everything. People? I’m not so sure about how appropriate jealousy is for people.)

Once we got past that quibble (on my part, with notes to myself to look up “jealousy” and “covetousness”), the sermon was sound. Scriptures mentioned dealt with the LORD’s possessiveness of His special people, beginning with the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy, followed by passages in Hosea and Ezekiel about His dealings with His all-too-often wayward people.

I’ve been mentally chewing this food for thought since then. To summarize: Our God is a jealous God, and He insists on being first in our affections, our focus, our motivations, our thoughts and actions.  (See Deut. 6:5, Matthew 22:36-40, and Luke 10:27 for more.) While “love of money” may be “the root of all evil,” love of anything more than God is idolatry.

Examining priorities: How do I spend my time? How does my life reflect my priorities? Sobering stuff. Time to get off the computer and back on track.

Need an infusion

…of gratitude. I’m out of sorts, grumpy, and grumbly today. I’d even be whiny except I hate whining.

Do you know how tiring discontent can be? I’m sure a great part of being tired today is due to discouragement and discontent. Bad rut. Time to climb out.

Remedies:

– prayer and praise (Going to sit down with the girls and read the Bible together, something we’ve neglected since we were on vacation last week and the schedule went out the window. Then going to put on some uplifting music to play in the background.)

– productive work (There’s so much to do around here. Going to go with Elisabeth Elliot‘s “Do the Next Thing” and… you guessed it… do the next thing. Start a load of laundry, remind today’s Dishwasher to get the kitchen sink clean and shiny, and tackle a box of paper clutter.)

– remembering what the Bible says about the Israelites and their grumbling. They saw incredible miracles, and yet they had a kind of “What have you done for me lately?” attitude. Don’t get me wrong. I probably would have been right in there with the worst of them. I should know better, and yet look at me today: grumbly. But working at getting out of the rut.

– consciously counting my blessings.

To start:

– Eldest, who dropped everything to hug me and pray aloud for me when I was so frustrated a little bit ago

– The quiet, cheerful voices of Middlest and Youngest, who are not fighting

– The faithfulness of my husband, who works so hard so that I might stay at home with the girls

– The dog, who was extra snuggly when I needed it this morning

(And maybe I should have put this one first. I really should have, actually. That’s part of the problem I’m having today, no doubt.) The LORD, Who is faithful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

What do you do when the grumbles strike?