Friday, February 20, 2009

Looking back......

is hard not to do.
  A few days ago Sarah Grace and I went to North Carolina for a quick weekend trip.  This trip was a bit more relaxed than the one Samuel and I took about a month earlier.  The weather was wonderful.  The air was crisp and the skies were sunny for the most part.  It felt warmer than Oregon has been feeling.  
I woke up the first morning we were there to find my little girl asleep in her bed with her scrapbook opened above her head.  She had pulled out little cards and pictures from her former life and the sun was pouring through her windows upon the whole scene and yet she slept soundly for lack of anything louder than a bird chirping outside her window.  

I made my way downstairs into my bright, happy kitchen noticing how the little plant clipping Monica had given us had finally formed roots inside the little vase that had become its home months ago.   I wondered how we will ever get it to Portland.  I remembered how there had been so many beautiful flowers on that kitchen table and so many precious friends gathered around it.  There were Lincoln Logs scattered all over the family room floor as SG had pulled them out the night before to build one of her creations like she used to love to do.   I used to get frustrated sometimes at the mess those Lincoln Logs would make.   The street was quiet outside.  I knew Sarah Grace would want to ride her bike in the cul-de-sac when she woke up.  She had been talking about it. 
 When Samuel and I came a month ago, all his neighborhood friends came over and they tromped through the woods all day, sliding down the "cliff", disciphering "indian" writings on trees, and collecting precious "crystals".  They came back all muddy, full of the smell of little boys playing.  I fussed at them for tracking dirt into the house.  Samuel entertained them with his piano playing and they all wanted to come with him to Mrs. Abercrombie's house (his old piano teacher), so he could show her all he has learned in Portland.  ( These were his friends who loved him and admired him and left posters on our door for him and made special arrangements to be around that weekend so they could play with him. ) They wanted to see him play for Mrs. Abercrombie.
This past trip, when Sarah Grace and I went to church, we were greeted with the love of people who knew us.  A few knew we would be there, and others were surprised to see us but either way they all made room for us.  In the church service SG sat next to Makenzie at the other end of the pew from where I was sitting.  You can do that there, let your kid sit a few people away and know the grown ups she is sitting next to will watch out for her.  She stood up on the pew during praise and worship time and belted out her songs to God.  She loves to praise Him that way.  She clapped during a more upbeat song.  It made me smile.  She and Makenzie had a great time singing and drawing together during the service, but at the closing song, SG reached her hand out in back of her to grab the hand of her friend Anabelle, who was sitting directly behind her.  All three girls held hands and sang together.  It was sweet and it was sad.  I wished SG could grow up with those girls.  I looked around at the other children of my friends and felt a tinge of resentment that I would not be able to watch them grow up, but would just become some strange lady that randomly appears in their lives from time to time commenting about how big and grown they have become.  
That Sunday afternoon, back at the house, the doorbell rang.  It was Mark.  He is the owner of Hershey.  Hershey is the toy poodle the kids used to play with and Mark and Tracy (who have no kids) would let Samuel and Sarah Grace walk him.  Mark and Tracy would hang out and chat with me or Greg or both of us while the kids would play with Hershey.  After we moved, Hershey would pull at his leash to come to our door.  I think he liked the kids as much as they liked him.  When I opened the door, Mark handed me a framed picture of Hershey to give to the kids.  He told me to call him later and he would bring Hershey over to play with Sarah Grace.  
Kirsten was hanging out with us at the house and when I closed the door she commented about how it was no wonder this was such a hard place to leave...with so many people caring for us...even a dog. 
Julianna and SG were pretty much inseparable the whole weekend.  We pulled Julianna out of school early Monday and the girls rode bikes and played until it was time to go to the airport.  The tears came after I bid farewell to Elaine (Julianna's mom, and my friend).  I had to get going at that point...we had a plane to catch and all.  I kept running around the house from room to room making sure everything was just so, making a check-list for Greg for the next month when he would be there to meet the movers.  I think it was really just an excuse to be in the house longer.  In each of its rooms.  Allowing the memories to fill my senses.  I knew the exercise had become fruitless and it was time to go.

The house is sold.  I will not be going back.  A month ago, I dedicated it to the Lord as a memorial the stones the Israelites would erect as memorials to God's faithfulness.  The reason it is so hard to leave is because of how good life was there.  It is sad to leave it, but it is also cause to be thankful to the One who made it so good.  I will not forget what He did for us there.
I prayed for the new family that would live there.  I asked that He would bless their home.  I decided to leave the same scripture on the chalk board (which will be staying with the house...the buyers asked for it) that I wrote on it as we began on this strange journey so many months ago:

"Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup; You have made my lot secure."
Psalm 16:5

Today, the sun is shining in Portland.  Not wimpy sunshine that comes and goes, but full-on sun, unwavering and undisturbed by any cloud of any sort.  It's a perfect day to take a run through the evergreens.  The kids and I will be lacing up our shoes and heading out shortly.

The Lord is faithful.



Thursday, February 5, 2009

Book Reviews Two for One!


Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore:

My sister-in-love (and law) Kayla emailed me this book recommendation several weeks ago.  She was pretty insistent I read it.  I am so glad I did.  It is a truly inspiring story of how two men from completely different worlds break into each other's lives.

The main characters are the authors themselves.  This is a true story.  Denver Moore grew up a poor black boy in Louisiana sharecropping. The reader gets an open-eyed look at what amounted to nothing more than modern-day slavery.  You are plunged into his world and you will not quickly forget what you learn there.  How this impacts and molds his future is for you to find out. Read the book.
Ron Hall shares his rags-to-riches recollections.  Born into a lower middle-class family, Hall eventually becomes a world-class art dealer with some hard work and a lot of good fortune.  In contrast to Denver's plank lumber shotgun shack in Louisiana, Ron Hall hobnobs with some of the world's wealthiest while abiding among the opulent elite of Fort Worth, Texas. How these two characters' lives become forever intwined?  You'll need to read the book.

So there is hardship, sadness, faith and doubt for two men from either side of the track, a heroine that rescues them both, and a God Whose love endures..."forever".

I really don't want to say much more about it.  It was one of those that I laughed and I cried.  I learned more than I wanted to know, but that's a good thing.  I am too often content to pretend like I have enough problems of my own, so that I can easily convince myself I have no time or energy to deal with "other" people's problems.  Especially people who have problems I cannot at all relate to.  In fact, if I am honest, I usually pass judgement on those "other" kinds of people and their problems.  After reading this book, I found out I am the type of person that needs to know "how" a person got into whatever mess they are in.  That interest trumps my desire to show unconditional love and grace.  I think I've been getting those things backwards.  

So how did I get all of that from this book?  You'll have to read it to find out!

When You Rise Up:  A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling by R.C. Sproul Jr.:

This was another book that was recommended to me....with some reservations.  I have read a few books on homeschooling and this was, by far, not my favorite.  I have not read anything else by R.C. Sproul Jr., so I will try not to make any sweeping judgments.  

So let's get down to the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The good:  
This is a great book for people that are already homeschooling their children, but just need a heavy dose of extra encouragement.  The author reminds of us our spiritual duties to our kids and how that relates to their at-home education.  We are reminded that as Christian parents our first goal is not to produce little Einsteins but rather disciples of Christ.   We can never allow ourselves to flip-flop in our priorities where our children's spiritual nurture is concerned.  This is a great reminder.  If you don't homeschool, you may not realize how incredibly tempting it is to feel that we (homeschoolers) must produce the best and the brightest AND the most spiritual children in our communities.  We have eschewed the help of the state and insisted on doing the whole thing ourselves.  It can, at times, feel like....pressure.   Mr. Sproul Jr. reminds us that it is our God-given right, privilege, and duty to raise our kids in this way and that for whatever God calls, He equips.

The bad:  There were a lot of words in this book.  It's actually not a long book at all, but at times, it felt the author was going on tangents.    If you do not subscribe to the notion that homeschooling is an incontrovertible duty for all Christian parents, then you will have some trouble with this book.  As a homeschooler, I do not believe this is the only way to raise godly kids.  There are probably some kids that go to school at public or private school who would do much better at home.  There are some homeschooled kids that would do better in a 'school' setting.  Mr. Sproul Jr. would not agree with me on this.

The ugly:  Yes, there is some ugly.  In this book, Mr. Sproul Jr. does quite a bit of condescending.  He certainly condescends to parents who have not chosen to homeschool, but even those that do are pretty much painted as....idiots.  In some parts, he ends up coming across as just another mean Calvinist.  Now, there are many, many reformed values I hold dear to my heart.  I am not trying to pick on Calvinists......BUT, there is this weird thing going on in the reformed camp (at least in a lot of the literature).  If you don't fully agree with them, you are somehow stupid and in grave theological error.  There is no room for differences.  Wow, I hesitate to even write this, as there are many reformed writers that I have been so blessed by.  This is just a generalization to be sure, but it seems for many of these writers that so emphatically embrace the "doctrines of grace", they have not been so transformed by grace that it just oozes out of them.  Tangent:  When I first learned about grace, I thought the more you knew about it, the more you studied it, the more God's grace would ooze out of you.  That's not true!  Some of the most humble, grace-aware, transformed, Spirit-filled people I know have never even heard of the "doctrines of grace".

That being said, if you have a problem with Calvinists, this book won't help you like them any better. 

If you are not yet a homeschooler but you saw this book listed on my blog and decided to purchase it to explore homeschooling as a possibility (sorry Doug), just read it with a grain of salt.  He really does say some good things, but you just have to have a bit of a thick skin while reading it.  :)