The 11th hour, indeed

I wrote a little post here, way back when we still lived in Canada, in which I mentioned something about our house selling at the eleventh hour…..and knowing that the timing of God would be perfect.   My  “eleventh hour”  at the time would have been defined as “right after we move out of the house, but just in time to close before we had to purchase a new home and move right in.”   My eleventh hour was all about my family only moving ONCE.   Moving only once is neat, tidy and respectable, and I like that.

But God didn’t have a plan that was anything at all like mine.  And if the plan of God had been laid before me a year ago, I would certainly have backed away from it, because it was messy and disorganized and clunky and awkward.
So, there’s a mercy, God does not tell us what’s coming.    I would not have the stomach for it.

I had a picture of our first year in Spokane being  a quiet year in the country.  Three or four months at first where we didn’t know anybody, but wished we did.   A year in which we enjoyed the fact that life was not busy and stressful, and nobody expected anything from us.  So we could just hunker down and “Do School”.     Doing school is like an idol for me.  To be free to do  a school day every day is my equivalent to retirement  in Tahiti.

For our first year of life in Washington,  I had this vision of elk and porcupine in our driveway, blocking our path to the mailbox.  Of ten feet of snow keeping us stranded at home where we could read books, hang wallpaper, organize stuff, and just do school.

But instead, we got something we never wanted, and we never thought we’d like it.  Instead of porcupine and elk in the wilderness, we are living right  in town, Jon is walking to work.  And we are just LOVING it here.  I can’t believe it.  But we all love this life.  And we have this because  God did not sell our house at my eleventh hour.  And when the house didn’t sell, we had to pick a rental house.

While we were holed up in a cabin  in a  KOA in Cody, Wyoming, sometime  last August  on our way across the country, we found the only rental house in Spokane large enough for our family.  And immediately rented it, sight unseen, doing all the paperwork from a UPS store while our kids melted in the sun outside.   Turns out the rental house is way in town, no elk, no porcupine, no quiet.  And all those school books had to stay in BOXES…because there’s no room, no shelves.  Some of them are in a storage unit.    Oh MY!

Our house  continued to not sell  for quite a while beyond that.   And then, when it did sell, it sold for a crazy low price to the most difficult and cantankerous family we have yet encountered, bless their hearts.   They have continued to be cantankerous right up to today.  fussing about the functionality of the 50 year old novelty elevator in our old house.   It’s as old as I am, and just doesn’t want to haul lots of people up and down any more.  I totally get that…..

I said “sold”  but I should not say “sold” yet.  Because today….this day I am writing on which began 44 minutes ago…..is the day when the sale of that house is scheduled to close.  And on this day, we are poised to make an offer on a house right smack in the middle of “in town” Spokane.  A house with  tons of character…..just tons….but not a porcupine in sight.

This has been absolutely, and without rival, the very most disruptive and re-orienting  year of our lives.  Moving turns out to have been one of the smaller things we did.   We have had some really sad stuff, some REALLY scary stuff (like,  in the middle of packing the Canada house,  when Jon had a bad reaction” to a bee sting, and I thought he had died right there in my lap…..for a couple of minutes….then I followed his ambulance to the hospital and thankfully drove him home later) , there were a whole lot of sweet, sweet things that have washed all over us (like driving Jon home that day, camping for 42 days,  Christ Church Spokane, NCFCA speech and debate,  and how much we love Spokane, and lots more).

We had this plan for our year, and none of it came out the way we expected.   But I love the way it is all swimming into focus now.

So, I hope I will remember that the plan that I lay out for myself is really not the one I need to hang my heart on.  Because I am serving a living God who has my very best interest in view.  And He will put me where I can grow best.    And I can just be thankful and look for how I am to walk in that way.  It’s a good way.  It’s a better way than the one I was attached to.

Still, I am hoping that in 24 hours we will no longer own that wonderful house on Churchwin Street in Whitevale, but will be on our way to owning that porcupine-free property with all the character.   Unless God has a better idea.   I can be thankful either  way.

Providence means we wait for perfect timing

OK

It seems like our house is going to sell.

I’m whispering, as I am afraid I might jinx it.   It almost fell through last week.

The sale of this house did not go the way we thought it would.

We thought we were selling a really awesome piece of property, one where we had been very happy, and where we had made a mountain of improvements.   And where life can be rich and sweet for another family.

How utterly gobsmacked we were when it didn’t sell at top price the first week on the market.

But it didn’t.    And the price dropped and dropped and dropped again.

And there is a very long list of great good that has come to our family, because of our home’s failure to sell.

We have faced some fears and idols and unreasonable expectations head-on.   And we have experienced some financial grindings that were really unfamiliar to us.  And as much as I didn’t want it, I am really thankful to be in the midst of it.  At Christmas.

But, again, in whispered tones, I will say that it seems our house has sold, closing in 45 days, maybe.

And the God of the very universe is aware and is caring for us through what feels like a thin and challenging time.  And He is looking after us with tender kindness.   I find that there are lovely and dear sisters and brothers coming across my path……just at the right moment……with just the perfect word of encouragement or of reminder that God is good all the time.

But, I was talking to my kids this morning, and we were all seeing that when life is challenging, we are facing temptations that are new for us.  We are all up against temptations to complain, or to do less than our best, or to meet our commitments at their most minimal requirements, and to long for another situation, which is really a big fat lack of thankfulness.    So that’s what we prayed for here today, that we can be thankful for the real riches we have (as they are huge) and remember that often our expectations are unreasonable.   We do have a savior who knows what’s really needed, and how best to give it to us.

And the next step will be to find a new home to buy.  And I have to say here, that this home purchase is really huge for me.

I have never lived in any house for more that seven years, in all my life.  I have such a longing for a home of my own…..and in my little heart I am so hoping that this next house will be my HOME.    Like, maybe I will not leave it until I go to heaven.   That’s a fair bit of pressure to put on a real estate search.   But, right or wrong,  I think that’s what I’m doing.

I’m waiting for my home to come up in front of me and make itself known.  And I am so thankful for Jon now.  He is much less passionate about this purchase.    He’ll be the level head that prevails.

So  I am l pretty giddy about this next step.

 

So, after that last blog entry, I couldn’t much bring myself to write another until some amazing real estate event occurred.

I guess you might say that such an event has now happened.  It appears that our house will close in two months, as we are now under agreement.  And  I am happy for the purchasing family, as they have gotten the very deal of the century.  I hope they will be happy there, as we certainly were.  The neighbors are the real treat there, and this family does not yet know what a marvellous community they have fallen in to.    They think they are buying a house, but they are actually getting a whole new family.   People we love.

And I am thankful it’s  going to be someone’s home.  It was such a nice home for us.

 

 

A sweet day at our house

Michael has posted on Facebook that I have a bunch of photos here, so I guess I’d better get busy and get those photos UP.
But first, a little view of how the day has unfolded……
It’s been a normal day here, and moving backward from this moment I can say that I have spent a bit of time building a solar system, cleaning up a paint spill, explaining how a multiplication chart works.
I have spelled about eleventy gajillion words aloud to one of my darlings who is writing a paper on a topic which is perhaps too ambitious (but I assign that type of paper all the time and it generally works out).
We have enjoyed three hours of piano lessons on the piano which is, for better or worse, positioned at the exact center of our living space downstairs, so my head is now ringing a bit in the sudden absence of the sound.
I have spoken to two banks, three tax preparers, the Internal Revenue Service, one floor refinisher, and twice to my husband and then once to the man who needs to come and repair our patio.
I have learned that our neighbors who were in Christchurch New Zealand when the first earthquake occurred this week are alive and well, and I am so thankful for that news, and really for all the other stuff too.

This day began really nicely, too. I was up at 5:30, showered, and running laundry by 6:30.
I was reading in Psalms for a bit, and loving the verses where it says

” I sought the Lord and he answered me, He delivers me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame……The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them…….Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”

Then Helen and I cuddled up on the couch to work on our memorization of the book of Philippians. We were working through the second chapter, where it says

“Do all things without grumbling or questing that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…..”

…then we heard a siren. And since we live way off in a little wee community in which sirens are never heard, we got up and went to see…..and what we found is in the slide show below…….Audrey took all the photos.

Please pray for our neighbours who have very likely lost everything in the house. And for us that we might be a blessing to them. This is the second fire in our little community this year. It is amazing and beautiful to me to see how my neighbors reach out to one another in kindness, and I am thankful to be a part of a community where there is so much love.

The sixth and seventh week in review

I was was told on Sunday  that I am a slack blogger,  but I’ve been out and about putting  a bit of spice in my life.    There was no time to write.   But I’m back and here’s  a little summary of where I’ve been and where we are now.

Monday was Valentine’s Day, but Jon and I enjoyed our celebration of that fun holiday  a week ahead of time.  We got away, just us two, and stayed in a lovely and luxurious hotel for five days.

Now,  I wonder if anyone  (outside my family)  can guess where the photos above and below were taken.   Really, no fair naming the place if you already know because I TOLD you.
Here are a few extra hints:   We enjoyed the most amazing Italian dinner just a few blocks north of this scenic parking lot, right after I watched my husband do some very enthusiastic gift shopping at a wonderful art shop on Sherman Street.

Notice how much these feather earrings look like the flies one might use to catch fish.   And since we have both a jewelry designer and several fly-tying fishermen living under our roof, we found this quite inspirational.

After dinner and a glass or two of wine, we popped in to Cabela’s Sporting goods store, which is  fly fisherman heaven  and which I’m now recommending as a  Valentine’s Day entertainment destination.
While there, we tried on some cool shades and some really bad hats, photographed their extensive collection of taxidermy,and checked out all their feathers which can be used to make fake insects OR lovely jewelry.    I suspect that we  almost bought a crazy expensive fly-fishing  reel, but I noticed we walked out empty handed.    Having fun with your husband in a hunting and fishing supply store is actually way more romantic than watching a sunset, by the way.   And it’s not nearly as time sensitive.

Besides goofing off in the fly-tying department , Jon and I met some really wonderful Christian physicians and their spouses on our trip.  We saw gorgeous scenery, enjoyed some delightful meals with very interesting people and we really had fun just being together without any interruption.  It’s kind of rare for us, and we were so glad for that little gift of time together.     It was lovely just to sit with my husband on an airplane and know that I was not responsible for six kids and their passports and the reservations and connections for the next 24 hours.  (One day I will write up a blog post about travelling with the kids, and without the husband,  to Europe last fall, and how much fun and how much stress came with that adventure.   But that’s another post.)

So we had this sweet getaway.   Meanwhile, the kids had an amazing opportunity to exhibit their maturity at home by  keeping everything in top condition, while loving the little ones and keeping up with that business of educating themselves.   They did a stellar job.   I am so thankful for them.   Again.
Daniel got a bit lonely for adult companionship one afternoon and  pulled a snowball ambush upon  our very kind neighbour, Charles, as he emerged from his car at the end of his workday.
Charles was nearly injured in the snowball fight which followed, and claims to be working out with weights  in preparation for our next trip out of town.  Otherwise, it all went well.  Or so they say.

We returned home at the end of last week and then everybody skiied on Monday, even Jon.  That was a special treat.   It was extra cold and icy, and the skiing was FAST, but it was a great day.   One of our favourite Valentine’s Days in a long long time.

****************************

I believe  we’re now in  the second half of the seventh week of 2011.   And, as I had hoped, we are winding up week ten of Tapestry of Grace.  We aren’t on the official  (and very optimistic) schedule of the publisher, but we  are on schedule according to my plan so it’s all good as far as I can see.

We’re into the late 1920’s, financial crises, increasing turmoil in post-war Europe, getting ready for darker days ahead.

And I’m cramming extra large doses of grammar instruction down various gullets, as it has come to my attention  that a love of grammar in not innate for everyone, and none of my little darlings have inherited mine.  I thought my children would be born with a craving for  sentence diagramming.   Turns out they took after their dad on this one.   This will soon be remedied!

*****************************************

And here, for a little artistic break, are some of Maggie’s projects from this morning.    First, a blackline drawing which she off-handedly describes as (from left to right)

This is the Dad, this is the little boy…….and this is the angry policeman.”

We wonder what the rest of the story is, but when I asked, she just flicked her wrist and went on to fill the next piece of blank paper.

Later, having grown weary of the simplicity of pen and ink,  she made some flowers to brighten our gray snowy world.   She had a little help from Audrey…….

************************************************

Meanwhile, the  sweater I am knitting for David has not been seen or heard of on this blog in a few weeks.  So, everybody asks,  what’s the deal with that?

First, I took a week away from working on it so that I could attend a class called ” Tips and Tricks for Finishing Your Knitted Garment.”    I signed up for this class because I was so nervous and unprepared for the job of putting this sweater together.
Last time I put a sweater together, it looked like it was  tailor made for a chimp with one arm five inches higher than the other.  Sadly, it was knitted in the most beautiful garnet mohair, so it was a tragically  freakish deformity knitted in elegant yarn.

For this “finishing” class, students were required to knit up several oddly shaped pieces, which we then brought to class and practiced our new finishing tricks on.
I was by far the least skilled knitter in the class of 15.  And, of course, I was closest to the instructor, so she was continually grabbing my work to show to the class.
The first time, she didn’t really check to see if it was done correctly before hoisting it aloft and saying “Let’s see how Missy did…”   She then looked closely at the knitted piece,  and then at me, and said “This is terrible!    Were you even listening to my instructions?”           ****Mortifying****
But, I learned it before the class was done, and now I can do it just like the rest of those ladies.

In that class,  we talked a fair bit about how and why a knitter might  decide if a piece of  work  has too many errors in it to be “wearable”.   So,  I came home and looked at David’s sweater, which consisted of the entire trunk up to the arm-pits, and the beginnings of both sleeves.    I started taking note of all the things I didn’t like about the way it was turning out.   And there were just too many little things that I was not happy with.
So…….  I pulled it off the needles.
And last Saturday, I started the whole thing over.

The new sweater is on the left, and I think the most important improvement in it is not photographable, and that is the texture and weight it now has.  It’s so much denser and more substantial.  So, I am really glad I went ahead and abandoned the old one and built it all new.  I don’t think I’ll be as reluctant to begin again in the future, if it looks like that’s the better option.

Here are both sweater attempts.
When Audrey saw what I was doing, she gave the most heartfelt groan of sympathy, which really made it all feel much less lonely and hopeless.   It’s always nice to have an empathetic friend!

In the new and improved sweater, I have used a long tail cast-on which has given the ribbing at the waist a much stronger and straighter edge.   I have also doubled the yarn, and am knitting two skeins together on size 9  needles (instead of one two ply strand on size 6 needles).   Now, it’s knitting up faster, thicker, more substantial, warmer, and the tweedy colors are blending better.  I love it now.   In five days, I have got as much sweater knitted up as I had previously done in six weeks.   So, I am now almost exactly where I was when I abandoned the first attempt.  Apparently, I’m  really slow to pick up new skills.    For me,  perseverance is the only way.

Now,  I’m using this little success story of mine with quite a heavy hand, as I encourage my young home-schooled writers not to fear having to write and re-write and then re-write  again until their work is of good quality.   Sometimes my “life lessons from knitting” really tax the patience of my family, I’m noticing.

I think that the next several weeks will be packed with school, dentists, music lessons, skiing, friends visiting every Friday, and a little bit of interior decorating.   Not very spicy, but all very nice.    It’s sometimes just good to be home.

Tapestry of Grace Year Four: Weeks 6-9 all at once!

I would like to say, for any mother who might ever pop in here looking for encouragement regarding
Tapestry of Grace Year Four   (which is the year we are working through at the moment)
we are having a crazy high carnival  of a  time now  working through materials which cover four weeks of work……. and my advice is
* do not try this at home. *

This should only be attempted by professionals.

I have never been in this situation before.  We are spread across weeks six through nine.   And when we get together daily, sometimes twice daily, to cover the discussion of what was going on in Europe after WWI, during the Russian Revolution, as American women were fighting for the vote, and as the African colonies were scrambling for independence and India followed suit, and then we must deal with the decline of family values in Europe and America, and, Oh wait, here comes Hitler……

I have never wandered  across even two weeks of Tapestry of Grace material before.   And I hope never to do this again.   Organizing the teaching notes and assignments is something like governing a tribal  state, and I am only able to manage it with sticky notes in five  different colors.
My assignment calendar looks like an Indian head-dress with all these neon-tone stickies hanging out everywhere.

So I have to explain how this mess happened.
Last year we were studying Tapestry of Grace Year Two.
So, we should have done Year Three this year.
BUT,  when we did Year Three four years ago,  we did such a thorough job….such an eviscerating job,  that my kids asked very politely, hat in hand and all, if we might skip it this time and go straight into Year Four, which is modern history, and which we have not studied together before.

So, I agreed that skipping Year 3 was a good idea, …….almost……
We didn’t do the entire curricula for Year 3, we just hit the high points
.

From August 1 until September 15, we did a lightening tour of the first 18 weeks  of Year 3…..which took us from the colonization of America well into the  American Revolution and some of the French Revolution.
Then we left all books behind, and hopped off to Norway and England for a very edifying four week long field trip.
And when we returned we hit the high points of American Governmnent and the Industrial Revolution over three weeks time.
Then we jumped right into World War One, which we studied  deeply and with relish for four weeks.
Then came Christmas 2010, (and that famous New Years Day party at which we had 200 people, having expected only 100….and I was slow to recover from that.)

Then various children took ill in various ways, and I followed them.   And  that’s when I gave assignments which took part of one week, and attached them to assignments from a portion of another week.   Then, I found that in order to cover the literature well, we needed to go back and re-coup some of the discussions and reading we had missed.   So, rather than a straight line of reading, discussing and writing up our work which is the much more desirable norm, we are in a crazy quilt mulligatawny juggling act.   So we’re working through the last dregs of  “Socialism compared to a Totalitarian State”,  Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky from Weeks 6 and 7,   the last  bits and pieces of the postwar national boundaries debacle in Europe which is in Weeks 7 and 8, various literature discussions from 6, 7, 8 and even 9, and then the introduction of Hitler as a young pup who took pathetic Germany by the horns.   And then there is the Jazz Age, Women’s suffrage,  Realist Literature, and applied Marxism.

The big kids read Animal Farm over the past three days, and loved it.  Thanks to Marcia Somerville’s excellent curricula and Spielvogel’s Western Civilization text and Pipe’s Whys of the Russian Revolution they have such a good understanding of the  all the architects of the revolution and the climate in Europe at that time.   They enjoyed figuring out for themselves which animals in the book represent which historical individuals, and I sat back and watched and wished I had enjoyed it so much when I was their age.   Their love of learning is more fun than a chocolate dessert for me.   When I read Animal Farm in highschool, it was an ugly ordeal.  That’s true of many aspects of my education.  This second go-round is really a joy.  When I was young,   I had no good understanding of the finer points of all the drama in Europe during the Revolution, or allegory, or even of the beauty of dystopia and the wisdom we can find in it,  if we can only understand it.

There’s a bit of travel happening for us beginning in two days….but I’m aiming at having us all back in line, doing ONLY Week ten, beginning next Monday.

So, around my house it’s all about totalitarian regimes and dark periods of history……except that the kids were remarking today that it is beautiful to notice that at the precise time in history that Europe was entering this sad time,  and  great misery brought about by evil men was overtaking so many ,many lives….. in North America, freedom and peace and optimism were peaking…..it was such a time of blessing and opportunity.
It would seem that even as God appeared to have almost turned his back on many in Europe, such a gracious hand of richness was being extended to another place on earth.
He is always here, He is always at work.
And the sustaining hand of God  was not absent from the Russians or the Germans.

But the ways of God are not the ways of men.  And God doesn’t do things the way we might.

And how lovely to find scripture to remind me that nothing is new to God, nothing surprises Him, and we are all a part of a story which He is writing.   I was looking around in Isaiah for something else, and found this…….

6 Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”

Isaiah 55:6-14

And that was so encouraging to me.   God will accomplish what he desires, and He has a purpose in history.   And it is all for His renown.

And Hitler and Lenin and Stalin and war are nothing before Him.

I took a photo of Maggie walking ahead of me to the dam today, and when I got it home, I realized I had almost the same shot from last summer.    These two pictures were taken at the same spot on the trail, under such different circumstances.

What a difference a little tilt of the earth can make!!!

New Oven!!!!!!

This is really huge!

Almost anyone who has come to my house for dinner has witnessed crazy erratic behaviour on the part of my oven.
Whenever the thermostat registered a respectable temperature, say 375 degrees, for more than 45 minutes, the oven would freak out.   The computer would shut all heating elements down, both in the oven and on the stove-top.  Lights would flash, and the oven would actually beep until pulled away from the wall and unplugged.   We replaced the computer panel in it twice, both times on warranty.  But being long-suffering and of hardy stock, we thought it wise to persevere with the  evil oven we knew rather than go out and spend a thousand bucks on a whole new kind of evil oven.

And we continued to invite stimulating throngs of people over, only to serve dinner 30 minutes to an hour late due to our malfunctioning oven.   Sometimes it would shut itself down with no guest present,  every single night for a week.  And then, just as I was poised to sell a dog or a family heirloom in order to pay for a new oven, it would settle down and cook dinner like it should.   And I would forget.

Then, after a month or more passed, Thanksgiving dinner (or any old festive occasion at which we had more than 12 extra diners) was always the signal for the oven to go berserk again….. just as the meal was almost (but not quite)  done….the entire range would shut itself off, beep out a distress signal, lights flashing like Las Vegas.    There were three or four dinner party events at which the oven refused to finish cooking dinner in the presence of guests I didn’t really know very well….and those evenings were just excruciatingly humbling for me.  I lived with that character building appliance for seven years.

But, NO MORE!!!!!    Jon said “Go buy an oven” last Saturday, and I could hardly get out of the house fast enough.  He did the research, and I got to do the fun part….picking it out.

My lovely shiny new oven arrived yesterday, and we are all quite infatuated.  It has not turned itself off even once.  It does ding out a melody and flash, but only to announce nice things.   If you would like to come over for a meal served on-time, it’s safe to do so now.

Here she is, cooking our dinner:

Happy Birthday to a Couple of Cool Chicks

Twice in my life, the sun has set on January 16 leaving me enormously pregnant with no sign of delivery…..and the same sun has risen the next morning,  finding me holding a  beautiful new daughter.   It happened once in 1996, and again in 2007.    I have talked about it here before…….(and if you click that link, you’ll see that snake photo Audrey wishes I would stop posting.)

So, tonight we will celebrate Maggie’s fourth birthday, and tomorrow we celebrate Audrey’s fifteenth.  They are such a joy to us all…..Happy Birthday girls!!!!!!

Poems as Prayers

My friend Paula has a really inspirational and creative blog.   I just read a lovely  post of hers where she shares her very great ideas about prayer journals being written in poetry form.   Check it out,  it might  be a really uplifting way of breathing fresh air into your prayer life.

I have long been a fan of the puritan prayers of The Valley of Vision.  Maybe we can all make our prayers more beautiful, too.