For 2011, I am resolving to do one thing in a very new way.
This year,I’m not making a long impressive list of resolutions.
I think anyone who has read any blog of mine for any amount of time at all would agree that
I am some kind of “Resolution Queen”  I make a lovely list every year,
always with a mix of old resolutions and new.
And I have kept those lists, and when I look over them
I can only agree with the woman I was when  I wrote them that they are really excellent goals.
Some are more enticing,  some are more attainable , and some are more practical than others.
All have value.
All my resolutions over the years have, to a greater or lesser degree, been helpful to me .
Whether or not they have been achieved fully, they have all raised my sights and my standards in some way.
A new year is a new beginning, and a great time to start fresh.
It marks a launching pad from which it is almost natural to sort of re-pack your bags,
check the map and plot a better course.
And to do those things is wise.
So, I don’t ever want to become cynical at the prospect of New Year’s resolutions.
In fact, I’ll have a nice list of resolutions for 2012.
But this year, I’m resolving to not leap out and grab more projects, bigger and more beautiful.
This year, I’m just going to take the projects I have and slow down with them all, giving them better attention.   I’m going to focus on schooling my kids in a quieter way,  focussing on the details and fine-tuning the daily disciplines better.
Focusing on listening to what I have been taught, so I can apply it better.
This idea seems so obvious!
To give it my keener attention, though,  is  really necessary.
This simple plan grows out of my resolution for last year, which was to use the stuff I had better.
I think that the theme of 2010 was for me to look around at the abundance of what I have……the curricula,  the cookbooks,  the clothing,  the closet space,  the home-schooling room, the art supplies, the skills, the raw materials in my home…..and try and get better use from it all.    That was not a very glamorous resolution.   But it was HUGE!
For me to “smaller” myself, focusing of being thankful for what we have and using it better was much needed and really illuminating.
I have come to see more clearly (a bit more clearly)  my character flaws of laziness and wastefulness.   These are  flaws which have been plain and obvious to many others, and it is quite humbling to begin to understand how much they have gotten in the way of good productivity and a smooth running house.
So, to continue in this way is essential.
To look at my day and our schooling plans with an eye to get the most use of what’s been provided for us will continue to be Goal Number One.
And since last year the focus was on using the physical resources more wisely and well, the next step in the progression would seem to be that I use the teachings I have received better.  So my thought for 2011 is that this will be the year when I learn better how to apply the things I know.
I have a better understanding now, compared to a year ago, of how easily I waste
the “stuff” in my life.
Having some clearer insights about my failure over the years to use curricula, supplies, groceries, space….etc, and to get the most from what was provided by God for me,
I am sure that I am also failing to get the full value of all that I am reading, hearing, and seeing.
So, if there is a resolution for this year, it is to pay closer attention to what I am reading,
to what God has already instructed me to do,
to what my husband has asked me to do,
to the spoken requests of my children,
to the great possibilities set before me in the books and resources we have right here under our roof for the purpose of educating our children.
We have so much to be thankful for, and God has been really outrageously gracious to our family.
So I just want to faithfully use it all better, and to do so with a heart of thanksgiving.

We are still Americans…..

And we are so very pleased and proud to be so.
But, seven years in Canada has brought not only  wonderful people but new dimension to our lives.

Two examples, just from today:

My previous resistance to hockey (and its expense, the equipment that fills the garage, the blood on the ice) is gone.

Right after breakfast, the boys all rampaged down the road to the ice rink, only Daniel paused long enough for a photo.

And our dietary limitations are also being challenged.  This little chunk of Moose meat is dinner tonight.  No Foolin’.

If you want to see how that moose meat turned out, there’s a picture of it on the dinner blog, at this link.

I made this book for Jon……

I have found that  in my marriage,  as the years have rolled on and Jon and I  have become a better unit with a clearer sense of purpose together and a keener sensation of having become “one” organism, I am very nearly overwhelmed at the prospect of how to express what he means to me in a wrapped  gift.

I cannot  any longer simply walk  into Best Buy and find “just the thing” for him.
And as I was knitting everybody else’s gifts, one might expect I would knit up something for him.
The trouble with that is that his dear mother, Elza, is among the most outrageously talented knitters on the planet.
She knits fabulous Norwegian sweaters in four or five colors, while watching television and chatting with guests, and jumping up from time to time to check on dinner.

Her work is always beautiful, and I cannot compete.

All this is meant to explain why  my gift to Jon was not a sweater, but this little book.

It’s a book of quotes and thoughts and ideas from books I have read over the past year and also from really great blogs and websites where Puritan passages are still alive and well, and sermons are recorded, and hymns are written up like poetry, and it’s all available for our great edification.
The idea for this project began last year as the kids and I were redoubling our efforts to keep our copy books more diligently.  I found that there were so many little passages and quotes and verses that Jon would have loved.

Then my good friend Jeanine mentioned that her pastor’s wife had made something similar, and she gave me some good ideas and encouragement.

So I started a book for him, with a date at the top of each page, going through the year, so that he has a page of something encouraging to read, to kick off his day at work, or maybe for a little moment with coffee later on.

Jon is faithful about always having an hour in scripture every morning at 5:30, and with that in mind, I used scripture for only about half the days in the book.

When I used scripture, I used Psalms, written in their entirety, long passages from Ephesians and Philippians, some pages are headed with topics like “Wisdom”  “Forgiveness”  “Grace” or “Speech”  and have verses which apply to these subjects.
The rest are full of the thoughts of people like Thomas Watson, Jeremiah Burroughs, J.C Ryle, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Calvin, Martyn Lloyd-Jones,  John Flavel, Octavius Wnslow, Charles Spurgeon, Matthew Henry, GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards…….and many more good theological thinkers.    I used ten or more of the poems from The Valley of Vision .

There are also days filled with quotes by Aristotle, Plato, EB White, Confucius, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Julia Child, Bill Cosby, Calvin and Hobbes, Andy Rooney, PG Wodehouse, and there is even a day (April Fools Day I think) which is dedicated to ridiculous statements made by Jennifer Lopez.

So, I believe that all bases are covered.

It’s not a beautiful book, not in a really artistic sense.  It’s full of quotations and wise words from other people, and there are only a handful of pages which I wrote entirely on my own.

I want to just say that the one who got the greatest gift here was not my sweet husband.  It was me.  During the year of writing this book, as we made some really hard decisions for our family, the daily work of putting this book together sometimes compelled me to look for wisdom and comfort for myself in the places that were hard for me and for us, and I found such great comfort in the scripture studied topically, in the wise words of puritans who had already thought through many of my questions, and in the words of the Valley of Vision and Spurgeon and Edwards especially.

Wives out there, here is a great project that will bless you richly, and hopefully it will bless your men as well.

But you better start it soon……a year is almost what it takes to do a nice job on a book like this.

Hand made Christmas

It’s almost New Years, and before I start talking about resolutions, I want to show some photos of the gifts we made for each other here at our house for Christmas this year.

It was so much fun making these gifts, and such a crazy fun celebration when we opened them all up on Christmas Eve.

Everybody was so enthusiastic and everybody had a couple of things they were just popping to give, and to see how their creations would be received.

Everybody was happy and  laughing, and a couple of people cried.

Here’s a little breakdown of what we unwrapped:

Daniel made a mug for Jon, and some coasters and tiled trivets which we will treasure for years to come.

Maggie glued a hundred buttons onto a basket because she knew that was just what Audrey needed, and she also painted and glued beads and sequins onto a flower pot for Jon into which she planted a Christmas cactus, making him a really dramatic piece of living art for his office.    I addition to these treasures, she made an adorable collection of pompom art animals, complete with googly eyes.   They are almost like a little pompom nativity set.

Helen made a set of festive paper lanterns for Audrey and a painting of a mountain scene which she framed up for Jon to take to work.

Jon made some gorgeous wooden items.  One was a beautiful wooden lap desk for Helen, which he tricked out with all kinds of cool calligraphy pens, paper and ink.  So, you can see the writer wearing her new blue shawl here on the left, and here is here lovely desk just below.

Audrey sewed up a cute bag for Helen.

She also made Maggie a soft pink blanket with satin rosebuds on it, under which Maggie is sleeping  as I write here.

Audrey also made some funny T-shirts for the boys which they are wearing in the photos here, and she made  a beautiful collage of black and white photographs for Jon and me.

David made some killer hot-chocolate mix, which is disappearing fast.

Michael made some lovely fragrant candles, and he also  found an old doll sized dresser which belonged to my mother long about 1936.    It was in very poor condition, but he sanded it down,  replaced the mirror, painted it, rebuilt the drawers and made it like new for Maggie.

The queen of all gifts was the wooden knitting box Jon made for me.

It is lovely, lovely.  And I will use it for years to come, and pass it on to one of my girls.

It has three compartments, and one of those has lid with holes especially designed so I can keep yarn in the box, safe and clean, and run it through holes in the lid……and there are three holes in the lid, so I can work with three skeins at a time, if I want.    When I pulled the three boxes apart, I discovered it was packed full of bulky yarn for some great felting project which is yet to be drawn up.   Maybe it will be somebody’s gift next year.

And here is something special Audrey made for me.

It’s a set of twenty one knit markers which she made from silver rings and little blue and green beads.

There’s even an extra large centre marker which I can use for lace knitting, or for marking the beginning of a round on circular needles.

And she’s put them on this funky piece of bent wire which not only looks way cool, it also keeps then from wandering all over that gorgeous box.

Here’s a photo of some knitting that needs pretty markers.  See how boring those little green plastic rings look there.  Imaging that little piece with some groovy beaded markers to set it off.  Maybe then I would finish it!

And in addition to these home-made treasures, there was the annual Christmas slot car stuff, a pile of hockey equipment, an electric keyboard, and various other things that none of us knows how to make, so Jon bought ’em.   Which brings to mind a question that popped into my head Christmas morning:  I wonder how many households have an annual slot-car derby on Christmas Day.   It’s kind of amusing to me that one of the sounds I have come to associate with  Christmas goes along with the sounds of breakfast preparation.

It is the unlikely   sound of those toy  racetracks whining, cars flying off the tracks, and the boys yelling at them while I’m getting the food on the table.  Ruby-red grapefruit, sausage and cheese balls, egg-nog and the sound of those little cars whizzing along and crashing into the furniture.

So much to be thankful for!

The Incarnation of God

“Man’s Maker was made man; that He, Ruler of the stars might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread of life might hunger, the Fountain of life thirst, the Light of life sleep in the darkness, the Way be tired on its journey; that Truth might be accused of false witnesses; the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation of the Universe be suspended on wood, that Strength might grow weak, that the Healer might be wounded,  and  that life might die.”     –      St. Augustine

It is an amazing and incomprehensible thing that God was made human,  to poor  parents with no social standing, born an infant in a barn, placed in a trough….the bread of life for men, as if he were food for cattle.  It’s not the way we would do it, if we were asked to write the script.

But God is great, He is inscrutable and His wisdom shows the foolishness of our greatest insight.

So, we’re celebrating the most outrageous event in  history,  eternal God becoming temporary flesh.   And it is so much too great for us that we just turn away from it and bury ourselves in gift-wrapping and decorating and fudge making and entertaining.
But let’s remember this year that we are making all this joyful fuss to shout out to the world that God humbled Himself, brought Himself  low for us… that we who were His enemies could enjoy fellowship with Him forever.  That is such an incredible, amazing, heartbreaking Joy!

So let’s all wrap up a ton of gifts, make the  house extra festive, cook up some more fudge, and have a big party…..It is something enormous we’re celebrating!