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Category: Reflections

Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

The house is ready, preparations are complete (or we’ve run out of time to complete them!), and our wall says it all: “Anticipate…”

Once again we have passed a season for reflecting, for preparing, for remembering how God has worked in the past and for looking forward to what He will do in the future.

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I wish we were anticipating sitting here with you today!  People who love our family well, who encourage us to continue on the road God has planned, who are part of our past and our present–you are all on the list of those we would look forward to having at this table.

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But, as with the rest of the anticipation of Advent, this hope too will wait for a while more.  The table will be filled again soon, and hopefully you will be in one of those seats!  And with even more expectation than waiting for a meal or a special guest, we continue to wait for Jesus to come–not as a baby this time, but as the ruler of God’s Kingdom fully realized.  Merry Christmas, and may you continue to ANTICIPATE in the year to come!

Growing Up

Growing Up

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When does growing up turn into growing old?  Is it a number of birthdays, a state of mind, or a place in the generational family tree?

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Grandparents have been heavy on my mind and heart recently.  When Nathan was born, Than and I had eight grandparents all living independently.  We were thrilled to introduce our new baby to these special people, knowing it wouldn’t last forever.

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When Katya came along, we still had all eight!  Each of them was a memorable and distinct person to our toddler son, and we wondered if our infant daughter would know them as well.

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By the time Katya was 4 and Nathan was 7, four of the eight had moved into senior facilities of one kind or another.  Both of my kids knew and loved them.

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Shortly after Katya’s 6th birthday, just before Nathan turned 9, we lost two of the grandparents in quick succession.  There was sadness over the loss, more sadness over watching people around us grieve, and lots of questions about heaven from the kids.

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Now, with Katya 7 and Nathan almost 10, one more face is missing from the lineup.  Two of the remaining five are currently in rehabilitation facilities following serious health challenges.  Life continues to change, and as my kids grow older so do my grandparents.

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I am so grateful to these grandparents, both the ones that are mine by birth and those that are mine through marriage.  I am grateful to be part of a family that is tied together–in places, still four generations deep on this side of heaven.  I am grateful for these wise people who have patiently shaped and molded my parents, and in turn me.  I am grateful for the opportunity to watch 8 different colors and styles of aging, 8 different men and women farther along the road that I too am traveling, 8 different stories that feed the roots of my own story, 8 different faith journeys that still point to a faithful God.

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The most dramatic spiritual conversion story I have ever heard can’t top the power of a life given to God all the way through to the very end.  I am privileged to be watching these stories playing out, and challenged by the ways I am needed to be part of their lives.  I wonder what my own road will look like, if it will be as long as theirs, and how I will act and live when I am in their shoes.  I welcome the lessons I am learning, and wonder if the “Thoughts on Aging…” notes in my journal are at all close to the thoughts I will really have when the end is so much closer than the beginning.  I hope that I continue to grow up, and I am grateful for the growing up that God still has in store for my grandparents.

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(Note, all the photos in this post feature my Grandpa Topping.  I’ve lined them up in chronological order, starting when he went to serve in WW2 and ending with Katya’s Bible presentation at Christmas.  The baby and the girl with the glasses are me.  Gramps is the one most in my thoughts today, and he’s the one I have the most photos of!!)






A Pounding…

A Pounding…

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Late last night, an evening rainstorm turned nasty.  Eventually the pounding of hail on the roof woke both kids, sending them looking for comfort and reassurance as the heavy barrage continued.  It was really hard to soothe my crying daughter when, on the inside, I was feeling sad and angry myself.  I hate hail because it makes me feel so powerless and trapped, and it is so destructive at a hopeful “growing” time of year.  I didn’t even want to look out the window this morning, so Than went out to survey the damage first before I could bring myself to check it out in person.  This isn’t the first time my garden has been pommeled, and I am sure it won’t be the last.

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An event like this fills me with questions.

Why do I plant a garden when I know it will probably get damaged?

Why do I get so sad when things are destroyed, even though it happens every year?

Why does God allow such destructive storms?

What right do I have to be upset when the yard is purely for beauty and pleasure, not something my family depends on for sustenance?

What right do I have to be upset when, just a few blocks away, the hail was so deep that a front end loader was needed to dig out the cars?  (Check out these photos-unbelievable!!)

Does this help me to be more compassionate to others in “crisis” or is it presumptuous to even begin to compare 30 minutes of suburban hail to natural (and man-caused) disasters around the world?

I know petunias are not nearly as important as people, but is there room for sadness about temporal, physical, “minor” losses even though the big things in life are going right?

What is the point?  What should I learn?

Will the sun ever shine for more than 48 hours this summer?!!!

Am I going to stop whining and finish this blog post?

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I don’t have good answers.  All I know is that we will clean up the yard (when the rain gives us a chance) and more plants will survive than I thought, although more are damaged than I would like.  It is National Donut Day, so we celebrated in style, and time goes on regardless of what is happening outside.  Heave a big sigh, munch a fresh free donut, and say thank-you to God for so much that is good.  Eventually my feelings will catch up with the logic of all of that!

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Why Don’t I Blog?

Why Don’t I Blog?

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There are lots of reasons I write for this blog, and that is the subject of a future post, but the thing that is getting in the way for me today is why I DON’T write.  Therefore, in an attempt to clear my head and get on with it, I’m going to write about not writing.  How’s that for confusing?!!

Sometimes, there just doesn’t seem to be anything interesting going on.  Kids are at school, I’m doing housework and lesson teaching and baking and admin work, life is just routine.  I could nearly identical posts about those things several days a week, but you would stop reading pretty quickly!

HOWEVER, when I do challenge myself to write about the “ordinary,” I am surprised by what I discover.  Looking at the everyday with eyes that hope to share it helps me to notice things I would otherwise take for granted.

Sometimes, there is way too much going on!  Schedules get crazy and my normal times for reflection and writing disappear.

HOWEVER, these can often be the times when the challenge to write is a very powerful tool to help me slow down and take notice, hanging on to precious moments before they disappear in a flood.

Sometimes, I totally forgot to take pictures of the things I want to write about.

HOWEVER, that’s just silly since I take tons of pictures of things I never write about.  Who says the photos actually have to match the words?

Sometimes, the things that are going on are really hard to write about.  They seem important to me but I worry that no one else will be interested.  Or they are things that I am anxious to share, but not in a general public forum to whoever might be reading.

HOWEVER, feelings like these remind me of the importance of staying connected.  I need that, even though I usually operate as if I don’t.  The blog certainly isn’t the place to write every thing and anything, but that drive to know and be known should be listened to.  If I can’t write about it, then I need to pick up the phone or try pen and a notecard or dash off an e-mail.  Some things in life just need to be shared!

Now that I’ve cleared that up, it’s time to return to my regularly scheduled blogging program.  Thanks for your patience as I clear the air!

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Sometimes Pinterest Really Works

Sometimes Pinterest Really Works

Here is a rare Pinterest project that actually worked about as well as I thought it would!

I found instructions on Pinterest for a popsicle stick catapult.  Believe it or not, I actually managed to pull the supplies out of my well stocked craft cupboards, make a test version, and then assemble one with Nathan less than a week after I pinned the original idea.  Now, in case you aren’t impressed, you should know that I have pinned over 3,000 recipes, craft ideas, kid games, quotes, and other random things that seem cool.  I have actually completed less than 10% of those.  Don’t ever be tempted to think that my real life actually resembles my Pinterest dream life!!

Anyway, here is Nathan shooting pom-poms into pots…

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For more about inspiration, including the goods and the bads of Pinterest, I found this blog post at (in)Courage to be helpful…

“How to Live an Inspired Life”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Litany of Thanksgiving, from the Book of Common Prayer

Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us.

For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea.  We thank you, Lord.

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For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ, we thank you, Lord.

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For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends, we thank you, Lord.

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For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve, we thank you, Lord.

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For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play, we thank you, Lord.

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For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity, we thank you, Lord.

For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice, we thank you, Lord.

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For the communion of saints, in all times and places, we thank you, Lord.

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Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord; 

To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

(Thanks to the What’s in the Bible blog for bringing this prayer to my attention.)

Changing the View

Changing the View

As I was downloading the flood pictures (see this previous post, or watch a video of me walking through the mess) I realized there were some other photos on the camera from a few weeks ago.  Thinking about the drama of the damaged basement, I realized they captured some of how I am thinking and feeling about things.

In the wake of the upheaval, chaos, disruption, and loss, sometimes I see this…

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Things have been destroyed.  My happy green office is no longer the place where I am sitting to write and create and think.  There is a long road of repair ahead and a battle to find resources to pay for it.  Holiday traditions have been disrupted.  The upstairs feels crowded.  My home is not the calm, peaceful, settled place I love.  The hard work of my loving family has been cut out of the walls, ripped off the floor, and thrown away.

However, I can also stand in the exact same place and see this…

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People have been kind and concerned, thoughtful and compassionate.  Nothing irreplaceable was lost.  My kids are happy and healthy, no one was hurt.  I live in a country where there are laws that can still help, and we have time and knowledge and resources to cope and rebuild.

Sometimes I’m so sad, looking at the dead stuff.  Sometimes I am deeply encouraged and grateful, looking at the sky.  Most of the time, though, I am somewhere in the middle, just standing in this moment, making it through the “right now” and looking for the grace I will need again tomorrow…

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Take a Breath

Take a Breath

Nearly midnight on the last day of November…

Stillness, glowing lights…

Once again the journey begins…

Pause, take a breath–there is hope in the air!  God was with us, is with us, and will be with us again.

Not-Totally-Random Quote

Not-Totally-Random Quote

In reading The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris, I came across this quote about laundry, of all things.

Laundry seems to have an almost religious important for many women.  We groan about the drudgery but seldom talk about the secret pleasure we feel at being able to make dirty things clean, especially the clothes of our loved ones, which possess an intimacy all their own.  Laundry is one of the very few tasks in life that offers instant results, and this is nothing to sneer at.  It’s also democratic; everyone has to do it, or figure out a way to get it done.

It is a little too cold for the clothesline now, but I will admit to some secret pleasure at the piles of clean clothes, finally finished and folded and put away in my loved ones’ drawers.  It is a weekly chore that I can be grateful for.