Friday, July 28, 2006

Mourning to Dancing

She turned to the dark window, pain in every line of the motion. "Right. I know I need to wait...But everyone else will be gone...I'll be so old." In her wavering reflection, tears sparkled down her cheek.

Though her best friends were at least a year older, she grieved their moving on without her in graduation. She had completed her academic requirements. Wouldn't she just be marking time? Growing older without fruit?

One year later
She turns under the sparkling tree, inviting new friends and old out of the dark to dance at her graduation. In wonder, they learn to celebrate.

She is handing out choice portions: a chance to make a real movie with professional equipment and experienced film mentors - all discovered and assembled during her internship in the last year. Her sister, struggling with overuse injuries while practicing her violin, has recovered her joy in music and her hope of being able to participate in it in the future, because of that invitation to compose the sound track. A band of brothers have discovered her subversive storytelling methods and resolve to join the network to capture imaginations.

She laughs, fearless. Her college expenses will be completely covered until she takes up both B.A. and M.A. in an accelerated 5-year program. The fruit of her scholarship pursuit over the last long, lonely year. Over half a million dollars.

Her mother turns to the dark window. In the glowing reflections, the young people are toasting the future with fizzy punch. "So God will not always chasten," she thinks, "Weeping may endure for a night, but morning comes. There will be joy. That, too, is His will."

"There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, 'All right, then, have it your way.'"~ C.S. Lewis ~ May I and mine always be in the first group.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Notes from Underground - Light

In the mine, the only light is the light you bring with you. Except occasionally, there is a fissure above that allows a tiny shaft of light to finger some glittering crystal, as if God says, "See here!" You have time to gasp in wonder. But the world turns, and the light fades.

The glitterati of the homeschool speech and debate world were there as the graduating debaters from across the country halted down the aisle to the first ever NCFCA graduation ceremony. A trio of sisters serenaded us with Pachelbel's Canon in D, and my daughter sang of being changed "For Good" by knowing her family and these friends. No less a man than Michael Farris exhorted the graduates not to despise the day of small beginnings nor the small decisions to walk in God's ways that put us in the way of His later great blessing. The young lady who had just won the policy debate crown exhorted the graduates to strive not to be the "Greatest Generation" but the "Faithful Generation".

One by one the graduates received their diplomas from their parents with words of praise and encouragement. And in the gracious liturgy of such things, the students responded with tearful thanks to parents, sibs and mentors.

One, however, began, "Wherever God calls us in the future, whether to halls of justice, fame or hidden service, we rarely get to see the whole picture. But it is there. And it is beautiful. And in our lives we will be called to be broken - and willingly or not - we will be broken. Broken from friends, and dreams. Broken from family and even everything we thought was ourselves. But it is that shattering that makes the difference between being a clear piece of glass - flat, invisible and unnoticed - and becoming a sparkling rainbow mosaic of life that is a wonder to all who pass by. And no one will be able to pass without asking, "who has done this?" And then it will be our privilege to tell them of the reason for the hope that is within us. "

"And we will fly on wings like eagles above the vaulted ceilings of the possible. Higher than we thought possible because it is another's strength on which we rely."

And that one is mine. And she has understood the secrets I whispered to her as she slept. She has deciphered the stories I told her as she played at my knee in her innocence. And she has waited patiently at the Master Glazier's feet, as He has lifted her broken heart, piece by piece, to His mosaic.

Oh yes! Here's to defying gravity...

Monday, July 17, 2006

Losing our Heads

"Off with her head!" cried the Red Queen. Dear Alice ran for her life, but she was only pursued by a pack of cards. So often the threats we flee are only a pack of cards.

But there are plenty of ways to lose our heads for real. And for Christians, this has some unusual consequences. You see, for us, it's not always fatal. For us, "When life whacks you so hard your head flies off, sew it back on and keep going."~ Mary Pierce ~ It's a possibility.

The Headless Horseman

The thing about being headless, is that it gives you a unique perspective. A little lower, humbler than everybody else. Sometimes it's the backward perspective, you know, from under the arm. Then there is the advantage of being able to actually throw your head at your attacker/pursuer/quarry. The anticipation of the satisfying "thwack" as new ideas hit the other guy is really worth the disadvantage of having to retrieve the head with the eyes actually disconnected from the hands. And of course, there is this supreme advantage: next time life aims at your head, it won't be where life expects it to be!

The Velveteen Rabbit
We all remember the story of the toy rabbit who mourned alone in the closet, pristine and perfect until the Boy lost his favorite cuddly and substituted the rabbit. The Boy's love for the rabbit cost him his glossy coat, his wiskers, an eye. Finally, the rabbit was the Boy's comfort through a bout of Scarlet Fever, and was tossed on the trash heap to be burned.

Loving people will cost you your ability to look good all the time. It will cost you your comfort. It will finally cost you your life, if you are faithful. But you, like the rabbit, will not be utterly consumed. You will become Real.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Hot Moms Play It Cool

No, I don't mean sweaty. It's now official. Moms can be "hot". The Today Show says so. Homeschool moms have known this for years. So today, I thought it would be fun to see how homeschool moms stack up against this newly-discovered hotness.

The Today Show was promoting a new book called The Hot Moms' Handbook, which was a witty exposition of the joys of motherhood - with fashion advice. "Motherhood gives us depth, compassion, and a level of love and awareness so heartfelt it is indescribable..." (Are you feeling the resonance yet?)

What makes a hot Mom? Well, she plays! She spends time having fun with her kids, surprizing them with new ideas and creative play. (Isn't that the definition of a homeschool mom? Haven't you made cookie-dough topographical maps of the ocean floor, dressed up like Eleanor of Aquitaine and gone on Crusade, stalked through the backyard searching for the Northwest Passage while picking botanical samples to preserve for posterity, roused your kids at 2am with hot cocoa to catalog a meteor shower, laid out a garden using only ancient Roman surveying methods, gone without running water for a day to illustrate the soul's thirst for Living Water, conquered the Spanish Armada on a giant world map with a pocket-sized punch-out British Navy, and such like?)

Hot Moms keep current and make time to enjoy grown-up conversation with their husbands and their friends. (Ummm! Let's homeschool mom friends are current enough to be actively involved in local-to-national politics - with their husbands. And many of them maintain a regular date night. Does that count?)

Hot Moms ditch the sweats and wear practical, stylish outfits even if they are just taking the kids to Little League (OK, maybe they've got us there. Homeschool moms spend way too much time in denim jumpers and prairie skirts. Still, that's got to beat sweats - ewwww! Play day for my girls and I: Have coffee at a bookstore, perusing the fashion magazines (we employ the mommy-censor for those unbelievable ads), then hit the mall to window shop. Finally, we take our wallets to the thrift store, where you wouldn't believe what current looks you can put together for the price of a retail blouse. Nobody believes that our favorite clothing store is the DAV.)

Now, something that the Today Show didn't mention, but that homeschool moms employ to ensure that life can continue to produce joy, even when the baby projectile-vomits all over that stylish outfit, hubby loses his job, and grammar, long-division and dirty floors crowd out playtime for a week...a long-term time horizon. Homeschool moms are sure that what they are doing will have eternal consequences in the hearts, minds and characters of these little people, who are in our care. And most of us rely on the unbounded energy and care of the God who will receive us and our children at the end of all the troubles.

This hope allows a playful spirit. It is light and air. Life's difficulties take on a more manageable size.

I think that makes the score: Hot Moms - 3. Homeschool Moms - 5
Play on! It doesn't get hotter than this.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Creating Homeschool Traditions

As homeschoolers, we tend to be rugged individualists pioneering (mostly alone) through academic and relational terra incognita. So much so, in fact, that we tend to forget that some things do take a community. Marking milestones and applauding achievements are two of those things that simply shouldn't be done alone.

My eldest graduated in May - and in June. The first time, we crafted a ceremony for our tiny homeschool co-op and for a shy young man who was new to our group. The graduates were led in by our daughter's menfolk dressed in full Highland regalia, bagpipes blaring. The graduates' remarks focused on thanks to those who have made possible their achievements. And the fathers presented diplomas with words of encouragement and inspiration. We finished off with cake, hors d'ovres and a Scottish country-dance ball for the whole local speech & debate community (Think Jane Austen at Bath). And when the musicians tired, we roasted and toasted the graduates.

It was simple and heartfelt. I felt sorry for the non-Christians in the crowd, because the graduates' remarks and the fathers' charges had so many references to the faith that it surely amounted to mission work. However, one of those nons told me at the punchbowl that he had really enjoyed himself. Most other graduations, he said, were all about how hard the graduates had worked and what heights they had achieved. This one, he mused, was about gratitude rather than self-aggrandizement. It was about families working together and enjoying each other, having a part in the successes each member accomplishes.

Others went home rubbing their hands with glee, because "now we have a tradition to look forward to when it's our turn. This IS going to be a tradition, isn't it?" Yes, it must become a tradition. We need them. They provide us a way to enjoy the fruits of our hard work, and to realize how much it means to us to have companions in the field hoeing alongside us.

Even if it means that I'm not left alone to revel in decorating the hall and preparing gourmet goodies. Even if I have to do the (shudder) admin.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lunch Break in the Salt Mines

"Once in a while you have to take a break and visit yourself ." - Audrey Giorgi

I am an artist. Blood and bones. I am never so happy as when I have paint and canvas, ink and paper, or photos and scrapbook pages in hand and an empty afternoon at my disposal. It is meat and drink to me to re-arrange the furniture and wall decor to celebrate the next phase of the church calendar and to welcome visitors. Or to light candles, turn off all the lights (because there's a whopping good thunderstorm that will likely turn them off anyway) and play some thundery Beethoven or Chopin or accompany my family singing hymns until the storm subsides (or we get tired of squinting).

I am an artist. That is difficult to remember amidst the rockslides and sluices of administration that the Lord has served me this spring and summer. I am making it possible for other people to exercise their arts, while I'm stuck with the pick and axe work. Is this really me? Why am I good at what I hate to do? Will I ever get to do art again (melodramatic sob)? Will I ever even get to blog regularly?

When my husband and I were first married, we moved half-way across the continent in our first week. No friends. No church. No family. No piano. No paints. No funiture to speak of. My husband's new job was fairly all-consuming.

What I did have to work with was chicken, well, and vegetables. I came to view these as my canvas. Those veggies had to be delicious, nutritious AND beautiful. It got to be a game: how many ways to serve chicken can I find or invent? Aristotle says that tangible matter resists the forms of perfection imposed upon them. I found it so with chicken - even the occasional hamburger defied the forms. My game was called 'taming the stubborn tangibles'. Eventually, I realized it was art.

Perhaps all I really need is to be able to view administration as art. The institutions are my canvas and people are my paints. Yes, and paperwork is my brush (heavy sigh!). These tangibles resist form more than any other media I have ever worked with. They have to be persuaded to stay on the canvas. They mix with the yellow instead of the blue. Regular paint doesn't have to want to be purple, but people have to want to be in the painting.

Is it art? I'll let you know, but maybe it's the end of the tunnel.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Notes from Underground

Administration! It really is the pits! My salt-mine has a lot more extensive galleries than I ever suspected. I thought I saw light at the end of the tunnel, but it was just a ventilation shaft.

Well, since I'm not getting out any time soon, I'll try to enjoy the scenery.

My middle daughter, Anne visited the salt mines for which Salzburg is named. She said it was incredible not only what God had wrought, but what men have done. The walls sparkled, and wherever they were thin between chambers, light could penetrate so that the walls shone like pink hurricane glasses around a candle.

The miners of salt have an absolutely amazing method of extracting and purifying the salt that they mine. They dig drainage tunnels between the galleries to the outside world, where an enormous holding tank awaits. Then they pump the gallery full of water. Salt dissolves! Remember? When the water has reached its saturation point, they pump the water out into the holding tank and allow it to evaporate. What is left is pure salt. Water, air and gravity have done the heavy lifting.

What's more, the miners ride an enormous slide down to work every day. Picture one of those mountain slides you ride for hundreds of feet under the summer sky - only underground.

I gotta figure out how to make my salt mine work like this...


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