Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spring Excavation…I Mean, Cleaning…Has Begun

Baby, it’s cold outside (well, chilly still) and my list of items misplaced in the built-up winter clutter of my home was getting longer and longer. Thus today I began to spring clean.

I’m  a few hours in, and thus far have found some interesting things as I dig deep into the mess to clean and organize. Here’s a list of a few things I’ve found so far (some useful, some fun, some that make me nostalgic…and none, alas, the library book I REALLY need to find…)

~My cutting board (don’t ask, but it’s been missing in action for a long time)
~Component parts to an ancient Roman city made from air dried clay
~One lone mitten my daughter wore when she was about three (she’ll be 11 this summer)
~A Bingo card for an episode of LOST, made a few years back by my friend Erin
~My blackline maps for world history, which we could have used in school last week

I’ll keep adding as the fun continues!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Praise Break

There are days when almost nothing on my to-do list seems to get done, and yet I look back and say "That was a rich learning day. Thank you, God."

Today has been one of those, and I am feeling tremendously grateful that sometimes, I have just enough wisdom to get out of my own way, scrap my agenda, and let the Lord do what he wants to do in me. 

This praise break brought to you by the heart of a humble, grateful woman.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The 24 Hour Retreat

So much richness in the retreat I went to Friday night and Saturday. It’s hard to believe that so much rich teaching could be packed into such a short time.

The shortness of the time – 24 hours – was the hardest part. I don’t think anyone slept very well on Friday night, as one often doesn’t for the first night in a strange place. But we didn’t get a second chance to sleep better. It seemed we got there and had to turn around and head home right away. I felt extra tired on Saturday, and the bleak grayness of the day (which was rainy/misty and only about 40 degrees) didn’t lend itself to providing much energy. And yet it was still completely worth it. I didn’t come home physically rested, but I didn’t expect to. I did come home spiritually enriched, and that was a blessing.

Dr. Kenneth Bailey is an amazing Bible teacher. I have had the privilege of listening to many good teachers of the Scriptures. There have been a few teachers in particular at whose feet I have felt especially privileged to sit, and I count Dr. Bailey among those. With his long years of experience in the Middle East, and his many years of prayerful listening and careful scholarship, he brings a faithful yet incredibly fresh perspective to the Biblical text. He opens up the Scriptures in ways that sometimes literally take my breath and bring tears to my eyes.

Many of the teachers I’ve had over the years, going back to the late 1980s at Eastern, have given me deeper insight into the place of women in the Scriptures and in the Kingdom. I have always been incredibly thankful for that. But it is not something I have spent a lot of time thinking about specifically in recent years, and I was amazed, as Dr. Bailey unfolded his teaching on women in the New Testament, to realize how much I have unconsciously absorbed that is not helpful – attitudes and assumptions about women’s roles, worth, and place that are culturally shaped but not gospel shaped. We get these tapes playing in our minds and hearts sometimes that are so quiet and unobtrusive they’re like muzak on elevators – but the messages can really hurt us. Then we “flee to the life of Jesus” (as Michael Card puts it) and we discover the truth that set us free.

It is always amazing to realize anew how radically freeing the gospel is, and to see again and again how deeply and tenderly Jesus cares for all of creation and every single person in it. As Dr. Bailey flew through passage after passage (amazing how much he got in during three sessions) the insights were flying around the room like a flock of birds, and every diverse note seemed to sing the same song. It takes *male and female* to be the image of God. And we are at our best and most gospel-shaped when we are not fighting, not trying to oppose each other, not trying to trump or one-up the other, not trying to jockey for positions of power over each other, not lording it over each other, but joining hands at the table to work together, love together, serve Jesus together, radically thankful for the grace that makes us all forgiven and free, radically assured that we are equally broken, equally saved by grace, equally called and gifted, equally needed to share his love in this messed up world. And that we manifest that love best together, because there are things unique in both women and men that reflect the character of God.

The other wonderful thing about those 24 hours was how lovely it was to connect with women: past and present. I had time in the Scriptures with women who have shaped our heritage of faith since the church’s beginning. I had leisurely time at three meals to get to know four ladies in my parish better. I was there because a woman friend from afar gave me the gift of the retreat. And in what felt like a total grace note, in our closing Eucharist, we “happened” to sing two songs which incredibly represent, for me, two very different spiritual seasons in my life shaped very strongly by two different women. I learned these songs while learning from those two women, Evelyn (in my childhood) and Lucille (in my 20s). Along with my mother, they have been some of the deepest influences ever in my spiritual life.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Imagine That! They're Asking You to Do Math!

Sometimes a conversation will occur during the course of a homeschool morning that just makes me laugh. If you could eavesdrop on some of the conversations at our house, I have a feeling you'd chuckle too, though some of these conversations are not the kind you'll find in magazine articles about the joy of teaching and learning.

Because let's face it -- real kids and real teachers sometimes get cranky. They get bored. They get frustrated. They miss the point. Real learning, and real teaching, is full of ups and downs and moments that look anything but graceful. And sometimes they're just downright funny.

Take today's math lesson. The sweet girl has been swimming in the land of fractions for a few weeks now. Although we've moved on to ratios, fractions still loom everywhere, and today the book had the audacity to present not one, not two, but three sections of dividing fractions.

Now...the sweet girl is good at dividing fractions. She totally gets the concept, and she does them well. But frankly, she's bored. Now sometimes when a student is bored, it's OK to say "go ahead, skip that, and go on to something else." But she's been struggling a good bit lately with keeping a good attitude and persevering on things she doesn't really feel like doing, and today I decided to die on that hill. So I told her she needed to soldier through.

"But I know how to do these," she said (okay, whined might be more accurate). "They're easy and I know how to do them and I don't want to do..." she paused and counted..."26 dividing fraction problems."

"Well," I encouraged, "break them up. Do one section and then go on to something else. Then come back and do another section."

Often this works. She's found it a helpful strategy in the past, to break up doing several sections in a row of the same thing. Today she sighed. "But the only other section left is the one on equations," she said in a aggrieved voice. "You know I don't enjoy equations. Especially when I have to check them. Checking them is such a pain because if I don't know for sure that it's right, then I actually have to go back over and do the math to figure out if they're correct."

I was in the kitchen cutting up veggies for the crockpot when she said this, and for some reason, it totally tickled my funny bone. Although I try hard not to give into sarcasm very often (knowing how much it bothers my daughter) a snarky little elf seemed to be giggling right next to me. Without thinking I said, "Imagine that! Having to do math in a math lesson! What could they have been thinking?" As the snarky elf continued to giggle madly, I added, "I mean, you might think they could have come up with something a little more creative! They could have asked you to do science...or yoga...or cooking. But no, they asked you to do math!"

Lest you think the snark elf masquerading as mom went too far, I am pleased to report that I suddenly heard snickering from the dining room. Once the giggles subsided, she did the rest of the math with nary a complaint. OK, maybe one or two small ones.

Monday, March 11, 2013

"The Bridge" (A Poem by Kaissar Afif)

The sweet girl and I have been journeying through Jordan on our geography Mondays. Today we were reading from The Space Between Our Footsteps, a collection of poems and paintings from the Middle East collected by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Some lovely poems in translation here, with some especially beautiful metaphors. I really liked this one:

The Bridge

Poetry is a river
And solitude a bridge.

Through writing
     We cross it,
Through reading

We return.

~Kaissar Afif (translated by Mansour Ajami) 

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Sleeping Like Bears

My daughter and I have a running joke that her favorite stuffed bear, Trumpkin, hibernates during the winter. We have made up lots of little stories over the years about how he hibernates, and how he wakes up and comes alert again every year round about March.

So...the bear is waking up here, but the rest of us are sleeping a ton.

I don't know what our family caught this past week, but it's been a doozy. The sweet girl got it first, a little over a week ago, and she had a few rough days of fever, aches, sore throat, just plain exhaustion. She's still sleeping more than usual, though the rest of her symptoms have gone away.

I've had congestion, cough, fever, aches, and have been sleeping a bizarre number of hours each night for the past few nights. Fever is gone now, but the rest of it remains, and despite all the extra sleep, I am energy-less, just dragging through the days.

Today I noticed that my dear husband was dragging, just completely exhausted looking. He has dark circles under his eyes and was having a hard time staying awake at the dinner table. Granted, he's been working a lot lately, but this was not your normal tired looking. He admitted he was starting to feel "wheezy" and he went to bed as soon as we finished eating.

I have a feeling we might all feel better if we could find a cave somewhere and just hibernate for the next couple of weeks....

I keep telling myself that one day I will have energy again! 

Friday, March 01, 2013

"Instructions for Living a Life"

My heart is tired this week.

Tired, discouraged, and fighting what feels like this winter's seventeenth bout of illness, I turned to poetry. More specifically to Mary Oliver, who has been speaking to my heart a lot this year.

And I stumbled onto this stanza from her poem "Sometimes" in the collection titled "Red Birds":

"Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it."

It was one of those poetry moments where I found myself not knowing whether to laugh or cry, so I think I did a little of both. This is so where I am right now in this tired, busy season. It's like she took a peek at my life and wrote exactly what my heart has been learning and wanting to say.

I love it when a writer does that.