Monday, November 30, 2009

Children's Book Monday

Join Elise at A Path Made Straight as she pulls from her shelf each Children's Book Monday!
Throughout the year when browsing the library shelves, my fingers would often catch a Christmas book.  I thumbed through pages as they beckoned me to join their tale.  But I resisted check-out.  Instead, I scribbled down titles and saved my list, planning and waiting for December.  In mid-November, I retrieved the list and began tucking books into my bag and squirreling them away at home.  And like the gunshot at the beginning of a race, the day after Thanksgiving was the signal to commence our season's reading.

The Christmas Tree Ship
written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter

We snuggle by our own tree, the scent of fir in our nostrils as we prepare to immerse in this simple story.  We begin...  "Each year on the last day of November, Captain Herman and his crew cut trees to bring to the city in time for Christmas." 

We follow the story of the real-life boat captain who annualy traveled from his Michigan home across the lake to Chicago, delivering Christmas trees.  We read of his interactions in the city.  We read of the year (1912) when his fishing boat is caught in a blizzard.  And though the words of the story are captivating alone, the vividly-colored illustrations fuel our imaginations.  From the glow of fire in the street lamps to the purple and blue haze of freezing snow flakes and pink shading of the sun, we can feel the setting through the visuals. 

So next summer...and every I begin walking the library rows and yearning for Christmas, this book is sure to again find its way to my list. 

Monday, November 23, 2009

With You Always

We awoke to another day of rain. I heard the pattering on the window in my subconscious as I slept and it was comforting. Cold rain in November means my man in the grass-cutting business can turn off his alarm. It means my pace slows and my heart calms, as two calloused hands work beside mine, easing my load. Rain means our scheduled outing to the library would include an extra member, one who never balks at carrying our stash!

But, alas, as breakfast was served and school begun, the howling wind seemed to forecast the day. Water in the street resembled rushing river more than static puddles. Oh, disappointment! Mama and children in need of fresh air and fresh surrounding grew listless at thoughts of being house-bound another day.

A ringing phone brought us out of ourselves as Gavin rushed to answer the call. “Hello, Gran!” he said into the receiver. The front door rattled with a gust of wind. Though I couldn't hear her end of the conversation, I deduced she was inquiring about the storm. “Oh, I love it,” I heard him say, “because Daddy is here.”

Daddy is here.

Disappointments eased…because Daddy is here.

As the time of giving thanks approaches, my thoughts grow pensive. What do I have to be thankful for? Oh, much! Healthy children, food on the table, job stability, always enough of what we need…

…and knowing my Heavenly Father is here. Even—especially—in the midst of  harder times. Here through the death of our first baby, here when Brian’s father died after a battle with cancer, here through trials and worries and disappointments and pain.

Here. Not erasing the sorrow, but reassuring me with His presence.

I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.


Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding, no one can fathom.

And I am so thankful.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Steady

It is nine years today.  Nine years since we inhaled salty wind, peering over boardwalk rails to glimpse the icy crest of waves.  Nine years since a 21-year-old boy asked a 20-year-old girl to be his wife.  Nine years since he took my hand, trembling from cold and excitement and nerves, holding it steady as he slipped a ring on my finger, anticipating our forever promise.  Nine years since I whispered yes through giddy lips...

Still feeling much like a girl, navigating life and marriage and motherhood, I differ not from the winter waves, rising high and falling hard.  But even  now he clasps my hand and remains My Steady.  "Many waters cannot quench beloved is mine and I am his." 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Night of Grace

I sat up late last night, perched on the edge of the bed of a boy with a toothache.  Pain, most severe when lying down, has nagged him awake far too many nights of late.  Even after his sobs had calmed and the hot compress tucked securely around his jaw, I lingered.  I tugged my fingers through his thick blonde hair and whispered words of comfort over his sleepy form. 

Eyes grew heavy, both his and mine, and I returned to my bed, one ear open for his cries, imploring me to return.  But they didn't come.  Not then or an hour or three hours.  A blessed night of peace and comfort was given. 

For he grants sleep to those he loves.  Psalm 127:2

And I'm so thankful.

Friday, November 13, 2009

In light of eternity...

Much has been written about the so-called Mommy Wars-- the fierce battle of words between mothers of differing parenting styles.  Part of being a mama is being passionate about the choices I make for my family, but before entangling myself in pettiness, I would do well to consider 1 Corinthians 13:1:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

And in the inner struggle to determine cloth or disposable, homeschool or public, organic or not, my bed or his own, have I put too much merit in trivialities?  In deciding whether to expose my little ones to vaccines or food dyes or television, have I remembered the crux of the matter?  Does Gavin know Jesus?  Is Maddie living for Him?  Will Owen and Benjamin spend eternity in Heaven? 

In a forever-scope, that's all that matters.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Children's Book Monday

The book stack under our coffee table wobbles precariously in these cool months of autumn.  These months where there is nothing better to do (or nothing we want better to do) than curl on the couch or sprawl on the floor with wordy treasures.  I get inspiration from Elise at A Path Made Straight  as she shares her book delights each Children's Book Monday.  (And I gladly walk a path with her on Tuesday or Wednesday and other days, too, as she herself is a delight-- a reflection of His light!)

"We aren't looking for books today, " I warn while riding the elevator to the library...for the second time in a week.  "We need to pick up our holds, and head straight home. "  But somehow one book slips into my bag and another and another until it bulges.  I cannot say no,  for how they love books.

I am partially to blame for the girth.  My head tilts sideways as I scan the spines. I have a weakness for good titles, good artistry, good quality. I am not afraid to say no to twaddle, but alas, my shoulder aches as I stumble to the check-out desk...for the second time in a week. 

Ahhh...but so thankful this book was gifted a place in our hearts...

written and illustrated by Claire A. Nivola

It begins, "A long time ago, when I was a little girl in Germany, I had a doll named Elisabeth."  Surely this was a book for my Maddie and me to enjoy together, the two of us.  And we did.  But the two of us were joined by brothers who also could not resist this story.  Just as  a good story is not bound by age restaints, it is neither bound by gender differences.  So with a lap full of baby and a doll-lover on one side, one boy squished in on my other side and the last boy perched on the arm of the couch. 

Gentle paintings and gentle words accompany this story of a time not-so-gentle.  A time when Jews were forced to flee their homes and leave all possession behind...including dolls, of course.  But I must be careful not to give away too much as this story is best unfolded page by page as you read.  (And I must warn you not to read online synopses as they often reveal too many details of this tale.)

This true story has captured the hearts one mama and four children, and it is sure to capture yours.

Joyful reading!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Day Turns to Night

There is a day in the spring when we set our clocks forward an hour.  The sun shines into the evening and after dinner, enough light remains to shine on us for a stroll around the neighborhood.  The children's ears strain to be the first to detect the tinny notes of the ice cream truck's song.  Bathtime comes just before bedtime as we make sticky bodies ready for smooth sheets.

But there is also a day in autumn when clocks are wound back...and I can't help but embrace sentiments of this day, this season...

In late afternoon, the older children pull on socks and sweatshirts and leggings and run outside to soak up the what little warmth the sun still holds.  Sprawled on the sidewalk, Owen and Gavin create chalk designs while, through the clouds, the sun makes its own pink and orange pictures as it sink into the horizon.  Maddie weaves around them on her bicycle, her cheeks matching the colors of the sunset hour. 

Inside, I resist clicking on the lamp, instead boiling dinner potatoes by light of a candle flickering on top of the bookshelf.  In a moment between stirs, I tiptoe to the door to watch the children, breathing in the mingling aromas of roasting chicken and chill air and cider candle. 

And when Brian arrives home at day's end, bodies file inside, lights switch on, and volume swells, as mouths brim with hot food and tales of the day's exploits.  Curtains pulled shut against a now-gray sky, it feels cozy here.  A bit too noisy as Benjamin yells, "Neigh, neigh, neigh,"  in response to his sister's giggling inquiry as to what a horse says. And a bit too chaotic as everyone asks to have their bread buttered at once.  But it is cozy here, and I wouldn't trade this time, this season, for a million sunny evenings! 

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Day of Grace

Sickness simmered at our house last week. The kind of sickness that lingers and drags on, fevers heating and breaking on their own. The kind where Big Boys and Daddy rise early, but crash early, too. The kind where Little Girl nibbles crackers at noon, still in her nightgown. The kind where Nursing Baby is kept safe from sniffles by drinking tired Mama’s milk, day and night.

Grace. I needed His grace. When my eyes felt too heavy and the stack of storybooks felt too weighty to balance on my lap, I needed His grace. When Venturesome Baby attempted yet another sneaky trek up the un-gated stairs and my will screamed, “When do I get to sit down?” I needed His grace.

Aches strained my body as I stirred noodles into the chicken soup boiling on the burner. Coughs sounded from the living room as Rich Mullins played softly from the CD player.

Let mercy lead,
Let love be the strength in your legs.

Love. Yes, only love was keeping me on my weary feet. Love for my family and for my Lord just barely kept my self-love from bubbling over with the soup. I needed His grace.

After dinner, I tucked blankets up to runny noses, my own shoulders shivering with a chill. Plans for an evening on the couch looked iffy as a sharp tooth threatened to break through Cranky Baby’s gums. Lord, why now? I can’t handle anymore today. I need to rest!

But “the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight.” Perhaps instead of a pity party into my pillow, I needed another dose of His marvelous grace. No, I couldn’t handle more, but He could. “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” So kneeling on a floor littered with evidence of our sick day— books and hankies and discarded stuffed animals—I asked for His strength.

Grace. He offers it not once but again and again and again. He holds out His hand, reaching for my trembling weak one. Brushing the dust from my knees, He guides me back to His path.

And in every footprint that you leave,
There’ll be a drop of grace.

That’s the beauty of grace.

Monday, November 2, 2009

My Sister, My Friend

Some months have passed since I introduced my friends.  Amidst the passing days, another of my dear ones joined the blogging world—  my sister, Kati.

I was thirteen when Kati was born.  I remember the day she joined our lives, this delicate little brown-eyed darling.  I remember her learning to crawl to me while our mom was in the next room taking an important phone call!  I remember her humming "Mary Had a Little Lamb" from her crib before she could talk.  I remember being woken many early morning as  she left her own bed and snuggled into mine.  I remember her asking to come along every time I went out with Brian and her wanting to marry him in my place.  I remember her walking before me down the aisle as my flower girl and the look of delight in her eyes as she caught the bouquet hours later.  Oh, life is but a vapor...

Now Kati is on the brink of adulthood and chronicling her favorite things through her own blog. 
Today is her birthday...her sweet 16... so stop by Kati's Little Corner of the World and and wish her a happy day!

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