Monday, August 29, 2016

The Parable of the Good Samaritan: A Guest Post for a Friend

The Good Samaritan, Paula Modersohn-Becker

On Sunday mornings I assist my husband in teaching Sunday school to a group of 4th, 5th, and 6th grade boys. We usually have about ten boys in class, but yesterday we got a surprise when the girls from the classroom next door joined us! Their teachers weren't able to make it, so we ended up with 23 kids altogether. I love helping with this age group and I was especially happy to get to know the girls a bit.

Our lesson was on the Good Samaritan from Luke 10. My husband Joe asked for a volunteer to read the passage. A petite girl with red hair and freckles was the first to raise her hand. Joe called on her to read. I'll call her "Red."

Red's voice was soft. Right from the start she struggled to sound out the words. After a few minutes I thought she might give up and let someone else take over, but she plodded on through the entire passage. The boys squirmed. Some of the kids exchanged awkward smiles with each other. There were long pauses between Red's words and it was hard to hear most of what she read.

But it was okay.

Actually, it was more than okay -- it was wonderful! I'm not sure if any of the kids picked up on what I saw, but Jesus underscored His message to me because there was a "Good Samaritan" right by Red's side. I'll call her "Sam."

(Read the rest at my friend Tim's blog, Just One Train Wreck After Another.)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Saying Goodbye

This afternoon my girls and I went back to our old house to finish wrapping things up. There wasn't much left to do. I swept the floors, wiped down the counters, then vacuumed the playroom. The girls frolicked through the echoing rooms and wrote "Goodbye!" and "I love you!" on the concrete porch with a stray piece of chalk. Olivia took a video as we pulled away.

I used to think I wanted to stay at that house for the rest of my life. I thought it would be devastating for me to leave, but actually, it wasn't at all. More than anything, I'll miss our kids being little. They have been the highlight of every square inch of my living spaces for the last fourteen years! This house was the setting for a sweet and innocent chapter of life for them. I believe they'll recall many fond memories of our time there. What else could I ask for?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Genealogy of Ideas

You don’t get to pick your family, but you can pick your teachers and you can pick your friends and you can pick the music you listen to and you can pick the books you read and you can pick the movies you see. You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life. You are the sum of your influences. The German writer Goethe said, "We are shaped and fashioned by what we love. 

Austin Kleon

As I said a couple days ago, I was inspired by Austin Kleon's short book Steal Like an Artist to assemble a "Genealogy of Ideas." I had some fun with this. I chose four writers whose works I have have nearly exhausted though the years. They each resonate with me for a broad spectrum of reasons. Taken collectively, perhaps they'll give me a glimpse into the type of writing that fits me best.

1. Diane Ackerman  ". . . is an American poet, essayist, and naturalist known for her wide-ranging curiosity and poetic explorations of the natural world."

I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well. ~D.A.

2. Lauren Winner ". . . is a historian, author and lecturer. She is Assistant Professor of Christian Spirituality at Duke Divinity SchoolWinner writes and lectures on Christian practice, the history of Christianity in America, and Jewish–Christian relations."

Some days I am not sure if my faith is riddled with doubt, or whether, graciously, my doubt is riddled with faith. And yet I keep living in the world the way a religious person lives in the world; I keep living in a world that I know to be enchanted, and not left alone. I doubt; I am uncertain; I am restless, prone to wander. And yet, glimmers of holy keep interrupting my gaze.~L.W.

3. Malcolm Gladwell    ". . . is an English-born Canadian journalist, author, and speaker."

Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you grab your wife around the waist and dance a jig. 

4. Leo Tolstoy ". . . was a Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time."

Joy can only be real if people look upon their life as a service and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness. 


Happiness is when you and a friend combine your tea tin collections and discover they make a rainbow.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Mazurka for Dashed Hope

Yesterday I crushed on a house. 

Today news came: it's going to someone else.

Thankfully there's a mazurka for that.

Penned by Chopin in his youth;

I pound into my old black Baldwin

Until my soul feels young and light again.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Commonplace Book Entry

Our obligation is to give meaning to life and so to overcome the passive indifferent life.

 Elie Wiesel

Last night Tuyet made a spicy Vietnamese fish soup with tilapia fillets and a giant snow crab that was a gift from her mother. Our neighbor Kristina came over and taught my son Jack a bizarre song called "Fish Heads, Fish Heads, Roly Poly Fish Heads!" Jack was both amused and disconcerted. They watched a weird music video of the song on YouTube together.

I pretended to fish a fish head out of my bowl with chopsticks. Kristina stopped singing and suddenly looked very grave.

My husband Joe fished the snow crab out of the stock pot. Jack's eyes widened again. The crabs long claws hung limply over the sink. Joe began to extract the meat with delight.

 I was ready for an early bedtime since I had spent three hours with all the kids at the pool.  Little Mary was sleepy too. It's not easy to eat fish soup with a yawning four year old on your lap.

Tuyet invited Kristina and me into her room for cranberry juice and vodka after dinner, Kristina joined her, but I declined and said goodnight to all. I then carried Mary upstairs to our room where she promptly fell asleep. My eyelids were heavy too but I had not written anything new today, so I started editing a post I had written months ago about Elie Wiesel and Holocaust literature. Those topics proved far too weighty for my tired brain and soon I was sleeping next to Mary.

At 3AM I awoke, tiptoed downstairs, and perked coffee. I rummaged through my pantry shelf in the garage until I found some chocolate biscotti.

Settled in my room again, I read chapter 44 of A Child's History of the World, "A Christian Kingdom in Africa. I knew that St. Augustine was the bishop of the North African city of Hippo, but I didn't know much else about North African history. For example, did you know that the last king of Ethiopia claimed to be a descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba?

Yesterday I read a short book called Steal Like a Writer by Austin Kleon. I decided to think about my place in a "Genealogy of Ideas." Kleon encouraged me to build a lineage from artists who came before me that I admire, then place myself under their apprenticeship. That's what I'll be thinking about today.

Who would you include in a "Genealogy of Ideas"?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Radical Decluttering and a Move!

Dear Friends,

Last month we moved from our home in the country to a place in town. We're living with our good friends, Kevin and Tuyet, and their two small children until we find a house.

Once we decided to move, we did most of the work in ten days. Though we had rented our house for several years, we had always treated it as though it belonged to us. Our family of seven had put down some serious roots. The basement had become stacked with so much stuff that I felt paralyzed by the thousands of micro-decisions I had to make to get us out of there! But my husband is a wonder; he pulled a horse trailer, a dumpster, and a semi-trailer right up to the back patio and worked tirelessly to help me load things while also running his business and helping our oldest two kids prepare to show their horses at the county fair.

Friends and family came in to assist us as well. My father-in-law asked me why I had to play the piano. Couldn't I have chosen a lighter instrument? Since I joined the family fifteen years ago, he's helped to move it four times!

Now that the dust has settled, I'm staying in a guest bedroom with our four year old daughter. Our tween daughter is in her own room across the hall. My husband and our three sons are in a basement apartment.

Tuyet and I have merged pantries and created a lovely flow of cooperation for all our daily tasks. We cherish our time together! Meals are so much easier to assemble when you can plan and prepare them with a friend. Time folding laundry flies by when you're talking and laughing. If Tuyet needs to sleep in, I can handle breakfast for all the children (and vice versa).

In my room I've created the kind of French style closet I've always wanted with a limited number of carefully chosen high-use pieces. I also have a small pine dresser for essentials. I have two crates of books, one on each side of my bed -- I only packed what I expect to read in the next few months.
I feel much more productive and focused without all the clutter I had before!

The view from my window is park-like. I see two lotus blooms in Tuyet's koi pond. I see a swing that is covered in mature wisteria. A wall of manicured evergreens are paired with purple Rose of Sharon to provide privacy on one side since the neighbor's yard is quite close.

My room is painted clean ivory. There are new aquamarine sheets on the bed. On my dresser I've placed a framed photograph of two pink lilies that my old piano teacher, Sister Cecilia, gave me years ago.  My little girl has two crates to keep her things sorted. Her white porcelain bunny peeps between some potted plants by the window.

I look forward to having a house of my own again; but for now, I'm very happy.

What I'm reading: 

A Child's History of the World by Virgil M. Hillyer. I found it in a box of used books back when we were homeschooling and I'm just now getting around to it. An easy, delightful read. I'll likely read it aloud to my kids in the future.

From where we are now, let us look down the flights below us and listen to the story of what has happened in the long years gone by.  

Virgil M Hillyer

What I'm listening to:

Greetings from Utopia Park Audiobook

Greetings's From Utopia Park: Surviving a Transcendent Childhood by Claire Hoffman

This book is endlessly amusing to me. I had an aunt who practiced transcendental meditation when I was a child. Because of this, my strick fundamentalist/baptist parents wouldn't let me spend the night at her house when I was young. It turns out that Utopia Park was not a whole lot different than the homeschool cult I grew up in!

It feels good to be blogging again. Hope I can keep things rolling this time.