Listening for God

When I was growing up, my family had a Sunday ritual. On Sunday, my mom made pancakes and we listened to Kenny Rogers on the record player. I was very little, certainly under 4. I remember the sun coming through the windows, the smell of the maple syrup and my impression that Kenny Rogers’ voice was the voice of God. I knew what he looked like from the album cover. I liked his voice and I thought he was handsome. For many years, I talked to God every night as I was falling asleep, sharing my worries and my gratitude, and when I pictured the face of God, I saw Kenny Rogers.

As a teenager, I came to know God as something to fear. I had a group of friends that invited me to a Baptist church camp. I wasn’t as interested in the church part as I was the camp part. My first night there I learned that I was going to hell unless I walked up to the front of the room and said I would accept Jesus as my personal savior. What they were telling me sounded pretty scary. Deep down it didn’t feel like truth to me, but scary won out at the end of the day. Several years later, I walked away from church and quit talking to God altogether, pretty angry at the scare tactics that were used to draw me in. My understanding of God became intensely personal for me, something I didn’t want to discuss.

The last few years have been hard for me. The people in my life who love me could see that, and many of my religious friends offered me what brings them peace: prayers and Christian reading materials. They did this in the spirit of offering comfort and not to try to bring me around to their way of thinking. It was 100% love, and I accepted every bit of it. There were valuable nuggets of truth there for me and I allowed those to soften my heart and bring me peace. I also kept reading When Things Fall Apart, a collection of Buddhist teachings, a chapter a day every day. I have read it many, many times and learn something new each time. I picked up Anne Lamott and sang out loud to my Sarah Bareilles cd. I found truth, love and peace from different ways of thinking about God and the human condition. I am learning to sift through information and find what sounds like truth/God to me and what sounds like “human stuff”. Call it what you like, prayer or meditation, getting quiet and tuning out the noise is a useful practice.

As so often happens, I come full circle and make it back to where I started: finding comfort in sunshine, pancakes, a happy family around the breakfast table, music and the voice of God. There is so much joy in finding that I have always had what I needed, whether I knew it or not.

Just trying to keep up

When the weather is good, and lately it has been awesome, you will find us outside for most of the day every day. We have taken hikes, spent days by the creek, and gone on some evening bike rides. A common theme for us (really ever since she could move her own body) is my littlest child moving at top speed and me worrying because none of us can go fast enough for me to feel like she is properly supervised! The girl is FAST! Neither my husband or I with our much longer legs can catch her. None of her older siblings can catch her. Not only is she fast, she never tires!

That story seemed like a good way to begin an update on our lives. Trying to homeschool and work toward a move is more than a handful. But here is what else we are doing around here:

6th grade: My son started what is intended as a 14 week business math series and we are just cruising through at the pace that suits us best, sometimes flying and sometimes crawling. We are doing math as main lesson for this month, but we like to have good reading at night. I had several books lined up about Medieval times:

As for my 4th, 1st and K girlies, we are doing some Afterwards . We are also playing games (keeping score), planning for holidays (looking at costumes/working with money) and lots of practical math in our projects: baking, yarn work, etc. I am reading Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling at bedtime. Then the girls are reading to themselves. My 4th grader recently discovered The Lunch Lady series. She enjoys reading it and the littles enjoy listening to her read it aloud. My 1st grader has been reading Dr. Seuss.

As for ME, after finishing Carry On Warrior, I picked up Anne Lamott at Glennon’s suggestion. I loved Traveling Mercies and would like to read more Anne Lamott when I get back to the library.

But perhaps most importantly, our lives and our hearts are just FULL to overflowing because getting kicked out of our house for showings has provided opportunities for overnights with grandma, long days at the farm with the grandparents, and afternoons of play with friends/tea and conversation time for the mamas. It all makes having patience for the house to sell much easier.

“…most of the time, all you have is the moment, and the imperfect love of the people around you.”
Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

Witness to a birth

We went out to visit my husband’s family this weekend on the farm. We are just starting to see some fall colors here. It was a perfect 70 degree day. We just happened to drive up at the exact same time as my husband’s brother and neither knew the other had plans to come for a visit that day. So the whole family had a hot dog roast down by the creek on this beautiful fall day.

Late in the afternoon as we were getting ready to consider heading home, my son finds us and says, “One of the cows is getting ready to have her baby!” We all ran down the lane as fast as we could and stood by the fence. All the mamas inside the fence were gathered around the laboring mama, at first just to offer support, but once we all arrived they all stood between us and their laboring friend, wondering if we might be a threat.

After about 45 minutes, when the mama had worked and worked and hadn’t made any progress, my father-in-law called the farmer in charge of the cattle to let him know she was ready for some help. The two farmers arrived and assessed the situation. It was time to pull that calf! One of them went into the pen with the mamas and walked slowly and carefully between the laboring mama and the others. The others ran off and the laboring mama started moving toward the smaller pen where the farmer was trying to lead her.

Once in the smaller pen, the farmer used a lasso and caught her around the neck to keep her in one place. It took the two farmers, my husband and his father for this job (plus some fancy rope work). Those cows are heavy and strong! The two farmers attached chains to the calf’s hooves. Mama then had a nasty contraction and literally just fell over. Poor girl pulled the rope so tight everyone was scrambling to give the rope some slack so she could breathe. They eventually had to cut the rope and thank goodness for all she was OK. They pulled that calf in a hurry and all was well.

After what she’d been through, I figured that mama ought to get a day off, perhaps some breakfast in bed. But after just a few deep breaths, she stood right up and started cleaning up her baby. We watched her lick and lick and nudge and nudge that baby, trying to help that baby get on its feet. Once baby was on its feet, mama was right there nudging it along round and round the pen until eventually baby was looking for milk.

I bet all together we stood there for an hour and a half. My youngest, only 5, was probably the most attentive of all the kids. It was an absolutely incredible experience—unforgettable!

This small town girl visits the big city

This past week, we took a trip to the city we will soon call home. We wanted to lay eyes on the place and begin to figure out housing.

My thought before we left was that we would spend a day or two looking at houses and have a lot of time for sightseeing, hanging out, and basically just vacationing. Our first day there was a Saturday and we spent most of that day with the realtor. We looked at several houses in two different areas of the city. I am pretty sure we looked just like this:

(have to click for picture, sorry, but it will be worth it)

Adjustment to city life is going to be no small thing. We spent five days and 700 miles of car time trying to figure out how to recreate the things we love about our life now in the big city. We kept telling our realtor about all the things we love about our house “at home” so she could understand what we were trying to find. Bless her heart, she got out there in the country with us in her high heels day after day and very patiently helped us in every way she could.

On our last day in the city, that sweet realtor gave me a bit of an overview of how she thinks about the process of buying and selling homes. She said that some homes sit on the market for reasons that no one can understand and her theory about it is that a home doesn’t sell either because it is waiting for just the right family or because the family that is selling the home isn’t quite ready to let it go. She said that often once the family is really and truly ready, the home will sell, the price will be right, and everything will move forward. I knew there was something there that was important for me to think about. As my husband and I talked that day, I began to hear how we were hanging on to our home and our small town life.

My husband and I spent the car ride home processing what we learned during our trip. We don’t have it all figured out yet. But we did acknowledge to one another that as we listened to ourselves and each other, we could hear where we are stuck. There is so much that we love about our lives now that we would like to bring all that we love with us when we move. We are seeing that it isn’t possible, but now we are also seeing that it wouldn’t be the best use of this opportunity. This new place will have new things to offer, so now the question we are asking is “How can we best take advantage of the opportunities this city has to offer?” We don’t have the answer yet, but I think we are at least asking the right question now.

***If you would like to know what the kids and I are reading and learning lately, we are enjoying Alison’s suggestions for reading about birds. Alison has a real gift for building main lesson blocks!