Tonight the kids and I, and Mom, went to a lecture about "The Splendor of Ancient Egypt" since it coincides with the curriculum the kids are using this year. We got there in time to only hear the 2nd half of it thanks to Mapquest not quite understanding the fact that Charlotte likes to recycle the same name for many of its roads, but that's a tangent.
The interesting point, for me anyway, was that the person giving the lecture was a former professor of mine from Grove City -- Dr. Currid! As soon as we walked into the room tonight and I heard the cadence of his voice, it all came back to me in a rush. And when he would stop on a particular slide and say, "Does anyone know which god this represents?" or some other trivia question, I felt like I was going to fail a quiz I should know -- because I'd heard it all before! I took 3 different courses from Dr. Currid, and heard the Egypt stuff at least a couple of times... so it all looked vaguely familiar. :)
(Afterwards I went up to talk to him and had to confess that even though I had given him a hard time about a lot of the theology he espoused all those years ago, I had since realized that maybe he was right about a lot of it. He didn't seem too surprised.)
It was pretty fun to have Strider now learn the information from the same man I did!
Today, according to the calendar established in the Old Testament, was the Day of Atonement, one of the high holidays of the Jewish year. For us Christ-followers, this is something we celebrate everyday -- that He came to be our atonement. And all those years ago, when God first instituted this special Feast day, I imagine it was one of His favorite days -- knowing the End of the Story.
In my opinion, if one wanted to choose to observe any of the Old Testament feasts, this would be the month to do so. (When I announced last week that we were going to participate in the Feast of Trumpets, Strider's first question, asked with a scowl, was, "Are we going to have to eat some gross foods or something?" The answer was NO! This has nothing to do with food.) This month has 3 of the big OT feasts, and for each of them, there are specific commands about either A.) PARTYING or B.) REST. Definitely a good month to be an Old Testament Jew.
Much as I like a good party, at this stage of life, the concept of REST has the most appeal. I counted up how many days God set apart this month by saying that people should do no work, and there were 4 altogether. Adding in the month's regular Sabbath days, and you get probably 8 different REST days in the month! All forced holiday -- no guilt involved.
I think God knows we are easily distractable, easily deceived and forgetful people, and we need special times to stop, listen and RESET. For the last several years I've found the time of Lent to be good opportunity to practice some disciplines and habits I don't usually have the rest of the year. But then, a few months later, I've all but completely forgotten the lessons from that period. Then this year I learned about the Days of Awe and was able to practice awe and repentance again. Some things have come into greater focus for me... but I'm sure I'll begin to forget and fall back into old habits soon. I think God knew this about my character, and His plan for setting aside certain days as holidays, or "holy days," (literally, days set apart), is helpful for realigning, and resetting.
One of the things I've tried to do this last week was to purposely choose each day at some point to be quiet, when I otherwise would not be. Whether it meant not turning on the TV while I was feeding Miles, or not turning on the radio as soon as I got in the car, or not getting on the phone when I was washing dishes, I spent at least a few extra minutes a day just trying to be quiet. This was big for me (I love INPUT). And in those few minutes, I was able to consciously choose to RESET all over again.
I have to say, my schedule did not alter greatly - -this is still a crazy-busy time of year for us with Pete working 10-12 hour days a lot of the time. And the kids did not choose to practice greater amounts of quiet time, as I would have liked. But I'm happy to get small glimpses of calm in the midst of the howling winds anyway!
These Days of Awe have been refreshing for me... and thought-provoking. As I've been reading more about the Jewish traditions for this month, I've been increasingly fascinated. For this particular 10-day period, the focus was on both awe and repentance. I guess this combination makes sense... as I begin to be awed by what a holy God He is, I can't help but see how short I fall of His glory, and that should bring me to my knees.
I started wondering why God chose this particular season, the beginning of Fall, for this time of Awe and Repentance, and for what has become the beginning of the civil year/New Year. At first, Fall seemed to me to be a strange time to have these high holy days, but the more I process, the more it kind of seems right.
With all that is changing outside right now, it is certainly not hard to be awed. As we were taking out our Fall decorations the other day, Rayna, with all the enthusiasm that she alone can muster, asked, "We're starting a NEW Fall?!?" Strider is less surprised, but more impressed I think this year, to realize how predictable the seasons are year after year, and what a cool cycle it all makes.
And living in a house with a 2-year old who is experiencing his first year of "season-awareness," well, it is hard to not join in his awe. As we went for our walk yesterday, he was full of wonder, and questions of course.
"All the leaves are going to turn colors? Some of the leaves aren't colors now?"
"And then they're going to fall off the trees??? We won't have any trees anymore?" "Will they turn purple, too?"
"And will the green roof on the clock tower building also turn a different color?"
I love how magical it all seems to him!
The last few days I've been taking the camera outside and we all (well, not Milo) have been taking turns finding things that we think are "awesome" in the yard... Here are some of the results. Even though our camera is cheap and we are certainly amateur photographers, still the awesomeness shines through:
The colors, textures, changes, and vibrancy of the Fall all combine for an effect that makes it easy to be in Awe... and the fact that everything is blazing on its way to death is striking as well. If God wanted the New Year to begin with the season of dying, is that a reflection of how new Life begins with repentance first?
What striking things to think about... and practice.
As I've been learning more about the Old Testament holy days that would have taken place this month, I've decided to re-read the Psalms of Ascent (#120-134), since they may have been read as part of the tradition leading up to the Feast of Tabernacles.
It struck me right away how relevant this was for me when I read the first verse of the first one: "I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me. Save me, O Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues." (Psalm 120:1)
I have felt "distress" over the last several days, and some of it, at least, may be due to some lies I let myself believe. Probably not coincidentally, the sermon in church on Sunday was about one of these lies and it hit right home: We like to build "utopia" here on earth, not fully realizing that our Hope needs to be in Heaven alone. As Dean pointed out, we like to try to build our perfect lives, situations, etc., here, and it never works out.
As he was talking, I immediately thought of a list I had started composing earlier, entitled "My Dream Home." Pete and I have been trying to decide whether or not to refinance our mortgage, and we have been advised to only do so if we know we're going to stay in our current house "long-term." So this, of course, has started a whole new round of discussions about where we want to be "long-term." As my frustration and confusion mounted over this, I decided to get my wants down on paper. As the list developed, I quickly saw some problems...
I would like a house that is:
… old, like over 100 years old, maybe Craftsman style, very unique and with fun quirks to explore-- but with new, efficient, very-big windows and large closets. And high ceilings. And not a lot of things that break or wear out or need replacing.
…out in the country, tucked away so our family can grow strong in love for each other, but also located right in the middle of things, like on a road where an annual small-town parade would go.
…also located within 5-10 minutes of Target and grocery stores, our church, and our friends, and also in the same college town where Pete teaches, so we can have students over regularly. (The town happens to be between 20 and 30 minutes away from the aforementioned things)
… in a settled community full of front-porches and multiple generations, with roots, in a community where we can walk to everything and be with people not like us. Preferably in Stuckeyville (from the TV show “Ed”).
… with a yard that has huge maple trees, or other good climbing trees. And wide open spaces for running around. And a forest for exploring, and possibly a creek. But no big bugs or snakes or rodents or any other living creatures that will creep me out.
… in a setting where we can influence our community in a positive way, but not have others in the community have a negative influence on our children.
Yes, the contradictions and impossibilities are clear. And it is evident I am trying to build an ideal that cannot exist here on earth --hence, my frustration. I've been trying to buy a lie.
(I also made similar lists about how I want to educate my children, the things I want to pursue, and the work I want to do... and there were contradictions and impossibilities on all the lists!)
So I guess the first step for me here is to recognize the lies I try to live by, and wash them out with Truth. It's good to know that, like in the Psalm, when I call out in distress, "He answers me." Back to my theme song I must go: "Lead me on and let me run after You!"
(But, if anyone knows of a house that fits a lot of the criteria above, and it's for sale, do let me know!)
Over the last couple of days I've been confronted with some things that have shown me I have not been living the life I truly want to live. It's been a hard realization and my emotions have been all over the place in response. If I step back and look at how I spend my time and energy, it doesn't seem like I am living with a purposeful passion all the time; instead it looks like a series of Post-it notes. Read a book to the kids. Pick up the crying baby. Fix lunch. Drive to football game. Call someone about work. Etc., Etc. I long for greater simplicity, keener focus, stronger passion.
As I was lamenting my weakness and the brokenness of our lives, articles from 2 random, unlikely places caught my eye -- about Rosh Hashanah. One of the articles was this one, "Jewish community marks Days of Awe high holidays" and the idea of having "Days of Awe" was particularly intriguing. As I looked a little bit further into the origins of this holiday, I found that not only is it the beginning of the Jewish new year, but it also originates from the Feast of Trumpets in the Old Testament. THIS sounded like something I am hungry for: a new beginning, trumpets sounding, and days of AWE. I think it is amazingly wonderful that this holiday happens to be this weekend -- right when I needed it!
Pete and I did some quick research last night and found the following:
Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets holiday) kicks off the 10-day period of the Days of Awe, or days of repentance before a holy God, that then concludes with Yom Kippur.
Because God tied this holiday to the beginning of a new moon cycle, the Hebrews never knew quite when it would exactly start. The high priest waited until 2 witnesses told him that they started to see the first light from the new moon, and then he would spread the word that the holiday was beginning. Since it took awhile for the message to get to all the people (poor guys didn't have Facebook or email blasts), the holiday actually lasted 2 days.
The blowing of trumpets was involved to call people to worship. So, between this and the not-knowing-when-it-would-happen aspect, it sounds a lot like some foreshadowing of Jesus' return someday!
The Feast of Trumpets was also unique because God set it aside mainly as a time of rest, and shouting or raising joyful noise to the Lord. My kind of holiday!
One tradition that the Jewish people have developed for this day is called Tashlich -- which is a symbolic "casting off" of sins, to show their desire to return to God. They throw bread in rivers or streams to represent this.
So, we decided that our family needed to have our own Yom Teruah today. We went to a park and talked about the meaning of this time, wrote some sins on some bread, threw it in the water, blew our own shofar, and prayed together.
I desperately need a re-focusing time, a re-set of priorities, habits, attitudes, etc. So for the next 10 days I want to practice more times of quiet -- less TV, less Facebook, less noise in general -- to have more time to be in Awe of our Great God. My theme song for this time will be one we have been singing in church:
Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me on magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You
To grow as your disciple in your truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing you, my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you.
That is my heart's desire. May my body cooperate for a change.
Our talented artist friend Steve has offered to paint a portrait of Colsen, so I wanted to get a picture of him that would capture his personality. We went outside today and within 25 seconds I had the following shots:
With every swing of his emotions, mine fly as well!
Sometimes he aggravates the daylights out of me -- almost literally -- (that's for you, Dan)... but he also brings us so much delight and joy.
I do love this age. Even though he just came out of his room, after bedtime, for the 3rd time tonight.
Problem #1: Behavior Issues and Need for a New Training Tool
It's the ongoing challenge - how to teach our children to have better habits, attitudes, behavior, etc... We run out of motivational tools sometimes. But my friend Andrea gave me an idea over the summer that I tweaked a bit to come up with this:
The idea is that everytime Pete or I see a child doing something LOVING for someone else, we tell them they can put a rock into the bowl. Once the bowl gets completely filled, they can collectively choose a fun outing for us all to go on. Hopefully this team approach will be good. So far it's been working well... although we had to teach Colsen to not keep saying, "Thank you for making this dinner, Mom. I just did something loving -- can I put a rock in the bowl??"
Problem # 2: Getting Strider to Keep Track of His Daily Assignments
Last year we had a hard time making sure Strider did all he was supposed to do for the day. I was endlessly writing out lists for him... that got old. So this year, I had these little tear pads made (cheap at Vista Print!) with all the possible things he might need to do in a week. Then on any particular day I can just fill one out by checking off which subjects he needs to do, tear it off, and give it to him. At the end of the day, he brings it back to show me what he's accomplished. It has the added benefit of helping me remember what I wanted him to do! So far so good on this strategy, too... He loves his tear pads!
In my old business terms, this would be my latest attempts at KAIZEN! ("attempt" being the key word)
This morning, Miles started off his day with his first official portraits! (taken by Portrait Innovations) Since each of the other kids had 6-month shots done, we didn't want him to not have the same opportunity. :) (Although technically, today is his SEVEN month birthday.... shhhh-- don't tell him!)
Then, we came home and celebrated that 7-month birthday in style: he got to have his first real food! The other kids were about beside themselves with excitement... who woulda thought a little ol' dish of rice cereal would cause so much enthusiasm around here?
Here are some shots that all the roles the kids assumed: Strider wanted to feed him, Colsen wanted to video it (and he narrated all the way through, "Here's Miles' first meal!..."), and Rayna quickly ran to the kitchen for a towel to do some wiping when she saw what a mess was developing.
In true Frank-kid fashion, Miles decided FOOD is amazing, and kept giving us looks like "WHERE has this been all my life??" in between gulps and grabs for the spoon and dish. Let the fun begin! Another reason to celebrate today: our new little cousin/niece, Audrey, joined the world! We can't wait to meet/see her...
Our kids are taking this commandment to heart, and it's one that they don't find too difficult to obey! Some examples...
*I asked Strider to take out a pile of scraps to our compost pile recently. After he came back in, I saw the scraps still on the counter, and asked him what had happened. "Ohhhhh," he said, "I took out that the other stuff!" "The chicken??" I asked -- I had laid out a package of chicken to be cooked. "Go get it! I need that!" He started laughing uproariously at his mistake and then said, "It feels like we're on a TV show. That kind of stuff happens on Brady Bunch all the time!"
*One result of teaching our kids with the classical model of education is that they learn a bunch of facts, terms, etc., at a young age that they may not understand. (The idea is that when they get to an age when they will understand them, they will already have the vocabulary/framework in place) So, Rayna's head is chock-full of all kinds of lists and facts. It was clear that some of the "filing" of these facts was getting crossed up the other day.... She came across a map of the United States and her face lit up in memory of all the states she learned last year. I was thrilled and couldn't wait to hear what knowledge she was about to bring forth... until she pointed at Nebraska and yelled, "It's Obadiah!"
*Last week when I was sitting near a window sill in the kitchen on which some of our garden tomatoes were ripening, Strider got a gleam in his eye and said, "I'm not going to tell you what I'm about to do.... but if this was a blog post, it would be Tags: tomatoes, bruises." Thanks to my ingenious mind-reading skills, though, that blog post will not exist.
*I asked Pete the other day, "Did Colsen say anything funny to you today?" and he laughed and said, "He says funny stuff all the time!" This is very true... we are always saying, "Man, I wish we had just videoed that." So I finally did get the camera out one afternoon last week, and captured these little bits at least...
Several weeks ago we found a dining table and 6 chairs (something we had been looking for for years) on Craigslist -- for $140! We snatched them up and brought them home. The table was pretty banged up on top, and the chairs' fabric seats were very stained, but we figured we could fix them up. Then, school started, a few housing snafus happened, and things were a little chaotic for awhile, so the project took a little longer than we thought... For several days, this was our dining room:
Pete had the table out in the garage, and worked on it for HOURS.... sanding, staining, re-sanding, re-staining, re-sanding, and putting on coats of polyeurathane. But at last it's DONE!
We had our first, inaugural meal on the table last night with some friends. (not pictured above -- I promise, we had REAL people over)
For my part of the project, I recovered the chair seats. They did look like this:
... and although I liked the look of the light-colored fabric, I knew that if I put new, similar fabric back on, it would be approximately 7.2 minutes before all 6 chairs were stained again. So, I opted for an oh-so-hip textured vinyl fabric instead! What it may lack in style, it should make up for in ease-of-wiping.
So, with about $60 in supplies and fabric, we have a "new," practical dining room set and we're very happy. Oh -- and a special bonus: our wood-working neighbor who came over part-way through the project to give us some advice told us that the table top is likely made of poplar wood -- perfect for all the work our Poplar Streams Academy students will be doing on it!
Today I realized I had more produce in the fridge than I could use before it would go bad, so I decided to puree a big bag of kale, to freeze for later. I added some frozen peas (that I steamed) to the blender as well, figuring I could make a mixture that could later be snuck into some pasta sauce or something.
The kids, finishing their lunch, were watching this with rapt attention, and asked me if I was making a smoothie. Hmmmmm...... My friend Catharine had just told me that she loves drinking smoothies with kale in them... maybe I could give this a try! So I added some orange juice, a banana, and a little honey, and offered it to the kids to drink.
The boys just wanted a "small sample," not ready to commit by any means. Rayna, wouldn't even touch it. Strider finally got enough courage to try it and said, "Huh, it's pretty good!" Colsen followed, and semi-agreed.
After a few more sips, Strider said, "I think this would be better if it wasn't so WARM!"
I didn't know I had given them warm drinks... I guess the peas hadn't cooled enough from when I steamed them!
I refrained from yelling "GROSS" like I wanted to, and promptly added some ice cubes to the green sludge. Now the boys really liked it! And they pressured Rayna into trying "Just one sip" -- which she did, and then drank her whole cup!
I guess we're onto something new here... I had no ideathese guys would drink kale and peas. Of course, Strider thinks wheat germ is a flavoring that he likes to add to things, and Colsen was eating a lemon, rind and all, moments after the smoothie, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. :)
Woke up tired because Cole woke us up twice last night saying his legs were cold (they weren't). This boy has incurred some serious debt from the Pete-and-Amy-Frank Sleep Bank... wonder when repayment of that loan comes due?
In school this morning, was teaching the first 5 of the 10 Commandments. Thought I was being clever by teaching them a rhythmic way to chant them. Cleverness backfired since I had to hear Rayna repeat, "Thou shalt not take - the name - of the Lord thy God in vain" over and over and over for the rest of the day. Only she kept saying "vame" instead of "name." Every time.
All 3 kids spilled their drinks at lunch. Seriously?
Gave Colsen a haircut, through which he never once kept his head still. And now I've had hair in my throat ever since.
Strider's been excitedly watching an eBay auction today -- he's practicing some strategies to out-bid other people (using his own money) on Brady Bunch Season 3. He just came back down tonight to check the status. Auction is over at 3 am tonight -- he'd better not get up to check it then.
Wednesdays are interesting because Pete can go into work later in the mornings, but doesn't come home until after 9 at night. (And tonight even later because he has a church meeting after work) So I tried to sneak a shower this evening, and left Strider in charge. A few minutes later I heard some crying in the distance, but had the thought, "One is crying, one is probably inflicting the pain, but that still leaves one able body to come tell me about it"... so continued the shower.
Later Strider came in saying, "Mom, I accidentally -- ACCIDENTALLY -- hurt Colsen's cheek with a fort rod." I didn't know that doing his Vocabulary homework had become such a high contact sport. Then Colsen came in the bathroom as I was getting out of the shower -- sure enough with a welt on his cheek-- to tell me "[Know]Why I said, "Oh no!"? Because Miles pulled out ALL my hair!" He then proceeded (unrelated to his injury) to try and check my body behind the towel to see if I had a you-know-what. (I don't.)
As I was putting them all to bed tonight and expressing my disappointment that Strider had not finished all his work for the day, he triumphantly replied, "Mom -- it seems that every other day I have a GOOD day for school. So tomorrow's going to be great!" Let's hope so.
My big outing for the day was this morning while Pete was still home: I took Colsen to the library to get some books I needed and to let him experience Toddler Storytime. In other words, for "fun" today I got to go watch a bunch of other 2-year olds not listen. The din was unbelievable-- they call that Storytime??