Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Prayer This Christmas

I'm so glad Christmas comes around every year. For one thing, from January onward, I grow so increasingly weary of the violent conflict and unkindness in the world that by December I usually need a good dose of comfort and joy.

I tend to start listening to Christmas carols the day after Thanksgiving, and every year I'm amazed at the sheer power of the words of the Christmas story to soothe my soul and refresh my faith: Don't be afraid. Good news for everyone, everywhere. A Savior is born! God-with-us. Glory to God and peace on earth. Blessed is she who believes that God will do what He has promised. For nothing is impossible with God.

Each year I seem to need that message of hope more and more. This year I've felt especially discouraged by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this year I've been especially struck by the third stanza of It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven's all-gracious King."
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Lord Jesus, have mercy on those who suffer. Have mercy on those who cause their suffering. Rescue us from ourselves. Enable us to hear the love-song that Your angels sing, and inspire us join them. Be born in us today.

*** Updated to add: Here's a beautiful article about this poem/carol's message of hope and rest, sent by a thoughtful friend. Thanks, Ruth!

*** Updated again! to add: Here's an amazing video of the Christmas story (as portrayed by a family serving in Haiti, authors of the blog linked above) complete with donkey and goats as well as original music. Gorgeous!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Tale of Two Pictures

Those six days between Matt's recent trips were exciting for us in several ways. First of all, it was the kids' half-term break from school, and then, of course, Daddy was home! But also the leaves were so vivid right then. Autumn in England seemed particularly spectacular this year. I've been meaning to post a couple photos taken that week. One was planned; one was not. Can you guess which is which?

If you guessed the first one was intentional, you're right! We were attempting to get a nice fall family picture to send out with our holiday letter next month. We certainly didn't pose these pheasants! They appeared one morning as we were having our breakfast and chased one another around our garden for a while before running off somewhere else. The kids and I were nearly hysterical, running from the front windows to the back, trying to keep them in our sight without actually going outside. (We didn't want to startle them.) We owe the dignified photo to the calmest, most sensible member of the family who snuck outside with his camera at the very moment they were sitting on the back fence all in a row.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Even Extremely Much More Fonderer

Matt has been away for 22 of the past 28 days. He's always traveled a lot, just not this much all at once. Needless to say the kids and I are all going a bit bonkers waiting for Wednesday morning!

We're all thinking it, but the three year-old says it best: "I love Daddy all the mostest."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Rediscovering Star Wars

We've been watching the Star Wars movies with the kids. Yes, this is the first I've seen them since they were released in theaters (before video, before DVD) back when I was, like, ten. So in a way I'm seeing them fresh, putting the pieces of the story together as we go along. Matt somehow retained this information through the years and has been explaining to Jack and Sophie which characters are on which side of the conflict, which planets they're from, which spaceships they drive, etc.

Matt and I have gotten a kick out of the special effects that were so cutting edge back then. But the best part for me has been watching Jack and Sophie's reactions! Both of them love R2D2 the best, and Sophie's other favorite character is, of course, the princess.

About halfway through The Empire Strikes Back, during a scene with Darth Vader, Sophie folded her arms and said, "That guy is not pleased... He is vewy gwumpy."

Jack has been busily building Star Wars-type spacecraft out of Lego. Most horizontal spaces in our house are currently landing/launching pads for his creations. And he has decided to change his middle name to Jedi.

One morning last week the kids and I were on our way to school when the theme from Star Wars started playing on Classic fm. In the misty autumn morning around us all was calm, but in our car we were rocking out! I turned it up loud and sang along, surprised that I knew the whole thing. Wow, the power of music! I couldn't remember much about the plot line of the movies, but even after all these years I could anticipate each successive movement of the orchestral piece.

I felt full with the energy of youth -- old enough to have experienced this bit of pop culture history but still able to make it seem currently exciting to Jack and Sophie. And then the song ended. And the announcer said, "Ah, there's nothing quite like the theme from Superman to get your morning off to a flying start."

Oh dear. My cover is blown. Jack and Sophie are starting to figure out that their mother is not now, and never has been, cool.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

At Home in the UK

Well, it's not a good sign that I've only managed one post a month for most of 2009. (Except for July -- an incredible six posts! Yet somehow I can't get it to show up in my sidebar.) I'm not sure what's up with that, but I feel the need to post something before October disappears altogether.

And as a way of marking six months since we left greater London for life in the English countryside (I've come to love it here already! This is such a pretty place and it's not just me -- signs along the A-road next to our house declare it An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), I thought I'd share a few things about life at the moment that reflect the culture in which we live:

*** My car radio is usually tuned to either Classic fm, Absolute (formerly Virgin) Radio or BBC Radio 4. (Does anyone know if there's an American equivalent of Woman's Hour?)

*** I bought myself a flask (American = Thermos) so that I can enjoy a cup of tea anywhere, but especially atop our local lookout point, basking in the clean country air and spectacular view.

*** The day we joined The National Trust I felt a little more complete, somehow.

*** I've learned to use my mirrors and can now back into a parking space with the best of 'em.

*** As a special treat at weekends, Matt sometimes surprises me with a (real! paper!) copy of The Sunday Times.

*** I've added Roast Dinner to the rotation of our family's menu. Usually it's chicken, but I aspire to make my dearest favorite, lamb. Yes, with mint sauce. And seriously, how delicious are roast potatoes???

*** My favorite Saturday breakfast is scrambled eggs, baked beans and toast.

*** Of all the kitchen gadgets I rely on, the one I use most often (and shudder at the thought of ever doing without) is my electric kettle.

*** This time last year I started composting! The London borough we were living in was giving away composting bins, and I loved it so much (composting is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, as my kids would say) that I brought the bin with me when we moved. Really. This is incredible but true. Vegetable peelings, egg shells, tea bags/coffee grounds and the cardboard bit from the inside of paper towel/toilet paper rolls -- just put this stuff into the composting bin with an armful of fallen leaves now and then, and voilà! Over a period of months, it becomes rich, organic fertilizer. (And looks remarkably like, well, dirt. Still, the sense of accomplishment and pride is amazing.)

Composting has become such a distinct part of Living in England for me (along with fairtrade and justice issues in general) that I was excited to read in yesterday's New York Times an article called Nudging Recycling From Less Waste to None. Here are a few snippets:

Across the nation, an antigarbage strategy known as “zero waste” is moving from the fringes to the mainstream, taking hold in school cafeterias, national parks, restaurants, stadiums and corporations.

The movement is simple in concept if not always in execution: Produce less waste. Shun polystyrene foam containers or any other packaging that is not biodegradable. Recycle or compost whatever you can...

Americans are still the undisputed champions of trash, dumping 4.6 pounds per person per day...

When apple cores, stale bread and last week’s leftovers go to landfills, they do not return the nutrients they pulled from the soil while growing. What is more, when sealed in landfills without oxygen, organic materials release methane, a potent heat-trapping gas, as they decompose. If composted, however, the food can be broken down and returned to the earth as a nonchemical fertilizer with no methane by-product.
Clearly, this topic could/should be a post of its own! But I'll close for now, hoping that I've inspired someone, anyone out there to give it a go themselves. Autumn is the perfect time to begin... What you start making now will be ready in time for gardening in the spring. How's that for incentive?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Distraction By Photos

When in doubt, post a picture. That's going to be my new blogging motto. There comes a point when there's so much I haven't posted about, that I really have intended to post about, that I have no idea where to begin. And by that time it's easier to let another day, week or several weeks slip by before I get around to an actual post. So as a method of distracting both myself and anyone who may still be checking this blog, I think I'll start with this fun reminder of summertime and all its joys -- even though fall is here now, my favorite season of all!

As of this week, the kids are back in their school routines. And I'm heading back to the classroom for the first time in ten years -- only for a couple hours on Tuesday mornings, to help in Jack's class, but I'm excited about that. Makes me nostalgic, though for my first year at Titchie Swot. Until then, I'd mainly interacted with junior high and high school students, and I didn't realize what big personalities little kids have! Now, of course, my life is consumed with two such big-little persons who are getting bigger all the time.

Here they are after watching Ice Age 3 in 3D. Both kids loved everything about it, especially the huge, Wayfarer-esque glasses. It was also Sophie's first cinematic experience. What kind of precedent does that set in a child's mind, I ask you?

And now, with a promise to write something more soon, I'll leave you with this photo, taken atop our favorite local lookout. Happy fall, y'all!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Chez Jones

We had our neighbors round this morning. They're another family with our company, and although we only met them a couple months ago we love them and are really thankful to have them living right next door!

Angie and I sat in the kitchen drinking tea while our five children (ages 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6) played trains, babies, dress-up, puzzles, space ranger darts, Playmobil -- these kiddos really enjoy one another, which is always wonderful for me as a mother but especially when it means I'm free to chat over a cup of tea! After a while Jack came in, took one look at the plates of banana bread and watermelon on the table, and announced he was bursting with hunger.

Jack: Can I have a snack now?

Me: Sure, just ask your friends if they'd like to have something now, too. But wait, before you go do that... (whispering) Do you remember what we do when people are visiting us?

Jack: (whispering back) Yes. We serve our customers first!

Friday, July 24, 2009

What A Six Year-Old Boy Sings When He Doesn't Think Anyone Is Listening

If I had a million dollars
I'd buy you a soft coat
If I had a million dollars
I'd buy you a moat
I'd buy you a motorway
That's what I'd buy you, a coat
If I had a million bellies...
If I had a million eyeballs...

(With apologies to the Barenaked Ladies)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sophie's Turn

Sophie has been attending the village nursery near Jack's school three mornings a week since the beginning of June. She loves it! When I went to check it out to enroll her for September, I was so impressed with everything: the variety of activities, attention of teachers, attitude of children. Everything! They had room for her to start right away, and I just couldn't pass up the opportunity. The outside section of the nursery is as inviting as the inside, and summertime in England only comes round once a year.

So anyway, one day Sophie came home with a small pot of dirt. "I planted a bean," she said.

She watered it and put it in a sunny spot outside. And waited. And watered. And waited and watered faithfully until...

It grew into a beanstalk! Which she took back to nursery to be entered into the local horticultural show.

As you might expect, the nursery's end-of-term concert was Jack and the Beanstalk. Here's Sophie and a few of her fellow villagers looking on as Jack takes the family cow to market.

Afterwards, the children and their adoring fans -- mums, dads and grandparents -- enjoyed tea and cake in the village hall.

Fee fi fo fum...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

End of Term

Today is the last day of Jack's school year. Oooh, he's had an exciting time of it these past few weeks.

First, there was the end-of-term concert. Since half-term break, the entire school has been studying Life On the Ocean Wave, with all of their subjects reflecting that focus. In their concert, Jack's class sang We All Live In A Yellow Submarine. We've been listening to Jack sing it for weeks on end, and he'll happily sing it to you on demand whether you're in person, on the phone or on skype, just as long as you're prepared to listen to it in its entirety.

Here he is with the other Year 1 pirates/sailors, proudly waving his favorite flag, the Union Jack. (Too bad I didn't get a photo of their performance of What Do We Do With A Drunken Sailor? Seriously, only in Britain.)

Then there was the school Fun Day, which got rained out at first, but then was successfully held in conjunction with Sports Day, in spite of heavy rains the night before. Here's Jack in the Hat Parade, wearing his interpretation of the ideal summer holiday: camping and fishing.

Continuing along the nautical theme, one of the events on Sports Day was a clever little relay called Rescue the Sailor. Jack's team won first place!

And here's the sprint, which he didn't win but enjoyed immensely.

Matt did really well in the dads' race-around-the-field, coming just behind a guy who runs marathons and two guys who are about 30 years old. He left all the 6-foot-plus dads in the dust! Sophie and I watched and cheered from the sidelines.

Actually, Sophie won the little siblings/toddlers' race as well, but we didn't get a photo of that because Matt was coaching her from the starting line. She had a busy last week at nursery, though, too. I'll try to get those pictures up soon.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Saturday Morning Hereabouts

In the weeks leading up to our move, I read a book that a friend from church had recommended and then loaned to me a while back: Wife in the North by Judith O'Reilly. It's no exaggeration to say that reading her story had a massively positive impact on my mental and emotional sanity, and I'm so glad I picked it up when I did because it turns out that was exactly the time I needed it most! Told through a series of blog posts, the book chronicles her inner journey during the first year she and her family moved from London to Northumberland. She describes the emotions of that transition with such depth and precision that, even though our own transition had different elements, the flavor was the same. And I found that profoundly comforting.

After reading the book -- much of it quite literally pee-yourself-hilarious and some of it downright heart-rending -- I went looking for the blog itself. It's great reading, especially her comments on current affairs, but I missed being able to keep going. You know -- in the book, you can follow her experience through the weeks and months just by turning the page. On the blog, though, when there's a lull in her posting, there's (obviously) nothing new to read. Which is disappointing because she's so gifted! Reading what she writes feels like listening to the thoughts in my own head -- well, if I was clever, witty and English, that is. Okay, so it's probably more accurate to say that reading what she writes feels like listening to the thoughts of a clever, witty, English friend. (I sooooo urge you to get her book!)

Who knows what Judith O'Reilly has going on in her life that keeps her from blogging at the moment -- real life with her family, perhaps! But I've been feeling guilty about not posting regularly myself. Not that I have as wide an audience as she does, and not that what I have to say is as interesting. (Although I do understand how important it can be to unplug and regroup.) Anyway, in an effort to post more often, I'm going to try to write small snippets, and post more pictures, of our everyday goings-on.

Today, for example, was Saturday. And since moving here, one of our favorite things to do on Saturday mornings is to climb a humongous hill nearby, a National Trust property that gives amazing views from the top. Every time we do it, I look down and can't believe we live here!

This morning, on the uphill climb, the kids and I came across two of these amazing creatures:

Roman snails! They're not indigenous to England but were brought here by the Romans (to eat). They're a protected species now -- its illegal to collect them, sell them or harm them in any way. They like the woods and chalk, so they're not an uncommon sight on and around the hill.

This will give you a better idea of how huge this guy really was:

Here's to Saturdays! And here's to getting out in nature, exploring the incredible beauty all around us and enjoying the view.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Better Late Than Never

Along with every parent in the history of the world, I look at my kids and wonder: Where does the time go? Here's our six year-old boy with his dinosaur birthday cake, back in May.

And here are a couple shots taken around the same time, in a little village near where we now live. The houses in the village look just like those little cottages my mom used to collect -- so charming! -- but it was a nearby stream that held Jack and Sophie's fascination.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Like I Needed An Excuse

We're still without a broadband connection, although we did finally get a phone line today. Hey, it's progress! Maybe by next week I'll be back on this blog. Two months of ridiculously slow, worse-than-dial-up mobile internet has been frustrating to say the least.

But I just came across some fabulous news at The Bonny Glen and couldn't NOT pass it along. I mean, this is really, truly fab: A little bit of dark chocolate every day is an amazingly good thing! Since Lissa has taken the time to explain the facts behind the modern legend and even include exerpts from Rowan Jacobsen’s Chocolate Unwrapped: The Surprising Health Benefits of America’s Favorite Passion on her site, I won't elaborate here. But please, check it out!

And pardon me while I go and enjoy my essential daily dose of antioxidants. With a cup of tea, of course!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Catching Up

You would think, with as many times as I’ve done it, that I’d have this process down to a science, that I’d be able to make a move and hit the ground running, not missing a beat, all the while keeping my ducks in a row. Aside from the cheesy clichés and in spite of moving more times than I care to count, for some reason I tend to harbor ridiculous expectations for myself. Sure, I remember how much time it takes to pack up and prepare to leave a place, but somehow I forget how much time it takes to get everything set back up again. I seriously thought I’d be back to blogging within a week of moving. Silly me! Even in a place like England, readjusting takes time. Time to settle into a new home, meet new people, get used to new routines and figure out where things are, like the grocery store and my sense of normalcy. So please forgive my silence over the past few weeks. Life has been rather full.

* * * * * * *

When we lived in Cyprus, Matt and I used to watch Escape to the Country, a British lifestyle tv show that takes someone tired of living in the city and helps them find their dream home in the countryside. Where we live now is only ten minutes outside the M25, and our house is just metres from an A-road. You can’t see the traffic, but you can definitely hear it whooshing past. Still, living here feels very Escape to the Country-ish to me. For one thing, this is the first time I’ve been able to hang my wind chimes without worrying about disturbing the neighbors. Also, they have such a relaxing sound, these wind chimes, and they’re great at disguising the background traffic noise. Especially in combination with all the grass, flowers and trees of the surrounding area, it’s easy for me to imagine the whoosh-whooshing of cars is actually the sound of a waterfall or ocean waves.

We’ve had truly glorious weather the last month or so. I love that spring in England is an entire season! Its long, slow kiss of radiant color and permeating green is intoxicating. As we’ve started to get out and explore this new place on the weekends, we’ve spent a lot of time saying things like, “Wow, look at this!” and “Oh my goodness, did you see that?” (Or in Sophie-speak: “Oh my gway-shus!”) Sometimes we only get as far as saying, “Oh… my…” before our mouths freeze open in awe at the view around us. I miss a lot of things about city living, most of all our lovely friends there, but I have to say, the natural beauty of this part of the country is pretty spectacular.

* * * * * * *

Everywhere I’ve ever lived, I’ve been blessed with the most wonderful friends. Still, every time I move to a new place I’m amazed by the kindness of the people who reach out to befriend me. The day we moved in here, one of our neighbors invited us to her house that very evening, and she invited one of the other neighbors as well, just to introduce us to one another. Last week was only Jack’s second week at school, but Tuesday morning I was invited for tea at the home of one of his classmates. I didn’t know the mum well enough to hug her, but I really wanted to! Would you believe it, this morning another woman invited a few school mums over so that I can start to get to know them. I’m really touched by this. I want to buy them all flowers, bake them all cookies, tell them they are each a living, breathing answer to prayer.

* * * * * * *

Jack’s new school is in a nearby village, and he really loves it! I’m so relieved. He hated to leave his other school, his friends, his most beloved teacher. So it has been a comfort to watch him embrace his new situation. Mind you, his new school is so small that when a student comes in the middle of the year, everybody knows about it ahead of time and is crazy with anticipation. His first visited on a Friday afternoon, before starting the following Monday. Walking with him across the playground felt like having a little celebrity by the hand. We heard kids calling to one another: “There’s Jack Jones!” and “It’s Jack Jones! He’s here, he’s here!” and “Jack Jones is in my class, not yours!” His teacher said she’d never seen a child so eagerly awaited. So really, who wouldn’t love that?

Kids here wear uniforms to school, which I really like. Not only does it make getting ready in the mornings a lot easier, it cuts down on laundry (and we already do a gracious plenty of that) and it gives all the kids at each school a sense of belonging together. So that first Friday afternoon we bought Jack’s new school jumper (American = sweatshirt) and tie. His other school didn’t have a tie, just their jumper over a white polo shirt and grey trousers. When I showed him the tie, Jack looked a bit worried and said, “But Mommy, I don’t know how to tie this.” I told him not to worry, that Matt would teach him the proper way to tie a tie. What I meant was, Matt could tie it for him each morning before school, and eventually, at some point, he’d learn how to do it for himself.

That is not what Jack heard. The next day, Jack brought his tie to Matt and asked to be shown how to tie it. Matt went through it a couple of times, and then Jack disappeared up to his room. About 15 minutes later, he came back thoroughly discouraged because he couldn’t get it! We tried to tell him not to worry, plenty of grown men have trouble with tying ties. They’re tricky. After all, no one expects a six year-old to tie his own tie every day.

But Jack is nothing if not determined, once he gets an idea in his head. After another demo he went back up to his room to work on it again until he got it right, and he’s been tying his own tie every school morning since. Now he really looks, as well as sounds, like the stereotypical British schoolboy.

* * * * * * *

Our little girl is growing up, too, with plans to take over the running of things, starting with our family. Last week Sophie informed me that she was the Mom now, and she would be doing the driving from now on.

“Oh,” I said, “so who am I, then?”

She looked at me as if the answer was so obvious, I should have known. “You’re the sister,” she told me. Luckily, when she’s not being the Mom, Sophie’s just as happy to be Tinkerbell. She insists on wearing her fairy dress-up clothes whether we’re at home, picking up Jack from school or going grocery shopping. Skipping and flouncing her way through these days, Sophie’s definitely in her own world.

* * * * * * *

I have to say, I do miss walking Jack to school. We spend a lot more time in the car here. In order to make the most of our daily commute, I’ve decided to teach the kids a new hymn each week. Given the incredible beauty all around us, even on the roads, we started with this oldie but goodie:
This is my Father’s world
And to my listening ears
All nature sings and round me rings
The music of the spheres
This is my Father’s world
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas
His hand the wonders wrought

This is my Father’s world
The birds their carols raise
The morning light, the lily white
Declare their Maker’s praise
This is my Father’s world
He shines in all that’s fair
In the rustling grass, I hear Him pass
He speaks to me everywhere

This is my Father’s world
Why should my heart feel sad?
For though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the ruler yet
This is my Father’s world
The battle is not done
Jesus who died shall be satisfied
And earth and heaven be one

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

Today the kids and I were in the car, on our way to meet some of Jack's school friends for a picnic at a playground about 15 miles away. We were ooh-ing and aah-ing over the gorgeous trees in bloom -- white, pink and even brilliant magenta blossoms beckoned us along the road -- and congratulating God on the incredible beauty all around us. (As in, Great job on that tree, Jesus! That was amazing!) Suddenly Sophie burst out clapping and said, "Hoo-way! Hoo-way! Hoo-way for 'pingtime!"

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lost in Transition

It's Easter, my favorite holiday! Mind you, it's hard to beat Christmas, but as I see it the only thing better than celebrating Jesus' birth is celebrating all that God accomplished in His death and resurrection. And the only thing better than reading or telling the old, old story is reading or telling it again. There's always something fresh to learn, something new to discover among precious reminders along the familiar path. Just because I've walked this way before doesn't mean I know all there is to know. Sure, I know what I know, but one of the wonderful things about God is there's always more to discover. Not a single one of us has Him all figured out. And so I press on, reading and rereading; telling and retelling; pondering and pondering some more.

I've been pondering a lot lately, in general, because we're walking along another familiar path at the moment, one that involves a lot of mental and emotional energy for me: We're moving. A week from tomorrow.

It's not another international move, and for that I'm immensely relieved and thankful. But a move is a move. We're leaving greater London for a town that's definitely English instead of multi-cultural. I'll be walking less and driving more. The neighbors are fewer, the high street a bit further away. I've driven down there a couple of times and I like it, I really do. In time I'm confident that I'll come to love it. It's just... different from where we are now.

In pondering the move and my response to it, I've come to a realization: My pattern in past moves has been one of emotional resistance, trying to recreate in the new place what I loved about the old place. In my struggle to come to emotional grips with the process of leaving, I've often done a fair bit (and sometimes an unfairly large bit) of wallowing in my sense of loss, missing What Was. This time I'm going to try very hard not to do that. I'm going to try to let the new place be what it is and enjoy it for its uniqueness, enjoy this next season of our lives for what it will be.

We plan to come back here on Sundays, to continue going to our wonderful church and staying in touch with our wonderful friends. So I have the luxury of knowing we'll be back, and soon. That has helped me relax. Well, as much as is possible when the house is in an upheaval. It's all a matter of perspective!

Anyway, this transition is one of the reasons I haven't posted on this blog in a while. I've been a little distracted. Hopefully I'll get back to more regular posting after the move. Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Breakfast Theology

In preparation for Easter, we're reading from the children's Bible at breakfast -- a couple stories at a time in hopes of arriving at the Resurrection story on Easter morning. This morning we read about Jesus' first miracle (water to wine! at a celebration of love and happiness! listening to your mother!) and then about Jesus' teaching on prayer.

I only got through the first line -- Jesus went up to a mountainside to pray -- before I interrupted myself to say, "When you're old enough to go out into nature by yourself, you're going to love it! There's nothing like being outside to pray."

Then it was Jack's turn: "And pee-pee."

Ooops. In my head I was scrambling, "Hm. Wasn't expecting this. Not sure how to respond. Daddy usually handles such boy issues, but he's away this week..." when Jack explained, "Do you know why it's so great? Because there's no one around."

Whew! That was my cue. "And that's exactly why it's perfect for praying, because you're all alone with God," I said.

Somehow we managed to finish reading the story about the Lord's Prayer, and I thought it would be good for us to say the prayer together. Jack repeated each line after me. The language is a bit tricky, but he got most of it. I liked his first line the best: Our Father in heart and heaven...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


It has been so long since I've posted on this blog that I keep telling myself I better come up with something good to make up for it. Trouble is, I haven't made the time to sit down at the computer and compose anything, good or otherwise.

I've been on a sort of technological reprieve. I've pulled back from blogging, facebooking and computer-time in general. I haven't gone so far as to join the moleskine rebellion, although I have determined to get back to proper journaling, in a notebook, with a pen. There's something very therapeutic about that. Does it have something to do with the fact that no one else will see it? Maybe. And maybe it has to do with the slower pace as well. My little world, slow and simple to many, has been spinning too fast for my comfort, and I've decided to get off and rest a while.

I'm not sure how long I'll be on hiatus, but tonight I read this article about the joys of bargain shopping and couldn't resist sharing it. Finally, finally, at long last, my style is in style!

With the economy in shambles and so many people losing their jobs and homes, it is no longer considered cool to brag about possessions and purchases.

For many during a deepening recession, conspicuous consumption is out and frugality is the new black.

"People have long used the way they shop and what they buy as a way to communicate with other people about their values, their tastes and their interests," said Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist and professor at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, California.

"A year ago, what was considered the ultimate status symbol would have been the chicest bag or the most luxurious outfit," Yarrow added. "Now what's chic is being the most knowledgeable and efficient at saving money."

My mom and I are bargain hunters from way back. We've hit the proverbial jackpot so many times at the Goodwill Store in the town where I grew up that now we just call it Our Favorite Store. As in: I love your blouse/jeans/jacket/you name it. Oh thanks. I got it at Our Favorite Store. The last time I was in the US, I bought four tops for $35 at a Goodwill boutique. Three of the tops still had the tags attached, one of which was silk, from Talbots, and had originially been priced at $89. Now that feels good, baby!

Here in England it's all I can do to walk past a charity shop without going inside, and whenever Matt and I visit a new town, their charity shops call to me, siren-like. It's the lure, I guess, of what treasures might be waiting there to be discovered.

Right now the treasure I'm enjoying is some quiet time focused on our family and local friends. I may post bits and pieces from time to time, but it may be a while between posts. Don't worry, I'm still here. I've just gone back-to-basics.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It Looks Like Narnia Here!

I haven't made time for blogging lately and hope to remedy that soon. In the meantime, enjoy these pics from our wintry world:

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Not for the first time, I've run out of words. I simply don't know what to say. What's going on in Gaza is heartbreaking on both sides.

I don't have answers to the age-old dilemma in the Middle East. It's messy, complicated. But even I can tell that the Eye For An Eye approach isn't working. Perhaps what we all need is A New Playbook in Responding to the Gaza Conflict. Perhaps we need to start with the obvious: Nonviolence Begets Nonviolence. Certainly we need to ask ouselves: Where Are the Peacemakers? And: How can we contribute to peace ourselves, in our thoughts, words and actions, right where we are?

For these and other articles with a God-honoring, people-loving approach to politics and culture, I urge you to go to the Sojourner's blog, God's Politics.

I don't know about you, but especially when words fail me, I return to the simple yet powerful prayer Jesus taught His disciples:

Our Father in heaven,
May your name be kept holy.

May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us today our food for tomorrow,
and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
(Matthew 6:9-13 NLT)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Behind the Scenes

Finally, finally I've sent our holiday newsletter. Here's the photo that went with it:

And here are the outtakes...