December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013 Version

Merry Christmas from our home to yours!
May the Lord bless you today 
and in the coming New Year!

December 4, 2013

A Milestone Birthday

Once upon a time there was a baby girl being held by her Grandpa.

And some years went by... and there was a slightly bigger girl at a farm.

And she was a princess defended by her brother.

And then suddenly she was big enough to do really fun things like ride horses!

And now... today... she is sixteen years old!  How did that happen so fast?!?

Happy Birthday my darling daughter!
‘“The Lord bless you
    and keep you;

the Lord make his face shine on you

    and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn his face toward you

    and give you peace.”’
~Numbers 6:24-26

November 5, 2013

Crazy Cat Family

I'm Fender - newest fur-baby
We are on our way to becoming one of those crazy families with way too many pets.  Yep - we have added yet another fur-baby to our home which is already over-run with pet hair. *shrug*  If your allergic and want to come visit - take your meds before you come.  Life with pet hair is normal here but we do keep a ready supply of those sticky rollers to de-fuzz yourself when you leave.  You're welcome!

I like to watch the birds in my little bitty kitty bed.
Piper & Saffron hanging out
cats are partially liquid in the sunshine (Saffron, Fender, & Grace)
Yep - Fender on Piper's dog bed with Saffron hanging out nearby
Fender is B's kitten (soon-to-be cat).  Gray tabby with no fear!  She is named after his guitar and was adopted from the Monadnock Humane Society - they are nice people and you should check them out if you are in search of a furry family member.

October 17, 2013

Living in a Picture Post Card

This is the absolutely most beautiful autumn I can remember in many years.  Steve tells me it is because we now live in the area we used to drive to visit every fall.  The weather this year has seemed to be an almost endless string of picture perfect New England fall days.  Mild sunny days and cool nights and the trees are just ablaze in glorious color. 

This is my most favorite time of year.  Rosy apples, golden orange pumpkins and crunchy leaves.  Indoors and out there are the smells of fall. Woodsmoke and apple crisp, hot apple cider and popcorn to munch as you snuggle under a blanket in the evening.

Steve has been taking a lot of truly stunning photographs this fall and I told him that I feel as though we are living in a picture post card.  Blessings abound and I am beyond thankful.

All photos by Steve and may not be used without express permission.

October 8, 2013

Pondering a Remark

Photo by Steve - because fall is my favorite
The photo has nothing to do with my post - I just love it.  Steve took it last week near our home.  He's amazing like that.

Anyway - I'm pondering a remark that someone made to me during a conversation this past weekend.  In one sense I find it amusing and in another, slightly terrifying.
The remark happened when I mentioned one of my favorite topics - home schooling.  For those of you who aren't aware, we home educate our children and are now in our 12th year of schooling at home,
I believe my children are bright and funny, well-read, articulate (usually) and thoughtful, caring, kind, generally responsible, etc, etc, etc.  Basically pretty great young adults that are seeking to follow Christ.  At this point I'm pretty close to feeling like - Lord willing and by God's amazing grace - they are going to be successful adults in whatever plans God has for their lives.

So - back to the conversation.  I was talking with someone who teaches public school for a living. 
I mentioned that we home school and nodded toward my daughter who is almost 16 now and a junior in high school. 
The other person looked at J and looked back at me and said "I don't think I could ever do that. I think I would put too much pressure on myself."
I replied that there are lots of resources for the academics, but our goal is to raise young adults in Christ for God's glory and it isn't really about the numbers at all.  I said that our primary academic goal is mastery/excellence and having them know how to learn and do things - not just perform on tests. Then I added my standard line - as a parent you teach your children a ton before they are 5 years old anyway (walking, talking, using the potty, eating with a fork, saying please/thank you and to not hit/bite their friends), the academics just build from there.  The other person just sort of looked at me stunned and shook their head.

I was amused because this person teaches other people's children for money.  It is their job. Yet they feel there would be too much pressure to teach their own child(ren)?  That seems funny to me.  Wouldn't you think the pressure would come from the fact that you take money from someone to do something well? 

The terrifying part is that this person teaches other people's children for money.  It is their job.  Yet they don't feel the same pressure for something that they do for a paycheck that they imagine would be there for their own child(ren)? 

Standard disclaimer - Given the nature of the topic - I always add this part:  I fully realize that not everyone feels called by God to home educate their children.  I also realize that there are good and bad home school parents and public school teachers alike.  I am NOT making a judgement of people who make a different choice from our family - only stating that this choice makes sense for our family and our situation and according to what we know God wants from us as parents and as a family.

September 30, 2013

Something Pretty on a Monday

Just because... sometimes you want something pretty to see.

September 16, 2013

Lines (15) The final chapter

Continuing notes from "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction"
***we made it!***

Chapter 16   Blessing   Psalm 134

pg 184  "In Psalm 120, the first of the Psalms of Ascents, we saw the theme of repentance developed.  The word in Hebrew is teshubah, a turning away from the world and a turning toward God; the initial move in a life-goal set on God.  It was addressed to the person at the crossroads, inviting each of us to make the decision to set out on the way of faith.  Each of the psalms that followed has described a part of what takes place along this pilgrim way among the people who have turned to God and follow him in Christ.  We have discovered in these psalms beautiful lines, piercing insights, dazzling truths, stimulating words.  We have found that the world in which these psalms are sung is a world of adventure and challenge, of ardor and meaning.  We have realized that while there are certainly difficulties in the way of faith, it cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be called dull.  It requires everything that is in us; it enlists all our desires and abilities; it gathers our total existence into its songs.  But when we get to where we are going, what then?"

pg 185  God shares himself with us - he gets personally involved - generously - graciously.
God stands - foundational & dependable
God stoops - he meets us where we are - we can't get ourselves cleaned up enough to approach him - so he comes to us - this is a demonstration of grace!
God stays - he sticks with us, sharing his life with us in grace & peace

pg 186 Psalm 134 features an "invitational command"  (I like that wording!)  "Come, Bless the LORD..."

pg 187  "Bless the Lord.  Do that for which you were created and redeemeds; life your voices in gratitude; enter into the community of praise and prayer that anticipates the final consummation of faith in heaven. Bless the Lord."

pg 189  "Feelings don't run the show.  There is a reality deeper than our feelings.  Live by that."
pg 190  Luke 15:7 Jesus speaks of the joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, not relief, not surprise - joy!
pg 191-192  The Westminster Shorter Catechism's 1st question -
"What is the chief end of man?"  - this asks us what is the final purpose, the main thing, why are we here?  The answer is "To glorify God and enjoy him forever."  Glorify.  Enjoy.
This book has journeyed through these passages looking at things involved in Christian discipleship and finally arrives at this point - Bless the Lord.  Glorify & Enjoy God in all things.
"Grace and gratitude belong together...(snip) We are so created and so redeemed that we are capable of enjoying him.  All the movements of discipleship arrive at a place where joy is experienced.  Every step of ascent toward God develops the capacity to enjoy."
"Best of all, we don't have to wait until we get to the end of the road before we enjoy what is at the end of the road."

Some final thoughts:  This is the only book I have read by this author and I have heard some criticism of his total theology from some people that I respect.  As I am not God - I have no way of knowing the heart of another person and would not presume to pass judgement on his motives/ideas/etc.  I don't think I found anything glaringly inconsistent with my own beliefs in this book generally speaking.  (I suppose that sounds wishy-washy, but honest at this point as I can't remember every word I read in detail).
I found much instructive and helpful here - I love the visual of life as a journey upwards ( title!)  I pretty much always consider myself on a journey, following Christ and learning as I travel.  This book gave me pause to consider some things I hadn't previously and allowed me to ponder the long journey that discipleship really is.

Blessings on the journey,

Lines (14)

Continuing notes from "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction"
***almost done... hang in there!***

Chapter 15     Community  Psalm 133

pg 169  "For God never makes private, secret salvation deals with people.  His relationships with us are personal, true: intimate, yes: but private, no.  We are a family in Christ."
I find this idea to be interesting and thought provoking ... and for someone like me, slightly intimidating.

pg 170  Psalm 133 puts, what is said & shown throughout scripture and church history, into words of song - community is essential.  "Scripture knows nothing of the solitary Christian.  People of faith are always members of a community."
Again this is a tough one for me... perhaps it is just the area of the country where I live or my limited exposure to faith communities at large - but here, for me, community is hard to come by in the sense that my soul longs to find.

pg 173  "Living together in a way that evokes the glad song of Psalm 133 is one of the great and arduous tasks before Christ's people.  Nothing requires more attention and energy."
I would add that it is perhaps something that is sorely lacking in a lot of places for precisely this reason.

 pg 175 Quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer ~ "Not what a man is in himself as a Christian, his spirituality and piety, constitutes the basis of our community.  What determines our brotherhood is what that man is by reason of Christ.  Our community with on another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us."

pg 176  "Important in any community of faith is an ever-renewed sense of expectation in what God is doing with our brothers & sisters in the faith."
Ah, perhaps here is part of the key found... that we don't really expect to see God move in our own lives or in anyone else's life.  And we never spend enough time together - talking about God and what He is doing in our lives to know differently.
Shared experience builds community.  If we never share our lives in any real sense, genuine relationships and true community can't be built.  If we are all so fearful of being real with one another that we live in shallow pleasantries and false masks - how can we build 'family' ties that are strong enough to weather persecution or even a minor challenge?

September 12, 2013

A Coat of Paint Changes Everything

I forgot that I'd promised to post about our exterior painting project. Whoops!
Here are a few 'before' photos of the house and detached garage.

The house originally had about a zillion of those thin plastic louver type shutters in that same awful green color (you can see them on the corner of the garage) but Steve ripped those down as soon as possible after we'd moved in.
We are guessing that the prior owners were trying to achieve an 'apple theme' with the color choices given we have apple trees on the property and border an old orchard.  We didn't like it - especially the green accents that were just awful in our opinion.
We had several painters and painting companies come out to give us estimates and chose to work with a friend of a friend and we are so thankful we did!  Mark Cedras was great to work with and answered all my questions patiently and helped immensely with color choices.  He is a talented artist and it comes through even in something as mundane as painting a house - though after seeing how much work he did, I am doubly impressed with the transformation he brought about for us.
First he power-washed everything and scraped to get rid of all the loose and peeling paint - which there was plenty, especially on the garage.  He also let us know of any spots that needed repair due to rot/neglect.  We had a friend from church come and help with a lot of that, and another friend of a friend do some siding replacement where it was really bad.
When we'd been in the process of checking Mark's references we happened to do a drive-by of a prior project he'd done and fell in love with the color of that home.  With Mark's encouragement we did something that seemed brave to us (though we've discovered it is fairly common) and opted to make the house one color and the detached garage/barn a different color.
The paint/stain used are all Benjamin Moore products purchased through Milford Paint and we are very pleased with the final product.  The house color is called "Kendall Charcoal" and is a dark gray, white trim and the doors are accented in a dark green called "Black Forest".  The garage is "Country Redwood" with white trim.

We think the entire thing is just lovely - classic and a touch elegant for our little corner in the country. We are happy to recommend Mark if your looking for a great painter!

Blessings on the journey~

September 11, 2013

Lines (13)

Continuing notes from "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction"

Chapter 14     Obedience      Psalm 132 

pg 160  "The first half of Psalm 132 is the part that roots obedience in fact and keeps our feet on the ground."

pg 162  "Christians tramp well-worn paths: obedience has a history. This history is important for without it we are at the mercy of whims. Memory is a data bank we use to evaluate our position and make decisions. With a biblical memory we have two thousand years of experience from which to make the off-the-cuff responses that are required each day in the life of faith."

pg 163 "Obedience is not a stodgy plodding in the ruts of religion, it is a hopeful race toward God's promises."

pg 164 "The second half of Psalm 132 takes seriously what God said to David and how David responded. (snip) and uses them to make a vision of the reality that is in the future of faith: (vs 15-18). All the verb tenses are future. Obedience is fulfilled by hope."

pg 165 "Psalm 132 cultivates a hope that gives wings to obedience, a hope that is consistent with the reality of what God has done in the past but is not confined to it."
"Christians who master Psalm 132 will be protected from one danger, at least, that is ever a threat to obedience: the danger that we should reduce Christian existence to ritually obeying a few commandments that are congenial to our temperament and convenient to our standard of living."

pg 166 "What we require is obedience - the strength to stand and the willingness to leap, and the sense to know when to do which.  Which is exactly what we get when an accurate memory of God's ways is combined with a lively hope in his promises."

August 22, 2013

Lines (12)

Continuing notes from "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction"

Chapter 13     Humility      Psalm 131

pg 145  "Christian faith needs continuous maintenance."
Psalm 131 is a psalm of maintenance - a pruning psalm.

pg 146  "All cultures throw certain stumbling blocks in the way of those who pursue gospel realities."  (snip) "The way of faith deals with realities in whatever time or whatever culture."

pg 147-148  A discussion of the story of John Faustus and the way our culture has become Faustian to applause & admiration.  "It is difficult to recognize pride as a sin when it is held up on every side as a virtue, as profitable, and rewarded as achievement."

pg 149  "Our lives are only lived well when they are lived in terms of their creation, with God loving and we being loved, with God making and we being made, with God revealing and we understanding, with God commanding and we responding.  Being a Christian means accepting the terms of creation, accepting God as our maker and redeemer, and growing day by day into an increasingly glorious creature in Christ, developing joy, experiencing love, maturing in peace. By the grace of Christ we experience the marvel of being made in the image of God. If we reject this way the only alternative is to attempt the hopelessly fourth-rate, embarrassingly awkward imitation of God made in the image of man."

pg 150 "Christian faith is not neurotic dependency but childlike trust. We do not have a God who forever indulges our whims but a God whom we trust with our destinies."

pg 153  "We need pruning. Cut back to our roots, we then learn this psalm (131) and discover the quietness of the weaned child, the tranquility of maturing trust. it is such a minute psalm that many have overlooked it, but for all its brevity and lack of pretense, it is essential. For every Christian encounters problems of growth and difficulties of development."

pg 154 "And that is what Psalm 131 nurtures: a quality of calm confidence and quiet strength which knows the difference between unruly arrogance and faithful aspiration, knows how to discriminate between infantile dependency and childlike trust, and chooses to aspire and to trust - and to sing, "Enough for me to keep my soul tranquil and quiet like a child in its mother's arms, as content as a child that has been weaned.""

August 13, 2013

Lines (11)

Continuing notes from "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction"

Chapter 12  Hope  Psalm 130

p. 133 "To be human is to be in trouble."
"A Christian is a person who decides to face and live through suffering.  If we do not make that decision, we are endangered on every side."
"Psalm 130 grapples mightily with suffering, sings its way through it, and provides usable experience for those who are committed to traveling the way of faith to God through Jesus Christ."

p. 134  The psalmist here sets anguish out in the open, it is voiced in prayer before God - right out there, no holding back.
**How many of us think God isn't big enough to handle our cries?  How often do I pretend to have it together before the Almighty?  How stupid is that?!  I know He knows... what is the point in pretending?
My anguish does not shock him.

"You know, there is an American myth that denies suffering and the sense of pain. It acts as if they should not be, and hence it devalues the experience of suffering.  But this myth denies our encounter with reality." ~Ivan Ilich

p. 135 "The worst thing that can happen to a man is to have no God to cry to out of the depth." ~P.T. Forsyth
The Psalm shows us how to cry out - to face our suffering by bringing it before God - not to hide from it or avoid it - but to face it with faith.

p. 136  Because we have God - who is personal - we have the means to walk on through our suffering. He is with us, involved, caring and loving and absolutely merciful.

p. 136-137 "Eight times the name of God is used in the psalm. We find, as we observe how God is addressed, that he is understood as one who forgives sin, who comes to those who wait and hope for him, who is characterized by steadfast love and plenteous redemption, and who will redeem Israel. God makes a difference." (emp. mine)

p. 137 "And this, of course, is why we are able to face, acknowledge, accept and live through suffering, for we know that it can never be ultimate, it can never constitute the bottom line. God is at the foundation and God is at the boundaries."

p. 138 At the center of the psalm is the direction for participating in our reality - especially when it comes to suffering- the directions say wait and hope. These words are connected to the image of a watchman.

p. 139 "The psalmist's and the Christian's waiting and hoping is based on the conviction that God is actively involved in his creation and vigorously involved at work in redemption. Waiting does not mean doing nothing. It is not fatalistic resignation. It means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusions."
**I think there is also needed a level of acceptance that sometimes we will not know or understand these things - but that God knows is enough for us.

p. 140 "And hoping is not dreaming. It is not spinning an illusion of fantasy to protect us from our boredom or our pain. It means a confident alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do. It is imagination put in the harness of faith. It is a willingness to let him do it his way and in his time."
** Often - for me - this is the hardest part.  Trusting in God's ways and timing instead of what I think I want and when I want it.

August 4, 2013

Lines (10)

Continuing notes from "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction"

Chapter 11  Perseverance   Psalm 129

"Patience is drawing on underlying forces; it is powerfully positive, though to a natural view it looks like just sitting it out.  How would I persist against positive eroding forces if I were not drawing on invisible forces? And patience has a positive tonic effect on others; because of the presence of the patient person, they revive and go on, as if he were the gyroscope of the ship providing a stable ground.  But the patient person himself does not enjoy it." ~ Paul Goodman

pg. 122  Isaiah 53 paints a picture of someone extremely - painfully - persecuted and rejected and yet overcoming and righteous.  "The person of faith outlasts all the oppressors.  Faith lasts."

pgs 123-124  "Stick-to-it-iveness. Perseverance. Patience.  The way of faith is not a fad that is taken up in one century only to be discarded in the next.  It lasts.  It is a way that works. It has been tested thoroughly."

pg 125  "The life of the world that is opposed or indifferent to God is barren and futile. The way of the world is cataloged with proud, god-defying purposes, unharnessed from eternity, and therefore worthless & futile." 

pg 126  "The person who makes excuses for the hypocrites and rationalizes the excesses of the wicked, who loses a sense of opposition to sin, who obscures the difference between faith and denial, of grace and selfishness - that is the person to be wary of.  For if there is not all that much difference between the way of faith and the way of the world, there is not much use in making any effort to stick to it.  We drift on the tides of convenience. We float on fashion."

pg 127  "Perseverance does not mean perfect. It means that we keep going."
"For perseverance is not resignation, putting up with things the way they are, staying in teh same old rut year after year after year, or being a doormat for people to wipe their feet on.  Endurance is not a desperate hanging on but a traveling from strength to strength.  There is  nothing fatigued of humdrum in Isaiah, nothing flat-footed in Jesus, nothing jejune in Paul.  Perseverance is triumphant and alive."
      **I really grasp this more fully as I get older... we do not just carry on pitifully in our faith - we are conquerors in our struggles because of Christ and it is His strength that carries us on and sustains us in the battle.

pg 128  "The central reality for Christians is the personal, unalterable, persevering commitment that God makes to us. Perseverance is not the result of our determination, it is the result of God's faithfulness."

pg 129   In Hebrews we see a litany of people who lived by faith - people who centered their lives on the righteous God who is faithful through all things and by this they were able to persevere.  They had steadiness of purpose and admirable integrity - not that they never faltered, failed and sinned, but that by God's faithfulness they learned faithfulness.  Out of this we then read Hebrews 12: 1-2 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

pg 130  Purposes last - Christian faith allows us to build on the organizing center of life - God, in all His righteousness. "Christian discipleship is a decision to walk in His ways... It is the way of life we were created for.  There are endless challenges in it to keep us on the growing edge of faith; there is always a righteous God with us to make it possible for us to persevere."

July 30, 2013

Lines (9)

Continuing notes from "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction"

Chapter 10:  Happiness   Psalm 128
Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
    who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor;

    blessings and prosperity will be yours.
 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
    within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
    around your table.
 Yes, this will be the blessing
    for the man who fears the Lord.
 May the Lord bless you from Zion;
    may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
    all the days of your life.
 May you live to see your children’s children—
    peace be on Israel.

p. 112   Jesus makes clear that discipleship is not a reduction in what we already are (we are not talking - of course - about that whole sin thing *S*) - rather he will expand our capacities and fill us up with life so that we overflow with joy.

p. 114  "... blessing has inherent in it the power to increase.  It functions by the sharing and delight in life."

p. 115  "We are in a battle.  There is a fight of faith to be waged.  But the way of faith itself is in tune with what God has done and is doing.  The road we travel is the well-traveled road of discipleship.  It is not a way of boredom or despair or confusion.  It is not a miserable groping, but a way of blessing."

p. 117  "everyone wants to be happy, to be blessed.  Too many people are willfully refusing to pay attention to the One who will our happiness and ignorantly supposing that the Christian way is a harder way to get what they want than doing it on their own.  BUt they are wrong.  God's ways and God's presence are where we experience the happiness that lasts."

In re-reading these notes - I am noting the absence of a distinction between 'happiness' and 'joy'.  They are different and that is of vital importance to understand.  JOY is what we are promised in scripture, not happiness.  Though I think that happiness can be a by-product of joyfulness - the two are not always linked.  I can find great joy in doing things that bring me no happiness simply because of my Savior.  I serve a mighty God - I am HIS.  This leads me to joy in all things - regardless of the happiness involved or lack thereof.
There is little happiness in suffering or in doing yucky daily jobs like cleaning or dishes or diapers...but there is joy in these things if they are part of what God has gifted to us in this life for His glory.

Blessings on the journey~

July 21, 2013

Before & After

We've been in our new home 4 months now.  Time flies when you are having fun!
We've also been busy... perhaps that is an understatement.  We've been working hard to make the new house our home... in the sense that it reflects our style of living, our taste, our priorities, our colors, etc.  In just four months we've cleaned (a LOT!), replaced the roof on the house & garage, stripped wall-paper, fixed walls, painted walls, re-arranged, changed light fixtures, painted more, built a fire-pit, sealed the driveway, edged & mulched and put in crushed stone, added a pellet stove, replaced the kitchen stove, dealt with some plumbing issues, repaired some exterior issues, had the exterior on the house & garage painted, and on and on.
So... to share - here are some before & after shots of various rooms in the house.

Sun porch/room before
Sun porch/room after
My Sewing Room upstairs

You can also see more finished photos of this room on my sewing blog.

 The kitchen before we moved in

The kitchen after we stripped wallpaper, changed the light, fixed the wall & painted

This project also has it's own post here.

The downstairs bathroom before we moved in

After some new paint

The roof project has it's own post here.
The exterior paint project will get it's own post very shortly - Steve is still taking photos for me. 

We are so very blessed to be in our new home and are excited about our progress so far.