Sunday, January 13, 2013

I was going to make a list for you of some of the blogs I read, just for fun. I’ve never made a full listing in the sidebar, and I’ve actually had people ask me, from time to time, where I read online. But I think I won’t make that list. Because you know what? You have enough on your list already.

So, here is my hastily put together last post. I think that probably a number of people won’t see this, and it will only be up for a few days since I will soon close the blogs, but, for those of you who still have me in your reader, here’s my "advice," first to myself, and then to the world. (Haha. Just kidding.)

I’ve lived awhile, and I’ve watched a lot of wise people live their lives. I learn from watching those people and from talking to them, and there are a few things that have proven to be very good and very important in my life as well. To offer "advice" might seem arrogant, but my “advice” really is to me because I still have so much growing and changing to do. I could add a lot more things or create an entirely different list. This is in no way a list of everything that I think matters, but these are things I work on (in random order):

1. Make your bed. First thing every day. I’m serious.  According to Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit, it is a “keystone” habit that can be the start of a chain of habit-development in your life. This is one thing I’ve done for years, and it truly does seem to kickstart the rest of the day in a positive way. I've read the book, but here's a little piece on the idea.

2. Have flowers in the house. Wow, there are so many benefits that correlate to having flowers in the house that it is just amazing. Somehow it doesn’t surprise me. I suspect that any arrangement from nature will have a similar effect. Here's a little list of links, for starters.

3. Be quiet every single day. Just be still. "Be still and know that I am God." You will see many things differently if you do.

4. Go outside every day. Go for a short walk, even for ten minutes. And when you’re out there, pay attention. You’ll be amazed, I promise.

5. Believe that your circumstances today are the exact ones allowed by your loving God. Embrace them. Be always thankful, hopeful, and joyful. It’s not easy, but He will help you.

6. Write letters, however short. Last summer, when I moved to this apartment, I ran across my Grammy’s letters. I laughed, I cried, and I remember her so warmly and affectionately. She wrote to me routinely, but some of those letters were on paper the size of a large post-it note. It didn’t matter. Love and Grammy’s wonderful personality shone through. These small, but warm, letters inspired me to write more letters, however short they need to be. Just write them. Emails and text messages are fine, but a hand-written letter is a true gift. (P.S. I'm reading a book of the letters of Jonathan Netanyahu--written in the 60's and 70's before he died--and even when less than two weeks pass between letters to his parents, he apologizes profusely for not writing sooner. Of course, this was before cell phones and email, but there's something about these letters that is powerful in a way that an email can never be, and there was a sense of importance in maintaining this kind of connection. In these letters, there's a sense of sacrifice, commitment, and value in maintaining communication and relationships. Reading these, I'm more convinced than ever that I want to write letters.)

7. Look for beauty everywhere. I read of a Jewish prisoner in a Nazi extermination camp who looked up at the sky and saw beauty, even in that horrible place. If we look past our circumstances and look for God, we can find beauty.

8. Slow down. Slow down your life, your mind, your spirit. Things will come into focus that you never knew were blurry.

9. Speak gently. Proverbs says that “pleasant words promote instruction,” and “a gentle word can break a bone.” Harsh words repel.

10. Take every thought captive. That thought that wants to be critical of others, that jealous thought, that complaining thought, that rationalizing thought that would justify procrastination or irresponsibility, that bitter thought, and all of those thoughts that make us focus on ourselves. Don’t waste your time with that; don’t let it poison or tyrannize you. Align that thought with scripture and make it obedient to the love of Christ.

11. Be grateful. Don’t complain. Ever. “Count your blessings, name them one by one,” and your perspective will change.

12. Share your life in whatever way you can (even at home with your families). Love others. It’s not about you.

13. Pray. Pray. Pray. And never give up hope no matter what. He hears you, and He already has your answer.

14. Work with your hands. Make something. Create, write, cook, garden, sew, knit, make music, build something. In these times, it’s easier than ever to become a watcher or a spectator and even a time-waster, so be sure to be busy with your hands.

15. Listen. Really listen. Try to deeply understand that other perspective.

16. Read, think, discuss, live, and write. It’s the best education ever. Keep learning. Keep working at developing your gifts. Stay curious for the rest of your life. Here's a good article my daughter sent to me two days ago.

17. Do it now. Don’t put it off if you can do it now. (I work hard at this one, and it has helped me make a lot of significant changes.) For awhile, I had a little sign scribbled out on a piece of paper and tacked to my wall that said simply that: “Do it Now!”

18. It’s about relationships. It’s emphatically not, not, not about my house, my clothes, my appearance, my reputation, my gifts and talents, my “calling,” my success, my popularity, or even being acknowledged or understood. It’s about relationships. It's about loving. This is what everyone says at the end of their life. You’ll say it, too. It’s either, “I wish I had. . .” or “I’m thankful that I. . .” put my time and energy into relationships. Into loving God and loving people well.

19. Go to sleep seeking God, and wake up seeking God (and you may as well seek Him all day long, too! :-) ). This makes a huge, sweet difference in my life.

20. Follow Him wherever He leads you. And wherever that is, He will equip you and provide for all of your needs. Sometimes the way seems hopeless or impossible, but He will be your strength and your guide. Even more, He will walk with you in relationship and in love. He loves you and will never forsake you.

Blessings and prayers and gratitude for your presence here,

Friday, January 11, 2013

Just One More Week

It's time to say that this is my last post, and in a week, I'll close all of my blogs for good. (Edited--not quite my last post! I want to make a list of some of the blogs I read and just a couple of other things before I close shop.)

Anyone who has been reading my blogs for awhile knows that I have waffled and wavered about blogging almost from the start and especially during this last little while. I really am sorry for that. There's nothing worse than listening to bloggers go on about blogging or not blogging and all of their reasons why. I think it's time to put you all out of your misery regarding that!

So, it's time to close up shop on all of my blogs without opening a new one. The Lord has led me along to a new place, into a new season, and it's time to carry on with my life.  I've always enjoyed writing about the things that are on my mind, but I don't need to do that on a blog. I can write letters! In fact, my friends who like to write back and forth with me might really be glad I'm doing this!

My decision is just my own and is not an indictment of blogging in general. In fact, I will be peeking in on your blogs from time to time! I just can't honestly think of a good reason for me to keep a blog. I'm sure my time for it is past.

I'm sorry I've dragged you along so much recently and that I've kept you waiting for my new blog link that is now never going to appear. I really am sorry. You might be thinking, "She'll be back. We've heard this before." But, no, I really won't. I have too many doubts and growing convictions about how I want to spend my time regarding the internet. This is not a sudden thought or realization; I've been unsettled about it throughout this last little while of blogging.

Plus, I told a friend today that I think I am, at heart, a technological minimalist. I think I do best when technology plays a small role in my life. The way of the world is, increasingly, to be plugged in and active in cyberspace, but it's still possible to live largely without it, and I think I'd like to hang on to that slower, older way as much as I can. I like that kind of life.

I want as little time as possible to be eaten up online. When I blog, the internet creeps into my life more and more somehow, even when I'm not posting. In fact, I'm guessing that I'm going to get antsy when I step back from this again, and that's a good enough sign that it's time to go.

So, again, I'm sorry for my wavering statements about blogging. I feel honored that you have visited me here, some of you routinely. I wish you the very best, and I pray God's blessings on each and every one of you.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Few Words from Me

Pretty obviously, this is not my house.
But I want it, okay?
Because isn't that charming and inviting?!
Look at those steps and the flowers and the sunshine!
(I have no camera now. I don't know when I will, and until I do,
I will visit my photo files and use old stuff.)

Oh, hello, friends.

(Don't over-think the following, please. I wrote it in one quick go and don't have time to look it over and make it crisp and clear. Just read and interpret lightly and at face value!)

I need to apologize for leaving people hanging after posting my recent message that I will be shutting down shop here and moving along. I realize you’re not out there holding your breath, at the edge of your seat, waiting for an update from me. But I do know, thanks to emails from some of you, that there are people who have been checking the blog every day just in case I might put up my new link, then abruptly disappear, leaving some of you wondering where in the world I’ve gone.

I also realize now that I’ve created a somewhat mysterious scenario and that at least three or four of you are wondering what I’ve got up my sleeve. What am I going to reveal on my new blog? Haha. Nothing. I’ll just be moving to a new spot. I have no agenda or theme or idea for how I want to approach my new blog space.

I do not know what I’ll be writing (it may not feel different at all to you), but I need to leave the old spaces behind and close up shop. I’ve mentioned this before, but over the years, my kids have occasionally said that they have been conscious of being watched or held up as an example of learning, and indeed they have. In earlier years, more than one person said to various of my kids: “We’re watching you to see how this turns out.” Or, “My husband thinks your educational experiment can’t work and is watching to see what happens.” Or, “We’re just so glad you are leading the way for us so we can see how this is done.” Etc. Mostly, the thoughts were warm and kind, but not always.

It may seem easy to say about those negative watchers, “Who cares?!” Which is exactly what I did most of the time—shrugged it off—because, from my adult perspective, I don’t care what people think about how we live/d our lives. But my children were just that—children. I should have protected them from the pointed watching and measuring. Maybe they felt uncomfortable and sensed a subtle pressure, like they were living in a glass house or a fishbowl and being graded for how they fared longterm.

On the one hand, my kids really didn’t care what other people thought (they never have), but sometimes they got tired of being used as an example (by me). It’s never comfortable to think you are being observed like some kind of science experiment. And none of my kids really wanted (or wants now) to be used as an example of how our little learning life worked. They always gave me permission to tell stories about them, but I think now, in their honest hearts, some of them wished I hadn’t (we’ve talked about this some), and I remember that I occasionally had to talk them into it. I regret that I did. My kids wanted to please me, and I feel now that I, while well-intentioned, took advantage of that. All I wanted to do was to offer an alternative to tired homeschoolers, to say, “Hey, there are a lot of different ways to approach learning and education. It can be a wonderful experience.” And then to share how one family (mine) lives and learns together.

Those days and years truly were lovely and joyful, but I should have kept the kids' passions and interests more private. I shouldn’t have evaluated their learning so that I could present it to others as a sort of philosophy. In doing this, I only meant to encourage others. My kids understood this, so they were willing for me to share, but I wish I would have done so differently, for their sake--to give them more privacy and a chance to proceed in their learning without me getting inspired by it to write the next installment in the serial story of our learning lives.

My kids and I still talk about how much we enjoyed the atmosphere of our home: the freedom, the learning, the books, the creating, the making, the work, the celebrations, the study, the passion, the food, the conversations, and on and on and on. It was truly lovely and fun! I think we are all profoundly grateful for those years. My family has gone through some extremely difficult, challenging times, and the environment we had in our home gave us all a lot of strength. The challenges continue. They have been, and are, part of our education, as we have all had to press hard into the Lord and to trust Him, even now, day by day. I only hope that you don’t have to go through what we did, but I know that you have had, or will have, your own struggles and pain. God is certainly faithful, and some wonderful gifts become ours through our deep difficulties.

There were so many mistakes that I made with my kids, but they forgive me and give me a ton of grace, respect, and love. <3 <3 <3 <3 (That’s one heart for each of them!) Maybe that’s because they know without a doubt that I love them and always had their best interests in mind, even if I didn’t always use the best judgment.

I am not writing this or changing my blog because my kids have asked me to. Actually, I don’t think this crosses their mind at all unless I bring it up, but when I do, they speak openly with me about it, and I know they have been uncomfortable with all of the writing I’ve done about them. I really do respect that, and even though they would tell me to leave everything on my blog (for heaven’s sake !), I am going to remove it, for their sakes. The world is going to be just fine without my homeschooling stories archived on the internet! There are plenty of others out there who write about the same things.

I will still write about my family. I might even write about learning and home and other things as well, but I will just use more care not to give you the nitty gritty of my kids’ daily lives, work, creations, etc. I might post photos of what they make sometimes, but I won’t evaluate it and frame it in philosophical terms. (But can I just say that my kids are wonderful people who continue to learn and create and think and grow and amaze me? I love and admire them all so much!)

AndI just want to let my kids continue to learn and grow and work and create in privacy. The internet is a very public place. There are people whose every moment is being documented, photographed, and uploaded to the internet, sometimes hour by hour. What will it be like for a child to grow up that way? Watched? Will he regret it? Resent it? Does it/will it alter the way he interacts with the world or how he uses his free time? We don’t know, do we? But I’m a bit afraid that we’re losing touch with the real things, the natural things and rhythms of life, the slow, deliberate way.

Life is becoming a performance. I wonder about that even with my blogging sometimes. What am I doing, and why? Is this healthy? I just know that I love to type out my thoughts and stories and musings sometimes, and a blog is a good place to keep those sorts of things, and it's a nice place to connect with people who like to think about the same things. (Like you!)

But what does privacy even mean nowadays? Are we losing perspective on that? How can we protect our kids and allow them some (plenty of) unwatched, unphotographed, undocumented moments? Where should we set the limits and draw the lines?

I’m just asking questions and offering no answers. I don’t think I’ve cleared up in this post why I’m making changes, partly because I’m not entirely sure what those changes are going to be.

But, hey, I do know one thing. Whenever I finally think of a blog title, I will get that new one started and shut these old ones down! :-) 

I will give lots of warning before I close the old blogs, so you don’t need to exhaust yourself running over here every day to see if I’ve gone away yet! (I forget that a lot of people don’t use readers, so they have no way of knowing what’s going on unless they click onto my blog.)

Okay. I need to get to studying now. (I have some reading to do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is going to be an interesting class!)

Take care, all. I’ll be back soon.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Mundane Stuff

I found this seed pod thing when I was walking back
from the natural foods store this afternoon. 
It may not seem like stunning decor, but I  think it's pretty amazing. :-)

Hello. (Anyone out there?)

Today is the first day in a full month that I’ve spent alone. Since early December, I’ve either been at someone’s house or had someone staying with me in my apartment. It’s been a nice, long month of visiting friends and family, and here at the end of my holiday, I am feeling nothing more than a large sense of gratitude that I have been blessed with so many wonderful people in my life.

Yesterday, Aaron (the last of my company) and I drove up the “back roads” of the Willamette Valley to Newberg, where we met Melissa at a coffee shop. We all sat down to chat over a cup of coffee for an hour or so, then Aaron left with Melissa for Portland, and I returned down the same “back roads” to Corvallis, where I stayed with Michelle’s family for the night. There, my little grandsons and I sat together to cheer the Oregon football team to a post-season bowl game victory (yay!) on the television.

I slept on Michelle’s couch and left this morning to drive back down the valley to my apartment. When I left, Michelle was teaching her boys to do the three-legged race. She took turns tying her leg to theirs and—to much hysterical laughter from all—ran through the house with each of them. It had me smiling as I drove away. She’s a fun momma and a great daughter.

It was a beautiful, clear, sunny morning, and winding gently south along valley roads where pretty farmland nestles against the Coast Range was lovely and peaceful. It made me quiet and prayerful inside. Back roads are so much better than the mad rush of the interstate. I really am a big believer and advocate of taking the scenic route, and my kids are, too. (Do you do that, too?)

I think the temperature stretched up toward 70 degrees today after we had a few days of extremely chilly weather. I was out and about running errands and enjoying the weather. I stopped at the “dreaded” mall (“dreaded” because I am not a big fan of shopping, especially at malls) to spend the rest of a gift card I received for Christmas. I bought a sweater I like and two pairs of socks.

Are you beginning to wonder at my taste?!
(Haha.) I happen to like it.

Then I went to the thrift store for the first time in over a year because I got a little bit of Christmas cash, and I decided to actually use it to buy myself something! :-) Nothing there, though, so I stopped by a midcentury vintage store in town and found myself a kinda odd/funky little stool that suits the small size of my apartment and for which I can imagine many scenarios: magazine holder, extra seating for visitors, ottoman, a place to set my books or a tray with coffee, etc. This stool certainly wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but it works for me, and that’s all that matters, right?!

I took this for my mom (she wants to see the fabric).
If I'd known I was going to put the photo on my blog,
I maybe have moved the smoothie glass and that cord! :-)

I also bought a small piece of black and white fabric on sale at Joanne’s because I want a black and white curtain hanging in my kitchen. And then that was enough shopping! Except for food shopping, which I always enjoy.

And I took this one just for you
because I knew you wanted to see my jar of kefir.

I restocked my empty fridge today. Aimee left me some of her kefir grains when she returned to Portland, so I picked up some non-homogenized “grassmilk” at the natural foods store and got a jar of kefir started. I am now on super-clean eating mode after spending the last month happily eating just about anything and everything that was offered to me. (I usually have some restraint, but not much this time!) Juicing and greens and small portions of fresh, light foods sound really, really nice. So does exercise. I haven’t gotten much of that, either. Yikes. Time to get back on track.

School starts again Monday (my last term before my graduate classes start next fall), and I feel a lot different about this term than last. My brain was tired when summer term ended and I started fall term. Summer term is condensed and really intense. It also happens to take place in summer, which means there are a lot of distractions, like hikes to take and sunshine to enjoy. And, I happened to move during summer term (which was challenging), and then I didn’t get a break between the end of summer classes and the beginning of fall term, so I started fall term feeling really, really brain-weary. Throughout the entire term, I never did have much motivation or a find sense of traction (I felt like I was battling through the whole thing, every single day), even though I liked some of what I did in my classes. Somehow, I survived the term and got good grades, and at the end of it, a break from school was never so welcome. I now feel revived and ready-enough to start this last term.

Do you know that God loves you and that He answers prayer? Well, He does, so hang in there. Keep pressing and keep trusting. I am amazed, time and again, at the goodness and perfect timing of God. Sometimes I feel like I’m hanging on by my fingernails or I flinch because I’m about to crash perilously into a brick wall, and “poof!” the unimaginable happens. This has happened to me many times in the last three years, in both huge, unbelievable ways, and in tiny ways, too. Just recently, I’ve had a little spate of those tiny providences (“little” situations or needs, but impossible for me nonetheless). The little answers are just as sweet as the big ones. All are signals of God’s love and care.

Okay, finally. What about that little announcement I made last post? That one about closing this blog and opening another? Well, it still holds. I haven’t decided a name for my new blog, or I’d already have it set up. Part of not having a name is due to not having a set purpose. I have no idea what that blog will include, but I do know some of the things it won’t include, and that’s what matters right now. That’s why I’m making this change. And now that I’m no longer busy visiting friends and family or having company in my home, I’ll give more attention to that and will try to have something set up before Monday.

Oh, and speaking of that announcement I made, I have to say that I have received some really sweet emails from friends about the change. (Thank you, Friends! I will try to write back soon.) And the comments here on the blog are sweet and truly encouraging, too. Thank you so much for that. (I’m always really surprised that people actually come back here to read my posts again and again!)