Monday, May 29, 2006

An Admirable Family

I mentioned before that we visited with my college roommate while on vacation last week. That fact really deserves greater acknowledgement. My friend lives on her own, but when we were there she stayed overnight at her parents' house, where we also stayed, because they have more room for overnight guests than she does. The family is admirable. I really enjoyed watching them and visiting with them.

I don't really know how to explain the appeal of their home. I would imagine that if you have ideas of a good home that are similiar to mine, you will get it, and if you don't, you'll probably think I am silly to blog about something so insignificant. They just have one of those homes that puts you instantly at ease. It wasn't just order and cleanliness, although those virtues were certainly present. It was a real sense of home and family, a genuine atmosphere of love, stability, and generosity. I'll try to give some examples of what I mean, although tangible things really cannot do justice.

Yanni, the mother, had flowers all over the house. She grew them all herself, and they were scattered about in vases, mugs, bowls and other dishes. They were beautiful. She made rhubarb-strawberry cobbler from rhubarb and strawberries that she grew. Her 3/4 acre yard is like a botanical garden right in the middle of dry, barren northern California. She said that when the family moved from Alaska twenty years ago, they had such fond memories of Alaska that she worked for years to cultivate some of the plants that they remember from there. The hallway wall is covered in family photos. The refrigerator has pictures of the multiple children that the family sponsors through a relief organization. The little neighbor boy comes over and picks his fill of strawberries. At 8:00 in the morning, while we were eating our breakfast of eggs (from the chickens in the backyard) and zucchini bread (from zucchini grown in Yanni's garden) and coffee, another neighbor from up the road called Yanni to ask if she would like to go for a walk a little later in the morning. The big yellow dog looks ferocious and is really just a gentle giant. He is so fond of his human companions that if they are in the back yard and forget to leave a door open for him to leave the house and join them, he will push the screen out of the kitchen window and jump out. They don't lock their doors. When we mentioned that we should go out and lock our car before going to bed, my friend laughed and said she leaves her keys in the car. When we first arrived, my friend's dad greeted us warmly, saying how good it was to see us again...although he had only met us once before. He barbecued up some hamburgers and hotdogs for us, then sat at the table and talked with us while we ate. He's one of those great conversationalists, the kind that you can talk to for twenty minutes and you suddenly realize that he knows a whole lot more about you than you know about him. He's a contractor of some sort, I think, and his wife is a nurse. They have five children. When they first moved into their house twenty years ago, it was 1100 sf. They have spent two decades renovating and adding onto it, making it more livable for the seven of them. Yanni mentioned that she would like to add on again, to make the actual living area bigger. With five kids, they naturally focused on adding bedrooms in their previous renovations. But now, with children-in-law and grandchildren just around the corner, she would like to have a larger general living area so they can all be in the same room for holidays and family gatherings. But, she said, how could she add on yet again when there are starving people in the world?

Their home is wonderful. There is nothing cheap about it. There is nothing extravagant about it. The family is warm and generous and they are just about the least pretentious people I've ever met. There is a feeling of sensible frugality and simple luxury in that house. I left with great admiration for the whole family.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Neighborhood of Make Believe

I read Mere Christianity a week or so ago. Great book. It got me thinking (as any great book should do). C.S. Lewis uses a lot of highly imaginative examples and analogies, things involving the relativity of time, theories of evolution unlike any I have heard before, and so on. This is not surprising. Lewis had an incredible imagination; add to that his ability to communicate his imaginings, and you've got a remarkably gifted man. Anyway, I had a hard time with some of his suggestions. Not the literal meanings, but the imaginings. I'm so darned practical and realistic that I sometimes struggle with things that aren't obviously practical and realistic. And this, I have found, is a great handicap. It really inhibits my understanding of God. I could discuss this at length, but I won't put you through that. The real point, or at least the most clear resolution in my own mind, is that I don't want my children to have this handicap. Yes, of course I want my kids to have a good handle on reality, I don't want them to live in La-La Land. But I want them to know that the world is a really big place, and the universe is even bigger, and God is even bigger, and that we may not have the best vantage point from which to view our own lives or the lives of those around us, and we most certainly don't know all there is to know about God. I want them to have minds that are sharp and discerning, and hearts that are full of wonder and awe. I want them to have good imaginations. I will do everything I can to encourage and strengthen their imaginations. This is one of my primary goals as a parent.

Harry E. Fosdick said, "I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it." If I had to judge Harry's life by this one statement, I would say he was a very wise man.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


We've just returned from a road trip to San Bernardino, CA. My family organized a multi-phase surprise party in honor of my grandmother's 75th birthday. My husband, my daughter and I drove from Seattle, stopping in Portland to pick up my sister. My brother, his wife and their two children drove from Colorado Springs. My parents and two youngest siblings drove from the Portland area. It was a great surprise, all of us showing up on different days and at different times. Grandma was quite overcome, as evidenced by the fact that she stood at the kitchen sink crying for quite a while after the last group of grandchildren showed up.

Quite a few of us met at Disneyland while we were there - a great benefit of having relatives in southern California. I don't like amusement park rides, so I walked around with the baby and enjoyed the sights. We did take her on the It's A Small World ride, and she absolutely loved it. She did her excited bouncing dance thing - Janene, just like she did at the restaurant when you were holding her. Our six-almost-seven-year-old niece bought a "My First Ears" pink Mickey Mouse ears hat for our daughter. It's really cute.

We got to spend some time with a dear friend of ours, one of my college roommates, on the way there and on the way home. It was so good to see her, to catch up. Spending time with her is refreshing.

We returned one week and two hours after we left, and totalled about 2500 miles. It was exhausting and fun. Our daughter did amazingly well. She only fussed when we drove too long past her meal time and when Aunt Bethany was not in the back seat with her. I am so glad to be home and am looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. Still, I had a good time and am very glad that we went.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


I am fighting a losing battle against housework. It seems that I am ill-equipped to fight it. No matter how much I do, it is still there. It is ALWAYS there. There is always laundry, always something that needs to be dusted or washed or put away or swept or scrubbed or vacuumed. I know that it will always be there. Housework isn't a one-time deal. It's not like you finish it and it's done. You never finish. It's cyclical. It is always, always there. But this weekend, for whatever reason, I feel like it is not only a never-ending task, but also one that is impossible to keep up with. I feel like I am rapidly losing ground, and it is depressing. I don't know if it's because the sunny weather has nudged me away from home more often than usual, or because my daughter is becoming more and more active, or simply because my efforts have somehow become ineffective. I'm not entirely sure what to do about it.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Big Yellow Taxi

I feel like I should feel like a traitor, only I really don't.

I like that song Big Yellow Taxi. I've always liked it, from the time I first heard it (although I have to admit that the first time I can remember hearing it was when Amy Grant recorded her rendition about twelve or fifteen years ago. I didn't know who Joni Mitchell was then). Do conservatives like that song? That's why I feel like I should feel like a traitor, but I don't. See, there's this one line in the song that smells of activism, the environmental variety that most conservatives eye with suspicion. "Hey, farmer, farmer, put away that DDT now. Give me spots on my apples, but leave me the birds and the bees, please." See? DDT, hurts wildlife, would rather eat splotchy fruit, etc. Sounds pretty Woodstock, right? Yeah. And somehow I have the feeling that a conservative girl like me would be looked down upon by the greater conservative community for liking a song that touts the benefits of splotchy fruit. But I like the song, and I don't feel like a traitor.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


I haven't felt that I've had much to blog about lately. I usually write about things that have been on my mind, things I have been pondering. I guess my mind has been empty for a couple of weeks. :) Well, that's not really true. It has just taken me longer to think through things and get to the point where I can write about them with any semblance of clarity.

I have six friends who are pregnant. That is not counting the several other women who are casual acquaintances who are pregnant. My pastor's wife has counted twelve 2006 babies at our church (some are already here, most are on the way). I'll get to know all of those babies by working in the nursery, but at this point I would only count two of the mothers as friends. Six pregnant friends. My husband was worried that this would make me want another baby right away, but I am quite content. I'm just marveling at the fact that so many of my friends are expecting! A few years ago, Andy and I went to wedding after wedding after wedding. Now all of those people are having kids. It's weird, watching the stages of life. I suppose Little League practice will be next.

Chris recently said, "These are the good old days." I think he's right. What a wonderful time of life!

I've been thinking a lot lately about being content. About the differences between contentment and complacency. About choosing temporal things that provide short-term happiness versus choosing asceticism, about moderation. Paul's statement that he had learned how to be content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:12) is inspiring to me. It's something I strive for. What a picture of a peaceful, reliant life. His purpose, his sense of fulfillment, was not contingent upon any thing. I want to learn to be content in all circumstances. For the last nine months, I have been so happy that I've wondered if I've learned to be content. But I think that is highly unlikely. Of course I'm content now. I am living a dream come true. I've been wondering if I would be content in the face of hardship. I don't face hardship right now. A few inconveniences, yes, but nothing that could be counted as hardship. I don't really think that anyone can say they have learned to be content in all things unless they have been tested. I haven't been tested in quite a while. I so desire to be content in all things that a part of me wants to be tested. But then I think about what that could mean and I shudder. I'm not going to spend a lot of time thinking about it. I know that life will not always be easy, and so I will enjoy and be thankful for this time of peace and plenty for as long as it lasts, and pray and prepare myself as best I can for any future times of trial.

I've been thinking about the different ways that contentment could be tested and have decided that I think the true test of contentment is in hardship. Paul was in prison when he wrote his inspiring and challenging words. Recently our closest friends have had wonderful things happen to them. Chris and Janene moved into a beautiful house in a quaint town. It's fantastic. Lots of room; vintage wallpaper, light fixtures, architectural details; old-fashioned flowers blooming all around. It's a great house. And then we just found out that Bob and Grahame are expecting their second child. I would describe the baby as I described Chris and Janene's house, but that would be hard. Let's see...a beautiful, perfectly-formed, intricate grape seed with a heartbeat. My husband was concerned about my potential reactions to these events (which, sadly, doesn't say much about my reactions to things in the past). He was afraid that seeing Chris and Janene's new house would make me want to move, and that hearing about Bob and Grahame's new baby would make me want to have another baby. It didn't, on both counts. Of course I don't want to live in this house forever, and I certainly want more children eventually, but I'm fine where I am right now. I will admit that I had a brief moment of bemoaning the fact that my house doesn't have a lot of inherent character to it, but then I realized that this is not true. It's just that its character is not so much Anne of Green Gables and is much more Jan Brady. But I digress. This experience of being completely happy for - no, completely happy with - my friends, and not at all envious, is a good one. Great, in fact. It's very freeing. And whether this sentiment reflects a little bit more understanding of contentment than I had two years ago, or simply a time of smooth sailing in life, I'm enjoying it. There will be ups and downs in life, and this is an "up" time. I won't worry about tomorrow. It's going to come, good or bad, and I'll deal with it then. Today is good.