Sunday, November 29, 2015

advent - hope

Yesterday I assembled a make-shift Advent candle wreath.  In a handmade pie plate (gifted to me in my teaching days) now sit three green candles (which were a wedding present and which were used quite a bit in the ice storm of 2007) and a random taller red candle (which I acquired in a white elephant gift exchange last year). I cut an index card in fourths, wrote the Advent words on them, and tied them on the candles with twine.  It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful, says The Nester. And I quite agree.

Today was the start of Advent. One of the things I miss about our previous church is the lighting of the Advent candles and the readings that went along with it. I did not grow up with Advent. However, I want my children to experience it. So last year I made a point to start the lighting of candles in our own home.  Tonight when we sat down to light and to read, Bubby exclaimed, "I remember this from last year!" This is what I want. In a world often devoid of tradition and simplicity, I want my boys to remember that during the weeks before Christmas we lit candles, not for the sake of lighting candles, but for remembering the Light of the World, our source of hope, joy, peace, and love.

Each year for the past few years I have chosen a word. My word of the year this year is hope.  That also happens to be the first word of Advent. While I was preparing something to read and say for this evening's family time, I felt intimidated. There is so much to say about hope.So much I still, eleven months later,  have not learned.  When I started to reflect upon hope this weekend I felt a bit defeated because  in some situations hope seems to be hiding. How can I teach my boys about hope when there are days I barely understand it at all?

Then I read Sarah Bessey's blog today, as she also wrote about hope. I read the Scriptures she picked around my own kitchen table tonight. (Isaiah 60:1-5 and Isaiah 9:2 in The Message. I chose to read John 1:1-5 in the ESV. I also went on to read Romans 15:13 from the ESV.)

The Hubs lit the candle before I started reading and explaining. The power of the little light in a dark room hit me as my little green candle reminded me of great and glorious promises and of prophecies fulfilled. Hundreds of years before Jesus came, Isaiah prophesied that He would.  John reminds us that Jesus has been there since the beginning. Paul encourages us in Romans that God is the one who fills us with hope by His Spirit.

The fact that Hope has always been a part of the plan - that it has always been the plan - amazes me.  The world is dark, but there is a light that still shines, that will always shine.  Just as two thousand years ago, God's people waited for the promise of True Hope to arrive, I find myself waiting for and anticipating True Hope coming back again.  He has not left us alone. His light still shines, even in the darkness.

There is hope.

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." Isaiah 9:2 (The Message)

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:1-5 (ESV)

"May the God of hope fill you with all you and peace in believing so that by the poewr of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." Romans 15:13 (ESV)

Books I Read in September, October, and (most of) November

I fell behind in updating my What I Read List. There were a few weeks when I don't think I read anything other than what I was reading the kids (I feel like I should be keeping better track of this) and what I have been required to read for BSF. I am looking forward to mid-December when most of our  activities, other than some therapies,  stop for a couple of weeks.  I also am taking a break from Facebook over Advent, which means some time to use my time more wisely.

Here's what I read this fall, in no particular order.

  • Uniquely Human: a different way to see autism by Barry Prizant. I remember wanting to underline a lot in this book, but I didn't since it was a library book. Sadly, I don't remember what was so good about it, so I will need to check it out again and take some notes. 
  • Nobody's Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle - A fun and funny memoir on friendship. I have read Melanie's other two books and found them okay as far as memoirs go, but this one I enjoyed much more. It made me remember friendships past as well as lifelong friendships, and it made me laugh quite a bit. 
  • In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume - I have read most of Judy Blume's books for children and adolescents. I read Just As Long As We're Together the year my family was falling apart, and it remains one of my favorite books, though I was criticised by my children's lit professor in front of my class for liking Judy Blume. Unlikely Event is a book for adults, and Ms. Blume did not disappoint me with her characters. As usual, they were easy to relate with and the storyline was based on actual events of plane crashes in New Jersey in the 1950s. Looking for an easy enough read over the holidays - pick this one - unless you, like my lit professor, think poorly of Judy Blume. (I happen to read some liberal feminist writers even though I am not one. Gasp!)
  • Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease - Speaking of children's lit professors, she obviously dropped the ball on this one. Apparently all education majors everywhere read this in their program. I only heard of it recently. It has been updated, and I think it would be a helpful read for any classroom teacher. He didn't speak kindly of the Tea Party at one point in his book (which annoyed me) but he was also NCLB and Race to the Top (which encouraged me).  Honestly the people (parents and teachers) who probably most need to read this book will not. It was not entirely helpful to me as a homeschooler with kids who love books, but I'm glad I took the time to read it. 
  • Rules by Cynthia Lord - This is a children's novel about a girl and her brother who has autism. It was a quick read, and I liked it because it gave me some insight into how Bubby might feel (now or someday) as the neurotypical sibling. The characters were likable, but I needed a little more from the author. 
  • For the Love by Jen Hatmaker. Jen Hatmaker cracks me up. Especially on Twitter during the Olympics. Jen Hatmaker sometimes annoys me - especially on Facebook when her politics and theology seem a bit fuzzy. I read Seven a few years ago and felt challenge. I read For the Love this week and laughed quite a bit. Jen is easy to read and has a good sense of humor. Her chapters on parenting and friendship and marriage were great. I really enjoyed her chapters on boundaries and on Sunday Night Church - which was actually about not having Sunday Night Church. I did not enjoy her chapter on women in ministry. As the (most likely) only woman at my reformed SBC church, one would think I would have liked this chapter. But I felt it was her poorest written chapter in the book in terms of theology and delivery. All that said, if you want an overall light hearted and encouraging book, I would recommend For the Love. 
  • Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee - I am still sorting my feelings out about this book, but I think I loved it. No, I did not love everything in this book. There were characters and dialogues and circumstances that I did not like - but that is what made me like the book. Th complexity of growing up and disillusionment and coming home again. Jean Louise aka Scout was such a character with whom to relate and struggle in this book. And there was a quote near the end from Atticus to Jean Louise that I think every daughter wants to hear from her father. It is something I have never heard nor will I ever hear from mine. 
  • Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter and Me by Lorilee Croker - The boys and I just finished LM Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables on audiobook, and we all loved it. As an Anne-fan, I knew I would need to check out this book when I saw the title. The author is adopted daughter, has an adopted daughter, and weaves some of her story into the stories we know of Anne Shirley as well as some of Lucy Maud Montgomery's story. The writing felt a little forced to me at times, and there was one small section that made me say, "Really?" But it was a good read for me at this time, and the second half of the book  more engaging to me than the first. 
I have three books I hope to finish this week, and I'm not sure what I'll get from the library over the holidays. Suggestions?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving (without an oven)

Our oven broke this afternoon. During the busiest baking time of the year, the heating element corroded or something because my cornbread unexpectedly burned and there was a small flame at the bottom of the oven. Upon further inspection, The Hubs discovered the hole, and although it made me feel better that my baking skills were not to be questioned, we also discovered a replacement part could not arrive for at least three days. My pumpkin bars were safe - having been removed just minutes before the burning of the cornbread. However, we have a mostly thawed turkey in our fridge and a few side dishes - all but one needing the oven and  its heating element.

We have pie and pumpkin bars, and tomorrow we will visit Bob Evans or Cracker Barrel, as Google informed us that both establishments have a turkey dinner. The upside is I will not have to do the dishes tomorrow. The down side is I won't have my sweet potato casserole until at least Monday. The other upside is that I have already cut into the pumpkin bars this evening since my meal tomorrow includes dessert.

I miss Thanksgiving at Mimi and Papa's, not for the food as much as the after lunch time. I miss Dominoes and Up and Down the River and trying to avoid being labeled "Back of the Sled." I miss drawing names, not because I want presents, but because it meant family.

Time moves on and seasons change, and right now we are in a season of not being able to travel for Thanksgiving. My kids will add "the year the oven broke" to some of their earliest Thanksgiving memories, and we will FaceTime the many people we love most in the world. There will be Candyland and Trouble this year instead of cards, and we will try to figure out where to put the Christmas tree (again) in our small house. We will finish watching Anne of Green Gables and put on the Christmas DVDs.

Tomorrow will be a beautiful day because we have everything we need and so much more.

Monday, November 23, 2015

counting gifts (because God has repaid)

My heart has felt heavy the last few days, for a situation out of my hands, a situation that isn't really my story to tell. It is intertwined a bit with my story, my struggles, but it is not directly mine this time. I sit on the sidelines unable to do anything but weep. Weep like a twelve year old, weep like a nineteen year old, weep like a thirty-one year old, and weep as my present-age-self.

I was flipping through a book I just finished, trying to find a certain paragraph, when I came across a different truth I had underlined.  Jennifer Rothschild, in her study on Hosea, wrote, " may have endured something so awful in your past that you can't even imagine God redeeming it and restoring shalam to you. But His promise is true. What the enemy stole, God will shalam. What selfish people have taken from you, God will repay." 

Today, my mind kept going to what was taken. But I don't want to live in that because I have already been given so much more than what I lost. Thanksgiving is this week, and my autumn has been filled overflowing with good things, wonderful things, which outweigh the hardness of this life.

  • Friendships spanning days and decades.
  • Progress in Bug's speech and gross motor skills.

  • A trip home to meet my new niece.
  • Bubby being baptized.

  • Happy brothers in Halloween costumes.

  • Trips to the park with friends.
  • Early birthday party with Cubbie friends and Pete the Cat.

  • Phone call with my best friend.
  • Library books galore.
  • Listening to Anne of Green Gables in the car with my boys.
  • A short visit with a college friend who was passing through.
  • A fridge holding the turkey.
  • Friday night laughter with friends, trading clothes.
  • Teaching two year olds each week.
  • Homeschooling the (mostly) Charlotte Mason way.

  • Coffee for me and a muffin for Bubby every Monday morning.

  • Art class for Bugaboo.
  • Watching the basketball go through the net - what a difference a year makes!
  • Rolling out Papa's noodles.

God owes me nothing, and yet He has graciously given me so much, more than repaid what was stolen. Gift after gift, He lavishes good things upon me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Hope and weariness and already/not yet

There are some days when all I see is what autism and cerebral palsy steal. In the meltdown moments, I can't find what they give. I just see loss.  I just see two steps forward, one step back, emphasis on the back. I see how hard we work. I see how desperate I am sometimes to stop the disabilities from stealing things from my son. And in the middle of a hard moment today I heard in my head, "The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy..." and my theology-loving hear argues, "I think you are taking that out of context."

But the verse continued to echo but with adding the second half, "But I have come that you may have life and have it to the full." God's kingdom is an already/not yet kingdom. Christ has already defeated death but He has not yet come again and undone every sad thing, every disease and disability, every effect of sin. I constantly find myself aware of the living here in the tension of the already/not yet.

 So I can already have life to the full because I belong to Christ, but there is the not yet part, too. Autism cured? Not yet. Cerebral palsy healed? Not yet.

My word of the year is hope, but some days that word feels overshadowed by another word. Weary. For the few people I have been extremely transparent with lately, I have used that word. "How are you feeling?" "Weary." Not everyday. Not every moment. But at times that thief wants to come in and try to steal and kill and destroy my hope and replace it with weariness.

I can't fake hope. I can't manufacture it or conjure it up by saying the right words or singing the right songs. But I can rest in it because for me hope is not just a word or a feeling.  I have hope right now, right when hope is hard to have because He has already come. Hope has come. And because He is coming again.