Prayer, Work, Study

rainbow 2A balanced life is an opportunity to live to our fullest potential. I love the monastic ideal of dividing the day between the three core needs of our lives: prayer, work, and study.

As a family we punctuate our day with prayer in the morning, at meals, at noon, and in the evening. Of course, I am frequently tossing prayers up to heaven for a variety of daily mini-disasters or concerns. Yesterday, some of the kids and I spent an hour in Adoration. It was one of the fastest hours of my life.  There is a lot to pray for in this world of ours, and it is wonderful that we have such a loving God to call upon, knowing that he will listen and respond. The key is joyful prayer is to allow God to be God and not set Him by our clocks.

Work is also a large part of our day.  Today three of the kids helped a neighbor to gather in a nice wood supply.  We all helped to stack the wood so it’ll be dried and ready for next winter.  A couple of the kids worked on planting seeds for the spring garden, and one of the kids made zucchini bread. Everyone worked hard today.  Everyone will sleep well tonight.

And finally, study is one of the most enjoyable activities of the day.  Each of the kids has a full curriculum to draw from, but book learning isn’t the only kind of earning that matters. We also learn by responding to daily needs.  Learning to cook, to fix broken tools, to take care of animals, to organize our supplies for the year, to balance a budget are all invaluable learning experiences. It is fun to study history, to read and write, to tease out math problems, but learning is like breathing, it happens without even knowing it.  The key is to make sure that you are learning things which improve and inspire your life rather than being dragged down by the negative influences around us.

A balanced life of prayer, work and study has been a great recipe for joy and contentment in our lives. God is good. Put Him first, and you will enjoy the best He has to offer.

Real World Disconnect = Despair

autumn11Some people would say that we are more connected to the world than ever, but I wonder if this is really true. I heard a statistic this week that suicide is the third leading cause of death for teens. That tragic information made me pause.  Why would teens, in a world full of options, choose to end their lives?

What are kids connected to? Or disconnected from? They are connected to the vast information web, they are connected to sound bytes, superficial relationships built on Facebook and Twitter, they are connected to pictures, images, sounds, but too often, disconnected to what is happening right in front of them.

It is hard to distinguish “real world” vs “false world,” but I think there is a truth here which we, as a human family, should investigate.  Personally, it comes down to what actually feeds us – spiritually and physically.  “You shall be known by your fruit…” I do not get fed by Facebook interactions.  I do not feel seriously connected on Twitter.  Even e-mail has it’s limitations. It is not to say that these technological innovations don’t have their purpose and value. But it is to ask: “What are we crowding out when we engage in them to the exclusion of other forms of human communication and interaction?”

When I took my kids to the lake yesterday and they ran around watching the geese and ducks, sat and enjoyed the sun setting over the water, and played tag down a wooded path, they engaged in a real-world reality check. They absorbed a truth which cannot be improved upon. Joy and health seeped into their beings.

When I go outside and work in the garden, when I take a walk down a country road, when I sit and chat face to face with someone, even a stranger, I engage in a real-world reality check that cannot be replaced by any technological gadget.

I wonder if that is why some television programs have become so weird. They are reflecting that absence, that disconnect, that xeroxed print, which has been copied too often and become anemic and a little warped in the process.

Perhaps what our teens need is a little more time with natural reality, not “reality” shows. Perhaps what some writers need is to reflect human beings and our real world, and not slap stick, word-bytes meant to get a laugh or jerk a tear.

Perhaps, reality isn’t meant to lead to suicide.

Mortality Among Teenagers Aged 12-19 Years: United States, 1999-2006. (2010). Retrieved February 20, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db37.htm

The Adventures of Tally-Ho

Tally Ho spread 1_smWhile my husband was alive, we came up with a great idea to write a story based on the wonder of raising our kids in the country.  It seemed so right, like an apostolate. We knew we had been blessed in a mighty way, and that God had guided us to our little place and helped us to learn the amazing skills needed to garden and manage a mini-farm.  John took to homesteading like a fish to water.  Other homeschool dads used to call him “Our Amish Paul Bunyan.” So, it felt natural to share our joy and success with others. I wrote stories based on what we did everyday: meals, working our little garden, nurturing nature, loving kids… loving God. John was going to create the illustrations since he had a wonderful knack for drawing.  Except he couldn’t.  Leukemia intervened and that success was put off…forever it seemed.

After he passed away, I kept feeling tugged to see our project through to completion.  But how?  Well… God has ways. I’m not sure if John was whispering in anyone’s ear, but somehow or another I met up with a wonderful illustrator who knew exactly what we had imagined. She put her talents to work and the story unfolded, better than I had imagined. It’s just been published under the title: The Adventures of Tally-Ho. Tally-Ho was what John called our fourth daughter because she loved to gallop around the house on her imaginary horse. How we used to laugh about that.  What a wonder imagination brings to life!

As I state in the dedication to the story, John’s love made the stories true.  His vision is what made our real life family possible.  As I contemplate the finished product, I wonder what God will do with this little book.  Surely He has a plan. I very much doubt that it has anything to do with making money.  I pray it has something to do with loving families.

I am studying Creative Writing for Entertainment in a Masters Program and I feel like I have been assaulted by the weirdness of our entertainment world.  God have mercy on our souls for what we place in front of children as humorous or serious drama. There are wonderful writers out there – may God give them strength!

So Tally-Ho, like a newborn, has been placed on the amazingly huge Amazon shelf with some pretty odd stuff. I pray that it will be a light and joy to someone’s soul.  Perhaps it will be a vision of what might be…a hope, a dream, a longing that yearns to be fulfilled. Real dreams don’t die…they grow.

I think John would agree.

The Adventures of Tally-Ho

Websites for a Better World

rainbow 2There are a number of great websites which do a lot to make this world a bright, happier, more loving place.  I came across one the other day.  It’s calledHabits to Discover Success.

There is a lot to peruse: Recommended Resources, Building Better Vocabulary,  Making the World Better, Bite Sized Advice and News and Views.  I love the main theme:

“Every habit, good or bad, begins in our thoughts.
Why not crowd out negative thoughts that create chaos?
Why not promote the good, the true and the beautiful?
We can make our world better one thought at a time!”

“Here you will find resources that:
• build character
• educate
• promote good thoughts”

This is terrific stuff for parents and grandparents looking for ways to help kids, neighbors, family, and friends discover concrete ways to assist our world toward a better life together.

In all the chaos in a world torn by division, threats of war, violence, and despair, it is heartening to find a site that offers real hope.  As long as we hang on to hope, the best of the human race cannot be defeated. 

Sanity

Here’s my most recent piece of “flash fiction” written for my Creative Writing Masters Program. Enjoy!

autumn leaves fallingSanity

Mom liked to say: “Everyone is crazy, except thee and me. And I’m not so sure about thee.” I knew she was joking, though there was always a shadow of pain in her eyes when she said it. Still, I’d laugh. Like I was supposed to.

I always got up early, when the world was still dark and cold. I’d get everything ready for school, eat a bowl of cereal, and maybe have toast scraped with butter. At promptly seven, I would get her coffee ready, spooning in plenty of sugar and creamer. I could practically taste the dark aroma. She was always pleased with my coffee, which always pleased me. Life was too hard not to make people happy when you had the chance.

On school days, I’d hike up to the bus station and wait, hugging myself, trying to keep off the morning chill. I’d try not to think too much about Mom and her troubles. I had troubles enough.

On the weekends, I would make Mom breakfast with her coffee: usually just an egg and toast. She had simple tastes. Then she’d get up and go about her business and I would head outside to play, sniffing the fresh clean air. I can’t remember studying much. Maybe if I had studied harder, I would have been able to respond better. Maybe I would have understood what she was really trying to say.

It must have been Veteran’s Day or something because I had the day off, and I stayed inside to help Mom make her bed. She was in a good mood; she hadn’t been drinking lately, and she wasn’t brooding over Dad so much. It felt good to pull the sheets tight around the mattress and then spread the blanket smooth. I remember I was wedged between the bed and the wall, the window behind me, when Mom stopped and stared right past me out the window.

I didn’t want to know what she was thinking when she pointed her finger and giggled, an eerie giggle. I only felt cold ripples roll over my arms. She spoke in a hushed tone. “Well, now he’s gone and done it! I didn’t think it was possible.”

I remember the soft sigh I heaved. I didn’t want her to hear it, but I couldn’t help it. It just escaped. She waited for me to ask. So I asked: “What did he do?”

We both knew we were talking about Dad, but it seemed only I knew that it wasn’t about Dad. Mom’s voice projected a certainty that made me look out the window. “He’s gone and turned himself into a Japanese man. Look there.”

I don’t remember what else she said. I just remember looking out the window and seeing no Dad and no Japanese man. I kind of hoped there would be one or the other.

A brown leaf fluttered to the ground, delicately, like sanity. “And I’m not so sure about thee.”

Love is Life

summer flowers 2015I graduated from college a long time ago.  But I’ve never stopped learning. In fact, as I served in various schools and in Peace Corps and eventually became a home-schooling mother of eight, I have encountered a multitude of new, rather steep, learning curves. Presently, I am learning at a faster rate than ever before.

This past year I learned how to help my son navigate through the difficulties of a long-distance, on-line college education and I am presently considering the next three kids’ futures. They are facing a vastly different world than the one I grew up in. Technology is huge and understanding it’s place in the world is necessary to succeed in pretty much every field. College tuitions are so high now that for one child, I could easily spend more than I did to buy my house! The consequences of accepting loans are considerable. Choices have strings attached and learning everything I can about higher-education options is vitally important for my family’s health.

I have also been learning how to handle the many house and property issues which creep up on a daily basis. I’ve learned to ask for help and hire experts who can solve issues like broken stoves and stuck drainage pipes, but I’ve also learned that there are things which I can do to avoid problems before they arise. The old adage, “A stitch in time…” is very true! It helps to know where the well-pump turn-off value is too.

There was time when the mere thought of handling large gatherings at meals, organizing classes day in and day out, and maintaining a bustling home would have sent me into a panic.  But panic really isn’t an option here. In every home, the hardest part is being involved in the daily lives of those around you. I should say, being aware of the spiritual welfare of those around you. The “stitch in time” adage applies here too. As human beings, we go through an incredible amount of change and stress in the course of a day, a week, a month and a lifetime.  What happened yesterday may still color our mood tomorrow. In today’s techno, information over-loaded society, this is especially true. Our kids are immersed in a turbulent sea of information and disinformation. Recognizing mood swings, depression, creeping irritation, a deep-seeded sadness, over-arching pride, or a whole host of other emotional and spiritual dangers is vastly important for the success of a family. And deciding which action to take involves another field of expertise. Not something one learns in a day…it takes a life time.

But in all these learning experiences, I have found one common ingredient: to care makes learning meaningful. Whether I am learning how to teach, how to fix a faucet, how to love, I know that the most vital aspect of life-long learning is the love with which we approach the situation, be it a lecture or a broken heart.

If I have learned anything, it is that love is life.

Choices

rainbow 3To be or not to be…

A famous line from Shakespeare which reminds us – we have choices. We also have consequences.

For example:

Upon awakening this morning, I was faced with the imploring faces of various cats and kittens at the door pleading for their morning rations.  I’d rather they were out hunting the rats and mice which are scurrying about doing untold damage…but I fed them a little something anyway. I’ll be condemned by rural natives who know the value of a hungry cat but applauded by animal lovers.

I am choosing to start graduate school in the field of Creative Writing in the hopes of some day making a little income so that I can assist my children with their college expenses. By some standards I am a fool for taking on too much, while by others, I am bravely engaging in my future.

Even how I dress has engaged comment.  As a nursing mother of a large family with a husband helping out at home, I mainly wore dresses which accommodated my life style. Now that my husband has passed on and my children are growing up, I find jeans and a sweater more fitting for the various tasks of the day. Interestingly, I have received near unanimous approval for this change.

In watching a summary of the hit show Breaking Bad, I was hit by the line: “I did what I wanted.”  I suspect that is usually the case.  I choose to feed the cats because I honestly want them at my door every morning where I can view their cute little faces. I am taking graduate classes because I want to improve my writing and get paid for my efforts. I dress this way, because it works best for my present vocation.

It seems that the big as well as the little decisions of the day draw consequences. My choice?  To decide whose voice I listen to and which call to life I answer.