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

Nature Never Forgives?

rainbow 3The quote attributed to Pope Frances saying, “God always forgives, man sometimes forgives, but nature never forgives…”  seems very apropos today. The whole concept of forgiveness is a rather celestial one. From debt forgiveness to nature’s revenge, what can we take away from this assessment?  How do we direct our lives toward forgiveness and being forgiven in a world born of both natural and super-natural truth?

For me, nature has been a rather simple affair. Like the Holy Father, I have found the natural world to be awesome…though not without some terrible characteristics. This year’s bountiful garden may produce wonderful fruits and vegetables, but weeds grow fast, spread their seeds wide, and poison ivy never gets friendly.

poison ivy For the past several summers, I have made the same mistake.  At some point in late summer, I forget the tortures of past experience, and I step into a poison ivy patch or cut down what I consider some harmless vegetation, and I end up with miserable itching for weeks. Is there a statue of limitations on my experiences? Yet, as the memory of my suffering decreases, so my reckless boldness increases.

When I look back on history, I see the same trend.  I read about debt crises of the past and I wonder that humanity could fall into the same terrible pattern again and again. Though the momentary crises with Greece may be passed, the problem of world debt is not.  Like poison ivy, it is born of the same truth, a reflection of indisputable reality. And reality will take care of itself.  Looking at the looming social security crises, I can almost feel the creeping itch of poison seeping into our system.  Debts will have to be paid, sometime, by someone.

Yet, Greece’s debt was partially forgiven.  As Pope Frances reminds us – men can forgive.  We have the power to do so, but we cannot totally eradicate reality.  That is the province of God.  Only God can forgive our debts so that they are totally wiped clean.

It seems a generous thing to forgive as God forgives.  In fact, we are commanded to do so by God Himself. Yet, I do not believe God intends us to forget reality altogether. There is a reason He made nature as predictable as it is. There is a reason why He made us a combination of natural and supernatural reality.  We are not yet fully alive to the supernatural world.  We have limits.  If you doubt this – time and death will have their shared wisdom to impart.

So though nature can be awesome and beautiful, it is also a powerful teacher. It is a part of a complete reality which reminds us of something we might like to forget: we are not God.

As we steward our planet, spend our money, choose our next president, forgive our friends and enemies, it might be wise to keep nature’s limits and poison ivy’s wrath in mind.

The Adventures of Tally-Ho

Tally Ho spread 1_sm

The Adventures of Tally-Ho written by A.K. Frailey, author of The Road Goes Ever On – A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings, The Deliverance Trilogy and Georgios I & Geogios II, and Illustrated by Chris deShazo owner of Spectrum Graphics Studio, is due out this autumn.  The cover reveal is coming soon…

What little girls love: faith, family, fun, little critters, and adventure!

Wholesome family-farm adventures, big brothers, helpful sisters, kittens and a lively possum…A great read aloud for the whole family. Gorgeous illustrations!

Grandma & Grandpas will love this holiday gift – a book to enjoy the whole year through!

Mom’s and Dads looking for something to share with their little ones?  Here’s a wholesome family story including home-school adventures, delicious home-cooked meals, humorous treks through the woods, and family prayer time  – all reflecting a sincere love of nature… A great read-aloud!

Attention: Big brothers and sisters! A wonderful way to spend an afternoon with the family.

Celebrate the extraordinary-ordinary of faith-filled family fun!

Raising kids – God’s way – with nature’s wisdom. Stewardship & love for life: The Adventures of Tally-Ho.

The Adventures of Tally-Ho really began when my 4th daughter ran into the kitchen yelling “Tally-Ho!”  She was having a wonderful adventure on an imaginary horse and my husband and I just smiled at each other in reflection of her joy. As we discussed the kids’ wonderful imaginations growing up on our mini-farm in rural Illinois, we considered how different their lives have been from our own. We had both been raised in cities, far from the natural wonders our children encounter on a daily basis. As my daughter came through again, encouraging her horse onto more  adventures, it occurred to us that we could share a bit of what our kids experience through a story with illustrations to match. I was the writer of the family, so I set to work on a basic story line while my husband began to work on sketches.

But as sometimes happens even with the best of dreams, our plans were thwarted when my husband was diagnosed with Leukemia.  We endured a four year battle with cancer before he died.  For some time I could not pick up the threads of our Tally-Ho project, but then I encountered a wonderful artist, Chris deSharzo of Spectrum Graphics Studios, who could grace the story with the same zest for life that John had known. I prayed about it and after sensing a rightness about moving on, the project was picked up.  And so, The Adventures of Tally-Ho has been given a second chance.

The grace of my husband’s life reflected a sincere love for all of humanity especially in children and nature.  May that same love be offered to you through The Adventures of Tally-Ho.

 

Simple Summer

flowers in AugustI’m sitting outside on the back porch, while Merry, the cat – a poor injured stray we saved – is sitting at my feet doing what cats do…resting and checking out the world whenever the mood hits. The pine trees are swaying in a gentle breeze while white, fluffy clouds sail serenely overhead.  We’ve had a lot of rain lately, so everything is green and gorgeous. A red rose in a nearby pot practically glows against the backdrop of pine trees. Various summer flowers bloom in their summertime brilliance. Flies and bees and a little jumping spider have also made an appearance. The chicks, still in the brooder house waiting for their outdoor pen to dry are running about, trying their wings as they learn that the ground cannot hold them bound.

The awesome beauty of this summer day, the chirping multitude: sparrows, red-wing blackbirds, robins, cardinals, and cooing doves, the laughter of young children at play, the haunting melody played by one of the girls at the piano, rustling waves of breezes cascading over the fields of corn and beans all work together, creating a pallet of beauty that any artist would envy.

When I considered what to write in my blog today, no words would come.  Yet as I sit here, surrounded by simple summer, I find I do not need words…just eyes and ears and a willing heart to believe that this is real.

When the winter winds blow, the sky is laden with grey clouds and the birds silenced in their nests, I will remember this day. The yellow buttercups, the red rose, the buzzing bees will live on in my heart and imagination. Even in my dreams, I will remember that such a day existed and no matter the clouds, the cold and the barren waste of winter, summer will yet live.

The Pursuit of Life

 

summer sunset 2014Our culture is very troubled these days. But there is hope. The antidote to our culture of death is the pursuit of wholesome life. There are so many things going wrong: the slaughter of the innocent in untold abortion mills around the world, families falling apart, communities in destructive upheavals, terrorists murdering and destroying at will, natural disasters – it is enough to make a person want to crawl into a hole and pull the earth over head.  Yet that cannot be our response, or the world really will slip into despair. Despair is not the antidote to tribulation. God’s creative life in us is.

In my little world, we have a lot to accomplish in just getting through an ordinary day – yet that does not stop us from going the extra mile in attempting to make our home a beautiful, healthy, inviting place. While serving in the south side of Chicago as a volunteer some years ago, I remember walking down broken, ugly streets where the community had obviously given into anger and despair.  Yet just a few blocks away, I would find another neighborhood, no more rich, yet certainly not so poor.  There were flower pots on porches and grass growing in tiny lawns.  There were curtains in windows and bright colors painted on walls. In those non-despairing communities were the myriad reflections of a love for life which resulted in beauty and that beauty attracted the joys of life: peace, serenity & well being.

This year, we are planting a garden, herbs and vegetables, taking care of various dogs cornish cross chickensand cats (strays who have managed to find their way here); we raise and care for chickens which lay wonderfully healthy eggs, and we try, in our humble manner, to do what we can to make our place beautiful.  We cleared out the clutter, we planted blooming bushes, have built homemade bird feeders and bird houses, we created a little fire pit for outside hot dog roasts, we planted apple and cherry trees which bloom beautifully in the spring and feed us throughout the winter. It takes effort to do all this work – less blogging time, more back aches – but our little home invites the world in and it has been a soul refreshing experience. I know some will say I need to do more for others. We do; we serve in various capacities in our church and family; we support children/families in need; we are not so isolated that we cease to care for the rest of the world. Rather, it is through our pursuit of life that we most invite others to share with us, keeping our souls alive and happy in the process.  Seems to me that the pursuit of life (following the example of our Creator) might be one of the most effective antidotes to the miseries of our troubled world.

Gardening Grace

IMG_0229 (2)blagobear needs helpGardens are like family: they demand attention, they can get out of hand real quick, yet they feed you in ways nothing else can.  For all of my aches & pains, my dislike of getting muddy, and my squeamish attitude about bugs that live in colonies, I am willing, year after year, to start the garden over again.  This year is no exception. Considering the work involved and the many family needs demanding my attention, I had to think long and hard about this particular vocation before I even got started.  Is gardening really worth my time and effort?  After all, I could buy almost everything I want at the grocery store.  But in the end, I was converted toward the wholesome reality of a family garden by a few simple but profound truths.  Here are some that come  readily to mind:

#1 A garden draws me into the natural world far from technology.  With all of society’s advancements – it is good to get away from the computer screen & worldly concerns and reacquaint myself with the good earth. Plants and animals have been here a lot longer than our human-made tools & toys – and they still have something to say to me – if only I dare to listen.

#2 Gardens demand a lot as well as give a lot.  They require consistent effort.  They force a person into a serious commitment of time, sweat, and occasional tears.  If I don’t take care, weeds take over.  If I don’t protect it, the garden will die. This simple reality reminds me of a basic truth in every important relationship: no love, no stewardship, no fruit…

#3 I know what goes into my garden, so I know what goes into me. This may seem paranoid but in a world of pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics for animals, and various other unknowns, I like to know what feeds the animals and plants which feed me. Cancer has struck too close to home to assume that every chemical remedy is a good one.

#4 There is some correlation to God as Creator and myself as gardener.  When I plant a seed, I know it is His seed, I know He forms and shapes the life that comes from the seed, and I know that all the growing universe is His – but in my small world I can cultivate a small part of it, making it orderly, beautiful and fruitful. When faced with international disasters, national worries, and personal struggles, it is no small comfort to enjoy God’s life in a garden – gardening grace – I call it.  And so it is.

#5 My final reason is purely mercenary.  I enjoy knowing that I have stocked some food away for a rainy, stormy or snowy day.  I never know what the future will bring.  Having a few jars of home made jam, pickles or salsa, some onions & herbs hanging in the kitchen, some frozen peppers, corn, squash, and pumpkin stocked in the freezer, make my life a little more comfortable. Despite my aching back, my heart is at ease knowing my little garden is there, waiting for me in the morning.

Spring Time Faith

Garden 2015 May 4Setting aside the fact that the one and only time I ever consider entering politics is under the inauspicious dream of ending the tyranny of our biannual time-change, I do look forward to seasonal changes.  God knows us so well. Humanity needs change, yet we also need consistency.  Somehow our Creator manages to address these concerns through the seasons which occur regularly yet are never mundane.

For us home-schooling families living in rural environments, this means the springtime transition from indoor intellectual pursuits toward outdoor occupations. Instead of heating with wood fires, classroom schoolwork, literary pursuits, research projects & indoor games, we have open windows, gardens, fruit trees, chicks, and outdoor fix-it lists. There is something so sane about going outdoors.  Smelling the rich, damp earth as it awakens and seeing the tiny, fragile buds push their way through last year’s death into this year’s new life draw out a thousand parables which never need to be spoken out-loud – just noticed.

While I tremble at the state of our 18 trillion dollar debt, our entangled international affairs, the forces of evil rising toward our children’s future, still I can stand on our good, firm earth and know that despite those terrors which disturb my soul – yet I know that God still believes in us.  God has given us spring one more time and that fills my heart with relief and gladness.  Let us not fail to notice this great good and thank Him. By ingratitude we tend to lose those gifts which brings out the best in us.