Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Gina's baby quilt

Chris Beck has worked for us for 8 years. His brother Andy married Gina a few years ago. Chris and Andy's mother, Marian, has also worked for us for several years. Gina and Andy live in San Diego and are expecting a baby girl April 1st. So even though Andy and Gina are far away, their expected new baby feels like part of our work "family". This quilt top will gain a back and batting pronto, and ties of white crochet thread, to be ready for Marian and Ed to travel down to see their first grandchild. Someday we'll know the baby's name!

This quilt was made with 1930's reproduction prints in pastels I love. I made another similar to it in peach and green repro prints for another baby in our work "family". They are my first venture in decades into triangles in quilt-making.

Elli's Quilt

Inspired by the Amish "Diamond in the Square" quilt design, this square cotton baby quilt was made for Elli Rae Stromstad, due to arrive in May to her parents Jen and Caleb Stromstad who are living in Olympia, Washington. Jen is one of the 18 Miller cousins/grandchildren of Floyd and Joan Miller. I was delighted that Jen and Caleb decorated Elli's nursery in pink and green, long my favorite color combo.

Arthur's Accomplishments

For several months now I've been wanting to write down what Arthur has been accomplishing of late, but today I am compelled to put it off no longer. Today, he took a shower all by himself! I didn't tell him to do it, nor did I run the water to the right temperature as I always have done. He came out, all dressed, with towel-dried wet hair and said, "Ta da!" His arms felt cool, as if the water hadn't been too warm, but he was pleased and I exulted with him.

He's growing so strong from working out at the gym three times a week. Dennis gives him pretty free rein in there and Arthur has recently decided to become more competitive with his Dad. He's upped the weights on the machines from his old, no-challenge 20 lbs now to 60 lbs. He was always a good jumper on the trampoline in the back yard but lately his jump height has increased, as well as his endurance and just all around solidness. He was in heaven at the gym last night, his Dad having found a jogging cassette/earphone set at a yard sale so Arthur could listen to an old Donut Man cassette while he exercised. Dennis has an armband receiver with earphones that picks up the Fox TV network at the gym that had been the envy of Arthur for weeks now!

I am so thankful he is able to be with us all the time. In the mornings he takes care of himself while I do what I need to get done. He gets dressed, cleans his room, hangs up his pj's, makes his bed, brushes his teeth and washes his glasses, sometimes all by himself, sometimes with my asking him to. Then we work together on making granola or folding laundry or yard work, etc., or shop together or play basketball or take a walk together or make lunch. When he does work beyond his regular chores he gets paid and saves his dollars for DVD's or other things he wants to buy.

He gladly goes to work with me, where we eat the lunch together that we've brought to Dad. Then he sits at his desk all afternoon, just like his Dad. Occasionally, there is collating work for him to do in another room at work, which he earns money for. We come home and get ready for the gym together. I drive over and back while Dennis practices his mandolin and Arthur plays his ukelele. Home for supper, he helps with the meals and dishes often with prompts, sometimes without. He can make all the meal/snack items he likes though he prefers to set everything out in hopes I'll do it! He can open cans, microwave his nachos, grate cheese, slice bananas, pour out salsa from a giant container, etc.

He goes with us to bluegrass jams and cheerfully watches DVD's with head phones on his Dad's laptop in the same room with us. Sometimes another boy comes and watches the shows with him and makes long snakes of his markers.

Arthur plays drums with us sometimes, and sings into his mike, when we practice our songs at home. He sings, plays his guitars and prays with all of us in church, then draws with his markers while his Dad preaches. If Dad watches football or basketball on TV, Arthur watches too, down on the floor, acting out the plays with his set of rags, cheering when good plays are made. At night, before or after the ritual pajama game with Dad, we sit on the couch and Dad reads out of the Good and Evil book, a pictorial Bible. Then I brush his teeth thoroughly before bed.

This past weekend, while I was gone attending a baby shower, Dad and Arthur dug out a place up on the ledge between the tree and the shed for a small sandbox. Arthur took off his shirt to cool all his muscles while hauling up buckets of sand to fill the round plastic liner. They topped it with our old red sledding saucer to keep the cats out. When they were done, Dennis started teaching Arthur the basketball game Around the World.

Arthur asks for a girl sometimes, and we pray for a girl for him to talk to and play with when he does. He often introduces himself to others as "Peter", perhaps because Peter has the girl Wendy in his life! His drawing are at least half words these days, and the theme of Arthur/girl is often repeated. But over all, he is very content with his life. When he feels good and energetic, as he did on Sunday, he is "full of it" and loves to mimic. His speech was much more understandable than usual and more prolific. He also energetically terrorized the cats for a while!

The other day he signed in at the gym as "Arthur Freed", a name he'd found in a program. I think Arthur Freed was a Hollywood director of old, not sure exactly. But Arthur signing his name that way brought a chuckle to me! We are blessed by him and he is blessed with us and we all rejoice in his accomplishments.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

VCU Wins Again!

Three hours after their last win, I am surprised there is not more on the web already about this amazing phenomenon called the Virginia Commonwealth University's Men's Basketball team, coached by Shaka Smart! I confess, I doubted they could beat Kansas, though I certainly wanted them to win. However, they not only beat Kansas, they did it by 10 points and are now in the Final Four!

I attended VCU 40 years ago for one year. It is a small school so I was surprised to hear they were in the NCAA tournament, then thrilled to watch them beat Florida State a few days ago. I'd never heard of Shaka Smart, but I was super impressed by how his team played. They worked so hard, continually, without let-up. I wondered how a coach could get that kind of heart effort out of his players. They were obviously well-conditioned to be able to keep up the punishing pace of that Florida State game. But that factor did not explain why they had the will and skill to win that they unwaveringly exhibited.

However, when VCU played Kansas today, I was even more amazed and impressed with the team Shaka Smart coaches so well. I observed that they worked three times as hard for every basket as Kansas. Even so, and in spite of the fact that VCU held the lead the whole game, the commentators just kept talking about how good the Kansas players were! It was only in the last minute of the game when it became inevitable that VCU was going to win that they grudgingly admitted that fact.

The picture I will always carry in my mind's eye is the VCU bench players linked arm in arm, smiling, poised ready to leap into the air during that last minute. Whatever did that Shaka Smart do to produce that amount of camaraderie among his team members? However did he motivate them to work that hard and smart, and care for one another that much? "It's amazing what a team can accomplish when nobody cares about who gets the credit," says Smart. "Our guys have played with that in mind these last couple weeks." Confident, relentless effort, selflessly assisting one another, constant attention to executing the game plan given them by their coach, and they are in the Final Four.

My words do not do their performance justice nor have I uncovered Shaka Smart's secrets. A small group of rather undistinguished athletes from a lack-luster school have accomplished an astounding feat under the tutelage of a young coach. I want to learn all the lessons I can here!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Tiger Mother, Marshmallow Mama or ....

A recently published book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, has given me pause to reflect on parenting philosophy since I read the NYT review and the Time article about Amy Chua's book. Her slogan behind her 'tiger mother' methodology is: "Nothing is fun until you are good at it."

Her methods are extreme but I must admit I held many of her goals and attitudes when our children were younger. I wanted them to excel so badly since I felt that was vitally important to their futures, tried to give them every advantage that our modestly funded Christian home school could afford and used plenty of anger manipulation upon them toward accomplishing these goals. However, at least three factors intervened.

First, I realized anger manipulation has all sorts of bad side effects. Then, over many years, I came to know God in a way that made knowing him and becoming like him much more important than excelling in the world system. Along the way, I realized that I was living through my children, wanting them to do all the hard, big things I'd never had courage to do.

I phased into a 'no opinion' marshmallow mama of sorts. I never had been a totally thorough tiger mother, and so conversion to marshmallow mama wasn't utterly complete either. But I did became less angry, driven, demanding and critical, more accepting, smiling and kind. My husband and I began to embrace our motto hammered out through the trials of life: "Anything worth doing is worth doing imperfectly." That includes parenting. Such an attitude drives tiger mother types crazy, but it has brought sanity to our lives.

Now, four of our children are out of our nest. I am still learning how to be a mother with our fifth. I am taking baby steps in learning how to do hard things. What is my label these days? Under construction. I still agree with Amy Chua that nothing is fun until you are good at it. I am slowly getting better at mothering and all of life with God's help.

My husband pointed out something very true about the effects of tiger mothering. Children raised stoically to be able to do hard things do excel in the world system. But that combination of stoic and success often makes it harder for them to see their need of God, to see their sinful, naked state apart from him. So my "failure" as a tiger mother, in that light, is comforting. It is good for me now to be learning how to do hard things under the tutelage of the Lord. That kind of success does not lead to pride and sets a good example for my children. How patient and faithful is God!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Arthur turns 16!

Arthur had cousins Will, Grace and Claire and Aunt Jeanette over to help him celebrate turning 16 on March 1st. I couldn't figure out how to post the photos in the order they occurred, but a good time was had by all!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Warrior is a Child

The Warrior is a Child is the name of a song by Twila Paris. Those words are very true. As Christians living in a world of sin, we are warriors in the continual spiritual battle we face until our Lord Jesus Christ returns in his Day of the Lord to judge those not found in him and to make us his Bride. But, we are also children, his children, right here and now. Warrior children.

I am old enough to remember a time in the church when songs like "Farther Along", "Where Could I Go But to the Lord?","This World is Not My Home", "I've Got a Mansion Just Over the Hilltop" and "I'd Rather Have Jesus" were sung with conviction and the singers found comfort in the words of those songs. Then, simultaneously, the increasing prosperity of our nation combined with the decreasing belief in the supernatural world and all those songs became passe, even wrong. They were called, "pie in the sky by and by" because, the new way said, we could have it all right here and now! We could have peace and prosperity and health right here in this world, they said. You just have to think positive because the devil was defeated by Jesus on the Cross and the Lord wants you to prosper: such was the new way to think and live as a Christian. Heaven even started to look pretty boring.

I tried to live in that fantasy for many years, and you know what? It is exhausting! Any time anything went wrong or got hard or uncomfortable, I would think I had done something wrong. Everything became man-centered and God was somewhere on the periphery, maybe. Reality became something to avoid.

But the truth is, this world is not basically good. It is fallen and people living in it are sin-filled, controlled by the father of lies, Satan. I should not be amazed when things go wrong! It does not mean that Jesus did not defeat the devil on the cross or that God does not want me to prosper in the wealth I possess in Christ. But he says, "You will have trouble." He says, "If they hated me, they will hate you." The Apostle Paul's life was not a bed of comfort! It is hard to imagine anyone having a harder life, yet his faith in Christ is unsurpassed as far as I know. He says he knows how to be abased as well as how to abound. I've spent my life running from anything that resembled being abased! But no more.

These days I am happily singing those old songs, for they are true. The "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" and the "Man of Constant Sorrow" do have "a home in gloryland that outshines the sun" where there will be no more sadness or sorrow or sickness or sin. For now, the warrior is a child, singing as she goes!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Little Children

"Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever shall humble himself as a little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3

"Suffer the little children and forbid them not for such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein." Mark 10:14,15

Our Lord is asking us to enter his kingdom as a little child, not as a mature adult. Mature adults know the ropes and can do lots of things well without thinking. A little child is filled with the wonder of discovery, attempting to imitate, without regards to perfection, what they see the big people around them doing. They make lots of mistakes and need much correction. In the same manner we come to know who God is and how he desires us to live in the new kingdom he has given us birth into. He knows we don't inherently know all of his ways well but he is delighted we chose to embrace his adoption into his family. He trains us very patiently, helping us at every step, sometimes allowing us to let us fall or fail. Our growth in faith in him is his goal. He is very interested in our becoming like him but he is not crushed or disappointed in us when we err for he knows we are clay.

"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby." 1 Peter 2:1 He gives us everything we need for life and godliness, including his word of Truth, which changes our old, deceived ways of thinking into his mind of Christ, full of Light, in a lifelong process called sanctification. If we start thinking we should be able to become like an adult, 'getting down' this being able to be like him, knowing the ropes and able to live holy without continual dependence upon him, then we haven't understood the nature of our new birth and have forgotten the depths of sinfulness from which we have been rescued. Continued humility as his child, content in his hands and in dwelt by his presence, begins from knowing the utter darkness of the vain life he rescued us from. He did not redeem us to live in the same manner as adults do in our fallen world.

The unspoken, ingrained motto of a little child is, "Anything worth doing is worth doing imperfectly." They want to find out about everything around them and care not at all about their skill level. When a child starts to value being right or looking all together more than exploring or experimenting in the world around them, their ability to learn begins to diminish. God never wants us to stop learning about the unsearchable riches he has bestowed on us in Christ! He is the one who changes us from the inside out. He is the one who makes us able to obey and learn his ways. He is the transformer.

God never desired that Adam and Eve would know the difference between good and evil. That is why he forbade them to eat of that tree. Little children do not trust in their ability to be good; they trust in their parents! Until a certain age, little ones are not aware they are their own separate person but rather see themselves as an extension of their mother. It is not that God doesn't want us to grow and mature in him and be a fruitful ambassador of his kingdom. Of course he desires that and makes it possible by his Spirit dwelling within us. However, he never wants us to trust anyone but him. He never wants us to trust in our own ability to be good, for apart from him, we have none. He is in us and we are in him and he is our Goodness.