Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hope's Feathers

Emily Dickinson

When I hear the word "hope," my mind flits immediately to the wee poem by Emily Dickinson. When I first became ill with my now chronic conditions, my daughter copied the poem and illustrated it as a birthday gift, and it hangs on the wall in my prayer corner where I reread it often while I meditate and pray.

The poem is the frame in the upper right....

The poem defines the concept of hope with simple but profound imagery--the hallmark of Dickinson's genius:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

This image of hope, a shy bird perching in my soul, is encouraging. As the last stanza remarks, hope asks nothing of us, but, as the center stanza illustrates, it sings its sweetest in the midst of powerful storms that can rock us to our very hearts' cores, soul-deep, but still is heard despite circumstance, distance, loneliness, and unfamiliar surroundings.

And, as the first stanza asserts, hope "never stops at all." Hope "never stops at all." How emphatic Dickinson phrases this last line of the first stanza! Hope stops never, at all? One of these emphatic words would have been sufficient to express hope's persistence, but both? How reassuring!

As Saint Paul wrote in his epistle to the Church in Rome:

"For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience" (Romans 8:24-25, ESV).

So we wait, being watchful and thankful, for our hope to be realized. And where is our hope placed? In Him who walked this earth incarnate, wafting hope in His midst wherever He spoke, taught, healed, advised, prayed, praised, transfigured...suffered, died, and rose again.

Our hope can only be in the One who lived hope for us, and in whose hope we walk, each and every day, whether we recognize him as Christ our Lord or not.

So let us hope together, for faith, hope, and love are braided together, intertwined with knots of grace. And, of course, "the greatest of these is Love."

With love for the One who first loved us, who brings us His hope,

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

With Gratitude

Autumn in the meadow, just outside our back gate

Autumn has arrived, according to the calendar, at least.

Summer is my least favorite season. But the other three seasons are simply magical. And autumn, I think, is my favorite.

I love the days becoming shorter, daylight dusking a few minutes earlier each evening. The nights cool, demanding the cozy warmth of flannel. Even the mornings are crisp, and I pile my wool cardigan atop my cotton cardigan while still wearing summer khaki capris and leather flip-flops.

The sun warms without burning, and Santa Ana winds pick up, whipping branches bare. Autumn winds can fuel fires, and living in the mountains, as we do, we're on the front lines of the battle as dry lightning ignites, or a car accident sparks, or an insane person alights dry tinder. Santa Ana winds can reach 100 miles per hour, barreling through the twisting canyons between hills and mountains on its path to the coast.

But autumn also brings spicy scents of cinnamon and nutmeg as we bake acorn squash from the community garden, sweetened with dollops of honey. Zucchini is transformed into fragrant muffins, and the first potatoes sit on the sideboard, ready to wash. T brings us the garden's bounty as his reward for working in the community garden three mornings per week.

So autumn comes, bringing cozy days and chill nights, and I find myself humming as summer heat fades, stars brighten in evening skies, and soups return to our weekly menu options.

So with autumn on its way, I join the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience as I trudge my way toward One Thousand Gifts, thanking God this day for...

661. ...fresh organic produce from our community garden

662. ...skies whitewashed with cirrus clouds, their "mare's tails" swooping across the miles overhead

663. ...flannel pajamas on crisp nights

664. ...peach-flavored herbal teas, orchard-scented

665. ...pedaling stationary bike while reading from Kindle in the dim light of dusk

666. ...milestones reached by my little stories this week

667. ...Pippins bowing the branches, nearly ready for the picking

668. ...the gray tree squirrel cavorting on the bench beneath vanilla-fragranced Jeffrey pine

669. ...joys of teaching writing, both online and face-to-face

670. ...solace of late night peace, reading and writing when pain disallows sleep

I hope that autumn is wending its way toward winter wherever you may be, with the promises of cooler days and crisper nights. Unfortunately for us Southern Californians, September and October can contain the hottest days of the year as Santa Ana winds waft heated desert air toward the cooling waters of the Pacific....

Looking forward to cooler days,

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Quotation of the Week

I am truly excited tonight. Last November I started writing a story and posting it on a publication website, all under a nom de plume. I've since started a second story, and both stories have gained followers on two separate websites.

But tonight my first story, currently at 47 chapters (very short 2500-3000 word chapters), has passed the 100,000 reads mark on the first website. In addition, the story has amassed 1,000 votes, and my pen name has acquired over 200 fans. These are some impressive milestones, especially considering that I don't really regard myself as much of a fiction writer.

The first story has been a definite success. However, my second story, started last month and only encompassing a short 500-word prologue and three short (2000 word) chapters, has already accumulated over 3,300 reads, 100 votes, and almost 150 comments from readers. Considering that I've only posted nine pages, those numbers are impressive.

I've always considered myself a writer of nonfiction. More of an expository writer and blogger than a creative one. Before I started these two stories, I had only attempted one other work of fiction since graduating from college (where I wrote only one or two fiction stories for a creative writing class). I have worked on the previous book during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2008 and 2009, but it still remains unfinished and extremely autobiographical. Probably too much so.

So to receive such amazing support from a particular audience (mostly teen girls, actually--a few are in their twenties) is extremely encouraging. I'm planning to take my second story--the one that's only nine pages long right now--and explore it during NaNoWriMo 2011 this November, using the month to draft the majority of the story. I'll then revise each chapter before publishing online.

In honor of the surprise success of fiction writing, I chose this quotation as the theme for this new week, written by an author who balanced the writing of fiction and nonfiction flawlessly:

"Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity."
--G.K. Chesterton

On that note, I bid Sunday adieu and prepare to write Chapter 48 of my first story as the fans are becoming restless, one claiming that she "has nothing to read."

I'll get on that.

Still in shock,

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"Acquainted with the Night"

Robert Frost

Each day I receive a "Poem of the Day" e-mail from the Academy of American Poets at Weekday poems are usually contemporary verse, quite often poems published this very year. But weekends are for classic poems, as today's most certainly was.

I enjoy Frost. He's not an absolute favorite, although "Birches" will always have a special place in my heart as it's among my sophomore English teacher's favorite poems. It's strange how the poems we studied in that class twenty-eight years ago remain among my favorites: "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by Eliot, "Birches" by Frost, "anyone lived in a pretty how town" and "in Just--" by cummings, and "Annabel Lee" by Poe.

But with long, dark nights colored purple-red by insomnia, I found myself entranced this morning by Frost's "Acquainted with the Night," which arrived in my inbox early this morning:

"Acquainted with the Night"
by Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right
I have been one acquainted with the night.

I haven't written much terza rima myself, but I felt especially drawn to this one. Frost varies in his poetic forms--writing free verse in "Birches," sonnets in some places, playing with rhymes in others. The imagery in this poem drew me in--the "One luminary clock against the sky" is especially nice.

So enjoy this snippet of poetry this day--and always keep ears and eyes alert for the tip-toe tread of poetry in our daily lives.

Also "acquainted with the night,"

Friday, September 23, 2011

Living with the Pain...

It has been one of those weeks. The ones when pain treads with heavy steps, the uninvited guest, trespassing upon my hospitality. So, in an effort to recover sleep and banish the pain (hey, why not?), I thought I would do a freewrite on pain and how it affects me:


This freewrite has not been edited/revised/proofread. Please excuse any errors.

It comes, entering the door softly. No invitation, formally or informally. It burns, lava flowing silently and red, tumbling over itself as it rolls, unimpeded, seeking the relief of the sea. Nothing remains in its wake but raw destruction, all annihilated. It has a pulse, this pain. It has my rhythm as it hides under the skin, in deepest marrow, in synovial fluid between joints, in layers of muscle cell-deep. It's deep--in nucleus of cell, DNA sent spinningm double helixes melting one into the other, twisting and tangling until all is knotted, all is fucked up. It creeps, quiet and strong, pulsating and annihilating all in its path. Neural pathways collapse, bending in on themselves, clasping pale hands over bursting vessels. It carries that scent, undetectable by the healthy but so familiar a bedfellow to the victims.

But are we victims of this vague ghost, ephemeral yet piercing to the very marrow, the heart stuttering, the lungs gasping? Being a victim sucks. It's not Who I want to be. It's not ME.

Is it who I have become?

I want to fight it. To fold my fist into power and strike with every iota of strength I possess, aiming for sweet spot and knocking it unconscious, even as blood drip-drops from knuckles bursting through fragile skin. But I got my hit in, with bottle rattling with oblong white pills, powdery and bitter. Eight of them, four in morning, four at night, taken with food. My first line of defense, my only offsense. It weakens me, drowning me, holding me beneath surface until lungs burn and burst, ears filling with fluid, muffling silent screams. Eyes fill, overflow, wetness trickling, trickling, trickling, one after the other, taking same path burrowed into drawn skin.

The moments tick by, kept by clocks, phones, silent passing of seconds and minutes, hours and days. It is always there, ever present, never taking a break, a long weekend, a short vacation. It is relentless, a hunter stalking its prey, bow drawn taut, arrow sighted perfectly. The hunter releases, arrow streaming through thin air, separating molecules with pointed insistence until it meets its mark. The heart is pierced, blood flowing black and thick as eyes glaze over. One last shudder of life before eternity descends, no escape possible.

That is what living with pain is like.

Thanks for experiencing this journey with me.

Living, surviving, (flourishing?) with the pain,

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Still Journeying to 1000....

I finished Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts last month. I want to devote an entire post to the book because it's one of those books that can truly affect the way we live our daily lives, not just our attitudes but our actual pace in which we go from one thing to the next in the course of our day.

Ann's book focuses on slowing down to truly SEE our surroundings. She does so with the aid of her camera lens as well as her pen, and her blog is stuffed full of incredible photographs detailing how she stops to truly SEE her world, her life. And her pen also helps her to see as she stops to jot down what she SEES with gratitude during her daily life.

I do keep a 365 photo blog, very spottily, I may add. But it's the keeping of a gratitude journal that has affected me more as I read Ann's blog and perused her book. I keep my notes on my Kindle's "Sticky Notes" program, well worth the 99 cents it cost. I always have my Kindle with me, and I need not waste paper or real Post-It notes as I jot what I thank God for throughout my week.

So, without further ado, I continue my journey to One Thousand Gifts with the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience, even though I'm posting a day late as I thank God....

651. ...for family togetherness in dark of power outage

652. ...for eating dinner by candlelight after cooking over open flames of grill

653. ...for music of crickets in otherwise silent, cool evening

654. ...for the three-quarter moon brightening our way across the front yard in dark of late evening

655. ...for leisurely talks of life and future by candlelight, whole family grouped into daughter's bedroom, lit by white tapers during outage

656. ...for the terrific noise made by 4 AM hail the size of jumbo marbles, highly unusual in Southern California

657. ...for grey mists creeping across the meadow during a clouded daybreak

658. ...for being safe inside during the violence of thunder and hail storms

659. ...for the oldest son who helps homeschool the youngest when chronic illness and pain rear ugly heads

660. ...for support of prayerful friends when life becomes difficult and pain-filled, hands swollen and sleep rare

So thanks be to God for His good gifts, the ones given in darkness of the county-wide power outage, with power out to 1.7 million homes/business for 8-12 hours due to an employee glitch in Arizona; the ones given in surprise storm of thunder, hail, wind, and rain; the ones given when over-exhaustion becomes chronic, flaring rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue. Sometimes it's against the dark, the storm, the pain that God's gifts shine brightest, words graft most poetic, and gratitude comes easiest.

Thanking God this day for gifts in the darkness,

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Quotation of the Week: On Writing

Yep, it's been a week since I blogged. My apologies.

It was a busy week with the start of our home school group's co-op Class Days, especially as I'm teaching a new class, Medieval History, to grades 4-6 in addition to my standard Intermediate Writing, a college-prep expository writing course for grades 10-12. So I had a good amount of prep to do.

But the biggest problem has been lack of sleep due to a bad flare-up of my chronic illness(es). The pain has been especially difficult, focusing in my hands due to so much typing.

Which 'splains the lack of blogging.

I managed to post a new chapter, a rather short one, to my new story, which I think I will pursue during NaNoWriMo in November. I have about five chapters or so left to complete my first story; I hope to perhaps work on it tonight as I have part of Chapter 47 written.

As writing has been a focal point of my week, I thought that a quotation or two on writing would be extremely appropriate. And perhaps inspirational, too.

I selected two rather pithy quotations from two stellar contemporary women writers, both still living and still producing excellent work. I jotted these quotes from Twitter last October. I've read far more by Tyler than I have by Atwood, but I admire both fiercely.

"If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word."
--Margaret Atwood (b. 1939)

"If I waited until I felt like writing, I'd never write at all."
--Anne Tyler (b. 1941)

So as I tackle the blank page and the blinking cursor yet again this week, I must keep both of these truths in mind. Writing is not about perfection (as much as we wish it could be!), nor is it about inspiration. As I tell my students, writing is hard work. I never knew that the brain could perspire until I started writing regularly.

Okay, okay, so the brain doesn't actually perspire (although it may feel as if it melts from time to time), but studies do show that writing actually burns calories from the stress it affords the brain.

I believe it.

Writing and burning calories with you,

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reposts: 9/11 a Decade Later

Today we remember back ten years, to that day that indeed lives in infamy...that day that we were glued to images that will never fade from our nation's memory, seared into America's psyche. Today we thank our service men and women who have fought valiantly to keep us free and safe. Today we mourn with those who still mourn, remembering innocent loved ones who lost their lives this day, a decade ago.

This afternoon after attending the community church in our small town due to transmission issues with our van, Elizabeth and I followed her September 11th tradition of watching the film Remember Me (2010), starring Pierce Brosnan and Robert Pattinson.

So here are some reposts that tell our experiences of 9/11 and recalls prayers we can pray again and again for unity in our country.

God be with us all as we reject hate and embrace love, this day and forevermore....

Every American over twelve years old remembers what he or she was doing on the beautiful Indian-summer morning of September 11, 2001. For our family, it was a time of transition, a time of anxiety and hard physical work. We were moving that week out of our home of ten years located near Balboa Park in one of the older neighborhoods of San Diego. Keith had lovingly restored our 1914 Craftsman home, tearing off the back third of the house and rebuilding a gorgeous, sun-filled kitchen with a breakfast nook, a laundry area, and a master bedroom and bath. besides tearing down the old plaster of the other two bedrooms and refinishing with drywall and fresh paint, he also refinished the 50-year-old oak floors which he matches perfectly with new oak in the addition area. After a completely new roof and work on the block foundation, the house was painted a lovely grey with burgundy and white trim, and I re-landscaped the flower beds with lavender and roses, hollyhocks and wildflowers.

We were leaving a labor of love behind but looking forward to our new home, a mountain cabin at the edge of pristine meadowlands, surrounded on all sides by mountains, with half an acre for our boys to run and play. After living for years in the city, Keith and I were both glad to return with our family to rural roots, how we ourselves had grown up in San Diego County.

Past midnight on September 10, Keith and I were finishing the packing and the cleaning before picking up our four sleepy kids (ages 9, 6, 4, and 18 months) from my parents' place and driving to Mount Laguna. My parents had a small 600 sq. ft. cabin on top of the mountain where we were planning to live for a week or so until we could move into our new mountain home in Pine Valley, at the base of the mountain. By 2 AM we were settling sleeping children into beds and sleeping bags and tumbled into bed ourselves around 3 AM.

At 6 AM, my dad called us, in tears as he related the news of the 9-11 attacks. We were out of bed in an instant, trying frantically to tune in a news station on the unreliable "rabbit ears" that was our only way of gaining a TV signal. We could tune in fuzzy images only, but through the static, we could see what was happening -- just as the second plane hit the World Trade Center. The kids slept on, exhausted by their interrupted sleep, while Keith and I watched what we could through the fuzz, listening more than watching most of the time.

As the morning wore on, Keith got ready and left for work, and I took care of the kids, watching what I could -- learning of the Pentagon attack, and of the crash in the fields of Pennsylvania. I watched as the President visibly blanched when the news was whispered into his ear during a visit to a Florida school. As all flights were grounded, I wondered where my brother, a pilot, was; at least he didn't fly for the airlines that had been hijacked. I remember sitting in the red upholstered chair, listening and trying to make out images from fuzzy TV signal as I nursed B. Brushing my finger along his cheek, I thought of all the children who had lost a parent this day. I prayed, tears running down my cheek.

This week as the poetry class I'm facilitating for Brave Writer started, I asked the families to start our adventure of poetry with some song lyrics. Remembering those days after 9-11, three songs come to mind: U2's "Beautiful Day" and "Walk On" and Sting's "Fragile." The latter is the one I taught this week in memory of the attacks in 2001. Although it was written before 9-11, it was actually recorded in the UK on the very date of the attacks, and I think they are a fitting response to the nightmarish events of that day. We are all fragile, just bone and sinew held together by soul. Although it takes so little to destroy a human, it requires a great deal more to remove humanity from the hearts and minds that planned and committed these horrendous acts.

By Sting

If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one
Drying in the colour of the evening sun
Tomorrow’s rain will wash the stains away
But something in our minds will always stay

Perhaps this final act was meant
To clinch a lifetime’s argument
That nothing comes from violence
And nothing ever could
For all those born beneath an angry star
Lest we forget how fragile we are

On and on the rain will fall
Like tears from a star Like tears from a star
On and on the rain will say
How fragile we are How fragile we are

I think we all remember with sharp clarity what we were doing as the events of September 11, 2001, exploded across our nation's psyche. For our family, we were in a time of transition, having worked until the wee small hours of September 11 packing up our belongings from our former house in the city to move them into storage for a couple of weeks until we could move into our mountain cabin. Here's my post about what we experienced, 3000 miles away from the real action yet close in our hearts and souls as tragic event after tragic event engulfed our nation: Remembering September 11.

This morning I woke all too aware of the date. I watched a U-Tube video of the happenings of that horrific day, eight years ago, posted on Facebook by the wife of our then-pastor. But as the four kids and I gathered around the school table and the living room for Morning Prayer, we prayed this prayer from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

For Our Country:
ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Later I also prayed another Collect, this one just a page or two past the above prayer:

For the Unity of God’s People:
O GOD, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace; Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly, union and concord: that as there is but one Body and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

May the unity that we possessed in the aftermath of the horrific events of 9-11, of a terror-stricken and grief-laden country after which we came together as perhaps we have never done before and certainly haven't since -- may that unity of purpose as a nation return without terror as the cause. May we work with and not against each other. May we strive for the common good and not for personal gain. May we speak truth, rather than half-truths and distortions masquerading as truth. May accusations of "Socialist" and "Nazi" not be bandied about lightly, for tragedy and murder lurk behind those words just as they do behind the word "terrorist."

There's that old 70's song that comes to mind every once in a while, and it's as true of our nation now as it was in 1776 during our fight for independence, in 1865 as our country overcame civil war, in 1941 after Pearl Harbor, and as we remember today in 2001: "United we stand; divided we fall." So it was on 9/11, and so it is today.

Praying for our country, now and always,

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Trying to Find the Space

Yes, we're back to school.

And I need space.

Not physical space--that I have. While many home schooling families have dedicated school rooms or fancy libraries, we school at our dining room table above. It's in the corner of our living room, with our kitchen adjoining. So we "do school" right in the middle of our daily lives.

Education isn't a separate part of our day for us, taught in a separate place.

Education is a part of our daily life as a family.

The space I need is more of a mental space. While our school area may be tidy and well-organized, my mind isn't.

The first few weeks of homeschooling each autumn is always an adjustment. New schedules, new books, new plans--all needs to be settled into, made comfortable.

Kind of like breaking in a new pair of shoes so that we don't get blisters on our heels.

Then add into the mix of adjusting to two high school students and a middle schooler teaching an online class in the MLA Research Essay at Brave Writer, a class which started the same day we started school. The class isn't large, but it's still a time-consuming process to post all the class information and assignments and respond to student work and questions.

Next, add in the two co-op Class Day courses I'll be teaching starting next Thursday the 15th. One class, Intermediate Writing, an expository writing class for students in grades 10-12, is one I've taught probably ten times, but this class is full with a waiting list for the first time. Plus, I'm leading a team of teachers in offering a new class: Medieval History for grades 4-6. That baby is taking quite a bit of work, of organization, etc.

So with all of these things taking up room in my head, I haven't had much space or time or inclination to write blog posts here or to even draft my two stories, one of which is near completion.

I don't like not having space nor time nor inclination to write.

The stress of not having that "creative outlet," as my doctor call it, weighs me down. My mind feels heavy, sluggish.

Saturdays are my usual writing day. But with so many classes needing attention, I'm not sure that much, if any, creative writing will occur. I didn't post updates to my stories last week; I must post at least one new chapter this weekend or my poor readers will be sadly disappointed. They're already moaning over having to wait an extra week as it is.

So I pray for space--for time--for inclination. I pray that I will be able to do more than wail and whine about not having any of the above here in this blog and write something of true substance.

As I opened my Book of Common Prayer 2011 just now, Psalm 46:10, familiar to most of you, stood out to me:

"Be still and know that I am God."
I pray that I might be able to do so, tomorrow (actually, later today as I write this in the wee small hours of Saturday morning, basking in the cool of the evening and in the silence of the darkened house), and my hope is that you, too, will find yourself stilling this weekend, pressing into the serenity of the heart of Christ, who loves us and cares for us far more than we can ever comprehend.

Being still and finding space, I hope,

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rainy Day Gratitude

Grey day across the meadow behind our home, after the rains

Insomnia has been my companion all summer. If I go to bed in the middle of the night, around 3 AM, I can sleep soundly for four to five hours. If I go to bed around midnight, I won't fall asleep until two-ish, then wake every hour. A dilemma indeed.

It's been a very difficult summer, to say the least.

This morning as I turned off my laptop and warmed my microwavable neck pillow before heading upstairs at 3:15, I heard it.

The gentle fall of rain, pattering quietly on the metal roof of our screened patio.

I opened the sliding glass doors all the way, and the previously muffled sound engulfed me. Leaving the doors open, I moved to the front door, switched on the porch light, and strode barefoot across the wooden planks to the three concrete steps. I raised my hand out beyond the protection of the porch roof, and there it was.

Raindrops, the circumference of a quarter, caught in my upturned palm.

And I breathed in grateful gasps of the strange yet unforgettable scent of rain hitting warm pavement.

In dry Southern California, our rainy season is November-April. Summer rain in July is not uncommon. But September rain? That's a rare blessing, a gem sparkling in the single bulb of porch light, a liquid diamond.

I hefted myself upstairs a few moments later after closing and locking doors, smiling to myself. I had heard and seen and smelled and touched and (yes!) tasted the blessing.

And it was very good.

The rain returned around 10:30 this morning, and all of us enjoyed it. We threw open doors and windows that usually stay closed all day, locking in cool night air as long as possible--our old-fashioned version of air conditioning.

But today the welcome rain cooled the air for us, and we inhaled its clean, sweet fragrance, thankful for the grace of it all.

Through the day, clouds hung heavy, protecting us from usual September beating of hot sunshine. Humid air wafted vanilla-scent of Jeffrey Pines through screened windows, and we wiped perspiration from our necks as we worked.

This is grace, this rain. A gift we do not usually receive in September, Southern California's hottest month.

So I continue on the journey to One Thousand Gifts with The Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience, thanking God this day....
641. for the crescent moon glowing against deep cerulean skies at dusk

642. for overcast mornings, sunlight diffused and dappled

643. for tart green apples, bunched grape-like on Pippin tree

644. for writing to be done, life's work with pen in hand

645. for all four kids and husband gathered into small bunk-bedded room, familiar tunes fingered on newly-repaired keyboard

646. for summer rain on an early-September morning

647. for sweet blueberries, plumply grape-sized, eaten for breakfast

648. for swishing of car tires on puddled, rain-dampened streets

649. for low grumbles of thunder rolling through silver-grey clouds, charcoal underbellies reverberating

650. for gentle drip-drip of rainwater from serrated oak leaves as showers shift westward

As skies remain grey, silvered by diffused sunlight creeping toward western peaks, the fresh scent of the day's rain sweetly remains, promising a cool, crisp evening ahead.

Grateful for the rain, this day and always,

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Quotation for the Week

It's been a crazy-busy week.

We started our fifteenth year of home education on Monday, schooling the three boybarians in grades 6, 9, and 11. Yes, two of the three are now in high school.

At least schooling started gently, gradually. The two elder boys did not meet with their algebra tutor (a college friend and practically a godmother to our kids) until Friday morning, so they had almost the whole week free from Algebra I for J and Algebra II for T.

And the peasants rejoiced.

Also, our Class Day co-op courses with Heritage Christian School, our private school provider PSP), do not begin until September 15. So T, a junior, must wait until then to begin Chemistry with labwork (a double-period class) and my Intermediate Writing class which I will teach him at home the day before Class Day so he can have PE at Class Day. And J is waiting for Class Day to start his World Geography course, also a double-period class. B, our lone middle school student, doesn't have to wait on anything except math drills, but his work book arrived just yesterday, so he's all set now; none of his Class Day courses (PE, Chess, Grossology) require homework.

In addition, I started teaching an online course in the MLA Research Essay at Brave Writer last Monday. My class is minuscule; I've never had a Brave Writer course with a mere five students. I won't be making much money, but with such a small class, it will be intimate and fun--lots of getting to know one another well. Two of the boys have interests in the study of insects and diseases; one of them is using that precise interest to furnish his topic which should work very well.

Despite the gradual start to homeschooling and a small online course to teach, this week has been busy...frenzied, almost. I'm still adjusting to taking E (a college sophomore) down to the community college for classes twice per week which takes a hunk out of my home schooling time, causing a rather drastic alteration to our home school schedule.

But we shall be meeting with the algebra tutor on one of the afternoons we were already waiting for E, so that should work well. On Tuesdays I've planned to meet with our chiropractor on a book he desires to write on good health for Christians.

Needless to say, as summer ends and school begins, I have been feeling the need for a little peace and contemplation. And Ann Voskamp had the perfect little reminder in her calendar for one of last week's quotation calendar that I keep at the home schooling table to remind me about focus and priorities, and I copied it into my Quotation Journal of the past ten years:

"...contemplative simplicity isn't a matter of circumstances. It's a matter of focus."
--Ann Voskamp

So as this new week bursts forth in scudding cloud and shy sunrise, I pray that I can remember this truth and focus my mindheartsoulstrength on the One who is PeaceBringer. Only in Christ Jesus can true peace, the kind that transcends human comprehension, guard me and guide me as we begin yet another school year together at home, gathered around the school table or flaked out across sofa and armchairs while I read aloud, pray aloud each morning .

And may His perfect peace be yours, this day and always!

Focusing on His Peace,


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