One Righteous Man

Genesis 18:22-33

So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.

It struck me yesterday that there may be an implied continuation of this conversation that points to Jesus. You can almost hear the natural progression.

Abraham: “Let me ask but one more time. Suppose five are found there.”

The Lord: “For the sake of five I will not destroy it.”

Abraham: “And if only One is found?”

The Lord: “For the sake of One righteous man I will not destroy it.”

But Jesus wasn’t there during that original dialog, nor were ten other righteous men found, and the valley burned. Yet in the fullness of time, he came (Galatians 4:4). Reading the gospels, you can envision the whole earth going up in smoke with the piled up sins of God’s people (not to mention the Gentile nations) displayed before God.

But this time one righteous man was found. And this time it wasn’t about a city, but the whole cosmos.

Reflections on a less than perfect Christmas

I don’t usually make a ton of resolutions for the new year, but this year I do have just one.

My New Year’s resolution is that I’ve decided to write no more spiritual-sounding bloggy posts on giving thanks in all circumstances when my family is sick for Thanksgiving…bc it turns out when you do that, you will be given an even greater opportunity in which to give thanks by your entire family being sick with strep and flu for the ENTIRETY of Christmas vacation, and then some…and you will fail miserably again and again at feeling anything resembling thankfulness. And feel sort of like a hypocrite.

Ahem.

This has not been my most favorite of Christmases, not by a long shot. Influenza hit our family the week before Christmas and has lasted past the time when Jay should have returned to work were he not down with fever still. It is no fun to watch your family members, one by one be taken out by the worst flu bug you recall seeing in your 40 years.

It is no fun to watch your babies (yes, they are still my babies) suffer with fevers for 7, 8, 9 days long, to watch them one by one all throw up their flu meds till you disgustedly toss the meds in the trash because they are making things worse. And then to see those same babies, even after the fevers break, continue to lay there with no energy for playing.

It is no fun to watch your oldest son of 11 years old so overcome with fever that he cries when he realizes he has now caught the flu, too, and as a result, will be missing his much-anticipated, first trip ever to Winter Scout Camp.

It is no fun to sleep on an air mattress on the living room floor by yourself night after night during Christmas vacation b/c there is nowhere else left in the house to go sleep where people don’t have high fever and flu germs, and you are the only healthy one left to care for all the sickies, so you’d best do everything you can not to catch it.

And it’s REALLY not fun when the kids finally all get healthy but dear old Dad is taken down and has to spend a week (yes, a week) back in the bedroom while the kids take turns asking over and over when he’ll be well enough to come play and have fun before he has to go back to work!!

But….whenever I’d grumble about how sad I was about our “ruined” Christmas, courtesy of this horrid illness which hit every member of our little family (except yours truly), knocking healthy folks on their backs for a week and more, with high fevers and wracking, painful coughs…my sweet, wonderful husband (who has his flaws, but being discontent is not usually one of them) would smile patiently. And give me a hug (well, at least when he wasn’t contagious!). And he’d propose to me that maybe a Christmas holiday full of sickness and sadness is a much more realistic picture of why we need Christmas in the first place. And even, perhaps, a better representation of the first Christmas long ago. Much more so than any perfect holiday we could dream up.

God’s sacrifice in sending Jesus to earth, though romanticized for the sake of our Christmas stories and songs was not pretty or tidy. Jesus was God, he was king of the universe: immortal, omnipotent, and he humbled himself enough to become human. He chose to leave the glory and majesty of heaven and come live in our world of sickness: flu, strep, fevers, coughing…and sadness….and death.

The first Christmas wasn’t Norman Rockwellian in the slightest. There was no mention of influenza upon Jesus’ arrival in this world. But his impending birth was announced under questionable circumstances to a woman not yet wed, and he made his first appearance in a stable of all places. Labor in a stable? Freshly born baby placed in an animal trough? And this little king’s first visitors: not the wealthy, noble, royal types you’d expect to show up for the birth of God’s son, but shepherds. Some of the most humble, lowly folk in town were the first to worship and pay respects to this little boy.

My guess is that none of this is what Mary had in mind when she dreamed of becoming a mother. And yet this was the incarnation. This was Emmanuel, God with us…because he loved us enough to bring himself into our world of pain and suffering, to know our sorrows, to take them on as his own. Even the manner in which he showed up reflected such humility and recognition of the world in which he’d come to live. And oh how thankful we are that he came to dwell with us, and to save us…from things far, far worse than the flu!!

I haven’t done a good job of feeling thankful in all things this Christmas…and how true it is that my circumstances are nowhere near as hard as some of the realities and hardships that friends of mine are dealing with this year. And you know what? It is ok. Because in spite of my circumstances, and perhaps even more because of our circumstances this holiday, I can still thank God for Emmanuel. Christmas is still Christmas…Jesus still came. And as a friend who himself was also down with the flu this Christmas so simply and beautifully put it…

We don’t need a perfect Christmas for Jesus to be real.

Amen.

Thankfulness

I Thessalonians 5:18 is a well-known verse: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you…”

This verse arrives in the chapter right after we are instructed to rejoice always, and pray without ceasing. All of which God must have known we humans would struggle with, and struggle with aplenty, especially in this fallen, sin-riddled world.

It seems then, that during a season of Thanksgiving, I should not be surprised when my ability to give thanks is tested. Such was the case this year, though nothing we struggled with was nearly as challenging as some of the very, very hard circumstances many in this world are faced with each day. This blog entry will feel a bit long and tedious and I don’t expect many to read it all the way through, but I want to get it down in writing for my own remembrance. Because we truly have so very much to give thanks for this year.

The Monday night before Thanksgiving, our oldest child began experiencing very sharp chest pain which continued through the night. Any sharp intake of breath also caused pain, and she was unable to lie down, and could only get relief while sitting propped up with pillows. We got her comfortable in the recliner in the living room and there she spent a fitful night. These were scary hours for her, and for us, and a morning call to the pediatrician didn’t offer any answers except the directive to go straight to the ER and get a chest x-ray. Jay accompanied Abigail so that I could stay home with the rest of our children, and hours later we learned that our daughter had a nasty case of bacterial pneumonia which had resulted in fluid accumulating in her left lung, thereby causing the excruciating pain. We were shocked at the diagnosis, but actually quite relieved it was “only” pneumonia, given some of the other possibilities chest pain presents. But we called my family immediately to tell them we could no longer spend Thanksgiving weekend with them as planned, and this was terribly disappointing for all of us, because we all get together once a year at best due to one of my siblings living in the Northeast now. My mother had planned a professionally-photographed family portrait for Friday morning since there were two new babies in the family since we had last taken a picture together, and I hated to be the one to ruin her wonderful photograph, but of course it couldn’t be helped.

And yet, here was an opportunity to give thanks: for incredible medical care not five miles from our home, for relief from pain for my precious daughter, for antibiotics to combat the infection in her lungs, for the ability to bring her home and put her to bed in a warm, comfortable place where she could rest and recuperate. For all the family and friends who prayed for us during that day while we waited for news, and loved us enough to keep calling/texting/emailing for updates.

While Jay was with Abigail at the ER, I had to accompany our second oldest to the surgeon’s office to have some pins removed from his arm that had been placed there during surgery several weeks before. The pin removal was done with no anesthesia, and our boy, who has some sensory issues combined with quite a bit of anxiety was rather undone by the procedure. It was not only painful, but a highly stressful ordeal for him, and all this was going on while we continued to wait for results on Abigail’s situation. To say I felt a bit of stress myself puts it mildly. If they’d offered me a margarita to suck down before they began the procedure, I’d have gladly accepted, and shared half with Jonathan.

But here was another opportunity to give thanks: that despite his very real struggles, Jonathan made it through the procedure without fully “losing it”, and had that little victory to be proud of.  That after a bad break, and surgery, that his arm was nicely healed, and that we enjoyed care from one of the best orthopedic surgeons in Dallas who tended to his injury. That I had not one but at least five offers of childcare for my younger two while I took him for his pin removal, again for family, friends, and neighbors who care for us so well.

Thanksgiving Day we spent at home; due to the somewhat last minute nature of our holiday plans, we opted not to cook a turkey feast, but Jay kindly offered to try his hand at a prime rib roast, which it turns out he will now be asked to prepare for each and every family holiday because it was so. incredibly. delicious!! While the lovely roast was cooking, and we were cleaning up the kitchen from some of the meal preparations, we noticed the sink starting to back up, not just in the kitchen, but the laundry room as well…and yes, of course, we ended up with a plumbing backup on Thanksgiving Day, when it turns out, no plumbers will call you back even if you offer to pay them a premium to do so. After a couple of hours of effort to dislodge the leak himself to no avail, Jay spent the last hours of the evening on his hands and knees doing dishes in the stand-up shower near the kitchen. Sigh…

So…thankfulness here?? Well…honestly I wasn’t feeling all that thankful. I was actually leaning more toward fretful, because after delaying their visit to us due to the pneumonia, my sister and her family were due to arrive on Friday, and here we were without ability to clean dishes or laundry, and the mess was right in the area of the house where they would have to stay. But I was reminded that I take for granted our constant access to clean, running, hot and cold water, and the reality that we have machines that will wash our dishes while we sleep, and clean our clothes while we take a trip to the grocery store. Amazing. How thankful we should always be for these admitted luxuries.

We figured after the plumbing backup was cleared on Friday morning that the worst of this weekend was behind us, and we could concentrate on preparing to welcome our beloved houseguests who were soon to arrive from Austin. But before they could get here we were greeted by houseguests of another kind, and I don’t mean the human kind. During a trip to the garage to grab something out of the fridge in there, I heard the tiniest movement near the wall, and reported my suspicions to the man of the house, who quickly confirmed that yes, there was a critter hiding out behind the refrigerator, likely having come in from out of the cold to take refuge under the warmth of the nice garage appliance. Sigh. Over the next 48 hours, the man of the house and his eldest son trapped 9 of these critters and as I write this, they are still waging war on the uninvited houseguests, much to the dismay of yours truly. I hate critters. Despise them. Get all yucky feeling just imagining them…so let’s just say that knowing they are trying to take advantage of and stake claim to my warm garage is quite upsetting to me. And what’s even worse: I have had the unfortunate experience of being in the garage while a trap goes off loudly, mere feet from where I am standing, accompanied by awful squeaking sounds…and well, this was almost more than I could handle.

I’m still working on giving thanks in this circumstance; the best I can come up with is this: if I have to have critters in my garage, I am so glad I have a brave husband and son who are willing to handle the nasty task of disposing of them. And at least for now, I am very, very thankful that the vermin are out there and not in here…and I pray it stays that way.

I told a friend at church yesterday that I’m waiting for things to settle down to normal around here…that I’m really and truly ready for normal, whatever in the world that looks like. Admittedly, I’d love to experience “normal” before we get that call for a referral for a precious little girlie in Ethiopia who we are dying to meet. I’d like to be able to fantasize about bringing our girl home to a more “normal” household and family. Wouldn’t that be best for her, anyway? Doesn’t God think maybe she could use some “normal” after all she will have been through in her short life? And it is with this thought that it hits me that no, I don’t think I need to be looking around the corner for “normal”…because didn’t that verse back in Thessalonians talk about rejoicing always and giving thanks in every circumstance (even, and especially when life isn’t “normal”?).  Because how much more incredible is it that God sees fit to use me, to use us, our family, in all our imperfection and with all our various “issues”, to accomplish his will in this world?!

I don’t really know if I will be any better at giving thanks in all circumstances from here on out. However, I’m quite sure our family will never forget this rather odd Thanksgiving week where we were faced with a little collection of opportunities in which we could choose to rejoice and give thanks, or throw up our hands and pout about life. May God give us all the grace and ability to see his hand at work in each of our lives, so that we can give thanks in both the good and the bad that comes our way. And now it is only fitting that I tell you, dear Reader, that if you have managed to hang with me all the way to the end of this long entry, that I am very thankful for you and your patience!!

The Little Things…

I went to look at my adoption email distribution list today because I wanted to send out an update to the folks who follow our ongoing adoption story. And a thought hit so hard it almost knocked the wind out of me: I have to take a name off our list. Greg Hewlett will no longer be receiving news from us of our ongoing process, or prayer request updates.

I already knew this, in theory. Our friend Greg (or as my children refer to him: “Uncle Greg”) lost his earthly battle with cancer a week ago today. This last week has felt like a blur in so many ways. While we are thankful our friend and brother is in the presence of Jesus: out of pain and that he finished his earthly race so beautifully, we are sad too. Sad for those of us left behind. Who didn’t realize when we last saw him it would be the last time we’d hear his voice, eat a meal together, listen to him tell a joke, play a song for us, give us a hug, smile at us in that kind and easy way he always did.

My feeble writing could not do justice to who Greg was, so I shall not try to eulogize him here. I am not gifted with words and his was a remarkable life. We know how blessed we are to have called him our friend. Our entire family is richer for having had him in our lives, and we are thankful for the kindness and friendship he showed us. We had the precious blessing of vacationing with him this past summer in Alabama; at the time we were so glad he was with us, and we are even more so now. None of us had any idea then that God only had a few more months planned on this earth for Greg. We cherish memories of our sweet friend, and look forward to the day when we will see him again in Glory.

Right now, as we wait for that day, it’s the little things that give us pause. That cause us to remember him, sometimes with a smile, more often right now with tears.  Tears that have hope in them, but tears nonetheless.

The little things: The clarinet he played long ago when he was a child, and recently gave to my oldest son who now plays it in school band. The pho soup that Jay and I love and eat a couple times a month because Greg first took Jay to the Vietnamese soup place in old Richardson and introduced him to the wonderful stuff.  The funny songs that he wrote and recorded even while suffering through chemo and all that goes with that. Board games and how they remind us of how when we played with him, he could beat all of us single handed because he was so stinkin’ smart! His blog, where he shared so many personal thoughts and insights as he walked the road God had for him. Greg lived life more fully than many people I know who have both legs, and who aren’t doing battle with cancer.

We first introduced Greg to House of Horne when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2003. In this entry, Jay shared the story of the first time he met Greg, which was an embarrassing moment for my husband, but which showed so beautifully Greg’s gentle spirit and keen sense of humor.

There have been entries where we asked our readers to pray for him at some critical moment in his battle. And there were more lighthearted entries like this one where he astonished us all by managing to poke fun (in that most creative way of his) at the very disease that was slowly killing his earthly body.

Greg, you are so missed by our family, and by so many, many others. We are thankful that you have run the race God had for you, that you are free from your earthly sufferings, and glorying at being in the presence of Jesus. I can only imagine the look of joy on your face when you saw your Saviour and He welcomed you home.

(this last pic was taken by Nicolas, who loved snapping photos of Uncle Greg in Alabama)

Tonight our youngest prayed, “…and dear God, please help Uncle Greg to be having a good time with you in Heaven.” Amidst our tears, we are certain that yes indeed, Uncle Greg is having a glorious time with his Lord. Amen.

Messy lives and unknown futures are merely the backdrop

Here are some thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head of late.

I’m tired most of the time and, for now, have decided that’s okay. I’m not planning to shake my fist at the world and yell “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”, but I do find myself ever more content with a full life that leaves me wondering if I’ll have the energy to make it through tomorrow.

I love coffee, and think it is just amazing that my wife takes the time to make it for us each day. There’s a real joy in service offered day in and day out without the burden of expectation, and I do strive to feel a surprised gratefulness each and every day that lovely aroma embraces me in the morning.

For a time, I find myself working too much, driving a commute I swore I would never have, and not seeing my family as much as I’d like, yet I feel like I’m enjoying both my work and family more than ever. My guess is that after months of unemployment, there is a certainty, an emancipating clarity, of what I need to do, and that helps the doing of it not be a burden.

There is an upside to commutes, particularly with modern gadgets. I recently finished a large lecture series on the Byzantine Empire, and have now begun a much larger series on the Roman Empire, all freely available as podcasts. By the way, though the Byzantines have more or less been trod upon in our histories in the west, particularly since the publication of Edward Gibbon’s work around the time our nation was born, their influence on the course of history in the west cannot be overstated (that’s an overstatement… but you get the point). Here’s a quote from the podcast author to whet your appetite:

Still, it was Byzantium that preserved for us today the great gifts of the classical world. Of the 55,000 ancient Greek texts in existence today, some 40,000 were transmitted to us by Byzantine scribes. And it was the Byzantine Empire that shielded Western Europe from invasion until it was ready to take its own place at the center of the world stage.

Chronic pain is a real bummer, and very different than pain (minus the chronic part). After all my major reconstructive foot surgeries a decade ago, not to mention the spinal fusion of my childhood, I’m in pain most of the time. And being unable to run, jump, etc. is a real drag on my competitive spirit. I’m missing out on huge chunks of the good life, both for myself, and my kids. Most days, that hurts worse than my feet.

I seem to experience God’s grace, his kindness to me, more and more as a calmness in the face of what is hard, or embittering, or intensely frustrating. Chronic pain is… it just sort of fades to the background. I can’t play soccer with my kids… like that’s my real failing as a dad, versus the anger I put on display, or the fights I start with their mom. I don’t think I’m able to struggle for contentment, yet God in his goodness seems to give me more and more each day.

I’m not sure I want the good life anymore. There’s one pernicious flavor of the good life that is defined in terms of what you don’t have. The good life is keeping up with your neighbors. I’m not talking about that one. I still hunger for that one as much as anyone, in spite of my hatred of it. I mean a neat, orderly, successful life. I’ve always enjoyed quoting Proverbs 14:4, particularly to tired mothers of young children. I was content when we had three children, and let me tell you, our fourth does not contribute to neatness and orderliness. Yet life without Josiah… no thanks.

I’ve grown weary of spiritualizing issues of the heart that sure sound like they should involve actions. Over and over God says things like:

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Here’s something strange. For months, I felt more and more burdened by such statements, and secretly concluded a few months back I wanted to consider adopting an orphan. I say secretly because I never spoke a word of it to Tricia, hoping the burden would pass with time. It didn’t, but I kept my mouth shut. Something about the Haiti earthquake forced me to speak of it to Tricia, and wouldn’t you know it, she had been experiencing the same burden for an even longer time.

We have no idea where this is going, but find ourselves preparing for a possible adoption. Messy lives and unknown futures are merely the backdrop to God’s story, and his story is all goodness and grace.

Reading

A couple of posts back, I mentioned a resolution of sorts I am hoping to fulfill in 2010: Reading Through my 90 Day Bible…but not necessarily in 90 days!  As I expected, I am not tracking well with the “read 12 pages a day” plan so far, but I have been happy with my progress, and am steadily working my way through. I’ve enjoyed the large print a ton, and love the themes I see recurring. Taking up the 90 Day Bible has been enlightening in many ways; one thing I’ve learned for sure is that on most days, I truly do not have a full hour’s segment in my day to set aside for reading (meaning all reading outside of school work with the children).  Reading those 12 pages takes about an hour if I am truly paying attention and following what is going on.

Just to make the progress in my 90 Day Bible even easier, I have picked up an additional four, yes four books this month, all of which I am having trouble tearing myself away from. Here are my current reads, in no particular order, along with a brief plot summary/explanation – all of which I have stolen from reviewers who write more concisely, and, let’s face it, with much more skill than I!

The Woman In White:

is an epistolary novel written by Wilkie Collins in 1859, serialized in 1859–1860, and first published in book form in 1860. It is considered to be among the first mystery novels and is widely regarded as one of the first (and finest) in the genre of “sensation novels”. (Thank you, Wikipedia!). My mother and SIL read this selection for a book club, and highly recommended it to me. I am enjoying the story immensely, and let’s just say it is a bit more of a scintillating read than the much more vapid four book series of novels I recently finished. I think we all know which books I refer to.

Death By Suburb

is our church home group’s current book; we just began reading and discussing this together, and I am thrilled with it thus far. Here is what a review had to say:  Suburban life, if pursued unheedingly, “obscures the real Jesus,” writes Goetz in Death by Suburb. “Too much of the good life ends up being toxic, deforming us spiritually.” But if obscured, Jesus is there somewhere, and Goetz’s book aims to help suburbanites find him in the ocean of lattÉs, in the aisles of Pottery Barn, and in the bleachers at the soccer field: “You don’t have to hole up in a monastery to experience the fullness of God. Your cul-de-sac and subdivision are as good a place as any.”

Goetz identifies eight “environmental toxins” that plague suburbia and offers a spiritual practice to purge each toxin from your system and help you realize that “even in suburbia all moments are infused with the Sacred.” By packaging his insights in this self-helpy formula—7 habits, 8 practices, 40 days to a more authentic Christian life—Goetz obviously opens himself up to criticism: this blueprint recapitulates some of the very problems of the suburban mindset that he is trying to offset. But I suspect he knew what he was doing, and chose the idiom to convey a subversive message to his target audience.

A Quest for More:

is the book we are working through on Wednesday nights at church. I believe the content here will dovetail nicely with the meat of Death By Suburb, the overall effect being one that assures me that I, on my own, putting forth my very best spiritual efforts are worth only so much scum — let’s just say that after a week reading both of them, I am fairly unimpressed with the shallow nature of my own little kingdom. Thankfully, Jesus uses the weak!

Here’s what a reviewer had to say about A Quest for More: Paul David Tripp expertly traverses the deepest recesses of the human heart and compassionately invites fellow Christian travelers to journey with him into God s bigger kingdom. The author promises readers that they will be encouraged, excited, and motivated by hope as they learn how to set aside their little kingdom attachments which can expertly masquerade within the church as Christian activism, legalism, emotionalism, formalism, creedalism, and externalism; in favor of God s expansive and soul-freeing eternal quest. Tripp demonstrates though sound biblical principles how humanity is made by God to transcend far beyond the mere physical realm and is likewise created to be glory junkies; those whose visionary lives are governed by God s grand purposes rather than existing only within their narrow self-interested confines. Writes the author, It is a fundamental denial of your humanity to narrow the size of your life to the size of your own existence, because you were created to be an above and more being. You were made to be transcendent. Tripp then shows Christians how to transcend through daily, moment-by-moment, practical methodology that transforms individuals into the image of Christ. It is within this purpose-driven framework, this Quest for More, that Paul Tripp compels believers to see beyond the worldly deception of personal achievement, success, materialism, in order to break free from this ungodly fulfillment that is too easily satisfied with a mediocre walk with Christ. Instead the author invites committed sojourners to a life characterized by an unyielding passion that pursues God simply for the pleasure of His glorious company and in the process, affect eternal change in a hurting, hopeless world.

Lastly, There Is No Me Without You.

I have seen this book recommended here, there, and everywhere.  All the heart-breaking news coming out of Haiti this week made me yearn to learn a bit more about some of the real suffering that goes on in our modern-day world. This book isn’t about something that happened in long-ago history; it chronicles the tragedy that so many people, and especially orphans, face each and every day in a far-away land called Africa.

The horrific numbers behind the AIDS pandemic in Africa, “the most terrible epidemic in human history,” have little resonance for most people in the West: “the ridiculous numbers wash over most of us.” But this searing account humanizes the statistics through heartbreaking, intimate stories of what it is like for young orphans left alone in Ethiopia. Greene’s story focuses on one rescuer, Haregewoin Teferra, who has opened her home and compound in a rickety hillside neighborhood of Addis Ababa and taken in hundreds of the untouchables thrown in the streets and left at her door. She cannot turn them away. Yes, the comparisons with Mother Teresa are there, but this is no hagiography; the middle-aged Teferra is “just an average person with a little more heart.” Greene tells the stories in unforgettable vignettes of loss, secrecy, panic, stigma, and, sometimes, hope, even as she documents the big picture of “the human landslide,” the history and science of epidemiology and transmission, and expresses her fury at the “crimes against humanity” of the multinational drug companies whose expensive patents have denied millions access to the life-saving medicines. Just as moving are the personal stories of international adoptions in the U. S., including two Ethiopian children taken into Greene’s own Atlanta family. The detail of one lost child at a time, who finds love, laughter, comfort, and connection, opens up the universal meaning of family.

In the past I had hopes of setting up a “Currently Reading” tab on the right side of our bloggy page. If I can twist the arm of my techie-guy, this might happen. But for now, if you’ll excuse me: I really have no business spending any more time blogging…my books are all a-calling!

Eureka! Or Perhaps Better Titled “Banana!”

I am a procrastinator, pure and simple. Why do today what I can put off till tomorrow?? Sad, but true.  Not always, but in many aspects of my life I struggle with procrastination. Or as I prefer to think of it, “Having a lot of amazing ideas of what clever things I will do next time I have nothing else looming to do”.  Hah!

So if you should ever happen to visit my humble casa, one item you will often see on my counters are a group of dark colored (some would call them “rotting”) bananas. Because well, once they get past the point of being edible with breakfast, no one wants to eat them. I of course always have great plans to turn them into banana bread or banana muffins or (our favorite) banana chocolate chip pancakes….tomorrow. And then, the next day. And so on….

Failing to actually set aside time in my day to make the dreamed-of banana bread, I finally toss the now-black bananas into the freezer. Which truly can work – they will last now until I am ready to use them in a recipe! But they always seem to be precariously stored while still in “bunch” form. And inevitably one of these bunches of frozen black bananas will fly off the door shelf when my husband is rummaging in the freezer for something, and hit him in the head, or cause some other equally annoying and painful injury.

Well, as usual, I have had a nice group of blackening bananas adorning my counter for the greater part of a week now. Until tonight when I had a super-fantastic idea:

I peeled the bananas, popped their insides into plastic ziplok baggies, and stuck them all into the freezer.  Just like that. Where they will wait until I am ready to cook them into some delicious bakedy-goodness of some variety.

bananarama

No longer will I have ugly black bananas on the counter. No more frightening freezer fruit projectiles to injure my sweet husband when he forages for ice cream. I think I have hit on something fabulous, and because I like all of you so much, Dear Readers, I had to share this revelation with you.

So, how long do you suppose it will take me in the future to start procrastinating about actually peeling and freezing the overripe bananas that grace my kitchen counters?  Hmmmmm…..let’s just not go there tonight!

Thoughtful Thursday: Kids ‘n’ Chores!

Tonight I did something in the kitchen that I haven’t done in a very long, long time. In fact I cannot even remember the last time…

All by myself, after supper, while the kids were taking baths/showers, I emptied the dishwasher!

Why don’t I ever empty the dishwasher anymore?? Because these days I have a host of little people around the house who are absolutely capable of accomplishing this task, and each day they take care of it for me, the sweet things. Only the 10 and 8 year old deal in breakables; the 7 year old empties “non-breakables” and the 4 year old helps at random, very enthusiastically, but definitely still learning.  He started trying to help with the dishwasher because he watched his big siblings work at it, and wanted to help too.

Earlier this week, the 4 year old began making his bed all by himself, and not because I taught him. He has watched his big brothers, whom he shares a room with, and he hears me each day praise their efforts.  Monday morning he proudly called me to his room where he pointed triumphantly to a very well made-up bed, especially for a 4 year old’s first effort. And I was delighted!!  To think: after all these years of teaching the older ones how to do chores, they now not only complete their own work, they are training the baby of the family too…what a deal!

Of course there are days when chores are not done cheerfully, and Mommy must urge and nudge and yes, even perhaps threaten…but on the whole I am blessed with sweet help from my children.

So, all this talk of dishes and bed-making prompts me to ask you, Dear Reader: what do you do around your house about Kids’n'Chores??  Do your kids do any? Do they do none? Do they do it all while you lounge on the couch and pop Godiva chocolates into your mouth one by one??

If your children help around the house, how do you organize chores for each one, and if they attend traditional school (as opposed to home-schooling), when do they usually accomplish their chores?? Do you pay allowances for helping, or not??  How do you deal with bad attitudes toward helping around the house?

Please do chime in with your two cents on this topic; it is always great to hear ideas from other parents!  I have heard many a parent groan that it is just easier to do the housework themselves rather than go through the agony of trying to teach their children to take responsibility and ownership of chores, but I think I am finding out that once the kids learn, the entire family reaps the benefit of everyone pitching in to help as they are able.

So, pull up your favorite comfy chair, enjoy a warm cup of coffee (I will bring the Godiva chocolates!) and let’s chat chores!

Cave Paintings! or….The Differences Between Girls and Boys!

This year we are learning Ancient History from Story of the World

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with a supplemental text for Abigail to study in addition,

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plus a good variety of library reads and historical literature thrown in.

Unfortunately our six weeks of sickness have slowed our progress in this subject considerably. Though we are way past early man and well into Ancient Egypt, I have put off most of our hands-on projects this past month, and we are only now getting around to enjoying some of these fun activities.

Yesterday afternoon to the children’s delight, I promised them that we would create “cave paintings” !   We spent some time looking at several examples of actual paintings that have been discovered in well-preserved form:

This one is from a place in France called Lascaux:

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and one from Altamira, Spain:

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and another from Ancient France:

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and finally another from Spain:

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We did our best to note special characteristics of this early art form. Then we spent about an hour making some paintings of our own…and each child put their own special touches on their masterpieces.

Here they are, hard at work:

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I bet if you look at the pictures below you can figure out which painting is the one our girlie drew, and which ones the boys drew.  When Abigail thinks of the Ancients, she envisions happy, peaceful animals in a calm, pastoral setting. The boys are clearly more interested in warfare and hunts. Even the 4 year old insists that there is a dead guy, arrows, and several hideous beasts depicted in his masterpiece.

Abigail drew some serene-looking horses: in the middle is the mother horse, there are cliffs either side; there is a cloud in the sky, and the mother’s colt runs below.

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Jonathan’s painting depicts a bull, a stag, and a boar being hunted by5 cavemen. Two of the three animals are already dripping with blood…their deaths are imminent.

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Nicolas’ drawing shows a buck being shot with arrows (notice the gory blood spurting from its neck), by a hunting party, and one poor soul who was done in by the buck before the animal was hit.  He’s the dude on the ground with x’s for eyes, in case you couldn’t tell.

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Here is Josiah’s word-for-word description of his “cave painting”

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“There is a dead person and it’s Indiana Jones’ dad, and then Indy went into the big deadly cave and only he survived it. And fire burned all the persons that were not brave and they got dead, and only Indiana Jones survived the cave.  And the dead person was alive again, and Indiana Jones went back home by “hisself”. Also his dad was going hunting. But then his dad was too tired, and so Indy was making some soup for his dad.  Then Indiana Jones’ dad quickly went back home, and he had some of the soup.”

Once again we smile at the innate differences God created in men and women and how they show up so clearly at such a young age!