Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Yarn Along

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading (though not at the same time!), and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~ Ginny Sheller for the Yarn Along.

I have paused A Girl of the Limberlost temporarily as I'm reading Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson, in anticipation of Sally's upcoming conference.

I'm having to read this book slowly.  I'm going so slowly because it feels a bit foreign to me.  Oh, how do I put this?  I go to a Lutheran Brethren church.  The preaching is good, and very grace-based messages.  The emphasis is strongly that God has given us this gift of salvation (it's not something we work for) and any works we do are just in response of this gift.

This book is about that response to the gift.  I think it's a big question that Knut and I have been discussing for the last few years: What part do we play in our sanctification (a fancy word for God growing us in our Christian walk)?

So, I guess reading this book has been uncomfortably refreshing.  It's challenging.  It makes you think, and drives me back to the Word.  I'm not sure I've ever described a book that way before.  I'm just so challenged by it, and I so often question my own motives so often in doing works, that I haven't considered the flip side in several years, that God has given me stewardship over this life, and that's not to be overlooked.  God's purposes for our lives are serious business.

This book isn't about making your life what you want it to be.  It's not about directing your life.  It's about realizing what God has called you to do, and doing it...owning it.  It's about taking the portion, or cup that God has given you (and you alone), and drinking it, because he gave it to you for his kingdom purposes.  This life is a gift...a gift with a purpose.  Our lives are not to be buried in the ground, as in the parable of the talents.  It is not ours to fritter away.  It's yours, but will you use it for the purposes it was intended?  So then...what will you do with it?

I've found that in many "Christian Living" books, the first 3 chapters are the only ones that need to be read, and after that you get the gist.  The rest of the book is just supporting what the initial chapters said.

That's not so with this book.  I find that the chapters I just finished, (Part 3) to be my favorite.  Actually no.  The chapter I read in Part 4, about what it means to exercise your faith and it was like I was underlining literally every sentence in the chapter, to the point that I stopped underlining and just put brackets around paragraphs I liked, but then that got redundant too, so I just started staring pages that were good.  They're all stared in that chapter.  The further I'm getting in this book the deeper it gets, and that has me coming back for more.  It's brought about lots of discussions in this house.

As for knitting, I'm back at my color work project, as the simmering didn't take long with this one for me to figure out where I wanted to proceed from this point in the design.  I'm trying to get this piece to a good place so it will be easy to bring on the plane for my trip soon.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Busiest Winter Yet

Winter can be a dark, dreary time of year.  We live way up North, so the sun sets quite early, and the short days, along with my aversion to hanging outside in subzero temps makes days dark sometimes.

Our house is south facing, so on sunny days, regardless of the air temperature, we open up the front door and just let the heat from the sun hit the glass and it floods the whole kitchen with bright light.  The sun reflects off of the glittering snow, and I nearly have to squint as I walk through the house it's so bright.  I love sunny days, with no wind in the winter.  The ski-people in my house get grumbly, but I'm enjoying it.

There's something about being flooded with light, whether on the snow or on the beach that compels me to take a deep breath, and relax my shoulders a bit.

Yesterday I didn't even light the wood burning fireplace which heats most of our house until about 3 or 4 in the afternoon.  I went for a walk on the crunchy icy-gravel driveway, because the air was so...breathable.  You who live here know what I mean.  For very long stretches of time in the winter, breathing outside makes you wonder if you will actually freeze your lungs, and breathing inside becomes this dull, stale, thing.  A walk outside in breathable air was wonderful.

There have been so many decisions to be made lately.  I still have paperwork I'm dealing with for the car accident...a year and a half ago.  I finally bit the bullet and got a YMCA membership for my family.  I agonized a bit too dramatically over that decision.  The fact that I'll be able to drop off some little kids while David is at Tae Kwon Do, and I can go and hide in the sauna or something might have something to do with it.  Actually, I found a little space in a corner that will be perfect for getting some work done.  Getting a membership meant dropping some other things, though, and that made the decision tough.

I've also been running around, preparing for a little weekend getaway coming up with my friend Annalise, whose blog you can find over here.  (She just signed a cookbook deal with a publisher last week, and I cannot wait to hear all the details about that in person!!)  We know each other way back from high school, but like a few of my friends, our friendship really took off after high school.  We'll be meeting up for a conference in Colorado, and I'm busy trying to make sure my kids and husband survive while I'm gone.  Knut has been trying to get as much skiing and Birkie-training in as he can before I leave him, so we've been passing each other for a few days.

Life is going at such a fast pace right now.  Looking at the calendar, I just realized last night that Monday was the only time I would actually be the one to put my kids to bed for the next week.  It's times like this that I'm so thankful that we homeschool, because at least I have the mornings with the kids this week.

I have been trying so hard to discover this magic formula of "how much is too much?" running around and activity for a family.  I feel like I say no to about 90% of the things we get asked to participate in, and yet I still find myself saying things like: "No, we can't do anything that night, because that's the only night we are all at home, and we get to all be home together at least one night a week!!"

But really, I said "no" to almost everything in December.  I try to leave that wide open so that the stress of Christmas doesn't swallow me whole.  We're just starting to get into our new normal.  I've been dreading it, but so far it's been working.  So far my kids have been excited about our new schedule, and new outings.  Except for the few sunny days, winter can be a tough season to get through.

I'm discovering more and more that there is no magic formula.  As my friend Sally says, "we live by faith, not formulas."  The more I pray about this new stage of activities we are in, and worry that I will do it totally wrong, I continually reminded that I can only fix my eyes on Jesus through each step.  That's the only formula I know that works.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Design for Rest

I've been thinking for awhile of writing a more intentional devotional here every Monday.  Sometimes it's well thought out, and more often than not, it's just a hodgepodge of what I'm thankful for, even when everything isn't perfect, because I think that thankfulness is a way to joy.  It's not about having everything you want.  It's about recognizing God at work where you are.

When this blog started, it was a way for my mom and family living across the country to see what was going on with us.  Since then, I've gained readers from all over the world, through 2 main avenues.  One, is through my circle of Christian friends and bloggers, and the other through my knitting friends, and network. 

I have long debated about separating the blog into a knitting blog, and a devotional type blog.  But then do I keep a third blog to document our family's journey through life?  Where does that fit?  My life just isn't compartmentalized like that.  My brain is spaghetti; it's all connected.  I'm reading on these writing sites about finding your niche and staying there with your writing.  I can't just pick one, though.  I love knitting.  I love God.  I love my family.  But some of my readers may not care to read about God, and maybe some of my Christian friends have no desire to read about crafting of any sort.  

So here's what I'm going to do (since it's my blog and no one can stop me).  I really want to start writing some more real, deep, devotional material.  I'm going to try to post that every Monday morning, as that's the morning I typically need the most "pumping up."  If my faith offends you, take this as fair warning to skip reading the blog that morning.  I'm going to pull all the stops and make it really religious and everything.  But don't feel like I want to exclude you to because we don't share the same faith.  You're welcome to stay and read, and hopefully be blessed by it as well.

Other days I'll write about knitting, or life, which may or may not be about my faith.  It will pretty much be like always.  I've also thought about changing the name of blog to something a bit more simple, but can't think of anything right now.  So without further ado:

You've done it.  I've done it.  Every mom I know has been there at one point or another.  You are exhausted.  You are in desperate need of a break.  You want to run away from home.  In an act of tempers flaring, yelling, and/or crying, you get yourself a break, either from a bubble bath, locking yourself in the bathroom, going for a walk, going out with your friends, or if you are really lucky, some sort of retreat/vacation.

You sit there and stew over 2 conflicting boiling emotions: guilt that you are being such a bad mom because you abandoned your work or you feel like your kids are this huge burden, and anger that no one is helping you.  It's isolating.  You feel unseen, unheard, unloved.

You think that if you could just get a breather, or if you could actually have enough energy to spend time in the Bible, you could be doing so much better.  You're running on fumes, and you are very aware of that...and no one around you seems to take notice.

There should be zero guilt in resting.  There is nothing wrong with needing rest.  I know those verses in the Proverbs are filling your head right now, about the sluggard, and the lazy people, and what will befall them.  That's talking about the abuse of rest.  That's not talking about rest.  God designed many good things, but the abuse and twisting of those things is wrong, not the things themselves.

Let's take a look at how God first brought up the topic of rest:

"And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation"
Genesis 2:2-3

It's a bit repetitive, but usually the ancient languages did that to emphasize a thought.

So God made a plan for rest in the beginning.  This planned rest was named the "Sabbath."  Did you notice that rest was a part of the creation, not a part of the fall?  Sin doesn't enter the world until Genesis 3.  Rest was not a product of sin.  It was part of the original creation.  This is key.  You don't need rest because you are somehow flawed.  You need rest because you are God's creation.  If sin never entered the world, and everything was perfect, you would still need rest.

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.  On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.  For in six days, the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."
Exodus 20:8-11.

This verse above is an excerpt from the 10 commandments.  Yep, right there in-between misusing God's name and honoring your parents.  It's listed before do not lie, steal, or murder.  Why do you think that is?

Here's what I think.  I think that when we don't rest, we are saying that God's design must be flawed.  We're saying his method is madness.  We say that his provision isn't enough, and we need to pad it a bit.  It's saying that we know better.  It's saying we have too much to do that we don't have the time to pause and thank God for all he has done.  Why bother?  We're doing all the work anyway. I don't see anyone lined up to help, do you?  It's making yourself the giver and provider of all things good.  Never the receiver.

At it's philosophical core, it's self-centered.  That's the beauty of it, from Satan's perspective.  We think we're sacrificing everything for our work, but in reality, we are saying that we are the Savior, and everything would fall apart if it weren't for us.  We hold the world in our hands, after all.  (There are exceptions, as I'll talk about later, as rest is also a part of community living.  Without a strong community, people are forced to go without rest.)  Notice, the 10 commandments were given to a community, and held accountable as a community.

Let's take a look at some passages on how God felt about people not taking the ordained "Sabbath" that he designed, and commanded:

The prophet Jeremiah also talks about it, in chapter 17.  It's actually a very long frustration God is proclaiming against Judah, and the kings of Judah.  Here is a portion of it:

"This says the LORD: Take care for the sake of your lives, and do not carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath or gates of Jerusalem.  And do not carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath or do any work, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your fathers.  Yet they did not listen or incline their ear, but stiffened  their neck, that they might not hear and receive instruction." Jeremiah 17:21-23.

You can find many other passages like this one.  God was mad at his people very often in the Old Testament because they wouldn't stop working, and honor the Sabbath he ordained.  (Apparently we aren't the only culture of workaholics.)  I want us to ask once again, why was the Sabbath so important to God?  Why did he want his people to obey this commandment, and take a regular day of rest?

Like all of God's laws, it's good for us.  For the sake of our lives it says.  I honestly think (and science supports this) that we work harder and more efficiently when we have regular rest.  Resting makes our work more effective.  We actually get more done.  We are healthier when we have rest.  Most importantly, we are forced to rely on God, and each other when we rest.  Resting out of obedience, not exhaustion, means you stop.  It means you cannot be the savior of all things.  It's an act of placing God on his throne, and stepping back.  It's an act of faith.

Resting is obedience.  It is not an indulgence.  It is part of our original design.

Let's also recognize, that we can't do it.  Let's face it.  We're going to do work on the Sabbath no matter how Orthodox you are.  As Jesus said, (after being criticized for healing on the Sabbath) if your sheep falls into a pit on the Sabbath, you're going to take it out, right?

This might be the most impossible commandment, in my opinion.  Resting is not always easy.  Do you ever sit there, and all the things that need to get done just start eating at you as you think of them?  Do you worry people who are helping you won't get it right?  Do you think the world will fall apart if your bit of work doesn't get done?  This is most especially true if you are a mother.  You're not getting out of dirty diapers, dishes, and disciplining on the Sabbath.  We need some kind of visual of what rest looks like in the context of motherhood. I have been chasing this question for a few years.  How is this done with kids?  Yes, perhaps this is something that we can train them into, but what about until then?   Are we exempt?  Or is everyone exempt, in light of the fact that Jesus is the completion of the law.  And if we are exempt, does that mean we don't need to rest anymore?  I want to share more of these details of what I found in my search in the coming weeks.

There's still so much to add to this topic.  I feel like I'm just getting going.  You'll have to wait for next Monday to read more.  If you want a reminder, you can follow me on Facebook, or sign up for email reminders on the sidebar of the blog.  I'm going to talk about how the Sabbath always had a plan, it wasn't just whenever you felt like it.  There's a method to it.  I'm going to go much, much deeper about what it means for Jesus to be our Sabbath.  Still another day, we'll talk about pseudo-rest, or things that enter our lives under the illusion of rest, as well as what rest means from a community standpoint, not just individuals.  We will talk about legalism surrounding the concept of rest, and how to address rest without a legalistic formula.  Stay tuned.

If you are on social media, I would appreciate (if you're so inclined) you sharing a link to this post (or any of the posts to come) with your friends, most especially those you feel could use a good encouragement and source for rest.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Pears and Porcelain

I try to do a morning "tea time" where we sit and have a snack mid-morning.  The kids see this as a break in school, but actually it's a way to do a read-aloud book while everyone is sitting (to eat) and I get little interruptions (because there is food in their mouth).  This is how reading aloud from chapter books works in this house.  It's the only way I've been able to make it work.

We are currently reading our way through Strawberry Girl which is not actually just about a girl, but 2 feuding families, the Boyers and Slaters, living down South I'd say about a hundred years ago, and the children are stuck in the middle of the fight.

One family, the Boyers, hardworking and eager to make all things beautiful, set out to improve their land, and do the unthinkable: farm strawberries.  They are set back several times by their neighbors, the Slaters, who let their cows and pigs roam freely over the untouched land.

The Slaters don't believe in feeding animals, when they can find food themselves in the wilderness.  Their children are unkempt and rude.  The father gambles and drinks away any pocket of money they encounter, leaving the mother to try to fend for herself and the children, which has hardened her greatly.

When the Boyers decide to fence in their strawberry fields, to keep their neighbor's animals out, the feud escalates.  As the Slater family begins to fall apart from within, the Boyer family ends up being there to catch them, with open arms of love and grace.

Yes, it's a heavy children's book, but it teaches compassion in a way that I think kids can understand.  Silje has read it many times, but this is the first time for the other kids.

I said I "try" to do tea-time every day.  It ends up being about 3 times a week---4 times on a excellent week.  Other days I just set a bowl of peanuts on the table and call it good. (Before anyone dares to think that we have such an idyllic homeschool day every day.)

We were having a bit of a rough morning this particular morning, though, so I went all out and brought out the honey-vanilla pears I canned last summer.  I only got 6 jars done, so these are especially precious.  It was actually the first jar we opened of them.  They were good, but the honey was very strong.  The kids had no complaints about that.

We were out of hot chocolate mix, so I made some from ingredients we had around the house.  This, of course, made tea time late, and the last 20 minutes or so were of me saying 73 times "It's not tea time yet!!!  I know what the clock says but it's tea time when I SAY it's tea time!"  Followed by the digging deep for patience: "I'm making something really special!  Hang in there and it will be worth it!"

Ahem.  I was trying.  It all ended well, and with grace.  The kids were delighted at the spread in the end, and sat quietly as I read about the Boyer's trip to town.

My mom gave me this teapot for Christmas.   I made the mugs for the kids around the same time.  I got the children's sized mugs here, and used porcelain pens to draw, so it ended up being a pretty cheap project.  They each got their own little tree (I'm no artist with a pen) as well as their name, and a little heart at the bottom of the mug.  It was really easy, except for the whole, deciding-what-to-draw-without-making-it-look-stupid part.  It required hours of Pinterest study.

To really change the mood from the dreary attitude infecting our house, I brought out my grandma's little china fruit bowls, which they really liked.  There's something about china dishes that makes the kids sit a little taller and feel special.  (Also, I've learned that if I light candles at supper, everyone hushes down and instantly become thoughtful in their speech.  I don't do it often.  It's one of those in-case-of-emergency things in my mom tool box.)

What are some things you do to switch around bad attitudes hanging over the house?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Morning Glory

Do you ever have a morning, where you reach for your coffee, and you happen to see the sunrise out of the corner of your eye, drop everything, put on your coat, grab your camera and run outside?  I went outside to take some pictures of the pink and purple sky yesterday morning, and it turns out Silje was already out there doing the morning chores of feeding and watering the animals.

They say there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.  The kids each have a "muff" that Knut bought them a year or two ago that can be worn around the neck and head a number of ways.  He found this hot pink, merino one for Silje which is about twice as warm as everyone else's.  She loves being warm.  She takes after her mother.

She also loves her animals.  Her cats and rabbit are down in the barn, and the chickens are in the coop, and Missy spends some time off leash roaming/chicken-predator hunting and some time leashed near her doghouse.  I walked in on Silje giving Missy her subzero rubdown, which Missy was enjoying immensely.

I'm not a morning person, by any stretch of the imagination.  But sunrises like this?  They make even me question why I'm not.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Yarn Along

I'm still on A Girl of the Limberlost which was Silje's Christmas book.  I've cried twice, now.  The amazing thing about this book is that I'm not crying from sadness (yet...I don't know how it ends).  I'm crying from beauty.  Very, very few authors can make you cry because something is so beautiful.  It goes beyond excellent storytelling.  This is storytelling at the highest artisan level.

This is the best book ever.  I simply cannot recommend it highly enough.  I keep looking up at Silje and saying, "Oh my goodness this is so good.  I cannot put it down!"  Then she just smiles and said "I told you!!"  A book that spans generations with people of all ages being effected by it?  That my friends is the definition of a classic.

My color work project using Brooklyn Tweed has reached the 6-8 inch simmer.  (The point in all of my designs, right around 6-8 inches deep when I second guess everything about the design.  So I pause and rethink it all.  This process can take anywhere from 1 day to 8 months.)

Fortunately, my "Nade" sweater, as I think I'm naming it, made from squishy, heavenly, cashmere-blend Plucky yarn is finally out of the thinking stage.  The front and back have been done awhile, but the sleeves have been simmering, as I did not like how it was turning out in the stitch pattern I had swatted out.  So in the end, I picked a super simple eyelet stitch for the sleeves, and this first sleeve is knitting up like a dream.  I could knit with this yarn for the rest of my life and die happy.  Seriously.  I am worried my design is not doing the yarn justice.  We shall see.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Hibernation Beauties

The amaryllis is in full bloom now.  It's extravagance is distracting in the most wonderful way.  Knut is still working on the farm, but the hours are less, and he usually fills his winter days with a big house project.  As we spent this year's "home improvement money" that we saved, to reside our barn that desperately needed it last summer, he doesn't have a big home project to do this winter.  I think he's loving that, because I think it's the first year out of the 6 years that we've lived here that he doesn't have a huge project on his hands.

The good husband that he is, he pulled out my old dollhouse, again, and started going  through the 90 or so step process of putting it together.  My birthday is in March, and he has the goal of giving it to me as a gift.  I've had this unassembled dollhouse since my dad gave it to my sister in I when I was 8 or so.  When my sister was dividing up some of our stuff at my mom's house during a move, I ended up with the treasure, as she wanted our old vanity.  (And the vanity was harder to ship cross-country.)

So I've had it for several years now.  I've bugged Knut about it for the last few years, but hopefully not enough to completely annoy him.  Last year, or the year before, he looked for the missing instruction booklet online, and found it.  To his dismay, the project was completely more work than he imagined, and put it away as there was no way he had time for a project of this magnitude at the time.

So this year, he pulled out the box, with lots of sighing and head scratching.  I'm not sure he's looking forward to it, but I think he's excited to have it done and off of his mind.  He spent a whole evening taking inventory of all the pieces, and saw that through the various moves, some pieces were missing.  I told him that a Hobby Lobby about an hour for us has a whole dollhouse section where you can get all sorts of parts.  So he made a detailed list of things that he needed, and now we just wait until we can get up there, which will likely be sometime this week.  The next section he's on is the windows, and about half the window panes are missing.  I may pick up some more dollhouse furniture there while I'm there.  I've been picking up something for the dollhouse every time I'm there for the last few years, and have quite the "hope chest" for it built up.

In other news, Elias lost his first tooth, which he is pretty excited about.  The kids were astonished that the tooth fairy actually left a dollar on the first night.  Very often it can take weeks for the tooth fairy to visit, and she leaves notes, saying that she's sorry, she was on vacation in Fiji, or some other exotic destination that the kids run to look up.  The tooth fairy is lazy AND educational like that.  Quite the world traveler.  Knut tells the kids that the tooth fairy was much more prompt when he was a kid, before she unionized with the Easter Bunny and Santa.

There has not been much outside playing, as the temperatures have been crazy low, with very little snow to comfort us with.  We've still been running around doing our regular activities in town.  I've been doing a lot of cleaning around the house, though I haven't brought myself to take down the Christmas decorations yet.  I making myself do it next weekend, though.

I found a great App for my phone that one of my friends told me about.  I started doing the FlyLady cleaning system this year to help me stay on top of household things.  It's REALLY working for me.  Actually, I think it's working because of the app, and the fact that I can customize it in a way that makes sense for my homeschooling life.  It's called "HomeRoutines" by Wunderbear.  It was the first app I ever paid money for, but it might be the best money I have ever spent.  I can't remember a time when my house has ever been this clean, and I haven't been stressed out about it.

Knut's big race in Wisconsin is coming up, so he's doing a lot of training.  My trip to Colorado is a short 10 days, 10 hours, and 3 minutes away.  I'm trying to load of the freezer with meals for Knut and the kids while I'm gone.  I'm just so excited for this little getaway, and feel completely spoiled by it.  (Thank you to anyone who buys my patterns!  You deliver sanity to this mother.)  Speaking of knitting patterns, I finally have time this week to get back to work.  The holiday season is over, my house is in order, and I have about 4 patterns that just need some technical writing time poured into them.  Watch out for a flood of patterns in the next month or so.