Monday, January 31, 2011

Winter's longing

Looking out the window this morning, I was thinking about how easy it is to love the first snowfall of the season when the beautiful flakes come down by the millions and cover all the ugliness of dreary Fall. How happy, too, to think of our own ugliness being covered by God’s grace. But, today I was thinking that amazingly, God our Father has done more for us in Christ . . . how can it be? It’s not just the white covering of winter freezing us solid along with covering our sins. It’s new life, abundant life, all things made new. The promise of Springtime and Summer and warmth and love along with our new robes. And we are not lost in the process, but found and loved and . . . I can barely whisper it . . . glorified, so we can bear His Glory. Such good news. I’m thankful for seasons that teach me through the longing for Spring when gray skies come day after day–for seasons that teach my heart to hope for more. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Winter's longing

Snow blows through the black framed trees.

Wrinkled white blankets
     cover soil at rest and
          flutter ragged at the seams.

Mud and old discarded things
     are hidden from our sight.
          Forgotten piles and projects fast asleep.

Covered but not made new.
     A cold and lifeless beauty.

The joy of sparkling powder
     has faded into gray;
          a chill comes through the glass.
Shoulders hunched in sweaters,
     we shiver at the bleakness
          and hope for Spring.


“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow . . .” Isaiah 1:18

(So Jesus again said to them, . . . )
. . . “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Midwinter's gift.

This is a hard time of year in the North.

The lights and sparkle of Christmas have faded away, gifts have found a spot to stay in drawers and closets and cabinets, while the ornaments have been packed in boxes and bins. In our case, the Christmas tree is now decorating the yard–preserved green and frozen in the arctic air. And still, we face three more months of winter. The days are short and it's dark and cold when the first child wakes up in the morning.

This morning, as we gathered one by one in the kitchen, the day began as usual. Parents and older kids wrapped in bathrobes and blankets in the chilly air, trying to convince the younger children that socks and sweatshirts seem like a good idea while waiting for the fireplace to warm the house. Children eating cereal. Conversation and coffee and hoping that soon we'll feel more wide awake. Then something unusual happened. The door was opened to let the dog out, and the gust that invaded the kitchen was cold as expected, but it smelled . . . like Spring. Everyone sat up straight and sniffed the breeze. What a wonderful, amazing smell! It was like a midwinter's gift.

Going outside to stand on the icy, snow-covered deck, I stood with my face towards the sun–so sparkling bright on the snow I had to close my eyes. I kept standing there long enough that Grace opened her upstairs window to ask what I was doing.

What was I doing?

Thanking the Lord for this sunshine and the hint-of-springtime smell, and thinking. Thinking that everything in creation is here for a purpose, thinking of today's lesson for my soul. Trying to capture the gift.

Midwinter's Gift

Sunshine and dripping icicles.
Frozen trees half-exhale in the warming air 
       ~ a hint of springtime mixed
              with woodsmoke on their breath. 
Reminders in the bleak midwinter 
     that Life will triumph in the end.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Journal Snapshots ~ 2010


How to introduce this?

Perhaps a Happy New Year's theme . . .  2010: The Year in Review! Or maybe a reflection on how often my life feels like a sit-com . . .  Never a Dull Moment: The Series”  Or maybe it could be a pitch for a new animated movie . . .   “The Princess, the Three Amigos, Super Fix-it Woman, and Other Superheros!”  OR Journal Snapshots of our Life . . . 

I think I'll stick with the Journal Snapshots idea.  2010 is the year I started a blog on the spur of the moment. The year the Lord began to combine my love for the Word and my love of words.  I discovered a joy in trying to capture moments with words.  Sometimes it poured out in prose.  Sometimes it was easier to capture in fewer words . . . the surprise of poetry.   And sometimes in looking for moments to capture, I found myself laughing out loud in delight or crying in worship.  It's been a gift to me from the Lord, truly His treasure right here in my junk drawer.  This entry is a collection of lighthearted Journal Snapshots of our Life. . . the small things of life that I don't want to forget, captured in words.

Journal Snapshots ~ 2010


Just washed chocolate cake and ice cream off of Jon's cast and it looks as good as new. The casting material is amazing. They said he could take it in the bath, with care to dry it afterwards - but that seems too good to be true. It's a good era to have a broken arm in America.

Morning sun on Winter's snow, so bright it hurts the eyes
     ~ hinting of Glory so radiant we need new eyes to see.

Ruthie is turning 2 today! She's already perfected the holding up of two fingers to announce her advanced age. Family party tomorrow, how about another pink heart shaped cake?

Zac has his first tooth. It seems strange for us all to be clapping and cheering over such a normal everyday miracle, when there is so much suffering in Haiti.  Many things on my heart to pray about today from joyful to tragic.

Trying to muster up the courage to trek over to our unheated storage shed to search for ice skates that we haven't used since we moved here six years ago. Ok, here I go. Through the snow. Yukon ho!

The stars are really beautiful tonight; So clear and sparkling in this arctic air.

Why is it that even coffee tastes better on your Birthday?

The Valentine's Day answers by the numbers:
•Met at church when I was 15 (I was an annoying kid in his handbell choir. He was a mature 21. There was no thought of romance. At all.)
•At 17.5, great friends, realized we both wanted to marry "someone like you" ~ so started dating.
•Engaged on my 19th birthday.
•Married at age 20 (he was 26).
•21st anniversary coming up in May 2010.

Did something I've never done before. Drove off with my gas cap on the running board on the van . . . six miles of slushy snow later I discovered the truth . . . alas, no more gas cap. We've been back to look. Sad.

Nat: "When's Mothers' Day?"
     Me: "May."
          Nat: "That's too far! They should have it every month!" (big hug)
                  "Good night, mom!" (kiss, run upstairs)
                            Me: (happy)

Grace made two pans of homemade cinnamon rolls last night, and baked them for breakfast this morning. How great is that? So yummy! Coffee anyone?

I just fixed all the lose baseboard trim in our bedroom. I'm pretty sure I'm ready for my own DIY show.

Obviously a genius at 8 months old . . . Zachary just started to clap today every time he hears any music or singing! Then we'd clap and say Yay! for him ~ then he'd clap again.

Getting some blogging in while a sick baby is sleeping in my lap after crying for over an hour (!). Zac seems to have an RSV type cold that was getting better, but now is worse. The snuggling is nice, but it's put a damper on his blossoming clapping career.


Rain, lightning, thunder and hail. 45 degrees. Could it be we are missing the March blizzard at this very moment?

First day of mud season here at our house. The ground didn't freeze last night for the first time this year. The smell of Spring gives hope that hovers above the ugly, soggy ground.

Baby Zac is crawling around picking up miniscule pieces of treasure off the floor while discovering every nook and cranny of the house. He is quite proud of himself, and sits down and claps every once in a while before spotting something new and exciting to reach for again. Baby Patrol shifts, starting now.

So happy it's truly warm outside in the sunshine this morning! Opening all the windows today before the rain moves in...

Quote of the day: Nearly 7-year-old Ben, when asked if he knew what was smeared all over the bathroom mirror. "It was a BIG I used a toothbrush to clean it up!" Any idea which toothbrush?  Ah, no.

Fire in the fireplace and coffee in my favorite mug on this cold, drizzly day.

Today is Lydia's 12th birthday! The two of us were up early together and have been enjoying the rain and some quiet rainy-day-music (beautifully arranged hymns on acoustic guitar). I love getting to know my children as they unfold and grow like plants in the Spring.

Our neighbor Mr. Friend has tapped four of our maple trees for sap to make syrup. The sap is running this morning . . . drip, drip, drip . . . Yum!

Our cat is having kittens. Right now.

Floor•drobe. Noun. A common (not necessarily recommended) storage system for children's clothing, conveniently located on the floor of the bedroom.

10-year-old basketball fan, Nat: "If KU loses in the first round, then it would just be March Sadness."

Rock Chalk Jayhawk KU- Rock Chalk Jayhawk KU- Rock Chalk Jayhawk KU!

Minnesota kids + 63 and Sunny on St. Patrick's Day = happiness all around! Especially on Spring Break!

Mud season and puddles are beautiful when seen through the eyes of a child. Bring on the rubber boots!

Loving the sound of the wind in the leaves . . . it sounds like summer through my open windows. Maybe this year I'll learn which bird calls go with which birds.

The Lord Jesus is alive, just as He promised! Happy Easter!

Glorious warm sun chasing the puddles away, commanding every green thing to awake!

What a gorgeous day. Just took a walk in my regular shoes, not boots. We seem to have had the shortest mud season on record.  Is it possible? Are we going to move on into true Spring now, or backtrack into winter?

 Me: "Jon, you have WAY to much energy for a rainy day!"
           3-year-old Jon: "Yep. I need to go outside and explode..."

Today is Benjamin's 7th birthday. What a joyful blessing he is to all of us!

Kevin's comment about Ruth and Jon this morning after we watched them running around the house in all their busy-ness while the rest of us were still waking up . . . "Those two have about 500 percent more initiative and energy than they require for their age and stage of life . . ."

Jon, age 3: "My bottom feels like a snitch!"
     Sam, age 5, shocked: "Jon! Don't say that! It's a BAD WORD!"
          The rest of us...."Huh?" and lots of laughter.
               Lydia's comment...."Oh, so THATS the 's-word'"

Slapstick comedy . . . homestyle. All four of my bigger boys just managed to bonk heads together at the same time and fall on the floor after chasing each other around the house. Finding no one to blame, they all dissolved into hilarious giggles.

This really is the perfect cozy rain for a peaceful day curled up reading and drinking hot, soothing drinks from favorite mugs. Unfortunately, that is not on the agenda today at our house.

 If Legos have a saturation point, we've reached it.

We've got frog eggs about to hatch tadpoles in an aquarium on the counter. Spring is coming along . . .  this year we've got wood frogs again. Last year we had teeny-tiny western chorus frogs.

Rubber boots are all the fashion this morning. Really, when are they not in fashion.

Our sweet, wildly-creative, artistic, full-of-life, sunny and loving Essie is 9 years old today! Celebrating the blessing of her life today and thanking God for putting her in our family! Happy Birthday Esther Rose!

Dandelion and violet bouquets crowding my kitchen windowsill ~ heralds rejoicing in the arrival of Spring.

Planning out what annuals to put in around the house this Summer. Anyone know of any flowers particularly enticing or repugnant to chickens? I know for a fact they find begonias delicious so we won't be getting any of those this year . . . 

OK, so I guess we'll do July this week. Our low temp last night was five degrees above our normal high temp for end of May! Emergency search for Summer clothing today . . . 

Love is . . . a husband and son who put in the window A/C units on the first hot day just for me.


 If you've ever wondered how many places your baby touches on the high chair, himself, and surrounding area while eating - give him two blackberries and let him play for 20 minutes. Oh my.

I think it's possible that someone who owned a lot of stock in a laundry detergent company invented chocolate syrup.

Oh yes, days and weeks and months like this are worth five months of snow. Church picnic tonight, anyone?

I'm thinking of sewing velcro to Jon's pants and a comfy chair to get him to sit still for a few minutes.

Seven kids to the dentist for check-ups in one morning. Try not to envy our adventuresome life!

Pancakes for lunch, anyone? Essie's making them for us. Our neighbor Mr. Friend's maple syrup is on the menu, too. Yum! Let's see if Lydia will make some cheesy scrambled eggs. I love having cheerful, capable kids. What a blessing!

Read Little Red Riding Hood in a sunny fortress to three little amigos, a princess and a cat this afternoon. We all went down the slide afterwards. You can't say that every day.

Exciting evening at our house. 10-year-old Nat has earned the right to watch all of the Lord of the Rings movies by reading all of the books. So tonight - Nat, Mom, Dad and older sisters already in the LOTR club get to watch together! Watching the first one tonight and the rest over the next few days. Fun!

Just noticed that the doors on my front loading washer and dryer look just like a Hobbit Hole front door (minus the shiny knocker ). Wondering how that escaped my attention for the past four years.

Watching three little amigos getting clean in a tub. The tub will need a bath when they are done.

Fun, annual strawberry picking adventure yesterday. Quote of the day, upon seeing the strawberry field... "Ooooh, we're picking smoothies!" (Jon, of course).

After a decade of hopes and dreams, Grace has a beautiful new Labrador puppy.  Welcome to our world, Boaz!

EVENT: Cricket found in the dining room.
     HILARIOUS DISCUSSION among 4 boys: in which
     they consider the best method of trapping
     and transporting said cricket (quite imaginative ideas).
               BEST QUOTE from Sam holding cricket in a jar:
               "Now he's my new best friend and I'm going to
                  name him Jumper. Because he's a jumper."

Zachary is one year old today - what a blessing he has been to all of us. Easy going, loving, playful and affectionate. Today he is entertaining us by crawling around, smiling up at us, and saying "Ruff! Ruff" like the new puppy!

Delightful walk on a misty, cool, Summer day. Took along two young squires on bikes, a trusty dog, and unexpectedly, one of our cats tagged along. Everything is so green and lush it seems as if you can hear it all growing when you stand still.

And did I mention Ben broke his toe last night? We took one look and headed to the ER at 9:15pm. 2nd toe was bent sideways where there is not a joint. Ewwww. Back in place, taped and a cool boot today. He's feeling pretty good.

Blue eyes look even brighter when peering out of a dirt-dusted face. I've got five happy examples of that in my kitchen at this very moment. It's been a good day to make cities, streets and rivers under the big maple tree. Apparently.

Thankful that our electricity was only out for a few hours! It's amazing how stir crazy we got with warm-and-humid inside and hot-and-mosquitoey outside (while drizzling). Not wanting to open the fridge and let the cold out, we don't have running water without electricity, and so dark for afternoon. I heard a lot of whining around here, but maybe that was just me . . .

Did I mention that nearly 4-year-old Jon learned to ride a bike this week? Now if only he could learn to use the brakes we'll be all set. Thankful we have no pavement around here - he's a wild sight out there.

Sam: "Mom, you better drink your coffee--it's good for the baby."
10 year old Nat . . . "I'm so glad God created smiling!"

Happy Sweet 16th Birthday to our dear Grace!

What do Harrison Ford and Zachary Shull have in common? A handsome, rugged scar just in that crease above the chin. In Zac's case, it has a fresh appearance.

Zac's chin is healing really well. The purple superglue is holding strong despite all the drool and meal messes, much to my surprise. I told the doctor I'd take a pack of that skin glue to go, but he thought I was joking. I wasn't.

‎12th year of homeschooling - Six kids between 11th and Kindergarten actually "in" school - it's been a great day. Currently middle school kids are independently doing crater experiments in pans of flour and cocoa on the deck. "Independently" - what a great word. And the little kids get to watch!


One perfectly beautiful Autumn day. One patient farmer working all day long. One tractor. One huge amazing soybean harvesting attachment. One large truck standing ready to collect a flood of beans. Four enthralled children sitting and watching the excitement. Even the cats are interested.

And a Happy 11th Birthday to the one-of-a-kind, super, fantastic son and brother . . . Nathanael "Nat" Shull!

After summer sandal season, the first cool church morning of the season in which we discover that half of the children have grown out of their nice shoes.

Essie decided to watch the birds at our feeder so closely that she will know each one and can name them as friends. She's outside now sitting quietly with her science notebook and watching. Yesterday there was one visitor and she wasn't sure what kind of bird, so she named him Mr. E (pronounced "mystery"). She's hoping they learn to like her, too.

The reintroduction of socks into our Fall wardrobe adds a whole 'nuther dimension into the dynamics of our household. Good-bye bare feet! Farewell sandals! May we meet again!

It sure is easy to please a four-year-old on his birthday! Happy Birthday Dear Jonathan! May we all be as happy and content and happy-go-lucky as you are every day.

2-year-old-Ruthie excitedly sharing something she drew this morning, "Look Daddy! Look!"
     Kevin, looking carefully "Oh, what a nice picture...what is it?  
          Ruthie, shrugging . . . "Actually, I don't know!"

Who would have thought Tipper would be a State Champ two years in a row? We need to give that dog more respect.

Golden day. Neighbor Farmer tilling to prepare for next spring. Young children and big sister at play in the leaves. Soup on the stove. Dad and rotating kids at work in the woods. First day of Shull Lumberjack season 2010/11. We're thankful for several oaks and elms which lived out their lives and have now volunteered for firewood conveniently near to our dirt road. Me? I'm alone in the house!

While trying to prevent toddler Zac from grabbing and spilling coffee, managed to splash myself and computer. I yelled for emergency help with clean-up just as the phone rang . . .
     Nat's comment, "That's probably Dad calling about the coffee on the computer..."
              (Don't worry dear, the computer's fine!)

A skunk seems to have met his demise in our neighborhood about 18 hours ago. Either that or he has an elaborate plan for marking his territory quite near to my territory. Maybe I'll fight back by spreading pumpkin pie and vanilla and hazelnut coffee and Fall spice smell all around the yard. That oughta scare 'em away.

I don't know the names of enough colors to do justice to the beauty of rain drenched leaves in Autumn when the sun comes out and everything is a brilliant glow with a spot of fire in every drop on every leaf. But I do know I love this season.

I am seriously dependent on having a working washing machine. Let's all hope Kevin can figure out what's wrong with my not-very-old large front loader without an expensive repair. The laundry mountain seems to be growing by the hour. Thankful that the last load completed was tons of underwear and socks!

Happy Birthday to Sam! The day really couldn't get much better for our 6-year-old lumberjack . . . working with Dad on splitting and stacking firewood AND a family party on the same day! We love you, Sam!

Situation: Kevin giving my 9th month baby belly an affectionate pat.
     My comment: "Try not to be jealous of my rock hard abs."
          His response: "Yeah, I love your one pack."
               If laughter could bring on labor, I'd be all set.

Although it's tempting to stay home until the weather improves, I sure would miss seeing everyone until April! For now . . . mochas, fires in the fireplace and finding the winter coats. Thankful for a warm, snug home.

Suddenly, there is a countdown ticker on the dashboard of my MacBook that says "BABY DUDE!!!! 10 days, 14 hours, 20 minutes, 10...9...8, etc. seconds." Compliments of Grace. It's fun to have the kids up to the teenagers excited about meeting our new little Baby Dude.

Feeling very thankful for my husband's life today! Happy Birthday, Kevin! :)

My newly-fixed-with-replacement-parts washing machine just finished a load! My husband is my hero! Whew! When we loaded it into the dryer and started it, his first comment was, "Has it always sounded like that?" Um, yes? I hope...

We give thanks to the Lord for Daniel Roy born at 3:52 a.m. this morning. 8 lbs. 12 oz. 21.25 inches. Both Mom and babe are doing well. -Kevin

It has often been observed that "Shull babies" look alike. Apparently this has confused at least one of our kids . . . after looking closely and studying Daniel's face, Jonathan looked up at me and asked . . . "Is that me?"

Winter: Yes, where we live –we start and finish with Winter

My boys are outside to bring wood into the house wearing wind breakers. I think it's time to stop denying that winter is coming and get out the warm coats. 6-8 inches by tomorrow night? Somehow I dread winter, then get excited to watch it arrive!

When the boys came back from playing in the snow -- flinging boots, jackets, mittens and socks in their eagerness to stand by the fire, I asked if they'd had a good time. "Oh, YES!" said Ben with a happy smile, "We had big adventures!"

Ruthie comes in from outside, wailing dramatically . . . sizing up the situation, I say, "Oh, Ruthie . . . did your mittens fall off and you fell in the snow? That must feel horrible." Drama girl, collapsing into my arms . . . "I am HORRIBLE! OHhhhhhh (wailing continues)," A few minutes in front of the fireplace having her hands rubbed, and she was happily on her way . . .

Craft explosion in my dining room . . . baking in the kitchen . . . cleaning and menu and decorating plans. I love the holiday season and the creative output of my kids. <|:o)  (that's supposed to be a smiley with an Elf hat).

And more snow, and more snow, and MORE SNOW! Thinking of making Christmas cookies for the first time this year . . . it's worth the big mess, isn't it? Then it will look like it snowed in my kitchen as well.

Lydia was reading the ingredients to the special holiday sausage the kids were eating.  “Beef, chicken, pork…”
     “There are FORKS in there????”
       Jon interrupted.

I've been trying to think of something witty to write about how much I need to do in the next three days, but the only thing that comes to mind is that it's a good thing Christmas is really about Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, Savior . . .  because I'm not going to get to "everything" this year.

Made the amateur mistake of forgetting an extra change of baby clothes while out on errands today. My solution, as described by Grace, "And she wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a car seat."

And Starting with Winter, again…Welcome 2011!

*¨*•♫♪..and A Happy New Year! ♪♫•*¨*•.

Looking for Ruthie at naptime -- I found her crouched behind the bathroom door wearing my reading glasses. When I moved the door to see her and asked what she was doing, she looked up in the most natural way and replied . . . "Mom, is that you?"

"Mom! Mom! Ruthie is bleeding!!!" yells Jon as he skids into the kitchen.
     Not hearing any crying in the distance, I ask, "What kind of bleeding?"
     Jon looks at me seriously and replies, "Red."

Grace showed Sam a picture of Pastor John and asked him if he knew who that was.   “Yeah,” said Sam, “That’s our actor.”

Regarding Ruthie's personality-plus and determination packed into her little, nearly 3-year-old body, I commented that perhaps she'd one day be like the girl in the movie Flipped, described complimentarily as luminescent.  
     Kevin's quip ~ "She's not just luminescent, she's nearly fluorescent." 

To be continued . . .  

(Thanks to David O'Neal for the "girl with dandelions" photo)
Treasure from the Junk Drawer
copyright © Sara Shull
•All text and poetry by Sara
•Art illustrations by Sara
•Photos by Sara or the Shull kids
~~~~All rights reserved~~~~

Bible verses:
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV)