Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lord, draw near...

Rev. John Ames, in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead:

"I mean only respect when I say that your mother has always struck me as someone with whom the Lord might have chosen to spend some part of His mortal time.  How odd it is to have to say that after all these centuries. There is an earned innocence, I believe, which is as much to be honored as the innocence of children. . . I can imagine Jesus befriending my grandfather, too, frying up some breakfast for him, talking things over with him, and in fact the old man did report several experiences of just that kind. I can't say the same for myself. I doubt I have the strength for it. This is something that has come to my mind from time to time over the years, and I don't really know what to make of it."

I finished reading Gilead yesterday, and I was blessed by this patient, lovely book.  It is full of beauty and truth and the complexity and pain of intergenerational relationships as times change–recognizing how the formative things for each generation (Civil and World Wars, poverty, times of plenty, various world events, educational ideas, influential writers, parenting styles) form varying ideals about how to live out a true and faithful Christian life. Well, that makes it sound dull and preachy and it is anything but that. Many, many things could be said and discussed about this book, but one line really stuck with me over the past few days and has been pressing on my heart as I've been busy and scattered and, yes, far from the loving and attentive mother I hope to be.

If you haven't already guessed, this is the line that echoes and makes me wonder:

". . . your mother has always struck me as someone with whom the Lord might have chosen to spend some part of His mortal time."

Like John Ames himself, I really don't know what to make of it  . . . but a great desire for becoming this sort of person wells up inside of me.

O Lord, draw near to me. May you make me into such a woman and wife and mother!


The Old Schoolhouse

If you are a homeschooler, you might enjoy taking a look at the brand new Summer 2011 digital edition of . . .

           ~The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine~

. . . which contains the same content and design as the print edition of the Summer 2011 issue which was released this week.

I have an article in the Chapel column on page 24-26. TOS is offering this digital issue of the magazine totally free with no strings attached. Enjoy reading my article and the rest of the magazine–no registration or email address required! If you wish, you may also share this issue of TOS with your friends by clicking on the share button at the top of the magazine pages.


(Photo credit: Cover of Summer 2011 issue)

Friday, July 15, 2011

What are we doing?

Sometimes I am extra thankful for a dose of laughter.

We've had two days of rain here, maybe more, it's hard to remember. I thought it might be gone by this morning, but instead it was darker than ever. Raining that type of soaking, thunder-rumbly, straight down pouring, way-too-much-lightning-to-go-out sort of rain. My own ten kids, plus the four great kids staying with us this week (yes, 14 total), all seemed to have that mournful look on their face so well captured at the beginning of The Cat in the Hat with the boy and the girl looking out the window saying "so we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day."

Except that my kids were not sitting still looking out the windows in a neat and tidy house.  Especially the little ones–they were running around both getting into mischief while not finding anything to do AND interrupting and making life difficult for the older kids who had decided to script and shoot a funny commercial on this inside type of day.  A bad combination.

Then The Breeze came and pushed that rain right out of here, the sun came out and shined right into my mommy heart as I realized suddenly everyone could go outside!  The wind was even so strong that, if we were lucky, the mosquitoes and deer flies might stay at bay for a little while. Yippee!

I opened wide the door to the deck and the breeze blew into the house.  Soon, two amigos and a princess (ages 4, 2, and 3) were out dancing on the deck and hopping in the little puddles and yelling reminders to me that I'd forgotten to take in the tablecloth and it is really, really soaked.  The wind was suddenly full of adventure as I saw them clinging to the deck posts like sailors holding on for dear life on a ship at sea, screaming for help from other sailors holding fast to their masts.  Smiling, I went back to preparing lunch.  Glancing out the window, I saw them across the yard, marching in the big puddle in the baby pool that had been knocked over by the storm.  March (splash), march (splash), march (splash).

Oh, my happy heart that Outside was a playroom once again.

Back on the deck again, the warm wind was stronger than ever, and Ruthie's long hair was streaming out nearly sideways to the East.  Suddenly Jonathan had an idea, "Hey guys, do this!" he said as he put his index finger up in the air. Without question, two other little index fingers went up, pointing to the sky.

8-year-old Ben came out and saw them standing there and told them, "You have to lick your finger, like this." He showed them, lick, and again point to the sky.

Everyone quite agreeably then licked and pointed their fingers to the sky.  Then again, lick and point. Lick and point.  The wind was now so strong that they were leaning to the West to keep from being blown to the East.

For a few seconds they just stood there, four kids pointing at the sky.

Suddenly Ruthie asked (yelled, really, because of the wind), "What are we doing?"

Good homeschool mom that I am, my hopes for an impromptu lesson by my scientifically-minded son explaining the detection of wind direction by sensing the cooling effects of evaporation when more technological methods are unavailable were dashed as Jonathan shrugged and looked at Ben who said...

"Oh, I don't know–it's just something you do with the wind."


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Times of refreshing

Windows all open,
listening to that peaceful rain.

That smell, that sound, that cool breeze... 

These times of refreshing,
a gift in July.

I started a new and interesting Bible-Reading System (Professor Grant Horner's) which has me reading ten chapters a day, from ten different places in the Bible which sounds confusing (and a bit crazy) at first, but I have found it to be very interesting and attention holding. The thing that attracted me to the plan was that the emphasis is just on reading, reading, reading and only reading . . . not contemplation, study, cross referencing, etc. This was attractive as my mental concentration powers are truly at a low point, and as I'd been going about trying to read the Bible in my normal "small amounts and really pay attention" manner–my mind was wandering, my head was often nodding, and mostly I was losing the fight to just turn off the light, snuggle up with the baby, and go to sleep. When trying to shift my reading times to less sleepy times of the day, I'd find myself re-reading over and over to try to make sure I'd gotten it, and to be honest, I'd largely given up and had been very much out of the Bible reading habit for the past month or two (or more). By last week, I was feeling very distant from the Lord, as happens when starving from the Word, when I read about this system via a friend's timely suggestion.  So this read, read, read and fill up on the Word was attractive–like a huge glass of water when you are SO thirsty on a hot day–though I was still skeptical about "just" reading (and the good professor even encourages reading quickly... and no dawdling or back reading or looking up cross-references!) OK, then.

My thought after day one was... wow, you can't read ten chapters from ten books of the Bible and not see that every author is really telling the same story ~ how could these ten very different readings have such similar themes? I was reminded of connections I'd known but forgotten, and parts of my brain were startled awake. Like a sleepy enchantment finally being broken, I hear an urgent "Awake O sleeper! Rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light!"(Ephesians 5:14). Yes! I want to be awake!

Well, I haven't yet gotten through 30 days (which the designer of this plan recommends for trying it out) but I have already benefited from being back in the Word, even just dipping my toes in–ten toes in ten places. One thing is that throughout the day, the Lord is using His Word to speak truth to me, reminding me of Him in many things throughout the day. Though my impression had been that my comprehension was terrible, in fact, His words are coming to mind as normal everyday things remind me of spiritual things.

Today it was the rain.  Cool rain in in the midst of hot summer. So refreshing in a way that causes me to breathe deeply, relax my shoulders, set down my laundry basket, and just sit down and listen to the sound of the rain outside the window.  It seemed like a picture to me of the type of refreshing we should have in the Lord. I thought about my friend and her family in a relentlessly hot place on this planet, no air conditioning in sight (95 degrees inside her house), obeying a call to share the good news with a people living in darkness. I longed to send some of this rain to her dry and weary land, this cool breeze, some measure of refreshment . . . and also refreshing in the Lord.  And I realized that phrase "that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" was whispering to me from the reading a few days ago. 

May we all have refreshing this week, and most of all ~ times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.


Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. ~Acts 3:19-21

Note/Update: Added 9-9-2011 - I do really like this reading plan, but I haven't been able to keep up with the amount of reading during the school year (or even every day in the Summer!).  I'm still doing it very slowly, rotating with the bookmarks but only a few chapters a day and skipping some days. I still like this as a goal...maybe someday. In the meantime, getting all over the Bible has been good for me, even at a very slow pace.

To see how I have adapted this plan with five bookmarks and a "no-dates, you're-never-behind, no-guilt!" approach.  Please visit The Bookmarks Bible Reading Plan.  Blessings! (January 2012)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The grass of the field

Ten years ago, I didn't know that grass could grow to wave above my head.

Five years ago, I hadn't noticed that the grass that grows wild around farm fields comes in various hues of browns, yellows, greens and purples and none are the color of a well tended lawn.  The colors are rich, both lighter and deeper than I'd expect, and shifting as they wave like water upon a rolling sea. The bigger fields look and sound like a distant ocean on a windy night.

A year ago, Kevin said to me, "I think you should write about grass."

Grass?  I really hadn't been looking at grass.

Earlier this week I escaped from the house, remembering that summer is walking its slow pace through the days no matter how pressured I am feeling to do and catch-up and accomplish. Walking along in the truck tracks around the big fieldI had to think to breathe and coach myself to feel the evening sun on my face and look around and really notice. Because all of that beauty is there to remind me of reality. Of the God who created it all.  And I had to shut off the voices inside my head to listen; because the outside clamor had been left at home, and what I need most, always, is to be listening for His voice. Sometimes that is easier in a field.

The grass along there is so tall that when I walk along with my arms outstretched like a child making airplane wings, my fingers brush right through the purple, feathery heads of the grass–and right at eye level I can see the delicate differences between the varieties of grass in that place–pollen hanging off each little bud in the cluster like miniature flowers.  So intricate. I was struck once again by how much there is to see that I never pay attention to, laughing a bit with the wonder of something revealed suddenly right in front of me. . . and there is so much more, secret and mysterious and hidden from our sight, that we can't yet see. Things saved for the eyes of the heart.

So I remembered that Kevin had encouraged me to consider the grass. Remembered that my Lord Jesus gently tells me to consider how God clothes the grass of the field and not be anxious. Remembered that my trust only needs to be childlike. Remembered that life is fleeting, like the glory of the flower of grass. Remembered that, unlike grass, the Word of the Lord stands forever–and that Peter tells us that Word is the good news that has been preached to us. Such a gospel! Who could have imagined?

And it became easier to breathe and enjoy the beauty of that grass waving in the evening breeze, even while it is teaching me its lessons.


“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."  ~ Matthew 18:3

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."  ~ Matthew 6:25-34 

“All flesh is like grass

and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

~ 1 Peter 1:24-25 (quoting Isaiah 40:8)

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)