Monday, April 13, 2015

Finishing Fever













I think that this must happen every school year. We always set good intentions for "finishing strong," but what if finishing strong doesn't mean what I think it means? What if it means just "finishing after a long time of doing something and now we are not going to do it anymore because we have done enough"?

In August we all rose at a decent hour to get breakfast on the table. We started our school work in a religious, timely, SCHEDULED manner. We had every intention of working through entire workbooks and of learning everything there is to know about each subject we had chosen for the year.




{So neat.}




Looking back, I admire us. I also shake my head and click my tongue and think "bless their hearts. Such good intentions."
























I have spent the months after wrangling everything back on schedule, fretting about the slowness of our "workbook-working" and agonizing over the responsibility of getting them through this year with more developed brains and habits.

Our early morning breakfasts are now creeping towards "brunch." The kid's reasonable bedtimes are inching into the VERY dark hours. A few subjects have been literally lost for weeks (I mean - where is that workbook? And HOW much did you say those library fines were?)
We are sliding into home base with mud on our pants and we also may have skipped third.






{Neat? At least it is in a basket.}




And NOW spring has sprung. The "finishing" urgency is still stalking my brain - but I can't hear it because FLOWERS! SUNSHINE! SPRING SHOWERS! CAMPING!





My fingers are in my teacher brain's ears and I'm singing "lalalalalalala!" As loud as I can.
Who cares if a chapter or ... four chapters go undone? I'm sure we will review next year. 
Actually, I am becoming increasingly confident that if I teach my kids about Google, then we can just quit school all together. (I'm kidding, Mom.)



 (but not really.)






So my point is: we ARE finishing strong. We are strong in vitamin D. We are strong in friendships. We are strong in loving each other. And we actually HAVE learned some stuff. Really great smart-people stuff.
And when school is over in May, we will be able to say that we didn't waste the glorious Spring that God provided.


So now I just have to convince my other loudmouth minds that this is the new "finishing strong."

I think I can do it.


......Lalalalalalalalalalalala......




"He has made everything beautiful in it's time..." 
Ecclesiastes 4:8

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Diary of the Evolution of a Miniature Silver Leaf



I make tiny silver foliage a lot. And I thought that it might be nice to show you how many steps it takes to create one of these dainty little leaves.


Most of my smaller leaves start out as round wire. I hammer it flat and saw out the leaf from the flattened wire. I prefer this method over cutting the leaf out of flat sheet silver because the hammered wire is not the exact same thickness all the way across. The varied thickness tends to give the finished leaf a more realistic and organic look.



The next step is to file the shape. I use a sanding disc on the flex shaft to refine, and after that, a small hand file to refine it a bit more and round off the edges. Final sanding comes later.



After the shape is perfected, it is time to chase in the veins. I made a mark-making tool, by filing and rounding an old steel screwdriver. I use this to hammer the lines.




Now it looks like a leaf! But it still isn't finished. If I am going to solder it on a ring (these tiny ones usually go on rings,) I want to curve the leaf slightly so that it hugs the ring band. I use this dapping block (below) to accomplish that.

Then I solder it onto the ring.


After pickling (an acidic solution that removes flux scale and oxidation,)
 it is ready to patina, sand and polish!








Done!











Thursday, March 26, 2015

Open eyes

Ok. I admit it. Sometimes I don't want to be thankful. I don't what to do what is good for me and I don't want to do what's right.
I want to keep my frowny face on. It doesn't feel good, but it does. 
Why?
It is the pull. The drowning is sometimes easier. 




Until I kick just a bit. And rise to the surface.
And breathe.
And look around me.
Acknowledge the grace.










Then I feel better. So many riches.









Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Where are the scissors?

"I want to do work!" She demands.
"I don't want to do this." He mumbles.
"You took my pencil!" Accuses the older one.
And I,  I am yelling loudly saying over all the rest of the noise, "Where are the scissors? We can't do this without scissors!" 
"I'm still hungry!"
"That's mine!"
"Do we have to listen to you reeead today?"
"Can we go outside?"



The workbook cover is falling off. We shove our dirty breakfast bowls to the side and don't mind the dollops of sticky oatmeal that are coving the table as we place our precious schoolwork right on top of them. 
I am sipping my tea in between quotes of directions from right off their page where they could read it themselves, and helping doing the preschool work myself.




Homeschool isn't pretty.

It can be amazing. Beautiful even. But never pretty. In fact it is downright messy.

There are those mornings when I think "everyone else is making this happen and here I am standing on onion skins that fell on the floor last night, stirring oatmeal in a pot that is too small while behind me a little hand keeps reaching up to steal the pieces of fruit (that I have laboriously chopped for everyone's hot cereal.) And I wish I was still in bed breathing in my own carbon dioxide with my head fixed tightly beneath the covers."

But honestly, I think if I weren't homeschooling, I would find life messy too. It just is. Even the most organized among us, in their most truthful moments will recognize that when you are living, you don't always have time to make it pretty. And the messy can be oh, so beautiful and perfectly right and alright. Right?



It is beautiful because they wanted to help make the dinner, and slice the onions and garlic and slowly sauté it until the caramel color rose around the edges.

They are learning how to wash the dishes. They are still dirty sometimes. But they persevere.

One wanted to learn how to carve with his pocket knife, and when he got his first finger cut, he held a brave face and announced that he knew what he did wrong and that he would do it differently next time.

She is learning to cut on the lines. She walks off with the scissors, but when I look down at her work amidst tiny pieces of white paper that are scattered and strewn from the bench to her room, I find a perfectly cut square fit right into place with glue.




He's been learning to manage his time. It's hard - even for an adult to learn. And he has had to pay the consequences. But then he spends his precious spare time finally crafting the perfect thing that will satisfy the demands.

And Little Boy, who has struggled so much to make the letters line up for him the way they do for everyone else,  is quietly and persistently plugging through a book that has lots of words. And big ones, too. He doesn't always want to continue, but then he comes to that part that makes him chuckle, or to the thing that makes him turn sad brown eyes to me and ask why that had to be. He is becoming emotionally invested.
And it has been a messy ride.
But these things, are beautiful.



So, I am saying to myself as we work in our routine, "Don't focus on the temporal. Keep your eyes on the eternal."

Winter is just a season. And the time that I school these chaotic kids will flash by like a twinkle in a star; but where I direct their hearts, like an arrow aimed on a bowstring, is what will last. 

It doesn't need to be pretty.
But it is definitely going to be amazingly beautiful.







Monday, December 22, 2014

Finding Christmas

I have moved houses and somewhere in the changing and the endings and the beginnings, I seem to have forgotten how to relax.
Resting.
It is a constant struggle for me. My mind likes to go, go, go. My body feels it needs to follow - if I am able.
With as much as I know that this performing doesn't fulfill me, still I try to make something out of everything. I work and work - to make sure the kids know everything I have listed out for them to know, to create revenue for the family, to turn Christmas into a THING, making positive that everyone has enough from myself - who many times thinks she may be able to create more than she is.



I am sitting here on the couch alone, pondering why I do this to myself. And I am meditating on the words in my advent book*:
"Christmas can only be found. Christmas cannot be bought. Christmas cannot be created. Christmas cannot be made by hand, lit up, set out, dreamed up. Christmas can only be found...  
 That is the message of Christmas. The message of Christmas is not that we can make peace. Or that we can make love, make light, make gifts, or make this world save itself. 
The message of Christmas is that this world's a mess and we can never save ourselves from ourselves and we need a Messiah.
For unto us a child is born.
...True, you cannot light Christmas, because it is Christmas that lights you."



As I attempt to rest and reflect today, I am hoping to let the "musts" go, and sit still enough that I might find Christmas. Or better yet, that Christmas will find me.

And I wish the same for you all. May you find rest in the certainty that Jesus Christ has provided everything that you ever have needed and ever will need. Merry Christmas!



On those living in a pitch dark land, a light has dawned.
A child is born to us, a son is given to us,
And authority will be on His shoulders.
He will be named Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Eternal Father,
Prince of Peace.
~Isaiah 9: 2, 6






*book passage from The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

Monday, November 17, 2014

Provision

I was pining for a snow day today. Not the one we got, with a threadbare sheet's depth of flakes scattered here and there and the city's school buses still functional on the ever gripping roads, but a no-school day. I wanted a "the car won't even start" day. A "there is so much snow that cold crystals floated down the chimney and into the room" day.



You are probably thinking "But, don't you HOMEschool?"

Yes. Yes I do. But I follow the metro school schedule because, 1.) my oldest is still in traditional school, and 2.) because their days off give me permission to take a day off. And that feels nice. My personality needs permission sometimes.

Today, I thought that God should have provided me with a day off. I'm tired. It's cloudy. I worked this weekend and haven't had much downtime lately.
But he didn't. Not in the sense my soul demanded.
Which got me thinking some more about His provision in general. I have been chewing on this for a long time.



The first thing the snake said to Eve in the Garden of Eden was "Did God really say not to eat of ANY tree in the garden?"

He preyed on her fear that God would not provide for her.
It's a fear that I think is common. At least it is a fear that has often haunted me.

There have been so many times when I felt like I didn't have enough.
 Never enough money, never enough energy, never enough time, patience, peace, security, sleep...
I could go on and on. 
But when I step back to see if these feelings really reflect the truth, I can see that the feelings are only fears of the future or regrets of the past - and they are not the reality at all.
The truth is that God has has always provided everything that I have needed. I have been poor, but always had enough food. I have been tired, but have always made it to the end of the day. I have been sick but I have always continued to live. I have been grieved but have always re-found joy. I have been at my wit's end and then discovered that it wasn't the end at all. Sometimes the end of me is just the very very beginning of God. And I go on.



I have begun asking myself "Right NOW, am I ok?"
Almost always, the answer is "yes."
This moment is where God is present. Along with all of His provision. It blows my mind - because it is never what was on my mind. But it is real. Real-er than. Providing what I need most each moment.
THIS moment.

So today, we are doing school. And I am trusting that it will be good timing despite my insufficient funds in vigor. The kids are happy. I am grateful for the blessings around me regardless of my exhaustion. The learning, laughing, eating, discovering, playing and loving (and perhaps a bit of bickering and complaining in the mix.)

In this moment I am abundantly provided for.




"Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are?" ~Matthew 6:26 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Women Rock

There is more to healing than just the physical.

I have had so many wonderful empathetic ears that I had no idea how healing sympathetic ears could be also.



Picture walking into a 60 degree lodge full of women who are willing to freeze half the time just to get relief from the either occasional or frequent flashes of blazing fire in their bodies from chemical or surgical menopause. 
This is where I have been for four days this past weekend: a young breast cancer survivor's retreat with Women Rock for the Cure.



The retreat staff wheeled in our belongings for the weekend for us. But we were all carrying unseen luggage as well. Many of us had been carrying it all alone for too long of a time.



Laughing
Crying
Identifying
Celebrating each woman - all shapes, temperaments, personalities, colors, interests - but ALL living, with still beautiful bodies and even more beautiful souls.




It wasn't like a band aid that just makes you feel a little better about the deep and painful gash because you can't see it anymore and you know it is somewhat protected from the elements.

No, it was a vitamin that enters deep into your body and strengthens everything to promote miraculous, true healing.

We NEED each other.

Hearing - "no, I totally get it."
"Yes, me too"
"I'm afraid as well"
"Uh huh"
"Exactly!" -
Makes a person who didn't know they felt alone, really feel NOT ALONE.



If only I could verbalized the weight of the impact of a group of women who are all so unique, but each one with a body that tried to kill them - IS trying to kill them - and celebrating that it hasn't worked yet. 
In this moment - we are alive. 
Joyous.
Celebration. Of living.




Because only when we recognize the importance of living - the amazing-ness of it - can our souls begin to find healing.
If we don't know that we need it, we might not find it.
And sometimes it takes looking outside of ourselves. We look outside ourselves and it finds us.
Identifying.


"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."
                       ~King Solomon


"In this world, you WILL have trouble. But take heart - I have overcome the world."
                       ~Jesus of Nazereth 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lazy and it's OK

This is the kind of day where no one wants to get out of bed (except the youngest - who is whiney and sick and won't go BACK to bed.)

 It is a chilly morning and the kids are struggling to put their brains on (and their clothes on - they are wrapped in toga-like blankets) and I for one, would like to just wear my pajamas all day (which I do occasionally.)




don't often have days like this where I tell myself "It's ok. Everyone has days like this."
But today, I somehow - miraculous beyond all belief - have the presence of mind to give myself and my family permission.
It's ok. Everyone has days like this.



It is an extra cup of tea day.

A pulling away from the "important things-that-must-be-done" day.

A finding time instead to read A Road To Oz and laugh at the clever witticisms of Mr. Baum.

It is a couch visiting day.
One where you tuck the favorite cuddling blanket around your legs and watch a mind numbing show - just because your mind needs to rest. And your body needs to slow.




All of the important learning things, cleaning things, working things will be there tomorrow. But by then, we'll feel like doing them. With joy.
Because we rested.



And it's ok.
Better than ok.
It's GOOD.