Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Old Ways

"We dropped our books and rushed out with her. This was our chance to watch the campaign to 'Destroy the Four Olds' in action."

"Our beloved Chairman Mao had started the Cultural Revolution in May. Every day since then on the radio we heard about the need to end the evil and the pernicious influences of the ' Four Olds' : old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits. Chairman Mao told us we would never succeed at building a strong socialist country until we destroyed the "Four Olds" and established the "Four News." The names of many shops still stank of old culture, so the signs had to be smashed to make way for the coming of new ideas."

This is taken from a memoir by Ji Li Jiang about her childhood in China 1964. This is how we do history in our homeschool. I simply cannot do textbooks. Funny how someone's story of having lived through an experience seems to always hold better with my children. That story speaks with much more authority over a topic than any textbook can, and I search for authority.

Wow. I read about those "Four Olds" and I got chills. I reread it to my daughters and it sparked a wonderful conversation. Old ideas? Old culture? Old customs? Old habits?

That happened in China not so long ago.

We asked the question, what were some of the four olds in our own home?

I looked at my book shelf lined with unabridged books. Unabridged as in "old" books, the way they were originally written. I think those are Four Olds, old ideas? Old language?

 I asked my girls what they thought the most important of our old books was...and we figured it out.

We thought about the old Valley Forge American flag on our mantel. We thought about what that flags old idea. We thought about how much we love that flag.

 In Williamsburg we can hear the national anthem played at Camp Peary every old song and an old custom to greet the new day by raising the old flag with the old song.

Ok are you ready for the first picture I took?

We sometimes hear the sounds of the training that goes on at the base, our lifeguards in the summer can distinguish the boom of thunder versus the boom of a Camp Peary exercise. The sound of what protecting the old idea of "liberty" looks like.

In Williamsburg we have the old all around us in what is known as the Historic Triangle. Colonial Williamsburg keeps the trades alive, hiring apprentices to learn with their hands, the old ways of doing things.

As I was reading about China's Cultural Revolution and the erasing of the past, I got an eerie feeling that if we do not value and protect and see the beauty of our own olds, the same things could happen right here in our own country.

I thought about this when a friend lamented the other day on social media that the public schools do not teach cursive handwriting. That highschoolers do not know how to "sign" their name. Wait! Where would we be as a nation if John Hancock didn't have that LARGE John Hancock?!!?!? I teach my girls cursive because I want them to be able to read the old original founding documents. Copies of them, of course, but SHOULD they so desire it that they could go to our nation's capitol and read the original themselves!

An old way of writing...and that the school felt it necessary not to teach the old. It makes me nervous.

When I was a cadet at the US Coast Guard Academy, as a freshman we cringed at having to learn celestial navigation. Why oh why do we need to learn this OLD way if we have a NEW way? I could only wrap my head around the way of the sea. I could only wrap my head around this idea that all of this knowledge is passed down and that even radars and equipment on a ship can break, but the stars stay for us. The old stars.

So we have this book and I have been thinking about old ways. I have been thinking about how lovely it is that my husband taught himself guitar and that he can play, for us, for our enjoyment, you know, an old form of leisure. I think about read alouds or how my daughter has been obsessed recently with baking because of the Great British Bake Off, and that there are old recipes from around Europe often featured on the show. It is nice to have things, like bread and desserts, made the old way by hand.

What if we tried to keep the Old Ways alive in our homes? What if we thought about the way things are passed down...a collective memory....

What if we lived marriage the Old Way? What would the Marriage Prep class look like if the teachers, or our Church leadership, went with the Old Way and just said,

"Children are the absolute best gift of your marriage. Do not frustrate what is most natural. Enjoy your creative love. See your love four, five, six times and don't look back."

Add caption
What if we raised our children the Old Way? Dirt. Sweat. Sun. Laughter. Hugs. Books. More Hugs. Cuddles. Contact. A Table. A Meal. A Bath. A Sibling...or two...or three...or five.

My dear friend Mary Clare had an idea recently that we could make a study of Norman Rockwell paintings. He always seemed to capture home life just right. His paintings were realistic and honest and that made things beautiful. They are Old fashioned...and I'm all about it.

Image result for norman rockwell home for the holidays

And I'm not sure how to keep the Old Ways, how to have the most discerning eye toward such things, and then the girls and I thought of something very old that we do every Sunday, a particular Feast we share in, a Thanksgiving.

We thought about how that is the best Old, because it is the Old that makes all things New.

I think that if we keep well that one Old, all the other Old Ways will be safe.

I'm curious if anyone would mind sharing if they have appreciated an "Old" recently that they may not have before?


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

"Oh! She is two weeks old and you are out? God bless you!"

The exclamation came from an elderly lady from the Narthex one Sunday not long ago where I was holding my sweet Pearl. I tried not to look too frazzled as I was also helping my toddler with the water fountain. What is it about toddlers and water fountains?

My sister-in-law (my nurse midwife) and I have had extensive chats that in our imaginary lives where we could clone ourselves we would probably spend more time advocating for postpartum care for mothers today. My baby is now two months old and I still find I am trying to pull in and stay put and really slow down. My body gives me cues to remind me to be gentle with the healing. My crew is giving me cues that ask me to respond with great care...try to delight in us mommy, try not to nag mommy, don't wear out our names mommy, look up from your phone when I speak to you mommy...just relax and don't try to escape this mommy...

Just settle into the work.

So I think about the wise woman in the Narthex and I kind of long for this norm that she was referring to with her surprise in seeing me. She was so perplexed that I should be OUT with my, then, two week old. I WAS Mass so maybe she forgot that part, but what if it were...say...Target or the grocery store or some other place that I was already OUT and ABOUT at. I sigh as my life is very much that of the twenty-first century mommy with her inability to settle into her work at home.

I didn't tell this sweet woman that I had ALSO signed up to be the snack mom for the kid's swimteam on food Friday to start that particular weekend off. She would have probably said the same thing,

"Oh! She is two weeks old and you are out! God bless you!"

Oh the vanity of it all...I played the snack mom card well. I was on the ball with juice boxes and cold jello jiggler cups and granola bars. I showered and dressed well, my kids had goggles and their L.L. Bean swimsuits on, I had my expensive double stroller with the click in car seat, and I wore a smile. I DID. And it did bring me joy to see my eldest girls so happy to have brought a great snack for their neighborhood friends.

But that particular accomplishment and joy was not worth the cost, it had been too much, too soon. I know these things by the signs I can read...mostly within my own inner peace...or lack there of.

I can fake peace on the outside pretty well. To raise my eyebrows in delight, to laugh, to smile...I know how to get compliments on my mothering, "You seem so calm."

Oh I do? Sometimes...not all the time... there is a hurricane inside.

The hurricane can extend outward into my environment and affect the people around me, my beloved.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel...

O Come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things, far and nigh;

I am not longing for the order that can be found in tupperware bins and sticky notes. I don't need a new system.

I want His order and I long to be able to know it well in my life.

Help me order my days Lord. 

Order my priorities so that I am OK with what others think of my volunteer commitment time to swim team or lack there of.

Help me order my relationships so that when my daughter asks, with big blue eager eyes, if she can make brownie bites for her friends, I see a yes to freedom in my home and not the ensuing mess that might befall my kitchen I JUST cleaned.

Help me order my night so that I can leave my husband not feeling overwhelmed that I am sneaking out to book club but that I have taken great care that dinner was early, kids are bathed, and that he can say "yes."

Help me order myself to my vocation that if I sense he DOES need me to give up my little social evening with book club ladies, that I don't make a martyr of myself. That I can cooperate and know the correct order of my married life.

Order my hours so that I snag naps when I need to Lord with my babe, that I don't find one more chore, that I can enjoy the quiet house of a napping toddler and not need to make an idol of "projects and pinterest ideas."

Help me read the signs of disorder. Help me to recognize the slight discomfort of knowing I could be over committing. I tell my littles, "Let me think about that," can I give myself the freedom to do the same to extended family and friends?

The great coming out of my home to kind of do the whole "see people from the swimteam" morning was a great success, but it took me a whole afternoon to find my bearings in the home from that great attempt. Help me know the cost of each yes when I decide to do something outside of directly meeting my OWN PEOPLE'S NEEDS.

Help me read in my home the small signs of disorder and help me to reflect on how to make things better.

 A certain level of order really helps with my "peace of mind" but I am finding that the peace I long for is more to be content with this year of the baby, and to relish in any crumbs of peace as gift. I don't need to be Martha Stewart, but this is the one space that is OUR space, let it be space for peace.

I don't want to be a HOMEMAKER, I want to be a PEACEMAKER. I want my home to be one where there is freedom to be oneself, there is peace of mind that there is no expectation to be anymore than who God created you to be.

I leave this space to go plan my school year, it has felt so drawn out and there is so much "anticipating" how it will all really work. I want to truly be prayerful about our comings and goings as a family. I truly believe this whole homeschooling endeavor depends on a peaceful home but more importantly a peaceful mama.

Peace be with you dear friends!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Way of Listening

Friends. This has been a summer of summers. A summer full of light and truth and good and new.

My new baby girl has made this whole summer pretty special.

I am definitely feeling the slight panics every now and then of how this is all going to actually WORK

but then peace always seems to follow when...I look at her.

I have such confidence in the intentional giving of her life to this particular family, He deemed it so, and therefore I trust that although it may not look pretty, life is as it should be.

So, also, a labor of love, last week my parish hosted a Level One part one Catechesis of the Good Shepherd training. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!


Ever since leaving Alaska, it was my desire to share this work with my new new friends. I felt like I have been mentioning CGS whenever I could for two years, I am so happy I have friends fact...many of my closest friends took the training...and now..Alleluia! The workings of a Level One atrium has started at St Bede Parish in Williamsburg, Virginia!

I have only wanted to be a messenger, and my friend Abby so wisely said as I worried how the training would go, "If it is truly beautiful, the work will speak for itself."

God cannot be outdone in the generosity of how he pulled together fifteen women to become immersed in the kerygma, the good news,  in a new way.

And I witnessed again what I should have known all along, where I see so clearly...the prepared environment is one thing...the prepared adult is completely essential. I MUST be that.
We can transform a room to be an atrium, but the transformation must happen in the adult first.

The Help came, as I had prayed He would. The Help moving very slowly at first, the work of CGS staying ever so so small in a parish community this big (10,000 strong)...and then as my dear friend Mary Clare said, the Spirit moves like the wind, fast changing, and just as we see leaves move in the breeze...the Spirit spoke to us in Signs and Moments...


The messenger was Katy Rice, my trainer and friend who had trained me in Juneau. She came to help us...Katy was our Aslan...on the move...coming...coming to turn things upside down, as she placed the child in front of us and opened up the Word.





I just wanted to share this crumb, I feel like this post is inadequate...words really are. But the mustard seed has been somewhat planted in this parish and I am eagerly anticipating bearing witness to the fruits of the GREAT INNER STRENGTH that lies in that mustard seed.

Baby is crying...blessings...