Archive for July 2012

Waiting for … Eleazer?

July 27, 2012

I’ve been struck lately by the whole “prince charming” phenomenon.  Disney probably hasn’t helped girls in their preparation for young womanhood by giving them a plethora of pictures where the prince comes along, meets a girl, falls in love, and marries the princess or the beauty (nor is Disney the only culprit, lest you think I’m anti-Disney or something).  I know, I know, there’s usually a catch, like a dragon or a wicked witch, or some such obstacle, but fairy tales resolve themselves in short order.  In real life there is more to it than that.

~*~

So let’s think about some old love stories.  One of the first recorded love stories is of a girl who went to a well.  This was something she did every night, and she probably had no warning that tonight was going to be any different.  Tonight she met a traveler.  Perhaps she saw the caravan first, and looked to see if this rich train was led by a handsome young man.  When she saw that he was middle-aged or more, definitely no dashing young prince charming, she was not deterred, and she offered to give him drink, and then to water his camels.  Her servant’s heart was evident, and she thought of no reward.  Imagine her wonder when the man gives her gold bracelets and asks her questions about her family, and whether he can lodge with them!

We usually read Rebekah’s story from Eleazar’s standpoint, of how he prayed for guidance and then met her at the well.  But think, girls, she was there doing her daily chores.  She wasn’t off on some mission’s trip, nor was she flirting at youth group.  She was living in the light God had given and doing good to others!  And apparently she wasn’t afraid to work, either, because watering ten thirsty camels until they’ve finished drinking is a lot of work.  And she was hospitable; she invited Eleazar and his camels home before she knew that he was of her great-uncle’s household.

Then, Eleazar asks her to travel with him to become the bride of his master’s son, Isaac.  I’m guessing he told her about Isaac, probably in fairly general terms, and about what kind of inheritance Isaac would have.  The last part was probably for her family’s benefit, because if I know a woman, she could have cared less if his father had had only a few sheep instead of many flocks.  The adventure probably sparked her interest all by itself, but it would also have been cause for some deep thought and prayer.  Whether she had misgivings or no, she could not help but see God’s hand in leading Eleazar to her, and when her brother and father would have kept them there some weeks in preparation, she told them simply “I will go.”  And she went with Eleazar to meet a bridegroom she did not know.

~*~

Okay, here’s another old story with another well.  This time the girl was a shepherd.  She kept her father’s sheep.  Every day she had to bring her sheep to a well which had a stone covering it.  That stone took many men to lift, so she probably did not hurry to get there early.  But one day, as she came to the well, a stranger was standing there talking to some of the other shepherds.  Surely she was mistaken, but it seemed as if he was only waiting until he saw her coming, and then he rolled the stone away singlehandedly.  If he was going for the impressive factor, he succeeded!  This stranger proceeded to water her flocks, and then he told her that he was her father’s nephew, and she ran home to bring her father out to greet Jacob.

Yep, we generally read this one from Jacob’s perspective.  It’s very easy to get tangled up in the Laban vs. Jacob bargaining and the daughter swap that lands Jacob with two wives, but the beginning of this romance was that Jacob saw Rachel about her father’s business.  And he helped her water her flock.  Later he would take over her job of caring for Laban’s flock.  Come to think of it, Laban apparently had sons too, because later on, they get worried about how Jacob is making off with the lion’s share of Laban’s flocks (fairly worked for, of course).  Makes me wonder what they were up to while Rachel watched the flocks, but I will resist the temptation to digress here.

~*~

So, two love stories.  Two plot lines.  And which will your romance look more like?  We tend to imagine something more along the lines of Jacob, rolling the stone off the well.  I’ll admit, he made a big first impression.  But girls, don’t take it for granted that you’re looking for a Jacob and therefore miss Eleazar when he rides into town.  A train of ten camels is not to be sneezed at, so don’t !

What do we do in the meantime?  What were Rachel and Rebekah doing?  Living in their fathers’ houses, doing the work laid out for them.  Whether you have a job outside the home or in, you can be pursuing God’s plan for your life as part of the family He has placed you within right now.  Don’t fret about the future, but prepare yourself for it.  When your future comes knocking, don’t be caught saying “wait, I’m not ready for this.”   I wouldn’t even worry about the hows, wherefores and whys.  What is important is to live as God leads you, whether the guy at the well is Jacob or Eleazar.

Do you trust God to bring you your Jacob? Remember girls, when he met Laban’s daughters, he was nowhere near the man who became called Israel. Can you wait for His timing for Eleazar to bring you to your Isaac? We don’t know what Rebekah thought when she watered those camels, but she probably wasn’t thinking “oh, here’s someone who can introduce me to a nice young man, I’ll water his camels too.”  Don’t be shocked if your story takes some faith-deepening twists.

And how did each of these love stories end?  Each man loved his wife, and they went about their Father’s will together, for both couples were links in the chain that would eventually set the world free.

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Schoolmates

July 21, 2012

Next stop along memory lane: the schoolroom.  Having been blessed with a first floor office/sixth bedroom, we turned the space into learning central.  With two 18-month-olds in the house (when we moved here), we (the three school-aged older siblings at the time) needed to be able to shut the door and have relative quiet sometimes!

I say relative, because my memories of the schoolroom revolve around my schoolmates and the conversations we had in that room.  Hmm.  If my next memory also involves conversations someone is going to discover a pattern!

The office, as we have always called it, is big enough to hold four desks – one each for 3G, Sister, and me, and one for Mom, which held the desktop computer.  We weren’t required to do all our work at our desks, for instance if we were reading the couch was often a better place, but many assignments needed desk space.  Sister and I had desks next to each other, while 3G was against the opposite wall.  We were facing away from each other, but thanks to our swivel chairs, we could turn and talk quite easily.

Mom had laid out the guideline that we needed to be eating breakfast by 8, and doing school by 9.  Rarely did any of us fail in that.  In fact, I made a habit, starting in 8th grade, of coming down early to work on my math before breakfast.

By 9 o’ clock then, we were usually working steadily on whatever assignments we chose to do first.  Almost invariably, by the time we had reached the second or third subject, one or another of us had made some comment, often relating to our present schoolwork, which engaged all three of us in conversation.

We talked about everything from punctuation to geography, and we even branched into some of the same topics we covered in lunch conversations.  Sometimes we had differences of strong opinions, which led to minor clashes between at least two of us, but the third could sometimes diffuse the situation, at least partially.  When that happened, we always had our books to turn back to in order to settle our thoughts.  And usually that was enough for one or both to see that they were wrong.

We never had these conversations when Mom was in the room.  If we heard her coming down the stairs to check on us, the three of us immediately turned back to our work.  She never spoke about it, but I think she knew very well that we talked amongst ourselves, and I doubt she had a problem with it.  But I think she probably did come down whenever she thought the conversations sounded like they were becoming unprofitable or overly long.  We did have other work to be doing!

Sometimes the four year gap between Sister and me was enough that she had a hard time following what I was talking about, although 3G could almost always keep up with (or surpass) me.  As we grew older, this gap seemed to shrink, till we could talk pretty equally when I was in my last years of high school.

Conversations such as these built relationships between me and my siblings.  Sure, we shared other activities.  We did most everything together, either as a family or in twos or threes.  But conversations are what reveals someone’s thoughts, their inner-working, their heart.  And we shared that too.

Today, we still get into long conversations; sometimes it’s two, or another two, or all three of us.  Whether Sister and I talk while she perches on my bed and I sit at my desk, she and 3G discuss the way the world works over a game of Mastermind, or we’re all hanging around in the basement after playing a game, we still enjoy delving into all kinds of topics.  With 3G and Sister away at college for six months out of the year, the conversations have become more limited, and may include other family or friends, but we probably enjoy them about as much anyway.

It’s interesting to think about it, but I probably owe much of my knowledge of some subjects to these conversations.  I was never very good at music theory, for instance, which 3G excelled at, and I never studied writing techniques like the budding author in the family, Sister.  But from listening to them talk about their favorite subjects (these and others), I picked up quite a bit that I never would have remembered otherwise.  Sometimes the concepts were ones I studied long ago, but when I had little interest in them, and my siblings merely solidified things and made them real.  Other times the things they talked about were new, and I’m glad for those too.

For you homeschooling parents out there, I encourage you to allow or foster discussions amongst your students.  Sure, they may take longer to complete their assignments, but they are building relationships and sharing knowledge.  That is priceless, for it actually helps both listener and speaker to solidify the knowledge in their heads.  Don’t feel like your schoolroom has to be silent for learning to take place, or that your students are distracting each other.  They are building the bonds which will in time knit your children together into a tight family circle.

My siblings and I are very close, especially Sister, 3G and I, despite our many differences and the distance which now separates us for half of the year.  And I trace much of that back to the relationships we began in our play and built in conversations, whether in school or out.

Perceptions

July 17, 2012

“When I first met you guys, I thought you [my parents] must be strict because all your kids were standing so quietly.”  –approximate quote from a friend of my mother’s

Yep, we found out months later that a lady at church had at first thought my parents were strict. Just because all five of us were so well-behaved! So, quiet children equals strict parents?

I would have understood better if she had thought we were intimidating.  My family numbers seven, which can be intimidating all by itself, and then we are all tall – the twins are growing like weeds, but discounting them, five of us between 5’8″ and 6’2″ could appear intimidating to an outsider.

But strict?

We never had a list of rules in my house, and we didn’t have a chore schedule (although we all did help out with tasks like laundry and dishes), but what we did have was relationship and respect.  When Mom asked us to do something, we generally did it willingly because we wanted to help her.  When she told us not to do something, she usually explained why, and we followed her guidelines because we understood (to whatever extent we were then capable of) that she had our best interests in mind.  And no, we wouldn’t have used those words at the time!

One of the first things I remember about going to church as a young girl was being quiet.  While we weren’t told that children were to be seen and not heard, we did understand that when grown-ups were talking, we should be quiet.  For sermon time, Mom usually brought crayons or pencils and paper for us, and we busied ourselves quietly.

It helps that for the most part, all five of us got quiet genes from my engineer father.  We aren’t driven to make ourselves the center of attention, and we are perfectly comfortable with being quiet for minutes on end if necessary.  For some kids, this seems to be a harder concept, although a perfectly reasonable one to learn.

Why should quiet, respectful children (of any age) indicate to someone that the parents are strict?  I suppose this shouldn’t puzzle me, having observed other families, some of which have boisterous children and some of which do not.  The number of rules parents have and the way parents enforce them (or don’t) varies widely from family to family.  But it does make me wonder what other perceptions my family has raised in people’s minds, and whether we are living up to them or living them down!

Memories from the Kitchen

July 13, 2012

I know, you’re all expecting memories of my mother’s good cooking. Nope. Not even memories of making cookies, which is what the rest of you were thinking. (I’m not a mathematician, so don’t expect my all and rest of you to add up.) Guess again.

My memories from our kitchen are of conversations around the lunch table.

Yes, I remember the other things too, but when I think of the kitchen, I don’t think of what we did, but what we talked about.  Namely, everything under the sun!  I don’t remember how long ago it started, but by the time I was in highschool, we were well into a habit of hour or two-hour lunch conversations.

Typically, we wouldn’t all start eating at the same time.  Usually one of the highschoolers would still be finishing up a chapter or something before coming to lunch.  The conversations would generally start in one of two ways.  One of my siblings or I might simply ask Mom a question about something we were going to do/had read that morning.  Or my mother would ask what school we had left, and the recital of the subjects remaining for the day might spark some question for general discussion.

We talked about everything – stories from Mom’s childhood, the length of time it takes to pay off a mortgage, why other kids don’t act like us, public schools, current events, spiritual concepts, subjects for the next school year, the medicare system and what’s wrong with it, how to prepare for college, and of course, what was for dinner.  Usually, one of the siblings who had started early would get things started, but by the time we left the table, everyone was long finished.

I loved those conversations, even though I sometimes tore myself away before the conversation was finished because I wanted to finish my schoolwork before time to make dinner!  My mother made it a point to discuss things with us that we did and didn’t encounter in our textbooks.   Things we needed to know in order to be well rounded.  Things that we wanted to know.

These days, I am away from home during lunch times except on the weekends, when we don’t often have long conversations.  The conversations still happen, though perhaps their focus has shifted with the changing demographic (two of us are at work right now, and during the school year three siblings are missing from the lunch table).  I hear the discussions don’t get as lively, but I expect that to change as the twins enter highschool.

I think these lunch conversations were an integral part of our homeschooling lifestyle.  What other teacher gets to sit down with her students and talk about anything and everything for however long it takes, whatever day (or everyday) of the week?  I think I learned just as much from those conversations as I learned from any given textbook in school.

When I remember our kitchen in years to come, the strongest impression I will have is of my mother, sitting at the kitchen table or standing at the stove, asking the deep questions that caused us to probe into what we knew or believed about the world or ourselves.

Old House, New House

July 7, 2012

Tomorrow marks twelve years that my family has lived in our current home.  The significance?  That’s one year longer than we had lived in our previous home, to which I came as an infant of about 7 months.  Technically, I have now lived over half my life here.

As some of you may have calculated, I was eleven when we moved.  Just old enough to remember almost everything from the move, to understand some of the emotions playing on others’ heartstrings, and yet young enough not to have been a whole lot of help in terms of planning or house hunting.  Old enough, however, to have missed my first home.

Oddly enough, I don’t remember doing so.  Not that I didn’t like our old house.  Granted, with the addition of TJ and BP a year and a half earlier, we had seven people in a four bedroom house, and for homeschoolers who are home all day and under each other’s feet all day, that’s a little bit crowded.  But the house was home.  We had our swing set in the backyard, we had our game/craft room in the basement, and as far as I remember, we were pretty much comfortable.

But after a couple of months of hunting, we moved into a house that has fit our family like it was made for us.  The house was built by a family with six kids, and we bought it from one of the sons.  Five bedrooms upstairs meant that Sister and I finally got our own rooms again (hadn’t had that since she was too big for a toddler bed).  All the rooms were a lot bigger, including an eat-in kitchen.  It’s a homeschooler friendly house with a sixth bedroom on the first floor, which we turned into our office/schoolroom.  And the basement!  Instead of a partial basement with a crawlspace, we now have a full basement, which now serves as our game room and general hangout when the weather is hot (such as recently).  And that’s not to mention the backyard, which is huge!

Still, you’d expect my to have missed the old house at least a little.  All my memories up to that point were of that house.  I couldn’t remember living anywhere else.  But I remember when we went back to the old house the night of the move, to make sure that every last thing was out and any last cleaning had been done for the new owners, feeling as if it wasn’t my house anymore.  I belonged in the new one.  I liked the new house a lot better, I suppose, and that made me miss the old one less.  And we only moved from one side of town to the other, basically.  We were still ten minutes from all our regular grocery stores, church, etc.  It’s not like we moved out of state.

Twelve years later, I still have plenty of memories of the old house, but I’ve also got as many or more from the new.  Both houses have seen their share of changes.  All four of my siblings were born while we were in the old house.  In six months or so, we’ll mark the fifth anniversary of my grandparents moving into the addition they built onto the back of this house.

I have a notion to draw on some memories of the old house and this one, so prepare yourselves for some nostalgia among my future reflections!

To the beat of a different drum

July 5, 2012

This song spoke to me again the other day, reminding me that I am indeed a warrior, but I am also a child.  And I do go running home when I fall down.

As Christians, we are soldiers.  The battle belongs to the Lord, but He has chosen to clothe us in His armor and let us stand in the fight.  Most of the armor we wear is defensive, although we do participate when we use the “Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,” and when we “pray always with all prayer.” (Ephesians 6)  It’s not as glamorous as the colorful depictions of cavalry charges from centuries gone by.  Most of us don’t even go out to fight; instead we fight by living everyday lives through His strength, which upsets the Enemy very much.

Probably few would look at us and say, wow, I want to join them, that’s so inspiring.  I’m okay with that being a first response, and I will endeavor to show them otherwise as time goes on.  Most of the world will laugh and turn away, but that’s okay.  I’m used to swimming up stream.  I’ve pretty much always marched to the beat of a different drum.

In the pen dance

July 4, 2012

Say it five times fast.

Got it?  Good.

Today is one of those great American holidays where I have to wonder how many of the celebrants actually remember why they are celebrating a holiday.  Today we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, even though it took several more years for Americans to prove to England that they meant what they said and said what they meant and for them to wake up, smell the tea, and get out of our hair (for the time being).  Now if we’d only remember that rebellion is good against tyrants, but not against morality, the country might be a better place!


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