Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Fifty Years Hence

 The painting over my Dad's mantel in Charleston was done many years ago from a photograph he took about fifty years ago from the village of Rockville, which sits at the end of Wadmalaw Island. This boat is floating in Bohicket Creek.  In the distance there's a line of trees--that's Seabrook Island, before it was developed. 

When we were at Seabrook last month, we walked out on the marsh behind the house where my family was staying.  My cousin pointed out the little houses across the marsh are the collection of old homes at Rockville. 

I stood there on the marsh and looked over and tried to picture my Dad on the opposite shore, a tiny dot from half a century ago, aiming his camera my way.

I see you and I love you, Dad.  Always have and always will. 

Monday, August 8, 2022

Gifts from Seabrook

 Back in July when we spent a while in Charleston, we skipped down to Seabrook for a day. My mother's brother and his wife (my dear aunt!) were there, along with my two cousins, their spouses, and their (combined) four children!  

Seabrook has its own little flavor of magic, I've discovered this year.  This was my second visit there. 

The drive down to Seabrook (or Kiawah) on John's Island is just beautiful: canopies of live oak trees line the way.  The island was thoughtfully-planned with lots of preserved marsh area and hundreds of gorgeous live oaks.  

(The view from my cousin's bedroom window.)

The ocean was warm and calm, and perfect for just relaxing in the water.  No pounding surf, no strong undertow. Deliciously peaceful.

And Finn kept finding whole sand dollars, over and over again.  

Best of all, I sat and talked for quite a while to my aunt and uncle.  I didn't realize I needed it until I had it: their empathy, wisdom, advice, and interest were all soothing to my spirit, a real balm to my soul.  There's such a gift in having someone older and wiser than you sharing their wisdom and love.  

Just another little gift in the midst of it all. So many things for which we can give thanks!

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Rejoicing Always

Today is August 7th, which I realized means it has been nearly an entire month since I last wrote here!

Time flies.  

The children and I spent nine nights in Charleston last month, visiting my sweet Dad and stepmom.  I am so thankful for the flexibility to spend so much time with him, so thankful for the gift of technology so that I can enjoy my daily phone call with him (we talk anywhere from half an hour to over an hour nearly every day!), so thankful for everything I see God doing in this situation.  He is doing so much. He is orchestrating everything.  I just know He's in total control. 

Dad starts two weeks of whole brain radiation tomorrow.  Will you pray for him?  He is a little rattled by the possible side effects--things like memory loss--and I can't blame him.  Even so, his courage inspires me.  And he never complains.  My specific prayer requests are: 1) that the brain radiation has a minimal or zero impact on his memory and personality; 2) that it is effective in eliminating the tumors in his brain so that his life can be extended; 3) that the side effects aren't painful for him.  

I am leaving on Saturday to spend a week in Charleston--just me.  The children will stay home with my husband.  I wanted to have the time *just me* to focus on helping with driving to daily radiation appointments, keeping house, moral support.....again, this is such a blessing and I'm so thankful for all the support I have at home to make this happen.

*  *  * 

Today in church the sermon was on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. As soon as the pastor began reading the Scripture my children turned to me and smiled: this is one of our memory verses from last year!  And it is so apropos to our lives right now!  "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." I love this verse because it contains God's will for our lives; as the pastor put it today: be joy-full, prayer-full, and thank-full! 

During a hard time I tend to have little practices I fall back upon to keep myself healthy and high-functioning, and I've been focusing on those this summer: exercise, eating well, *lots* of sleep and rest, not over-extending myself, doing my daily tasks a little slower than normal, and looking for the sweet and joyful aspects of life every day.  Every night I have so much for which I am thankful!  

My children (and I, I guess) have two more weeks of full summer. Then Finn begins two online classes, and Annie will start her math and history work with me.  The week after that, Finn begins Spanish 3, and the week after Labor Day, they both add in two more online classes each.  I think that "slow" start makes a lot of sense for us this year!  The next month, three months, six months....all of it...are just a big question mark.  We are going forward with Normal Life plans: The Nutcracker in December, piano lessons, the boys' Big Trip Out West*. And we are holding it all lightly.  I have lived in this in-between place before and it is sanctifying. 

In the midst of everything, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley are growing quickly and are the best entertainment, we are having major landscaping done on our side yard soon, and our children are healthy and growing!

*The Boys' Big Trip Out West: in a couple of months, my husband is taking Finn to Oregon!  They are going to spend two nights in Portland, and then three nights on the coast and three nights in the Hood River area.  If anyone has any recommendations for anything interesting to see or do in northern Oregon, let me know!  My husband has done lots of research and planning already, but it's always nice to hear what others think.  We love Oregon!  We spent a week out there in 2002, but we did the southern part of the state, and the boys won't have time to drive everywhere, so they're focusing on the Cannon Beach area and the Columbia River Gorge. I'm happy for them!

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Accept Each Day

 "I always liked routine and rhythm.  They help me recognize the gifts that, quite often, we fail to see as gifts because they seem dull and unimportant--essentially, life itself.  Liberation occurs only through acceptance."


"One has to accept each day and everything in it as a gift from God, and transform each day into joy.  If all the details of my life...are not giving joy but are only a burden, then it is really my sin, my selfishness, my laziness."

Oh, how I appreciate Father Alexander Schmemann! 

These quotes, particularly the second one, hit home with me the other night when I was reading through his journals.  I have lived this over and over and over again.  I have lived the joy of every single mundane day as well as the burdensome feeling of joylessness that I can trace back to my own sin. There have been excruciatingly difficult days when I felt completely overwhelmed by joy. There have been relatively "easy" days when I have felt cranky and burdened.  The difference truly always seems to be my own attitude, my own willingness to accept each day as a gift. We are given so many opportunities in life, every day, to take joy.  

I pray that God will always give me the grace to transform each day into joy, no matter what the days bring.  Amen.

Friday, July 8, 2022

We Must Risk Delight

"We must risk delight.  We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment.  We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless 
furnace of this world."
-Jack Gilbert 

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Our Daily Bread

I've been reflecting this summer on this phrase from the Lord's Prayer: give us this day our daily bread. What is daily bread?  I think it's what we need, when we need more and no sooner.  Like the wandering Israelites, we need sustenance, but sometimes we need even more to rely on God and trust that He will give us that sustenance as we need it. Just enough for today. Just enough manna, or food, or money, or courage, or faith, or strength, or hope.

I would truly appreciate prayers for my sweet Dad (pictured here with me as a baby and my Grandma well as my beloved Madame Alexander doll...I still have her!).  

We learned last week that immunotherapy has failed for him, and the cancer is now back in his liver, and has also spread into his abdomen, spine, and brain.  His oncologist started him back on chemo almost immediately, and yesterday he met with the radiation oncologist, because he'll have two weeks of brain radiation to try to lessen the numerous cancerous lesions in his brain. And last night he had to spend the night in the ER due to a bit of cancer-related fallout.

My children and I were due to go to Charleston on July 13th, and still plan to hold to that date, but it cannot come soon enough, and if I need to, I'll leave sooner.  

Whole brain radiation is no walk in the park.  Please pray for this sweet guy.  Give him, this day and every day, his daily bread.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Summering, So Far

I have gone almost the entire month of June without writing anything here, but it's not for lack of living! Just lack of time to write a blog post about all the living....

Life with Bingley and Darcy is excellent.  We love the gentlemen! They are fully settled-in, and next month, after their rabies shot, they'll be able to frolic outside, too. This is good because Darcy has already proven himself a ready and willing hunter: he loves catching houseflies. 

Finn turned 15 (FIFTEEN!!!) this month.  On my walk this morning I was thinking about my little tow-headed toddler who used to walk down the lane with me, picking Queen Anne's Lace, is now a somewhat tow-headed teenager, asking to drive down the lane!  This month he's finishing math, doing his standardized testing, learning the Arabic alphabet, working a couple times a week on the farm for my cousin, and starting a bit of work as a research assistant for a writer friend.  That's my Finn.

 This week Annie is at a church day camp 15 minutes away; she's enjoying it so far.  But I feel wistful every time I drop her off; she seems so old, so capable, yet still so little (she's 11.5, but pretty dainty for her age).  

My husband's cousin got married last weekend, and it was one of those epic, memorable receptions: a sit-down dinner for 300, a photo booth, fun music, sparklers, a conga line, and hands-down the finest best man's toast I've ever heard, a beautiful tribute by the groom's brother that didn't fail to mention their father, who died nearly two years ago.  I'm not sure anyone listening could have possibly made it through the speech with a dry eye; I know I didn't. 

My Dad is hanging in there, and we return to Charleston on July 13th for a week.  We hope to spend a few days at the beach and a couple days visiting cousins (from opposite sides of my family!) who will serendipitously be in town at the same time!  I'm looking forward to it; I want to see my Dad. He has a PET scan this Friday to check on some bone lesions that were spotted on his most recent CT scan; I appreciate prayers for that. "No cancer in the bones" would be a very acceptable request. :)

I'm reading and thinking and journaling a lot, and working to finish my "light edit" of the first draft of the book I wrote, so I can send it to my First Reader: my college best friend, who is now a professor of English literature, who kindly offered to be my first reader when she heard about my book. It's a scary thing, to have someone read your stuff, and I trust her: she knows literature well, she knows me well, and she has already published her own book, so she understands this process. Finding the time to work on my little novel while also exercising, managing the house, taking care of children, organizing life--well, it's a challenge. But somehow, miraculously, it is happening. 

I met with a landscape company this morning to start discussing a Big Project: landscaping our northeast side yard! The fence line was moved last year, but we were stymied in our plans and progress by the staggering amount of boulders and briars that flourish in that area.  So we've decided to leave it to the professionals (we hope).  We're going to create a plan to grade, move rocks, and landscape--making the area both easy to maintain and yet also still charming and interesting.  The landscape designer said "this will be easy and fun" and I had to laugh, as those are two adjectives my husband and I would NOT apply to our experience with trying to move rocks and deal with briars.  Heavy equipment makes all the difference!

Our children's bathroom is still coming along--well, it was, but we're now waiting for my excellent-but-bad-at-scheduling tile man to tile the walls.  It'll happen eventually; for now, I like to go in every couple of days and enjoy the cool marble on my feet and the prettiness of the blue-grey cabinet. Photos soon!

And above all these things, and better than all these things, I truly believe God is revealing Himself to me in new ways this month.  I have been present and paying attention; I've been asking, seeking, knocking.  I let go of social media for a while which helps quiet the mind (I've found), and I read something really illuminating (which wasn't even in a "religious" book at all!) earlier this month--maybe I'll share it sometime.  The older I get the more I find that my faith, my religious experience, my processes of sanctification, are outside of what anyone might think when they think of "spiritual growth."  Formal Bible studies have their place, but for me it has come less from a highly-organized approach to study and much more from just reading the Bible itself, praying, writing, and sitting still. When I sit still, when I stop overthinking and over-planning and overdoing, and make margin in my life (not to fill the margin up with more stuff, mind you! but to have simple space), that's when the Lord's revelation occurs.

I feel I'll be back to writing more here now!  There's always so much to say--it's just so hard to find the time to say it!