29 September 2012

Moby Dick Chapter 1

All right, all right. I checked Moby Dick out from the library* and when I got home, sat down to read the first chapter. I was expecting boredom, but find myself delighted by this narrator. He's funny, witty, observant, and a deep thinker, analyzing and thinking deeply about whatever he's doing. "Why do I do it this way? Why do we do it this way? Am I the only one that reacts in this way to this idea?"

There's rhythm in the text: what a great read-aloud this would be.

The way the narrator jumps from one deep thought to the next, staying on course but veering into tangents as needed appeals to the way I think and also feels very nautical to me, as if the text is a ship and we are headed to the destination but knocked occasionally by a wave or two.

And some quotes I love. I'd like to quote the whole chapter because it is that well-written, but I'll settle for just these.
Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and expecially whenever my hypos get such aupper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me fom deliberately stepping into the street and methodically knocking people's hats off-- then, I account it high time to get to the sea as soon as I can. p. 8.
There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs--commerce surrounds it with her surf. p. 8.
There are two whole pages of philosophizing about the sacredness, holiness, beauty, mystery, gorgeousness, peacefulness of water. I would quote the whole thing, but here are the last few sentences:
Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper is the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it was was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all. p. 9.

Then, in talking about the pleasure of getting a regular job aboard a ship, instead of going as a passenger or as an officer of some kind, he talks about being ordered about:
What of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get a broom and sweep down the decks? What does that indignity abount to, weighed, I mean, in the scales of the New Testament? Who is not a slave? Tell me that. Well, then, however the old sea-captains may order me about--however they may thump and punch me about, I have the satrisfaction of knowing that it is all right: that everybody else is one way or other seved in much the same way--either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the universal thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each other's shoulder-blades, and be content. p. 10.

On the pleasure of being a laborer rather than an officer:
...for the most part the commodore on the quarter-deck gets his atmosphere at secondhand from the sailors on the forecastle. He thinks he breathes it first; but not so. In much the same way do the commonalty lead their leaers in many other things, at the same time that the leaders little suspect it. p. 10.

The talk about the commonalty leading the leaders flows right into a passage about Fate or Providence, and it's another good long passage I won't quote, but it dazzled me. So there you have it: I'm excited to read the rest of the book. Good job, Melville. **


*I can't believe we don't own it. We have so very many books.
**Why can't I call him Herman, or HermanMelville, or Hermie? Hmmm...

Melville, Herman. Moby Dick; or, The White Whale. Dutton, New York, 1968.

09 August 2012

What I Learned about Learning While Watching My 16-month-old Investigate a Jewelry Box

While standing on a chair and watching cars go by, my boy spotted my jewelry box, the kind with five little drawers and a tall necklace-hanging 'closet' (cubby?) on top of my dresser. Something about it must have intrigued him (the tiny knobs? all the tiny drawers?), because when I looked back, he was reeeeeaching up with all his might to open one of the drawers. It didn't have much jewelry in it (procrastinators of the world unite!...tomorrow), so I set it on the floor for J1to investigate. He investigated for 30 minutes solid.

What I Learned about Learning While Watching My 16-month-old Explore a Jewelry Box
1. Find something that intrigues you. J1 spotted my jewelry box and something about it made him want more.
2. Take your time. J1 looked in a drawer first, then in the hanging necklaces cubby, and so on. He was not in a rush to take the whole thing in at once.
3. Repeat. Review, review, review. After looking in a drawer, he looked in the necklaces cubby. Then he returned to the drawer. Then back to the necklaces cubby. This time he opened and closed the door several times.
4. Cycle back and observe again. Each time he repeated an action--opening the necklaces cubby, for example--he investigated something new. He touched the hinges, or looked at the decoration on the glass in the door, or the way the handle was attached. Then he would return his attention to a drawer, opening and closing it, fingering the knobs, sliding them in fast or slow. He paid attention to the whole jewelry cabinet but moved from one aspect to another.
5. Take your time. The whole investigation took 30 minutes, and I finally interrupted him because he was needing his am nap. How long would he have gone without my intervention?
6. Enjoy yourself. I didn't make J1 explore the jewelry cabinet. Something about it caught him and he wanted to explore.
7. Take a break. Pacing is vital. J1 self-paced...he looked at the patten on the floor then opened a drawer. He cuddled up to me then opened up another drawer. He walked away to the closet (familiar territory) then returned to his investigation.
8. Take your time. I had to pull him away when he was getting overstimulated. As he grows older, I'll teach him to observe himself as well and to pull himself away so he can pace himself and rest his neural pathways.
9. Invest time in transition. Change gears slowly! I pulled him away and put him pretty much right into his crib for a nap. This caused frustrated crying. In hindsight, I should have done some sort of changing-pace activity--sitting and reminiscing with him about the jewelry cabinet, reading a book with him--but I made a mistake. I'll do better next time.

12 July 2012

Bubbles, Play Dough, and Predestination

I put J1 in the tub last night and added a generous squirt of baby shampoo so he could have a bubble bath. He was transixed. So fluffy! So bubbly! He tried holding the bubbles, grabbing the bubbles, collecting the bubbles, but no dice. They didn't act like water or dirt or sand or anything else. They were bubbly.

This weekend J1 got to play with homemade play dough. I was working in the kitchen--near, but not involved--and spend a minute or so watching him. He pulled. He made little bits. He tried to get all of it off his fingers. He held it up in the air. All this time he was talking to the dough, making sound effects. It doesn't act like dirt or sand or scrambled eggs or cheese. It's doughy.


About 10 years ago I asked God to teach me about predestination. I'm a good Calvinist, so of course I believe in predestination. It's Biblical, and I long to give the Bible authority in my life in everything. So I trust God and trust the Bible's teaching, but that doesn't mean I understand it...or even that I always like it. It really doesn't seem fair. Does God really set some aside to be His people and set others aside to be eternally damned? Can God really do that? How does that glorify Him best? These questions knock around in my head and heart whenever I run across passages that teach this tricky doctrine. (This happens often, because these passages are sprinkled throughout.) Finally, in my early 20s, I asked God to please, please, help me understand about this mysterious teaching. I want to understand. I want to believe. I want to know. I want peace.

Constantly trying to understand was robbing my peace. I set my mind to trusting God to teach me in his own time.

Fast-forward. (Haha, remember the Yada-Yada Seinfeld episode? So much is skipped in the "yada yada yada." I've had a lot of lessons learned in the intervening 10 years!) I have a toddler who's bright, observant, intelligent. He grasps new concepts so quickly. I hardly have to show him something but that he remembers it and applies it to the next thing there is to learn. He can do step-by-step tasks. He's amazing. But the bubbles and the play dough astound him.

I could explain them to him. "The soap works with the water to increase the surface tension of the water, and the agitation of the water coming out of the tub faucet aerates the water. Hence, bubbles." And for play dough: "The acid in the cream of tartar works with the flour and the water to make gluten. The protein in the flour strings together into long chains. A polymer is formed (you know, like Silly Putty). The salt is sharp and cuts the glutens before they get too long and render the dough solid. The oil serves to soften the whole thing so it's pleasant to squish."

But please. My 16 month old can't understand such talk. It's clear to you or me--adults--but a baby can't grasp that kind of thought. So I don't tell him. I just let him play. Splash, son! Make bubbles! Increase your gross motor coordination! Squish, son! Develop your fine motor skills and your dexterity and your finger strength! Play on!

God says in Isaiah, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways." His way is a cut above ours, just as my ways are a cut above J1's. As I don't burden J1 with overly technical and incoprehensible (to him) explanations of simple things like bubbles and play dough, so God does not burden me with incomprehensible explanations of His secret, simple things.
::Hell and heaven.
::The roles of men and women in the home and in the church.
These are all on the edge of my ability, but true comprehension of them are impossible for me, just as polymeric formation and surface tension are beyond my dear boy's comprehension.

This knowledge brings me peace. I am free to enjoy what I do understand.

Thank you, Lord, for making me a parent. I know you, your Father-heart so much better now.

25 June 2012


For the last few weeks, I've smelled a smell in the laundry room. It has taken over the house.

Ian thinks something died under the house. We got home from church yesterday and could smell it. It stank.

So Ian ran to the store and bought smelly candles and air-deodorant-spray. I rarely--well, never--use those products because I'm quite sensitive to smells. But this stink was bad.

So. Ian got home, sprayed the spray around--and I began wheezing and coughing. It turns out I'm not jus paranoid--I do actually have allergies against artificial smells.

Now the west end of the house smells like deodorant spray--it's the same stuff they used at the vet's office I visited in high school the last time I had a pet--and rotting meat. It's worse than just rotting meat.

It's making me sad. I'm getting maudlin. "Poor me! Why does this have to happen to me? Why doesn't God heal my allergies?" and etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

So! I shall make a list of everything I have to be thankful for in this situation:
-This house. It's such a gift to have shelter, let alone a nice, sturdy home that we own.
-An immune system that is a little too over active rather than 1) way too over active or 2) under active.
-A sense of smell. I smell rotting meat stink and artificial perfumey stink--but I also get to smell lovely things like the loamy smell of the woods, the freshness after a rain, roast beef or cookies or turkey in the oven. Also, it means I can taste millions of nuances: fresh peaches, applesauce, salsa and chips, turkey dinner, a tart apple, oatmeal with cinnamon and a bit of nutmeg...
-I know how it feels to be allergy-free, after a childhood of near-constant allergies.
-I can deodorize with other things--coffe-bean-candles and vanilla and simmering rosemary all some to mind.
-I can leave the house if it gets too bad.

And I should have started with eternal things to be thankful for:
-I belong to Christ.
-God so ordains every every circumstance to make me more like him and draw more glory to himself--even this Stink.
-God does not use circumstances to punish me. All the punishment had been meted out to Christ while I receive all the blessing.
-God is making me more like him. I see my sin so clearly--yet I also see true growth of character as I look back over the years.

09 June 2012

When I lose my temper, something breaks

A few years ago, I was angry and slammed a door. The window in the door was not sealed properly, so the slamming of the door caused the window to shatter explosively. Thank God my husband wasn't in the room!

I cried as I cleaned the glass shards from the floor and shelves. What a failure the evening was! How thankful I was for sparing me from hurting anyone! How I hate and abhor my temper!

I asked God to remind me that things shatter when I lose my temper. He does. But I jus lost my temper again and I broke something.

Son J1 is fighting naps, for whatever reason. I set him down for a nap and up he popped, and chattered and talked and yelled for attention--and I got mad.

I stormed into his room, told him sternly that he was to lie down and go to sleep--and as I walked in I saw his face go from 'happy to see you, Mama!' to 'Im being bad, but how?' in the space of a heartbeat.

Instead of breaking a window, I hurt my own son. Sigh. Perhaps he was being rebellious and needed a little heartbreak to teach him that disobedience is painful--but I don't know.

I do know that 'man's anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires' and that no good comes from my temper tantrums.

And he's still not sleeping. I could just cry with frustration and vexation.

07 June 2012

Happy New Week June 4: Vol. I

Well, you can tell that I meant to post this on Monday. Here it is, Thursday, and I'm just now getting around to it.

I have this theory that an entire year of resolutions is too much. People fill the fitness clubs in January and February but poop out soon after that. Quitting smoking, rewriting the resume, finally getting organized...the list goes on. Such good intentions on December 31 are smoke wafting away by March or April.

So I propose a new celebration--Happy New Week! After spending Sunday with the Lord's people, investing time and energy worshiping him, we can come to a new work week refreshed and invigorated to renew our desire to do what is right, to fight temptation and pursue righteousness, to seek the Lord's strength to obey him in all things.

We only have 6 work days in a row to labor, and our labor is not in vain. Let's take hold of God's grace and resolve, in humble reliance in God, to work at growing in a specific way. Forget the whole year! 12 months is too much pressure. Happy New Week, instead!


This week, I heard two sermons ob Sunday about the 1st petition of the Lord's Prayer: "Hallowed be your name." the first thing we are to pray for--even before our daily bread--is for God's name (his very identity as he reveals it to us) to be hallowed. Set aside. Kept reverent. To accomplish this, we should know him as he says he is and seek ways to do everything we do his way and for his sake.

To that end, this week I've been working to pray only thanks and praise to God for his nature, his providence, his ways and means, and refraining from jumping right into my wish list.

I pray for many of the same requests over and over and I fear my prayers sometimes slide way too easily into a honey-do list or a Santa wish list. God is not a cosmic vending machine but, well, God.

That has been my focus this week. Remembering that he is God. That he is holy. That I hallow his name when I know him as he is. That his name is hallowed.

02 June 2012

Forgiving my enemies

Listening to a podcast sermon, I'm convicted to forgive enemies I haven't thought of in years--but I know I haven't forgiven them.

"When you refuse to forgive your enemies, you carry them around with you and they have power over you. The Bible doesn't require you to like your enemies, but to choose the act of the will of forgiveness."

So, Lord, I choose to forgive ____ who was my nemesis throughout my school years. And ____ who told me the meanest thing I remember--we were in 6th grade and I'd recently gotten contacts. And ____ and ____. They went out of their way to exclude me and led many others to do the same.

Lord, everything in heaven and earth is yours. Even the circumstances of my past. You not only permitted it, but you ordained it! You arranged time and space so that these people were in my life. Why would you do such a thing? So I would know you better, so I would love you more, so I could trust you more.

I do believe! Help my unbelief!

Five minute Friday: See

Peek-a-boo! I see you!
"Look, Mama! Look at me!"
"Look me in the eyes when I'm speaking to you."

Why is looking so important? Why do we need to be seen?

The first connection I ever made with my son was looking at each other. I saw him. He saw me. It was magic to this weary, overwhelmed, immature and also postpartum-y new mama. I needed him to see me.

Remember the eye-contact game? You and your partner look at each other at a table. Then one of you ducks under the table and waits to make eye contact there. Variation: peeking around a tree.

Eye contact is powerful. It's magic. It's glitter and summertime sprinklers and hot chocolate after a snowball fight.

What do you see when you see me? Do you see someone lovable? Do you see someone you delight in?

One of my favorite Bible stories is of Hagar and Ishmael in the desert. "God!" she screamed. "We are dying! Don't you see me?" She'd lived her whole life at Sarai--oops, Sarah's--handmaiden, even going in to her husband's bed, and what did she get? The chance to die in the desert?

"God!" I scream. "Don't you see me? I love you and work hard and sacrifice for my children and submit to my husband and this is what I get? A baby who won't stop crying? When do I get to sleep?"

What does he say to Hagar? to me? "I see you. I am that I am. I am The God Who Sees."

I see you.
I see you.

I see you! Peek-a-boo!

28 May 2012

Fruit, Movies, Reading

I just finished a bit of gardening and pruning, and had some really good post ideas. But they have flown away--and I must trust the Lord to remind me of them if they are truly important.


Our morning sermons at Brainerd Hills Presbyterian Church are getting better and better. We're in Galatians, in the Fruit of the Spirit passage, and the sermons focus on a fruit, a weed, and an artificial fruit.
Fruit: Love
Weed: Hate
Artificial Fruit: Tolerance

Fruit: Joy
Weed: Ungodly Sorrow (self-pity/covetousness)
Artificial Fruit: Happiness

Fruit: Peace
Weed: Anxiety, Strife
Artificial Fruit: ___ (I think it is 'serenity now')

Fruit: Patience
Weed: Impatience
...and that is as far as has been preached.

I can't say how much this sermon series has encouraged me. The slow pace through the list of fruit has given me a chance to spend a week thinking over, meditating about, praying for just one character trait. It's been very calming and very growthful.


I got to see The Hunger Games onSaturday. I enjoyed the movie so much but may have to expound in a whole nother post.


My reading has become more purposeful. I recently finished Unorthodox: The Rejection of My Hasidic Roots and am working on Stroke of Genius and Freakonomics.

I'm struggling a little in Stroke of Genius because of the author's materialistic (believing in only the material world) conclusions.

And I'm struggling with Freakonomics because of a correlation the authors made between the fall in crime in the late 1990s with the beginning of legal abortions in the mid-1970s. Humph. They may indeed be correlated but it still doesn't justify the holocaust of 4 million kids since 1973.


Memorial Day lunch is awaiting preparation. Thus, this post is ending. Good day.

25 May 2012

Five Minute Friday: Opportunity

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community.


Our dear pastor, preaching through Galatians, is in the midst of the verse listing the Fruit of the Spirit. He teaches us about one fruit each Sunday, so it's taking a while, but it is a gift to slow down and really contemplate just one fruit, instead of racing through such a familiar passage.

Last Sunday was patience day. The week before was peace day. It turns out that the week following the sermon is packed with chances--opportunities--to learn to exercise that gift.

I want to be more patient, but it's hard to be presented with 'opportunity' after 'opportunity' to be patient.

God keeps presenting me with circumstances that try my patience. Son J1 is developing his own preferences and desires. He doesn't always feel compliant with naptime,or snacktime, or travel time. So he pitches a fit, or whines, or fake-cries.

God stirs in my heart to be patient.

Do I take the opportunity? Or do I rely on myself, pass patience by, and make friends with anger, frustration, and yelling?

22 May 2012

Cuddles, Games, and Comfort

I'm still surprised at how much I enjoy being with J1. He's playful, clever, and living. He initiates games--sometimes tag, sometimes hide and seek, and sometimes a variation that I know because we spend so much time together. He likes to cuddle and sit close to me--but not if I make him! He liked to play games--but usually of his own choice. And when he's hurt or sad, he comes to me. He sits on my lap to cry.

I get to thinking. If he wants something, he comes to me. Hungry! Where's mama? Thirsty! Where's mama? Bored! Where's mama? Hurting! Where's mama? Wanna go outside! Where's mama? In a sense, I'm food, I'm entertainment, I'm a door, I'm a cup of water.

For me, it begs the question. When I'm hungry, tired, bored, hurting, thirsty--where do I go? Do I invent something to satisfy myself or do I run to my Savior? He is the Living Water! He is the vine, the door, the way. Unless I run to him, I will never be satisfied.

"He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken." --Psalm 62:6

21 May 2012

Blogger app

I just found the Blogger app, which means I can hop on my iPod and type up a quick post. Yay! Hopefully now I can post more often; it's hard to post from the ordinary computer when I might only have a few minutes. Thank you, app people-- this will hopefully bring back some writing creativity.