Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy new year, one and all...

Tonight we celebrate the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010; the end of one decade of a new millennium, and the beginning of another.

Our "normal" crew of New Years Eve celebrators are all gone this year...some in Minnesota, some in Ontario, some in Virginia... and we have been invited to several other places, each of which will likely be enjoyable. But I am slightly melancholy about having the "old gang" all gone this year. New Years always tend to make me feel like I ought to be more introspective than I am, ought to have accomplished more last year, always a little melancholy.

So, Dave and I, the absolute worst decision makers in the world, don't yet know what we're going to do this evening to ring in the new year. Whatever we decide, I know he will be at my side, for which I am very grateful. He makes everything better, and continues year after year to be a tremendous blessing to me.

As you ring in the New Year, Gentle Reader, may the Lord bring blessing to you as you reflect on God's hand in your life over the last year, and the hope and promise of the next.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A post-Christmas Adventure

For Christmas, I gave Dave a GPS... yes, we are one step closer to entering the current century, though we are still resisting texting on our phones... We decided to make our afternoon walk into a little adventure by seeing if we could find a local geocache as we walked. For those of you who are uninitiated, geocaching is a fast-growing pastime, with over 5,000 caches listed in New Mexico alone, and dozens right here in Los Alamos county. A geocache is a sort of treasure hunt: someone hides a container, and inside it is a log where you list your name or initials if you find it. Some are tiny, some are larger and contain things, either things that stay there, or you take something and add something. We saw one listed that has books in it, and you take a book and leave a new one. Anyway, many caches are listed here, and we chose one just about a mile from our home. It gave us the GPS coordinates and a few hints, and we set off. Below, Dave is setting the coordinates of the place we want to find.

We hiked to the end of a near-by street, and then onto the first part of a little path, and found we were close, and began looking. This was a "microcache", meaning it was tiny, and we followed the clues given, and lo and behold, we found it! And it was tiny: a little magnetic case with a tiny water-proof case inside, and a small scroll for penciling-in your initials.

After we signed it, we replaced it where we found it, and continued our walk. Then when we got home, we recorded that we have found it.

So, this may be a way to make your little walks more adventurous, Gentle Reader. It was really a lot of fun!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

by G.K. Chesterton

There has fallen on earth for a token
A god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or a lover,
For the wine of the world brims over,
Its splendour is split on the sand.

Who is proud when the heavens are humble,
Who mounts if the mountains fall,
If the fixed stars topple and tumble
And a deluge of love drowns all-
Who rears up his head for a crown,
Who holds up his will for a warrant,
Who strives with the starry torrent,
When all that is good goes down?

For in dread of such falling and failing
The fallen angels fell
Inverted in insolence, scaling
The hanging mountain of hell:
But unmeasured of plummet and rod
Too deep for their sight to scan,
Outrushing the fall of man
Is the height of the fall of God.

Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate-
Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.

Christmas hath a darkness...

Christmas hath a darkness;
Brighter than the blazing noon;
Christmas hath a chillness
Warmer than the heat of June,
Christmas hath a beauty
Lovelier than the world can show:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.
~Christina Rosetti

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A busy, blessed weekend

We enjoyed time with family and friends all through last weekend. Tim and Nikki arrived on Friday, and we enjoyed our time together! We opened presents, dragging out the fun of gift-giving, and laughing together as we did so. Below, Tim is opening some battery-run shower clocks: you put them in your shower using little suction cups. Those of you who know him well will know why that was a brilliant gift for him!

We made sugar cookies and enjoyed icing them.

Every year we take the little scraps of dough left-over and make the initials of all present. Dave did a masterful job of decorating them this year... he even used tweezers for candy placement! So, Mum, Pops, Tim, Nikki and Grandma got a special diminutive treat!

Our community of White Rock (which is sort of a suburb of Los Alamos if you can imagine such a thing, Gentle Reader!) has a large, white rock at its major intersection (yes, there is only one major intersection). This acts as a sort of community grafitti spot, and gets repainted for all sorts of occaisions. Tim and Nik painted it for Emily and Ryans's engagement, as Emily had painted it for theirs. And we had a wonderful time trying to get her to the rock to notice! Here are the artists with their work:

And here is the happy couple, once we finally got them to the rock after several failed tries:

It was a delightful weekend! And now Tim and Nikki are safely in Ontario, Emily and Ryan are back in Virginia, Ben and Elsa are in Minnesota, and our house seems so very quiet. And yet, Christmas is coming with its palpable promise, and God has blessed us richly, so there will be no complaining from my mouth!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A doxological kind of day...

Today was one of those marvelous days when I see very clearly my Lord's gentle, loving care of me. What a lovely thing.

First, I started the day with Christmas celebrations in my two classes. Below you can see my composition and worldviews classes: the few, the brave, the ones who have survived!

Secondly, I dashed up on the hill to meet my sweet friend Em and her fiance, Ryan. It was a joy to meet Ryan, and to see Emily so happy. I have prayed for this husband for Em, and so rejoice to see God's good provision.

After that I had a walk with my walking pal, V. She is my accountability partner, and a dear blessing!

Then, this afternoon I went to my primary care doc to get the results from my sleep study. (And speaking of the sleep study, I discovered that for a valid test one must sleep a total of two hours, and rest a total of 6 hours. That turns out to be about how long one can sleep or rest with 12 electrodes on their heads, two on each eye, both jaws, the throat, chest and abdomen, two down each leg, and stretchy belts around chest and abdomen.) I had been praying that it might be unnecessary for me to have another sleep study, or to have a C-PAP machine. Well, it turns out that God granted that prayer. I have mild-to-moderate sleep apnea, and could likely improve that condition if I can shed some weight. And if the oxygen is helpful to me, then it is sufficient and no further treatment is needed. Isn't God good?!

And now, tired but happy, I am waiting for Tim and Nikki to arrive and spend the weekend with us. It just can't get much better! Why does it always surprise me when God showers me with blessings?

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above you heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas tree adventure, 2009

Saturday we headed for the mountains with friends Mike and Katie to look for Christmas trees. The forest was absolutely gorgeous, with several feet of fresh snow.

All that fresh snow made the roads rather treacherous. At one time,in the middle of the remote Santa Fe National Forrest, there was a traffic jam of 6 vehicles, all in varying states of being stuck. Everyone was hopping out to help push, or get their shovels to help free tires from piles of snow. This is all part of the ambiance and adventure of hunting for ones own tree in the Southern Rockies. And in the "You know you're in a small town when..." category, Dave worked with one of the other stranded travelers. Below is one of the cars being dug out so it could be turned around and head to better road conditions.

After getting the cars, trucks and trailers all ready to head for home, we tromped off into the woods (through all that snow, up to my knees in most places.) In addition to finding trees, it was great aerobic exercise! Kate and Mike found their first Christmas tree (they were married in July.)

Dave and I found our tree. We have been getting trees this way for 25 years or so, with only a few years of exception to the tradition. However, I had decided long ago that the adventure of sliding off the road, digging out the truck, and tromping through feet of snow was really a better memory than it was a reality. So letting tree cutting be more of a "guy thing", Dave and the boys did it for years. Now, with no boys, I decided it's time to rediscover the joys of doing this as a couple!

And finally, we poured cups of hot tea, ate oranges and trail mix, loaded the trees on Mike's trailer, and prayed that we would make it up the hill and out to the road- which we did! It was a lovely adventure!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Merry Christmas, 2009!

Well, the Christmas cards went in the mail today. That means I need to post a year-end review here for any of you good folk who follow the link at the bottom of the card, and come here looking for news.

2009 has been a year of growth and blessing. We are grateful for much!

Ben and Elsa continue to enjoy life in Bloomington, Indiana. We were blessed to visit them in March, and loved our time with them there. Ben is entering the final semester of classes in his PhD program (in classical studies)at Indiana University, and hopes to be working on his dissertation by next fall. We think it will have something to do with Virgil's Eclogues. Elsa is enjoying working as assistant office administrator for the School of Opera and Ballet at IU.

Tim and Nikki continue to enjoy life in Tucson. Tim is working as an electrical engineer in missile systems design/testing, and Nikki is babysitting several days a week and putting together the bulletin for their church, as well as settling in to their lovely new home there.

I have to say that one of the things that brings us great joy is having all the kids involved in great churches. (Tim's, Ben's) God is very gracious to give us that comfort, and provide that kind of family for the kids when they are far from us.

Dave and Chris are doing well, enjoying growing old hand-in-hand. We help each other with the pains and trials, and enjoy the Lord together. Dave's work continues to be busy and well funded at LANL, and Chris continues to teach classes for homeschoolers one morning a week. We both continue to serve at our church in various capacities, which continues to bless us!

Marilyn continues in good health during this, her 83rd year. She accompanied us on a trip to Utah in October, where we saw amazing sites, and enjoyed time with Dave's brother, Jon, and his wife, Rebbecca. She keeps busy volunteering two mornings a week at the local elementary school libraries, once a week at the nursing home, and as the church librarian. And that doesn't even mention all the good things she does around our home.

If you would like more news, browse around this blog site. You can find a list of labels in the right sidebar. By clicking on one of those you'll see everything I said about that. Feel free to browse, or check out my other blog here.

This year, we have grown in our appreciation of the grace of God in our lives, his blessings in family and friends, and the depth of his love for us. We pray that you, too, are rejoicing in Him this season!

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
~John 1:4

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

What tomorrow holds and who hold tomorrow

Well, Gentle Readers, the Lord brought me sweet sleep last night. (Hurray!) And I feel strengthened for my tomorrow. What does my tomorrow hold?

1. Teaching. I love teaching. But tomorrow is the semester final for my worldviews kids. Please pray for them to know the Lord better through the things we study, and for heart differences to occur in them and in me as we study how big our God is.

2. In the afternoon I'll have another try at my horrible, no good, very bad test. As some of you may remember, we have attempted this twice before during November, and the machinery has failed. I am now known as the "Sonogram Jinx", and they gave me the last appointment of the day on purpose... Lets hope that the third time is a charm, and I don't have to do this again for a year. (This test must be done since I am on tamoxifen for my breast cancer, and it puts me at a higher risk for developing uterine cancer.)

3. Lastly, I will head to Santa Fe at 9:00 in the evening to have a sleep test. My primary care doc, in her thorough and careful way, suggested an O2 saturation test last week, which showed I am significantly hypoxic at night. I think this means I stop breathing. The sleep test should tell us why.

Since that test came back, I have been sleeping with oxygen. (I call me oxygen machine "Darth Vader", because he sounds like Darth all night.) This has been a difficult adjustment in some ways. But it has thrown me back on my knees--always a good thing-- and on top of it, the oxygen seems to be helping in very tangible ways: better sleep, less muscle pain, less fatigue. it has been rather amazing. So I remain hopeful that this will be a very positive change for me.

Isn't God good? He take things we fear and dread, and make them the very things that teach us to better trust Him. I am not sure what tomorrow holds, Gentle Reader, but I am certainly glad to know Who holds tomorrow. He bring confidence to face whatever tomorrow brings.

To God belong wisdom and power;
counsel and understanding are his.

What he tears down cannot be rebuilt;
the man he imprisons cannot be released.

If he holds back the waters, there is drought;
if he lets them loose, they devastate the land.

To him belong strength and victory;
both deceived and deceiver are his.

~Job 12: 13-16

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

In the Bleak Midwinter

As I was shoveling this fine, snowy morning, I was thinking about the hymn-version of one of my favorite Christmas poems. It is perfect for bleak, snowy days, or any other.

In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rosetti, 1872

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother1
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The covenant as ground for arguing with God

"Remember that it is part of the Lord's covenant that...thou mayest serve him in righteousness and holiness all the days of thy life...[so] go to the Lord, and beseechest him to make good his covenant." Furthermore, when the believer was tempted with a trial of any sort, he was addressed like this: "if thou lie under any pressure, any calamity, any cross, any disease, any affliction...go to God now, and tell him it is part of his covenant to deliver thee, and...take no denial, though the Lord may defer long, yet he will do it, he cannot choose; for it is his covenant."
~John Preston (1692), as quoted by Peter Golding in Covenant Theology: The Key of Theology in Reformed Thought and Tradition

Sunday, December 06, 2009

He came anyway...

Last night as I read my daily Scripture reading near the end of the book of Acts, I was reading the story of Paul's final trip to Rome. For the first time, I think, I was struck not only by what God called Paul to do, but by the fact that he knew what God was calling him to (death in Rome, eventually) and he went any way.

He went anyway. That is really amazing. How many of the difficult things in my life would I walk into if I knew ahead of time what was coming? I am a coward at heart, and will always opt for the easy road. What an amazing servant Paul was to his Master, and what grace God provided him.

The only thing more amazing that comes to mind is that the God of the universe left his throne, and was born a man, knowing that he would suffer and die and take on the sins of the world. And unlike Paul, Jesus was sinless, and undeserving of God's wrath. But he came anyway. This season, Gentle Reader, may we all remember Emmanuel, God-with-us, and rejoice in Him.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

An art which must be learned...

Health issues can be thorny issues. We are challenged physically, we are challenged emotionally, and we are challenged spiritually. And in the midst of it all, as followers of Jesus, we are challenged to learn to be content in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. Seems like a pretty tall order sometimes.

Another of my favorite Puritans is Jeremiah Burroughs, and his definition of Christian contentment. I was prompted to look it up again today to remind myself where I want to be. Burroughs says:

To be skilled in the mystery of Christian contentment is the duty, glory and excellence of the Christian. It is an art which must be learned. Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.

If this is news to you, Gentle Reader, you might pick up a copy of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. It was another one of those life-altering books for me.

So, onward I go, learning this difficult art at the feet of my Heavenly Father.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Glory be to God on high...

Today I put way the fall decorations to make way for the CHristmas ones. It's certainly beginning to feel a lot like Christmas with below-freezing temperatures, so it might as well begin to look like it, too! And as I do so, the Bob Kauflin arrangement of the Charles Wesley Carol, Glory Be to God on High, is running through my mind. I share the original, wonderful lyrics below. You can hear a sample here.

Glory be to God on high,
And peace on earth descend;
Now God comes down, He bows the sky,
And shows Himself our Friend!
God the invisible appears,
God the Blest, the Great I AM,
He sojourns in this vale of tears,
And Jesus is His Name.

Him by the angels all adored,
Their Maker and their King;
Lo, tidings of their humbled Lord
They now to mortals bring;
Emptied of His majesty,
Of His dazzling glories shorn,
Our being’s Source begins to be,
And God Himself is born!

See the eternal Son of God
A mortal Son of Man,
Now dwelling in an earthly clod
Whom Heaven cannot contain!
Stand amazed, ye heavens, look at this!
See the Lord of earth and skies
Low humbled to the dust He is,
And in a manger lies!

So do the sons of men rejoice
The Prince of Peace proclaim,
With Heaven’s host lift up our voice,
And shout Immanuel’s Name;
Our knees and hearts to Him we bow;
Of our flesh, and of our bone,
See—Jesus is our Brother now,
And God is all our own!

May you all be rejoicing today, as I am, Gentle Readers!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Quelling my affections

Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight which He has made crooked? ~Eccles. 7:13

My favorite book on suffering comes from an old Puritan named Thomas Boston, and its title comes from the above Scripture verse: The Crook in the Lot. It may seem odd to some of my Gentle Readers that I have a "favorite" book on suffering. But it ought not: suffering is one of those things the Lord promises his followers, and He never breaks a promise.

Boston begins his treatise in this way:
A just view of afflicting incidents is altogether necessary to a Christian deportment under them; and that view is to be obtained only by faith, not by sense; for it is not the light of the world alone that represents them justly, discovering in them the work of God, and consequently, designs becoming the Divine perfections. When they are perceived by the eye of faith, and duly considered, we have a just view of afflicting incidents, fitted to quell the turbulent motions of corrupt affections under dismal outward appearances.

I seemingly have daily need quelling the turbulent motions of my corrupt affections. It was Boston who first patiently explained to me that, for the Christian, all suffering has its purpose in the plan of a good and sovereign God, and we should spend more time humbling ourselves under His providential use of suffering in our lives than we should spend trying to remove ourselves from it. What a worthy, but difficult, lesson!

This has been a week for quelling. Just after our return from Tucson, I had an over-night oxygen saturation test done. Unfortunately, I discovered on Tuesday that I failed the test. In other words, I had more than 30 episodes an hour when my oxygen saturation was too low, and my pulse too high: apparently not a good combination. So, as of last night I am on oxygen at night, and awaiting an appointment for a sleep study.

I've been through lots: cancer, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage. Oxygen at night shouldn't be in that category. But the truth is that suffering is suffering. You forget how bad some things were, I guess, and every new challenge seems overwhelming. Intellectually I realize this is a little, fixable problem. But those turbulent motions of my corrupt affections have kicked into overdrive. I have been crying on and off for days, and fighting with fear and dread. I know it is not the worst of afflictions, but I simply do not want to deal with this "one more" thing. Not a very submissive spirit, is it?

In telling my son about this latest crook in my lot (and crying as I did so), he made the observation that I had been so brave and so "together" over my cancer. What was the deal with this crying? His sweet wife, Elsa, who is gifted with words, explained it well: "This is more obvious than the cancer, outwardly, and yet very intimate. And it has an old-age connotation." Indeed. There you have my feelings in a nutshell. I must face my limited mortality yet again, and finding no way to escape it, learn to embrace God's good plan for my days.

The friend who gave me my first copy of Thomas Boston some 18 years ago, did so as she was dying of cancer. She wrote me a letter that summer, within weeks of her death, and said to me, "This is a difficult place to be in, but where would I rather be than in the center of God's will?"

Amen. May I so still my soul before God.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Ben, Elsa, elephants...

Thanksgiving was the first time for us to see Ben and Elsa since last March. Nine whole months is a LONG time! It was delightful. Not only are these two fun to discuss things with because they know lots about lots, but they are both creative souls in lots of ways.

Elsa is always working at things, often quietly, out of the lime light. Whteher it is knitting a lace doilie (as pictured), or quietly slipping the geometry book off the shelf and doing problems "foir fun", she is quietly delightful, and delighted in many things.

Ben used to make things with sculpey clay as a boy. And apparently, he still has a knack for it. Over the holiday, Ben made a chess set for Nikki with elephants on one side and giraffes on the other. Below is a preview of the elephants. They are wonderful! When Nikki sends me a photo of the whole set, I will post more photos.

I am hoping that I get on the list for a chess set one of these days...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Amazing grace

Thanksgiving is a time to remember, first an foremost, the great gift God gave us in his Son. I am so very grateful that I can have a relationship with a holy and righteous God because of what Christ did for me. That is truly amazing grace...

Thanksgiving is also a time to be grateful for family. We had a lovely Thanksgiving in Tucson, with much to be thankful for! Here we are, gathered around Tim and Nikki's diningroom table. There are four Mrs. Finnegans, three Mr. Finnegans, and the Wiersma family. What a blessing we have in family and friends!

I am, however, of all earthly relationships, most thankful for my Dear husband of almost 30 years. He continues to be my best friend and comfort for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. Many of you, Gentle Readers, know my many faults. Dave sees them even more clearly, and loves me anyway. That is a reflection of amazing grace...

And here are our four beautiful children. They are a real source of joy in our lives (Tim and Nikki on left, Ben and Elsa on right).

And here are my children striking a "Blue Steel" pose. If you don't know what that is, it is probably just as well...

And on the way home from Tucson with Ben, Elsa and Marlyn in tow, we stopped by the Hanson's to see Mom and Dad, my sister Gwen and all the Browns, and my sister Annie. What a delight to have a a few days full of family! I am blessed by each and every one, and awed by God's amazing grace to me.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, Gentle Readers!

We are heading to Tucson to celebrate the holiday with both sets of children. I hope you all are planning feasts with family and friends.

I had thought to leave you with a lovely Thanks-giving-type poem, but in my quick search I ran across the following poem. It seemed so appropriate for my fall, and even for my car, loaded with canned applesauce and jam! So, here are some thoughts on apple harvest, and fond wish from me, Gentle Readers, for a lovely Thanksgiving. I'll be back to the blogoshpere next weekend.

After Apple-Picking

By Robert Frost, 1914

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing dear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.