Monday, February 23, 2009

Driving Lessons

Today Bekah and I went out for a one-hour driving lesson. She has been behind the wheel for a few weeks now, but mostly for short hops between the store and home. This time we went exploring the back roads around the hills here, learning to brake slightly when going downhill and accelerate going uphill. Curves are an adventure, especially when another car is in the opposite lane. I told her about the general agreement among most drivers: we'll occupy our lane, and they'll occupy theirs. No need, usually, to veer off the road simply because a car is coming from the other direction. Particularly when our side of the road involves a drop into a valley below.

I did find that I had to remind her to speed up much more often than telling her to slow down. That is sure to change, but it is refreshing for the moment. The van is still holding up rather reasonably. Having taught two of my kids to drive in this van, I would like to finish teaching Rebekah in it as well. It already has the battle scars and the visibility is excellent. And, let's face it, the temptation to race is somewhat diminished in a minivan, one would hope. Driving in the rural areas around here is nice compared to teaching in South Florida traffic- fewer maniacs around us.

I do believe that this session went well. No tension headache, few occasions where I felt the desire to leap from the vehicle... Soon it'll be three down, two to go. But not yet.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Jim has Flown The Coop

Thursday night we drove Jim to the airport. Not easy to drive away without him, of course. But it's not time to feel sorry for Jim yet - he is having a great time in Dublin with Kate! So we are glad for him. This is such a blessing for him to finally go to Ireland AND see his baby girl. We are looking forward to a skype session at some point here this morning. The girls and I have an errand or two to run, then we'll be back listening for the computer to ring.

As to how we feel here with Jim gone, it's still uncertain. He frequently spent a day or two away for business. This may as well be that sort of absence. The flurry of the past several days getting him packed up and ready to go left behind a mess of a house for us to clean up. No pressure or rush, it'll get done soon enough. I am now aware of the breaker box and the water shut-off valves in the basement. One of the headlights on the Pacifica looks like it's out, so I'll run by an auto-parts store to get a replacement. Those are the sort of things that only Jim took care of, but are now falling to me. No problem- I should have known before anyway.

On the bright side, since Jim is taking my camera in order to shot photos of everywhere he goes and share them with us, he bought me a new camera last week. No mere replacement, it is the camera of my dreams. A Nikon D60 with two lenses and lots of little gadgets. There will be a learning curve to be sure, but I'm loving this camera already. Two DVDs came along with it to teach me the basics, so I'll have those to keep me occupied.

Finally, this weekend is the second annual Greater Reading Gathering of Reformed Evangelicals. A conference involving four like-minded churches in our area; the topic this year is John Calvin's life and work, about which I am thrilled. Last night was the opening session and in discussing the focus of John Calvin's ideas most of the points went straight to the heart of the study of God's Attributes that I lead each week. Not sure how many people in a conference on Reformed Theology feel like jumping up and down in the pew - but I was just about ready to! Last year the conference lectures were all posted on our church's website, so if you're interested just check here for them in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

She's Back

The kitty has returned, or rather, been returned. Emmi would consider it a return to captivity, I'm sure. Her incarceration is continuing as before.

Monday while I was at work, Isaiah and Alex were helping out around the house, chopping some wood and such, when Emmi was spotted in our outdoor shed. It took both of them to capture her, and she rewarded their efforts with some serious scratches that will leave them reminders of her ingratitude for a while to come. As soon as she was inside I'm told that she gorged herself on kitty food, which must be hard to come by outside, then she curled herself up for a nap on Isaac's bed. Shortly thereafter she was ready to receive visitors and purred contentedly (?) while having her head rubbed.

I wonder just how she is weighing this out in her mind. Next break she makes for the wide world I'm sure she'll go farther than our shed...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Little Kitty Gone

Emmi is gone. Out living the wild life in the woods. I'd say she's a poor little thing, but this was her choice. She need only come to a door and miaow and she will be welcome back inside.

Friday evening Jim and I came in from various shopping in preparation for his departure, from luggage to lumber for the guest room. Carrying in the many things involved using the garage door as well as the front door. In the confusion, the garage door was left open. Discovered half an hour later, the dog Vali and little Emmi were already out gallivanting through the night. Vali, being a dog, and therefore loyal, came back right away when called. Emmi we assumed to be taking longer to come in so we canvassed the yard and street, calling our little kitty. Rebekah did spot her in a tree, then watched her take off through the woods, running away as we called to her.

Clearly, she does not want to come back home.

So how do I feel about this? We rescued her from living in a cage at the Animal Rescue League, where she had been abandoned as a stray two years ago. We have given her a home, fed her, provided her with toys and a rub behind the ears when she would permit. For two years. And all this time she has bided her time, waiting for her opportunity to escape? Yesterday it snowed. Her paw prints traced back and forth across the porch this morning showed evidence that she is indeed about. Yet she prefers the cold outdoors to our comfortable and loving home?

Perhaps I am taking this too personally. She is, after all, a cat. Though this smacks of ingratitude, she is only a cat.

And I miss her. Rotten little fur-ball.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Blustery Day

It's a windy day here in South Central PA, and I'm on the couch with a heating pad behind my back, my sweet Milo on my legs, the laptop on my, well, lap, and antibiotics battling the fever racing through my system. When I say windy, I mean that the sound of the wind was loud enough to wake me before the alarm went off this morning. We had a lovely warm day yesterday, but that will soon be remedied by whatever is blowing in now. Jim is downstairs installing the floor in the guest room, which must be interesting when the power flicks off, as it has five times already this morning. (I've been hearing that power is out in a number of areas around here as well.)

So I'm curled up with the cat, sneezing, and reading John Calvin's view on what Scripture teaches about angels. Being so very careful to remain within the limits prescribed by God's Word, Calvin carefully exhorts his readers to do the same. The topic of angels then, as now, must have been based more on imagination than sound teaching, which he addresses without hesitation.

"… we will take care to keep to the measure which the rule of godliness prescribes, that our readers may not, by speculating more deeply than is expedient, wander away from simplicity of faith. And in fact, while the Spirit ever teaches us to our profit, he either remains absolutely silent upon those things of little value for edification, or only lightly and cursorily touches them. It is also our duty willingly to renounce those things which are unprofitable."

And further;

"…let us remember here, as in all religious doctrine, that we ought to hold to one rule of modesty and sobriety: not to speak, or guess, or even to seek to know, concerning obscure matters anything except what has been imparted to us by God's Word. Furthermore, in the reading of Scripture we ought ceaselessly to endeavor to seek out and meditate upon those things which make for edification. Let us not indulge in curiosity or in the investigation of unprofitable things."

By this Calvin is not encouraging us to hide our heads in the sand and run from those errors and heresies which should be confronted. He of all people was a strong defender of the faith and by understanding what the errors were, was able to confront them with the truth. What I believe he is saying here is that there is so very much in Scripture to engage our minds and hearts, so much that in a lifetime of study we couldn't reach the bottom of, why should we waste time exploring ideas that would undermine our faith? If we were given the opportunity to dine upon a feast prepared by world-class chefs, would we rather order a Happy Meal? Why insult the chef with such a base request? I would much rather honor the chef by enjoying the dishes that he would choose to set before me. (I must be hungry…)

My point is simply this. Today, as always, there are so many popular books and pastors and teachers that are enthralling the Evangelical world with ideas found nowhere in Scripture. Check the bestseller lists for Christian books. Perhaps I am acutely aware of my weakness, but my tiny little mind has a hard enough time retaining what I want and need to know. I cannot afford to be filling up with burgers and fries when lobster awaits! (There goes my stomach again. Perhaps a Shakespeare/ Captain Underpants analogy would be more fitting…)

So, about angels. After discoursing on angels being protectors and helpers of believers, (they are) whether there are particular angels assigned to be guardians over individuals, (maybe, but probably not) the hierarchy, number and form of angels, (too little information in Scripture to fully know) and that angels are actually real, not mere ideas, (yup) Calvin comes to the point that God makes use of angels not for his own sake, but for ours. God could certainly do all that he wants for us without using other means, such as angels. He is, after all, Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent. In making this point he writes the following, which I found to be so comforting to consider:

"One thing, indeed, ought to be quite enough for us: that the Lord declares himself to be our protector. But when we see ourselves beset by so many perils, so many harmful things, so many kinds of enemies – such is our softness and frailty – we would sometimes be filled with trepidation or yield to despair if the Lord did not make us realize the presence of his grace according to our capacity. For this reason, he not only promises to take care of us, but tells us he has innumerable guardians whom he has bidden to look after our safety; that so long as we are hedged about, by their defense and keeping, whatever perils may threaten, we have been placed beyond all chance of evil."

God knows how weak we are and fearful. He condescends to give us the assurance of created beings surrounding us for our protection, though he himself will never leave us nor forsake us. What a gracious and loving Father we have.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Real Life

The dailiness of our real life has continued to hum along here in PA. As Jim wraps up his work for his boss here and prepares for the move to Dubai there has been an acceleration to some of our projects, but we are also slowing down in other respects, just appreciating time spent together. It has been cold enough to keep most of our activities indoors, but the snow drew us outside to shovel the driveway and build a snowman or two.

Shoveling the driveway- more fun when working as a team.

Sweet Erin.

There's mischief in those eyes!

Isaac's Sinking Snowman, inspired by Calvin and Hobbes.

The big project that we have kicked into high gear is the guest room in the basement. From giant open space to ripping out nasty carpet, framing in walls, hanging drywall on the ceiling and walls, spackling, priming and painting, the room is really taking shape! As of last night there now hangs a door at the entrance and Jim is right now preparing to lay the flooring.

The wall paint turned out to be quite an issue. I have known for a while that I wanted the room to be a lovely shade of green - no pastel shades, but a happy, vibrant green. Choosing four walls worth of color from a paint chip the size of one's thumb, however, can be misleading. My first color choice was indeed happy and vibrant. In fact, it was so bright that, upon leaving the room, everywhere else appeared to be dim and pink. This green was affecting how our eyes perceived light and other colors! So last week I quietly went by Home Depot, with a t-shirt in the precise color of green that I wanted, and bought more paint. The room was re-painted before the kids knew anything had been changed, and it is now a calmer, more restful place to be.

The hallucinogenic green of my nightmares.

Now this is much better...

In the past weeks Isaac has been busy with Scouts. On the coldest Saturday last month, when it was 10 degrees out before factoring in any wind chill, he and his Pack accomplished their Klondike Derby. This is an outdoors event where the boys break up into teams and pull sleds through the woods from one station to the next, performing various survival skills from cooking to rescue. Though it is frigid out, the guys have a blast.

Klondike Derby- Before

Klondike Derby -After - notice the lack of coat...

I must say, if it has to be cold during the winter, having a nice layer of snow - and a day or two off of school to enjoy it, is awfully nice.


The past couple of days have been considerably warmer, with a feeling of Spring in the air. Certainly deceptive, as it is only February and bound to get colder soon, it is nevertheless a welcome break. This morning in fact, we were greeted by the song of this little fellow on the back porch. Just singing his tiny heart out as the sun rose! What a nice way to begin the day.

Teeny Pavarotti