Friday, December 31, 2010

A Few Points of Clarification

After my recent confession I feel that I need to clarify a few points. Weak and imperfect as I am, and miscommunication of what I've written being a distinct possibility, (all fault being my own) here goes.

Let me first and foremost declare that outside of Christ I am nothing, can do nothing, and have no hope whatsoever. He saved me, dead in the trespasses and sins in which I once walked, following the course of this world, a child of wrath, not because of works done by me in righteousness, but because of his own great love and bountifully rich mercy toward me. God saved me from death, from bondage to sin, from an eternity in hell, to be made alive in Christ, raised up with Him and seated with Him in glory. (Eph. 2: 1-7) To quote a friend, "(1) I did not deserve it and (2) I did not deserve it and (3) I still do not deserve it."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

To Be Honest…

There are some topics about which I don't write here simply because they cut too close to the heart, and I don't want to sound as if I'm complaining or being negative. Yet there are things through which we are living now, circumstances which seem to dominate our lives, through which God will ultimately be glorified. But if I've said nothing, how will anyone know? What follows is not a complaint, nor is it a masked plea for money- really. I've waited until I'm in a good mood to write this in an attempt to keep the negativity at bay.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My Baby is a Teenager

Thirteen years ago my baby boy was born. Thirteen years.


My other four children have each passed, at three year intervals, into their teens. But each of them had younger siblings who were coming up behind them. Isaac is the youngest of my children, the last of our crew to accomplish each milestone, the baby with whom each passage is a last for me. Along the way with the rest of the kids some milestones were lost in the flurry of activity which was our life. Pausing momentarily to celebrate each child's accomplishments was the most we could muster for many occasions. Every child is equally precious, but not every child has had equal time when it came to their day in the sun.


Nathaniel's thirteenth birthday was a day shared with all of his siblings around him; Isaac had Erin at home, and phone calls from the brother and sisters who are living away, (Rebekah's call was on Skype). I'm struggling at the moment to remember what Nathaniel's party might have been like, but all I can accomplish, by doing the math, is figuring that we must have been in Florida- only 9 months into our time there, and therefore couldn't have yet known many kids well enough to have over for a party. (Fill me in on the details if you can, First Son.) I'm pretty sure that we wouldn't have been quite as comfortable allowing the kids the free-ish rein to do their own thing and then watch a movie as we did for Isaac and his friends last night. The guys began with games in the basement, moved quickly to pizza when I brought it home, then cake, stories about Isaac, and a movie. (Isaac ran the remote during the movie and fast-forwarded through the scene which he had deemed- on his own judgment- too racy for the guys to watch.)


I had assumed that by this stage in the game of rearing five children, I'd have more of what resembles an "act" together and be better at the celebrations which predictably come around year after year. Yet, I don't. I had hoped that with the decrease in craziness, I might have more time to plan for parties and birthdays and simple focus on each of my priceless children. And here I find myself, days before the birthday, scrambling to figure out what we are going to do. These days which are the same date each year, focused on those dearest to my heart, still seem to sneak up on me and surprise me from a blind corner of the calendar. Time is flying by and I am a poorly organized person, a combination loaded for defeat in birthday party planning.


We had a friend in Grove City who would decorate the whole house the week before the birthday of one of her children, in anticipation of the day, with signs and banners, balloons and gifts. In Florida, many birthdays were closer in resemblance to carnivals, with the rental of giant bounce houses and inflatable slides, huge party games, a magician or another sort of live entertainment, and enough food to feed a small village in Ethiopia for a month. I have neither the forethought for the first, nor the finances for the second kind of festivity.


There was one family tradition about which we learned while living in Florida that we have been able to incorporate into our birthday celebrations for our children and has been a blessing for us, and, I hope, them as well. Once everyone is around the table, or at least in the room, and focused on the birthday boy or girl, we ask everyone to share a memory or something special that they appreciate about him or her. While this is fun and even enlightening at times, there has come a deeper blessing from it than I originally anticipated. We have always tried to emphasize character over stuff; love and fellowship over gadgets and things. While many gifts which have been unwrapped at the birthday parties have gone on to be played with for a time, and then broken, lost, or simply fallen out of use, the gift of loving and kind words will never fade. As my children have grown more autonomous in their friendships and the time they spend with friends isn't always in my presence, it is neat to hear the stories and memories that are shared. To hear what their friends remember most fondly about them, or what is seen in their character, is a gift to my children which they will cherish long after the candles are blown out and the wrapping paper is gone.


This year will be sparse on wrapped gifts, birthday and Christmas alike. I pray that the gifts of love and words of blessing will fill our hearts and the time which we spend together will build special memories for each of us. I cherish each of my children and hope that their memories will be as thin as mine on the details and the stuff, and full instead of the love which we share.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Lazy J

I'm not entirely sure what has prompted this memory, but it surfaces now and then, so I'll share it here. My memory for the years and specific dates of things that happened when I was growing up is rather fuzzy. There was a period of two years, maybe only one and a half, during which I spent almost every weekend in heaven.

Well, not literally in heaven, mind you, but as close as a pre-teen girl growing up in Texas could get; on a ranch surrounded by horses. My entire life I have loved horses. When I discovered that I could draw, it was horses that appeared on my pages. Many of my homework assignments had bright little steeds cantering up and down the margins of the notebook paper. I knew precisely where the horse books, fiction and non-fiction, could be found in the school library, and those were the books that I checked out- repeatedly. One summer my parents rented a pony for my exclusive use from a nearby farm, and though I wasn't allowed to move into his stall, that pony made for a fabulous summertime. I swooned over photos and posters of horses the way other girls were swooning over Donny Osmond. My favorite smells even involved horses. Burying my face in a horse's neck and mane and breathing deeply; the smells of saddle leather; even shoveling a stall conjured vibrant, familiar, "horsey" scents. The softest and best sensation in my memory is stroking a horse's nose. The places right in the center and on the sides of a horse's muzzle are the silkiest things I've ever touched. And then there are the sounds. Hoof beats of every speed; the creak of leather as I settled into the saddle; the clinking of the metal bit as a horse tossed his head; gentle nickering; all music to this Texas girl.

My desire to spend more time with horses inspired my Mom to find an outlet for me. She discovered that a distant relative owned a ranch outside of town and rented horses for an hour at a time to city folks who wanted to go for a ride. We made the half-hour drive one Saturday morning to the Lazy J Ranch and met our cousin Randy for the first time. (On a side note, my memory of Randy has him looking exactly like Matthew McConaughey. There always seemed to be plenty of pretty and giggly girls who knew nothing about horses coming out to the ranch each weekend.) For a mere $4 one could purchase the ride of a horse throughout the many wonders of the pasture beyond the corral. (I'm being facetious here- it was the most boring acreage in north Central Texas, and that's saying something! However, from the back of a horse, those acres were my favorite place to be…) I can't remember the name of the broken down, sway-backed, black mare onto which Randy first put me, but the ride was calm and sedate. Not quite what I'd had in mind, but cautiously safe for my first ride. In the days and weeks after my first ride, as Randy grew more confident with my riding skills, I came to know many of the other horses. Highpockets, a tall, rangy bay, was quite a fun ride, and therefore not always available. There was a brown thoroughbred mare, whose name I forget, which I rode on a number of occasions. She was a safer choice and yet fun as well. The quieter horses (meaning, boring) were the last requested by the regular customers, and I had to get there early, or wait for hours if I wanted to be choosy. That was fine with me, because I stayed all day long. While I wasn't riding I learned to muck out the stalls and groom and feed the boarded horses. I paid my $4 for one hour of riding and worked like a slave for the rest of the day- for free. Yet I'd have paid them for that privilege too, I loved it so.

There was one horse which was not often requested by regular customers. Peanuts, a deep bay cross between a Welsh Pony and a Quarter Horse with a stiffly standing black mane and a white stripe down his nose, became my favorite horse. Peanuts had the stubbornness of a mule, and if he wasn't ready for a ride, nothing would move him. Many a customer would howl for Randy's help to get the little guy going, only to request another mount when nothing of their own effort worked. There were times when I'd arrive and Peanuts would already be out with another rider, so I'd sit by and wait. Before long, a lone rider would come early into the corral saying that their friend's horse was in the middle of the pasture and wouldn't move. Randy would hop up onto the nearest horse and ride out to rescue the marooned customer. He'd lead them back in, help the poor fellow or lady off, and look my way. "Show them how it's done Barbie!" he'd call, and I'd run over, jump into the saddle, and spur Peanuts into a quick canter around the corral. There was no magic to it, I just knew this little horse, and he knew me. The hours we spent in the pasture were filled with imagination, and an occasional jackrabbit to chase as well. When I rode to a certain point in the pasture, along a little rise, if the sun was sliding lower in the sky and the shadows grew long, our combined shadow looked like a Spanish Conquistador, with Peanut's legs lengthened and his valiantly arched neck emphasized… One weekend Peanuts' saddle broke, Randy left it in the tack room, and I was allowed to ride Peanuts all weekend on my own, bareback, since he was "unrentable" without a saddle. I adored that little horse.

I not only rode Randy's horses, but was privileged to ride some of the boarders' horses as well. A woman named Joann boarded her mare Sharlee and Sharlee's filly, Shandy, at the ranch. Many horses are named with a combination of the Sire's and the Dam's names. When Joann had Sharlee bred to Randy's stallion named King, she decided that "Shar-King" would sound more like a burger joint than a fine, purebred Quarter Horse, so she named Shandy after my cousin Randy. Shandy was a high-spirited, finely-tuned two year-old mare with a deep brown coat, dappled a bit across her rump. What a beauty. After Joann had her "broken" by a professional Wrangler, she still needed to learn her "manners". Joann was a bit too old to climb into the saddle of such a flighty mare, so she asked the fearless girl who groomed her every weekend to give it a go. Shandy was a whole new experience after riding the rental horses. If her hooves ever really touched the ground, I didn't feel it. I spent hours in the saddle teaching Shandy to neck-rein, back up, smoothly transition from walk, to trot, to canter, and back again, and generally behave like a lady.

Then there was the Blacksmith's stallion, Tres Bar, (Trey Bar). A big and powerful Quarter Horse, Tres Bar wore a spectacularly bright chestnut coat. Though he was as light on his hooves as Shandy, there was a strength beneath the saddle which I hadn't experienced with the mare. Riding Tres Bar was like sitting on a thundercloud before it breaks into storm; with a current of electrical expectation conveyed through the reins to my hands. Though he was powerful, he was also mannerly, his strength held in check by a gentleness which spoke to careful and consistent training. They may have been mad to put me into his saddle and send me off, but I loved the few rides which I was allowed on this magnificent animal. I'd take him into an unused pasture, with no other riders in view, and put him through his Rodeo paces. We'd gallop and slide to a stop, pivot in place, and curl around imaginary barrels. There was no jarring to his trot, and his canter was as smooth as floating, but to gallop Tres Bar brought a thrill of adrenalin at the imminent danger as we took flight down the bare dirt track between the pastures. This was when, hanging on for life, I felt like an afterthought on his giant back, with my hands grasping his mane as well as the reins the steel pistons of his legs drove us forward, his hooves pounded the dirt and his rhythmic breath sounded like a freight train. Those few moments stretched to feel like a lifetime, and yet were over in a flash.

On rare occasions now, 30 years distant from those blissful rides, something will trigger these memories, and I can hear the creak of saddle leather, smell the musky, warm scents, and almost feel that nameless elation of riding these horses which live in my memory. The days of going out to the Lazy J Ranch ended with our move to San Antonio. I've been able to ride friends' horses, and have had an occasional rental ride here and there in the years since. Yet never have I felt again the joy that I knew at the Lazy J. Randy's horses and the others which I rode there weren't mine, certainly. They were as close as I would ever come though, to feeling as free on horseback as if I were on my own horse. I've not been blessed with the privilege of owning a horse, and likely never will. But God gave me a year on horseback which will forever be mine to recall with gratitude.

(And, for the record, unless it's the year 1979 and you are Randy Jones, I won't respond to the name "Barbie".)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend, 2010

December has arrived in a blustery, rainy gust of weather. In recent years it seems that this final month of the year arrives rather quickly, though the months preceding it are no shorter than before. Why then am I surprised that we are already facing the final hurrah of the year? In ten days we will celebrate Isaac's birthday, we will then decorate the house for the Christmas season, Kate and Rebekah will arrive home for the holiday, and before we know it, it'll be time to adjust to a new number for the calendar year.


This past week with Thanksgiving was full to the brim with activity, family, and wonderful food. Perhaps the time flies quicker that way. Kate came home Tuesday, and Wednesday Jim and Isaac made the long drive to get Bekah. We only had her here for four days, but we made the most of our time with all of the girls under one roof. Thanksgiving day we cooked up a feast, with each of the kids assigned certain recipes or tasks to complete. I think that this was the easiest Thanksgiving feast we've ever prepared, and it must be because we were sharing the work and not rushed about the timing. The girls chose which pies they could not live without, and each prepared their favorites. Erin loves the Cranberry Streusel pie, Bekah had to have traditional pumpkin, and Kate made another perfect Pecan Pie.


Naptime followed our meal, and then the cleaning up. We had an invitation to join friends for dessert, so we packed up the pies and drove across town for a nice evening visit. Erin and Isaac learned to play pool while Bekah played Rummicube and Kate shot a few photos. Blessed ending to a full day.


Friday we slept in- no Black Friday shopping for us! Sitting here now, I'm asking the kids what exactly we did do on Friday, and we're coming up blank… It must have been calm and relaxing all day. Imagine that. Oh, we did have a bonfire in the evening for Bekah and friends. Marshmallows were toasted; a movie was watched.


Saturday was another blessedly full day for us. Last year we invited Jim's cousins to come over the Saturday after Thanksgiving and join us for pie and leftovers transformed into soup. We had so much fun then, and multiplied that fun with seeing them at the wedding and Fourth of July party over the summer that we repeated the invitation. This time we asked the Nelsons to come along as well because, while they aren't actually related to us, they might as well be. Mark and Brooke and their four boys live with cousin Ginger in what is affectionately known among the extended family as "the Group Home". Since they have been there long before our re-connection with Ginger and the Carlton gang, they have been part of our every visit and our kids, Isaac especially, have enjoyed having someone their own age to hang out with.


So the morning was spent making three kinds of soup and more pie- can't have enough pie! At the appointed hour Ginger, Gladys and Alexys arrived with homemade rolls, salad, and approximately 700 deviled eggs, (give or take a few hundred). When the Nelsons arrived we settled in for our feast. Every chair was filled, every bowl used, and the conversations and laughter flowed. Our dining room was filled to capacity as was the kitchen table, and once we were all seated there weren't any objections to placement at the "kids table". Once we finished our meal the Dads and kids went outside to shoot the potato gun, to which the Nelson boys added a twist. Shoot the potato straight up into the air and see who can catch it when it comes back down. It would take a Nelson to dream that one up. Those of us who stayed inside enjoyed a quieter visit with a bottle of zinfandel.


Before long the kids came back inside to thaw out and dig into the pies. Then they played ping pong, foosball, air hockey, and darts in the basement. The noises coming from downstairs testified to the general fun being had, with occasional exclamations, and once a cry of, "Cease fire, cease fire!" After the sun went down- which is still far earlier than I'm used to- the guys all suited up for a game of airsoft outdoors. Like I said, Isaac really enjoys this gang! We sent them out with the simple instruction to not aim for the face.


Meanwhile, back in the house, Jim brought out some old family photos which he'd come across and we passed them around as Gladys and Ginger helped us identify who was who in each picture. This prompted storytelling which the girls enjoyed immensely. Tracing family resemblances in the pictures, figuring out relationships, which generation was which, and stories of those who live now only in the photos and memories made for a very interesting and entertaining end to the day.


As far as I'm concerned, this is a tradition to keep. The family gathers at Ginger's for New Year's, will be gathering at Angie and Guy's for the Fourth of July, and we will welcome any who will join us for Thanksgiving Saturday.


Sunday was a quieter end to the weekend for me as I drove Bekah back to Hyde Park after church. Four hours each way made for a long time in the car, but I took along some sermons on cd to keep my mind occupied and the drive was an easy one. For her next trip home she'll try taking the train at least to Philadelphia, if not all the way to Lancaster. School has now resumed at Kelly Academy after a week's break. Back to it then!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Taste And See

Last night we celebrated Thanksgiving with our church, together with the Chinese church who also worship in our building. The evening began with a service in the sanctuary with praise songs, hymns, Scripture readings, and reflections on thankfulness from our Pastor. The floor was then opened to anyone who wanted to share.

And here is where I always encounter a struggle.

See, so often I find myself feeling as if I have monopolized the talking in Sunday School class, Bible study, or small group. (Even when I'm not teaching, as I am now.) Surely others have something to say. There are always, within any given group, certain people who can be counted upon to stand up and share. Perhaps if I'd sit quietly this time, others would also have an opportunity to do so. Everyone knows what I'd say anyway, right? After all, I've said it in Bible study, small group, and Sunday school class on many occasions.

And yet I found myself pulling the pew Bible from the rack to begin with a verse.

The pages were pristine. I had forgotten my own Bible at home in the rush to get out the door with the food I'd prepared for the meal after the service. My Bible has become a comfort to me in so many ways, partly because I've learned where to find certain verses simply according to which side of the page they're on, and how they are underlined. I'm not very good with remembering the "addresses", so to speak, so I rely on visual clues, of which the pew Bible was bereft.

This actually added to what I was going to say so I began with my gratitude to the Lord for my Bible. The pages of my Bible are not only familiar for the underlinings, but also for the various sermon notes which I've jotted down over the years. From authors, to theologians, to the pastors of churches to which we've belonged, I have written various comments which have impressed upon me the meaning of the texts being expounded. Some of them are attributed with the name of who said it, even a date here and there; others are anonymous. Most come from hearing a sermon live, some on cd, and even some from books I've read. I often refer to it as the "Barbaranne Kelly Study Bible", since I have collected so many notes over the years. R.C. Sproul is in there, as are Sinclair Ferguson, John MacArthur, Steve Larson, and Robert Godfrey. Our former pastor Rick Phillips graces much of the books of Zechariah and John and the letters to the Ephesians and the Hebrews. My beloved study leader and mentor in faith, Toni Barnhill is quoted on many a page. More recently my Pastor Wendell and our new assistant pastor Ross have found their way onto the pages as well.

As I reflected on this, I realized how rich and full is the teaching that I have been blessed to receive over the years. An understanding of doctrine and theology did not bring about my salvation. And yet what I have learned over the years has taught me so very much about our Saviour- the tip of the iceberg really- such a breadth and depth of mercy, love, wisdom and grace, the knowing of which serves to increase my love for and my wonder at such a God.

I am, therefore, so very thankful for the faithful preaching and teaching of God's Word under which I have been privileged to sit and learn. From those whom I've heard while at conferences packed with thousands of believers, to the Pastors who have not only preached to us from the pulpit, but have also prayed with us and walked alongside us through the various trials to which we have been called, God has graciously put us in the way of the truth, and we are so very, very blessed.

As I shared last night, I was not able to say quite as much as this which I've written. The inevitable happened- I began to blubber a bit. This would be another reason why I hesitate to stand up and share in gatherings such as that.

I wasn't yet finished; I still had a verse to share-

Oh, taste and see that the Lord
is good!
Blessed is the man who takes
refuge in Him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints.
for those who fear Him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want
and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord
lack no good thing.
-Psalm 34: 8-10

(The note next to this in my Bible says, "Look back and see the goodness of the Lord through hard times. Toni B. 2-20-02")

My point in coming to this particular verse was to share how thankful I am that, though we are going through a trial which is weekly becoming more and more severe, our church has stood by us and supported us in prayer, as well as financially, through it all. Though we are suffering, we are experiencing no lack of what we actually need, and we are comforted by the love and the fellowship with which the Lord has surrounded us. Our church has become family to us in this trial, and we are so very, very grateful.

I did manage to choke out most of this before I sat down, and was unable to sing most of the next hymn. Gradually composing myself, I listened with a grateful heart to the rest of those who shared and then prayed. As with every Thanksgiving service, there would be a basket in the back for offerings for the Deacon's Fund, with which others in need would be helped- and which has helped us.

As we were preparing to leave for the meal Wendell made one final announcement. There was to be an addition to the collection of offerings. A second basket would be placed next to the first, for offerings for Jim and Barbaranne. Oh, the flood of emotion! There was no stopping the tears now. Gratitude, relief, overwhelming love for these dear people and our Lord! Jim grasped my trembling hand in his as we joined in the closing prayer.

And still, my gratitude for the funds which will help to meet our needs being as genuine as can be, I recognize that money comes to an end. According to our worldly needs, they are being met, piece by piece, step by step, moment, by moment. The bills are being paid, only just; the wolf, as Dave Ramsey says, is being kept from the door, only just.

More deeply realized is my gratitude for our most desperate need, met and accomplished once and for all on a cross outside the walls of Jerusalem over 2000 years ago. This need could only be fulfilled by Jesus, who took my place before the bar of God's justice and paid- in full- for my every heinous sin, that I might stand with Him in Glory when my life is over and my joy in eternity begins. Paid in full.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ my dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. ( personal cross-reference, John 17:17)

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
-Ephesians 3:14-21

And yes, it's underlined.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Seasonal Eye-Candy

It's that time of year again; when the leaves on the trees turn Technicolor and the air blows cool and crisp. Rain or shine, the vibrant hues are breathtakingly beautiful. Around every corner another view awaits. The beauty is magnified by knowing that it is all too brief. Within another week or so the leaves will have fallen, leaving bare branches clawing at the sky, awaiting spring. So get outdoors and revel in the glorious display of Autumnal brilliance!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Home Education

In answer to the questions being lobbed my way by friends and family as to why we have taken up the education of Erin and Isaac at home, I offer the following response:

I had said that I would never again homeschool. I figured that there would be no need. But lately we've been watching way too much of Glenn Beck to be comfortable with what is being taught in school. We were having discussions with the kids concerning the actual facts and trying to fill the gaps that way. But then Erin asked if we'd homeschool her, and we couldn't turn her down. She has been making straight As for years now, but has finally gotten a teacher who expects her to be building upon something that ought to have been taught in past years- which wasn't- and Erin hit a wall. (Besides the fact that she utterly despised this particular teacher. Erin simply can't learn from someone for whom she has no respect, and day one of the school year, with the first words out of his mouth, she lost all respect for this man.)

I was on the cusp of having My Own Time All to Myself and was floored by her request. But God convicted my selfish heart and I'm now in- hook, line, and sinker. If we were withdrawing Erin for reasons concerning teaching correct and full history, teaching from a Christian Worldview, (which is actually a wider worldview than the narrow interpretation required if one is avoiding the whole truth) and concerns over the sinful environment which they have to deal with, (which was not nearly as bad as the Florida schools, but they were becoming sensitive to it here) we needed to also withdraw Isaac in order to remain consistent in our convictions.

There are more families in our church who homeschool than those who don't, so there is a world of support for us already. I tell folks that when Erin first made her request, I dialed 911 and Piper W. answered. She is our closest church neighbor, being only three miles away down our hill, and she is the President of a local homeschool co-op which meets once a week and has classes for the kids (gotta socialize these hermits after all). Erin and Isaac will take their science classes there, so my kitchen won't be exploding with experiments, and we don't have to purchase a bunch of fancy equipment. They have work for the class which they'll complete during the week at home, but a more knowledgeable teacher is at the helm for their science education, which is a relief. Piper and another friend were able to lend us about 80% of the books we'd need and we are chugging right along.

What has come out of this, and I find slightly amusing, is a reaction from the kids' school friends which we didn't anticipate. Erin and Isaac are the first homeschoolers that most of their (non-church) friends know! Isaac's first day at home ended with an evening phone call from one of his Scouting buddies with whom he had a number of classes, asking him what he did all day, what time he woke up, if he has school books, will he get grades... Evidently most of their friends had been peppering Ben with questions all day, and some of the teachers had expressed real dismay that we were taking one of the delightful students away! At last week's Cross Country meet, a dad of one of the boys on the team with whom Erin is friends asked me about our change in "educational arrangements', sincerely interested, if not perplexed. Erin was in the Student Government Assoc., and we sat with this family at every SGA banquet and would hang out during every XC meet, so the conversation was comfortable, but still, to me, amusing. Since we know so many homeschoolers and have even done it before, I didn't realize what a foreign concept it is for so many others.

When we moved from South Florida, we chose our home based in part on the school district. Our kids were, in every measurable respect, thriving in the school. Most teachers loved them- Erin practically had a fan club among the teachers at the Middle School, which Isaac discovered on his first day of 7th grade. ("You're Erin Kelly's brother?!" exclaimed one teacher.) So on one level, it makes no sense for us to have pursued this course. Yet we are pursuing it, and expect our kids to end up knowing more real history and understand the worldviews that have driven events, and see the hand of God behind it all.

That's it in a nutshell. I do not expect to be perfect, nor do I expect every day to be sunshine and roses. But I am taking the full responsibility for these kids as their parent. God entrusted them to Jim and me, not to the PA Department of Education.

And Hey, maybe I'll learn something as well!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Colleges, Cross Country, and More

All of my best intentions to continue with regular posts here have been brushed aside in the past couple of months by the stream of events which have flowed in such a constant fashion that I've not had a chance to catch my breath. My last post was in the middle of Nathaniel's visit here and our trip to the Glenn Beck rally in Washington D.C. Since that time we have delivered Kate to her new home in Lancaster, where she is attending the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, (PCAD) we enjoyed the rest of our month-long visit with Nathaniel at home, Erin and Isaac began their school year, both of them running with the Cross Country teams for Mifflin, we took Rebekah to Hyde Park, NY to begin her education at the Culinary Institute of America, (CIA) and we returned home to yet another adventure- educating Erin and Isaac at home.

I'm sure that there was more in between, but those are the highlights. (I need to catch my breath here, gimme a second.)

Yes, the time has been flying by. Kate is thriving at PCAD. Not only does she love her school and studies, but her church and the RUF group have been a blessing. To hear the excitement and delight in her voice on the phone just makes my heart sing. Art school is no fluff business; she has a lot of studying and homework to do after hours, which she is pursuing with diligence. Being only 30 minutes away means that Kate can come home more easily for a weekend here and there, which was a big help when it came time for us to deliver Rebekah to school.

Meanwhile, Erin had been running with the Cross Country team all summer, training with Coach Jack Heim and the girls at the school and around town, running in Nolde Forest on Saturdays. Erin's strong sense of self-discipline and determination feature prominently in her running. Coach Heim has been training runners for over 20 years, and his girls are often the best teams out there. He has fostered a tightly knit team on the field and off. The girls would have sleep-overs and dinners together and made t-shirts to wear as a team before meets. From local dual meets to invitational meets farther from home, Erin has loved running with the team. An undefeated season was topped off quite nicely last Wednesday with a team win at the County Championship in Kutztown. Not only did the girls' team win, but the undefeated boys also won, and the top runners for boys and girls were also from the Mifflin teams- so they literally "ran away" with every possible victory!

Isaac has also been running with the Jr. High Cross Country team. Attending practices diligently, running at the dual meets, he has been a real trooper, according to his coaches, and has grown stronger and set high goals for himself. I especially appreciate the way the meets are run, with the Jr. High and high school teams going to the same places on the same days for their races, so that I can cheer for both of my kids instead of having to choose between them. The strength of will required for running the distances for cross country has been impressive to watch in Erin, though not unexpected, and almost startling to see in Isaac.

In the midst of this we delivered Rebekah to the CIA in Hyde Park, NY. A dream come true for her and still amazing to me, we packed up the car with her belongings and drove four hours away to the beautiful campus on the shores of the Hudson River. We spent the whole weekend there, orienting ourselves to the area, finding the nearest grocery store, attending a church that we thought might be a possibility for her, (and ruled it out) and getting to know the campus. Sunday afternoon we moved her into her room in the residence hall on campus. Her sweet roommate, Jennifer, told us that she had been praying for a Christian roommate, which answered our prayers as well. Sunday evening Jim and I had a bit of a parent orientation with the Residence Hall advisors before hugging Bekah goodnight and leaving for our hotel. Rebekah had a dinner on campus following her RA orientation, which was a peek into what her meals would be like for the foreseeable future, (and motivated her to check out the workout facilities at the recreation hall!). Jim and I found a fabulous little restaurant not far from the campus and enjoyed a quiet dinner. The next morning was parent orientation for us while Rebekah continued with her freshman orientation. We were able to see her here and there between things, but her schedule was rather tight. In the middle of our lunch in the Apple Pie Bakery and Café, which was magnificent, our sweetie stopped by for a final goodbye hug, having determined that there wouldn't be another chance to see us before we left. Sniff.

Long drive home… in the rain.

Since there is quite a bit of overlap between all of the aforementioned events, it would be fruitless to expect any downtime now. See, a mere three days before we left with Bekah for Hyde Park, Erin asked me if I would withdraw her from school and teach her at home.

(Insert smelling salts here)

All that I will say at this point is that we are now homeschooling both Erin and Isaac. The rest of that story will be a post all its own.

God has blessed this whirlwind of activity and shown grace upon grace to us, more abundantly than we could have asked.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Images of Honor

This post is merely images which tell the story of the Restoring Honor Rally in Washington D.C., on 8-28-2010, far better than I can. These are a collection of images caught not only by myself, but also by my son, Nathaniel, who serves in the Army and is now home on leave, and my daughter, Kate, who is about to leave for Art school. (I have no idea why this is underlined- sorry.)