The rain is raining all around.; a desert storm is upon us. The lightning is flashing, thunder rolling….and I am safely sipping a hot cup of tea.
I learned to drink tea from my father. Second only to his love of books, was his blessed addiction to a hot cup of tea. Dad never used teabags; simply not done! We used a tea ball or simply dropped the loose leaves in the tea kettle and placed a strainer over our cup.
There is a distinct difference in using loose tea versus the use of a teabag. I guess you might say it’s the difference between homemade bread and purchased bread, but to me it’s more than that. It’s a view of life. It’s the difference between picking up fast food or sitting down to a pleasant, enjoyable dinner. Imagine it; a beautifully set table on a lovely tablecloth, special dishes, carefully prepared food, lively and pleasant conversation….what dad would have called a ‘sumptuous repast’.
There are times one doesn’t have to have the most well prepared food. Indeed, I remember my father stating, “A meal fit for a king!” as he rose from a dinner of hotdogs. What a wonderful way to look at life. He taught us so much as he drank his tea with plenty of sugar, often a bit of lemon juice, and maybe a few gingersnaps or crackers on the side. I will always remember him this way, his rough, working hands holding his teacup, a look of contentment on his weary face. His days were long, but he made time for the finer things in life; hot tea in a nice cup.
I love you, Dad. Tonight, as I put the teapot on to boil, I made sure to take out the lemon juice to go along with my sugar cubes. In these later years, I often drink my tea black, but tonight, well, tonight I am remembering how many times we shared a perfect cup of tea.
You may have tangible wealth untold, caskets of riches, coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be; I had a mother who read to me. ~~~GS
Generally speaking, my mother didn’t read to me–she sang. It was my father who read. Who can ever forget our father reading The Long Winter in his Brooklyn accent? We had traveled through the cold days and nights of desperate need with our father’s voice leading the way. We felt the intense hunger of the Ingalls family. When finally the train made it through to their little town, thin and hungry, Pa pulled supplies eagerly from the supply barrel as Ma and the girls gathered ’round. Our father read this book to my sisters and I, as we sat in rapt attention. How we laughed when Dad read Pa’s exclamation: ‘Buttah,buttah, he cried!’ leaving off his r’s, and we rejoiced in both the supply of butter and our father’s wonderful accent.
In my junior high and high school years, my father often listened to me read aloud from my history book at night as we worked on homework. It seemed he had a photographic memory;he never missed an answer no matter what review questions I asked him. I thought he was the smartest man I had ever met. It was from my father I learned to love reading and talking about reading and began to pay attention to the political world around me.
I’ll always believe my two sisters and I were blessed with the best years of parenting our parents had to offer. Yes, they were older than some parents, but they had the wisdom of experience -we were the last three of nine– and they had learned how to truly enjoy their children. How thankful I am that our father chose to keep our home free of the onslaught of television in favor of conversation and reading. My father opened the door of poetry to us by deliberately choosing reading over other forms of leisure. It is his work in our lives that is seen and heard when we gather these many years later and launch into a recitation of Jabberwocky. It was his influence that led me to read Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. His love of reading pointed me toward Longfellow and Dickinson, and blessed me with an addiction to words.
Both my mother and father loved words…..read or sung, words ruled our home. Growing up in a home where books and music ruled is a rare opportunity and I will be forever grateful. Our mother sang, loved to sing, and loved to hear US sing. We sang. There was never a question as to whether we COULD sing. At thirteen we joined the choir; this was a given. Our mother made sure we were exposed to music, read music, played music, sang music. I will always be thankful for the sacrifices she made to make sure we had music lessons. I remember the awe I felt as I listened to my mother sing in church or at weddings, and the joy of singing around the piano at family gatherings.
And then there were the people in and out of the house and the discussions. Rich or poor, mom and dad were not picky….all were welcome and all treated with the respect due creatures of our great God. They taught us to love people by simply living. There was no social media, no television, and yet their home drew people from many places. There was no pay beyond the enjoyment of good company and hot cups of tea or the inevitable coffee perking on the stove; they simply lived their lives, worked, read, sang, worshiped….they were a father and a mother who loved music, books, and words and we are all better for it.
Richer than I you can never be…………
‘Wonderful, Merciful Savior, You offer help when our hearts have hopelessly lost our way, oh, we’ve hopelessly lost our way’….so says the song and I heartily agree. There have been times recently, as I have looked around and seen the devastation of moral values and viewed the very libertarian view of ‘every man doing what is right in their own eyes’, that I have despaired for our country, our families, our churches.
I have seen parents loving their children and hurting when those very children turn their faces away and wander off into the world to partake of the same ‘delights’ that drew the bibilical prodigal. The parents watch and hurt and pray and know that their children will be hurt and scarred, and beg God to turn their hearts toward home…and Him.
I have seen hurting children forsaken by their parents, abused and mistreated….families broken, hearts shattered, children living in two homes and struggling to find order in a world that is anything but orderly, knowing that the only given in their life is the understanding that there IS no understanding.
I have seen leaders lacking any respect for truth or virtue, a country crumbling before my eyes, bending to the whims of the ungodly and selfish, personal gain. I’ve watched and even participated as we have become a social media nation, where peer pressure and selfies focus our affections on a false perception of reality, a place where the here and now is the most important place to be and no one looks to the future other than to set aside a pot of gold for their old age.
And, sadly, and yet most assuredly, I have watched Christianity fall apart as we, the people who are tasked with being the light, the great changers, the influencers of society, have surrendered to the religious political correctness which renders us useless. Our churches have become our stages; all show and no depth. Motivational speaking abounds; true teaching is disdained as our ability to think continues to wane. People feel good and live bad. We are not separate or different and anyone looking at us sees nothing that shows we are sinners who belong to a Savior. Our speech has become careful; no mention of sin, or blood, or sacrifice. It’s just not done. We mustn’t offend and I can’t help but think all we have done is contribute to the breakdown of society by making everyone feel extremely comfortable in whatever may be their chosen sin.
Wrong has become right. Right has become wrong. Ah! There is the hope! It is all very biblical. The Writer of the Great Story told us this would happen. And every day I believe it even more fully. The great thing is, I know the ending….that beautiful, better than a fairytale ending to the Truest Story ever told. My King will call me home where I will live in a beautiful city forever. There is also the evil prince of this world. He will be thrown into a bottomless pit and his followers will burn forever in a place where there will be literal ‘weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.’ Every story ever written, every tale of good and evil, was rooted in the original story, the basis of all truth. It is inescapable–HE is inescapable.
‘Almighty, Infinite Father, faithfully loving your own, here in our weakness you find us falling before your throne. Oh! We’re falling before your throne.’
Yes, I’m falling before His throne.
Tonight I swam in the ocean in the middle of Arizona. I was Queen Fiona, ruler of the sea. I rescued Teresa, a very small mermaid, and her sister, Delphinia, as we swam to shore (the kitchen floor). I ruled the aquatic world from my throne, a wing-back chair.
Today I traveled to the high country and visited bears and wolves and foxes. I ate lunch under the tall pines with a beautiful mother and lovely children. We ate blueberries, sweet peas, fresh grapes, washed it all down with juice, and finished it all off with sumptuous fig newtons. The air was clear and piney; the company was grand.
Our technology driven age does not make time for ocean filled living rooms or appreciate picnics in the woods. There is no time for turning off the phone and escaping to the land of make believe. Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘land of counterpane’ is foreign to the world of A.I. – artificial intelligence. There is little knowledge of the world of Longfellow’s ‘Children’s Hour’ where ‘grave Alice and laughing Allegra and Edith with golden hair’ dwelt in innocence. And proof of this is shown in the fact that many reading this blog will be ignorant of the very poems and authors mentioned.
Technology will never bring the sense of completeness or that lump in my throat that comes from a brown little imp running pell-mell to welcome me at the door, shouting, ‘Babushka! Babushka!’. There is no substitute for a seven year old climbing quietly on my lap, wrapping her arms about me and quietly stating,’ Thank you for spending this day with me’. They do not know that I am the grateful one, that every moment with them draws me closer to God, that I have fallen hopelessly in love with the wonder of them. Their very existence, their health and wholeness, is a testament to His goodness.
This is life with my granddaughters. This is life in the Lokaychuk living room. This is life…and it is true and good and beautiful.
Tonight I cried. I sat in an auditorium full of people and I cried. I cried unabashedly, I cried joyfully, I could not stop myself.
Tonight I watched a little girl dance with her father. I watched her glow with love and admiration for this man who stepped out of his comfort zone to embrace this beautiful experience with his daughter. There was Max, our son-in-law, joining with fathers and daughters in this experience of love and joy. Tonight God allowed us to enjoy a beautiful experience and we are not taking one moment for granted.
It’s not a wonder I forgot to press the button that would have started the video on my phone; my eyes were blurred and the tears ran freely down my face. My daughter sat next to me crying as she watched her niece and brother-in-law, while my husband laughed aloud with the joy of it. Next to us sat the Great-Uncle Peter laughing, talking, and loving every minute, while the Mischievous Mariana, the littlest imp of all, wandered from lap to lap. There sat Noel, my daughter by birth, my friend by choice, surrounded by Sofia’s little home school compatriots, expectantly watching their friend. We fell, no we plunged, purposely and deeply, into this moment of joy. It was too good, too wonderful, too joyous to comprehend. Our hearts overflowed with the beauty of it all.
Life is not always beautiful or even pleasant. There was a time when I expected to be handed lovely crepe suzette experiences almost on a daily basis. But life comes knocking and in its hand we do not always find the omelette of our dreams. Sometimes, life hands us broken, smashed, Humpty Dumpty eggs, that can never be put together again. But God….
And here we were, just shy of the three year anniversary of their arrival in America, and this little family, whole and lovely, shows us once again the old, old story, an example of all that is good and right and true in God’s great plan……the eternal story unfolds in our everyday life. The root of all that is good is God. The story of a dance, a little girl, a father, a blessed mother, a little munchkin…..all of this tells us it is true; there is healing and a good and loving God who showers us with hope and happiness and is the giver of good things. His wise plan allows pain and hurt and loss and, while teaching us the beauty of trust and leaning, opens the door to intense joy.
Tonight I cried. Tonight we all cried, my husband, my daughter…..we all cried. We cried and we laughed and we rejoiced in all that is true, good, and beautiful….and God said, “It is good.”
I am sitting in a little house in central Arizona, surrounded by moving boxes and furniture. Two small girls are running around, rejoicing in the feeling of freedom that comes from knowing that the land you stand on is your very own. I am witnessing a happy ending, or should I say a happy beginning? For it is truly a new beginning……
It was just two and a half years ago that a family left the Far East region of Russia where winter temperatures dip to -40F to find a new life in the American southwest where summer temperatures rise to 110F. Their only belongings were a few suitcases, some broken hearts, and a solid belief that God will do what He will do and in the midst of grief, He is still there.
So began their journey, a journey in which God showed Himself faithful over and over, blessing their way with God’s people, doing good things; a job, a rental home, paperwork accomplished, a church family.
I will never forget the birth of that beautiful, healthy baby girl two years ago. Little Mariana came bouncing into the world and into our lives, healthy and strong, and full of personality.
We have watched our son-in-law struggle to learn the English language and adjust to a new culture. We have seen his tenacity as he ventures out each day into unfamiliar territory, learning new skills. And today, here he stands, beaming with pride, as he carries furniture into his new home.
And then there is our daughter, acquainted with grief, trusting in trials, found faithful. How far we have come from those years of praying across the world. I never dared to hope she would be so close…..
And Sofia, dear Sofia. Seven years old, tall and thin and very happy as she dances joyfully around the boxes…. “Babushka, I want to make up a song about this house….” She is fully an American girl and she is fully a Russian girl. She can switch languages mid-sentence and is now wanting to learn Spanish. She is a picture of what is possible in this great land.
The deepest of griefs makes the fullness of joy even more precious. We do not take these good times for granted, neither do we forget the times of great loss. We have mourned with those who mourned. We will now rejoice with those who rejoice. There is a time for everything and this is our time of great joy.
Wandering the house on a quiet Saturday morning, I found myself at the bookshelf looking for old friends. I have found wonderful solace in spending time with great books. There is true loyalty in a book. In the hustle and bustle of our very busy lives, the old stories are never changing, yet always new. I needed this and as I reached into the shelf, I was not to be disappointed.
Beatrix Potter, that wonderful author and illustrator beckoned to me. I began to leaf through the old story of Peter. Yes, it was true, in each season of life stories tell new tales and I was glad to learn what Beatrix had to teach me.
The story greeted me with the warmth and beauty of home and hearth. Here was Mrs. Cottontail feeding the children a lovely breakfast and preparing them for the day. Bellies full, faces washed, the bunnies (children) were sent out to play along with the guiding admonition not to wander into Mr. McGregor’s garden.
Ah, but what was this? Our Peter chooses to follow the path of sin; the prodigal ventures off on his own. He must see what is out there. He must wander the world. Oh Ms. Potter, you are such a theologian! And why is this so surprising? The story of sin and redemption is the eternal story, so that there is little we can read without finding it.
And so it goes, Peter wanders out into the world to spend his inheritance in the form of a coat with silver buttons, returning stripped of pride (and also his clothing), narrowly escaping the long-term effects of sin. Home comes the prodigal.
Mother Cottontail, full of wisdom and truth, welcomes her son, never prying, yet always knowing he has had a narrow escape in the eternal struggle with sin. She does not excuse Peter, nor does she ignore the obedient children. Here we see the beautiful love of a mother as she ministers to her children. She is not weak; Peter must suffer the consequences, something we all must come to terms with. Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail enjoy their blackberries while Peter takes his medicine ( in this case chamomile tea), and hops off to bed, a repentant, yet forgiven, sinner.
Yes, Ms. Potter, you are quite the theologian! Or is it just that the story of mankind and his need of redemption runs straight through everything? There, in the form of mother-love, we see God’s unconditional mercy. There is evil (pride- my way is better), goodness (the beauty of obedience), realization of truth, reconciliation, as our family of little bunnies band together with kindness and the story culminates right where it started…a sweet picture of home and hearth. Evil threatened but Good (God) won in the end. So much to learn from you, Ms. Potter. Thank you for sharing timeless truths for children, or should I say adults?
Life is full of serendipitous moments, those moments when God drops a blessing directly in our lap and we look around dazedly, surprised by His generosity. I never knew, I never dreamed that I would be sitting in the middle of Oak Creek with a round little cherub on my lap. The clear water, just deep enough to entertain minnows, and cool enough for little feet to dangle in, swirls gently by. This is not a rushing water place; it is a gentle spot, with ivy and trees and —- oh, look! Over there!
The bank rises steeply on the opposite side of the creek and all the way up are blackberry bushes, near enough for us to glimpse the plump, juicy fruit; far enough away for us to feel a sense of impossibility. They are on the other side of the creek and to get to them one must venture into deeper water. The forbidden fruit calls and we are helpless to deny it.
I find myself gingerly making my way across the creek, slipping here, sliding there….glancing back at the cherub as she sits on her mother’s lap. Like the foragers of old, I journey on and delight in the thought of small hands full of berries. The deepening water is no deterrent and I am standing waist deep as I reach the lowest growing vines. A handful of berries is worth standing in cold water, when a round little person is waiting for them. As I make my way back to the other side, little hands reach out, and, those hands, full of berries , are pressed to a little mouth that is wide open. Berry juice runs down a little chin and little hands reach out for more….more.
It is hard for me to swallow and it’s not the berries. My eyes are wet and it’s not the creek water. God, in the quietness of a summer hike, has given me a glimpse of His goodness. I am overwhelmed. Before our journey is complete, we are all wet, the cherub has a belly full of berries, we have been kissed by the sun and enjoyed a summer picnic.
Don’t ever tell me God does not see. Don’t ever tell me God does not care. Don’t ever tell me there is no more beauty and goodness in this world. I have been to the creek. I’ve seen a mother and her children play in water, surrounded by ivy and beauty and the sweetness of blackberry blessings.
Phil. 4:8 ~ Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise; think on these things.
This is an invitation to mindful learning, to thoughtful moments, to the art of contemplation. This is an invitation to schole (sco-lay), the Greek word from which our English word school is derived. In the Greek, schole refers to the free use of time for wonder, curiosity, and discernment. In our busy world, it has become almost impossible to embrace the true meaning of rest, of quietness, of being alone with our thoughts, of even knowing what those thoughts are. Did you know that true learning is not memorizing ten facts for an A, but thoroughly plumbing the depths of a subject? Of course you did. But have you thought about that? Between updates and postings on social media, texting, rushing to the mall, meeting friends for dinner at the latest restaurant, did you stop to think?
Our present culture is in chaos. I recently read that in one week we are exposed to more information than a 19th century person was exposed to in a lifetime. Information, not knowledge, not wisdom, not truth or goodness or beauty……just information. All kinds of information. Our minds are on overload, but not with knowledge, which takes time to accumulate, simply with meaningless information, unable to be processed and resulting in lack of deep thought. We live in a shallow valueless world where truth has become whatever society perceives it to be; I believe this is truth, so it is.
I’m inviting you to do something different; to take time to read, to think, to look at life from God’s perspective (wisdom), to experience true schooling…..schole. You can do this. You can find a truly good book, a classic – not some present day work of fiction that will be forgotten before the year is out – and take time to turn off the technology, not that it can’t be used for good (i.e. this blog), but moderation is needed, isn’t it? Shall we try it?
When was the last time you wrote a poem, a thought, jotted a letter to a friend, found yourself in the wee hours of the morning unable to stop reading? This is not a gift only certain people possess; God commands us all to be learners – no exceptions. There is something to be said for the tactile experience of holding a real book in your hands, of turning each page with care. The relationship grows and the memories of your time together stay with you. Who can forget crying over Little Women or rooting for Anne and her precious Green Gables? Remember those times you pored over Lewis’ Four Loves or felt as if you could actually hear Homer’s Sirens? Ah, those were the days, lovely memories of our experiences in the pages of a book and the resulting meditation over the plot and characters, the lessons learned.
‘We live in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.’ so says CS Lewis. If we were ‘starved’ sixty years ago, can you imagine our present day state of emaciation? While our society suffers from physical obesity, our souls suffer from a lack of intellectual and spiritual nourishment. Contemplation has become a lost art.
And so I extend this invitation to you: Set aside some time for schole — thoughtful curious learning and contemplation in a quiet restful spot. It will not be easy; the world is always interfering. But do it. Commit to that hour, that secluded spot, that book. I dare you. Then see what a difference it makes…..Jesus said to them, ” Come apart to a desert place and rest awhile.” Mark 6:31.