Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Thoughts

Christmas is over. The house is quiet. My thoughts are running back over the last few days of celebrations, and I just felt like sharing some of my thoughts.

Since late September I have fretted and worried and prayed over how to manage Christmas this year. So many little issues ...

*It was our first as a blended family.

*Jon was hospitalized last Christmas and was sick for much of the year, and as a result we have enormous medical bills and very little extra cash flow. There was no way we could do for our 5 children what we used to do for them prior to our marriage.

*And how could we ever blend all of our traditions into something that worked for all of us?! I knew that as the mom it would mostly fall to me to figure it all out, and I really wanted this first Christmas to be meaningful and special and good for us all.

*Mostly I wanted our focus to be on Christ. If Jesus is the reason for the season, then I wanted our Christmas to show it.

I had come up with a budget of about $300 total for Christmas. It wasn't much, considering that we needed to buy for 5 kids, plus several others. But by mid-November I seemed to have a plan coming together. It must have been a God-inspired idea for I don't know where else it would have come from.

I put together 5 boxes to be opened on Christmas Eve after we read the Bible story ... one for each child to open. Inside each box was a small surprise to be given to everyone. After I planned out what to put in each of the boxes, I created 4 or 5 Bible verse clues so that before opening the gift and sharing the contents, the child had to read the verses and then try to figure out what was inside each box.

Box #1
Candy Canes ... really nice, big, thick ones and a candy cane ornament for our tree (We read a short version of the Candy cane legend, while enjoying the candy canes.)

Box #2
a Bible bookmark for each child, and a bag of M&Ms with a card attached telling how you could remember the nativity story as you turned the M&M around.

Box #3
CDs ... Seeds Family Worship (which is Bible Verses put to contemporary music). There are 6 or 7 different volumes based on a type of verse (verses for courage or faith or encouragement, etc), so we got a different volume for each child.

Box #4
Word Cloud mini-posters that I created for each child with their name and lots of their special traits and qualities and dreams. I laminated them so that they can hang them on their bedroom walls.

Box #5
a Christmas tree ornament ... one for each child representing something special that happened to them the past year.

The kids loved it (the mini word cloud posters were a big hit), and they had a terrific time with the guessing part of our gift opening.

Afterwards, we read An Orange for Frankie and shared a chocolate orange. Then we sang carols.

On Christmas morning, the kids opened their stockings, which were mostly filled with candy from the dollar store, toiletries but did contain one special $10-$15 gift ... A nutcracker for Maddie's collection, a book on Christian athletes for Joel, a magazine subscription for Nate, an very inexpensive MP3 player for Meg, and a tiny fish aquarium with a promise of a beta fish for Julia.

Everyone was thrilled, and not one complained or asked about where were the other presents. Jon and I were thrilled because it seemed to help us focus on Jesus and not on the Christmas extras.

Our first Christmas was different ... and so very special. We won't forget it. I can't help but ponder of the wonder of it. This time last year, I was worried over my soon-to-be husband's life. I can't tell you how many times during the first 6 months of 2011 that I wondered why on earth God would allow me to fall in love and marry a man only to take him to heaven. Even now, I constantly question why we had to go through such difficulty, and why we must still deal with ramifications of the experience even to this day.

But during the last 6 months of 2011, God has shown me over and over that because of that lengthy illness and the "problems" which resulted, our blended family has been forced to bond and forge in an amazing way. I am beginning to see how truly Jon's illness was God's mercy to our family, and we will forever be changed as a result.

This is Emmanuel ... God with me. God working in my life, in trials and grief and tough times. God working all things for my good, even when it hurts and doesn't make sense. God in me. God with me. God for me. This is Christmas. This is Emmanuel.

I know that so many are going through tough times .... many of you are facing things that are so much harder than the things I face. I am praying that somehow you too will find gold and silver linings throughout the problems, along with the fingerprints of God all over your life as you begin this new year!

with love,

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hamilton Christmas Letter
December 2011

Hello and Merry Christmas to all of our loved ones! Jon and I can’t decide if 2011 can exactly be classified as a “good year,” but one thing we do know is there has never been another year quite like this one! Perhaps miraculous is the best word to describe the past twelve months for our family. It was certainly filled with a variety of contrasts and much drama. Thankfully, there was this unreal sort of joy in the background of it all which somehow made even the hardest of days seem good to us.

Jon and I are rapidly approaching our 1st anniversary on December 31st. During the first few months of our marriage, Jon tested out my promise to love him “in sickness.” Most of you know how Jon nearly died twice. But, after a major open heart surgery and 4 lengthy hospital stays, he is healthy once again ... and I’m able to say that though my love for him did not waver in the midst of sickness, I certainly enjoy being his wife during times of health much better! We are immensely grateful to everyone who prayed for Jon’s healing, sent cards and emails of encouragement, brought food or made hospital visits. Jon is truly a walking miracle and his renewed health is a constant reminder to us of God’s amazing powers, amazing love and amazing grace.

Many people ask us how blending our family of five children has gone, and wonder if the chaos ever gets to us at all. Actually, we have discovered that we rather like the chaos! Our small home is crowded and noisy and often cluttered with shoes and toys, but it is a happy home and we wouldn’t trade it for all the calm and quiet in the world. Best of all, recently we’ve had several people tell us that they cannot figure out which of our children belong to Jon and which ones belong to me ... which thrills us because we both think of all five as “ours.” Another testimony of God’s mercy to our family!

As hard as this past spring was for our family, we had some amazingly joyful times as well. Julia and Maddie both asked Christ to be their Savior within a 2 week period, and then Jon was able to baptize all 3 of our daughters in November. It was a day that we will cherish as parents, knowing that all 5 of our children have now put their faith and trust in Christ Jesus. And isn’t that what Christmas is all about anyway?

For truly, shouldn’t Christmas be more about the cross than the manger? Since Christmas is only the beginning of the story of salvation, shouldn’t we then acknowledge that the manger in Bethlehem wouldn’t be worth remembering if it weren’t for the cross of Calvary? For our family, Christmas is simply pausing to celebrate how the very God who spoke the oceans and mountains into existence humbled Himself to walk among us, fully man and fully God, and then allowed mankind to kill Him for sins that were not His so that we (who deserve it least) can be made holy and perfect in His sight.

The very thought makes our hearts want to sing with the angels ... “Gloria in excelsis Deo!” We pray that your heart is singing this Christmas, too!

With love and joy,
Paige & Jon Hamilton (along with Maddie, Joel, Megan, Nathan and Julia, too!)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Worth Far Greater Than Rubies

Today is my grandmother's birthday. I'm thinking of her with a smile wishing I could give her a huge birthday hug, sing a joyful rendition of the birthday son, watch her blow out candles and sit next to her as we enjoyed a piece of birthday cake. It's been nearly 5 years since she passed away, and so the only way I can honor her today is in my memories.

Two days ago, a dear family friend, Mrs. Jean E. Mitchell, passed away very suddenly. That afternoon I visited with my grandfather. I spoke of how I already missed Mrs. Jean E. He stared off for a minute and then replied, "I still miss your grandmother as much today as I did the day she died. Not a day goes by without me thinking of something about her or a memory we shared."

I understand ... thoughts and reminders of my grandmother are frequent. I suppose it has been a decade or more since she did any real cooking, but I am often surprised not to see her there in the kitchen when I step through the door of the house where she lived. On Sunday mornings I hear her voice in the familiar hymns of my childhood, her strong and mellow alto still singing in the back of my mind. Four years ago I bought a bottle of her favorite perfume, and whenever I wear it all day long I feel somehow as though she herself has given me a hug and the scent has lingered with me.

One of the most precious memories things that happened to me occurred on my birthday two years ago. I opened up a birthday card and it was signed with my grandmother's name. I blinked and then read it again. Sure enough, my grandmother had signed the card. And about the time I began to think I was going crazy, I noticed a note penned on the opposite side of the card ... a sweet message from my friend Jean E. Mitchell. She wrote how she thought I might appreciate receiving a "recycled" card that my grandmother had sent to her one birthday years ago and how she still had such sweet memories of my grandmother. The tears began to flow and I felt this surreal love around me ... the precious rememberance of my grandmother's love expressed to me in a tangible way through the love of another friend.

In a few minutes I'll be leaving to go to the visitation for Mrs. Jean E. I've been thinking of her a lot the past two days ... all the things she taught me and how her life was such an example of being a godly woman. And today as I've remembered my grandmother, I'm amazed at how many qualities these two women shared ... virtues described in Proverbs 31.

These are a few of the lessons I've learned from both of these women:

~She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. (v. 12)
I never heard my grandmother or Mrs. Jean E. speak ill of their husbands. Both of them were proud of the men they married, spoke highly of their strengths and successes, supported their husband in all of his endeavors, and radiated love and admiration for their spouse.

~She ... works with eager hands. ... She sets about her work vigorously. (v. 13, 17)
Both ladies were hard workers, actively serving at home and at church. Mrs. Jean E. kept the church sign with a current message, decorated bulletin boards, helped with functions of all sorts. I never knew her not to be busy ... it could even be hard to keep up with her when she walked! My grandmother seemed more easy-going in her approach and yet she was always busy doing something ... cooking, visiting those who were sick or grieving, helping behind the scenes with church functions, always there and always ready to help.

~She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. (v. 20)
My grandmother taught me so much about reaching out to those who needed food, clothes, money or love. She gave generously and was always aware of those in need. Mrs. Jean E. also was a generous woman, who gave freely of what she had.

~She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. (v. 25)
One of the things I recall most about my grandmother is her laugh. Mrs. Jean E. laughed often as well. Inner joy is a gift from God and both of these precious ladies had that gift. They were women mature in their faith, bold and courageous in their lifestyle, joyful and peaceful ... they were inspirations to me.

~A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. (v. 29)
So many times I've heard it said that the best witness for Christ is our day-to-day life. My grandmother and my friend were women who lived for Christ every day. They took care of His people. They took care of His creation. They gave of their love and their possessions. They honored Christ with their eager willingness to serve. They feared the Lord and so whenever I remember them and the things that they taught me I am blessed again.

Although I know that I will continue to miss both of these women, their deaths do not represent the end. My much-loved grandmother and my dear friend will continue to live on in my heart and memory. More importantly, their souls will live on for eternity in the presence of the Lord they loved so much with their time on earth.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Joy of Grief

Yesterday I lost a great friend ... a wonderful lady that I've known and loved for my entire life. Today I am grieving for her, already missing those precious parts of who she was that I cherished and loved and was not ready to part with so suddenly.

Grief is never easy. I've grieved before ... when my great-grandmothers died, at the passing of my grandfather and my grandmother, when my first marriage ended. I dearly loved each one but they were all either very old (over 90) or very sick (cancer, alzheimer's). In a way, death for them seemed like a blessing and the grief was somehow not as overwhelming.

This sort of grief is a first for me. My friend was the same age as my parents, and her death was so very sudden. Sixty-three seems far too young to die, especially for someone who was so full of life. Just last week I saw her at my grandfather's Thanksgiving Breakfast. She hugged my neck and we talked, never dreaming that would be our last conversation. This is the kind of grief that evokes questions ... "Why, Lord? Why now? Why her?"

And yet, there is a supreme peace in the midst of this grief. My friend knew Jesus. She knew Him well. She loved Him and served Him and shared Him in all areas of her life. I know that while I grief and mourn and shed tears for her passing, she is singing with the angels, bowing low before the throne of her Beloved Saviour, walking streets of gold, gazing at the crystal sea, soaking in the majesty and wonder and complete awe of God Almighty. She was redeemed on earth and so she is now glorified in heaven. Today she is in paradise.

I can't describe the wonder of thinking about her now ... knowing she is completely healed of this earthly sin and shame, praising God in her now perfect body. She will no longer battle the day to day struggles of sin and pain. I know that she wouldn't come back to earth for a second now that she has experienced being with God in all of His perfect holiness.

Somehow this knowledge makes me long for the wonders of heaven a bit more, for I know that my grief will last for only a short season but her joy will now last for eternity.

Somehow this knowledge makes me miss her all the more, but not truly want her back on earth. Rather, I would like to go where she is ... to be with my Savior in a place so glorious that I cannot fathom it in my brain.

Somehow, the death of my friend has taught me that sometimes there is a joy that comes only in the midst of grief.

I am a better person for loving her on earth. I am also a better person for experiencing the grief of her death, as with the death of all those who love Christ, as seen through joy-covered glasses.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 ... Choosing to Remember

I am sitting in a cool room, lit by golden beams of sunlight streaming through the window. Looking out I see cardinals flit to and fro around the backyard, as well as the occasional bright color of a butterfly fluttering past. I am surrounded by the voices of my children, as they laugh and play in the next room with their neighborhood friends. All afternoon I’ve been mentally working on a grocery list, while Jon’s been tending to the yard work. In the background I hear the low hum of the dishwasher as it completes its cycle. And though I wish I could imagine it away, I know there is still a smallish mountain of laundry just waiting to be washed and dried and folded. It’s another perfectly normal day and somehow everything seems right in my little world ... just as it did ten years ago, before the towers fell.

Ten years ago in late August, I moved with my family to Monterey, CA. Joel was 17 months old. I was 7 months pregnant with Nathan. We moved there because my husband was in Army training, learning the Arabic language oddly enough. At the time, my biggest problem was figuring out childcare for my toddler when I went to my OB appointments every other week now that we were living in a new home so far away from all of our loved ones.

On the morning of September 11th, I was awakened by a phone call from Matt. It was very early in CA. I remember him saying that I should turn on the TV because something big was happening. I stumbled into the living room and turned on the news just in time to watch second plane crash into the WTC.

I had a terrible knot in my stomach. After a few quick minutes, I turned it off. For the rest of the day, I simply cared for my toddler, trying to pretend that life was the same, even though I knew that life would never quite be the same again.

Every so often over the next few days, I would try to watch a bit of the news coverage, but I never really could watch for very long before I would turn the TV back off. I told myself it was because I didn’t want Joel to watch those images. That was true, but honestly it was more because I didn’t want to watch those images either.

During those first few days and weeks following 9/11, time seem to drag by so slowly. I was always hyper-aware that we had been attacked and that our nation was at war with an unseen foe. But somehow, after a while, life sort of moved on. Within just a couple of months of 9/11, I had a new son to care for as well as a very active toddler to keep up with ... my life was moving forward and I was busy trying to keep up!

And now, ten years have passed. Ten autumns, ten winters, ten springs, ten summers ... full circle and back around.

Ten years ... yet somehow it doesn’t truly seem like it was all that long ago.

Ten years ago, I didn’t know that my precious toddler would grow into a tall, lanky young man, who would someday wear glasses. I certainly didn’t imagine that my sensitive boy would turn out to have a heart of courage. He grew into this child who wrote letters to presidents, won math bees, ran for office at his school clubs, asked his friends to donate money to children in Iraq instead of giving him birthday gifts. All I knew then was that his sweet, shy smile that melted my heart, and ten years later that still hasn’t changed.

Ten years ago, all I knew about Nathan was his name ... and that he kicked harder than his older brother. My California Beach Boy was born into post 9/11 America. Over the years he has grown into a chubby baby with the great laugh and then transformed with time into a handsome 9 year old ... big dimples, bright blue eyes, and a personality as big as his 5‘ 0”, 110 lb frame. He has 1001 interests and at least that many talents. Intensely loyal. Protector of the right. Defender of the weak. This is the son I carried ten years ago today.

Ten years ago, I never even dreamed that I’d be the mother of a little girl. But two years after 9/11, Julia breathed her first breath, and I’m forever blessed because of her pinkish giggles, purple ponies, and passion for life. Full of cuddles and hugs, yet fiercely strong-willed. Ten years ago today I didn’t know how much I needed my Julia.

Ten years ago I was married to another man. I thought I was going to die when my marriage fell apart. But God picked up the ashes of my life and molded it into something much more beautiful than I ever dreamed possible. Because of that, when I look back upon the last ten years of my life, I see ten years of blessings.

Of all the blessings from the past ten years, the best of them all has been Jon.

Jon. Tall, hazel-eyed, guitar-playing Jon. Like a warm wind blowing on a cool spring day ... like a cold glass of lemonade in the heat of summer ... like toasting cold fingers in front of a flickering fire on a brisk autumn night ... like gingerbread smells and singing familiar carols in the deep of winter ... my Jon. Comfortable. Cozy. Wrapped up in love. His name means “God has given” and that is exactly what he is ...a gift to me from God.

And so Jon brought to me blessing after blessing after blessing. Through his love, I gained two beautiful daughters ... Maddie, brown-eyed beauty with the gift of humor and laughter, and sweet, freckled Meg with the heart of gold. He gave me new friends to count among those old and dear. He gave me new perspectives on life. He brought me to a new place to call home. Through Jon I was given a new life, all fresh and bright again. These were my gifts, given to me by God through Jon. Ten years ago, I never knew what was going to happen, how my life would change, how a personal tragedy would eventually turn my life into something far more meaningful.

Grace has that sort of affect, I think. I look back on my life with grace-colored glasses and see the fingerprints of God over it all.

Grace has been poured upon my life, drenching my spirit and now everything has changed. Not perfect or without flaw because we still live in a fallen world and long for the perfection of paradise. Yet with grace, grace, grace we catch a glimpse of God’s glory.

This has been my life the past decade or so. From day to day it doesn’t seem like much ever happens, and yet when looked back on all at once ... well, my how things have changed! And all I did in the interim was live.

That’s the thing that seems so shocking and stunning about 9/11. All those victims ... those faces ... those numbers ... they represented real people. People who were in the middle of living life. On September 11, 2001 they were just working or taking trips or running errands. Life was happening and then suddenly, unexpectedly, tragically it was over.

In the past ten years, I’ve often heard it said that on September 11, 2001 life as we knew it in America ended. Perhaps. But I can honestly say that I don’t really live my life much differently than I did ten years ago. I still do the things I’ve always done ... care for my family, go to church, shop, drive, travel, etc. There’s no fear. I don’t do these sorts of things differently. Life’s not changed in that way. Not in the day to day living.

And yet, I can’t help but think of 9/11 and grieve for all the lives lost ... lives lost in planes crashes, burning buildings, toppling towers, and even on the battlefield in the Middle East. Living life as each of us do, one breath at a time, only to suddenly find that the next breath doesn’t come. Life is over. Life is done.

And this is the tragedy of 9/11 ... the senseless deaths of so many who were just going about life.

This morning, at about 9:15 am, I sat next to my Maddie-girl as she prayed and asked Jesus Christ to be her Saviour and to give her the blessed assurance of heaven. I don’t know if there is a greater joy on this earth than watching a person (especially when it is your child) experience the grace of Christ for the first time.

What Maddie did this morning has given her peace ... peace that when the tragedies come and the towers fall, she will not be alone. She has assurance that in her life there will be grace ... grace to drench her spirit and grace to turn her ashes into beauty. But mostly, she now knows that when life stops for her, when she no longer takes a new breath, that she will step into paradise ... perfect paradise where grace will no longer be needed.

When we turn to God and accept His grace in our life, falling towers can no longer threaten us. We will be able to live confidently in knowing that bad times and tragic events may happen, but God will not let us go. We will not fear for we are not alone. No matter what happens here on earth, the best is yet to be when we finally draw our last breath and go home to paradise in the presence of our Saviour.

No, I will never forget what happened on 9/11/01. But, I’ll never forget what happened on 9/11/11 either ... for in the grand scheme of life, the hope and the peace of salvation is far, far more important than the chaos of tragedy.

My prayer for each of my friends is this ... that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height, to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

Learning to Read

As hard as I try, I cannot remember life before I knew how to read. And I certainly cannot remember a time when I didn’t enjoy curling up with a good book and reading to my heart’s content.

It may sound strange, but I even associate certain books with periods in my life. Ramona Quimby might have been a pest, but she was my friend in 2nd and 3rd grades. I met Laura Ingalls in the 3rd and 4th grades. While Laura was intriguing, I identified much more with her sister Mary. I was heartbroken that Mary eventually became blind. In 9th grade, my mother insisted that I read Anne of Green Gables. I resisted initially, but in the end I found a kindred spirit. Oh, and lest I forget, there’s Father Tim who made his home in Mitford. I’ve read his stories over and over.

My favorite part of teaching has always been encouraging children to become readers and watching them delight in stories. When I taught 3rd grade, I always read Charlotte’s Web aloud to my students. It became a well-known fact that I couldn’t read the end of the story without sobbing. Most years, I had to have a student take over reading for me because I would cry so very hard. I knew Charlotte was going to die and still the tears flowed.

Waiting rooms, comfy sofas, on the bed, while I’m cooking, soaking in a bath, libraries, book stores, ... I love to read and read whenever I can. I nearly always carry a book with me just so I’m prepared should a few extra minutes suddenly pop into my schedule.

Yet, even I was sort of stunned to see a lady a church one Sunday morning without her Bible but holding a paperback book (The Help by Kathryn Stockett) instead. She clutched it tightly. It was ragged and dog-eared. I remember wondering why she had chosen to bring the book to church. For an instance I tried to envision the circumstance behind this decision, but then decided I really shouldn't judge her. But, three months later, I still find myself wondering why she brought a secular book to church instead of the Holy Bible, the very Word of God, a personal letter to His children.

It often seems to me that it is becoming more and more common place for people not to bring their Bibles to church, and this bothers me very deeply. I assume it has something to do with the big screens that are so common in churches today. The Bible passages are flashed onto the screen for everyone to see and no one has to look it up in their Bible anymore.

Over the summer I began to wonder since most folks don’t even bother to bring their Bible to church, if anyone still reads the Bible regularly between Sunday services. I do try read the Bible regularly, but honestly I don’t read for it for nearly as long as I might read another book, and I truthfully I tend to miss about as many days as I read, making my effort a very spotty 50% of the time. I feel guilty about this ... my attitude is just as poor as my habit. While I said I wanted to know God in a deeper way, I wasn’t even consistently trying to read what He wrote to His followers.

As a result of all this thinking and pondering and wondering how to change my Bible reading habits, I decided to take on a challenge ... read the Bible through in 90 days. It’s a neat program designed to help you read the Bible from cover to cover in just 3 months. I knew there were parts of the Bible I had never read before and I knew it would help me know God more if I had read everything His word has to say at least once. Besides, I figured I needed to put action to my words ... to show my desire instead of just talk about it.

This challenge has not been easy. In fact, this is a real struggle. I’m far behind in the reading schedule. Progress is excruciatingly slow. I feel like giving up. Currently, I am discouraged about making it through the most important book I will ever have the opportunity to read. But I won’t give up ...

You see, I’m learning to read ... learning to read what truly matters.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Poem ... by Louisa May Alcott

Tonight I discovered that the author of one of my favorite books is also a poet ... and her poem touched me deeply. I've been out of sorts and out of control of my emotions and my reactions, and I'm struggle to keep control of myself. Perhaps I need to stop struggling with myself and let God take over the struggle, for I've always found that when I let God have control of me that I somehow have control of myself.

My Kingdom
by Louisa May Alcott

A little kingdom I possess
where thoughts and feelings dwell,
And very hard I find the task
of governing it well;
For passion tempts and troubles me,
A wayward will misleads,
And selfishness its shadow casts
On all my words and deeds.

How can I learn to rule myself,
to be the child I should,
Honest and brave, nor ever tire
Of trying to be good?
How can I keep a sunny soul
To shine along life’s way?
How can I tune my little heart
To sweetly sing all day?

Dear Father, help me with the love
that casteth out my fear;
Teach me to lean on thee, and feel
That thou art very near,
That no temptation is unseen
No childish grief too small,
Since thou, with patience infinite,
Doth soothe and comfort all.

I do not ask for any crown
But that which all may win
Nor seek to conquer any world
Except the one within.
Be thou my guide until I find,
Led by a tender hand,
Thy happy kingdom in myself
And dare to take command.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

This NOOK in my Side


A month ago, my life was blissful. I had no desire for an e-reader. Then my mother let me borrow her Kindle...

and I fell in love. :lol:

Actually, I guess I feel into envy. I wanted a Kindle so bad, but we couldn't afford one and so I hoped that [I]maybe[/I] I might get a Kindle for Christmas/anniversary. The crazy part is that I knew I was envious and so I wouldn't even pray about my Kindle desires.

Then this really amazing thing happened. I was visiting with a friend of mine and jokingly telling her how sorrowful I was about having to return my mother's Kindle. This friend of mine is quite a bit older than me, and she is fairly well off. She laughed and said, "I have a NOOK. But I hate it. I much prefer to read a real book. In fact, I haven't used my NOOK in months and months. If you want it, it's yours. I will gladly give it to you!" I was stunned into silence (which can be a hard thing to do because I like to talk just as much as I like to write). Here was this amazing and completely unexpected blessing that I certainly knew I didn't deserve it because of my envious heart.

So one might think I could be happy now ... but NO. I am miserable. I keep recalling how easy it was to use the Kindle. With my mother's Kindle, reading books was so easy. Downloading books was a snap. I had that Kindle for 10 wonderful days. I've had the NOOk for 3 weeks now, and it has been 3 weeks too long! It has many more features than the Kindle, but all I want to do is to read a book and I can't seem to do that with this dadgum NOOK!

I can't really afford to buy books for the NOOK right now, but I *should* be able to download library books onto it. I have been trying unsuccessfully to do so for 3 days. By the way, my library e-book system doesn't support Kindles ... so even if I did have a Kindle, I couldn't use the library system with my e-reader. More proof that I should be thrilled beyond words to have a NOOK, but apparently I have a heart that is hardened toward NOOKs.

It all boils down to this: I wish I didn't have this dadgum NOOK. I just want a Kindle ... and that makes me feel incredibly ungrateful. But it is the truth, as ashamed of it as I am. :(

Sigh. Somehow this blessing of a NOOK seems to be teaching me more about my ungrateful heart than anything else. Lord, teach me to be content ... without an e-reader!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Painting the Sistine Chapel

After six months, I can say that I'm finally finding my homeschooling groove once again! It's certainly different this time around ... older children, more children, a variety of ages and interests and talents. Coupled with moving and sick husband and kids who were used to public or private school settings, it has taken me several months to figure out how to do this, and as a former homeschooling mom I was not expecting such a long transition.

I'm finding my groove once again with a marvelous curriculum: Five in a Row. It's the same curriculum that I used before. Joel, Nathan and I loved it then. Once again, we are all loving learning with FIAR lessons. Each week, we read a book. From that book, we spin our language arts, history, geography, science, art, music, Bible, cooking and even math lessons for five days in a row.

And the kids are learning and the kids are engaged and the kids love school and I love teaching ... and all of this makes our home a happy place of learning.

This week our book is Angelo, written and illustrated by David Macaulay. From this story, we have discussed personification, birds, the process of restoring something old (like a building or painting), Opera, working diligently even in hard circumstances and as unto the Lord instead of for men. We've cooked spaghetti together. We've discussed showing kindness to the widows and respecting the elderly. The story takes place in Rome, so we are learning a lot about Italy.

As we talked about Italy and Rome, we discussed Michelangelo ... looked at his sculptures and paintings, and talked about his importance in art and history. As a fun activity, I let the kids paint Michelangelo style ... lying down! It's actually a legend that Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel while lying on his back. In a letter to a friend, Michelangelo actually wrote a funny little verse (talking about how his neck ached and paint dripped in his beard and how he struggled to maintain his balance) and he sketched himself painting ... standing up and leaned backwards! However, the kids still loved the experience. Here are some pictures of our fun afternoon of painting.

Meg, Julia and Nathan paint on their backs under the dining table. It was an afternoon of summertime fun, but none of us thought we'd like doing it for four years, which was how long it took Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel!

Maddie works on her painting while lying under a chair.

Joel's finished product ... "Paint in My Eye." I loved the title he gave his painting! He did indeed get paint drips in his eye, while paint dripped on Julia's hands, onto Meg's leg and hair, and all over my dining room floor. No matter how you go about it, painting on a ceiling isn't easy!

For more photos of our Michelangelo painting fun, please see my facebook album "Painting the Sistine Chapel."