Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Communal Living

I was laughing with a friend last week about how I feel like I've once again been initiated into "proper" adulthood. No longer living with parents or in an apartment the size of a dormroom, we actually now have a house, a car, a dog, a baby, all the conventionalities of a successful married adult. Chuffed at having progressed so far, she brought me back down a bit. "Except that you're sharing the house." Oh yeah...except for that. "And you don't have any income." Ooh, yeah, employment. That's a biggie. Okay, so maybe we haven't quite reached the settled down, successful adult phase after all. Eh, who wants to grow up anyway?

Our friends Jason and Melissa who are sharing our house came back on Saturday after three weeks visiting family in Toronto. Soon we will begin the hunt for a single to also share our abode. We are beginning to settle into the rythms and patterns of community life after having spent a good amount of time arranging details: dividing up the cooking and cleaning load, dealing with grocery and bill logistics, organizing kitchen space, etc.

Recent memoirs I've read on convent and monastic living have given me insight into both the intention and the nitty-gritty of communal living. Indeed, love and grace and service will be demanded in abundance, availing us of new avenues for spiritual development. Yoking ourselves together, we desire to push upwards, attempting to attain the unity that the New Testament elaborates, but which the Church seldom endeavors to live out.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Books, Books, and More Books

My book stack is becoming ridiculous. You would laugh to see my nightstand. Between the Regent library, the Vancouver public library, and Amazon orders, I am overwhelmed with volumes that are already begun or anxiously anticipating being cracked. Browsing the stack and choosing which to read for a half-hour coffee break during Cora's nap or the reading hour before bed is pure delight. Not much could be better than a stack of great books waiting to be read, except perhaps the satisfaction of completing them one by one...which takes a long time when you keep starting new ones before finishing the old. There is quite a disparity between David's and my reading methods. He is systematic, never having 2 "pleasure" books, meaning non-school although they tend to bring a lot of pleasure as well, going at the same time, while I obviously am a willy-nilly, pick up anything that strikes my fancy reader. So, onto my book list, which I have failed to keep updated on the sidebar because it would take a lot of time to list the books that come and go off my nightstand.

Books I am in the middle of:
  • The Genesee Diary, Henri Nouwen--Highly recommended.
  • Dakota, Kathleen Norris
  • Stalking the Divine, Kristin Ohlson
  • Gilead, Marilynne Robinson--Highly recommended.
  • The Philosophy of Tokien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings, Peter Kreeft--Highly recommended...also doubles as an intro to philosophy textbook.
  • Men and Women in the Church, Sarah Sumner
  • Creative, Confident Children: Making the Most of the Preschool Years, Maxine Hancock (a Regent prof)
  • Happiest Toddler on the Block, Harvey Karp
  • My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers (daily devotional reading)
  • The Message of Ephesians, John Stott--Highly recommended.

Then there are the books I'm reading aloud with David:

  • Pilgrim's Inn, Elizabeth Goudge (This we started during our time at home in May and should have been long finished by now except that we started listening to Atlas Shrugged during the car trip, which obviously took a monumental amount of time to get through.
  • Life as a Vapor, John Piper (devotional reading on most nights)
Then there is the awaiting pile of books on the bottom shelf of my nightstand, but I am trying to be disciplined (ha!) and keep my nose out of them.

David is plowing through a 600-page Jonathan Edwards biography and loving The Ragamuffin Gospel, although he spends about 8 hours a day on Greek these days, so they are both going quite slowly.

Usually I am not quite this bad at being in the middle of so many books. Really. I just happened to get a bit carried away at the libraries. This infatuation with books perhaps accounts for my frustration and restlessness with mundane household duties that I blogged about a few days ago. It is truly a big lesson for God to get through to me that the holiness and sanctity of physical work actually can exceed that of the intellectual. Nouwen's question keeps echoing in my head when I am frustrated with a too long to do list: "Why do I always want to read about the spiritual life and not really live it?"

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Moment in Time

This morning as I nursed Cora, she looked up and gently touched my face. "I love you," I whispered three times. Still drinking, still touching my face, still looking into my eyes, the corners of her mouth turned upwards into a tender smile. A moment of understanding. That is happiness.

She is my little Maiden of Grace, revealing the continuous droplets of God's grace to me...and, at times, teaching me to be a woman of Grace myself. :-)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Holy Living

Recently I came across this article and found it both comforting and inspiring (please don't skip this all my hurried, skim-reading, mommy friends...this one's especially for you):

I love when she says, "Mothering teaches me that spirituality is not only about folding hands and closing eyes. As my daily life has become more physical and immediate, so has my experience of God." Disciplines of solitude, fasting, and study like those Foster's Celebration of Discipline promotes, a book I adore even if it is quite daunting, are simply unrealistic right now, a fact I appreciate being reminded. But that does not mean my spiritual life is going down the drain until Cora goes off to school (even then, there might be more young 'uns under foot.) Rather, I have never grown so much in my life as these last 11 months, though it has been through more unorthodox means, as Paris so accurately describes.

This idea of the sanctity of everyday living has been reinforced through my reading of Henri Nouwen's The Genesee Diary, an account of his seven months living in a Trappist monastery. Belying my expectations, he discovered that the contemplative life eluded him in this place where he anticipated it would come so naturally. He finds the manual labor irksome and continuously frets that he is not having as much quiet study time as he had planned. Through several diary entries, he writes:

"Why didn't I really enjoy the work, and why did I want to go back to my books to read about the spiritual life? Is selecting stones in the creek bed [for me: cooking, changing diapers] not the best spiritual life possible? Why do I always want to read about the spiritual life and not really live it?....
If I have learned anything this week, it is that there is a contemplative way of working that is more important for me than praying, reading, or singing. Most people think that you go to the monastery to pray. Well, I prayed more this week than before but also discovered that I have not learned yet to make the work of my hands into a prayer....
The spiritual life does not consist of any special thoughts, ideas or feelings but is contained in the most simple ordinary experiences of everyday living."

Yearning for extended study and prayer times such as my single friends are able to enjoy only leads to discontentment in my banal duties of cleaning, cooking, and caring for an energetic and attention-demanding 11-month old. Yet God is using these very things, these holy things, for my sanctification and spiritual development in this season of my life. I can and must daily exchange my restlessness for "greater" things for the quietness of a heart tuned to God's abundance surrounding my life call: "In quietness and trust is your strenth" (Is. 30:15). My daily chores of changing diapers and grocery shopping, when married with prayer and purposed for the glory of God, are equally as spiritual as that of monks...or seminary students.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Home sweet home...

The past few days, we have been arranging our new home. Here we are, coming up on our 5-year anniversary at the end of this month, and we've just moved into our 6th home together. We're rackin' 'em up. Someday we'll settle down. Maybe.

The rest of the trip went smoothly, as far as the car was concerned. As we'd hoped and prayed, we got the troublesome stuff out of the way first. It ended up being 9 days in Nashville altogether. Thanks to our gracious hosts, Tom and Sallie, who at least pretended like they never got sick of us, the time was actually very enjoyable. It was only the talking to the mechanic part on the phone that would get us all fired up. Other than that, we just relaxed and enjoyed our time together with the two girls. Kate is just 3 months older than Cora, but what a difference that period makes! I can't imagine that Cora might be walking and talking like that so soon.

Finally, over a week late, we made it to St. Louis, where we spent an amazing two days with our friends from Edinburgh, Mike, Shayna, and daughter Bella, who is one month younger than Cora (there was a baby girl explosion amongst all of our friends last summer--Cora has 5 baby girl cousins or friends all within just a few months of her!) We explored the St. Louis zoo and watched "Rick Steve's Edinburgh" so we could relive the sights and memories of our beloved city.

From there, it was a grueling 5 days straight to Vancouver (with a fun one-night stop at my college roommate's house in Denver). Long days with Cora in the car, punctuated by stops at Walmart, Family Christian Bookstore, Barnes and Noble, and Timbuk Toys where we, the desperate, frenzied parents, plunked down any amount of money for more toys, books, videos, whatever, just something new to keep the baby happy and occupied! Things I never thought I'd do, like let her eat on my TCBY strawberry milkshake, suddenly became a self-defense mechanism for a moment of peace (at least she learned a new skill...suddenly she had no problem figuring out how to use a straw.)

In truth, she was actually pretty amazing, all things considered. It's just she couldn't sleep very well in the car. Poor thing, you can imagine why...my neck gets a crick when I'm trying to sleep like that too. Short naps and long periods constrained in practically a straight jacket just somehow don't work for a feisty 10-month old. But we got through it, and Wednesday night, two weeks after we left Atlanta, we arrived in Vancouver, quite a sight for sore eyes.

We have quickly made this house into a home. Between the items from back home we brought in our trailer and some great buys on Craigslist that have sent us all over the city, it is becoming incredibly cozy. I'll post pictures soon, just a little more fixin' up first. We have also gone for a walk every day to explore the neighborhood; within a few blocks is a Starbucks, grocery store, Choices (think Whole Foods, only on the smaller Canadian scale--this country doesn't seem to require everything supersized), and a field where Cacao can run his (very little) energy out.

We have also been catching up with friends. Sushi on Friday night with our cute British friends, a coffee visit this afternoon from a girlfriend, and tea tomorrow morning with another.

Finally, a note on the weather, as any worthwhile conversation includes. We came from a heatwave in the southeast to a coldwave up here. Rainy and chilly (everyone wearing jackets and sweatshirts, of which we are really lacking until we can get some boxes from a friend), our first couple days were spent reliving the June of Edinburgh days. But today, the 1st of July, a new Vancouver appeared and we may finally be in the clear. Literally. We kept hearing summer would be really nice. It just dawned on me however that people do have different standards of what nice means.