In the wee hours of morning, we woke up our five oldest kids to see the complete lunar eclipse. “The Blood Moon”. The moon was full, the stars shone glittery and bright. They stumbled down stairs, wrapped up in their blankets. We left all the lights off and watched through the window. The dark coziness made us talk in hushed voices.
We watched as the earth’s shadow slowly passed over the moon. And our hearts were full of praise, to think of the celestial bodies, set in their courses and moving in exact precision, like a beautifully wound clock set by the hand of the Maker.
And I felt in my soul, that I was part of an ancient audience, watching as indeed “the heavens declare His handiwork.” Blue eyes stood with his arms around me and our children clustered in front of us before the window, awed into silent praise.
Earlier in the evening, we had talked of the Passover. Quietly we went back to our beds, knowing that the door posts of our hearts have been sprinkled with the blood of the true Passover Lamb. Knowing that because of this, the angel of death will pass over us and we have life through His name, and like the children of Israel, we are free from bondage and on our way to the promised land! Truly, we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good!
“When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.” Proverbs 3:24
Now today, my heart and mind is full of Carl Boberg’s
How Great Thou Art
O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds thy hands have made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power through out the universe displayed!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, how great Thou art, how great Thou art! Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee; How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;-That on the cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin;-
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee; How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Yesterday was our fifteenth wedding anniversary. Thanks to my sweet nieces, who hung out with the kids for the day, even baby Lucy, we were able to go away for the day. You may have guessed it, we went to the forest!
These pictures were taken in Portland’s Washington Park. The Hoyt Arboretum is so beautiful! It was the perfect way to spend the day.
The Rose Gardens
God is my anchor and I know my anchor holds. Blue eyes is my ship and he’s pretty well built. I think I’m gonna be OK.
The Japanese Gardens
It was mossy and cool and beautiful and green………everything that the prairie is not. But you know what? I’d pretty much go anywhere with Blue eyes so we are going to the prairie and it’s gonna be good.
Even though we are in the middle of moving I feel so settled and at peace. I think I like being in my thirties with fifteen years of holy matrimony behind us. I’m pretty sure that the best is yet to come.
And my heart is full of praise to our God who “is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Who’s “mercies are new every morning and who’s compassions they fail not” and with “whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning. ” Who is the Amen and the faithful and true God only wise forever and ever. Amen!
I am going with him to the prairie. In the quiet of my heart I am sad. I came here seventeen years ago. Sixteen years old, kind of beat up by life. My sister and her husband said I could stay with them. They had seven kids and their house was small but they made a place for me.
I don’t remember too much about that first winter, only that it rained a lot and I slept a lot. My soul was tired. And my sister and I talked a lot and I washed a lot of dishes. The rain pitter- pattered on the roof at night, the moss grew on the fir trees, I laughed at her babies, I made new friends.
Some where along the way I started to pray during the night. Not just the Lord’s prayer, but really pray. I was afraid because I knew I had sinned- a lot. My sister would tell me that it was good I was worried about it, that meant that God was showing me something. Keep praying, keep reading, he wouldn’t have shown me my hearts condition if he wasn’t going to do something about it.
So I did. One night I felt especially desperate and I read in Luke,”FEAR NOT, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you His kingdom.” God gave me faith to believe that I was part of that flock. I was so comforted! I knew the road might be tough but I knew God was going to be with me. I knew I didn’t need to struggle anymore.
After that the word became so precious. “Every promise in the Book is mine! Every chapter, every verse, every line!” I read and read and I grew and grew in that little house under the fir trees.
The first time I went back to the east coast my sister told me to make sure I was wearing the full armor of God. She showed me the verses and I wrote them down.
“….be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Put on the whole armour of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness in this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breast plate of righteousness,
and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace,
taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.
Praying always in your spirit…..”
I still have that paper folded up in my wallet. When I was there in my home town the things that were destroying my life were presented to me. “Come on! For old times sake,” they said. “Just one more time!” My voice may have shook but my heart never wavered. I can honestly say that I have never looked back. I shudder when I think of what could have been. “He has brought me out of darkness into his marvelous light” and I love it here.
One of my new friends had blue eyes, big muscles and pretty white teethe. He had moved out here to the Pacific North West from South Dakota. We liked to hike together through the evergreen woods. We talked and talked. He made me laugh. He prayed for me out loud. Sometimes we sang, just us two, sitting on a mossy rock, under the firs and cedars and pines. He has a beautiful voice, I just sing along.
When he asked me to marry him, well, I just had to say yes. Everyone told me that the boys from the mid-west always go back. I made him promise me he wouldn’t move back for at least ten years-just in case. He gave me his word. The ten years are long past and I am going with him to the prairie.
Oh, my earthy evergreen forests! So old and strong. I have grown into a women, beneath your whispering boughs. When I was young and madly in love I lightly skipped along, breathing in your clean scent. Feeling as though nothing could be wrong in all the world.
In later years as a Mama I have brought my little ones along. They have skipped ahead and left me to the clean, quiet stillness that has spoken peace to my soul. On other days when I have felt frazzled and anxious. I have sat in the sun dappled shade and watched them play and climb. I have leaned against a strong trunk and breathed in the earthy fragrant forest and I go home calm and relaxed.
How can I ever exchange your stately ancient beauty and strength for grass? Grass and wind. How can wind and waving grass ever make me feel anchored? Blue eyes tells me I will learn to love the prairie. But will I? These woods are like a temple where I breath in God.
This morning I sob on his shoulder. He cries too and tells me that he will bring me to the forest sometime. It’s a six to eight hour drive to the nearest forest. Sometime this week I will go for the last time for a walk in the evergreen forest, my boy’s woods. I will try to etch the smell and feeling into my mind and heart so I will never forget.
God will be with me there. And perhaps some day Blue eyes will teach me to love his prairie. But this morning I am sad.
And so after roaming about like a gypsy………oh, so fun! and more about that later……….we are home. Home, where there are four walls around you and you can shut out the rest of the world, put your feet up and just be. I told my kids today home is not the structure we call our house, it is where love creates a haven from the world, home is where they are.
Of all the cool and amazing things we experienced on our trip everything dulls in comparison to the tornado. That’s right, we met up with a real life twister. Coming right towards us across the field as we chugged along in our old van. And I would love to tell Christina Rossetti that I have indeed seen the wind.
My husband’s family was hosting a reunion at a camp ground near his home town in eastern South Dakota. After three days of swimming, horse back riding and cousins galore we were packing everything up when we heard that a severe storm and possibly a tornado was coming our way. We threw the last of our stuff haphazardly into the vehicles, rounded up the kids and headed out.
We were lagging behind because we went back to the camp ground to get a wicker chair that had been brought for rocking my sweet new born niece and been left behind. As we set out towards my in laws we could see the storm black and brewing on the sky line. Blue eyes thought we had plenty of time to cut across the storm before it reached us. We weren’t too worried, they have tornado and thunder storm warnings quite often. I was thinking it would be pretty cool for the kids to get to experience a good mid western storm and the van would be a safe place to be during a thunder storm.
We had the radio on to listen to the storm reports. They were telling people in certain areas to get into their basements or to emergency shelters. They said they were getting reports of golf ball sized hail and that a semi truck had been blown right over.
Our plan would have worked except that the tornado had split into three and we missed our road. As we turned back towards his parents the storm appeared to be right at our side. Everything was strangely still and we saw animals gathered in dips in the fields. Then to our alarm we actually saw a tornado. It looked just like in the pictures, big and dark on the top with a tail low to the ground trailing along behind it.
Within minutes it started to get really dark and eerie looking, rain started to fall. The air felt oppressive and broody. I asked Blue eyes three times in the next minutes if this was normal and if he had seen other storms like this. He reassured me that he had seen a lot of storms. It wasn’t until later when we were safe that he told me he had never seen a storm quite like this one.
Then all of the sudden the fury of the storm was upon us. It got almost as black as night and we could see the wind. It was like huge waves billowing across the prairie. The rain was beating against us. Our whole van was rocking back and forth, even though the windows were shut the rain was streaming in onto the kids. Willy was whining and growling and the kids were screaming.
I just lost it, it was as if I had not a grain of faith. For a few horrible minutes I was completely overcome with fear. I kept saying over and over again that I was so afraid. My body felt like melted wax. We didn’t know what to do. There were no houses anywhere. Blue eyes decided that as long as he could see the road he would try to keep going. He told me later that some of the time he had the brake on and our fifteen passenger van was being pushed along in the wind. He told me I had to get control of myself and talk to the kids. He reminded me that God with us.
As soon as I turned around and saw all the dear little faces of my children, white and terrified, I was able to pull myself together. Our five year old daughter was saying,”I just want to go to heaven and be with Jesus! I’m so scared, I just want to be with Jesus!” I thought Wow! The faith of a child…here I am afraid we might die and she is wishing to be with Jesus!
Several years ago a family from our church was in a terrible car accident. Both of the parents and five of the nine children were killed. I thought of them at that moment. I thought all or some of our lives could be taken today. Here we are all together and what do I have to offer my kids? I thought if today I should stand before the Holy God would I be ready?
I began to examine my heart and saw really quick that my own righteousness was off by a long shot but just when I started to doubt the Spirit reminded me that there is a Good Shepherd who has given his life for his sheep. I thought, “Yup, that’s what it’s all about. My faith is real and my Savior is real and there is peace in the midst of the storm.”
Just like little Much afraid in the story when I called for the good Shepherd there he was. I told the kids, “Remember in the Bible when Jesus was with the disciples and there was that awful storm and the disciples were so afraid? Remember Jesus said to the wind “Peace! Be still!” and it was still?” (Mk 4:39)
Just as I told them that there was a few seconds lull in the wind. All their little faces relaxed and they started smiling and saying to each other, “He is with us! Jesus is here!”
I told them this is what it’s all about. This is why we believe because “whether we live or die we are the Lord’s” ( Romans 14:8). I asked them if they were ok. If they knew in their hearts that Jesus had died for their sins and in turn each of them said, yes, they believed.
I asked them if they wanted to sing.
Almost every night at their request one of us sings “the shepherd song” to our little girls. I think they like this song so much because we have read the book Hinds Feet on High Places a couple times aloud. That book really made an impression on my kids and we refer to Much Afraid a lot.
Also we recently were able to baby sit our friend’s baby goat, who my son told me was a “Wilbur”( his way of saying a runt). My kids loved that little goat so much! I let it sleep in their room during the night so they could wake up to give it it’s bottle and in the morning they told me that they “lullabyed ” it to sleep.
Because of that experience we are currently reading The Tangled Woods Secrets by Patricia St.John. A beautiful story about a little girl who meets a real life shepherd who helps her know the Good Shepherd. My kids really get the shepherd analogy that is used so often in God’s word. It comforts them to know that they are God’s little lambs and they relate to Jesus as a shepherd.
We all know “the shepherd song” by heart and as our van was pitching in the wind and tree branches and things were whipping by our windows we sang, really loud.
“There were ninety and nine that safely lay in the shelter of the fold but one was out in the hills away far off from the gates of gold. Away on the mountains, wild and bare, away from the tender shepherd’s care, away from the tender shepherd’s care.
Lord, thou hast here thy ninety and nine, are they not enough for thee? But the shepherd made answer this of mine has wandered away from me and although the road be rough bad steep I go to the desert to find my sheep, I go to the desert to find my sheep.
But none of the ransomed ever knew how deep were the waters crossed nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through ere he found his sheep that was lost. Out in the desert he heard it’s cry, sick and helpless and ready to die, sick and helpless and ready to die.
“Lord, whence are those blood drops all the way that mark out the mountains path?” “They were shed for one who had gone astray ere the shepherd could bring him back.” “Lord, whence are thy hands so rent and torn?” “They are pierced tonight by many a thorn, they are pierced to night by many a thorn.”
But all through the mountains thunder riven and up from the rocky steep there arose a glad cry to the gate of heaven, Rejoice I have found my sheep! And the angels echoed around the throne, Rejoice, for the Lord brings back his own! Rejoice for the Lord brings back his own!”
Written by Elizabeth C. Clephane
You know, as we sang that song I thought, I cannot pray that God will spare our lives. It says in the Bible that our days are numbered before we are even born. I only want the Lord to be with us. I would never want to be outside of his perfect will “and though He slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 13:15). “Because His loving kindness is BETTER than life my lips will praise Him” (Psalm 63:3). And, of course, He was with us. Later on one of the girls said to me,” Mom, how could anyone ever turn away from God after something like that because now we know he is REAL!”
Finally we made it to a gas station and parked with the wind at our rear. We told the kids to stay buckled up in case the van was thrown. Right across the road a full grown pine tree was completely uprooted and tossed down. Other huge trees were snapped in half. The roof of the bowling alley was blown off. Sections of chain link fencing was blown flat down to the ground.
Most of my husband’s family made it safely over to his parents before the storm hit but one of my sister in laws was also caught in the storm not far from where we were. She and her husband had driven separate rigs so he made it but she was alone with their seven little kids. They ended up taking shelter in someone’s garage. She put bicycle helmets on the kids and left a note telling the owner that they had been there.
Another one of my sister in laws climbed into a country church through a window with a little niece.
Then as quickly as it had come the storm was over. The temperature went from 90 something down to 65 in the space of a couple hours. The next day my kids found 12 birds nests on the ground, many with broken eggs inside. My son told me he was surprised that the birds were still singing. But like my heart they go on singing, maybe like Elijah they saw that God was not in the “great and strong wind, that rent the mountains and brake in pieces the rocks” (1 Kings 19:11). Maybe they heard the still small voice that says “peace, peace to those who are near and to those who are afar off”.
Our dishwasher has been broken for a few weeks now. I can’t wait to get a new one but in the meantime we’re enjoying hand washing our dishes. We’re leaving on a road trip next week so I am forgoing a new dishwasher for a couple extra nights in Yellow Stone National Park. New dishwashers can come later.
So while I hand wash dishes I am dreaming of hours on the road chatting with Blue eyes, our fifteen passenger van stuffed with beautiful children and our good old dog, eating up the miles due east. Listening to the audio version of Brother Andrew, God’s Smuggler, again. It is so good, though! Singing hymns, playing A my name is Anna, I feel like a good old fashioned American. Just like we’ll belong in a Norman Rockwell painting……..you know life is good when you feel like you’re in a Norman Rockwell painting!
Anyways, back to hand washing dishes, which has given me opportunity to dream and have some good one on one with my kids. Because I’m a little paranoid about dirty dishes I am pretty much the dish washer and the kids take turns rinsing and drying.
There is something relaxing about having my hands in the soapy water, Mrs. Meyers geranium scented dish soap – my favorite! It reminds me of the slower paced life of by gone years. It is nice to work along side one or the other of my kids and hear what they’ve been thinking about lately.
One night after a particularly busy day, (Resulting in a huge pile of dishes. I’m sure the housewives from by gone years never let their dishes pile up like that!), Blue eyes even stayed up to do the dishes with me. It was an unusually warm night so the window was open to let in the breeze, we were just talking away, it was as good as a date night. Seriously, I’m thinking about leaving him a note sometime that says: Hey, Love, meet me at the sink after the babies are sleeping. smooch smooch……I could put on a pretty dress and put my hair up;)
I have been reading lately about urban farming and organic locavores. If I had the money I would totally jump right in. I am working towards it in small ways though. I have a garden on my window sill at the sink. There are Johnny Jump Ups, a mother’s day gift from a friend, and a living basil plant in a jar. There’s an orchid, a Valentines gift from Blue eyes a couple of years ago, it has opened on Valentines Day the last two years and it bloomed for four months this year.
I bought some organic mint for flavored water a while ago and I thought I’d see if it would grow roots if I soaked it in water. I’m so happy, it worked! So now I have a bunch of mint to plant in my raspberry beds. I love to put a pitcher of water, several strawberries and a handful of mint in the refrigerator on hot summer days. It’s a great way to get the kids to stay hydrated without any added sugar. I am also regrowing organic celery. Just cut all the stalks off an inch and a half up from the bottom and set it in an inch or so of water. In just a couple of days your celery is growing and ready to snip into stews and soups, or salads. If you are patient and replenish the water you can regrow full stalks of celery over and over. How cool is that?
There are 15 different types of fruits and vegetables that you can regrow this way! I want to try them all. It makes it much more affordable to buy organic produce if you can eat from the same plant again and again. The blog I was reading said that you should never have to purchase these from the grocery store again!
My whole family has been enjoying our window sill garden. As I watch day by day my little plants taking root and growing, slowly but surely, my Johnny Jump Ups get droopy in the hot afternoon sun but I water them and they jump back up again, I am reminded that perhaps life be meant to be lived more slowly. Taking an hour to wash the dishes and reflect on my day, talk with my sons or daughters, is kind of nice. To find contentment in the simple things in life is really a wonderful gift from the Creator.
Road trips aren’t free, but hand washing dishes is free, smooching your husband is free, love is free, being happy is free, salvation is free. My heart is full of quiet peace and praise today. This morning my kids and I read the third chapter of Proverbs. Verse 17 says,”(Of wisdom and understanding) Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.” How sweet to walk with the Lord!
A couple weeks ago I sat Indian style on my grandparents bedroom floor. They both ended their pilgrim journeys this winter. Reaching the gates of “the city who’s builder and maker is God” a mere 60 days or so apart. I miss them so much.
My aunts have put all the linens in their bedroom so there I sit going through them. All of the kids are outside or down stairs, it’s just Blue eyes and me. Suddenly I want to let my heart miss them, there in the dusty quiet. I think how I will never again see them on this earth. I think of how this house has always been a place of belonging for me so far away from my own parents. I remember how through lots of happy times and some very hard times it was here that I could find solace. Whenever we left from a visit with my Grandparents we always felt ministered to and encouraged. I am so thankful that I have had the privilege of living close by them through out my married life. I have seen the fruition of lifelong love and faithfulness. What a wonderful thing for Blue eyes and me to strive for!
My Grandma had so many pretty things to make her house a home. Such a homemaker. Has homemaking become a lost art? I feel inspired to embrace that womanly desire to live in beauty. Table clothes and runners, rugs, bed skirts and doilies, ruffly aprons. Handmade finishing touches.
My little daughter calls this Grandma “the little grandma who lives in the woods” and now she adds, “she went to live in heaven now” . My Grandparents were both second generation Americans. Their parents immigrated here from Finland. My Grandma was very fluent in the Finnish language. They visited Scandinavia and had many friends there.
Just the week prior at our Keepers of the Faith Homeschool Group meeting we decided to take a few months and teach some geography and world culture through ethnic cooking. Each of the five families would choose a region or country and organize and host a cultural dinner.
Of course we had to choose Scandinavia! I was so excited to come away from my Grandparents house with several Scandinavian table linens, some with labels pinned on them saying which friend in Sweden had made them, a Finnish cookbook, and a few pieces of Scandinavian glassware.
That’s one of the things I love about educating our kids at home, I can check out a dozen books about Scandinavia and get really engrossed in them, read them aloud with the kids and in my bed at night and not feel too nerdy! Because, you know, it’s for school!
It was really cool though because I didn’t even realize how deep those roots are woven into my life! So many things I read I thought,”Wow! That’s where that came from!” Blue eyes and I want to travel somewhere after our kids are grown up, no big hurry, we’ve got all the time there is. We’ve thought of South America, then Italy but now……..the Scandinavian countries are calling my name. (I think Blue eyes is just along for the ride, so he doesn’t mind. Well, within reason. Preferably no half naked natives running around.)
So on a Tuesday afternoon all the families come over, about 25 kids plus babies and mamas. I show them that the Scandinavian countries are at the same latitude as Alaska. Put a finger on Alaska and exactly opposite on the globe lies Scandinavia. I show them that Norway is shaped like a spoon. We talk about the fjords and the hungry, fierce Norse men who sailed down the European coast in open boats. We talk about Eric the Red and his son Leif the Lucky who bravely followed the stepping stones to North America long before Christopher Columbus’s time.
We talk about the Jews being smuggled across the Baltic Sea to Sweden under piles of fish during the second world war. We can almost feel the jubilation of staying up all night long in the land of the midnight sun after the long dark night of winter is passed. Image going to visit your friend at midnight and going for a swim at 3 am with the sun shining brightly? We learn about the funny sheep on the Danish islands who shed their own coats and eat seaweed. We talk about the saunas I took at the neighbors when I was a girl. I tell them about my Grandparents sauna in the woods.
Then we break into groups and start preparing for our Smorgasbord meal. (Just ask one of the kids where that word came from;) We’ve got a brave mom helping the boys make over 100 Swedish meatballs, Kottbullar. The little ones five and under are busy in another area making no bake choclad bullar, chocolate balls. (We make these a lot because they are easy, yummy and gluten free.) I think those guys ate half the dough. Meredith lost her shirt somewhere along the way so in all the pictures she is bare back and chocolaty! Another group makes frukt suppe (fruit soup). Yummy! It smells delicious with the cinnamon sticks and all. Some of the older girls are writing a menu and making other decorations in the front yard.
All day Friday we are busy. My girls want to set the house up like a Kafe Hus, and so we do. We get creative with seating and tables and make enough seating for everyone to sit together. Except the boys, who want to sit on the deck.
Some of the older girls are dropped off early to help. We make potato salad, cucumber salad, smorbord, rice pudding, and nisu. The kids are excited and pretty much do all the work. My girls want to wear the head scarves and aprons they took home from “little Grandma’s” house.
Finally our smorgasbord is ready and we go out front to wait for our guests to arrive. Since our new character trait is servant-hood, the older kids want to serve their parents. Lucky for us my oldest sister is visiting from North Carolina so she joins us with her little grandson. We also get two sweet baby goats for the evening.
After everyone is here Blue eyes reads The Word and leads us in prayer, and we enjoy our feast! Everything is very “gud”. We eat it all. The fellowship is wonderful, our house is full of laughter and children and food. What more could we ask for? Surely the Lord is good, good, good!