Wednesday, September 20, 2017

When the Dad's Away, the Boys Will...

...cut hair???

Jeff flew to Mexico City last Friday and returned today (yes, he was there during the earthquake yesterday--I posted some serious thoughts about that on Facebook), and before he left, he looked around at our boys and noticed that they're all sporting longer hair than normal!  He's been so busy recently that he hadn't had time to give them haircuts like he usually does.

Well, I couldn't do much to change the hair length of the older four boys, but when I suggested to the kids that one of them might be able to cut Benjamin's hair while Dad was away (Josiah, David, and Tobin have all done it before), they were eager to do so; and it was agreed that, as the oldest child and most experienced barber (not that he has much experience yet!), Josiah would have the honor.  :)

Just a few hours before I left for the airport to get Jeff, Josiah was hard at work, sprucing up his baby brother's look.  :)

What a fortunate boy Benjamin is, to have a plethora of personal barbers ready to assist him!  :)

Now if only Benjamin could return the favor and cut Josiah's hair!!  ;-)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Grape Harvest (with a New Helper)

While we were away on vacation, we wondered a little about what was happening to our grapes: were they ripening too fast? were any critters bothering them? would there be any left when we got home so we could harvest them?  Ever since the year our grapes disappeared, we've been on pins and needles until the grape harvest is completed, since now we know firsthand the truth of the saying, "Don't count your chickens before they hatch," as it applies to grapes!

We were relieved to discover, when we returned home, that our grapes were just fine; and I knew that one of the first tasks of that settling-in week would be harvesting and preserving the grapes.  Monday morning--Labor Day--we began.

For the first time this year...
 ...we had a new helper.
 He just happened to come along right when we needed assistance...
 ...and his efforts made the beginning of the project speed along.
And who is the mystery man?
 Kevin, the Painter!  He laid down his brush and picked up some scissors and, accompanied by his faithful sidekick Tobin, took the first shift of grape-picking.  Many hands make light work, and we were grateful for the unexpected help!

With those grapes, we made enough filling for 23 pies; and it was a delight to pop the containers of prepared grapes into the freezer, knowing how good it will taste in the future when we make those pies!

There were still more grapes on the vine, but I needed to be gone some on Tuesday morning, so I gave instructions to the four oldest boys to pick what they could.  Remembering the general grumpiness that had accompanied the picking last year, I wasn't at all sure how it would go, but was thrilled when I got home and discovered that they had had a great time together.  They got a lot done, they had fun doing it, and my heart rejoiced.

 Benjamin was crazy about these grapes; and in the days leading up to this harvest, every time he was outside, he would head towards the grapevine and wait for someone to pick some and give them to him.  He ate so many of them!

Content with grapes for 23 pies, I decided to use the grapes the boys picked on this day to make juice, so by the end of the day, I had nine half-gallons of good, sweet juice canned and ready for the cellar.

There were still a few clusters of grapes left on the vine, but they were high and hard to reach.  I intended for either Josiah or I to climb up and try to get them the next day, but as it turned out, it was a rainy day and not suitable for climbing around on ladders.  And then after that, my attention turned to other things, so I never did get back to that task--an inadvertent following of Deuteronomy 24:21 perhaps!  ;-)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What the Lord Has Done for Me {Loneliness, and COTW}

During my sophomore year of college, several of my music major friends told me about a place in upstate New York--a Christian family camp in the Adirondacks--and suggested that I consider working there on the music staff the following summer.

For some strange reason, I thought that would be a good idea.  

For some even stranger reason, my parents thought so, too.  ;-)

Looking back, I realize their sacrifice--something I never had the insight to consider at the time.  I mean, maybe they were glad to get rid of me for a summer.  ;-)  But I think it more likely that they missed me tremendously--their youngest child, who had been away at college all year anyway, and now I wanted to leave for the summer, too?  And not to a nearby camp, but one that was four states away?

In their unselfishness, they gave me up, in a sense, and I applied for the position and got it.  I would be working on the music staff (for free) and serving in the dining hall as a waitress (for pay--the only compensation coming from the tips that the families we served gave us at the end of the week).  It was a fabulous situation, really.  I got to play lots and lots (and lots and lots) of music, which I loved.  I got to meet some really wonderful families and get to know them through serving them three times a day all week.  I got to hear some incredible speakers (Ravi Zacharias, Alistair Begg, to name a few) and soak in the wisdom of the Word they were sharing during the daily chapel services.  And I got to live in a gorgeous location and savor the beauty of God's creation at Camp-of-the-Woods all summer long.

But an unexpected problem crept in and became such a significant factor during that summer that I still remember it, 22 years later.


Growing up, I was surrounded by a loving family and caring friends.  Loneliness was not often an issue.  But because of a mixture of circumstances, the specter of loneliness loomed large for me in the summer of '95.

What circumstances?  Well, some of these seem silly now, but I'll admit to them anyway...

~ I had been in a long-term dating relationship that had lasted several years but ended at the beginning of my sophomore year of college.  After that break-up, I had a few dates, but no significant relationship; and I acutely felt the absence of a "special someone."

~ The schedule was so busy (partially because, as a pianist, I had the obligation to learn not only my own music, but also accompaniments for other instrumentalists and vocalists--and partially because, as a perfectionist, I put a lot of pressure on myself to do things right) that I felt like I didn't have as much time as you might think to get to know the other staff.  Oh, we were friendly to each other, and became friends that summer, but a tell-tale sign of the lack of deep friendships in my life from that camp experience is the fact that, if I'm thinking correctly, there are only TWO of my fellow staff members from that summer that I am in any kind of contact with today.  In the day and age of Facebook and easy connections, that seems pretty low!

~ Someone I knew had told me about someone who would be working at COTW that summer and assured me that we would hit it off great, and it would be wonderful.  As it turned out, he (yes, it was a guy, but it wasn't set up as a romantic thing, just a friend thing) barely noticed me.  So much for that!

~ I was at a really awkward, really insecure stage of life (we all have some of those lurking in our pasts, right?).  I had had my hair short during my sophomore year of college (I personally love my hair being short) :), but I was growing it out in preparation for my approaching semester abroad in Israel, and growing hair out can be...well...painful.  So it was for me, and I had no idea what to do with my mophead!  (Which makes me laugh now, but wasn't the slightest bit funny then.)

~ On top of that, I inexplicably developed a rash on my face, which--I learned later--came from a new face wash I was using.  It would have been great if I had quickly clued in to the fact that the cleaning solution was actually making me break out, but no, it took a while for that discovery to infiltrate my brain.  Rash on face = quite the confidence zapper for a 19-year-old girl.

~ More significantly, I missed my family.  I had never been away from them for that long, since, even when I was at college, I could see my brother David regularly because we went to the same college, and my parents were only three hours down the road.  COTW was much further than that from Virginia, and I knew I wouldn't get to see them until the end of the summer when they came to pick me up.
Add all that together, and you get a great big pile of loneliness.

Let me be quick to say that Camp-of-the-Woods was in no way at fault in this.  Nobody was bullying me.  Nobody was treating me unfairly.  Everyone was kind.  Everyone was friendly.  I can't and don't want to cast a single ounce of blame on anyone for my loneliness.  It simply was a result of the factors I mentioned above.

And you know what?  Loneliness isn't all bad.  It's not a sin to feel lonely; as a matter of fact, it can be an invitation to press in and go deeper in relationships, especially our relationship with God.  He doesn't tell us in the Bible, "Thou shalt not be lonely," but He does say, "Delight yourself in the Lord" and "I have loved you with an everlasting love."

Into my loneliness came moments of refreshment: things like, the frequent letters I received from home (the mail lady at camp kept candy on hand for us so that if we came to check our mail and discovered we had none, she would give us a piece of candy instead--thanks to my mother's diligence in writing, I didn't get too many pieces of candy from the mail lady that summer!), insight from a book about loneliness that I found in the camp bookstore and gladly purchased and read, and one encounter with God on the dock late at night.

I am not quick to say, "I heard the voice of the Lord today," or "God gave me a specific message for you," or "thus saith the Lord," or any of that.  But one night at camp, as loneliness surged over me, I went out on the dock by the quiet lake, and my heart was laid bare and open before the Lord.  And then, I heard--not audibly, but with the ears of my heart--"It is not good for Davene to be alone."

I don't want to be presumptuous and assume that those words brought as much comfort to my soul as God's original proclamation must have brought to Adam's.  ;-)  But the peace that flooded my inmost being was deep enough and high enough and long enough to reassure me immediately, sustain me in the coming months, and remain tucked away in my memory, all these many years later.  God saw me, He loved me, and He had a plan for my life; and that plan included an end to my loneliness.

During our recent vacation there, I thought a number of times about the contrast between me then and me now, between my life situation then as a single college student versus my life now as a happily married mother of six.  Without a doubt, God fulfilled the word He gave me that night, and transformed the garment of loneliness that lay on my shoulders that summer into a robe of abundant relationships.  To be there with Jeff and our beloved children--plus our friend Amanda and her two children--made me realize afresh how far God has brought me.

That night on the dock, when I felt my aloneness so keenly, I never could have imagined this...
...and, as I reflect on these things, my heart wells up and wants to shout, "Look what the Lord has done for me!"

It is not my own doing--it is all His--and He's still in the business of transformation.  What changes will He make in me during the next 20 years that will astonish me and cause me to give the glory to Him for what He has done?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Gift of Grandparents

"Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do.  Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children." 
~ Alex Haley ~
On this special Grandparents Day, it's not hard to find my heart welling up with gratitude that God chose to make these two dear ones the grandparents of my children.  :)

As we went to visit my mother this evening, I was wishing that my children's other grandmother could swoop in from California so that we could give her in-person hugs and tell her how much we appreciate her, too.

Grandparents are a wonderful blessing!!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Gone and Back

We didn't announce it beforehand, but we had the incredible opportunity to spend this past week at beautiful Camp-of-the-Woods in the tiny town of Speculator in the Adirondack Mountains of New York.

It's a place that's been near and dear to my heart ever since I worked there in the summer of '95, and it was an absolute joy to be able to take the kids there for the first time--and as a bonus, our friend Amanda and her two kids went along, too.

Here is just a sample of pictures from our week away...

And now, as I strive to return to "real" life, I do so with a full heart, overflowing with the memory of the special moments we savored last week and with the gratitude that can't help but come after such an experience.  Part of me wishes that we could turn around and go back to Camp-of-the-Woods right now, but the other part of me realizes that I can feast for quite a long time on the remembrance of what we shared there together!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Cat's Got My Tongue...

...because another beast--a wild, way-too-enthusiastic, more-energetic-than-the-Energizer-Bunny, rambunctious tiger--has gotten ahold of my schedule, leaving no time for blogging.

Why, oh why, do I think I can possibly accomplish as much as I think I ought to be able to do??  'Tis a mystery...

Well, while we're all pondering that, and before I go check on the canner load of peaches that are bubbling on the stove, and then pick up a pen to add #157 to my to-do list, I'll leave you with this picture--a very unique giraffe, drawn by Shav tonight, just before supper.  It makes me smile.  :)
And now I'm going to try to capture that crazy schedule tiger and put it back into its cage again!  :)

Monday, August 21, 2017

So. The Eclipse.

The first person to tell me about the coming eclipse was Jeff, and that occurred several months ago.  Jeff was so interested in it that he pondered quite a long time about us taking a trip to somewhere in the path of totality but eventually decided that we couldn't pull that off this time.

I didn't *exactly* match his level of enthusiasm ;-) and was fairly lackadaisical about the whole thing, scoffing mildly at all the hype (i.e. "why do they say this is a once-in-a-century event when I distinctly remember viewing an eclipse when I was a child??")...that is, until about four days ago.  At that point, I suddenly realized that it would be kind of nice to have special eclipse glasses to safely view it--provided the weather wasn't cloudy or raining--so since we were running errands in town anyway, I stopped at 7-11 (and was politely told that they didn't have any eclipse glasses, and none of the other 7-11 stores in town did either, and none of them would be getting any more) and then went by the library, having read that they were giving out 250 pairs of glasses, free--first come, first served.

We hadn't even gotten in front of the library when we saw the loooooonnnggg line of people waiting--and it was still half an hour before the library even opened that day!  We could see the queue extending from the lobby of the library, out the doors, down to the corner, and up the block the other way--and growing every minute.  Since our cause seemed hopeless (and our estimate of the line seemed well beyond 250 at that point), we didn't even get out of the car but drove off, still without glasses.

Two more days went by, and we reached the night before the eclipse.  I scrawled on my to-do list for the next day, "Eclipse boxes."  Surely we could raid the cereal cupboard and find some boxes to make the kind of viewers I remembered from my childhood.

Accordingly, David and Tobin headed up the cereal-box-into-eclipse-viewer project this morning; and we were ready.  Josiah and David would take one with them to the library where they were volunteering this afternoon, and the rest of us could use the other one at home.  Problem solved.

My phone rang at 12:20 p.m.  It was my friend Amanda, calling from her workplace to ask if we were remembering the eclipse.  I told her we were ready with our cereal boxes.  :)

An hour later, one of her employees showed up at my doorstep, holding out a pair of eclipse glasses--yes, the glasses that weren't for sale anywhere in our town--for us.

Amanda has done a lot of thoughtful, generous things for us during the past few years, so maybe I shouldn't have been surprised.  But truth be told, I was completely floored.

Completely relieved, too.  My unspoken, lingering guilt about my negligence in this matter was swept away.  Amanda's gift rescued me and saved the day.  :)

We went outside and donned the glasses, taking our first look at the sun and then, for the next several hours, continuing to peek at what was happening skyward.  It was truly impressive--much more so than I had imagined.  I guess Jeff was right all along.  ;-)

Besides the unexpected, marvelous gift of a pair of eclipse glasses for an unprepared mother, here's what I want to remember about this eclipse...

~ The light changed--not only the quantity of it, but also the quality.  I lack the words to describe it, but it was different than "normal" light.

~ Even when the moon was covering most of the sun (something like 85% coverage in our area, I think?), it was still quite bright outside.  I guess I was expecting it to get noticeably darker than it did (although I knew it wouldn't be anything like what was happening in the path of totality), but it was a vivid reminder of how incredibly bright the sun is--that even when almost all of it was blocked, it still managed to illuminate us very well!

~ Watching the eclipse seemed to be a group activity.  From the posts I saw on Facebook this evening, it seemed that almost everyone ended up watching it with other people--either a planned gathering with friends or an impromptu sky-watching session with whoever happened to be around. I like how it united us.  In my case, we weren't outside very long before our neighbor boy, Jason, came over to see what we were doing...and then it wasn't long until my kids migrated to his side of the lane to take a look at the sky through the welder's mask Jason was using (his dad is a welder, which comes in very handy on eclipse day!).  As time went on, we continued passing the eclipse glasses and the welder's mask around the circle, making sure everyone got plenty of time to see the eclipse in all its phases.  When it was close to the most coverage we got to see in this part of the globe, another neighbor, Barbara, walked over, too, and joined our group.  It struck me that one of the special things about this eclipse was how it made so many people stop what they were doing and go outside in the middle of the afternoon, oftentimes connecting with other people, not just staring at the sun by themselves.

~ Our friend Todd who was undergoing a chemotherapy treatment at the cancer center in town this afternoon said that the center had eclipse glasses on hand and was taking turns assisting the patients to the window so each one could view the eclipse.  So considerate!

~ Jeff came home from work for a while so he could watch it with us, and it is always a treat to have him here more than he normally is.  This time, I was grateful for his arrival for another reason: I needed to go to the orchard to pick up two more bushels of peaches they had ready for us, but Benjamin was in bed, and I didn't want to get him up for that trip.  As it turned out, not only did Benjamin stay behind, so did Tobin and Shav.  Only Moriah went with me to the orchard; and as we pulled up, the folks who run the orchard said to us as soon as we got out of the van, "Do you know what we're doing?"  I hadn't taken the time to really pay attention to their activity, but it soon became clear that they were watching the eclipse, too--the man with a welder's mask which he handed over to me so I could take a look through it.  As we were transferring peaches from their boxes to my containers, he asked if I was familiar with the verse in Amos that describes an eclipse (I was, having read it that morning, in fact), then told me that their minister had used it in his sermon the day before.  Then Ruby, the older lady who reminds me so much of my grandmother, asked if I had seen the article in our local paper about the eclipse, then went on to describe a Hindu ritual of bathing fully clothed for purification after seeing an eclipse (which her tone of voice indicated was fairly ridiculous, to her Old Order Mennonite way of thinking!).  All this time, hands were working, and my containers were full.  I paid (when Ruby was adding up the bill, she said, "I think I need to turn the light on in here!"--another evidence of how much dimmer the world was than usual) and quickly sped home, hoping to not miss the best part of the eclipse, which was supposed to happen at 2:40.  I got home at 2:36 and was able to watch the period of the most coverage along with the rest of the group assembled on the neighbors' lawn.

~ Besides the thrill of actually seeing the shape of the moon outlined on the sun, I also enjoyed seeing the different kinds of shadows that were visible--the best one being in my neighbors' bathroom where their curtains, which had little round decorative holes in the fabric, were giving off crescent-shaped shadows on the floor.  So neat!

~ A recurring thought swirling in my head today was, "I wonder what in the world ancient peoples thought when an eclipse--especially a total one--happened.  Before there was a basic understanding of what causes it, they must have been so awestruck and probably frightened by it.  What must that have been like?"

~ I didn't take a single picture.  I knew I couldn't get anything worth having if I tried to photograph the sun, but I could have taken pictures of us in the funny glasses (like roughly 99.99999% of my Facebook friends did, as evidenced by my news feed this evening!).  ;-)  I didn't even think of it.

~ From my ho-hum stance a week ago, I have been convicted and have repented.  :)  In fact, I'm already making plans for the eclipse in 2024, which will occur the day before Moriah's 12th birthday--what a way to celebrate, you know!  I know I might be jumping the gun a little, but I really think we need to make a trip to the path of totality.  Ohio is probably the closest place of us to see it, so I'm considering contacting any friends we have who live in Ohio and begging asking if we can come visit them during that time.  I don't think it's too early to start planning, right?  And not too early to pray for good weather on that day so we don't miss it!  ;-)