Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Some Spring Loveliness

My poor family is suffering from an overabundance of winter in the north, so I thought I'd share a few photos of sure signs of spring.  It's on it's way!  Just hold on!

Bee getting busy in the garden center.

Forced hyacinths.

A Collision

Wow, lady, you may say... A Collision?  That's a provocative title.  And I suppose, in the linguistic sense of the word, that you would be correct.  For I am drawing out my voice, or rather, supporting my voice in the form of this blog.  I suppose I should have a caveat for you all, since I am such a new (again) blogger.  Sometimes I'm flat wrong about the things I write about.  You see, if there is one word that I think defines me pretty accurately, it is Questioner.  If I don't understand the reasoning behind why I need to do something, then it's a pretty good bet that I'm not going to do it.  A perfect description of this would be in the area of medicines.  If my doctor tells me that I need to take medication A or do exercise B, she'd better also explain, with a fair amount of details and proofs to back it up, why medication A or exercise B is necessary.  It's unfortunate sometimes, but that's the way it is. It makes life interesting in a Jeopardy type of way because I've stored up a lot of rather meaningless (in the grand scheme of life) answers in my tiny little brain.  But that brings me to my thought of the moment.

You see, I'm a Knitter.  My knitting life is rather a microcosm of the broader theme of my life experiences.  As a Knitter, I can refine things down even more.  I'm a Process Knitter.  For those of you in the crafts world, I'm sure you totally get the whole process thing, but I'll try to explain it.  For me, the work I do on a project is more satisfying and enjoyable than reaching the end result.  In the beginning of my knitting career, I suspect this may have been a coping mechanism, because believe me, many times the end product was not something that gave me a whole lot of joy.  Along the bumpy road of learning to knit, I messed some aspect of the project up, and the result was, well, awkward.  But as I grew in my skills and understanding, my end results were lovely and useful, and a joy to give as well as keep.  Still, the process is more satisfying to me.

Perhaps it's because of the tools I use, or the materials I select.  They are beautiful in and of themselves.  Perhaps it's because of the good wishes and love I bestow on each article as I create it.  I suspect, though, that it's more likely because I'm also an Optimist.  Before me, the road stretches lovely and serene, with any number of exciting possibilities, and each one pricks my interest.  I never seem to fret too much about a difficult technique or foggy directions.  I know that persistence will tackle those hurdles, and all will come out all right in the end.  And even if it doesn't?  Well, that doesn't seem to faze me much either.  I just frog a project back, begin again, and count myself blessed to be able to spend even more time on a project.
Kool-Aid dyed yarn.  Ooh, the possibilities!!!
Future socks?

Well, but how does this relate to a collision, you may ask?  It's because I see this facet of my personality in two other larger aspects of my life.

Firstly, this questioning, process-driven brain of mine lives this out in my homeschooling.  The entire state of education seems to me to be  more process-driven than product driven.  Of course I want my children to be successful in their lives and be educated, but that is not the end-all for me.  For me, it's all about the Journey.  For it is in the journey that the relationship grows and is strengthened.  In the journey, we discover who we are and how we relate to others.  Along this 15+ year journey that I've been on with my kids, I have learned a number of things, not all of them related to traditional schooling.  For example, I have learned that I love history, and so does my oldest child.  I've learned that the best way to get a point across to my children is to live it out in my life first.  I've learned that dissection isn't horrible, and that it can even be fascinating, and I've learned that the hardest-learned lessons are the ones most strongly embraced.  And perhaps most importantly, I've learned that my children aren't mini-me's.  They are each uniquely-created people with distinct personalities and motivations, and have different needs that I need to respect.

And lastly, where I see this collision ultimately, is in my faith.  So many times I do wish I had everything figured out.  I wish I could live my life as seemingly piously as (fill in the blank).  I feel lost at times, as if wandering around in the desert.  And perhaps I am.  But I am reminded that it's in those desert moments that I best learn about God and my relationship with Him.  I was reminded of this fact by my pastor during this past weekend's message.  Speaking on the 40-year wandering of the Israelites, he reflected that these wanderings can come from two different sources:  by God's design, when He wants to impart some lesson or experience, or save us from some experience, or by our own choice, where we refuse to listen to His wishes for our lives.  This is where the process side of my life can come into conflict with the product side.  You see, I realize that God sometimes wants to pull us aside from the track that we are currently on, rest us awhile, and then have us head off in a new and exciting direction.  That's OK.  But sometimes, I realize, that it's me who's taking the roundabout way, killing time, grumbling, and generally being a little stinker.

So, ultimately what's a gal to do?  For me personally, in order to guard against the grumbling and lack of Godly action or discernible direction, I need to stay close to the source of strength.  To do this, I need to continue to regularly pray, read my bible, and participate in a community of faith.  I need to surround myself with people who will be honest with me, and I need to always remember that the process (of growing in faith) is a continual one, but as such, it requires action as well as contemplation. I give thanks to God that He daily encourages me, challenges me, and casts a vision of the future for me.  Now, off to enjoy the journey!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

On Emily

I've been reading Emily Dickinson lately.  Always one of my favorite poets, I picked up a volume (this is the edition I own) of her complete poems when I was in London in 1990.  A bit off on my continents, I agree, but somehow she made her way into my purchase pile.  Years later, I keep this volume out where I can pick it up and whimsically read wherever the page opens.  Today's choice was number 781.

To wait an Hour- is long-
If Love be just beyond-
To wait Eternity- is short-
If Love reward the end-
c. 1863                1891

It's making me think.  What does she mean when she writes "Love be just beyond-".  Beyond reach?  Beyond grasping?  Beyond comprehension? Never to be realized?  That's the point of this little four-liner that arrests me.  

It's been quite some time since I studied her poetry formally (as in college), and I am not by any means a professional, but I do know that many of her little scribblings dwelt a great deal on God, eternity, and nature.  I believe Emily echos truth in many of us, who struggle and strain for faith and assurance.  Assurance and hope are so fundamental to the Christian pilgrim.  Without these critical components in the life of a believer, doubt, depression, and separation set in.  Did Emily struggle in her faith?

Perhaps Emily best answers the question herself in number 185...

"Faith" is a fine invention
When Gentlemen can see-
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency.
c. 1860                 1891

Maybe it's because Emily struggled and revealed it so transparently with her pen that I love her today.  Her twists and turns, while so much more poignant than my own, still reflect a seeking and searching that lingers in my own heart.  I feel the tension between the faith and the doubt, and yet I choose faith.  Every day I choose faith.

And lest I feel badly for those days when doubt threatens dark clouds above my head, I remember Madeline  L'Engle, and her writings on faith in Walking on Water:  Reflections on Faith and Art., and I take heart:

"Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself."

Monday, February 18, 2013

Orchidly Love

I picked up this orchid at theSt. Augustine Farmers Market. I think I paid in the area of $12.00. It reminded me of last year when Mom and I went, and she bought me an orchid.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Swimming in the Fog

This past year has been a rough one for me and my family.  It's been a year filled with sorrow, separation, and loss.  It began last May, with the death of my grandfather.  It continued into the fall with the death of my uncle.  As difficult as those were, however; the worst came with the decline and death of my mother less than a month after my uncle.  By then, it was September, and school was rolling strong.

After sludging my way through the fog of the funeral and the detritus the dead bequeath to the living (what should we do with Mom's lotion?  her footie socks?  her collection of salts?) and moving towards that joyous time of the year where we celebrate Christ's birth, we again experienced loss as my husband's grandmother passed beyond the cruel touch of Alzheimer's and infirmity into eternal life and rest.  And through it all, we homeschooled.

I would be lying if I were to say that I did all of this with strength and confidence.  There were some times where the books were left untouched and the science experiment waited for a better opportunity.  But through those moments, in the back of my heart and my mind, I knew my children were receiving the most valuable education of all.  They were being indoctrinated into the blessing of grief.  Of sorrow.  And at times, even of questioning.

Because what we did when those moments came is we came together.  We talked about loss.  We shared our memories.  We prayed for each other.  And my children learned about serving.  During those moments when I felt like I was swimming in the fog, and couldn't get my compass bearings for land, my husband and my children lifted me up and encouraged me.  They were my strength when I didn't have any strength left of my own.

We are mostly back up and running business as ususal.  The shore, while distant and blurry, is still visible, and my strokes are stronger.  I spent a long time this past week taking stock of our accomplishments and judging our pace, and while we have some work to do to get back up on schedule, I'm amazed and relieved to know that all in all we're doing just fine.  And when I look at the children, I know for a fact this is true.

Yes, this past year was a year of incredible sorrow, but through it all I have stood.  The losses we have faced, we have faced as a family, and we have been strengthened.  I have been strengthened.  I thank God for allowing me the blessing of this pain that I have experienced, because it comes as a result of deeply loved people and relationships.

Hats Away!

About two months ago, our family made a little day trip to Fort Clinch. It was cool and breezy that day, so I wore a hat that I'd hand spun and knitted when I'd been on an earlier trip to Breckenridge, CO. My eldest was cold, so I loaned him my hat. Needless to say, I had a hard time getting it back, he loved wearing it so much!

Well, two months later, I finally managed to get two more of these hats knitted for my husband and my eldest. Unfortunately, they aren't in handspun, but frankly, I was just glad to get them finished!

It feels good to have 2 hats knitted, and my next hat that I'm going to tackle will be headed to a very special friend of mine in Texas.

By the way, in case you're curious, I knitted the hats in Knit Picks yarn, Andes Del Campo. The pattern comes from the book 101 Designer One-Skein Wonders.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Creativity Released! (almost...)

I can hardly believe it. The gestational period has been a long one, but as with any great effort, it's all the more rewarding in the end. What (else) Would Madame DeFarge Knit? is almost out, and I have a teeny tiny piece of it to claim as my own! And I hope everyone loves it as much as I loved creating and knitting it.

Based on a book and character precious to me, I created a shawl that I think reflects her (yep, a woman) beautifully. Shawls are my preferred canvas of choice. Some artists paint breathtaking sceneries on canvas, other write scores of hauntingly beautiful music. My mode, my method of communication comes out in my knitting. Specifically in my shawls. This particular pattern is, shall we say, different, in that it's knit in a luscious bulky weight yarn straight from the creative genius of Briar Rose Fibers in Robusta.
But this is just one pattern out of so many excellent possibilities. I haven't even begun to write about the essays!  Or the recipes!  I hope you'll check it out.  If you're a knitter, or even a lover of fine, classic literature, you won't be disappointed.  While we're waiting for the last minute details to be finished before actually printing the book, there is this handy dandy little sign-up list that you can go to to get in the queue for it.  Pre-orders are going on now!

Friday, February 15, 2013

A February Flower

I saw this beauty this morning on my stoop, and wanted to capture it. I'm teaching a botany class to my youngest today, and love being able to see the parts of the flower so easily.

Quiet Much?

Normally, the books I read tend towards classics, Christian, fantasy, or juvenile fiction, with a little bit of educational philosophy thrown into the mix.  Lately, however, I've been reading a wonderful book by the name of Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking.  Written by Susan Cain, this book explores the strengths of people who possess that personality called introversion.  Ms. Cain writes that approximately one-half or slightly less of our population are introverts.  Yet our society is definitely one that celebrates the qualities of extroversion.

For an excellent teaser, watch this TED talk, given by the author herself.

A Little About Me

It's been a long time coming, this desire to start blogging again.  But life has a way of happening, you know, and each day that goes by means another wasted opportunity to get the ball rolling.  Which brings me to today.  Happy Valentine's Day, by the way.  You see, my primary job, the one that gets me excited (and occasionally exhausted) is homeschool mom.  And when you have 3 kiddos, one of them in high school, and all of them extremely active, it means time is limited.

So what do I do in my spare time?  I knit.  And I read.  And I listen to books being read to me while I knit.  I do this a lot.  I also love to spin, but sometimes that competes with my knitting time, so I don't do it as often as I like.  Oh yes, and I occasionally design knitwear!  As a matter of fact, my first official published design will soon be released in book form.  The book, What (else) Would Madame DeFarge Knit? is a wonderful collection of essays and patterns, recipes and links, all based on classic literature.  I'm so excited to see this book come out, and can't wait to get my hands on a copy!  There are so many talented designers contributing patterns, and I feel immensely honored to be a part of the project.