Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Travel Tuesday: Autumn in New York

When I was a girl, I used to read Anne of Green Gables and dream of living in a forest. Living in the high desert mountains of Wyoming, trees were scarce and twisted. The constant fierce wind made every tree remarkably strong, if somewhat deformed. Autumn is a funny time in Wyoming with the weather wildly vacillating between blizzards, warm weather, and proper fall temperatures. 

Experiencing Autumn in New York is, well, an EXPERIENCE. Unless you have witnessed the changing of the leaves, the astounding colors, and the way the light interacts with the colors, you truly cannot imagine what it is like to live in New York during the fall.

Don't believe me? Here are a few pictures I have taken over the past week.

So, when are you coming to visit me?


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Spiritual Sunday: Called

Today in my scripture study, I came across a very interesting exchange in Luke 1:26-38. 

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed artthou among women.
 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throneof his father David:
 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Gabriel's first statement:
  • Thou art highly favored of the Lord.
  • The Lord is with thee.
  • Thou art blessed among women.
Mary's first response to the angel:
  • I think it is best described as gawking and totally unsure how to respond. To be fair, it seems seeing an angel is actually pretty shocking, given other experiences recorded in scripture. So she waits instead of reacting.
Gabriel's second statement:
  • Do not be afraid.
  • You have found favor with the Lord.
  • You will conceive and bare a son named Jesus.
  • He shall be great.
  • He will be the son of the Highest.
  • He shall be King and have the throne of King David.
  • He shall rule over the House of Jacob forever.
  • His kingdom shall never end.
Mary's second response to the angel is very telling:
  • I don't understand how this will happen. I am a virgin. 
I don't think her response is doubtful or skeptical. It sounds like she is trying to understand.

Gabriel's third and final statement:
  • You will conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost and the power of God.
  • Your child will be the Son of God.
  • Your cousin Elisabeth is six months pregnant. You know she is old and has been barren her whole life.
  • With God, nothing is impossible.
Mary's final statement:
  • Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
  • Be it unto me as thou has said.
She accepts with faith the will of the Lord and proclaims her willingness to be a vessel for the Lord's work.

The angel used the example of her cousin's unexpected and unannounced pregnancy to show Mary that all things are possible. Elisabeth is also there to give comfort and strength to Mary as she embarks on this very difficult responsibility that few will understand or even accept. 

To me, Mary emulates a Christ-like pattern in her responses to this interaction with Gabriel.

1) She listens to the messenger of the Lord.
2) She asks clarifying questions to understand.
3) She proclaims her willingness to accept and then acts.

What are your thoughts about this interaction in Luke? What lessons do you take from it? 


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wondering Wednesday: Ordinary

The other day a friend of mine made the following comment on a photo I posted on Instagram. She said,
The tagline on your blog is a bit humble. "Ordinary" women do not raise large families with exceptional children. Ordinary women do not move around the world and pick up foreign languages and teach them to their children. Ordinary women are not as virtuous and humble as you seem to be. But of course you would shy away from a more accurate world, which is "extraordinary". You are an extraordinary woman leading an extraordinary life. So glad to have crossed your path.

My friend's kind and admiring words gave me pause. In so many ways, I do not feel anything but ordinary. I am doing very much of the same things that my mother, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers did before me. They married, birthed many babies, and raised those babies- in whatever easy or hard circumstances they encountered. They kneaded bread, practiced the age-old alchemy of making a delicious meal out of nothing, and pinched pennies to buy shoes or clothes for their children. They expressed their creativity and intelligence in different ways-through sewing, working as a secretary and clerk for a lawyer and then for the county court, writing, or singing. Many of these women moved across the country leaving behind family and friends. Some crossed oceans taking an enormous risk in the hopes of a better future. All of them faced loss-some lost babies, others lost siblings and friends, parents, grandparents, and spouses.

My great-grandmother Gertrude Anderson Fenex, her son Floyd Fenex, and my great-grandfather John Franklin Fenex. Gertrude was a devout Catholic, educated at a Catholic school,  and was a school teacher. She was a great letter writer. She was the calm presence to my great-grandfathers fiery temper. Gertrude and John would lose a baby (Glen) during his first year of life and their eldest son would be killed as  a civilian POW in his early 20s on Wake Island in the Pacific Islands during World War II.

So when I look at my life, compared to the long line of women who preceded me in life, it is hard to consider myself as anything but ordinary. I cook, clean, wash laundry, make beds, run errands, pick up children from school, force children to do homework, and do what needs to be done to raise a family. I have friends all over the world doing the same thing with their families.

I will not demean myself though by proclaiming any of it is easy work. It isn't. It is the hardest work I have ever done. I often feel exhausted and grumpy trying to manage it all. I work very hard to parent deliberately, to instill order out of chaos,and to provide a warm and loving environment for my children to thrive.

Being a mother isn't the sum total of my existence though. I am a writer with some skill, but still have a long path to tread before I achieve anything approaching mastery. I am curious about the world with its mysteries and conundrums. I possess the capacity to adapt and thrive in unfamiliar and challenging circumstances. I am adventurous. I am a good friend. I strive to better myself.

Whether or not I feel comfortable calling myself extraordinary, I do feel like I live in an extraordinary time with extraordinary opportunities available to me. I only hope I can live up to the promise and adventure of those opportunities.