One Year Later

Today marks one year since my highschool graduation open house. I can hardly believe it’s already been a year.
I used to stop in the middle of schoolwork and ‘daydream’ about when I’d be done with school and what I’d do. There was a short period of time when I considered college, but that didn’t last long as I realized that college didn’t fit with the normative calling for women in scripture, and that I’d be more fruitful at home. Oh, yes, I can go into a long tirade about ‘Well the Bible says this and that about women going to college…’ but I admit that in the last year, I’ve realized that although it’s true that God ordains women as the keepers of the home and I desire to prepare for that… in the long run, it’s about being fruitful – part of that is through obeying His commands to women, the other part is through being available.
There were so many options… and even though it doesn’t seem on some days that I chose that many, other days it feels like I chose WAY too many.
So, here’s a small snapshot of my life, school year 2010-2011. Not every day was like this, some were lazier, some busier, some days held more time of fewer things, other less time of more things… some I cooked and cleaned all day while overseeing school and holding down the fort… others it was just me at home all day… others I went to visit Cait or work at Edge or visit someone. But this, May 11, 2011, was one of my favorite days (this and the day I spent at the Y’s helping and visiting)…
The room was a grey-ish purple when my alarm went off at 6:30. I’d been having such wonderful sleep that I really didn’t want to get up (that’s rare for me), so I rolled over for 10 more minutes, then got up and ready to go running – the only downside of May; it starts getting too hot to go for long runs outside, so into the gym and onto a treadmill I went. I prayed and listen to bluegrass while I ran (Bluegrass and praying make treadmills tolerable), then came home and got cleaned up and ready for the day. Then it was downstairs to my lovely, comfortable glider where I read a chapter of “With Christ,” by Andrew Murray, and then Isaiah 63 in French and then I studied it in English. This was followed by a quick breakfast with everyone except daddy, who was already at work (normally we eat most meals together, but daddy had to go in at 5 AM).
Then I set to work and tuned almost all of the unisons on our piano, then tuned some octaves (my hands are almost too small to tune octaves. The one downside of being short). I fixed a rattle in the piano, reviewed a bit in the book, then went upstairs to write a few emails. Then was an hour of oboe practice – scales, Rubank, Ferling, Krommer, Saint-Saëns… and then I spent half an hour figuring out instrumentation for an arrangement of “The Minstrel Boy” that is in the idea stage.
Lunch – za’atar, cheese, tomato, and lettuce sandwich. Yum. Then out into a resident and house-less road layout with signs and roundabouts and turns and shrubbery – from far away, it’s just signs rising out of the dusty ground. We drove there for about an hour – turns, roundabouts, lane changes, Y-turns, going faster than 10 km an hour, and doing something other than parking. I’m starting to like driving.
Then at home I practiced piano and helped with dinner (Italian food. YUM). After dinner we did Arabic with daddy and looked at a passage in John related to where we were in 1 John, and he read some of “Endurance” while I quilted and the kids had dessert… then I went to get a cup of tea and sit down with “Democracy in America,” and “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” (Hmmm… funny connection between those books, hey?). I almost fell asleep reading, even before 10, so I turned in a wee bit early, after praying and reviewing the day and previewing the following day with mommy.

Re-reading that after I wrote it a few weeks ago, I’m thinking about how crazy it is how different one day is from another. Before it was school, school, school, same subjects every day, basically the same thing every day.
Here’s a summary of the things I’ve been up to in the past year.

Exercise – I started off the year running a mile every day. When it got cooler, I started working towards 5K, which I could do by Christmas. I was just hitting 4 miles straight when the weather was getting too hot, so now it’s inside on the treadmill and rowing machine. I did a fair bit of Irish dance, too, but that was rather relaxed this year because of schedules that never lined up. I plan to run more over the summer (though to be honest it’s more like jogging), where I can go and go and not run by the same place more than twice in a day and still do 4 miles.

Languages – Every school day we did Arabic with daddy, using a course used at a language school near here. A lot of it is already familiar, but having the accountability to work at it and do all the drills has really helped my Arabic improve, though it’s not nearly where I’d like it to be someday.
I really slacked off in keeping up with French. The first half of the year I barely did anything, then I started reading in my French Bible whatever I was reading in English, and from time to time I’d review verbs. This and regular piano lessons for Nate and Candace were probably the weakest points of discipline (what a word, I keep coming back to it again and again. “I don’t want to dance this morning… Discipline yourself. Do it. Die, self, die.”)

Nutrition – Lots of talking with mommy, reading the nutrition books we have and a few others, researching, experimenting… I find nutrition fascinating, but also dangerous because it can easily become an idol. Same with exercise. I want to be healthy, and what at first is discipline – to not eat much sugar, etc., or to exercise often, becomes pleasure and I don’t feel guilty not doing it as much as I feel unhappy. Maybe because it breaks routine, but also because I’ve grown used to it and actually like it better. Nate and Candace don’t understand at all how I can’t handle much sugar or white bread and other such food… I don’t understand how they can stand it.

Home keeping – Every year we make meal plans and they never get done. This year was the best. I made maybe 20 meal plans I and cooked at least 10 of them, as well as meals that got made instead. I cooked about once a week, often helping mommy on other days. It was fun when she went on trips with daddy or was sick and I got to do a few nights or even a whole week in a row. If I schedule it in, I really enjoy cooking and baking and planning, and even shopping for food. I’m hoping to do even more next year – we have a cookbook called “Mediterranean Light,” that I’d absolutely love to cook through. I love Mediterranean food! I’m also trying to work more on cooking more spontaneously. “These are the ingredients we have… let’s try this!” I do it a lot with sautéing vegetables and am getting braver with regard to sauces and main dishes.
I also oversaw the chore chart and revised it a few times. I think we have a system that works pretty well now and that we’re all as happy as you can be with chores. 😉 I’d love it if someone always mopped the floors for me. I’ll do your dishes for you in return…

Musical Composition – I started out the school year thinking “I’ll just finish the Aggadah for piano.” But as I was writing it, I thought “This would sound amazing with string quintet.” So I just finished it for String quintet. (The rough draft, anyway). I worked some on a family hymnal, and arranged and re-wrote a few things I’d worked on before. Soon I’ll start an arrangement of “The Minstrel Boy,” inspired by this. I really enjoy comp, but it IS work. There’s days when your creativity fails you but you still have to press on – and that’s where theory is REALLY helpful. … and why writing for more instruments than one is more enjoyable, though it takes longer. I’m trying to figure out a way to “use” it, but keep reminding myself that this work is like my first stories – practice for greater things later, even if they never get used. It’s not useless work, it’s disciplined me, I’ve learned a lot about various instruments and what sounds good and what doesn’t and what to do when you’re out of ideas. Even if comp never goes anywhere beyond my computer, it’s good life training… as has all this been.

Sewing – I sewed a fair bit, had my first try at more serious dress-making, and learned a lot about making patterns and altering patterns and being adaptable and doing what works even if it isn’t ideal. I learned to make sure you sew with a heavy duty needle if you need one (I broke 2 needles in 5 minutes making my camera bag before I realized I just needed the heavy duty needle. Oops). Sewing is becoming one of those things I just do when I need to as opposed to having set aside times to work on it. I don’t have time to do it regularly anymore, and it’s one of the things that’s getting cut out of regularity… more on that later.

Teaching – Nate’s piano lessons are finally regular, Candace is improving in leaps and bounds (and so is my patience, I’m sad to admit… in some ways, it’s so much harder to teach your siblings than it is to teach strangers’ kids. You can discipline them a bit more if they’re your siblings, but I think your fuse is a lot shorter with siblings). Growing in creativity in presenting material to my younger students and getting them to play things again and practice (4 of my students practice regularly, 1 doesn’t have a piano, and the other… every so often she’ll have practiced) and work hard. … and patience.

Reading I used to read over a hundred books during the school year. This year it was only 50. But it’s better that way, because I get more out of them. I’ll list a few favorites or important ones. Some of these I’ve reviewed in the past in more detail.
Preparing to be a Helpmeet – Debi Pearl. (NGJ has some interesting views, but their writings are still encouraging and this book was very good and helpful… I need to read it again).
Practicing Hospitality – Pat Ennis and Lisa tatlock
So Much More – Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin
Let Me Be a Woman – Elizabeth Elliot (definitely a favorite!)
Joyfully at Home – Jasmine Baucham
Courtship and Dating: What’s the Difference? – Dennis Gundersen
The Bronze Ladder – Malcolm Lyon (about 3rd century Christians in Carthage. So good!)
Saint’s Everlasting Rest – Richard Baxter
Mr. Pipes – Douglas bond
Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns – T. David Gordon (I’m passionate about good music and solid words in corporate worship. This book was fantastic).
Letters to Malcolm – C.S. Lewis
The Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals
How God Wants us to Worship Him – Dr. Joseph Morecraft (so good!)
The Pastor’s Daughter – Louisa Payson Hopkins (daddy read this for family worship)
Quo Vadis
Letters on Practical Subjects to a Daughter – W.B. Sprague
Alternative Medicine – O’Mathuna and Larimore (a Christian perspective – very good and comprehensive and succinct!)
Abide in Christ – Andrew Murray
On the Origin of Species – Charles Darwin
C.H. Pearson’s “Cabin” series (daddy read these aloud; we really enjoyed them)
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo (Second time in 2 years, can’t keep away from it!)
The Scarlet Pimpernel – Baroness Orczy (always a favorite).
With Christ – Andrew Murray (both books by Andrew Murray were good, but very similar)
Democracy in America – Alexis De Tocqueville (more on this one later. It took a while of very disciplined reading to get through, but was worth it).
Endurance– Alfred Lansing. (Gripping. Our family was captivated by this book, and it’s impacted us all, especially in the season we’re going through right now with daddy’s training and piano tuning. My words won’t do it justice. Get it, especially the copy with an intro by Mr. Dobson, and read it.).

Writing – I wrote a few short stories, but nothing very big. My posts on AP are a bit sparser now, but that’s mostly because I’m spending a lot of time editing. .. and should be spending time working on that musical I mentioned in January. Ha. I’ve written a scene outline and that’s about it. But what I will really enjoy about writing a musical is that it will combine prose, poetry, and music… so I’ll kill three birds with one stone. I finished rough editing of the Victorious Trilogy (which may not be a trilogy for long) and soon will start on really really ‘killing’ them.

Hair cuts – I have to admit, this is one of my least favorite things to do. I don’t mind trimming mommy and Candace’s hair because it’s quick and simple; just straight across. If Nate got hair cuts more often I don’t think I’d mind as much. But it takes so long because his hair gets relatively long and he wants to see what it looks like about every minute. I don’t mind daddy’s a ton because it’s time with him but it’s so complex – with Nate at least I just use clippers the same length all the way across. But it’s on my list to learn and become proficient at, so I’m sticking with it.

Driving – In January daddy and I started going to a nearby parking lot to drive around. In May we started driving to abandoned and unfinished neighborhoods to drive faster and do turns, lane changes, roundabouts, etc. At first I really hated it, I felt like I was multitasking but everything was happening at the same time and needed to be done at the exact same time and it took me a good two months to get used to. But Lord willing, I’ll get my permit as soon as I’m in WA this summer and then get my license soon after my birthday – and then I can drive in Dubai once we transfer it! I’m not really excited about the driving as much as I am about mobility and being able to help out by driving.

Music – Music practice took up so much time… something I’m trying to cut back on… somehow. Once I finish Hanon on piano it should only take 45 minutes to practice instead of an hour and 15… and I need to stop downloading sheet music and focus on learning the music I have now. I’m thinking next year practice will be even more irregular (I finally got down to a practice schedule that worked and wasn’t too crazy – oboe every day except Friday and lesson days, piano and guitar three times a week each. It was very doable. Most of the time…). We’ll see how it works out next year, especially as I’d love to play with an orchestra (instead of) taking oboe lessons, and may play at church. We shall see. I did learn a lot, and play a lot better now than I did 12 months ago!

Gardening – Well, our gardening endeavors seemed to be going well for a time. If you want a harvest count, you’d consider the garden a flop. Because nothing did more than sprout. But the family time digging and pulling up grass, planning with Candace, studying, learning, growing in discipline to water every single morning was worth it. And next year, we’re trying the front yard as half patio half herb garden. I think that will be much better…

Serving – There were days I didn’t get any of ‘my list’ done. There were days where if you walked into the room you’d hear me muttering “Die, self, die!” And there were other days when I was very eager to head out somewhere, or put aside my daily tasks and bake something for a conference, watch children, help a mother, clean the house… but even when I was so happy to do it, there were times when I had to remind myself, “Your life is not your own.” I want to understand that even more fully, that my life is His and for me to use it as He wants.

Photography – This is going to be like sewing, I think, doing it more on impulse than schedule. I take pictures of what I do and where I go and the people I’m with, and I love it, and love that I can preserve memories so clearly and I’m learning the technicalities of it all.

Piano tuning … the cause of greatest grief but also greatest growth in the past year. This post talks some about that. I missed my first goal, which was to have the piano tuned by Christmas. That was a bit too ambitious, considering I started learning at the end of September and I took a month off when we went to Texas. By Christmas, my vision was crushed and I wanted to quit (“Hope deferred makes the heart sick”). Daddy pushed me onwards… and helped me link a lot of things to things that happen in marriages, which helped me be a bit more tenacious, thinking “If I want to quit now, I might want to in marriage, too.” Then the piano tuner came, and that helped. Still, I find it has many ups and downs and some days I love it and others I hate it and never want to see a real piano again. But right now the plan is to tune the piano again (That “again” sounds so wonderful! I tuned it on May 23 for the first time ever!) before I leave for the summer, then again when we get back, and then to start talking to people we know about letting me tune theirs before the tuner comes. … I am so incredibly thankful for a father who would listen to what I was saying and encourage me to keep going and link the lessons I was learning to how I desire to prepare to be a wife and mother and life as a Christian. And something Mrs. Y said to me the other day when I spent the afternoon at their house (it was glorious fellowship. I didn’t want it to end) really helped in a lot of things – when I don’t want to press on in relationships, exercise, tuning, spiritual disciplines – that it’s a calling and duty.

There’s been one main theme coursing through this year: Perseverance. It took on different names, like the second day I tuned, when I was fixing the string I broke. I finished fixing it and re-tuned the strings, but my thought as I put the panel back on the front was, “Wow, I’m going to have to be really tenacious to get this done.”
And then when everything seemed so hard all at once and I kept saying to myself, “persevere, persevere, persevere!
When daddy read “Endurance,” it really put it all into perspective. They were suffering through life-threatening trials, mine weren’t. Which halfway makes it easier because the cost isn’t so great if you fail, but they were often so near to death and so much more exhausted and spread out and suffering than I think I am.
Another thing “Endurance” taught me was the transparency (rather, lack thereof) needed in leadership. Shackleton often couldn’t let his men know he was afraid because it would lower their morale and then they’d really be in trouble. I learned that sometimes we need to push aside what we’re feeling and press on because of calling and duty, and to obey. It seems like such a simple lesson, but it’s been a hard one to learn and apply.
Another lesson learned from “Endurance” was the need to know where you are as well as where you’re going. Some times I know where I’m going all too well and forget where I am and so lose hope because it’s farther away than I think. I learned how lazy I really am (you can be productive without being a hard worker), and how much I want instant gratification.
Learning to persevere. I think I never experienced the need to before for 2 reasons:
1., there was always a break around the corner. Almost everything I did was school related and had a break to look forward to. There isn’t really a break now. That’s taken lots of getting used to.
2., Almost every ‘hard thing’ I did in the past came relatively easily, or I loved it so much and it was such a short commitment or the time of hardship was so short I didn’t really notice it. This WHOLE YEAR has been hard. I kept thinking it would get easier, but it wouldn’t. All uphill. But uphill, “further up and further in,” towards Him.
But with hardship there’s also grace – in being able through Christ to draw near to Him, in Him strengthening me, in knowing it’s not as bad as it could be, in knowing He’s always there and when at the end of the day I realize my weakness and His awesomeness and worship. It was His grace that allowed me to do as much as I did, and His grace that didn’t snuff out my smoldering wick or crush my bruised reed (Isaiah 42:3).
I’ve realized now that the days I struggled the most and had the most heartache were the days I took my eyes off of the big picture – living for His glory, and instead did it for myself or ‘to get it done.’ But life’s not worth it if it’s not for Him.
My cup is full. It’s full with joy and contentment Although some days I look back and think “What did I really get done? I don’t have a whole lot to show for this year. A couple quilts, a rattly piano that isn’t tuned half the time, a dress, some bags, pages of sheet music,” I know He’s taught me so much and worked mightily in me this past year, through sanctification and refinement. Yes, it was often painful. But He was always there, teaching me, filling my cup with Himself and Christ-likeness.
The main question I want to ask myself as I look back on it, is “How have I grown in my knowledge of God?” Because that’s what’s most important. How do I know Him better than I did a year ago? I’ll be pondering that a lot over the next few weeks, and how I can know Him better.

… that was this year. What about next year?
I’ve been realizing over the past few days, as I so easily over-schedule – and I can rush around and get it done, but often with much pain and fretting, and not resting in Christ and really spending time WITH Him and in meditation on His Word and in prayer like I should… There’s a lot I need to cut out. I was thinking about it one day and realized I need to cut myself out.

I’ll have things I want to get done during the year – though I’m not going to set school year goals anymore. It’s too confusing to have 3 different years going on, school year, age year, calendar year. Anyway. Cutting out. No ‘me time.’ Limited computer (only if I have time and drive to reply and write, not surf the Internet), spontaneous sewing and photography, scrapbooking only during movies, having things to do in spare moments so I don’t waste them.
I want a bigger vision, one that goes beyond “Well this year I’m doing this,” and that isn’t just being busy and productive at home and in the church until I get married and then just transferring that over to marriage. I mean a vision that I’d be perfectly happy fulfilling even if I’m not married 10 years from now or never get married.
I want to become proficient in tuning pianos, to the point where I could feel comfortable asking customers to pay by September 2012. A year later than I originally hoped for, which has taken getting used to because it means more time tuning next year than I wanted to put in. I want to spend more time with homeschool mothers, more time serving. I’m starting a reading list, so far it’s all theological, which I’m really looking forward to. Lord willing, I’ll be a member of our church soon, and that will bring other responsibilities. I want more time in prayer, with Him. I often pushed aside the pursuit of holiness for my lists. I’m fighting against that. Shorter lists may be needed. But for the fruit that results, it will be so worth it.
As I look back over the year again, I see how much of it was full of pressing on even when I wanted to quit. There were days I wanted to rest, but knew I shouldn’t/couldn’t (A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man). There were days I lost hope, forgetting to look heavenward and work for His glory and for the hope of His return (For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.)

… this has been a long post. Maybe I should have broken it up more. But I wanted it all together, as a sort of ‘year in review.’ I think it’s a good thing I didn’t know at the beginning of the year how hard it would be because I would’ve balked and ran. Because I underestimated Him. I never want to do that again. Because He is faithful and strong, no matter what.
And I am His.

Pro Christo – Further up and Further in!

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials fof various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways…
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death..
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
{excerpts from James 1}


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