No Artificial Shortages

It is strange, but I often feel sad at this time of year. The sun is shining on the slopes of the mountain and the early morning sky has not quite finished its transition from silvery-gold to deep blue. The trees along the railroad track shout their joy to the world in rich shades of green. Horses stand in quiet contemplation in pastures as we pass, and cows lay contentedly. This is a glorious day, and I am grateful for it.

It isn’t just that I must spend the day in the office … I am resigned to my fate in that regard, and I hope to get out at lunchtime to enjoy the sunshine. What makes me sad is the knowledge that the equinox has passed, and the days are getting shorter, and that soon these days will be no more. As long as Kathy and Sarah’s birthday is still in the future, I can still pretend that we are in the height of summer. But once their birthday is passed, and Day Camp is over, I have to face the ugly truth: winter will come again.

Pink girls sharing a birthday

Winter holds no real terror for a Washingtonian … we keep snow on the mountains where it belongs, and it rarely dips below freezing. But the rains do sometimes settle in, and it is easy to forget why one lives here, at least until Spring arrives.

I really find that being temporal cramps my style. My spirit seems to rage against the passing of time and entropy. To put it rather melodramatically, I feel the loss of this day like the death of a friend, even now when the sun is barely over the Cascades to the east. I guess it is no surprise that God created me as a spiritual being to be with Him for eternity. On days like this I hug to myself the truth that He will set all things right when He returns, and that no more days like this will have to fade away.

Any day spent with a good book is a day well-spent.

In a novel that Kathy and I have read, there is a cheerful (but obviously brilliant) old professor who loves pastries and desserts in general. One of the things he is famous for saying is “No artificial shortages!” to the delight of those who share in his largess. (No doubt this is to justify his purchase and consumption of a large number of pastries.) I’ve always understood this to mean that we shouldn’t stint our enjoyment of things that are not legitimately scarce. I sometimes wonder what it will be like when we live with the King of Kings and experience His limitless generosity … I can just imagine Him laughing and booming from the throne, “No artificial shortages!”

Obviously Heaven will be a place where there is no shortage of love, which will be very strange. I think most people carefully set boundaries around themselves with regard to the people they choose to care about … there is a sense that one only has so much time and emotional energy and thus must limit the number of people that one cares for. (I suspect that I am guilty of contriving an artificial shortage of love where one does not really exist). It is certainly true, however, that time is limited – what fun it will be to no longer hear the relentless ticking of the clock.

The clock is ticking away on the Refuge … we eagerly look forward to it being ready for guests!

From what I understand, other resources will be equally unlimited – the scripture talks of using gold for paving stones, which even King David could not afford, although he had 7,500,000 pounds of it dedicated for use in building the temple (roughly $77 billion in today’s dollars). We can assume that there will be no limit in terms of food, water, clothing or shelter based on scriptural descriptions of New Jerusalem and God’s provision for us. Even daylight will be unlimited, as God Himself provides the light, and there will not be any darkness.

Nobody really knows what the New Jerusalem will look like — I picked this picture because it is the most fanciful of the guesses I saw. Whatever it is, it will be like nothing we have ever seen before, I suspect.

I wonder if one of the secrets to living in this life the way that God would have us to live is in living according to that Heavenly economy, even now? What would my life look like if I (and other believers) acted as though I had unlimited wealth, unlimited time, unlimited energy?

It certainly changes the way I view this day, when I try to see it in that light. Rather than mourn the impending loss of this day from my meager store, I can confidently look forward to an unending barrage of days, refilling my stock of them any time I feel short. Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” I guess this is what He meant.


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Rambling thoughts…

The pool has been closed since Sunday. Argh! We were all set to swim–the sun was shining and the kids were restless–but when we got there we found out the pool filter had exploded/broken/caught fire. Whatever happened, it wasn’t good and the lifeguard told us it would be until at least Wednesday before the pool was up and running.

Pool boys
This picture is from last week–squirt guns definitely add to the pool fun!

It’s been cool and cloudy most of this week so no one has minded the pool being off limits. Today we were definitely ready for the pool to be re-opened. Of course, what does it do but RAIN! Harrumph. Joshua had a lake party in the evening with the church middle school group but they persevered and carried on despite the weather. The sun actually came out in the middle of the party, isn’t that lovely. Joshua (remember he’s a twisted soul) said the water was perfect–not too cold that you couldn’t get in but not so warm that it’s “boring.” Sigh. Not sure where he gets his Otter Boy swimming preferences. He really dislikes the club pool because they heat it. Gasp! It’s a wonderful, 84 degrees on most days. I must say I heartily approve!

David and Sarah at the pool
Doesn’t that water look inviting!

Of course, Joshua will get his fill of cold water when we go to Fort Clark, TX in August. The pool is fed by a natural spring and is CHILLY!!! You really need the temperature to be over 100 degrees outside in order to stand getting in to such cold water. Ha!

Needless to say we haven’t gotten much exercise this week. My favorite walking partner is out of town. The pool has been closed. It’s been grey and cloudy–perfect weather for getting in a little bit of extra school. The kids and I did go to the park yesterday with some friends. The other mom and I tried to walk around the school track while the children played but we weren’t very successful. We did make it around several times but there were a lot of summer school kids on recess break and we had to watch our little ones.

After dinner this evening, we all went for a walk. Sarah (who has recently acquired a great deal of summer dresses) delayed us for a bit as she ran to put on yellow socks to match her ‘pretty yellow dress.’

Sarah's yellow dress
Since we found this outfit, Sarah wears this hat almost every day.

We walked up and down the cul-de-sac. It was nice. The sun came out and it felt good to be out in the fresh air. After we came home, Rachel and I did some weight lifting. I had an article in a magazine for a 20 minute workout that I wanted us to try out. Rachel was less than thrilled but we managed to give it a good try. Sarah came down and counted for us. She has this strange habit of skipping fifteen and going straight to sixteen. Not sure why but it was cute (and consistent). Finally she couldn’t stand it any longer and had to get on the floor and work out with us. Tim came by and took some pictures of us.

Pink exercising girls
Working out in pink.

Rachel’s not sure she wants to do this work out every day as she might become a “muscle man.” Ha! I doubt we could get there with this gentle routine but, you never know. The pediatrician said the older children could all do a little bit of weight training. I thought it was fun and it only took us around 20 or 25 minutes. Sarah did add some levity to the push ups with her bottom sticking straight up in the air (no pictures of that one).


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Visit to the Duckabush

We had beautiful weather, last week, for our trip out to the Duckabush. The cousins are getting ready for their next move (this time to Norway–sob). They have packed up and moved out of their rental home and are currently staying in our Duckabush house.

The girls
Rebecca, Rachel and Aunt Koffee taking a break from a relaxing day.

Since the drive is double what we used to face, we obviously haven’t been having our weekly Family Game Nights. This is a great sadness for those of us who are addicted to Settlers of Catan (oh yes, and the nice time gathering with family). I think the children, in particular, (well, and maybe an adult or two) miss having Papa John’s pizza every Friday night. I know I miss having dinner all planned and prepared for me (especially a meal that is always a hit with the kids).

With great resolve and fore planning (ahem, okay with great lackadaisical casualness and no planning whatsoever) we decided to have a Game Day (not quite as catchy as Game Night) out at the Duckabush. (I don’t know what is with me and the parenthesis today). We remembered to actually bring Settlers of Catan with us this time — last time we left it at home since we were “sure the cousins had the game”. They, in a terrible rash of packing, had already sent the game on to Norway. Trying to retrieve the game would have been a bit of a trip. We ended up playing cards that evening and barely suffering through (I mean, having a great time).

We got to the Duckabush in the early afternoon and, silly me, I thought we would have plenty of time to finish a game of Settlers before dinner. I had forgotten about the Cousins of Lengthy Turns. Settlers of Catan is a creative, ever changing game that can be as long and involved as you want to be. Obviously there are some among us who like it to be as long and involved as it POSSIBLY can be!

Liz & Timothy
Elizabeth and Timothy in front of the Settlers of Catan game board.

Sigh, we did convince them to take a break so Elizabeth and I could prepare dinner (homemade pizzas this time–oh how the mighty have fallen, or is it risen?). Even though the game runs on turns, there are things that happen throughout the game (even when it’s not your turn) that need your attention. There are roads/cities to build, people who want to steal your cards, resource materials to gather depending on the roll of the dice, and so on.

The Refuge
What a gorgeous picture of The Refuge Retreat Center in the making!

Sometime amidst the visit, Tim did manage to go out and take some beautiful pictures of the retreat center. The building is taking shape and coming along nicely. The children had a nice time playing together although I think there were many mosquito bites by the end of the evening. Ouch.

Cousins at the Refuge
David, Daniel, Samuel, Rachel, Joshua and Timothy–outside the retreat center.

I did my part in the visit by valiantly winning the game of Settlers. I had to do something as Tim has had MUCH too long of a winning streak and really had to be stopped! Hopefully we will manage to fit in several of games during WNW day camp next week. Tim suggested we leave our set of games out at the Duckabush, that way we don’t have to haul them back and forth. It was a smart idea but ever since we drove away, I have had a terrible hankering to play Settlers of Catan. In fact, we have company coming this weekend and I had to tell them that they will actually have to bring their own copies of the game with them since ours were out at the Duckabush.

David and Sarah
David and Sarah play by the water.

Talk about poor hostessing. I hope I can live it down.

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A Farewell to Martin

This last week Joshua and Rachel were both away, attending a week of camp at Black Lake Bible Camp. They were very excited to go, having worked all year to earn scholarships through attendance and memory programs. Both of them had a delightful time, and we were looking forward to hearing all about it when they came home – especially from Rachel, who usually does not lack for something to say.

Daniel and David really enjoyed playing ‘carpetball’ at the camp. Er, they were glad to have Rachel back, too.

Rachel’s homecoming was marred, however, by the death of our pet Guinea Pig, Martin. We had left him outside the night before as an unintended result of his weekly cage-cleaning, and for some reason (although he had plenty of water, and the night was not particularly cold) he died. Even more unfortunate, Rachel was the one to discover him when she returned home from camp that morning.

The traditional exchange of contact info at the end of camp with a new twist — writing addresses on your head.

It was a hard day. Rachel wept and wept, and Kathy and I felt guilty for not caring for him as well as we could have. Daniel was at first not particularly sad, but when he saw how much it hurt Rachel, he began to cry in sympathy for her. Joshua was pretty stoic about the whole thing, but I noticed that it was he who ended up digging the grave and carving a cross as a marker.

David and Sarah were largely oblivious, although they both went around with solemn faces, saying “Poor Martin” from time to time. I suspect it may be several days before Sarah really understands what has happened – and I don’t think that David was ever really close to our sharp-clawed guinea pig.

At sunset, we held a little memorial service for Martin. I had each of the kids say something they remembered about our little pet and then toss a handful of dirt (or clover, or grass) into his grave. Rachel wept through much of the service, especially whenever anyone would talk about the way Martin looked. I think it really saddened her to discover his lifeless body, halfway into his little house.

We prayed and filled in the hole, and Rachel put some rose petals on top of the grave. We asked a friend who had recently lost a dog to talk with her, because Rachel knows that neither Kathy nor I loved Martin as much as she did.

I think that the little graveside service was a good idea … I think it will help the little ones to understand death a little better, and it will provide the older children with a context for grieving when they lose a family member or close friend, as they surely will, but hopefully not soon.

Rachel at Martin’s grave

The next day Rachel seemed to have processed some of her grief – I almost wept when she told me, “Now I know how hard life can be.” She is already angling for another pet, confident in her ability and willingness to love another animal, even though it may die and cause her sorrow. She told me that she thought she loved God more now than before Martin died: “I knew before that sin was bad, but now I see what it causes, and I understand why God is so strongly against it.” When faced with death, it is good to remember the One who has conquered death and removed its sting, so that we can live forever in the joy of His presence.

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