July 29, 2008

the ways our lives go on

This week is shaping up into a sort of microcosm of existence crammed into seven days. Sunday Allen's mom called to tell us that a very special older woman had died after being sick for two weeks. She had mentored my mother-in-law for I don't how many years and had likewise counseled Allen on various occasions. Later Allen and I both went to see her on several occasions. Allen would check over her office computer for her (she ran a small herbal health store) while we talked. To say that sounds misleading. Really we saved up our troubles and triumphs to pour out at her feet and receive her counsel. Louise Allred was unlike anyone I've ever met. She was a forthright lady who wasn't afraid to ask hard questions, and it took guts to ask for her counsel because she could turn you inside out and reveal all the fears and petty rebellions standing between you and life. It could hurt like heck too. The first time I met her that's 90% of what I say -and a forthright old woman with at least half the Bible neatly indexed and labeled. Then I realized how much she loved people -how much she loved Allen and I in particular. I saw her unending generosity towards us and others in the way she gave of her wisdom, time, and money. Seed planting she called it. I saw her cheerful spirit even after having broken her hip and being limited to a walker. In her direct manner she taught the rock hard, reliable supremacy of God's Word over every trouble and circumstance in our lives. Her death was akin to a door closing. I find myself scrambling to remember everything she tried to teach me -wishing I'd had more time with her, grateful that much of her wisdom will live on in my mother-in-law.

The rest of this week has and will be crammed with time with friends, a memorial service, trip planning, a wedding, more time with friends, visits to family...there has and will be pain, compromise, generosity, confusion, pleasure, boredom, love, grief, expectation, laughter, anxiety... This week is crammed with life. And I am already tired.

July 22, 2008

Thoughts on GLH

This afternoon I picked up White Orchids thinking I might look it over again, and it brought a few things to mind that I'd wanted to say about Grace Livingston Hill's work. There's a scene in there where Jeffrey is taking Camilla out to dinner for the first time. Having been seated Jeffrey courteously asks Camilla if she would care for some wine. BAM! Camilla is struck sick at the realization that there is such a vast gulf between them -all the more impassable because it dealt with "moral standard" she had no right to break. If you read a few GLH books you'll realize this is part of her MO. Good Christians don't drink. And despite the fact that GLH absolutely rejects the idea of an effeminate clergy (most to all of her clergymen are brave, capable, and quite virile) the moral force against drinking is often displayed as feminine -it's the mothers, sisters, and sweethearts who inculcate temperance principles. Alcohol is portrayed as ruinous and very addicting. New imbibers are struck with a thirst that leads to them stumbling home and drunkenly making advances to the pure eyed maiden residing in their boarding house. There is no room in her books for wisdom, responsibility, and moderation. Its not enough to make me stop reading her books, but it is enough to make me wish that there was someone out there who wrote similarly pleasant little novels for the reformed Christian wine drinking set because they really are very pleasant books about people making the best of what they have with grace, courage, and a real reliance on God's direction and provision. Of course they're also fairy tales in which poor girls often marry rich men and poor deserving young men mostly make their fortunes. There are also kidnappings by the evil young men in which the upright young men get to rescue their best girl in the finest hero style. Like I said, fairy tales, but good ones containing some real encouragement and inspiration for Christian women -which is why I rather wish somewhere out there I could find a reformed Grace Livingston Hill whose characters drink a reasonable amount of wine, dance in a suitably modest fashion, and aren't totally dismissive of jazz.

July 17, 2008

Sniffing the wind

So last time I was talking about going every which way. Well, the whichway-ness has potentially increased. Exponentially. I'm not going to spell it out because it's just possible that life around here will merely make a slight adjustment and continue flowing smoothly on. Part of me really, really hopes that happens. The other part of me...is starting to get excited about new horizons and new possibilities. It's a very mixed bag of tricks we're contemplating, and I don't have enough information. Nobody does actually. It's one of those things in the works where you just watch, and you aren't even sure what prayers to lift. I'm hoping I'll know more by next week -maybe even tomorrow.

I know that didn't explain anything, but I sort of wanted to toss this out into the void because it's too hard keeping it bottled up inside.

July 16, 2008

going every which way

So I'm still trying to find my Natalie purpose. I have all sort of generic purposes -be a good Christian, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, granddaughter, friend. Those are sort of "because I am alive and breathing" purposes. I want to find that "because I'm Natalie" purpose to my life. To that end I've been pursuing some different activities. I volunteer for the Shelby County Humane Society, and I'm part of the group helping to plan the tutoring program for the coming school year at Southtown. I've even thought of going back to McWane Center as a volunteer. Having no clear direction in which to go I've just started going. It's all I can really think of doing at the moment. Hopefully something will come of all this. You never can tell.

July 12, 2008

Sailing in the Harbor

I did actually take a few pictures of the area we were sailing around. However with the rise and sway of the ship most of them were somewhat fuzzy, and no matter how you cut it a blurry picture of Fort Sumter just isn't that interesting. As I may have mentioned before, this is one of my favorite sets from the whole trip. I hope you enjoy them.

I couldn't get enough of the sails and ropes -sheets and lines I think to the initiate. Those ships really were beautiful. Can you imagine old Charleston Harbor full of these graceful vessels?

With sails like these who knows where you'll land? My favorite picture of the trip.

She was a handsome thing of knots and timber. Another of my favorite shots.

I love the peace of some of these shots. There was a beautiful, restful harmony of wind harnessed in canvas and cord.

You might almost have thought this ship had been painted and packed so as to strike notes from the dusk.

Framed with timber and rope, watching the sun set behind the battery was something not to miss with all the church steeples strung out across the city.

Unfortunately this is the best picture I could get of the bridge. The ship's movement made distant shots almost impossible. This still gives you an idea though of how fine it looked strung out across the harbor.

That (finally) concludes our visit to Charleston. Later I'll post some of our pictures from Savannah and Jekyll Island.

Some backstory- testimonies

Kat was asking me to post a little more about where I've come from, so I'm going to try and remember to post a little more of my own personal backstory as I go along. There are too many questions to cover in one post, so I'm just going to take a couple and run with them. I suppose you can call this piece of the story my testimony. I'll try to keep it brief.

I have pretty much the typical good Christian kid testimony -never knew a time when I didn't know the name of Jesus. I started out (so far as I remember) going to a little church called Chestnut Grove Baptist Church outside of Atlanta, Ga. I also remember having a little girl crush on the associate pastor there -Preacher Tommy by name. I used to make up songs about him. I don't know that I could have been more than 5-6 at the time. Even though I grew up in church it wasn't until we moved to Alabama that I "prayed the prayer" and eventually got baptized. Throughout that time I went to mainly Baptist and Bible churches. We tended to move around a lot. Something would happen in the church, and we'd pack up and move on. After a while my parents sort of got burned on church, and we ended up taking a year or so sabbatical from church. Us kids didn't much like that, but after we'd about been to every church in town we were getting a little tired of moving. I learned a lot about that though - like just how easy it is to be anonymous in the Church nowadays. Even when you've volunteered for VBS, drama, and been to the church youth retreats you just slip away like you'd never been there. No one calls to ask where you've been or how you're doing. You just roll off the face of their world. Pretty sad I think.

I also learned a thing or two about youth groups. Let me tell you they kind of give me the heebee jeebee's now. There's too much emotional manipulation going around under the name of firing kids up for the Lord. I've been on those camps. You come back after spending your days and night overstimulated by too much noise and sugar, and you just end up depressed for a week or so afterwards. They tell you about this like you're living in a spiritual high at camp that just can't be maintained in real life when really you've been at one huge rockfest all week. That's not a spiritual high -that's overstimulation followed by exhaustion. Somehow I don't think Jesus becomes more real just because you've paid $50 to get away for the weekend with two thousand other teenagers, and the Jesus band has an awesome drummer. That's getting away with your friends so you can clap and stomp your feet to musicians you really like. Don't get me wrong. There are some great musicians out there and some speakers with really great messages. I'm just skeptical about the results of growing up in a pyrotechnic church culture.

Putting that aside-eventually my family ended up going to the church my in-laws used to attend. We'd actually met them previously through highschool debate team, but this was my chance to get to know them better. During the course of this I started getting to know Allen better through their college/career age ministry even though he primarily went to another church. Well finally Allen invited me to visit his church one night. It's the Presbyterian church we attend today. The first time I went Steve was preaching on presbyterian church order. Wow. What a sermon for the new kid. After giving Allen several broad hints that I actually would enjoying visiting his church again with him sometime we ended up going together most Sundays. For me Calvinism just clicked. It explained some things I'd always had questions about. One the most important steps in this journey was reading Putting the Amazing Back into Grace. I was so convicted after reading that book. It answered questions I hadn't even been able to put into words before. I started reading more books by Reformed authors like J. I. Packer, C. S. Lewis, and Peter Leithart. And that's pretty much where I am today. I love going to church that follows the Church calendar, celebrates weekly communion, and is diligently seeking to build a community of grace. I have people around me whom I refer to as "heavenly sandpaper." They are the people who are shaking up my understanding of what it means to be a conservative Christian in the 21st century. I may disagree with them, but through them and with them I'm learning to how to be an authentic Christian -authentic because I'm secure in who I am in Christ and therefore don't need to either boast or whine. I'm still working on believing that God really loves me and responding to Him in love rather than from a sense of duty or obligation, but that will come.

Oh yeah, and last week Pastor Tom told us (the congregation) flat out that we need to aim at reading our Bibles more. Since I know I don't even read mine one tenth as much as I should, I'm really going to try and get on it. Tom is the sort of pastor who makes you feel that he really is looking out for you and that you'd be seven kinds of fool if you didn't listen to his advice.

July 10, 2008

Great Big Sea

They are coming to Atlanta. Allen and I will be there. I am excited. If you want to be excited too you should get tickets and meet us there. In the interest of convincing others how awesome these guys really are I'm including some videos. They don't have good videos of some of my favorites, but these will give you a pretty good taste of their foot-stomping Newfie style.

Donkey Riding

The Old Black Rum

A Boat Like Gideon Brown (on Puzzle Pirates I have a sloop named Gideon Brown)

And a music video of them joined by the Cheiftans on Lukey's Boat.

I wish I could share some of their ballads with you, but they aren't up on youtube that I can find. You'll just have to take my word for it that they can be balladeers as well.

July 7, 2008


I feel like a real lindy dancer. My Aris Allens came in last week, and I have just come from trying them out. They are great.

Yes they don't look like what you might expect in a dance shoe. Lindy hoppers like to keep it low.

sneak peek

Since earlier today I told a friend I'd try to get up some more of my photos I thought I'd go ahead and throw up a wee sample of the subject matter. Hopefully the rest will get up in a couple of days. Then I have even more pictures I have to get up. Fortunately/unfortunately Allen found the other memory card. Fortunately I can take a couple thousand pictures on this one without worrying about running out of room. Unfortunately that's that much less impetus to get the pictures off the memory card and onto my blog. I'll try though.

July 4, 2008

Happy 4th

I hope everyone enjoyed their 4th of July. We spent part of our's eating hamburgers at Grandmom and Granddad's, playing Munchkin, shooting off bottle-rockets, and watching the various fireworks shows flickering across the valley.