Thursday, April 28, 2005

A first venture

Several people had issued "warnings" about the type of homeschooling people that I might meet if I dare go to the planned recess today at a local park. "They're either a bunch of hippies or they say really fear-based religious things. I just didn't fit in," said a former h/s mom who now owns a nearby frozen yogurt shop. She said this seriously to me without a trace of eyeliner or mascara.

Yet, it was time to go forth and meet this unseen throng whose ranks I had joined in mid-January. Hippies can be humorous; right wingers can be definite with their information. I'm not scared. So, Cody and I went forth on this rainy, gray day. The rain had recently stopped, and, yes, the ground was saturated, but no drops were falling, so we decided to show up.

We loved the homeschooler group and felt welcome among them all! As we jumped rocks and tried to stay above the puddles and spongy mulch, we laughed loudly and challenged ourselves to go to a higher level. Then, we jumped on the tires, and I slid and screamed loudly. We climbed up to the slides which had little jewel raindrops which we pushed down the slide to their bigger jeweled-puddled parents.

And the other homeschooling parents kept quiet and accepted us, because they weren't there! No one was there, or they were dead, and we were the only people present who were not spirits. I kept thinking that if one mother showed up that she would be my new best h/s group friend, but, alas, she wasn't adventurous enough so I don't think I'd want her as a friend anyway!

Perhaps next week, we can see if anyone will be desperate enough to venture out rain or shine, but, for today, we loved our homeschooling-association experience!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Do you think people are born conservatives, moderates, or liberal? It's one of the thousand assailing questions that I'm asking myself while baking chocolate-topped oatmeal bars during this wonderful stormy day with child at grandmother's. Try as I might, I just can't be a conservative, and, so within church operatives, I always feel a bit like I just don't get it. Yes, values, I get, but values-defined-as-only-thus in a world of value-possibilities which are ignored, that I don't get. I especially don't get values-expressed-rabidly with pounce probability. My paternal grandmother, who's a preacher, had lots of expressed-rabid-values; she expressed them through a slicing belt, through constant quarrelling with her husband, through fear-of-Jesus whispers to granddaughter's panicked ears. "He's coming back soon," she'd say intently. "Get ready. Are you ready? It's going to be terrible."

Anything that the church adopted, she would adopt to be accepted in the choir and to be seen as authoritative behind the pulpit. I love this grandmother, who's still alive, mellowed with Alzheimer's, yet tales of her earlier legalism which bred anger and abuse are coming out. My dad and uncle tried to explain their upbringing to me this weekend. My uncle hates anything to do with the faith and church which coordinates well with what Brennan Manning says, "The number of people who have fled the church because it is too patient or compassionate is negligible; the number who have fled because they find it too unforgiving is tragic." Fortunately, Dad reconnected to God's rightful focus on love later in life.

These brothers are both politically conservative. Trust me, around election time, I got my talking-to's because of my lack of excitement about either candidate. So, I'm not sure where I get my orientation -- maybe Dad's right: I was ruined in college when I entertained other ideas. Yet, they fit me moreso than other ideas which seek to define and curtail and scold. And, so when I returned to God, I brought in the notion of compassionate humanism, for example, because it helped me see how God uses us to reach out to others (God is the author of compassionate humanism, isn't He? I mean we can be compassionate humans only because of His sneaky engineering). Things just look more blended together to me. Too much William Blake probably.
Or, probably too much sugar.

Ah well ... I think the brownies are almost ready. Sure hope the church ladies love 'em tonight because they're a product of my right brain which spins and whips ingredients 'til smooth. Surely God had a plan .... :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


"Goodbye hills! We love you!" Cody and I called out earlier this morning when we reached the stone church at the blacktop. It was time to travel home again away from the surrounding blue hills which we could see all around us. Now, we're in mid-Missouri again which looks different and doesn't feel the same. I never thought that I'd really want to return to the Ozarks again; however, life is simply so darn peaceful there.

I brought home an old sweatshirt of Grandma Cora's that mom saved for me. It's one of those that has a pleasant rural autumn scene on the front and a white collar with a pumpkin on it. It's so her! I snuggled in it last night, and Cody snuggled in it this morning. It's going to become our comfort shirt when we need it, for warmth and understanding. It smells like her still. Every time I thought of anything related to my sweet grandmother, tears came too readily. Mom talked about finishing her last in-the-frame quilt and seeing her needle tucked in with thread, waiting to be pulled through. How sweet God was to let her quilt the same day of her death!

Around this time of year, we'd buy flowers for each other's birthday. I can still hear her exclaim with joy. I loved her joy.

When driving back, I thought of some of my low faith sessions since her funeral, and it made me remember and recommit to her vision of faith, even during periods when mine seems dim. I love when the maternal weaves together a worthy cloth throughout the generations. My next obligation.

Have a wonderful day,

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Higher than

"But he gives us more grace...." over inner strife, envy, anger, worry, all the negative emotions happening within us. In addition, James tells us to submit ourselves to God and draw near, and He will draw near to us.

I love how these words in the Bible rise up when I'm most unhappy, seeking, still seeking for the active, loving God in my life. And, then I can spy him in my fog, through time-honored words and presence, and he says, like an old spry, "I see you clearly and want to give you something to remember me by." Eyes gleaming, rivaling Gandalf, or Jesus in any Hollywood movies, or Aslan to the Narnian kids, his true glowy Spirit hearkens me back into what I need.

Promises and hope. What would our lives be without them? I sometimes agonize over the difficult mental / spiritual work that being a Christian takes. (It's just so hard to be walking the balance of becoming more like Christ when I want to take over all the work! and the joy!) A friend and I lamented over a couple hour long phone call this weekend about it. I look to her for her joy in spirit, yet she had admissions as well. Only promises and hope make it worthwhile.

Thank you, Lord that grace is higher than doubt, than shortcomings, than worry. I want to turn myself over to that completely, and within this, do what you will with my life. Let me trust and allow that scary surrender to plunge me under into an altered vision of life, buoyed by your grace and care. Amen.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Hotel Rwanda

I just saw the movie "Hotel Rwanda" which brought to light the plight of the people involved in the conflict between the Hutus and the Tutsis. It's hard to watch. It's hard to believe that over a million people died, and prosperous nations allowed it to happen despite warnings. The U.S. itself could not readily call the genocide by its name of genocide, because of the cost involved in stopping it (check out more information at When I hear about these things, I become angry. Angry at our nation for being so self-protective. Angry at myself for living a life which doesn't effect much change in these areas. Angry at Christians for not living the faith in an outward manner but instead mostly in a self-obsessed, self-defining way (from what I see around me ~~ and in myself). Angry at evil triumphing in such an onslaught at times. Angry at good being careful and indifferent. I become passive about the present conflicts and hungry for heaven. I bury my head in the future tense where I'll be taken care of and ignore the cries of today. This is one of my deepest inner conflicts. I want to do something to help now, but the path to doing this seems so blocked. I know that this is illusionary. Father, I pray that I find a way out of this trap of doing nothing when something could be done for similar problems caused by poverty and conflict.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Opera through a window

A couple of years ago, I heard my daughter's young stepmother sing one of her operatic pieces through an open window. It sounded like a Philip Glass' adaptation to an Edgar Allen Poe piece (I'll never forget "The Fall of the House of Usher" at the American Rep Theater in Boston -- Glass' heaviness and complexities and haunting refrains made me happy and understood in a bizarre way. It was expressing that side of life that rarely is expressed. Loved it.)
Anyway, today, when I'm thinking about what parenting an Asperger syndrome child is like, I was taken back to that long serious heavy vocal through the window as a point of comparison, which took me to a memory of Philip Glass' work, which brought me to a description of his music (, ) which made me sit up and say, "Yes! Yes! Asperger syndrome in my son feels like this!" Funny how things interlink. This article says that Glass' music "remained structurally sparse, using few chord changes. Instead of long developmental sections, which had been normal with 'serious' music, there were increasingly complex repetitions and overlapping of lines. "
Asperger, a mild form of autism, affects the development of a child primarily through social interaction, but also through physical development; the development is sparse, repetitive, and overlaps instead of moves out to tell the regular-paced story with the predictable buildup and flourishing end (well, okay, the hopeful flourishing end).
So, yesterday, when he cleared the dirt heap at age 10 (he learned to ride bike at 9; still working on tying his shoes; can't button a shirt yet), it was a moment of celebration for sure. And, today, when the pediatrician said that he looked like a totally different kid since the homeschooling decision in January, I felt like doing a hurkey (okay, do you know what a toe touch jump is, then?:). It was very cool to be affirmed after such a hard day on Tuesday.
Parenting an A/S kid does have its rewarding moments!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Dirt deeds

The narcotic of choice today: the dirt pile on the trail. Cody has never pedaled fast enough to clear it up-and-over. Most of the time, the parental unit waits halfways up to push him and his bike over. But, today, he got that look. I heard him say, "C'mon! You can do it!" (Btw, coaching himself like a friend is a huge stride). And, then he sped toward me like a dirt devil. And, then he cleared the clump. And, then, he wanted to go again and again and again and again with me and him flying over the hump like Tony Hawk.
Invigorating to the x-treme! :) Very needed...God takes care of us in mysterious ways.....

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


How many children were up wild-eyed in their bed at midnight last night? How many parents felt the strain of helplessness again for many nights in a row? We raise our hands tiredly.
On my counter, there's Paxil and there's Zoloft and there's Strattera and there's Ritalin. Are any of these more than just a pharmaceutical reps push? We haven't seen mostly positive outcomes, the outcomes of the medication always bring lack of appetite and aggression. But, our doctor keeps looking at me with her intent eyes to try them despite the consequences. And, I'm contemplating them again. Actually, half a Paxil lies waiting for water and mouth. Sigh. Silently and insidiously, the question always pops into my head: why us? why him? what can we really do? how will all of this turn out?
With that in my head, I'm taking him out on our lovely city bike trail so that we can pedal in oxygen. The trees will be bright and swaying with new green. The season is upon us for change and movement, and even though our problems seem to stick, we can celebrate God's faster timing.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Germans and rain

It's a rainy grey day here in mid-Missouri; the Bradbury pear tree (I've been calling them the Ray Bradbury pear trees absentmindedly!:) will be stripped of the white petals which were snowflake floating yesterday. The false indigo needs this rain, though, so it'll swirl upwards-blue soon! Hallelujiah!
Here at school, we pretended we were on the German immigrant boat, passing time away, with gram and gramps by making ye old paperschnitts while waiting for the new land, America! Our paperschnitts were blocky and kooky and made us laugh, particularly Cody's dancing hawks.
The homeschool day has gone better than expected, given last night's feeling of so much wanting to haul him out to the old yellow bus stop to wave goodbye and not hear "Mom?" all day long again. Yesterday, I wanted to be in my sixties instead of in my younger maternal years which still asks me to pull out rolls of patience and guidance and love. Yaiiii! Will I make it to 60?
Support is needed, for sure.
This morning, I did roll out of bed at 4:30 to throw hair in a ponytail and drive across town to my friend's house. She had cinnamon rolls, coffee, and fruit to make the hour seem brunchish instead of dawnish. Then, we attempted that other a- word: accountability. How can we support one another? How can we strip off masks and tell what we did the night before which we're ashamed of? How can we seek God individually in a way that is authentic and necessary? The questions seem urgent to me lately. Family life strains. Deadening of feel. Desire of reignition.
The rain keeps going, and so must I be mindful of the requirements of roots.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Swept out

Almost midnight here, and it feels like the surly sea has swarmed my sleep to make me swim for something: a softer bed, a son w/o anxiety, a sweeter sunrise. In the morning, three of us will arise and meet early across town. Too darn early. God, will you meet us there and see that we mean business together in order to swim and return and cope and sleep and see a peace? I just pray to You that 'quiet lives of desperation' will become unglued with applied discipleship, with trust. Please rudder the three of us.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The upper end

We're all bent over like those plyboard behinds
you see in yards near and south of Branson;
My neighbors and I garden in respective squares;
we weed, shovel the mulch, mow, and
attack vicious honeysuckle and mint that I've
planted. Across the high wooden fence,
I hear more mowers of my unseen slip of land
inhabitants. We all work these pieces over
like we're pondering garden parties for relatives.
We all work these pieces over like shame.
I feel my back stretch over and over as I
bend to shovel and tear roots. In August,
the vine will be everywhere, I'm afraid.
But, like everyone else, I'm out on my area
to work the growth, bending, pulling, hauling --
A spring Saturday for us all to experience
what is natural and normal, and, amazingly,
for all the noise and large upward rearends,
particularly neighbor Ralph's, restoring.
A quiet spot can't be found but light floats
all around and the leaves flare up with wind
and tree peony teases with her flushing frills
and I am lost in the lot, my floral holding pen.

Friday, April 08, 2005

a regular sapling swinger

"Birches" and all things Robert Frostian gripped me the other evening as I sat to write, even in Spring, not in snowy woods, but in the middle of my daffodils. But, sigh of relief, it was lost with all the other brilliant gripping thoughts on this here blog-erase-spot! But, he lives still, through those fantastic words, without me, swinging up and down on those trees toward heaven, reminding me of my country little girl life with small friend Melanie when we were bored out in the woods with some type of springy sapling. Nothing much seems so good as that, as RF captures thankfully on multiple real parchment isntead of only just air space like this blog and tree current. Yep, one could do worse than be a swinger of birches ....==); for instance, one could blog about birches instead.:)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Repining restlessness

I'm in dry clothes now, but my hair is still frizzy from the downpour. Friends and I rushed outside to put my garden bench and birdbath inside my van. My strawberry cake was almost all eaten, and several extra jars of yard bouquets were rushed out as well in the rain. It feels good to be home from this Wednesday night women's ministry, home where my husband has cleaned my kitchen mess of the day. It feels good to be out of the spotlight where I squirmed tonight uncomfortably, not feeling like a porous vessel, but like a stone.
Ah, Lord, what is going on with me in your service? I'm not seeking you like I should be.
But, nevertheless, in class, I felt the click that He was working despite me (of course!). A woman shared her stiffness, her inability to feel anything, and she looked toward me for guidance, and I was able to help her. Then, afterwards, someone in the group experiencing similar travails was able to further help her. It was good. It felt like God took us to that upper room.
And, I heard myself review the chapter in which Brennan Manning encourages us to live in the awareness of the risen Christ. I heard myself talking about the distractions that trap us from going forth to that more abundant life; into that life which invites His relational presence. And, I owned and knew that I'm in the same boat as many others: blocked and choosing that which is a poor substitute. Then, I fall into self-loathing. Okay, I'm in good company -- Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, John Donne, Paul Smith -- have all written about that feeling, that narcissism. And, I stay there for a while, making it my idolatry, refusing to exchange it for the reality of grace and salvation and truth and okay-ness.
George Herbert in the poem "The Pulley" gives me hope that perhaps it's reason to collapse into Him. That I desperately wish to do without incapacitation. I pray that happens for me and for the women in the class.

The Pulley

George Herbert (1593–1633)

WHEN God at first made Man,

Having a glass of blessings standing by—

Let us (said He) pour on him all we can;

Let the world’s riches, which dispers├Ęd lie,

Contract into a span.

So strength first made a way,

Then beauty flow’d, then wisdom, honour, pleasure;

When almost all was out, God made a stay,

Perceiving that, alone of all His treasure,

Rest in the bottom lay.

For if I should (said He)

Bestow this jewel also on My creature,

He would adore My gifts instead of Me,

And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature:

So both should losers be.

Yet let him keep the rest,

But keep them with repining restlessness;

Let him be rich and weary, that at least,

If goodness lead him not, yet weariness

May toss him to My breast.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Last one to the gate

Mom lets us out at Fieldstone church, and my agreeable macho dad and I set out down the hill toward the farm to ward away future malfunctioning hearts. We steadily pace under a fresh blue sky down the clay-orange road. To the left is the old Coble farm of Harold and Cora, my grandparents, now owned by some Easterner from New Jersey, idealistic about homesteading the Ozarks, taking over old community namesakes, buying up ground that comes up for sell. To the right is the old Coble farm of Vietta and Boss, my greatgrandparents, which my parents now own. It's beautiful land, gorgeous with rolling open fields, clusters of pine, splotches of woods. And, the faraway view of darker ridges is incredible.
I walk, feeling every inch a Coble, breathing in ancestry air. I love it here. My Coble heart beats in a pure, uncomplicated fashion in this neck of the woods. I understand the land through regular interaction, tromping, dreaming, meditation.
Dad and I don't talk much. Seems like I'm the one prodding him with questions to puncture the silence. Mostly, we just walk in our own thoughts, the sound of our footfall scuffling rocks, birds trilling for joy around us, a cow here and there searching for her calf.
Two-thirds down the hill, we hear a pickup truck coming behind us. Dad says that he's gotten lots of offers of rides home. Women stop to see if he's okay. Other men farmers in pickups figure it's time to stop in the middle of the road and check up on Dad's heart, alfalfa, and herd. Mom, the cardiac coach, groans at how long it usually takes Dad to finally get home due to the random drive-bys.
Sure enough, the New Jersey man brakes his truck out of co-farmer friendliness. Dad leans into the window with his customary grin and dimples. He loves the one-liner and tries to make everyone like him on charm. They usually do. I've never seen a man attempt to be so irresistable as my dad; he loves approval; he loves to get a laugh; and most of all he loves the southern game of hospitality. He wouldn't call it a game, though; it's serious business as he lectured me on the night before when I mockingly 'made a comment' about it.
It works under rules such as this: if someone calls you, comes to your house, stops you in the middle of your doing anything, you must put up with them as long as they want you to. It's rude to cut them off in any shape or fashion. My parents told me about the man who spreads fertilizer in those parts, how he can talk to them for six hours straight without thinking of leaving. Sure, there's things to do. Sure, he's a bore. Sure, they need to put out a brush fire. However, he stays until he remembers something like watering his dogs or refueling his truck or casting a line.
So, I stood there, unintroduced, on the orange gravel road and waited for the pleasantries to wane. Fortunately for me, the New Jersian is afterall a New Jersian, so after about 10 minutes, he gives a small roll and says goodbye. Dad yells the customary, "Come and see us!", and we're off walking again.
We make it to our driveway lane (isn't it interesting that at 40 years old with my own home that I call the Coble farm OUR lane, our home?) and we go up the final little swell to the house. Just the night before, Dad, my daughter, and I walked and then did a final run-race up the hill after he yelled, "Last one to the gate is a baby!"
He was showing off his new heart, and we couldn't catch the 66 year old big guy.
It was a wonderful visit all in all. My daughter and I reconnected and apologized for being jerks during our recent fights. We visited my Grandma Cora's graveyard and have May plans to fix it up and plant flowers. My brother came over and filled me with awe on how nice-italicized he is. I mean he is nicer than about anyone I know! I could give countless examples of his helping others! And, I went to my parents' church this morning where the preacher prayed for congregants by name. Imagine! My church is so large and the ministers so overwhelmed and harried by people. Even when a prayer request was sent to them for me, they never contacted me to see what was going on or how they could help or just to reassure me that they were concerned. The preacher at my parents' town church is eloquent too. I began to consider the possibility of a small church again. One that preached the Bible. One that made me think again of the goodness of doing ministry. It revived me after not receiving much inspiration lately on that front.
God is good for providing me with such a wonderful homecoming, replete with beauty and goodness and inspiration. Thank you, thank you! I'm definitely going to bed happy tonight!