Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Examination Papers from the Thirties and Forties

Among my many books I found a treasure: High School Entrance Reprints of Examination Papers. This little book is not in great shape. The cover is ratty and torn off. There is some writing, done in pencil, throughout the pages. However, the content is lovely. It is intriguing to read what prospective high school students nearly a century ago had to know in order to be admitted. I am going to type out some of my favourite sections from time to time, here on Grannymom's Spot.

This first one is part of a Literature Examination from 1949. It's a poetry study.


Let me but do my work from day to day,
In field or forest, at the desk or loom,
In roaring market-place or tranquil room;
Let me but find it in my heart to say,
When vagrant wishes beckon me astray,
"This is my work; my blessing, not my doom;
Of all who live, I am the one by whom
This work can best be done in the right way."

Then shall I see it not too great, nor small,
To suit my spirit and to prove my powers;
Then shall I cheerful greet the labouring hours,
And cheerful turn, when the long shadows fall
At eventide, to play and love and rest,
Because I know for me my work is best.
- Henry Van Dyke.

1. Suggest four present day occupations that the poet may have had in mind when he wrote line 2.

2. "This is my work; my blessing, not my doom;" (line 6). Write in your own words what you think the poet means by this line.

3. What do you think the poet means by suggesting that "my work" should
(a) suit my spirit
(b) prove my powers

4. What pleasures suggested in the second stanza can the worker enjoy after a satisfactory day's work?

5. Explain:
(a) in roaring market-place.
(b) greet the labouring hours
(c) long shadows fall.

I don't know much about the poet, Henry Van Dyke, but I would say at first glance that he must know something about the Sovereignty of God. A recent reading of Ecclesiastes reminded me of the simple pleasure of finding joy in ordinary things, like work, and family, and good food or wine. This poem adds to that theme, by reminding us that the type of work is of no consequence. How one views one's work makes all the difference.

Okay, children of mine... here is a poetry assignment for you. Copy the poem, then answer the questions. Respond to my comment in the previous paragraph. Do you agree that one of the messages in Ecclesiastes lines up with this poem?

Monday, December 17, 2007

In the genes.

I was talking to my daughter-in-law, Joanna, today, and she mentioned that Kaleb was getting drums for Christmas. Kaleb, Matt's son, is just like his daddy. Matthew, when he was little, drummed on everything. He drummed with his spoon on the high chair. He drummed with his shovel in the sandbox. One of my favourite memories of Matt was of him sprawled, upside-down, on the couch, with his legs in the air and his behind up. He was drumming on his rear! I told Joanna that Matt came out of the womb ready to start drumming.

Now Kaleb is doing the same thing. He grabs his father's drumsticks, and taps on his trucks, on the couch, on the floor. His eyes light up and his grin is wide: he's making music.

It's amazing how our children are like us. Kaleb, his father Matt, and Matt's dad, Rick, all have the beat within them. They like to tap, to keep time to the music, or their heartbeat, or even their thoughts. You can see the pattern going through the genes, from father to son to grandson.

Unfortunately, sometimes we inherit bad tendencies from our parents. I caught the clutterbug from my mom, who caught it from her mom before her. I tend to save things, just in case. I might need that purse some day, or that what-zit.

My mother kept a clean home, but her closet was cluttered. Her bedroom drawers were stuffed to the brim, and she had boxes and bags of stuff packed away, just in case. I remember my grandmother's flat in Verdun - clean, but cluttered.

Unfortunately, I inherited that tendency to save things, just in case. As a result, my life is cluttered. I have too much stuff. And I feel burdened, weighed down, with the responsibility of caring for it.

Today, I went into my closet to get wrapping paper. I stood there, looking up at boxes of "stuff", wondering what was in them. After a bit of investigating, I found a bag that I thought I had lost, some stuffed bunnies I had planned to give the kids two Easters ago, and some old, out-dated purses. What was I thinking?

There were clothes I was saving that were two or three sizes too small. If I ever do lose that much weight, they'll be so out of fashion that I will look like a bag lady if I wear them. Out they went.

A bridesmaids' dress. Some old curtains. Turtleneck sweaters. (I NEVER wear turtlenecks...hate that constricted feeling. What was I thinking?) Out they went!

I discovered a garbage bag, sealed tightly, on the top shelf. Hmmmmm... what was in there, I wondered. I pulled it open and TA DAH - a beautiful snowsuit that will fit Elena for this winter. Do I remember where it came from? NO, but Elena's sure thankful that I decided to clean my closet today!

There was an old accordion, 'way in the back of the closet. I asked Rick what he wanted to do with it, because it was his mother's. He didn't want me to throw it out (!), but was willing to give it to one of the children. Tiana was soon playing it, making it sing. She was delighted, and told me that she has wanted an accordion ever since the family reunion at Springbank Park. Another family was having a reunion close by, and Tiana was thrilled as she listened to the Greek papa play the accordion while his huge family danced in a big circle.

The next hurdle will be to get Rick into the closet, trying on clothes (anathema to him) to determine what needs to be tossed. He hates trying on clothes, for any reason. Even when he gets a new article of clothing, he just puts it away until he actually plans to wear it. None of this trying on business. He's got better things to do. Like drumming. :)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Storm-stayed... and all's well!

We stayed put today. A severe winter storm was forecast for most of Southwestern Ontario. Rick was up at 7:30, checking the road conditions, and soon decided we weren't going anywhere.

The children stayed nestled in their beds, except for Critter, who picked up a 'flu bug and was very sick. I wasn't well, either: queasy stomach, headache, general feeling of malaise. Rick ran me a bath (oh, joy!) and brought me a cup of Honey/Ginger tea. I soaked in the tub and tried to read "The Strength of Weakness" by Roy Clements...but my glasses kept steaming up. I gave up and relaxed, enjoying the air bubbles and the scented candles. Felt somewhat better when I pulled myself out.

The day was spent inside, listening to the wind, watching the drifts pile up. We played Christmas Music while chopping vegetables for supper. Jared belted out "Mary's Boy Child" at the top of his lungs, which reminded me of this poem (sorry, Jay!):

Swans sing before they die -
'twere no bad thing
should certain persons die
before they sing.

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The boys and dad ventured outside later in the afternoon to clear the driveway. They came in, covered in snow, but satisfied.

A roast is in the oven, veggies in the steamer. I just have to make gravy and get one of the boys to carve the roast, and we'll enjoy Sunday dinner. It's good to be home on a day like this.

We wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Heather, Emma and Shantel

He gives and takes away...Blessed is His name!

Blessed Be Your Name
Matt Redman, Beth Redman
c2002 Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

Blessed be Your name
in the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
blessed be Your name
And blessed be Your name
when I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
And when the darkness closes in Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
when the sun's shining down on me
When the world's "all as it should be"
Blessed be Your name
And blessed be Your name
on the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

You give and take away You give and take away
My heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be Your name

It's been nearly a week now since we lost our third horse, Shantel. Botulism had claimed the life of her barn mates the week before, and we thought that Shantel would be fine. Linda wasn't sure...but I began to think that her life would be spared.

It was not to be. Linda came in, white-faced, on the morning of my 53rd birthday. "Mom, Shantel's down." It can't be, I thought. Quickly phoned Heather, then the vet, then out I went to the barn.

We got Shantel in December of 1993. She was actually our second horse, because we had acquired a little filly named Cadence just a couple of weeks before. Cadence was fine, but Shantel stole our hearts.

She was a beautiful Arabian - Chestnut, White blaze and socks, light on her feet. She floated rather than trotting, and we couldn't get enough of just watching her.

Heather, 15 at the time, began to train Shantel. It turned out she was a stubborn mule with an attitude, unless she was in a good mood. She liked men when she was in heat, but when she wasn't in heat she didn't want them around her. We learned to read her moods, and we loved her just the same.

Heather continued training her, and soon discovered Shantel was very smart. She learned quickly and responded well to leg aids and other cues. The two of them became a team, and Heather soon travelled all over our area on the back of that horse. Shantel was a perfect trail horse. She didn't panic when encountering something new, but waited for Heather's direction.

A few years later we got Chance. He was an older gelding that belonged to my friend, Jane. Jane had some new horses, and we needed a second horse, and the timing was perfect, because Linda was getting to the age where she could safely ride. Not only that, but Chance was the first horse that I ever rode (apart from trail rides on boring horses that just followed the tail of the one in front).

You really need two horses if you're going to have a horse. If one was going out, they both did. Heather and Linda did most of the riding, but I did some, too. I have wonderful memories of riding on trails through the bush near our house. I rode with Linda (she was on Chance and I was on Shantel) and with Heather (she was on Shantel and I was on Chance). Only once, Daniel and I went out for a ride together...but it was great fun.

Last year, Jane gave us Antar, an older gelding. He was skinny when he came, because he was at the bottom of the pecking order in their barn. Linda quickly fattened him up. He was a gentle guy, and very obedient. If she had the gate open, getting water, he would NEVER come through it. If she ever scolded him for anything, he'd hang his head in agreement.

I can't begin to express the joy we had with these horses. Simply looking at them in the field brought joy, especially if they were running and tossing their heads in response to the wind. We'd call them, and they would respond, whinnying and coming over to the fence to see what was up.

And now they are gone.

And now we grieve.

But we do not grieve as people who have no hope. We know that God is in control, and that He is always good.

As Christmas approaches, I have been pondering the life of Joseph and Mary, as they were given the astounding news that a child, conceived in the womb of the virgin, would be the Son of the Most High. You'd think that life would be peachy-keen for Joseph after that. He was graciously raising a son that wasn't actually his, and he was doing so "as unto the Lord", I am sure. God allowed him to be humiliated, along with Mary, in front of his family, friends and community. He did this great thing, and did not put Mary away, but travelled with her to the City of David. Again, that would have been hard. Travelling over rocks and hills is hard enough at the best of times, but with a pregnant woman under your care? Much, much more difficult. I am sure the responsibility weighed heavy on his shoulders.

So, baby Jesus was born, and the shepherds came. The angels sang. Joseph moved his little family to a house in Bethlehem, and along came wise men with gifts, and they bowed down and worshiped the Child. Again, you'd think that because this was surely the Son of God, life would go smoothly. You'd think that God would simply put a huge hedge of protection around them, and that trials would be few.

But wait...Joseph was awakened in the middle of the night by an angel, who told him to flee. He had to get up quietly and take Mary and Baby Jesus, and run for their lives.

It's easy for us to read it in the Bible. We all know it to be true. But just imagine the confusion that Joseph must have experienced. "You want me to WHAT? Herod is going to do WHAT?"

Life isn't easy. It wasn't for Joseph, and it isn't for us. Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time to be born, and a time to die. There is a time for laughter, and a time for mourning.

I do believe that I know a little more about suffering and grief, having lost three beloved horses in less than two weeks. Our loss can't compare to the loss of children, so although I think I know a bit more about what Job went through, I also am aware that there really is no comparison.

God is a good teacher, and He has taught us many lessons:

1. He gives and takes away. All good gifts are from Him, and He knows best when to give them, and when to take them away. We bow to His will.
2. Blessed is His name. He is Almighty God. He is the One who created horses in the first place.
3. He comforts His children. We feel His presence in our hearts, in our homes. We know that the prayers of God's people have sustained us.
4. We are to hold all of our possessions loosely. We don't know how long we will have that horse, that car, that house, that health, that child.
5. We are to have hope. Just because we lost Antar, Chance and Shantel does not mean that life is over. It doesn't mean that we won't ever have horses again, or that we won't ever have joy again. We have learned that God is good, all of the time, and that Hope is to be found in Him, and in Him alone.

Legend has it that Joseph, as he was fleeing to Egypt, lost his donkey. The donkey died on the side of the road, and the little family had to press on without him.

I don't know if that legend is true, but I do know this: the journey was hard. Joseph may have heard the weeping of mothers mourning as the soldiers killed their baby boys while he was climbing the hills in the darkness. He would have been concerned that Mary would keep Jesus quiet on the journey. There were thieves and robbers to avoid, and wild animals to watch for. It wasn't easy.

God never promised us an easy road. But He did promise that He would be with us every step of the way.

And I am here to testify that this is true.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

When Satan Tempts me to Despair...

When Satan tempts me to despair,
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.

I am a Patriarch's Wife, and proud of it. I am glad to be a stay-at-home mom, caring for my husband, my family, my home. I feel privileged to be in this position, and I aspire to greatness. My desire is to do well before the Lord, and to teach my children to do well, too.

The trouble is, I live in an old farmhouse that is constantly and continually under construction. Our basement is unusable -- dirt floor, river running through, very damp. We have very little storage in the house, and only a few closets. We have tried very hard to weed out unnecessary possessions, but many of us are pack-rats and we still have 9 people living here. Five of those are six feet or taller, so we're all big. The logistics of caring for off-season clothes, for instance, with no closet space and an unusable basement are overwhelming. Then to add to it, some of us (especially ME) are bookaholics, and we treasure our books. It is hard to weed out the books, because we LOVE them.

Recent renovations began last year, when Rick and I were on a two-day getaway. My sweet Linda decided to do a "while you were out" and took everything out of the family room. Books, hundreds of them, got stuck in a hallway, stacked in the upstairs hallway, etc.

Then we decided to change our "school at home" classroom into a family oriented learning and living space. We got rid of desks, made shelves for the books, got rid of piles and piles of computer paraphernalia (Rick is no longer a computer guy...he's now a trucker) and everything was beginning to look great.

That's when Rick decided to take out the 42-foot wall of windows (harvested from an old school building, single pane, and not conducive to keeping out the cold) and rebuild it, installing good windows and insulation and vapour barrier, etc. Great plan, but the timing was exactly backwards. We had to pull the newly built shelves away from that long wall. Books got stacked, again.. Chaos ensued.

So, what am I living in? An old farmhouse, with boxes and Rubbermaid containers stacked all over the place. I am trying to find all the necessary receipts for my husband's upcoming audit. Files and papers are stacked all over the computer area. Boxes of books are still piled high, but now there is insulation on top of that. Pieces of drywall await installation. There is a sink/counter on my kitchen table, awaiting installation in the newly built bathroom. (I forgot to mention that. The bathroom floor was spongey and dangerous, so in January my son Matthew ripped it out. that led to the rebuilding of the entire bathroom. Almost there, 11 months later...)

This is NOT the picture I have of a Patriarch's Wife. I want to be hospitable. I want order. I want my husband to be proud of me. I want to be a good example to my daughters. I want to open my mouth with kindness and wisdom, not with irritation due to the stress of living in this environment.

Satan, the Accuser, doesn't have to look very far to see weakness here. It's obvious when you walk through the door. Everything is in disarray. The living room is the only room in the house that is presentable...and it's not perfect, either. Satan sits on my shoulders, saying, "You really aren't a good wife. Look at this house! You can't even keep socks in Rick's drawer. And why don't you have all of the filing done? You should have been able to just walk to the drawer and pull out a file with all of the necessary information. You're a failure." (I hang my head in shame. I have to agree.)

He goes on, "You really aren't a very good mother, either. You are so busy getting the filing done, you haven't even started Christmas shopping. What about baking cookies with your children? And you haven't even purchased a snowsuit for your son. How's he supposed to enjoy the snow? You were short-tempered with the children yesterday when they were just laughing and playing. What a bad mom you are." (I hang my head in shame... I have to agree, again.)

This morning I woke up thinking about all of this reality, and I was sorely tempted to despair. Tears were near the surface. The weight of the world was on my shoulders. I thought of Stacy, and Debbie, and Jennie, and all of those ladies who seem to have it all together, and compared myself to them. Woe is me. "I will never measure up", I thought.

Frustration and anger were near the surface of my mind, about to spill out into my behaviour with my husband and my children bearing the brunt, then the Holy Spirit brought to my mind one of the songs we sing in church:

When Satan tempts me to despair,
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.

I began to think about my life and the reality of my marriage and family. Yes, I am a failure, compared to what I want to be or what others are...but I am a child of God. I am striving to please my Master, Jesus, and to bless and honour my head, Rick. When I think of Jesus, I see Him smiling down on me, pleased with my efforts, knowing my heart. He is able to deliver me from all of this chaos. He alone knows how long it will take to achieve our goal of an orderly home. He, Who stands before the Father, pleading for me, is on MY side. He will never leave me, nor forsake me. He is walking with me, helping me, as I sort through papers and direct my children and help my husband with his work.

The Christian life is one of repentance. Daily, moment my moment repentance. We need to acknowledge our weaknesses, and depend on Jesus to make our work count for His glory. In my many weaknesses I see how very needy I am, and how great the grace of God is toward me. He LOVES me. He knows my sin, my failures, my anxious moments. And He promised to meet all of my needs. ALL of them. Even this.

So, Satan...begone! I know I am a mess, but I serve a glorious Saviour. I know our home is not a showcase, but we love God here. We may not have our files in order, but we all sat together today and read the Bible, and prayed.

Thank YOU, Lord, for encouraging me through this little chorus. Thank You that You know my weaknesses, but you love me anyway. Thank You for never leaving me. Give me strength and courage to keep on keeping on this day. May I do it with a song of joy in my heart.

In Christ, I pray.

Before The Throne Of God Above
Charitie Lees Bancroft, Vikki Cook

Verse 1:

Before the throne of God above,
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is "Love,"
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

Chorus 1:

My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heav'n He stands
no tongue can bid me thence depart.
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

Verse 2:
When Satan tempts me to despair,
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.

Chorus 2:
Because the sinless Saviour died,
my sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
to look on him and pardon me.
to look on him and pardon me.

Verse 3:
Behold him there! the risen Lamb,
my perfect, spotless Righteousness,
the great unchangeable I AM,
the King of glory and of grace!

Chorus 3:
One with Himself I cannot die,
My soul is purchased by His blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high,
with Christ, my Saviour and my God
with Christ, my Saviour and my God

©1997 PDI Worship (Admin. by The Copyright Company)
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
CCLI song #2306412