Thoughts from Milton

When we read Milton's Paradise Lost--excerpts, I think--in college, I remember being annoyed that the professor discussed Milton's depiction of Satan as a pitiful figure, a character deserving of sympathy. It struck me as sacrilegious to view the demon as anything more than pure evil, deserving of the torment promised him. Reading Milton now on my own, however, I wonder if the professor intended to communicate (whether the breakdown was on his part or mine) Milton's success in humanizing Satan. That is, Satan's soliloquies open to me the dangerous likeness of my own sinful heart--not, I hope, to create sympathy for him, but to issue warning for me.

This quote is an example. In this passage, Satan is discoursing with himself on his fall from grace. I note that the subjection of gratitude, to God who has graciously given all things to us who merit none, is also our duty--and that the temptation to resent that duty as a burden is also a human one. I like how the quote ends, acknowledging that what we may be tempted to call a burden is really nothing like--and belying Milton's unusual depiction of an eloquent and, perhaps, pitiable devil with Satan's orthodox rejection of his own delusion.

. . . lifted up so high
I'sdained subjection, and thought one step higher
Would set me highest, and in a moment quit
The debt immense of endless gratitude,
So burdensome still paying, still to owe;
Forgetful what from him I still received,
And understood not that a grateful mind
By owing owes not, but still pays, at once
Indebted and discharged; what burden then?

Book IV, Lines 49-57


Finished Floors

The floors were sanded and finished this weekend; here are the pictures.

Our room, with primed walls waiting for paint.

The dining room

The living room

A bit of a close-up

. . .and, us.


Hobbit Hunger

I have a strong suspicion that I'm turning into a hobbit. I only hope my feet don't get hairy.

The reason? My predisposition to eat and this, from the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings:
"And laugh they [hobbits] did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond. . .of six meals a day (when they could get them)."

And this, from the movie The Fellowship of the Ring:
"Aragorn: Gentlemen, we do not stop till nightfall.
Pippin: What about breakfast?
Aragorn: You've already had it.
Pippin: We've had one, yes. What about second breakfast?
[Aragorn turns and walks off in disgust]
Merry: I don't think he knows about second breakfast, Pip.
Pippin: What about elevensies? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper? He knows about them, doesn't he?
Merry: I wouldn't count on it."

Pocket Full of Posies

Tea Posies, that is. Kevin gave me a fun Tea Posy teapot and tea for Christmas, and I've never gotten around to sharing pictures. I made tea for myself this morning, however (it's snowy, icy, rainy, and dreary here. . .perfect tea weather), so here are some fun pictures of the process.

Step One: Teapot and Unopened Posy
Step Two: Opened Posy in the Pot

Step Three: Add boiling water and watch it unfurl!

Step Four: Allow several minutes to steep. As this blend steeps, the posy "snows."

Step Five: After finishing the tea, refill with cold water as a floral centerpiece for 2 or 3 days


Colored Walls

The lighting and computer media combine to make getting a good sense of color somewhat difficult, but here are the now-painted dining room and living room pictures.


Today, I Went for a Walk

It's a beautiful 72 degrees here, sunny, breezy, and utterly un-February-like. I've just returned from an enjoyable half-hour stroll about the neighborhood. Tomorrow, the high is 45.

Kevin, off today in honor of our 1st and 16th presidents (Whatever would we have done if their birthdays had been in, say, January and September???), is painting our new house with the help of some men from church. So far, progress reports indicate that the muted gray-blue we chose for the dining room is really more of a lilac. Oops.

The choice of bold colors (bold meaning anything not of palest pale hue) comes with added risk, I suppose. Hopefully the other colors are closer to what we think they are--especially the living room, since it opens into the dining room and the colors will be juxtaposed. I'll post pictures when I get them.

I'm afraid that's all the interesting news I can think of presently. It's time for second lunch. And I'm not even a hobbit.



The sovereignty of God is an immensely comforting thing when I am fearful or worried--but it can also be one of the hardest things to understand when things do not go well. I suppose this is very much related to a couple other recent posts, but it is just such a huge part of my thought these past few months--since I bowed my resistant will to the Biblical idea of predestination, I suppose.

At any rate, this post by Doug Wilson, a big name in Reformed circles, talks about the sovereignty of our Lord and His bringing of things to His good pleasure. It is not about predestination, but about the lordship of God over daily life. My favorite passage is this:
Our God does as He pleases in the good things, in the pleasant things. This is an important mark of our piety -- we must always remember to thank God for our food, and drink, and marital love, and health -- the continued list of blessings is greater than we can even imagine. But our duties here are also obvious. For what we receive, we do give thanks.

But God also does as He pleases in the hard things. We live in a world where wicked things happen, and we profess to serve a good God who is omnipotent. Be a thinking Christian and stand up to the implications. The heart of our faith, the center of our faith, is the death of Jesus Christ, which was nothing less than a predestinated murder (Acts 2:22-24; 4:27-28). And yet it was the greatest act of love our world ever saw. How can a murder be an act of envy and hatred from one agent, and an act of love from the orchestrating, predestining Agent? While we are not able to do the math, we know that this is true because Scriptures tell us.



I read from World on the Web a lot, especially from the WorldMag Blog section, as you've probably noticed if you follow any of the links I post. Today, there is a short piece about our prayers, and what they reveal about our attitude toward God.


I've been dreaming lately--or rather, I've been remembering my dreams more lately.

One night, I dreamed I had a 9 pound baby 3 months early. I know it was 9 pounds, because I weighed myself right after birth. The scale said 168. Then I weighed myself holding the baby, and it said 177. I'm not sure why it was 3 months early (it was a natural labor and birth), but perhaps already weighing in at 9 pounds had something to do with it. Unfortunately, since it was so early, no one would believe that we hadn't conceived before our wedding. . .even though we'd been married for 3 years. There's no arguing with the logic of dreams.

Then, I had a nerd dream. This will mean nothing to most of you, but I'll try to explain it adequately. Take my word for it up front, it was a hilariously funny dream. It was a romance--between Rodney McKay from Stargate Atlantis and Deanna Troi from Star Trek, the Next Generation. If you are a Sci-Fi nerd, enough said. For all of you normal people, McKay is the archetypical genius scientist--arrogant, self-absorbed, and utterly oblivious to the feelings of those around him. Troi, on the other hand, is half Betazoid--a species that is able to sense the emotions of those nearby. Consequently, she is sensitive and understanding to the extreme that Rodney is not. If you can't imagine why THAT made for a hilarious dream. . .well, nevermind then.



Obviously, I'm spending a good bit of time on the computer these days--hence the sudden spike in posts. It's partially due to laziness (a condition not helped by the fact that I've lost at least a third of my brain mass through sneezing the past 3 days), and partially due to my affinity for the warmth of the laptop. It's not that cold, of course. I just like heat.

At any rate, that's why you suddenly have lots of my rambling thoughts to read. But now I'm actually going somewhere, so I'll have to leave the computer for a while.

Ode to Food Habits from My Parents

Baked potatoes are my new favorite food. I'm getting close to having consumed a dozen in the space of 3 weeks. I eat them for lunch, mostly. It's not that I can't eat other foods--it's just that baked potatoes appeal to me. So I bake, and I eat.

Unfortunately, there are two downsides. The first is that potatoes take an hour to bake, so I have to think ahead--and sometimes even thinking ahead doesn't net me a soft potato by the time I'm famished. This, however, is not a major setback. Of greater importance is that the flesh of a potato is mostly starch--which is not high on the nutritional priority list for pregnant women. Fortunately, family food habits help to make up for this a bit.

From my father, I learned to eat baked potatoes piled high with. . .cottage cheese. I thought this was normal, until 2 or 3 people over the past week have given me strange responses. At any rate, it was normal in our house. Thus, my baked potato is filled with more calcium and less fat than it would otherwise be, were I to use grated cheddar and sour cream.

From my mother, I learned to like potato skins, bastions of antioxidants and other things of nutritional benefit. In fact, I usually eat them as a sort of second course, with a small second round of toppings, which helps again with the calcium and such.

Thus, my lunch is not solely starch, and I shall continue to bake and eat. Ode to the parents.

A Personal Post, or Sometimes God Says "Yes"

As believers--and sometimes as non-believers, too--we all ask God for things. Those things vary in importance, actual and perceived. We breathe impromptu prayers for clear traffic or a good hair day; we send frequent repeated requests up for a good job or a healthy relative. Often those prayers are answered the way we like. Often they are not. When traffic snarls or a good hair day goes bad, we rarely give those "unanswered" prayers a second thought. When a family is unprovided for or a child dies, we wrestle with doubts, questions, fears, and God.
Time, in retrospect, passes quickly. When you are in the midst of it, however, not knowing how or when or if it will end, it is long. For some time now, we have prayed for children. The struggles of friends--with infertility, with the loss of a child, with other difficulties--kept me ever mindful that fruitfulness is not a right. It is not a guarantee. Children are a privilege and a gift. Although we do not understand the reasons, it seems that God graciously blesses some couples with children and--just as graciously, if we accept that God continually provides for our good--withholds them them from other couples. Sometimes the couples desperately desiring children seem far more deserving than those to whom God gives children. From where I sit, it isn't fair.
Recognizing that, I could not make the assumption that we would, of course, have children. Instead, I have prayed for grace to accept His will with grace. I have expended much time and effort preparing myself for the possibility that God would not choose to bless us with biological children. I contemplated a future filled with things other than children. We discussed adoption. Along the way, many babies have been born. The pregnancies of many friends I have greeted with sincere gladness, a few I have genuinely and angrily railed against. Reaching out to friends with babies helped me not grow hard, even while it sometimes brought pain. Hurting with friends who have had child-related sorrows reminded me constantly that children are a gift, not a guarantee. In my anxiety to readily "accept good from God" as well as "adversity," I almost convinced myself that we would not be able to have children of our own, and I struggled to turn in faith to Christ.
Last autumn, it finally seemed that peace had arrived to stay. Even with the prospect of denial, I knew God's grace was sufficient for whatever would come. In this one area, I accepted with contentment the reality that, sometimes, God says "No." I had a day or two of revisiting the battle, but for several months life was settled. God is good, His plan is good, and I can trust Him.

Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, "Yes." A positive pregnancy test left me reeling. . .really in a state of mild shock. For so long I had wrestled with having a godly response to God's "No," I was completely unprepared for the possibility of a "Yes!"
You think that getting what you want is the easy course, certainly. There's not the need to prepare to receive good from God in faith as there is to accept trouble with the same faith, or so we think. But in the face of many who are still hurting, desiring children, I find myself unable to carelessly move on.

Do not misunderstand. We are thrilled with this blessing. God has been good to us, and I am filled with gratitude. But I cannot shrug off the heaviness of many who are still waiting, or who have received "no," after "no," after "no." It is not guilt, but awareness of how undeserving I am of every blessing God gives. I cannot comprehend why God answers some prayers one way and some another, to utter disregard of what seems good to us. I do not believe it is a measure of our faith, our obedience, our godliness. While God is "no respecter of persons," He did not promise we should all have the same trials, or the same blessings. I see no recourse but to trust God's providence and omniscience, unless it is to devolve into bitterness and anger. If we were not currently expecting, I would still be undeserving of His many blessings. God would still be good.
That is easy for me to say, sitting in the realm of granted prayer. I know. But I said it 5 months ago, just as certainly, not knowing what answer this particular prayer would eventually receive or when that answer might come.
For some there will be irony in me sharing this now, and perhaps a shadow is cast on my credibility. We do not have all the answers, and I hope I would not presume to lecture someone else in the midst of a similar trial. But this is where we have been. I did not share before, because I did not want to answer the personal questions it might have engendered. It was still too close to home. This has been a difficult learning period for me. And, while I do not doubt I shall have to be reminded and even re-taught in the future, it has been a lesson worth learning.
The third verse of a hymn we sang in worship this past Sunday is fitting. The hymn is O Father, You Are Sovereign, by Margaret Clarkson.
O Father, you are sovereign, the Lord of human pain,
transmuting earthly sorrows to gold of heav'nly gain.
All evil overruling, as none but Conqu'ror could,
your love pursues its purpose--our souls' eternal good.



This is about. . .rest, and forgiving oneself, and gratitude for the blessings we have. To explain too much will only be to reword what has already been powerfully well-written. It's not long. Go read it.


Thomas Kinkade

If you're a big Kinkade fan, you probably don't want to read this. It is, however, a better-than-I-could-voice explanation of why we're not big fans. If you do read it, be sure to read the comments as well. They moderate the tone of the post a bit.

Yes, we are


Here is the fabric for the nursery!

Don't ask why the frogs are sideways. The Mac is not cooperating.

Coordinating green:

Solids for a quilt:

The walls are going to be a pale orange color, and the carpet is as of yet of unknown hue. . .perhaps a pale yellow.