A high point of the trip was our time with Audrey, my childhood friend, and her husband Brian.  I think it is only because of my friend Mel, aka LimboLady (you know her if you read the comments), that I am in touch with Audrey at all. Mel knew both of us in different seasons and has been faithful to stay connected with both of us.

The last time Audrey and I saw
each other was in 1974, but years before that, really, we had gone separate
ways.  We have known each other since we were three years old. Both of our fathers were Bible teachers and preachers, hers a pretty famous one.  We went to the chapel together, went to Awana together, went to young peoples together, etc.  Audrey was a rebel.  I was pretty much goody-two-shoes.  But, the differences probably had much less to do with any righteousness on my part than the fact that I was a coward and a people-pleaser, flat out scared to try some of the stuff she got away with. 

The last time I saw Audrey she was running from God.  Her countenance was stiff and hard.  My first impression of Audrey when we met on Friday was how soft and
sweet she was.  Not a sentimental softness, but a patina of grace

We sat down
with mugs of steaming tea and quilted a conversation with a hundred pieces
of news.  Tell me about your kids.  How are your sisters and brothers?  Is your
dad still living?  Who (from our group of grade school friends) have you stayed
in touch with? Tell me about your church. Not only do we have our growing up
years in Lombard in common, but we both went to the same Bible school (CCBS),
but in different years.  Thus there was an entire community which Curt, Audrey and
I all had in common. 

We both had dads who were gone preaching a lot, and
could speak of the difficulties we both had experienced because of
absentee fathers with the objectivity which only time can bring. We didn’t
linger on the bad stuff, but acknowledged it and went forward. The stories kept
coming, one priming the pump for many more. 

I had forgotten that Audrey and I were fierce
competitors in Awana prizes and Sunday School games.  She told Brian
that I was the one who won the sleeping bag for
memorizing the most verses, when Mrs. Brown had refused to listen to her verses. 
We laughed, happy to be comrades now instead of competitors. As I went to sleep,
more stories surfaced, more reasons to laugh together.  
When I came to Danny in the recitation of my
family’s news, Audrey stunned me by saying, “Danny is one reason why my brother
John is a Christian.”  John had run away from home, had been robbed of all his
money, and was sitting disconsolate at the train station in Lombard.  Danny got
off a train (later Dan had said it was unusual that he had been at the station then) saw John, and spoke with him.  He asked what was up,
heard his story, and then asked him,  “Is this what you really want?”  John
decided to go back home, but that question burned in John and was the
turning point for him.  I haven’t spoken to you, Dan, but I wonder if you
remember that.  We never know how a little word will be used.
I was astonished to hear that
my Johnny, my brother !, had written to Brian and Audrey
for years when they were in Spain.  Wow, Audrey, I only have one letter from
him!  It was neat to see the connections between our families.  Meanwhile,
Curt and Brian got on well and enjoyed getting to
know one another.  Audrey and Brian spend a lot of time in Albania and have been in Croatia a
lot, so our Croatian connection through Curt’s sister’s husband helped us ask
intelligent questions.  Brian is interested in Zimbabwe, as we are; we talked about our connections with Zimbabweans and the challenges there.

I want to reward those of you who have waded through my personal recollections with a superb cooking tip I learned from Audrey.  She made wiener schnitzel (with chicken breast, yum yum) and it came out beautifully.  As we cleaned up together I saw a strange finger of food in the cooking pan.  It was a carrot.  She said an old man in Vienna taught her that anytime you fry something breaded put a carrot in the pan.  The carrot mysteriously keeps the breaded part from burning. 

Here is a picture of us together.

Here is a picture of us in Sunday School so many years ago.

There was so much ancient and historical to see in Great Britain.  Our friendship sort of fit into that category. 

But I left Audrey feeling like I have found a true friend.  All the infrastructure has been in place all these years. The Lord has breathed life into these old bones.

Such a gift.  Such a gift.

Wedding, Friends and All Things Wonderful

Wedding music.

I have seen a spectrum of styles, various instruments, a few many-splendored glories and a few fiascoes (including the soloist who had pitch issues to begin with and ended with my threat to boycott accompanying his free-style, note-bending, ad-libbing, Donna Summersesque rendition of The Lord’s Prayer).

But nothing will ever surpass the clarity, the simplicity, the potency of one cello playing The Church’s One Foundation as the bridesmaids walked down the aisle. 

… from heav’n he came and sought her to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.

All the joy and solemnity of the incipient ceremony, the thrill of anticipation, the relief of arriving at this place in this moment with these people, were distilled in the dulcet tones of the cello.  A hush descended; the sisters radiant in their turquoise dresses entered with regal dignity; the words from the hymn echoed and re-echoed in my thoughts. That was the defining moment for me.  It was the first time I’ve thought about Christ while I’ve watched a procession of bridesmaids.

The wedding sermon was superb.  You, gentle reader, are blessed because you may read it here.  I timed it:  six minutes to read.  Print it out and read it with your family.  More beauty.  More wonder. More mystery.  

The entire day was magnificent.  A coming together of friends and families near and far to witness the ceremony and rejoice at the reception.  Both families delighted with their new son/daughter/sister/brother.  A traditional southern New Year’s Day meal — and I l-o-v-e-d the steamed collards and black-eyed peas, not to mention the pulled pork.  I think I could be very happy living in the South. 

A glorious wedding brings to fruition all the years of labor and prayer and care and guidance that went into the bearing and bringing up of a child.  It is such a day of rejoicing for the parents and grandparents and all the onlookers who have watched the growth in the bride or groom’s life.        

Our beloved pastor and friend, the groom’s dad, giving a father’s blessing

The bride’s mom, a jewel beyond compare

Lindsey and Jon

You know these people don’t you?

And I was blessed to meet, in real life, Dana of Hidden Art.  Who can say when or where we met?  I think her first comment here was on March 9, 2006. At that time we didn’t have a clue that there were connections lurking underneath the framework of our online friendship.  Dana is every bit the gracious, classy, articulate woman you would expect.  Being with Dana makes you want to sit up a little straighter, because you want to, not because she’s giving you a look.  She inspires you to be a lady, to be beautiful, to be articulate.

We didn’t have the freedom to just sit and talk non-stop until the evening after the wedding.  I loved relaxing together and letting our conversation meander where it would. Another bonus was meeting her parents, lovely folk.  I am inspired by her mother who took up painting after she turned 50 and is now an accomplished artist.  I loved introducing Dana to my loved ones. 

I plan to join Dana and Cindy and others reading Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt. 

2008 began gloriously.  I believe it’s going to be a great year.

In Real Life

The incredulous looks matched the higher pitched tones in the voices.  “You’re kidding, right?”  “It’s kind of like a blind date, isn’t it?”  “That’s kind of scary.” “Wow.” 

These responses followed my excited announcement that my online friend and her family were coming and spending a night with us.  No, we’ve never met; we’ve just read each other’s blog and emailed.  Hey, we talked on the phone last week.  Okay, I’ll grant it that we both took some risks…but there was never any doubt that we would have a jolly good time together. 

Jolly good time….oh my.  It was like we’d been old friends forever. Our husbands had this male bonding thing going on.  There must be a new category of men now: husbands of bloggers.  The kids had a heyday throwing snowballs and taking sled rides in the dark. 

I don’t know what the guys talked about – theology, families, work? – but talk they did.   The women talked about connections: books we’ve read, music, Latin, mutual online friends (which ones we know in real life, etc.), our church situations, our families near and extended, on and on.  

We spoke wistfully of  how much fun it would be to have a reunion gathering of special blog friends.  We discovered that one of my husband’s college roommates attended their wedding.  Who would have guessed?

Di and I stayed up talking into what is normally called the wee hours. Our own circle of quiet included whispered talk in the kitchen trying not to disturb the guys sacked out on the living room floor. We took up the thread again this morning.

And before we were ready to say good-bye, they had to leave.  A happy ache has settled into my heart.  


Friend of Children

A new member of our church was born this week…

Photo KGB

We know that this child is a gift from Thee.  Grant us grace and wisdom to bring it up in the knowledge and understanding of Thy Word, which makes us all wise unto salvation. 

Bless our child with a healthy body, a clear mind, and a clean heart, and preserve it to us if it be Thy will. Grant that our child will grow up in favor with Thee and bring sunshine and joy into our hearts and our home.

Keep us all in Thy grace, forgiving us daily our sins and filling our souls with peace.  Thou art our Hiding place.  And now to Thee be praise, glory, thanksgiving for this precious gift this day and forever; through Jesus Christ, who is the Friend of children and the Savior of all.  Amen.    from the Lutheran Book of Prayer

A brother!  Photo KGB

A Most Delightful Evening

Like the tendrils of this plant our hearts are attached to a new friend.
We met Sara(h?) with a polite handshake last night.
She left this morning with hugs.

Hosting friends (and friends of friends) is such a delight.
Mark used to be a friend of a friend but after one visit
we claimed him for our very own.  When he called to ask if
we could house him and his friend Sara we were excited to see him again.
When they arrived last night, I knew the instant I saw
the book in Sara’s hand, that this was a kindred spirit.

Lingering around the table, Mark told us about his recent
trip to Poland, his three week course in Polish
and the idiosyncrasies of that language. 
His mom lives four blocks from Schindler’s factory in Krakow.
Mark said that you could see bullet holes in the walls around the
holding area where they rounded up the Jews.

Mark gave us several recommendations of foreign films
to watch.  We’re ready to check out Robert Bresson’s films
and particularly eager to watch  Dekalog, one hour films
inspired by each of the ten commandments.

Have you heard of the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz?
I’m interested in learning more.
Here’s a short poem he wrote in 1991:


When I die, I will see the lining of the world

The other side, beyond bird, mountain, sunset

The true meaning, ready to be decoded.

We started talking books and authors.  Sara said, “Have you
ever heard of Wendell Berry?” Oh my. Oh my.
After twenty minutes of Wendell Berry adoration
I mentioned that he and Anthony Trollope were
my favorite discoveries this past year.  Now it was her turn to stare.
“Anthony Trollope?  My mom, my brother, and my brother-in-law
are all huge Anthony Trollope fans.  The last time I was home
my mom read to me from Rachel Ray.” 
Rachel Ray?  She has a cooking show!
Yup, there is an Anthony Trollope book entitled Rachel Ray.

First sentence:
There are women who cannot grow alone as standard trees;
-for whom the
support and warmth of some wall,

some paling, some post, is absolutely

-who, in their growth, will bend and incline themselves

towards some such prop for their life,
creeping with their tendrils
along the ground

till they reach it when the circumstances of life
brought no such prop

within their natural and immediate reach.

Magister Dilectus (Beloved Teacher)

Janie asked me to write a post about this Latin teacher whom I refer to so often. I solicited essays from two friends who also studied Latin.  Bonnie at Btolly and Brenda at Tanabu Girl are writing today about our beloved Mr. F. (We always called him Mister even though he was a Ph.D.) Together we have a trifecta tribute!

When we decided to learn Latin, we were desperate for help.  After a year of groping on our own towards one handhold of understanding I started praying and making phone calls.  I randomly asked people over 50 if they knew Latin.  “Well, not really; I took it in high school but don’t remember a thing,”  was the general response.  One phone call followed another as we tracked the scent of a Latin teacher. 

Eventually I was led to a professor at our local university and she was intrigued with the idea, but didn’t imagine where she would find time.  The next words out of her mouth changed our lives.  “You need to call Dr. F.  He is a retired classics professor who recently moved here with his wife.”  As luck would have it (heh heh) my husband had been contracted to do some work in their home.  My husband told me to wait in calling Dr. F. until he’d done a little background check of his own.  He came home one day and exclaimed, “Do you know how many languages this guy knows?  And he knows Biblical Greek!”  But more than anything, he was impressed with Mr. F’s attitude.  He was not pompous, arrogant, or weird – quite the opposite.

There are moments in your life that are indelibly imprinted on your brain.  I remember odd details about making the “cold call” to Dr. F.  For privacy and peace I was in our garage shivering and staring out the window of the garage door and contemplating the spider webs above the header.  After he answered the phone I explained who I was and that I represented a group of about 25, mostly kids and some parents, who would like to learn Latin; would he be willing to teach us?  His first response was, “Do you know what you are getting yourself into?  It’s not quite the same as learning Spanish.”  To which I rejoined that we would be willing to give it a try if he would be willing to take us on.

So began six years of the best teaching I have ever received.  We met one night a week for two hours so our progress was necessarily slow.  I think we went back to the beginning of Wheelock’s four or five times to shore up our faulty foundation.  Here was a man who had taught the best and brightest grad students, a shining star in the world of classics, drilling young teens on the rudiments of Latin patiently, carefully, without a hint of condescension.   I showed him my nephew’s Latin book; as he looked at the author’s name on the title page he exclaimed, “Oh my, yes! I had this fellow for a student.”

So we learned Latin.  We learned the idiom (at times he corrected the Wheelock answer to make it more idiomatically correct); we learned grammar; we declined nouns and conjugated verbs.  He told us that we were taught femina because it’s a first declension noun; however, mulier is the more common word in Latin for woman. Beyond that we learned the stories behind the sentences which we translated.  Ah, the stories! Mr. F has an encyclopedic memory and could connect words and sentences to stories from classical antiquity, medieval lore, literary episodes and current events. My boys soaked up the story of the battle of Marathon as told by the beloved Mr. F.  Wheelock’s Latin was just a springboard for teaching.  His examples to illustrate a concept came from the wide world of his reading and study.  I’ll never, no never, forget when he showed us the ethical dative and quoted Jane Austen using it. Who knew you could find the ethical dative in Jane Austen?

The Latin class became a culture class: we listened to Carmina Burana and other pieces of classical music.  He would bring a painting out and give us a lesson in art appreciation as he explained elements of the art.  He read us poems, excerpts from literature, a column from the Wall Street Journal.  We read through some Latin psalms, early church hymns, Latin poems.  A Homerian scholar, he quoted us Dido’s story in the Greek and explained it to us.  He showed us humor in unexpected places. Mr. F. was several times a guest lecturer in my co-op literature classes. 

The F’s love to name inanimate objects.  Their car was Abishag: a comfort in their old age.  They lived on a lovely piece of land and enjoyed cultivating and husbanding the property.  Mentally they divided it into the twelve tribes of Israel; Mr. F would tell his wife, “I’ll be working on Asher this morning.”  I can’t remember half of the great names they had but they were clever and fun.  Soon he will retire a second time and they will move back east.  The house they have purchased is grander than any they have previously lived in.  Their name for it? Pemberly!

At some point the class shifted from Mr. F’s house to our house.  Magister Dilectus and his wife joined us for dinner before class began.  Although we came from different perspectives theologically and perhaps philosophically, we enjoyed sweet times of communion around our table.  We now regard each other as life-long friends.  When I wish to give myself a special treat, a phone call visit with these dear friends is the thing.   

One of our first students went on to a well-respected liberal arts college (and is now a medical doctor).  When one of his professors asked Eric how he came to know Latin as a home schooler he mentioned Mr. F’s name.  His professor’s eyes bugged out and he said, “How did you get time with him?”  Eric replied that Mr. F. had retired and lived in his home town.  Thus began guest lectures at this college and eventually an invitation to return to teaching.  And our beloved Latin teacher and his equally beloved wife (a scholar in her own right) moved away to a new stage in their lives. 

By the end of our class we were down to three students; we had completed 36 of the 40 chapters of Wheelock’s.  But we learned a wealth of information, and had been infected with a desire to learn, to ask questions, to seek wisdom, to love truth, beauty and goodness. 

I may or may not pursue further formal studies when my stint as MagistraMater (teacher/mom) is completed. This one thing I know with knowledge deep in my bones: my Latin class with Mr. F. will be my Golden Age of learning.  Multiple times daily I look at a word and see the Latin behind it.  I feel like I’ve been given a secret code or a special set of glasses that makes the bright colors pop out.   My world has been expanded far beyond my expectations. 

How does one express her gratitude for such a gift?



        Beloved Teacher,

        Nothing is better than a life of greatest diligence.                                                                       

For Lisa, the dearest of dear friends,


Beautiful and rich is an old friendship,

Grateful to the touch as ancient ivory,

Smooth as aged wine, or sheen of tapestry

Where light has lingered, intimate and long.

Full of tears and warm is an old friendship

That asks no longer deeds of gallantry,

Or any deed at all – save that the friend shall be

Alive and breathing somewhere, like a song.

Eunice Tierjens, Leaves in Windy Weather

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Our computer at home died.  Dead.  We are hoping for a resurrection and waiting for an Elijah to come visiting.  (Or is it Elisha?)  I’m at the library and have lost this post once already; I’m pushing the 30 minute internet limit, but they like me here!  I had a picture in mind for Fine Art Friday and can’t find it on the web.  Rats!

I’m trying to learn thankfulness in all things.  I want to type: (sigh); but I don’t think sighing is learning thankfulness, do you?  (grin) 

This week has brought a mixture of light fun and heavy interactions.  Have you noticed that emotional work is very exhausting?  I’m getting random – I’d better go.  Happy November, dear reader.