Update 10-1-11

Rosh HaShannah has come, a new year in God's word, given at the time of leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Don't you love new years? New starts. Carolyn Arends has a song (it's gotta be old now) that says, "This will be my resolution: every day is new years day." I love that, and don't usually remember it.

So, it's been perhaps more than a month since I wrote an update. Starting up the school year took me by storm. I have too much on my plate to do it without God's help. I mean that. I'm a heart motivated person so I love to do things either to help people or to enjoy people, but I can take on too much and if I don't either write and stick to do lists or pray "Lord, you be in charge of my day" or on good days, both, then I get discouraged and anxious. So I'm leaning on God, and today I am resting in him. It's Saturday, time to take things slow and enjoy.

Actually there was a lot of good in September, around here. We had field trips and we went to the movie Dolphin Tale, we got all our work done even if not in the time frame I had envisioned (praying about that), and we've enjoyed what we are learning. I think it does really go better when I am not stressed!

I have been writing on my blog at and if you would like to subscribe so that it is delivered to your inbox with pictures, I would be delighted. In September the blog writing went from 4 times a week to sometimes 2. But for October I have joined a challenge to write daily, and my theme is 31 Days of Thanks and Praise. October can't just be about Ravinia's birthday or about Halloween, after all! So I invite you to click over and check it out, but if you don't want to hear from me more than the occasional update, I won't mind.

Our house is getting organized Saturday by Saturday. I had thought it was a summer project, but the unfinished things through the summer can still be worked on, and that is good. Maybe slow changes are easier on the heart? But these are good changes, and I'm growing into being a better housekeeper and into unity with Maurice on something as basic as our space for living and hospitality.

This month again I have big goals. Dreams, really. I'll be praying for God to confirm them (are they ideas that come from him? Then he will provide what I need) and bring them about. He is able, and I want to trust him. Ravinia and I have been memorizing James, and it has been so good. We're up to 1:11, and this week will be pushing on!

I hope you are doing well, and finding the Lord's grace sufficient. He has so many ways to bless us, doesn't he? This month for October 8-11 we are planning to spend some time in LA. I think the weekend would be good for connecting with friends, visiting our old church, CEFC in Monterey Park, and hanging out. Then on Monday and Tuesday we could do museums and things that our friends wouldn't be able to join us for unless their kids have Monday off from school too. So, gotta get planning!

Speaking UP: Talents

You know the parable of the talents?
Why the 5, 2, and 1?
Why have 3 categories instead of two?
So, we (some of us) compare.
I’m afraid I’m in the one category, like I’m not especially gifted, I don’t have anything real going on.
Whereas maybe I am being blind to the truth that I have multiple (I’m blind so I can’t count how many) and I need to worry less and rejoice in the Lord more, for he gave them and he is the one who causes the increase.
I’m going to list what I do here and not disqualify or deny the grace of God by evaluating myself. These are things that in small ways or large have served God:
Homeschool, teach
Sail and sing praises
Oh my goodness, thank you Lord!
What about you?
What do you do with this list?
If you were to name it, like bucket list, what would you name it? Serve list? Watering can?

Update 8-11-11

After a month of organized summer (VBS, Tennis camp, Baseball camp, VBS) we needed a down week. Time to wake up late, stay in pajamas all morning, do things as they come, write, play, clean and rearrange all sounds fun! I needed the summer time where I don't know what day it is or worry about time things happen, and that's exactly what we've had this week.

We watched videos on YouTube today about tiny houses (reminded me of Little House on the Prairie which we're going to revisit this year in schoolwork) starting with this one: and it reminded me so of my mom's trailer at Camp of the Woods and the fun times we had there.

It's been a good summer although I was worried about our decision not to go traveling! Instead we bought a couch for our major hospitality times on Sunday nights, and I recovered the dining room chairs (a floral fabric that happens to coordinate with the red leather couch). A benefit of the reorganization of the home is that now the main room is much quicker to straighten before company comes, and is open and inviting. I'm not quite finished with the home project: got to get pictures on the walls. Maurice is working on finishing a two story doll house for Ravinia's American Girl dolls, and yesterday we rearranged her room so as to fit it in there. The room is looking quite nice and appropriate for a sixth grader (oh my!).

I started writing a blog on July 1 that can be linked up to other blogs and can have pictures and links; it's and I've treated it as a writing class, linking in to other blog prompts and reading and commenting on other writers in the "class." It's been fun and has gotten me more regular about writing as well. Joy, there.

Now we have two more weeks of summer. Things will start picking up more and more as faculty families return to the neighborhood and Westmont gears up for the fall semester. I have to look around me and decide what order things must get done around here for the next two weeks before our own homeschool starts, but right now it's 12:15 and I'm still in my pjs and I think maybe it's Thursday, so I don't have to do too much yet.... How about you?

Beth Werner Lee: Child of God through faith in Christ Jesus, daughter of John and Helen, wife of Maurice, mother of Ravinia, friend of.... Homeschooling teacher (grade 6,; Westmont Music Guild chair; LBOA board member; Homemaker

Speaking UP: Slavery is not wrong

Isn't it funny when something in the Bible shocks you and you go "hunh?"

In Deuteronomy God made it clear that slavery was acceptable. For fellow Israelites slavery was a way to get yourself out of debt. You were the slave of the one to whom you owed money, and you worked off your debt on his farm until it was paid or until the year of Jubilee. Your master was required to treat you well, like a fellow Israelite, a brother. If the arrangement worked well and the slave wanted to stay with the good master, he could make the arrangement permanent. Imagine that? Slave forever by choice: I have it better here than going it on my own.

Slavery is a metaphor in the scripture for our bondage to sin. We belong to the evil one until we are ransomed by Christ, and then we are slaves of Christ. Happy metaphor, to love to be the slave of the GOOD MASTER. Why then do I live as if I am on my own?

Well, here's the rub. I'm not in Israel. Much as I'd like it, I don't have Jewish blood (although there's still hope for a drop from the 10 Israelite tribes lost...). I'm an American, and not a farmer. So I have to work at whatever I can to pay off my debt. Merciless creditors demand only money and have no way to help me out. God is gracious though, and parents have helped! Am I their slave? No, their child, and by his grace, God's child.

We Americans believe that slavery is wrong because we have seen too much of its evil, abusive side. We doubt any good from it. The Deuteronomy rules must have been made for a not quite good enough society, a less civilized time. I had thought all that until I studied Deuteronomy and longed to live back then, longed to have the community to follow the blessed law of God which is life to us, not death.

Sin is wrong. Sin corrupts. The Law holds the standard of good against which we all stumble and fall. Whatever relationship we humans have can be, probably will be, damaged by sin. The cure is only and always confession and forgiveness by the grace of God.

I am glad that we don't have slaves anymore, just as I am glad we don't have polygamy anymore (that's another post) except that I wonder, how can I plumb the depths of being a slave to righteousness?

Update 7-10-11

July 4-6 we went to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium! It was indeed beautiful, worth the admission price, especially since the hotel we stayed with offered two days for the price of one. Could you really spend two days there? Yes, if you're not the type who can see everything without being overwhelmed. The extra day gave us the opportunity to come back and enjoy the sea horses, pelicans, and kelp forests at leisure and to revisit the otter pup.

The aquarium is in an old canning factory, so space was brilliant. They didn't cram the exhibits together, there was room to move between things, and yet the shows scheduled (feedings mostly) had us going from one side of the aquarium to another (exercise). I took lots of pictures, having discovered the fish mode on my camera. Less than half of them came out clearly even still.

It was so refreshing to look at and wonder at sea creatures. It was refreshing to go away and to come home again. Two nights away was just about the right amount of time, and five hours driving was plenty! We spent the driving time reading aloud to each other The Omnivore's Dilemma, and although Maurice had started reading it to me while I cooked dinner, Ravinia (forced audience) joined us in the car. It's a well written book exploring food choices, and makes me want to move back to biblical lifestyles. More than just about food, it is encouraging thought about whole life. So that was refreshing too.

It was good to be with family. Maurice's brother and parents joined us and we celebrated Irving's birthday as well. Having two cars enabled the parents to leave the aquarium after lunch, have an afternoon nap and explore on their own. Having one of the hotel rooms with a kitchen enabled us to eat hot pot (special meal) and leftovers on our own (both saving money and relaxing together).

On July 1 I launched a blog which enables me to post pictures and to write posts on topics presented by other faith bloggers and then link in what I wrote. This seems like an online writing course, and I'm loving it. I plan to keep writing my more dense posts and updates on livejournal, but if you'd like to track my writing "career" the new blog is at and I think you can hit the subscribe button and just enter an email to receive new posts to your inbox. Thank you, many of you, for specifically encouraging me to write.

The next 4 weeks are already scheduled for Ravinia! She'll have VBS with Child Evangelism Fellowship this week, then tennis camp next week and baseball camp the week after (both at Westmont), and the fourth week I'll go with her to a VBS at Montecito Covenant Church where I'll teach the 5-6 graders. That should be interesting!

Update 6-5-11

School's out, Ravinia processed in the homeschool group graduation where all the kids get to walk across the stage and receive a certificate for finishing their year. She loved it. Maurice has one more week to teach Bonhoeffer in the May term, and then he's got jury duty for a week. He's begun our summer reading of Watership Down already though (third summer in a row).

So we're on the cusp of summer. Time to make summer goals, to spread out the calendar in front of me and pencil in activities, trips, sports camps, whatever. Ravinia should join the baseball sports camp at Westmont: she's a slugger. We just haven't signed her up yet. And we plan to go to Monterrey Bay Aquarium on the Fourth of July. But for the most part we're staying home for the summer, and cleaning and rearranging our house.

Summer is good for free time, so as I look ahead I caution myself to leave lots of free time. I read a post about friendship and having time for others. This can be intentional (I have a coffee date at 4p on Mondays set up through the summer) and it can be "drop in" freedom. So I'm taking a clue from a pastor friend (Kimberly van Driel) who said she was told to think of her day in three parts: morning, afternoon, evening, and "work" two of them on any given day. Pastoring (and mothering) must be like doctoring though: you're always on call. Relationships are like that, aren't they? I mean, God is always on call to us...thank him!

So, broad strokes this summer. Mornings are for light school work: Bible bee, Math practice, spelling and writing (we all have writing goals this summer), and housecleaning. Afternoons are for playing and swimming. Evenings are for social times around the table and card games with neighbors and perhaps seeing plays (two different performances of Sound of Music scheduled) and for serendipity (whatever comes).

As I made my chart calendar on one page of the whole summer I remembered the verse, "Teach us to number our days," and I pray that I do not fill the days too full, nor with wrong things but seek God and his love to receive and to pass on. Is that not what I am called to?

I'd love to hear how your summer looks, especially if you are traveling anywhere!

Speking Up: perfectionism

I have been struggling with perfectionism, mine and others' for quite a while. When I hit 40 I had the strangest feeling like it was time to throw it off because I didn't have unlimited days ahead, and I was too old to keep rejecting myself! Yet it has been a slow process. Grief and trauma awaited me in the five years following, but also God's voice and his many signs of love in unexpected places.

Perfectionism slows us down. It gives me a high goal but not the assurance that I've reached my goal! I think it may indeed be a form of hate, perhaps the response to having been imperfectly loved and so a covering for self-hatred, self-doubt, fear.

My quilting ladies back in CT used to do their best but let mistakes stay, saying, "only God is perfect." I learned all I know of quilting from them and partook of their love.

When I love, am loved, I dance through my days with a song in my heart. Things come to me, whether ideas or food to feed my family (I have a neighbor God has used with unerring timing), words to say at just the right time or stories to tell and write down so I don't forget. I crochet, imperfectly but lovingly, a gift and stitch prayers for the recipient into my work.

But I am weak. When perfectionism attacks I forget God's grace and deplore getting everything done. Clutter piles up (yes, right now) and the yarn isn't touched. Worry clouds everything I do: what to eat, how to get the homeschooling all done adequately today, etc. I am weak, I cannot make things happen, even the good that I want, but I can cry out to God in my weakness that he would make happen the good he wants in my life.

I am in the middle of it. I cry out to God whose perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18) and his love covers me.

(This post is in response to FaithBarista's Thursday Jam session on the topic of Perfectionism.)

Speaking up: On Fasting

I fasted yesterday. Don't think highly of me: my neighbor had to do a three day fast for dietary reasons: she suffers from irritable bowel and fibromyalgia. I wanted to join her and to seek God on my own behalf as well but I couldn't sustain the second day, so I fasted the first day and the third of her fast, and then joined her in juicing a combination of beet, lemon, parsley, dandelion, and celery.

On the first day when I fasted I endured headache all day. No coffee in the morning, no allergy pill, I just drank water all day. On the second day I woke as if I had the flu: muscle weakness, headache, wanting only to sleep. I had responsibilities to attend to, so I ate breakfast (no coffee) and recovered, although my mouth hurt in an odd way as I ate. I took an allergy pill, and the headache receeded. On the third day I had no headache.

There's an awful lot of fear in me. I had wanted to fast to get past the barrier to losing weight that I had gained after the Fire in November 2008. I realized it wasn't just a physical problem, for no matter what I did, I was unable to get past a certain point. But when I fast, I learn things and I was impressed by the amount of fear I have in me that I do not acknowledge. Instead I eat. Fear and anxiety, they make my belly hold on to food it doesn't need. It gets stored as fat. Does this make sense to you?

Last night, my second one-day fast, I attended a Bible study with neighbors on Matthew 22. We sit around and read the text for half an hour, then discuss it for an hour. In our discussion of the parable of the king giving a wedding banquet for his son, we talked about the idea not in the text but which would have been known to the hearers that the wedding robes come from the host. Someone referenced, "But clothe yourselves in Christ," and I remembered the rest of the verse, "and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires."

I rejoice in my suffering, for I have learned more clearly how to put on Christ. I can acknowledge my fear, tell him about it and ask his forgiveness, because fear is not trust; trust is belief. Then I can practice trusting him and not trying to take care of myself, my needs, but rejoice in his care. He kept us safe through the fire, why should I fear? He blessed us abundantly so that we have all that we need, why should I worry about needing something and not having the money to pay for it? I want to be rich in faith!

The Sadducees asked about the resurrection to trip Jesus and he said to them they knew neither the scriptures nor the power of God! And the Pharisees asked him which commandment is the greatest and he answered them, "Love the Lord your God with all of you" and the second "Love your neighbor as yourself" and everything else falls into place.

update 5-17-11 or Sick Day with Shakespeare

Today Ravinia woke up feeling sick. We cuddled and slept a little more on a livingroom chair, and I made her things like malto meal (a cream of wheat alternative), oatmeal, popcorn, and macaroni and cheese to eat. She laid on her bed and listened to a Librivox recording of Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare while reading along. I think it was Twelfth Night. Then she was listening to it on the couch. After that she looked at books on the iPad to read, and the neighbor boys came to do Greek. So we had our Greek lesson on Rosetta stone. And after they left I thought we should do some of our other school work, so I read her Bible lesson and we did Spelling. Other lessons can be postponed, except her eye exercises and piano practice. And then I downloaded an offer of watching Netflix for free for a month, hoping to find a movie version of Twelfth Night, but instead we watched As You Like It. It was an old, black and white production, but that's okay! I got out the Riverside Shakespeare and read along, realizing when lines were cut, and sometimes saying them to Ravinia if I thought they were good. Later, as I moved about doing laundry and ironing, and general housekeeping chores (which I never find time for, else) I look and there she is on the couch with the Riverside on her lap, not the Lamb!
"Ravinia, are you reading the Riverside Shakespeare?"
"Yes, I want to hear what it really sounded like, not just the story for kids."

So there it is, folks, a crazy sick day in the home of an English major turned homeschooling mom. I don't know how long the Shakespeare interest will last: I only meant to introduce her to Shakespeare last week, but she's enjoying the stories (comedies only) immensely, and why not? First the easy reading Lamb for the plot, then a produced version if possible, then read the original because you actually love it! That's what we did first with Much Ado About Nothing, because I own a DVD. She's been singing "Sigh no more, Ladies, Sigh no more..." ever since.

Oh, and can I recommend a book, King of Shadows, by Susan Cooper? Such fun, such bringing us into the world of Shakespeare and yet in a clean way, and for middle school kids, or a read aloud for anyone. Okay, it has a time travel episode which I just had to explain wasn't real, this isn't a true story, but other than that, no reservations. She portrays an empathetic and wise bard.

Hm, on other fronts, it's an unseasonably rainy day, so we are going to have a simple hot pot dinner, since fish is on sale. I too have wondered if I am sick or just having strong allergies, feeling tired, dragging. Ravinia cut my hair yesterday, after having offered to cut a student's on Sunday night and being taken seriously. I figured I should teach her a tad before turning her loose on Michelle's hair! (Michelle is planning to go to a professional after Ravinia trims hers.) But it was a pretty good job, and I'm now wearing my hair just above shoulder length, layered, and gray. See facebook for a picture, if you wish!

We're trying to rearrange the livingroom to have more seating space, buy couches, and turn the front room into a drawing room (combination music room, tea/chat space, card table), and the "cat's room" into a library (ie, put all the books in there with the sleigh bed that can be for guests). Church camp comes up Memorial Day weekend, and then with June comes summertime! Ravinia is looking forward to swimming every day at the Westmont Pool with her friends. I am too, come to think of it.

On Reading Donne

I've sometimes thought about
How Jesus said that we could rout
A mountain, given faith seed sized
But we have not that realized.

One time when walking
Through Mark, and talking
On a beach to God and deer
I came upon a realization clear

But hard to tell: a tree had died,
Shriveled fast and Peter cried,
Lord look, all in astonishment.
But nature is no great achievement
To control by him who made it:
It cannot take when he forbade it.