Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve

Isaac's Cornell roommate, Eric and his sister, Kim, spent the New Year's Eve holiday with us. We were also joined by Nate's friend, Rich, from Princeton. We spent the eve of New Year's Eve at Cousin Trip and Sally Sinnott's home for an annual Christmas play reading. Sally won the award for the most dramatic reading where she put on an accent to distinguish the two different characters that she was playing.

On New Year's Eve, most of the crowd attended Times Square Church and then the oldest five stayed on in the city to meet up with our Farmer cousins. We were treated to some mighty fine H&H bagels that invigorated us for the remainder of our traipsing about the city. We visited our two favorite sites: Rockefeller Center and the Statue of Liberty. We pulled out before the big ball dropping. We came home and saw the new year in fast asleep.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Avoiding Spiritual Failure

"More spiritual failure is due," Elisabeth Elliot writes, "to this cause than to any other: the failure to recognize this living body as having anything to do with worship or holy sacrifice. This body is, quite simply, the starting place. Failure here is failure everywhere else."

Discipline: The Glad Surrender

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

From On High

Today held a rather rare experience for me – a carved out piece of time to hike in the Pocono Mountain region. After walking through some open grassy land, I climbed a rather small and wooded hill and was quite rewarded to find myself on a peaceful and solitary cliff that overlooked the Delaware River. Nature had nestled out a comfortable seat with a tiny footstool on the edge of the cliff. A little moss, some grass that had not yet yielded its green summer plush, and enough footing to strengthen my weakening knees made the seat and its footstool the perfect place for a long rest.

I sat facing the direction of the west and watched the setting sun create dancing tessellations in the flowing water of the Delaware. I observed the cars passing by on Route 209 and thought how slowly they seemed to be moving considering the great expanse of the road below me. I stared at acre upon acre of fertile farmland, dormant in the late December month, and imagined the scene before me in the full bud of Spring.

I was surprised, however, by what riveted my attention and my thoughts in the panorama of the landscape: four hunters decked in bright orange clothing who meandered sometimes methodically, sometimes randomly, through the fields far below. I heard a couple gunshots while I sat and I struggled to see if the hunters had any game. I wished to have a pair of binoculars on the perchance that I could see if their hands held a prize for their long hours in the field. However, I could see no such thing. Two of the hunters appeared to scour the field in search of a fallen animal after a gunshot was heard. They eventually appeared to meet up and fall into a steady stride. I wondered if they carried a beast between them. Their steps seemed slowed, as if they carried a weight not their own. Eventually the pair stopped and seemed to have a dealing with something on the ground.

I was not quite sure why the movements of these hunters caught my attention. I certainly am not so intrigued watching shoppers enter and exit stores in a busy shopping center. But something about how these hunters seemed so small, so insignificant and so fragile compared to the vastness of the expanse around them, fascinated me. Their existence seemed temporary and the extent of their influence quite limited to the range of the rifles they carried. It was funny to think that men, such as these, experienced such feelings of importance, prestige and influence as I had seen on the news just several hours earlier. How could an object so small be capable of believing himself so powerful? An ant crawling on the floor of the kitchen seemed as remarkable and impressive as these orange men meandering about the land below me.

Odder yet was the thought that I was just as small as one of those hunters and just as fragile and temporary and frail. How did I feel so big when I really was so small? How did I feel so permanent when I was in actuality so much like a flower that grows and withers in its season? How would it be that God would look down from on high and cherish me as His daughter?

I had no answers, but only simple gratitude.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

We enjoyed Christmas as a family. All of us children awoke to the trumpet playing, "O Come All Ye Faithful." We opened our doors only to find that we had to burst through hung paper, as though the whole house was presented to us as a gift. It was! The stockings were brimming with gifts and the lit Christmas tree had been bestowed with a great assortment of wrapped presents.

Our morning together began with a gospel reading followed by a fun session of gift-opening. The afternoon brought us a visit from Isaac's childhood friend, Patrick. Clarence Knapp and Cousins Trip and Sally joined us for a hearty Christmas dinner with a main course of buffalo steak.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve

We kicked off our Christmas Eve celebration with "an eve of Christmas Eve" journey to Danbury to watch The Nativity Story. It received high ratings from us all and we especially enjoyed the portrayal of Mary and Joseph as somewhat rustic ordinary folk who were distinguished simply through God's ordinance and their obedience. The road subsequently led to The Outback Steakhouse where Luke was especially excited to get some good meat and chocolate dessert.

Christmas Eve brought occassion for more family time. Some of us enjoyed hiking Stissing Mountain and Isaac helped Mom in the kitchen and made his very own apple pie from scratch. We continued our tradition of attending Clintondale Friends Church for a candlelight service. Several of the older children stayed up late to attend a majestic midnight mass celebration.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Happenings Around the Farm

With Isaac and Nate home for Christmas and the continuing gentle December weather, work continues at quite a steady clip on the farm. Today the old milk barn started coming down. The original thought was to try to preserve as many of the old boards as possible, but that was quickly decided to be an impractical idea. As the barn met its destruction, a couple of key pieces were rescued including the old weather vane that blew for so many years on the northern tip of the barn. Caleb nursed an old horse shoe back to health (by removing some rust). He said that it was "for my museum." I believe that the current museum location is in his bedroom.

The boys have also been busy felling some trees in the back woods. We are hoping to use the lumber in the construction of the new barn.

Like a Weaned Child

One reason that I always look forward to Christmas is that it reminds me to once again reflect upon the the pure simplicity of what it means to understand the love of God. At Christmas I am reminded that God's love is simple - it is the birth of God made flesh that completely silences the complex multitude of questions and wonderings and misgivings that can so quickly prevade the life of the mind.

Psalm 131 expresses the quietness of this simple love.

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Real Christmas Party

Nate and his friends at Princeton Faith and Action's Christmas party recently participated in a human Christmas tree decorating competition. Nate was one of the three finalists and attributes his success to the artistic license and creativity of his "tree trimmers". (Notice the ornamental ball earrings and the Nativity star on his head.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A New and Improved Southerly View

Recent efforts by the Angell young men have resulted in a fresh clearing around the back pond. I was actually somewhat fond of the rosebushes when they were in bloom, but I do have to admit that they weren't so attractive in the other seasons of the year. All in all, the clearing is a nice improvement that complements the other clearing work done by the old stone wall (currently called the "stone pile"). As the temperatures drop, we are looking forward to some fine skating on a pond cleared of rosebushes.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas in the City

We enjoyed a quick trip to the city this weekend. Highlights included attending Times Square Church, eating lunch at Familia Pizza, waiting with the crowds in a long line at FAO Schwarz, taking in the wintery scene at Rockefeller Center, attending a concert at Carnegie Hall (enjoyed by Sarah and Hannah) and ferrying across New York Harbor to see the Statue of Liberty.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Advent Begins

Luke, Jacob, Caleb and I ventured to a nearby farm to cut down our Christmas tree today. We walked in many circles around the Balsam Firs until we finally agreed upon the tree that would be just right. Luke single-handedly carried it to the roof of the Suburban, only to have it fall off as we drove up the hill to get it baled. We concluded our Advent outing at a local diner where the four of us sat at the small diner counter and ate lunch. We have never sat at a diner counter before and we realized that it is hard to have a conversation when you only face a wall.

This evening the Parade of Lights wove through the streets of our small town. Local residents went to great efforts to make floats full of lights to greet the season. The festively lit streets and floats in this darkest time of year remind us of the Great Light of the World who came to bring clarity and hope to even our darkest moments.

The markedly cooler weather, the tree, the Parade of Lights, the shopping and familiar carols have certainly served to usher in a feeling that the Christmas season is really here.

Angels from the Realm of Glory
Words: James Montgomery, 1816

Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation's story
Now proclaim Messiah's birth.

Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ,
The newborn King.

Shepherds, in the field abiding,
Watching over your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing;
Yonder shines the infant light:

Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations;
Ye have seen His natal star.

Saints, before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear;
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear.

Though an infant now we view Him,
He shall fill His Father's throne,
Gather all nations to Him;
Every knee shall then bow down:

All creation, join in praising
God, the Father, Spirit, Son,
Evermore your voices raising
To the eternal Three in One.