Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Home Is Made to Sing In

The construction landscape was momentarily converted into a stage this evening for a joy-filled sing-along under a clear starry sky. Lawerence, our general contractor, joined us for the event. The construction setting was ideal. It almost makes us regret that the walls have to be closed in to make a house.

A home is made to sing in and by the evidence of tonight this home is going to fulfill its purpose!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Confessions of An Older Sister

Being the oldest of eight children is a delightful position to occupy and to attempt to fulfill to the highest of its calling. I have learned, however, that the job description changes with time.

Strangers are particularly accurate measures of the job description of "older sister." How so? Well, when I was a young teenager I would often be in public with my siblings and asked, "So how old are your children?" I tried to respond with grace, but at times it was so tempting to say, "Oh, yes, I had Hannah when I was seven, and Jacob when I was nine, and Rebecca when I was eleven."

Great has been my relief, in recent years, to discover that the comments have started to change. Recently, while Hannah and I were paying for our lunch at the deli, the cashier said, "Oh, I thought you were twins." I will forever gratefully explain that we are actually eight years apart and not twins. It is vastly preferable to awkwardly navigating through the reality that, no, I did not give birth at age seven.

But the changing commentaries and questions are only road posts along the road of sisterhood, reminding me that my role has changed from being a second mommy to becoming a friend. Twelve years ago my primary responsibility as a sister was changing diapers, cleaning toys, rocking cradles and giving baths. Today I find myself spending time building relationships: talking on the phone to the boys at college, helping to tutor the new and upcoming students, chaeffeuring, and just enjoying the fabulous company of seven people that have more energy than I.

The challenges change with time as well. My biggest lesson of recent years has been that of, well, relaxing. I have done pretty well when it comes to letting my younger siblings clean up after themselves and find their own way to bed. Actually, these things are quite fun changes to witness. However, I struggle when it comes to letting my younger siblings drive my car.

There are some things that you entrust to another person that in reality have no direct influence on your continued ability to live and breathe. Letting a sibling that I carried around as a baby get behind the wheel of my car is a different story. Now, in all fairness, I have never been in an accident of even the most minor proportions while my sibling was driving. But if my siblings are not driving my car the way that I drive my car, I am inclined to warn them with words like "Slow down!" or "Careful now around the curve!".

So, my very loving siblings have taken it upon themselves to coaching and counseling me through the fears I have in letting them grow up. "Sarah," they say, "it's okay. I do see the car turning in front of us."

As Nate would remind me, "Trusting your siblings with important responsibilities and tasks is sometimes a gamble, albeit a worthwhile, necessary risk."

Monday, May 28, 2007


Isaac was one of six thousand graduates to receive a diploma from Cornell University yesterday. The family joined forty thousand people who descended into Ithaca for the event. What a day!

Isaac's successes at Cornell were best summed up by a farmer who attended the after-graduation celebration at Taughannock Falls. While reflecting on the past week of work done on the farm (Isaac spent the week between finals and graduation on this man's farm), the farmer said, "Some people talk a lot about getting things done, but Isaac doesn't just talk; he gets the job done!"
Congratulations, Isaac, on getting the job done! We are excited for your next four years at Cornell's School of Veterinary Medicine!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Just to See You Smile

Jacob spent the majority of the day with me yesterday. Together we ran a host of errands and spent a lot of time driving in the car. Jacob is a big country music fan and loves to play his favorite hits over the car stereo from my iPod. I can enjoy country music in moderation, but tend to find the hopeless romance sagas slightly depressing. Yesterday's country music (Just to See You Smile - Tim McGraw) selection was not an exception as some lovelost man comes to approve his girl's new love just to see her smile. Odd.

Thankfully, however, the chorus of the song is quite redeeming. Well, perhaps, that is, if you set the stage a little differently. Erase Lovelost Man and Wind-Blown Girl. Enter Tommie DePaola's Giovanni, a peasant juggler from one of my favorite children's books, The Clown of God. DePaola tells the story of a poor young child who has but one gifting - he is a juggler. At a young age Giovanni is told by two Brothers that his juggling may be used to the glory of God. Doubting this, Giovanni continues through life and ultimately finds himself an old man back at the Brother's church in Sorrento. The church is quite crowded and all people are bringing in gifts. He is told that it is the Holy Child's birthday. Having nothing to bring, he waits until all have left and then begins to juggle before the statue of the stern Holy Child sitting in his mother's arms. As the colored balls stream through the air, he proclaims, "For you, sweet child, for you!" The last golden ball falls into the arms of the Christ Child and DePaola draws the curtain to show a dead Giovanni before a radiantly smiling Holy Child.

I have written before of my love of DePaola's phrase, "For you, sweet child, for you!" I find myself uttering these words when the road of faith is challenging. But, today, I found myself a participant in this stage in a new way, gazing at the smiling Holy Child beside the fallen Giovanni and wanting to sing:

Just to see you smile
I'd do anything
That you wanted me to
When all is said and done
I'd never count the cost
It's worth all that's lost
Just to see you smile

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Men and Nature are Busy

The sun has been shining this week to provide many opportunities for continued construction on Grandma's addition. The framing of the house conveys a very progressive feeling of accomplishment.

In the meantime, nature continues to do her work. We have enjoyed our first delicious crop of spinach from the garden. The German Lilacs are in full bloom and the flowers Mom raised from seed are continuing to flourish.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Lost (Nuclear) Lake

Mom and I enjoyed a hike around Nuclear Lake today. The trail overlaps at points with the Appalachian Trail. It was stunningly quiet and peaceful. It almost seemed like the mystical Lost Lake.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Time To Build and Paint

Never before in the history of Bentley Farm have there been so many yellow construction vehicles on the premises. The change is occurring faster every day and we are all amazed at the pace. Luke and Jacob have been helping daily with the construction at the house. Hannah couldn't be without a project either, so she decided to paint her room.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Evening Sun Above the Catskills

New Forks in Bentley Roads

Alice came to a fork in the road.

“Which road do I take?” she asked.

“Where do you want to go?” responded the Cheshire cat.

“I don’t know,” Alice answered.

“Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.” - Lewis Carroll

Monday, May 14, 2007

On the Banks of the Hudson

After enjoying a Mother's Day breakfast in Hyde Park, we continued a, now annual, tradition of stopping by Vanderbilt Mansion to take in the morning and the superb views of the Hudson. Nate made it home from Princeton for the weekend and in a burst of pre-final examination glee raced Caleb down one of the longest and steepest hills in the Valley. Nate ended up toppled over at the bottom. Caleb only made it down with much stumbling on the way. The rest of us stayed put and enjoyed the windy day.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Lofty Aspirations

"My, what a man," says the world. That requires no grace; it appeals to the flesh. But I want to say to you from the depths of my heart that it needs all the grace of God to go through drudgery and poverty, to live an ignored existence as a saint, unnoticed by anybody. For if this is the commission behind us in Christian work, remember, always, we are sent out to be exceptional in ordinary things.
- Alan Redpath
Our family has thought upon the call of these truths in the past week, especially asking for prayer that in the ordinary things of our lives we might be found faithful. It is fitting that these reflections bring us to Mother's Day as we find ourselves grateful for the opportunity to call to mind the one person, who above all others, has dedicated herself to the task of unseen exceptionality in ordinary things.

Mom, you have given the entirety of your being to make me complete. I stand very grateful. Of all my aspirations and dreams, none is so lofty as that of becoming a mother like you.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Changing Times

We officially felt the changing times today as half of the family spent a good portion of the day watching the first Angell child play their first little league game. None of the first seven Angell children were ever involved in organized sports. There is no bitterness on our part; the truth of the matter is that we were too busy enjoying the life and work of the farm to even think of adding more to our schedule.

Today, Nate and I laughed, though, as we realized that our presence at Caleb's game was an indication that suburban America has found even Bentley Farm. As the land around us changes and big machines now do the work of building houses and roads and vineyards in the fields and woods of Bentley, we see the outplaying of that change in Caleb's life.

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'. - Bob Dylan

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

When We Become Comfortable

I wrote the following quote in my journal two years ago. I have not forgotten it since. These words challenge every day of my existence.

"If there were less of what seems like ease in our lives they would tell more for Christ and for souls.... We profess to be strangers and pilgrims, seeking after a country of our own, yet we settle down in the most "un-stranger-like" fashion, exactly as if we were quite at home and meant to stay as long as we could. I don't wonder apostolic miracles have died. Apostolic living certainly has." - Amy Carmichael (As quoted in A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot)

Successful Young Adults

Mom reports that a magazine read at the pediatrics office held some "new" insight into raising children based on a recent study at the University of Minnesota. The grand new idea?

Using measures of individual's success such as completion of education, getting started on a career path, IQ, relationships with family and friends, and not using drugs, and examining a child's involvement in household tasks... Rossmann determined that the best predictor of young adults' success in their mid-20s was that they participated in household tasks when they were three or four.

It's laughable what research feels the need to confirm.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Longest Journey

As much as I love to romanticize with Laura Ingalls Wilder about little houses on praries, in all reality I would have been an discontented pioneer.

I just don't like long journeys. I really like arriving. I can forbear the journeying part (often with the help of Dramamine) because my destination has never been more than twenty-four hours away. Being there is so wonderful that packing and waiting and sitting in a hulk of metal with a motor somehow becomes worth all the effort.

Part of the problem is that traveling involves patience. And when you fly into a very tiny airport with only one restaurant, traveling often means delays and surrendering your immediate future to a "Departure Schedule" screen. Patience and surrender are hard for me.

I have traveled some long roads recently. Actually, to be more accurate, I have traveled the same long road over and over again. And, to be even more precise, that long road has a "One Way" sign posted on it. The journey is from my head, to my heart; it is from what I know, to what I feel; it is from what I am mentally capable of recognizing, to what I am emotionally capable of accepting; it is from God's will, to my will. It is the longest road I have ever traveled. And, mind you, I do not like traveling. I like arriving.

Mysteriously, though, I am beginning to notice that each time I undertake this long journey, I can travel the road just a little more swiftly. The familiarity of the path gives me faith to see that I will, once again, be given grace to reach the end of the road. And each time, having reached the end of the path, I am always so impressed that it is so wonderful to be there - to be in the place where somehow the will of God was met with receptiveness by the will of Sarah Angell.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Anne Shirley

Today was gorgeous - a lovely Spring day. It was a perfect day for a stroll through Manhattan with two dear sisters and a wonderful friend. And, in all appropriateness, the gaiety of the day met Anne of Green Gables at a sold-out performance in the Lucille Lortell Theater. Marvelous.

"Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?" - Anne Shirley