Thursday, May 31, 2012

Plant Life in Oriental

I shared this picture of some tall hollyhocks before.

But otherwise I don't think I've shown you any of the foliage of Oriental. These beautiful bushes are downtown, and were in fuller bloom a couple of weeks ago. The leaves look rather like thin rhododendron. I don't know its name.

It seems every other house has hydrangea bushes, and they do so well here! Most of them are a mixing of pink and purple, very bright.

There's lots of lantana too -- big bushes, so it must like these growing conditions.

Tropical Storm Beryl came along the coast yesterday and dropped three inches of rain on the town, but after it passed, the blue skies came right back after supper.

I've noticed so many large fig bushes/trees in town. Here's one. The figs are green right now. There's a massive bush behind Philip's work location, and I think I'll ask them if I can pick the figs, if I promise to bring them a big jar of the preserves I'd like to make with them. I made fig/lemon preserves about 18 years ago in Mississippi with Adam's grandmother's recipe, and they were a real hit!

This monster is a wysteria, lying on the ground like a wallowing shrub. I can tell by the seed pods hanging down -- so unique!

Another fig, this time in bush form.

I've been wanting to share this photo with you. Oriental is full of sweet little streets, not even two lanes wide. 2nd Ave. is so quaint. It changes from pavement into grass, right at this spot. You can continue driving along the grass, although I wonder whether anyone does. We've ridden bikes down this end of 2nd Ave., but the large overhanging trees have formidable roots that stretch across and make for a bumpy ride :)
How would you like to have a little cottage along 2nd Ave.?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ann Voskamp Revisited -- The Discussion

This is a fair warning to anyone who doesn't want to read another word that might be construed as criticism of Ann Voskamp, her blog, her book, or her ideas. Click away!
That said, my goal is not ever to be critical of Ann Voskamp. My goal is to present the discussion, look at the various points, and make an assessment, and hopefully a careful one, of what's been said. Because there has been discussion. This first post is simply an attempt to let you readers know what's been going on.
First Ann has a beautiful blog, A Holy Experience.
She's also written a much-loved book, One Thousand Gifts.
(Please see the bottom of this post for links to my reviews of the chapters of her book.)

Last year, I wrote a blog post about Ann's blog. It wasn't about her book, because I'd never touched her book. It was meant to be rather light-hearted. It caused a bit of a stir in my usually uninhabited comment section. I only ever intended to address her writing style, compliment her on her content, and ask a simple question, which was answered rather quickly.
That was last summer.

Then sometime last week a facebook friend posted a book review of One Thousand Gifts, written by Tim Challies, a pastor in Canada. You may read it here. He wrote it because he was asked to. Generally, the review was not complimentary. He first addresses her unusual style, and then her content, discussing both without any seeming bias or preference. Then Challies turns to the area of his concern, Voskamp's use of sexual metaphor and imagery in her description of her relationship with God. Although Voskamp's habit of uncomfortable (to me) intimacy on her blog was something that bothered me when I read it for several years, I'd never read it so clearly described, until Challies's review. He ends by saying he would not recommend the book.

Immediately on the heels of this review, another one emerged online. Bob DeWaay, a U.S. pastor and writer on Critical Issues Commentary, wrote a lengthier and more academic assessment of Voskamp's book. You may read it here. He rather harshly mimics her style, but moves on to summarize his criticisms of her book. "Where her work warrants challenge is in her reliance on panentheism, romanticism, sensual language and those whose viewpoints she approvingly cites." Please note that panentheism is NOT the same as pantheism.  I had to look them up to make sure I understood the difference. DeWaay diligently fleshes out his points, quotes from Voskamp frequently to support his arguments, and ends by stating that she is, without doubt, a mystic. Like Challies he does not recommend the book. His review takes into account more theological and cultural issues, and his conclusions about Voskamp's work are more harsh and scathing. I wouldn't consider either pastor to be rude or mean in these reviews. They are simply doing what they're supposed to do: warn Christians about error that they see.

Both men commend Voskamp for her emphasis on thankfulness, a practice sorely lacking among Christians. Both frown upon her frequent references to theologians and writers who are mystics, Catholics, or otherwise not in conformity with whatever is their list of acceptable people to quote. Both dislike that she felt compelled to fly to Paris and achieve her highest experience with God in a Catholic cathedral. I must say, I found the Notre Dame quite lovely myself although I had no mystical experience there.

My intent is to do what I've put off doing:  read the book. I don't own a copy, and I don't intend to spend money on it. I've got a hold on it at the library. When I've finished the book, I'll get back to you on the topics that most concern me: whether Voskamp is a mystic in her writings, and what I think of her use of sexual metaphor and imagery.

Voskamp herself has responded in her own way, on her blog, to the criticism -- I think particularly of Rev. DeWaay. You can read her post here. I'm not quite sure, but I think she may be comparing the trauma of his review to a heart attack. She flatly denies being a mystic, and claims not even to know the meaning of the word. She demonstrates her own fear of having her writings negatively received. (Don't we all!?)  And on another page, which you can read here, she pulls in the "big guns" by having Marvin Olasky, editor of World Magazine, defend her use of sexual metaphor in her descriptions of her relationship with God. The page is basically a long list of quotes from various Christians and a few Scripture passages, which seem to give precedence to this type of writing.

I will not do another "light-hearted" post on this writer. I will not address her writing style, which is simply a matter of preference and has no place in a serious critique. My intent is to find as much common ground as possible, as much to commend as possible, and clearly state any concerns that I see. Anyone is free to disagree with my amateur assessment. I am no pastor, no theologian. I have a BA and an MA in literary studies, and have taught high school English for about 15 years. As well as I can, I will pick apart her book and dissect it for you. That's what I do, as a professional. Anybody who has been telling me to read the book, that's what you've been asking for. This critique will probably take at least two posts.

Here are links to my chapter reviews of 1000 Gifts:
Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7 , Chapter 8

Eight Days of Hope in Pamlico County

Last evening we went to a meeting with Eight Days of Hope. This is a group of Christians who come together to work for disaster relief, across the country. This is the ninth time that Eight Days of Hope has done a project. The first project was after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. This time they're in Pamlico County to help home-owners who lost everything in Hurricane Irene last August.
 I didn't know anything about Eight Days of Hope until yesterday. If you want to know more about them, here's their website. They had 1600 people sign up for this project, coming from 43 U.S. states and other countries too. Then, they had 250 additional people just show up. The volunteers pay their own travel expenses, and pay a fee to come that covers their housing and food. It's a huge sacrifice of time, money, work and life, all to show the love of Jesus. There were Catholics, Freewill Baptists, Mennonites, and every other stripe of Christian, all worshiping together.
They're staying at a YMCA kids' camp -- Camp Seafarer. Camps Seafarer and Seagull are gorgeous places along the Neuse River with huge facilities. They introduce their campers to water sports, among other things. Philip and Julia inspected the campers' boats:
 The camp has a great swimming area. This is about half of it.

They have a massive tower with four ziplines that descend into the water, and a slide and various swings.

 What a great place to stay for a week while you do service for those whose lives have been ripped apart!
 My children, making silly faces.
 Adam was asked to speak at their worship service last night. The bizarre story of how he was asked to do this, is quite a tale. The young man, Topper, who's in charge of the worship services, met us long ago in Rhode Island, at a little RPCNA church where Adam preached once or twice. We'd both forgotten each other. Then Topper was given Adam's name as a possible local speaker, and they discovered that they're both Reformed Presbyterians and knew each other! Such a God thing.
 Adam spoke on the difference between mercy and grace, something so appropriate to this situation. Some who prayed for God to deflect Hurricane Irene and move it away from them in Georgia and South Carolina, were given mercy. God said yes. But he said something different, something much bigger to the residents of Pamlico County when they prayed for God to spare them. He didn't give them mercy; He gave them grace. Grace is the ability to endure the trial. God gives that endurance too, and then He gives the help that we desperately plead for, in the middle of the trial. These volunteers are answers to thousands of prayers, prayed months ago by people in agony. God was preparing their good works ahead of time, for them to do.

We'd all rather have mercy -- to escape the pain. But we really need grace -- the tenderizing effect of enduring the pain. If Irene had never come to our shores, 1850 Christians who long to love others, would never have come either. Praise the Lord for His inscrutable wisdom!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


A friend shared this amazing video on facebook this morning. Perhaps some of you have seen this phenomenon, but I haven't before. So beautiful! Click through to their vimeo site, if you want the screen of the video to be full-size. Blogger cuts some off on the right side.

This and That

My soap batch is curing nicely and should be ready for sale at this Saturday's farmer's market. It's lemon soap in various shapes. The cute little soaps below are straight lemon scent. The round ones behind them also have poppyseeds for a gentle exfoliant.
 These lovelies also have lemon peel added.
 I won't have a garden this year, but I wanted a few things in pots. Here's my Brandywine tomato plant.
 And here's my little cherry tomato plant.
 My fern is loving it here! She's sprouting many little fronds down below. It's moist and muggy here, and I keep her in the shade.
 I bought a rosemary. Home wouldn't be home without a rosemary plant.
 I had to post this picture, which I took today at a store. I noticed it last week. Please observe the use of the apostrophe.
Okay, friends. When debating about the use of the apostrophe, please remember: do not EVER use the apostrophe to make ordinary words plural. EVER. Please!!! Only in rare situations is the apostrophe used for plurality, and it's not with ordinary word usage.

Apostrophes are used for possession. So, on the top of the sign, that should read "Ladies' Jeans." See how I made the word PLURAL FIRST, and then I added the necessary apostrophe to show possession. The jeans, presumably, belong to the ladies.

However, the bottom example is what made me truly shudder. No possession is called for. Nobody is owning anything.  It's just plain "dresses." Why is that so hard?

(English teacher lets out a pained scream and shakes head.)

Monday, May 28, 2012


After a long, but uneventful, eight hours on the road, we're back home again! Yippee! We haven't been here a month, but already I can detect feelings of homishness coming over me :) More tomorrow.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's Your L A S T C H A N C E . . . .

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Yeah, that one, with the picture of the book!
This is you LAST CHANCE to get that book
for FREE - today! Click over! No cost!
This is my friendly offer to you :)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Congratulations, Peter!

Today was Peter's high school graduation! We drove to the mountains to witness the event. Here's the handsome graduate with all his regalia.
 He practices silly faces in the mirror so he'll have them all perfect for the stage.
 He must text the girlfriend, who is driving over also!
 The program:
 The stage:
 We arrived very early, so I crocheted. I'm making this prayer shawl for the prayer shawl ministry at the Methodist church back home. I'll do a post later about those lovely ladies and the wonderful work they do. I like this pattern!
 The graduation was in a really awesome venue: Brevard Music Center. I realized later they must have chosen it because it's probably the only place in town BIG enough. There were so many people there!
 This is a really massive hall, as I said. It's open to the air on the sides, so it wasn't air conditioned, but the it was reasonably cool. Well, almost. The whole auditorium was packed by the time it began.

Peter hangs out with his dad a little beforehand.
 And the grandparents came also :)
 Peter, processing to the stage:
 A shot of the stage. Peter is on the back row, about 4 from the right, just before the gap in the heads where a short girl was standing next to him.
 I had to squat in the aisle to get this fuzzy photo of Peter doing the traditional hand-shake with the head of the Board of Education. He has his diploma!! Well, I have it, actually, so he doesn't lose it :)

His girlfriend Kara also came, with her mom, and they came to the house for pizza before driving back home. And yes, Peter did get his hair all whacked off, but I didn't do it this time! It's already trying to curl up and it will grow out in no time.

Happenings in the Park

This post is an extension of the last one -- the evening constitutional at the park. Because, you see, it didn't end there. I went home, but within a few minutes we were all back at the park!
 Adam called and said, "You should get back down here. The drum circle is playing."
 I'd heard of the drum circle. But I was finally relaxing on the couch with my computer.
"I'll send Julia," I told him. So I did.

But then Philip rode down too, and I felt left out. So I rode my bike back to the park. Aren't the drummers cute? They meet weekly. They're a happy bunch, finding a rhythm and seeing how "together" they can get as they beat.
Over my other shoulder was a different group of folks. Not drummers or leftover hippies or sailors. These are old folks who like to sit in lawn chairs at the foot of the pier and enjoy the evening air. They ride their bikes. Some of they carry their lawn chairs on the side, as they ride! That takes coordination!
 Behind me, at the end of the pier, are the fishermen. They're pretty serious about it. I think fishermen must be rather devoted to their task. It takes patience.

What a diverse group! A few minutes later, four young ladies walked up, interested in the drumming, and they were offered various instruments and joined in the fun. Then one lady began to dance. She's known around town for her lithe, fluid dancing. She used scarves. It was a fun, engaging evening, and Adam and Sandy and I sat in the middle of these three groups, studying them all.
I'm enjoying Oriental.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cloudy, with a Chance of Wow ...

I just had to share this photo with you. Isn't this fabulous?
 I like the look of this pier. I thought this shot might make a good jigsaw puzzle.
 And just in case you thought all this land here on the coast was fit for tourists and beach-combers, here's what it looks like, just a mile or so inland. That's right - farmland! Huge fields of corn and wheat.

It's big, flat as a pancake, with lots of rain. Farming and fishing are the industries that have served this area well for generations. The locals are farmers and fishermen. The Yankee newcomers and tourists ride bikes (like me!) and gaze at the beautiful water. We can hardly help it!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Evening Constitutional

That's what my granddaddy called it -- the walk he took in the cool of the evening, after supper. A constitutional. Good for the constitution. After supper, Adam took a walk, but I took my constitutional on wheels. I rode my bike down one of our town's dapple-shaded lanes.

As I near the end of it, I can just begin to see the water, in the distance behind the trees. If you look closely, you can see Adam, walking Sandy on her leash.
As I turn the corner, the water is bigger.
Another corner, and the liquid vista opens before me.
One more curve, and I'm on the river! It doesn't look, feel, sound, or smell like a river. It's salty -- it's clearly ocean.
We sit in the Adirondack chairs and gaze at the calming water. It's a grand evening for sailing. I counted nine sailboats bobbing along.
Sandy relaxes.
And I got a simple date with my cutie-pie. Why do we get to live here? It's a mystery. We both feel as if we're on vacation. One lady I met at the Farmer's Market said she felt like she was on vacation for two years, after moving here. Two years! Will it take us that long to recover from this pleasurable shock? What a blessing!
Constitutionals like that are certainly good for the soul, aren't they?