Gratitude & Glories: {1st & 2nd weeks of October}

Hello, Dear Friends! Forgive me for catching up a wee bit, the days fly by in a beautiful blur and I’m so thankful for them. Here’s what I’ve been so grateful in these autumnal drenched days of October…

:: beautiful trips away :: belated anniversary celebrations :: stern wheel paddle boat chain of lakes tour :: cabin-living :: steak, asparagus, and cheese dinners :: sweet & spicy tea sipping while watching a sappy, but sweet film called “Song of the Heart” ::

How can Love lose doing of its kind Even to the uttermost?

~ E. Arnold, The Cloud of Witness

:: early mornings with coffee and soaring pines at the cabin :: resurrecting writing dreams :: Amy Harmon’s Instagram videos, so lovely, poetry and encouragement :: gorgeous, still, pine-drenched smelling heaven outdoors :: a day shopping thrift and bookstores in big city with hubby, something we rarely do :: Cost Plus World Market, I love just window-shopping there :: Half-Price Book pursuing :: going out for Mexican food with my brother and sister-in-law and their two sweet girlies ::

Happy is he, Of whom (himself among the dead

And silent) this world shall be said:

– That he might have had the

world with him,

But chose to side with suffering Men,

And had the World against him!

~Elizabeth Barret Browning, The Cloud of Witness

:: Anna Karenina and Edith Wharton Ghost Stories :: late breakfasts :: mural admiring in a little town :: small local book store I visit every year :: coffee and stroll on enchanting covered bridge, admiring fiery and gold- drenched leaves next to the river :: an after dinner bonfire and tea :: chuckles at cheesy Nicholas Cage film that I love, “National Treasure” :: huge gathering of Great Egrets in a little wood as we drove, stopping to observe them ::

:: reading new-to-me Susan Cooper, Boggart, on way home :: orchard stop for big boxes of apples to bring the children :: new fresh month, with no mistakes in it :: devotions, Macbeth enjoyment with the kids :: teaching three of the children to make apple pie from scratch :: watching lovely gnome crafting videos on youtube ::

:: drying out my devotional materials after half a cup of coffee got dumped into them – they survived! Yay! :: visiting grandparents and bringing them a homemade apple pie :: getting to plant my mom some daffodils for spring :: ham and mash potatoes dinner well-received by hungry children :: planting 100 white daffodils with my 6 yo in honor of a line from a beautiful Jane Kenyon essay, the anticipation and tangible act of ‘practicing resurrection’ :: hubby and older children to a friend’s graduation party :: reading afternoon, fun book I won on Instagram ::

:: stopped to see and admire a stone angel headstone at a cemetry on our way to church, she is so sweet and represents something intangible to me. I couldn’t read the inscription except the year of 1912 :: a Sunday evening bonfire with hotdogs and smores for the children, singing, and admiring the stars :: wearing my huge, thrifted pink parka, getting a laugh out of the family for my coldness and weird 😉 style :: baby boy looking darling in his hat and flannel, he and the Saber-Toothed Tiger cat enjoyed one another ::

But when that which is perfect has come,

then that which is in part will be done away.

~The Holy Bible

:: laughs and improvising as we forgot to get our gas filled with the unseasonably warm temperatures, thinking up meals for cooking on griddles, grills, and in the Instapot was fun, in hindsight 😉 :: meeting up with my sister and chatting for hours :: crockpot chicken nachos for the save :: friend’s bonfire for some of our crew, volleyball included :: beautiful morning walk with children, talking about some of the themes in Macbeth :: Charlotte Mason online Zoom class with other moms talking, so refreshing :: late night film with my oldest daughter :: leaf prints by older children for our homeschool community group :: snuggles with baby boy :: You’ve Got Mail w/baby when he felt a bit sick :: gorgeous, warm weather :: library trips with oldest daughter surprising others with ice cream ::

:: older boys and dad on church retreat together :: hearing the news that precious one is ok after a medical scare :: hanging out with friends with my younger four :: continuing on a health journey for 10 months now (!), December will be my 1 year anniversary, so very grateful for the weight loss, better habits, and mental clarity :: gorgeous wind in leaves and sunlight dappled over afternoon :: watching a new version of “The Secret Garden” with my daughters, mom, and sister, enjoying my sister’s delicious chicken tacos together ::

:: butternut and spaghetti squash :: rereading The Hobbit weekends :: rollerskating with friends :: tennis matches for oldest :: rainy, drippy breakfast dates out for hubby and I :: big, fluffy, cream-ish 😉 colored sweaters :: hot, tasty decaf late at night :: two glorious hours of working on ACTUAL writing of my children’s story :: pouring over notes and dipping into lovely, inspiration from my stacks :: muted browns and golds shivering in the wind and rain :: glorious swirl of leaves in rearview mirror, I always look back :: going through a shower of leaves under a tree :: a beautiful autumn season to relish in ::

Be steadfast, immovable,

always abounding in the work of the Lord,

knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

~The Holy Bible

Gratitude & Glories {2nd week of September}

I’m thankful for this week…

~sugar-free BBQ in crockpot and sweet corn from a friend to cook up after church ~ a surprise 40th birthday party for my dear friend and she was very surprised ~the hardness of pressing through exhaustion, only to walk away with a blessing of good conversation after, I love that feeling! ~ my children getting to spend time at their friend’s home ~ baby’s crib being moved into the big boy’s room, bittersweet, but nice to have a quiet retreat, too ~

~ a lovely 18th wedding anniversary, early morning canoe ride and picnic in a little alcove on the lake, which we promptly dubbed Amos and Amy’s Anniversary Alcove. HA! 😉 ~ fajitas for lunch and a downtown walk around, taking some beautiful photos of old building details, flowers, patterns, and a green door ~ a lovely outdoor tree arboretum, which I adored and a thrifting stop~ countryside drive, taking more photos (trees! magical lanes! hay bales! my poor husband! 🙂 ) and soaking up views, and reading a bit of my thrift store book purchase ~ just falling into a soft, cozy bed and wiping the slate clean after long days ~

~ new, fresh mornings~ chilly, blanket weather beginnings ~ gorgeous flowers and trees on a long walk with the children to the little stream I call the “Withywindle” that’s just around a little bend in our road ~ caught in a shower at the end, my oldest saving some of her giggling, waterlogged siblings with the car, adventures are sweet together, are they not? ~ listening to grand music while nature sketching and journaling together, candle lit and tea brewing ~ just trying to remember how much I’ll miss the little hats, sweaters, and wet boots lying about when they are gone ~ picture book pile with my middles ~ interesting narrations and thoughts from all my children this week through the various books we are reading~ resting in my bedroom, working on little homemade Christmas gifts, while listening to Anna Karenina ~

~heat on for the first time this week, warmth and I love the friendly, ‘ole growl of the furnace coming around once again~ a lovely time out with my oldest daughter, my mom, and sisters to celebrate one of my sister’s 28th ~ laughing and reminiscing ~ my 8 yo playing so well with the baby ~ his belly and chubby little feet, so precious ~ the song “Find Me in the River”, a throwback from my teenage church group days, bringing comfort and memories ~ my oldest son gleefully making four loaves of bread, motivated by his long, hollow leg ~ afternoon school done, mom gets to read Thornyhold by Mary Stewart, what a cozy, light read, thanks for the recommendation, Katie! ~

~the return of chili in our menu, deliciously hot, daub of sour cream, sprinkle of cheese on top ~ the mismatched, thrifted, favorite dishes sparkling in the dinner candlelight, this very same light reflected in the eyes of my loved ones ~ pretty mugs filled with favorite coffee or tea, my go-to lately being Sweet & Spicy by Good Earth, something about the warmth of hot drinks this time of year, huh? ~ thinking about a book I just finished called The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller ~ perusing again The Private World of Tasha Tudor, so inspiring, from our library stack ~ lovely, thought-provoking devotional readings each morning from The Parables of Nature ~ short walk in gray weather, but beautiful after days of rain ~ zinnia, sunflower, and weed bouquets picked with my daughter, noticing dew drops on the face of the sunflower, what a face ~ late raspberries on bush ~ homemade pizza made for the children, jazz serenading our dinner ~ my BIL coming down for a visit, a dear daughter making a bed for him ~ gifted watermelons from grandpa ~

~ reorganizing and cleaning out my room, nice soothing corners to cozy up in ~ piles to be donated, garbage thrown out ~ continuing to dip in my massive Anna Karenina with more tea, Saturday’s with rain are sublime ~ pile of pancakes made with my two little boys helping me, mini pancakes made for them to eat while they waited, simple things make them so HAPPY ~ chicken “nachos” thrown into the crockpot, the smell permeating the house while the rain continues to drip, drip ~ a laughing boy comes up from our old, flooded (reoccurring issue) basement, dubbed the “fire swamp”, talking of leaping from “rock to rock” avoiding the swamp-y-est parts ~ laughter over messes is a thing to be thankful for, I guess, huh? 😉 ~ pumpkin muffins with melting butter for the all the children, extra in our freezer for our first homeschool co op meeting coming soon of the year ~ pages printing out for our new poet, I’m privileged to share her with our group soon ~ a husband who knows how to fix the above printer when it jams 😉 ~ for honestly, just sitting down, after a long week to type out this list, it makes me see, really see ~

So blessed~

What are you thankful for right now? I’d love to hear. Spread the joy. ~

{I was having technical difficulties this week. Sorry, no new photos to share.}

Gratitude & Glories {1st week of September}

~I am thankful for this week…

~ darling baby “reading” with the “click clack moo” cadence his Click, Clack, Moo book ~ postponed graduation party of a friend, so nice to visit for hours at a beautiful park ~ riding alone with my oldest to do an errand, uninterrupted time to chat ~ corn on the cob for dinner, sitting around and talking long with all the children ~ my husband playing Sheepshead with the children while I went to bed early~ letters of encouragement in the post ~ rereading my shelf, all the favorites that bring me so much joy ~ Pauline Banes illustrated end papers of Professor Tolkien’s words ~

~”walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit”, Holy Scriptures inspiring our first morning of formal back to {home}school ~ morning nature ramble for half hour after breakfast each day, poetry, devotions, and Scriptures ~ neat connections between Roman history and Hans Brinker of all things, by my oldest ~ sketching in our timeline journals called a Book of Centuries ~ reading of cow horn lanterns and time candles ~ all the lovely new books we cracked open~ hard adjustments, after all, first days are always that way, but good just the same ~

~elderberry syrup making by my 11 yo, Ella ~ convicting, helpful marriage reminders through an old book ~ one of my children working on a written narration from the Fairie Queen, really enjoying it ~ picnic table schooling in gorgeous, warm, flickering sunlight ~ watching an older version of Little Women with Greer Garson as Aunt March with my middles and littles. We really enjoy this version!

~Full gorgeous Corn Moon and very windy, my wind chimes singing away ~ seeing the lovely Butter-n-Eggs on our nature ramble, among many favorite late summer flowers~ drove older two for bank errand, post office stop, and ice cream scoop, very fun albeit, I’m a nervous wreck about number 2 driver’s ed student 😉 ~ Benjamin (6 yo) helping me make beef and brown rice for supper ~ Redwall or an OZ book being read in evenings before bed ~ old pair of jeans dug out and cut up, making slings, love when they get creative with what’s on hand ~ my 13 yo enjoying a video Latin program we are trying out ~

~starting earlier, getting done earlier, so we have time to do our own things ~ reading out on the lawn chair in the sun ~ our old folksong and hymn CDS being taken out and listened to, just like meeting with old friends again ~ lots of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong while we work in journals or on copywork ~ a beloved daughter begging to read just a little bit more of The Secret Garden ~ delicious bucket of garden fresh tomatoes and basil from my brother and sister-in-laws garden ~ date out for a moon filled sky and cheese burger and veggies ~ new book in the post, Romancing the Ordinary, that looks lovely ~ apple, grape, and late raspberry snacks from our orchard ~ getting a big clothing/porch/storage area cleaned and organized while beginning to listen to Anna Karenina ~

So much to be thankful for this week! How ’bout you?

Gratitude & Glories: {1st week of August}

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This week I’m thankful for…

 ~a drive through dappled, morning sunlight, through hills, fields, woods, rereading Miss Read’s delightful Village School, a perfect pre-autumn school-ish inspirational read ~New Life Lavender’s Organic Shea Butter w/Lavender Essential Oil, soothing my eczema ~ wind chimes donging and tinkling peacefulness through the open window ~ a new, pale periwinkle type color of Morning Glory blooming Sunday morning ~ country drive with my husband that took us through new-to-us Amish homesteads ~ cool, almost autumn-ish feel to a brand, spanking new dewy morning ~ playing Schliech animals (a favorite toy here) with my 1 yo, Gideon ~ reading some timely and encouraging things in the Book of Numbers ~ crisp, buttery, whole wheat pancakes for the kids ~ reciting “Be Not Afraid” at breakfast with everyone, so inspiring ~ beginning the first Redwall book all over again with a new bunch of children ~ My daughter Ella and I finishing up the wonderful historical fiction book, Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit ~ nodding Queen Anne’s Lace and pale blue Chicory on the roadsides ~

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~morning walks with whatever kids are available and my husband ~ visiting a lavender farm, lavender ice cream, and lemon lavender tea, rosemary lavender soap purchased – a surfeit of lavender! ~ Zoom book study, looking at the Habits are Ten Natures section of Charlotte Mason’s Volume 1 with friends, wonderful discussions ~ 4:00 afternoon tea parties with the “Queen” ~

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~driver’s education test preparation, my 15 yo son’s gratitude for my help ~ library book pick up stacks with my middle son, uninterrupted conversation for a wee bit ~reading outdoors, under the Honey Locust~ chemistry books trickling in via the post, so thankful for living book recommendations from friends ~swinging baby and boy every afternoon in the balmy breeze ~ my 6 yo arranging the  garden tomatoes beautifully ~

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~errand date with son, little free library, pig feed pickup, drive-in ice cream, and Amish veggie stand for sweet corn ~ staying up late to watch an Avenger movie with two oldest ~ finishing The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel ~ broiling fresh sliced tomatoes with basil and a little cheese ~ clouds, black swallowtails, zinnias, hollyhocks, cosmos, barn swallows, and every other small bit of natural beauty gifted to us this week ~

What a blessed week ~ Thank You, Lord Jesus!

How was yours?

~

{I hope to make this a regular post on my blog as I want to live in a posture and attitude of gratitude, a form of ‘practicing resurrection’. These don’t mean my life is perfect and trouble free, but I’m choosing to focus on the good as a way to give thanks. Please join me on your blogs, in the comments, or on your own.}

Clive and Charlotte Converge: A Mother’s Look at 2020 so far {Part 4}

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Part 1Part 2Part 3

Lewis echoes something I’m just barely starting to see in this glorious life. That Nature shows us a teeny bit of Glory, he calls it the “first sketch” of greater glory. Isn’t that beautiful? Those little things, the wind lifting the edges of the blankets on the clothesline. That fresh loaf of bread out of the oven, eager little hands buttering a hot, thick slice. Little boy’s eyes eagerly scanning Landseer’s, The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner, turning to me with questions about the sad doggy, those slightly wilted bouquets of clover and Queen Anne’s lace, and the chubby hands pressed against my cheeks point to a greater something, Someone out there. A promise so glorious and so incomprehensible that our finite brains cannot begin to imagine. That “…the whole man is to drink from the fountain of joy.” p. 44, The Weight of Glory

     Lewis, in his conclusion brings we out of my rapturous musings back to earth with a bit of humorous reality, “Meanwhile, the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning. 🙂 A cleft has opened in the pitiless walls of the world, and we are invited to follow our great Captain inside.” p. 45, emphasis mine

     Following Him is the essential point he says but an equally heavy weight of glory is my neighbors. Starting with those immediately around me, am I faithfully sowing and giving and caring for those who, “all day long,” am I, “…in some degree , helping to one or other of these destinations?” Am I growing into my skin, resting Jesus’ work, lovingly sharing life, beauty, hope, and encouragement through what I value, through what I give my time to, through my words, and what I am grateful for? Is it “a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner”…remembering that there are “no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations – these are mortal, and their life is to our as the life of a gnat.” p. 46 We remember we are immortals, life will go on in one way or another after we die.

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, – immediately or in the long run.” ~Thoreau 

     How will I spend the rest of 2020 or the next 40 years of my life? Here I am with a 1 year old and on the other end a 17 year old almost ready to graduate. How can I live and breathe in a way that reflects our true home Heaven in a world full of cheap imitations and symbols that in the end just don’t measure up? How can I live gratitude for these small glimpses of glory that echo eternity? How will I remember today to Whom I will go? My Lord and Savior, Jesus, who has the words of eternal, real and lasting life and the key to our true forever home. There is so much more in C.S. Lewis’ essay, “The Weight of Glory”, but these are a few things that jumped out to me, and I don’t want to forget.

~

Clive and Charlotte Converge: A Mother’s Look at 2020 so far {Part 3}

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Part 1 and Part 2

Picking up we left off with Lewis, he seems to be saying, I think, that our natural loves and desires are just a faint longing for something bigger than what we can understand. In the book, A Time of Gifts, travel memoirist, Patrick Leigh Fermor, shared the story of how as he trekked across a particularly bleak stretch of German wilderness, he kept himself from loneliness and despair by reciting to himself all the random snatches of poetry, recitation, Latin phrases, Shakespeare, and other bits he had memorized as a child and into early adulthood. This struck me so vividly. Mr. Fermor probably never imagined that those required tidbits or ideas would be indispensable to him later on, in his exhausted, famished physical state, but his soul and spirit were warmed by this treasury of beauty stored inside of him. The idea that in a strange and unfamiliar land, he was able to carry with him something that spoke to him of his true home, or the home of his memories, comforts, and delight. I think what Lewis goes on to say is that we see Heaven in terms of how we understand life here and now and what a poor view and inadequate one it is! Yet it is what we have for the present, as long as we keep them in proper perspective. The symbols I have can faintly represent the joy to come.

I want to fill myself, my children, and those around me with as much beauty as possible, so that any encouragement and small albeit poor glimpse of eternity can be seen or felt when we need to draw from it. Seen or felt in our mind’s eye in those cold, bleak wildernesses of life, even now in the circumstances we find our world. Personally, anything that separates people, life, Heaven, and earth from each other becomes repulsive to me quickly. Unfortunately, for me, media and the Internet often breed isolation, disjointed words without their informing ideas, or without people’s real life stories. These all turn one away from the idea that you and I are created for more. We are created for God’s pleasure and love. Lewis goes on to say that at long last I can learn,

“…that she pleases Him whom she was created to please.” p. 38

     Appreciation by God is a worthy goal that can be reached. “Perfect humility dispenses with modesty. If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself.” p.38 Again the lifelong lesson of getting comfortable in my own skin…that knowing, not pridefully who we are, but humbly acknowledging Who’s we are.

“The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God…to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness…to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son – it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.” p. 38-39, emphasis mine

     My gratitude for this gift of life and the chance to please my loving God is so well described by Lewis’ lines above. Lewis goes on to share how especially Scriptural symbols have authority, but the things I like to call ‘truth, beauty, and goodness’ symbols that are given to me help along, “for a few minutes, the illusion of belonging to that world.” The world that is beyond this dark, fallen, sad one we live in. These glimpses and the songs, artist’s paintings, and natural beauty, Lewis contends can’t in the end do anything for us. For me, however, they have definitely given me an “…indescribable something of which they become for a moment the messengers.”

It reminds me of Jesus, coming so long ago as a babe, as God-With-Us. As I walk my motherhood journey (and I have ever so many years ahead, prayerfully) and as I continue to grow into the shape of the woman God created me to be, I see many areas of these gifts of God pointing me to our ultimate reunion with Him. Lewis explains so well how and why poets and writers speak to me…

“We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it…At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of the morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so, someday, God willing, we shall get in.” p. 42-43

Part 4 to follow ~

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clive and Charlotte Converge: A Mother’s Look at 2020 so far {Part 2}

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{Part 1}

     Those early years of doing nature walks, journals, reading all the books, and scrambling to check all the Charlotte Mason boxes, all the mothering angst over the various day-to-day decisions over meals, bed times, fights, and friends, all of the second guessing myself over my faith, my writing, and my worth starts to take on a different light. Lewis goes on to say that we can feel very much like the school boy in our faith,

“…Those who have attained everlasting life in the vision of God doubtless know very well that it is no mere bribe, but the very consummation of their earthly discipleship; but we who have not yet attained it cannot know this in the same way, and cannot even begin to know it all except by continuing to obey and finding the first reward of our obedience in our increasing power to desire the ultimate reward. Just in proportion as the desire grows, our fear lest it should be a mercenary desire will die away and finally be recognised as an absurdity. But probably this will not, for most of us, happen in a day; poetry replaces grammar, gospel replaces law, longing transforms obedience, as gradually as the tide lifts a grounded ship. ” 

p. 28, The Weight of Glory, emphasis mine

     I gather all my paper bits and books and scramble indoors as the rain is now coming in earnest. “…by continuing to obey,” Lewis said. And that’s it. The crux of some of this transformational process. Little daily repetitions add up to something lasting. Faithfulness begets fruit. We eat healthy over and over again, we turn to the promises of God day in and day out, we smile, choosing joy, over and over again. We wash that same dish again and again. We sow seeds of dailiness in our faith journey, into our children, into our art, and into truly finding out who we are to Jesus, fitting into our skin in a real way. Can I truly now begin to live? Can my 40th turn around this blue-green ball we call home be a new beginning? Can I, like Charlotte Mason, see a LONG, lifetime view of child rearing and by faith and obedience, just keep sowing? Small gifts, small obedience, adds up in the end.

“It is in the infinitely little we must study the infinitely great.”

~ Charlotte Mason, Home Education, p. 29

      Can I accept that words matter to me and I must paper and ink them out one at a time? Yet as important and life changing these revelations are to me, a life time of growing and prayerfully, continuing to grow, Lewis goes on to allude that the are all symbols of our Truest and Deepest desire…

“If transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy.”

p. 29, The Weight of Glory

     The desire for “our own far-off country”… is a “secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both.” These past seventeen years of stumbling along through the Bible, the writings of Charlotte Mason, sleepless nights of nursing, the many gorgeous rain showers, the countless meals, stories, and memories, all are glimpses of beauty that are just small peeks at the glory to come. Lewis issues a good perspective and warning to me, if I find myself flying a bit away on the heights of inspiration.

“The books or music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the real thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” p.30, emphasis mine

     Lewis, oh my, dear to my heart, talks about how fairy tales and for me, I believe, some fantasy helps keep the gift and knowledge that we aren’t made for this world alive. There is more to this life I’m living, a spiritual reality beyond.

“Our real goal is elsewhere.” p.31

I will continue in Part 3 ~

~

 

Clive and Charlotte Converge: A Mother’s Look at 2020 so far {Part 1}

 

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But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” ~John 6:68-69

Where or to whom do we go, indeed? The smell of approaching rain mingles with the warm, yeasty, crust of the earth smell that deep summer bakes. This year has been something, else, hasn’t it? And here we are on the cusp of beginning the only-and-already eighth month. Everything seems to be going so slow and so fast simultaneously. I’ve been trying to wrap my head and thoughts around the many cobwebby things tickling my subconscious. As I lean toward and into this coming last full month of summer, with blue skies, flocked with fluffy, white clouds, endless green, and the magical swish and swoop of the barn swallows overhead, a few things are converging in my heart and soul. This year, I opened it out with this (among other things) as an inspiring motto:

“Man must pass from old to new,

From vain to real, from mistake to fact,

From what once seemed good, to what now proves best;

How could man have progression otherwise?”

~ Browning, p. 58

The Cloud of Witness

     As the year began, I knew that my health, physical and mental, needed change and adjustment. I started eating healthier and took breaks from media, as those were two areas I greatly needed. I knew that my home educating was going to change forever in two ways…a year of my most students ever at once, six, plus a little guy toddling about and then my first toddler, blink, now a 17 year old in her last year, a graduate coming for me at the end of this school year. The weight of this year being my 40th birthday lent me more contemplative as well. As a writer, I also felt the winds of change as I’m seeing that I have to be “true to myself” for lack of a better term, and this art in which I’m called to live. Our Honey Locust protects me from the splattering, spitting rain, concentric circles flowing outward in driveway puddles. All this and more rolls around and around in my mind, growing slowly bigger and disappearing out into the void. Then covid happened and is still happening and I’m still processing and joining Peter in the lament, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” My own meager words have felt locked up, or private or dormant for this season. Sometimes, the more we have to say, the less words we have. So, we take it one moment, one word, one journal page, one image at a time, giving room for art and idea and thought to bloom. My trellis of purple and pink Morning Glories finally opened this week, the tightly furled flower buds bursting into a mass riot of vines, color, and heart-shaped happiness.

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As I’ve been stumbling around and reflecting on all this, especially in the light of my 40th…I got to thinking about my continuing metamorphosis as a mother and woman through the years, C.S. Lewis’ essay/talk “The Weight of Glory” took on a fascinating life of its own to me. I’ve found that this gift of womanhood and motherhood has shaped me in more ways then I could possibly have imagined. Here we are, supposedly the ones guiding our children, and yet I’m the one learning how to live and move and have my being in Jesus. A gentle, rain-tinge breeze stirs the Honey Locust branch overhead. Lewis opens out his essay alluding to how we all start something in life for the reward at the end. For me, this idea is far-reaching, in all the branches of my life. If I just used Charlotte Mason’s educational methods in my family, we will end up with educated, whole, well-rounded children at the end, or if I mother this way, write this genre or style, be this kind of person, check the checks and tick the ticks, everything will work out perfectly. In this talk, Lewis in context is alluding to our faith journey, by way of a school boy’s example, but I’m applying it broadly to my mothering and growth as a woman.

“…He begins by working for marks, or to escape punishment, or to please his parents, or at best, in the hope of a future good which he cannot at present imagine or desire.

p. 27, The Weight of Glory, emphasis mine

     He contends that at first in anything our goal is a bit “mercenary”, a reward for whatever it is we aimed for. Aiming at home educating my children well, I didn’t expect to run into joy and growth for MYSELF, in the middle of my dreams and hopes for them. Lewis goes on to say, “...enjoyment creeps in upon the mere drudgery…it is just insofar as he approaches the reward that he becomes able to desire it for its own sake; indeed, the power of so desiring it is itself a preliminary reward.” p. 28, emphasis mine.

I will return to these thoughts in Part 2 soon!

~

 

June Reads

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It’s July already. Wow. Here is what I read in June. A busier month for us and after my book hangover from all my fun May reads, it was a bit quieter.

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman (****) – slightly snobby-ish 😉 reflections on books and the book life – I especially loved how much her and her parents and sister lived a life of books. I loved her reflections on used books. Big head nod and kinship to the importance of reading in her life and there is a nice list of OTHER books about books in the back, if you can follow that. 😉

Romanov by Nadine Brandes (***) – a unique YA retelling of the historical Russian story of the infamous tsar’s abdication and lockdown of the their family mixed with fantastical magic. This was creative and full of lovely details with a good plot. I loved the spell ink/magic aspect of this version. I especially loved the mysterious magician and would have loved more of him. I couldn’t really see in my mind’s eye the characters or settings very well, which frustrated me at times. I felt a teeny bit dissatisfied with ending, but overall, this was solidly entertaining and a page turning story. I would love to try some of this author’s other YA stories.

Kindling by Nevil Shute (***) – This was about a wealthy businessman who life is a lonely, workaholic blur. His marriage is dissolving and his health terrible. He ends up finding himself getting an emergency surgery in a small, economically depressed coastal village. As he recovers, he befriends many of the locals and imagines how he could bring capital to the area to revitalize the place. He starts to care for the people and wants to infuse life into the area. He ends up helping in ways that trickle down, but aren’t entirely legal. He pays heavily in the process, but the act of selflessness restores his peace and health. This has some very outdated/potentially offensive themes and probably is too simplistic in many ways, but there’s no denying that it was inspirational.

Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – this was a reread for me. One of my favorites of the whole series. The big Blythe family of children is just a joy and Anne and Gilbert’s marriage is lovely and sweet. The domesticity and nature sentiments are just so beautiful.

The Soul’s Habitation by Grethen Hayward Sousa (****) – strange, very specific and introspective poetry collection. Sousa is a master at unique metaphor and very specific details that still lend to an uncanny universal appeal or meaning to her words. I especially loved any and all poems on aging, contemplating life after death, or on growing older. Some favorites, “Fishing For More Than Bait,” “Bathing Elsa,” “The Taming of Time,” “and others.

Around the World in 80 Trees by Jonathan Drori (****) – I found this a fascinating look at trees around the world. This included extensive beautiful illustrations. I loved the folktales and lore surrounding the trees. Just so interesting. This would be a lovely gift for a nature lover in your life. Highly recommend!

For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay (*****) – a lovely overview of the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy. I’ve reread this gem many times and I just am always so encouraged.

The Holy Bible (*****) – finished Exodus, into Leviticus. Finished Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and am about half way into Isaiah. Also reading through the Gospel of John.

What did you read last month? Anything that jumped out to you? Any July reads you are loving?

~

 

Favorite Reads of 2019

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Happiest New Year! Here are my favorite reads from 2019. I’ve categorized them so you can scroll to a genre that interests you, if you only have a few moments.  Otherwise, I welcome you to stay and scroll around for awhile! The above photo shows a couple of things non-book related that I loved reading.  Commonplace Quarterly is a Charlotte Mason book quality magazine which is so encouraging.  The Letters From the Sea Tower is a monthly subscription based handwritten-letter and art piece, and I can’t tell you how much we’ve all loved these letters. The thoughts and ideas in them have enriched our lives. Ourselves by Charlotte Mason Book 2, I was privileged to go through as apart of Nancy’s Living Education Lessons.

My Favorite Book of  2019 

The Cloud of Witness – A Daily Sequence of Great Thoughts from Many Minds following the Christian Seasons (*****)

~2019 was a harder and richer year for me in many ways. I honestly struggle so much emotionally and physically with pregnancy. And yet…there is this precious little person here smiling at me as I type with his little two-bottom tooth grin. Sigh. So darling! This above devotional poured out it’s life-giving water to a parched woman-mama soul over and over again. Even just one small line or word from one of the daily snippets meant the world to me very often. A faith lifeline, really. I highly, highly recommend it. You can purchased it here and I check this helpful calendar and there is an Instagram and Facebook account to keep you current as well. My church tradition doesn’t follow these days/feasts so those are all so useful. I love to know if I’m keeping up with all the others sharing in the beauty and encouragement.

Faith Encouragement

The Holy Bible, OF COURSE. I read and reread the four Gospels many times as well as my favorites Psalms, John, James, and others.

The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith (*****) – This title has been on my shelf and TBR forever!  One of “the Read and Finish things on my shelf books”. I am so glad I did. This is probably will be a favorite forever for me and I hope to make it a yearly reread.  The title of the book is a bit strange and misleading, don’t let that stop you from soaking in lovely book from Whitall Smith. There were a few things, I may quibble with, but overall this was the most challenging and encouraging read for my faith in a very long time. Highly recommend!

Memoir

Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard (*****) (HIGHLY RECOMMEND)– This was beautifully written and I love her honesty with struggles about motherhood and as a creative. I loved her perspective as an American married to a Frenchman and learning to live in French culture. She was so interesting and the recipes, bits of life, and gorgeous look at motherhood made this a HIGHLY loved book for me. I would love to attempt some of the French recipes, too, I appreciated them seeming approachable for the average cook. If you need to escape to the French countryside for a bit, pick this one up.

A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place by Hannah Hinchman (*****) – Just wow. I can’t even explain why and how much I loved this book. This book has an overall sadness or loneliness to it, in some ways. But, I think we all understand that and some of us crave a quietness that is very elusive in our modern culture. This is an amazing small sampling of what a nature journal could be and mean to us as a person. This book requires time, close attention, and contemplation. Just the point the author shows through her intimate and close observation of our natural world.

Letters of a Women Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart (*****) – A friend recommended this to me and I’m so glad! This is hilarious and super inspring. I listened to it on Librivox and was so charmed by her hard-working spirit, love of nature, and resilience. Eye-opening, turn of the century real letters between two women. My children enjoyed listening to some of it as well. Page turner! Just FYI: racial slurs and some scary/intense situations.

General Fiction

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim (*****) – A favorite reread! In the back of my mind, I remembered really enjoying this fictional account of two English women, who on a whim, answer an advert for month in Italy at a medieval castle. They end up inviting two other women to share the costs and space with them. Sigh. This is so lovely in that I think it does a wonderful job in relating the struggles and internal battles women in different circumstances and life stages go through. The beauty of Von Arnim’s descriptions of Italy and the gardens are so soothing and there’s a subtle deepness underlying the story line of these women. I highly recommend this one. I then watched the movie and really, really enjoyed it.

The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim (*****) – The hilarious introspection of a wife and mother. Lush descriptions of nature, gardens. Enlightening, insider’s look at a wealthy, upper class woman’s life. I really enjoyed this title. This is technically a sequel to her Elizabeth and Her German Garden, but I don’t think you need to necessarily read them in order.

Virgil Wander by Leif Enger (*****) (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!)

“All this building and talking and flying made me homesick. It wasn’t logical, since I was home, but that’s what I came to perceive – a fulminant ache high in the rib cage, a sense of time’s shortening fuse. After the first accident, it had felt as though my apartment belonged to someone else; after the second, I began to feel as though there was a home I belonged to, and this one, though pleasant and likable, wasn’t it. The previous tenant would’ve rejected such nonsense, but then the previous tenant never had an eccentric foreign house guest, sewing up artworks to hang in the sky, talking to ravens, spinning twilit Arctic stories. My weary old ground was broken and watered, and what sprang up was a generalized longing. I began to feel like a character myself, well-meaning but secondary, a man introduced late in the picture. I wished to spool back and watch earlier scenes, to scout for hints and shadows, clues as to what might be required of a secondary actor when the closing real began.”

~Leif Enger, Virgil Wander

Poetry

Breathing the Water (*****) by Denise Levertov {gorgeous nature poetry}

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver (****) – This was a 450+ page anthology of Oliver’s poetry. I checked it out from the library following her death earlier this year. Oliver is one of my favorite modern poets, A Thousand Mornings, being my favorite collection of hers. Overall, I loved this and really enjoyed revisiting poems I’ve read before over the years as this is a collection from most of her poetry books. Poetry seems to really be feeding my soul during the last bits of winter and into early spring.

Mine the Harvest by Edna St. Vincent Millay (*****) – a collection of beautiful poems! I’m planning out our poets for autumn study and have been reading different poets here and there. I was only slightly familiar with St. Vincent Millay’s work and I’m glad I read this.

A Pentecost of Finches: New and Selected Poems by Robert Siegel (*****) – This took me awhile to really get into and appreciate, but as I read further along, I fell in love with many of these detailed, observant poems. I’m so glad I finally picked this up off of my TBR pile. I found one of my favorites here online.

Children’s Literature

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (*****) –This one did made me cry! The ending was unbelievable, love lost, and the importance of family and friendship. I really enjoyed this classic.

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (*****) – Lovely imaginative tale about a clock that strikes thirteen, opening a time portal to a dreamy garden, friendship, and beauty.

The Load of Unicorn by Cynthia Harnett (*****) – This was a fascinating, children’s historical fiction. I’m now obsessed with learning more about watermarking paper before it was used. This lovely story is set in England in the late 1400’s, follows the adventures of a boy who’s apprenticed to a printer, a controversial position for a scrivener’s son. Thieves, pirates on the Thames, the War of the Roses, and a story set in the shadows of the gorgeous Westminster Abbey, this is such a lovely book to bring English history alive. The author illustrates the book with lovely inky sketches full of glorious details, which really adds so much charm. Can’t wait to share this one with my children! I also read The Wool-Pack (*****) by Harnett and JUST as much, if not more charm! Her little sketches and illustrations really make these shine. The story is again at the end of Middle Age England, and this time the son of a wealthy wool merchant uncovers a bunch of thieves stealing and discrediting his father. The subtle lessons, suspense, and the father son relationship were wonderful! (One thing about this title that may need some explaining? is that the 14 yo son is betrothed to a 11 yo! Yikes. However, it’s done in a tasteful way and they are just friends when they meet one another. It was a little creepy to my modern sensibilities, but it was reality of a wealthy young man’s life at that time.)

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Vol. 1-3 by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – These are tomes because each volume is 2 books. I had so much fun with these and they would be perfect for over the holiday vacation. They are interrelated stories about a powerful enchanter whose title is Chrestomanci. He has nine lives and the current enchanter is Christopher Chant. He is an enigmatic, mysterious personality and he helps in many different children’s lives and situations throughout the books. These are SO fun and escapist fiction with interesting ideas in it. Jones really understands children’s imagination and thoughts. I found that so lovely. My favorite of the books were The Pinhoe Egg and Witch Week. If you are a fan of light fantasy/magic Middle Grade books with subtle British humor, you will enjoy these!

Long Classics

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden (****) – an online friend mentioned that this was a good read during Lent. I have had it on my shelf forever and am so glad I dove in. I found it fascinating and found a lot to contemplate as I thought over the life of these nuns. This story is focused on a career business woman who gives everything up to enter the Brede convent. The lives of the nuns and the intricacies of their relationships was so interesting. Godden did a wonderful job making each woman really interesting and deep.

Middlemarch by George Eliot (****) – I did it! I finished this massive classic. I read some and listened to the rest on Librivox while waiting on my baby and then during the long nursing sessions. It took me a long time to get into this, but then I really started to appreciate it. The different characters and marriages in and around the town of Middlemarch were very interesting to me. My favorite character (s) was (were) Mr. Garth and possibly Dorothea Brooke. There are many deep, wonderful lines that I’d love to go back through and copy down in my commonplace. My brain was sort of muddled currently, so I’m not doing this book justice, but it was fascinating.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens (*****) – I read along with an Instagram group and I really loved this book. One of my favorite things about this was how places take on a life of their own, how amazingly distinctive Dicken’s characters are, and all of the children in this were fascinating and heart-wrenching. Mr. Bucket was one of my favorite characters, but I still can’t pinpoint why. I will probably have to reread it, someday! Ha. This follows multiple story lines and slowly culminates in them all tied together in some way. It features two main narrators, a young woman Esther Summerson, and a third person narrator, presumably Dickens himself? I can’t even begin to do this A-mazing book justice. Dickens gives us an immersive experience literally bogging us down at times in the foggy, gritty details of London. Highly recommend!

General Non-Fiction 

Home Education by Charlotte Mason (*****) One of my favorite home education and parenting books ever. I reread it again this year!

Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones (*****) – 6 stars…best book on writing (especially for children) I’ve read, I think. I’m starting right back over. These are speeches and essays by Wynne Jones on writing and I found a kindred spirit in this book.

 

~What richness! I was so blessed by my reading year in 2019! You can always look through my Year in Books category for hours of book browsing, if you so choose. Here are my past years favorite books as well! Ever upward and onward to our 2020 bookstack! 🙂

Favorite Reads of 2018

Favorite Reads of 2017

Favorite Reads of 2016

 

Monday Ponderings {Azarian Advent ~ December 2nd}

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The Four Seasons of Mary Azarian, by Lilias Macbean Hart, illustrated by Mary Azarian.

It may be in the evening,

When the work of the day is done,

And you have time to sit in the twilight,

And watch the sinking sun,

While the long bright day dies slowly

Over the sea,

And the hour grows quiet and holy

With thoughts of ME:

While you hear the village children

passing along the street –

Among those thronging footsteps

May come the sound of my feet

Therefore I tell you, Watch!

By the light of the evening star

When the moon is growing dusky

As the clouds afar,

Let the door be on the latch

In your home,

For it may be through the gloaming

I will come.

 

~B.M. , p. 4

The Cloud of Witness

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{Join me this month in quiet contemplation and prayer on our Savior’s coming…}

~

Here and Now {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving 2019} #8

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Happy American Thanksgiving!

71. continually learning to live in the now, instead of always thinking of another season

72. seeing my oldest daughter in her room crocheting and listening to Shakespeare
73. the words to “Come to Jesus” by Fredrick William Faber
74. approaching Advent and the beauty of the season, namely – Jesus, Light of the World
75. Jo and Biddy in Dicken’s Great Expectations
76. dog’s ears flying behind her as she runs like the wind, her body listing to one side
77. noticing a gorgeous giant maple leaf in church parking lot, same leaf brought later unknowingly by 5yo to me
78. back of baby’s knobby, fuzzy head, stick-out ears, and darling soft neck
79. anticipation over Instagram classic book read-along next year
80. son mentioning that he thought he saw a Cedar Waxwing while hunting
(I will try to finish these tomorrow and Saturday! A little behind, but oh, such a blessing!) 
~
What’s on your list today?