Retreat

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The pine smell enveloped me, breathing deep, I soaked in the flickering sunlight. It dappled on green, falling and shifting down. My face lifted, eyes closed for just a moment. I was home in this place away from home. The trees shifting and waving, welcoming ripples, the wind weaving me into this tapestry of green, with a hint of autumn color beginning. My husband kindly covering the home front, so that I could take time to retreat. I was struck by the quiet solitude, yet not a loneliness. The crunch of leaves, the occasional bird, and that glorious wind were the background music for my visit. I slowly strolled through the stone work, little bridges, and other work of the Franciscan monks that had lived here beginning almost a century earlier.  The Stations of the Cross intrigued me. I didn’t have the prayers with me, yet I stepped up to each one, and something was hovering at the edges of my mind. I studied the rough, yet careful stone structures with their wooden crosses on top. Inside were the images of Jesus being condemned by Pilate, Jesus accepting his cross, and seeing Mary. I was interested in the three falls of Jesus, wondering. The people mentioned. Simon, Veronica, and the women of Jerusalem. Jesus dying and buried. This Via Crucis was complete and as I looked back,  my vague impressions struck me. First, I wondered and felt a longing for the depiction of the Resurrection and the hope I find in that part of my faith. I found myself shocked at the violence played out in the midst of this wooded sanctuary. The blood, pain, and rejection He encountered stood out harshly against the very calm creation surrounding me. He more than anyone understands. Understands me as a human, is with me through life, and whatever sorrows I’m treading through, He will lead be beside still waters, He will restore my soul. Violence and pain are real, but I rest in His beauty and love. I thought of this retreat weekend and all the beautiful women that I’d been visiting with, our hopes, dreams, and yes, pain, some with deeply intense pain of things they are carrying. A rustle of wind shifted the leaves and light. All of us here were coming to grow and rest a bit, taking a break from the daily cares of cooking, answering questions, and being “on” for others. Yet, I found myself seeing how much of those things echo Jesus’ very posture towards me. The very “job” if you will, that I find myself in, one of mothering and caring, one of practicing compassion, was what I was seeing dimly reflected in these ancient walls, in these unique women, and whispering through the trees and words from our discussions. One last glimpse back, as I exit these woods, gratitude for the green, the light, and for a little bit more understanding than before. The small things of life are truly the biggest.

~

Monday Ponderings {October 1st}

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Humility

How deep a mystery, my Lord, Thou shew’st!

Though I do beat my breast and humble me

And of most servile tasks do make my boast,

Yet have I not attained humility!

 

Then, more I shame me, think upon my sins,

Cry, “Lord, I am not fit to touch Thy feet!” –

My self-abasing no advancement wins,

The more I loathe me, more am I unmeet!

 

“Perceiv’st though not, my child, what thing I ask –

Thy lowly, simple grace that children own;

Thy pride imposeth every heavy task; –

Humility is one as Christ is one:

 

Fret not thyself, but set thine heart on Me, –

And thou goest garbed in My Humility.”

 

-Charlotte Mason, Saviour of the World, Volume IV, Book IV, Poem LXII (Matthew 18:4) [page 170] (this was given to us in a talk given by Nancy Kelly)

Additionally, it tied beautifully into this quote which I got from my sister:

“Trained faith is a triumphant gladness in having nothing but God – no rest, no foothold – nothing but Himself – A triumphant gladness in swinging out into that abyss, rejoicing in every fresh emergency that is going to prove Him true – The Lord Alone – that is trained faith.” ~ Lilias Trotter (Diary, 9 September 1902)

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{This is one of the most beautiful things that has really stuck out to me in the past couple of weeks. I’ve been thinking on it a lot. I’ve been MIA around here due to home educating my children, hope to pop in more soon, as I get the beginning school year wrinkles semi-ironed out. Hopefully, I will be back this week sometime to share my books from September and a little bit more from my retreat I took at the end of September. I have some other ideas always swirling around in my brain.  How are you all doing?  Let me be the first to wish you a very Happy October! Our leaves are starting to change here and it is such a beautiful gift.}

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Monday Ponderings {September 10th}

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“…if the business of teaching be to furnish the child with ideas, any teaching which does not leave him possessed of a new mental image has by so far, missed its mark.”

“An idea is more than an image or a picture; it is, so to speak, a spiritual germ endowed with vital force – with power, that is, to grow, and to produce after its kind.”

“…our only means of true intimacy with a child is the power of recovering our own childhood – a power which we are apt to let slip as of no vital importance.”

“It is possible to supplement Nature so skilfully that we run some risk of supplanting her, depriving her of space and time to do her own work in her own way.”

“…there is no habit of power so useful to man or woman as that of personal initiative.”

“The educational error of our day is that we believe too much in mediators. Now, Nature is her own mediator, undertakes, herself, to find work for eyes and ears, taste and touch; she will prick the brain with problems and the heart with feelings; and the part of the mother or teacher in the early years (indeed, all through life) is to sow opportunities, and then to keep in the background, ready with a guiding or restraining hand only when these are badly wanted.”

p.171-193

(A few gems from Miss Charlotte Mason’s first Volume, Home Education, which I’m thinking on this week. Anything that jumps out to you? Bold emphasis is mine.)

~

On the Eve…

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September ~

Here we are. On the cusp of a beginning again. My footsteps rang out into the void. A void filled with the music of wind, grasshoppers humming, and silent yet spoken sunshine flickering through the trees. My glorious walk this afternoon, cool air, hot, crisp sun, the temperature dropping drastically as I went under and into the tree cover. My heartbeat matching my strides, leaves rattling and skittering across the road, a bird swooping low, scolding me a bit. I consciously willed to set aside the summer projects that are left unfinished, the unresolved arguments of the morning, upcoming autumn commitments, and close my mind’s eyes to the laundry piles. This moment, this now, is what I have to dwell upon. I think on the beauty at my finger tips and the promise of a fresh, new day and term beginning on the morn. Tomorrow we are back to the beauty feast, of books, art, and gathering together to learn anew.

I listen to the soothing tinkle, and then rushing overflow of water in the gullies and washouts, remnants from the overabundance of water during past week and a half of flooding. The sunshine hits the water, diamonds for the taking, a deep breath and one more step forward. Am I ready? Are we ready? That’s part of the beauty of it all. We don’t have to be or do anything special. Of course, I’ve made my lists, I’ve pulled my books of the shelves, and ordered fresh supplies. We’ve sharpened the proverbial pencils. The truth is this: we are all invited to this table, we show up, the parent and child, students one and all, filling our plates, humbly stepping up to the banquet laid before us. Then we feast on love and grace, we breathe in the comforting disciplines of rhythm and routine, and we snuggle down in all comfortable-like, listening to that beat. That hum, cadence, roll to our days that flows through. It’s called Love. A Love so amazing that it binds, knits, and sews up together in this tapestry of life. Yes, I still have to figure out what happens to those unfinished things, yes, I need to ask forgiveness and mend my relationship, and yep, I need to throw another load into the wash. But I come at it with a bounce in my step, a full belly of gratitude and thanksgiving, and a heart surrendered to Love’s work in our hearts this term.

Happy Beauty Feast Eve.

~

 

August Reads

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Welcome, September! Happy Reading, Friends! How do your pages turn? 🙂 Here is what I finished in August ~

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (***) – This was for my Back to Classics Challenge in the Classic Crime Story, fiction or non-fiction category.  I found this story so irritating for some reason! I usually enjoy Christie and it was weird how frustrating I found this…it was just maddening how everyone kept getting killed! HA. 😉 I did not figure out the murderer, yet I had my suspicions, and I suppose the ending was interesting, but overall, this one was not my favorite. I think this is one that you just have to try, because it could be my personal tastes/not the right time, not an actual bad story.

Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins (*****) – I’m continuing my current obsession with Collins poetry and this one didn’t disappoint. However, it is a collection of poems from all his stand-alone poetry titles, which I didn’t realize. So, I got some repeat poems, but I didn’t mind. I also read Ballistics (*****), which was a beautiful collection of poems by Mr. Collins that I haven’t read before.

Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola (*****) – This is an annual summer reread for me, and I think it’s the 5th time I’ve gone through it. I’m always so encouraged and inspired as we head into our learning year. Mrs. Andreola is wonderful at gentle encouragement and heart-warming antidotes to everyday worries about parenting, home educating, and understanding the CM philosophy in small, practical ways.  Highly Recommend!

The Blythes are Quoted by L.M. Montgomery – This is billed as the 9th novel in the Anne of Green Gables Series,  but I don’t know how to rate this! I really liked it, especially the poetry, which is funny, because Montgomery’s poetry can be a bit cheesy. These poems seemed more real and had a depth of feeling to them. This collection is dark, sad, and morbid. The short stories deal with a lot of heartache and despair and knowing now more about Maud’s life and marriage, they are probably a bit more honest that a lot of her work. If you don’t want to know the real Maud, and just want to remember her via Anne Shirley, I’d suggest not reading these. This book itself has a storied and unclear history and I found it fascinating that it may have been suppressed or heavily edited originally. I’m repeating myself here, but if you are a die hard Montgomery fan and know her true history, you will love this, but if you prefer to just stay in Green Gables, I wouldn’t read this one.

The Holy Bible (*****) – first half of Psalms, Luke, and John

 

 

 

Monday Ponderings {September 3rd}

 

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Souls are shaped in the common moments of life, the daily stuff of memories. 

~ Sally Clarkson,  The Lifegiving Table

{One more week here until we begin our new learning year. I’m taking time this week to just soak in more summer and contemplate all the beauty around me. How is your week shaping up? Happy Monday!}

~

 

 

“Keep out of the shadows and seek the sunshine”

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{Lake Superior, Minnesota}

The floods of life are all around us. Metaphorically, in our hearts and souls, but also quite literally here in Wisconsin. We are having unprecedented flooding and I can just see how it weighs on everyone. Hearth Ridge and my family aren’t directly affected besides roadways because we live away from the river and high on a dry hill, surrounded by glorious wind-blown meadows. I feel a heavy-heart for many of our local towns, friends, and the places we visit and love which are currently underwater.

How do we go on when weariness or discouragement hit us, or mud and muck must be hauled out of basements, the bits and pieces of our life floating around our feet? When the dishes, to-do lists, illnesses, and family demands just seem too much? As a spouse, parent, friend, or employee, how do we not sink under the depths of our responsibilities?

This may seem too idealist and yes, there are times we just have to roll-up our shirt sleeves, clean-up, working hard to solve a legitimate problem. However, much of the time, things are just regular life, or things outside of our control, and our hearts and minds need an anchor, and where idealism isn’t necessary a bad perspective on life to cultivate. An anchor, a perspective shift, and a holding onto something outside of ourselves.

That Anchor is found in the shimmer around the edges of the sunset, in the way the wind tickles the grass, in the steam rising from the freshly baked peach cobbler, and from the last glorious pages of a beautiful story. I believe we see a reflection of the gorgeous character of our God everywhere, if we would but just look closely enough. The single line of poetry or lovely Psalms that touch that spot deep in one’s heart. The small hand holding our large one, and the big pot of potato soup ready for lunch. I’ve been thinking about this idea of a focus on the good  no matter what hardship we find ourselves, as I’ve been very slowly reading a book called So Sweet to Labor: Rural Women in America, 1865-1895 by Norton Juster. This book is a collection of articles from popular housekeeping and rural magazines of the time. The importance of women and the reality of how truly unromantic their lives were a majority of the time, about how bone-jarringly hard these pioneer women worked. And yet, they found bits of that shimmer to hold onto, in their faith, in nature, and their homemaking.

In a beautiful letter from an older woman to a new mother, Alice, this advice struck me as poignant, and even though she was writing in regards to parenting, I took it for all difficult moments of life (emphasis mine):

    Do not fret; do not worry; do not be despondent. Do not seek the shadows, but, as far as may be, keep yourself in the clear sunshine of the soul…Do you say “this is an hard saying; who can bear it?” Perhaps it is, regarded in one light. But He that was born of woman, and who humbled himself to become Mary’s loving and obedient son, looks tenderly and compassionately upon all mothers now; and for the sake of her at whose breast he was nourished, and whom he remembered in his dying agony upon the cross, he longs to sustain and to comfort them. Go to him, dear child, when the burden of your responsibility grows too heavy, and lay it at his feet. We try to in poor human weakness to carry so many loads that Christ is ready and willing to carry for us, if we will only let him.

But if you look at this matter merely as regards yourself, it is for your own good now and in the coming trial, that you should look on the bright side, and give way to no useless and idle forebodings. Therefore I say again keep out of the shadows and seek the sunshine; and finally, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report – if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Surround yourself as far as may be with beauty and with grace. Cultivate your flowers and take their loveliness to your inmost soul. Look not with eyes that see not upon the wonderful magnificence of the star-lit heaves, nor turn away from the daily miracles of sunrise and of sunset, heeding not their glory. There are hundreds about us who would go thousands of miles to to see a  veritable Titian or Leonardo da Vinci, who never opened their eyes to behold the more glorious pictures that God hangs in his temple of the heavens. 

 Breathe the atmosphere of refinement and peace, and in this time of seclusion, when the world seems afar off, and the tumult of its strivings and its noisy ambitions fall deadened upon your ear, commune with your own heart and be still. It is a holy season, Alice, a time for thought and prayer. See that you use it well.

pg. 43

Isn’t this so true and applicable for today? No matter the dark, foreboding rain clouds on the horizon or the murky floodwaters swirling, there IS hope. These trying times are holy seasons, ones where deep soul work is birthed, and joy breaks forth in the morning.  I’m holding onto these little snatches and seeking sunshine.

~

Monday Ponderings {August 13th}

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In the rush and noise of life, as you have intervals, be still. Wait upon God and feel his good presence; this will carry you evenly through your day’s business.

~William Penn

{I saw this quote at the end of one of my favorite books, A Charlotte Mason Companion, by Karen Andreola. Being still is a choice, one that I need to continually purposefully cultivate. It is so refreshing. Just leaving the phone upstairs, sitting by the window with my coffee, or going on a walk by myself.  Think of how much more NOW this applies than in Mr. Penn’s lifetime…all the screeching voices we could hear today via media, if we choose to listen. We are free to turn them off.}

~

And yet…

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The screen door may have broken. The fruit flies may be multiplying. The garbage may be overflowing. The new oven may be ten days out. The school plan may need to be thrown out and started over from scratch. The fridge may be empty and the menu plan nonexistent. The floors may be filthy. The light-bulb in the bathroom may be flickering. The little girls may be quarreling. Throats may be sore and stomachs queasy. Weeds may be knee deep. Emails/calls may be buzzing in our must-do ears. Insomnia may be culminating in bone-deep exhaustion. Tense words may be said over and over again. Baskets of laundry may be stacked haphazardly around your dining room. An unidentified smell may be growing on your porch.  Humidity and whining may mix in a teeth-grinding combo. Carbs may have been consumed instead of vegetables.

And yet…

The sunset riots with purple and pink. The smell of fish off the grill drifts on the air. Kittens tumble joyfully. The last bit of light filters through the leaves. The day was wrapped in a unearthly fog, a swan pair floating out of it, on a nearby lake. The kind, listening ear of someone close, who enjoyed and engaged in your school ideas for the year. Heart-shaped Morning Glory leaves. Giant leaf hats and afternoon movies. Colby jack cheese and hot, jolting cups of coffee. Little, pudgy dill-smelling hands.A daughter asks to listen to “The Keys to Canterbury” together. Fluffy duvet covers. Little boy ecstatic over, “Big GREEN tractor, mom!” Comedy videos on Youtube. Sunflowers opening, chickens cackling underneath. Cool, dew-drenched moments.

I am ever so grateful for the tugs to the pulls of life. Perspective and a turning of one’s face just a LITTLE bit to the left makes all the difference. A kind of holy peripheral vision, if you will. I’m hanging on to every one of those little “and yets” in my heart tonight…

 

~

 

 

 

July Reads

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Hello, Dear Readers,

It’s time for last months reading recap!

East of Eden by John Steinbeck (****) – This is one of my Back to Classics picks for the year in the Author that’s New to Me category.  Wow! This was an amazing book and my first Steinbeck. The nature descriptions are wonderful and I enjoyed his rich prose and insightful, detailed observations. It started off very dark and depressing as we are introduced to Cathy, later known as Kate. She is one of more disturbing people I’ve read about in literature in a long time! Towards the end, I feel like I was able to feel a twinge of compassion towards her or at least a teeny bit of understanding. As we went along, I started to see some of the “retelling of the Genesis story/Cain and Abel” feeling, as our characters battle the internal good and evil in their lives and with their families. This follows two generations of two families and weaves in and out in a beautiful way as they struggle to survive their parents and as parents, their upbringing, and finding their purpose in life. They battle the question of is our tendency towards good or evil inherited or a choice? The weight of this question is felt heavily in each person’s life.  I felt like I got to know the characters deeply and that many of their questions were universal. I loved Lee, the Cantonese servant, and eventually friend and caretaker to Adam. I loved, loved Samuel, the dreamy, distracted friend of Lee and Adam. I realize this is a crazy, all over the place review, but it’s hard to describe. Beautiful, recommend with caveat that it does have a lot of darkness: prostitution, language, and suicide.

Mathematics: An Instrument for Living Teaching by Richele Baburina (****) – This is a reference book for how Charlotte Mason approached maths and her words gathered together on mathematics and laid out in a very helpful way. I skimmed some of this, but found it very interesting and plan on referencing it in the future.

The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Vol. 1: 1889 – 1910 by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – I absolutely loved this look into Maud’s life as a young teenage girl, growing into a young engaged woman. The angst, temptations, and frustrations of the growing years were the same as many of us go through, but this was unique peek into a woman’s life at the turn of the century. Maud’s life with her grandparents was very rigid, so it was fascinating to see how she escaped into books and nature. I don’t care what Maud said, her own personality comes through in Anne and her other characters SO much! 😉 I can’t wait to read the next of these! I think there are five of them.

The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright (****) – A strong 3.5 stars! This was a page turner! Mysterious, full of awesome creep, and I loved the Edgar Allen Poe vein throughout. I also loved the newspaper setting in Libby’s world and coffee shop in Annalise’s life. I felt very interested and connected to both Libby and Annalise, both in their respective mysteries and time periods. The growing affection between Libby and (well, I won’t spoil it) was done well, not too cheesy, but slower and more natural.

The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) – Interesting, dark story about the English Civil War and the wrestling with good and evil in all of our lives. How the love of God and others trumps darkness. Fascinating look at Royalists, Puritans, class divisions, and the Romani peoples. Gardens and herbs are prominent in this book which was beautiful and piqued my interest in it all the more. This took me a LONG time to get into, you have to be very patient with Goudge, but she will reward you many times over, if you hang on.

Hiking Naked: A Quaker Woman’s Search for Balance by Iris Graville (*****) – I picked this up off my non-fiction library new shelf and I’m so glad I did. This is the memoir of a full-time nurse, who is burned out, and knows she and her family need a change from their fast paced lives. They end up moving to a small village in Washington State, North Cascades. They really begin living pretty primitively and work hard at odd jobs in the tourist season. Through it all, Graville journals, hikes, and just really searches her heart about what is important. I appreciated that her and her husband had a normal, yet good marriage. The only thing I didn’t like was once in awhile it felt a teeny bit whiny and I’m not a Quaker, so some of that was vague to me, but over all really enjoyed this story about her life and family.

The Pleasure of Reading: 43 Writers on the Discovery of Reading and the Books that Inspired Them edited by Antonia Fraser and Victoria Gray (*****) –  That title says it all! Ha. It was just lovely (for the most part) essays from writers on their lives and reading. I read this pretty slow, but really enjoyed it. At the end of each chapter, each writer shares a list of a few favorites. I was surprised how many lists had Alice in Wonderland on their lists! I think it’s time for a reread.  🙂

Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin (***) – I really enjoy the first half of this book, just about fantasy writing and the importance of imagination. The second half was forwards she wrote for her books and she gets more defensive of some of her gender neutral writings etc. I found it to get a bit too whiny and possibly preachy?

The Little Library Cookbook by Kate Young (*****) – I read this on a road trip and was positively charmed by the recipes and memoir reflections of Miss Young’s life. One of reading and and feasting created to compliment her favorite stories. Many of the recipes were drool worthy and weren’t TOO difficult (except for a few) for the average home cook. Just LOVELY.

The Benedict Option: A Strategy  for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher (***) – I found the beginning of this book absolutely fascinating as Dreher gives us a snapshot of how Christianity has fallen apart through the ages and a view of it in the United States. Not super in depth, but accessible to the normal reader, I appreciated this part a lot. I found some of his ideas very idealistic, yet I loved his hopeful tone and encouragement about cultivating community. I was a bit skeptical because I don’t love a lot of what you might label as “Christian self-help etc” type books, but overall, I liked this one.

Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins (*****) – I just loved this collection of poems, revisited ones from Picnic, Lightening and The Art of Drowning, both which I read earlier this year. His poems are so REAL and concrete and so very universal. You feel like what he just shared happened yesterday to you. Yet, he surprises you, too, by his close, minute observations. I really am enjoying Mr. Collins.

The Holy Bible (*****) – I finished Psalms, digging into Proverbs, and read Matthew and Mark.

~

 

 

 

Monday Ponderings {August 6th}

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{High Falls of Pigeon River – Grand Portage State Park, Minnesota}

Among the many things for which I remain profoundly grateful is the fact that so much of life defies human explanation. The unimaginative and the dull may insist that they have an explanation for everything, and level at every wonder and mystery of life their popgun theories, but God be praised, their wooden guns have not yet dislodged the smallest star. It is well that this be so, for the human spirit can die of explanations, even if, like many modern formulae, they are but explanations which do not explain. 

     A world without wonder, and a way of mind without wonder, becomes a world without imagination, and without imagination man is a poor and stunted creature. Religion, poetry, and all the arts have their sources in this upwelling of wonder and surprise. Let us thank God that so much will forever remain out of reach, safe from our inquiry, inviolate forever from our touch.

~Henry Beston, Northern Farm, p. 128-129 (emphasis mine)

{Thinking on this beautiful thought this morning, rainy, delicious smelling morning outdoors, and I’m slowly catching up on things after our holiday. What are you thinking on today? Happy Monday!}

~