Treasure Trove

_mg_6604

The little bell clangs against the dirty door as we enter in. The smell is strong, old, memories, and mildew, all tinged with coffee. A cheery modern tune contrasts with the feeling of years that hits me as I enter this thrift shop. I step up to the shelves, pulling off a piece of someone’s life, digging through their forgotten favorite flannels, tea cups that lips touched, and fingering old castoff letters from loved ones. Light filters through the dust as I move a box to take a closer look at an old, wooden highchair, the same light reaches through the multi-colored beads, shining broaches, and giant pendants swaying from their hook, perhaps lightly with the music. There is a bit of magic in these places.

The friendly chatter of other seekers and the workers reaches my ears through the little cramped, jam packed isles of boots, porcelain figurines, and utensils. The light is hauntingly dark in some corners full of obsolete appliances and old cutting boards and glaringly fluorescent in others, illuminating garish orange pans and faded paintings with broken frames. To the eyes willing to see this place is full of buried treasure. I carefully sift through the piles of lacy, hand-embroidered linens and marvel at the loving care of their creators. The kaleidoscope of color and dusty beauty, the air of sharing of lives through time cocoons me.

This is reminiscent of what I am privileged to do each day, entering one of these treasure troves with my children. We spread out the past by shaking out our English geography book, map, and digging into Shakepeare’s Henry V,  peering at stone castles online. Bright eyes search, dig down through the piles of stories, and beauty, no one knowing what treasure each person is mining, thrifting forever. The lives of others turned and pages savored that tie us to others long ago. Not unlike that old pitcher with a little crack that I admire on a crooked shelf. The music, meals, and art share permeate, send a shard into our hearts, flow in and out of our conversation, touching a cord. It reminds me of the knitted or crocheted items piled in second hand shops. Why are they called second-hand anyway? Truly these well-loved objects are often of higher quality and their beauty is in the knowledge of the love and care that went into creating them. Yes, we do have the grime and filth to scrub away in life and on our treasures, but that’s half the excitement of the hunt, being able to see through grit to the shine and heart of something.

Having such an eclectic selection, such a surprising, joyful array to pick from – why would anyone choose the cookie-cutter and sterile? If they are able, why wouldn’t anyone choose the richness and thick, juicy bits of dreams to choose from? All of our senses engaged, our minds swirling with color, traditions, handmade, and slow made. These are mellowed through time. The rainbow afghan, vintage books inscribed by a loving grandmother to grandchild, the in-depth biography, interesting math pattern, and sweet, soft poem. All of this digging, dropping the wooden bucket into the well of robust life, looms large – we are gifted many interests, thoughts, ideas, and bits that spill up and over. They carry us through life and become a gift we can give.

We feel inspired with this special something tucked under our arm and carried out into the world. Our thrifting and learning together collide in an awareness of others past, present, and gives us hope and light in the dark future. It births in us a humility and greatness of soul touching the past, being here and now, and our fragrance flowing into the future to come. We identify with those who used the kerosene lantern with it’s brilliant light lit, we create music to be shared because we know how much the music lifted us, we curl up in a blanket and commiserate with those pioneers who built this life one back-breaking freezing moment at a time. These dusty places and this piled shelves are really museums of life and beauty for the taking. Taste and see. Eat and be filled. Treasure awaiting, dormant and expectant. All we have to do is reach out and partake. A gift to fill and to be spilled.

~

In Which I Talk More About Books {surprise, surprise} aka My Reading Plan for 2019 ~

_MG_9381

I will eventually get back to writing here, hopefully, at Hearth Ridge Reflections. I miss just talking of our days and the beauty found in the little moments of life.  I will stop just blathering constantly about books and quotes. 😉 Well, maybe not. Ha. Anyway, I decided to make my own bookish challenge for myself this year. In previous years, I’ve enjoyed the Back to Classics challenge, but I decided to take a break from that. I have so many books that I’ve read a little in or have been meaning to get to at some point. I think that I’m finally ready to challenge myself with a book list. I tend to be an “emotional” reader, choosing based on how I feel, so it will be interesting to see how I do with a predetermined list. I gave myself a pretty broad range of things to choose from except I noticed there isn’t any fantasy and not a lot of modern titles. I’m sure I’ll pick some of those up from my shelf or the public library. I list these here just to nudge myself in a couple of ways: 1. read my own shelf. I’m blessed with a nice sized home library after collecting at charity shops, yard sales, used book stores, and online over the years. I have not read all of them. Ha. 2. finish things you begin. If I don’t finish all of these, or if I read other books, that’s just fine, I just want to give these a bit more priority in my 2019 reading time.

  1. Middlemarch by George Elliot
  2. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  3. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dilliard
  4. Home Education by Charlotte Mason (trying to make this an annual reread)
  5. Hints on Child-Training by  H. Clay Trumbull
  6. Persuasion by Jane Austen (reread)
  7. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (reread)
  8. Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge (reread)
  9. Island Magic by Elizabeth Goudge
  10. Make-Believe by Elizabeth Goudge
  11. Stillmeadow Road by Gladys Taber
  12. Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery
  13. Golden Road by L.M. Montgomery
  14. Gerald Manley Hopkin’s poetry book
  15. Joy of Snow by Elizabeth Goudge
  16. The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith
  17. So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger
  18. Virgil Wander by Leif Enger
  19. Springtime in Britian by Edwin Way Teale
  20. On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior
  21. The Tapestry by Edith Schaeffer
  22. Larkrise to Candleford Trilogy by Emma Thompson
  23. The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis (reread)
  24. The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
  25. The Art of Eating omnibus by M.F.K. Fisher
  26. Babette’s Feast and Other Stories by Isak Dinesan
  27. A Walk Around the Lakes by Hunter Davies
  28. Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
  29. Three Squares by Abigail Carroll
  30. Ruth Bell Graham’s Collected Poems

I own all of these books with the exception of Island Magic by Goudge, a poetry book by Hopkin’s, and Virgil Wander by Enger. I will be getting them through the library, as part of my personal challenge is to stop buying personal books for myself for a bit. I still will purchased gifts or books for my children’s education, but for me, I’m pulling on the reins. I’m still going to keep track of what I read here at the end of each month and again, I hope to give these priority. Many of these, I’m well into already, or at least started. I noticed that I have some thicker non-fiction, but a good selection of beautiful, old fiction as well. I also included all five of my favorite authors! Can you guess who they are? 😉 What do you think? Is this doable for this year? What are your reading goals?

Happy 10th Day of Christmas and Happy Reading!

~

 

December Reads {and my Back to Classics Challenge 2018 Wrap-Up}

IMG_20160617_113128_719

Happy New Year’s Eve, friends! Here’s what I finished up in December (I tried to get titles done that I’d been reading awhile, since I had a bit more time over our holiday) and about my Back to Classics 2018 Challenge!

Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury (****) – I finished up this book for the category of  A Classic with a Color in the Title for my Back to Classics Challenge. This book was so very weird, beautiful, unmatched,  with a magical use of words, sentences, almost a prose poetry! A slow read for me, because I had to process each story or wade through the themes. Time, age, technology, natural resources, space, family, and so much more. I got bogged down a bit in his school-boy fascination with the space race and rockets which came through strongly in many of the stories. I’m too young? or something to appreciate that particular fascination maybe. The stories on the surface seem so far fetched, yet underneath there are beautiful layers to peel back and think on. I really love Bradbury!

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (****) – 3.5 stars -I barely finished this as my 7th title of the 12 for my Back to Classics Challenge. It fulfilled the category of A Classic in Translation. I have mixed feelings on this one. I really liked it for it’s creepy, psychological feel, the atmosphere of it, but I feel a bit confused on some of the “supernatural” seeming elements of the story after finding out more about who the Opera Ghost was at the end. I’d love to see this on stage someday, though. My older daughter and I have been talking about it a lot as I slowly read it and then she gobbled it up and really liked it. Maybe it was me? Maybe it was how slowly I read it?

Poems, 1965-1975 by Seamus Heaney (***) – This is a collection of four of his poetry books and the first three were enjoyable, but I was so bogged down and confused in the last book, North. The language, metaphors, etc, were all “Greek” to me, for some reason. Ha. Not sure what happened, but I like to be able to take SOMETHING away, even if I don’t understand completely and I was having a hard time doing that.

Night Birds on Nantucket by Joan Aiken (****) – The third book in The Wolves Chronicles and it was so strange and enchanting. Dido Twite, a brave little girl, who we are introduced to in the earlier two books, finds herself stranded on a whaling ship and falls into some crazy adventures, including stopping a plot to shoot a cannon ball from Nantucket to London! Ha. Very humorous, imaginative, and fun!

Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue by David J. Bobb (***) – I started this as a read for a home educating retreat this past fall and found it interesting. I especially loved the chapters on Abigail Adams and Frederick Douglas. This was a little slow moving for me, but I’m glad I finished it.

Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery (*****) -This was a reread for me and I loved it more than the first time. Jane lives with her mother and wealthy grandmother in a colorless and harsh environment. She doesn’t know what happened to her father, being led to believe he died. One day,  a letter arrives from him, asking for her to spend the summer with him on Prince Edward Island. Little do they know how much this will change all of their lives. This possibly has a too-sweet ending, but I adore the hope and beauty that this story holds, it’s one of my absolute favorites from Maud. I love how happiness is found in the simple act of loving and serving.  This is in fact why I call myself “Amy of Hearth Ridge”. 😉

Peace Like A River by Leif Enger (*****) – another reread for me, as I plan on reading Enger’s other two titles next year. I loved this so much and was just drawn in by the rich characters, story, and beautiful spiritual vein throughout. Highly recommend!

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball (****) – This memoir I saw recommended somewhere and I gobbled it up in ONE day on our Christmas holidays. Kristin travels to the country to interview a farmer and basically ends up never leaving. Very gorgeous writing, inspiring, and truly shows the amount of work farmers do. The nitty-gritty, bloody, filthy details of truly growing your own food and living off the land isn’t sugar-coated. I suspect the author and I differ on our views of love and marriage, but I found this very real and somehow touching. It definitely was inspiring.

Home Education by Charlotte Mason (*****) – I’ve been through this first volume a few times over the past years home educating my children. I so enjoyed going through it with my book group and gleaned again so many beautiful things.

A Time for Remembering: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham by Patricia Cornwell (****) – I really enjoy Mrs. Graham’s poetry and found that I had this biography of her life on my shelf. It was so interesting to read about her life as a child in China, where her parents served as medical missionaries and growing up to marry Billy Graham. I mostly, though, appreciate her as a mother, homemaker, writer, and appreciator of the small details of life. So interesting!

Journey Into Christmas and Other Stories by Bess Streeter Aldrich (****) – I love Aldrich’s richly layered stories, A White Bird Flying, Lantern in Her Hand, etc. and so I was thrilled to see this selection of Christmas stories by her. Some are taken from her novels, some are just stand alone short stories and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Full of precious nostalgia, beautiful sentiments, and her word-smith beauty is just lovely. The stories may be a bit extra sweet, but it was a perfect read for December. I even read a bit to my children and they loved it.

Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) – This took me all year to reread for maybe the 5th time? Yes, I love this book so much. I walk away with new lines and thoughts of beauty every time. This is the second book in a trilogy, but I’ve only read one and three once, this one is so lovely, and has the power to stand alone. I talk a bit more about it here and chat about Goudge, also, who is one of my top favorite authors.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (****) – This tome I actually finished in November, but forgot to mention it! I think this book starts making the HP series better…the first few books are good, but the last few shine. They become darker and more complex, but so do the interesting things they address. This was an entertaining read for my days of illness in November.

{Whew! So that wraps up a wonderful year of reading! I have one more bookish post I’m working on related to my 2018 reading and that’s my favorites from the year.  I can’t wait to share it with you soon. I also have made my own personal challenge for next years reading and my daughter is joining me. Can’t wait to talk about it more! How was your year? Do you have a favorite list? Please share you list or a link to yours! I’d love to read it!}

~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Ponderings {December 17th}

Elsa Beskow -sled, children, tree

A child’s wisdom include incredible curiosity, which denotes his essential humility. While adults sometimes hesitate to say “I don’t know” for fear they will be thought ignorant or stupid, a little child has no such silly inhibitions. Without a false sense of shame he pours forth his questions -“Why?” “What for?” “When?” “Where?” “Why?” Before their minds become biased by adults, children are open-minded, welcoming all truth concerning the world around them…Children know how to derive happiness from little things. They delight in little sparks of gladness and do not demand that every hour be flooded with unremitting pleasantness. This is wisdom of a high order, and the lesson is one of the best gifts children offer the world.

~Harold Kohn, Small Wonders, p.76-77

*Painting by Elsa Beskow and all rights reserved to artist.

~

 

Monday Ponderings {November 5th}

_MG_5705

If any strain of my “broken music” make a child’s eyes flash, or his mother’s grow for a moment dim, my labour will not have been in vain. 

~ George MacDonald, “The Fantastic Imagination”

{This quote came to my attention via the lovely Instagram account _bryana_joy and I found it very intriguing. I searched around for it online and found the complete essay. I highly recommend it for writers, artists, any creatives, but also for mothers as it gives an interesting perspective of childlike wonder and an inside-out view of children. Just asking ourselves the question of what is already inherently inside our child (who is made in the image of God), just waiting, faithfully sowing, and spreading beauty that kindles that spark of wonder. We are not molding them from the outside-in and that is such a huge relief. This essay is not a super easy read, and I’m still reflecting on it, and think it’s worth reading.}

~

Retreat

_MG_9407

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}

_MG_9376

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)

_MG_9381

{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.}

~

Monday Ponderings {September 10th}

C58F5194-2EE4-4C7A-9283-860BEA37B89B

“…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…

5B66BEF5-87B8-41B0-815E-6DEBF99001B3

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

399F2639-30FF-4377-B403-6F81C102F1C2

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}

 

5EF44C13-5DCA-4367-870C-98C2424B44DC

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”

90A5EAE0-793E-4DE0-86FC-75DE93CCA64B

{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.

~