…waiting and expectant…

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Do you have a soundtrack for life? A toe-tapping, ear-tickling, bit of goodness hum to float along on? Earlier in my homeschooling journey, I would never have had music playing in the background because frankly the cries, squeaky chatter, clinking of blocks, and buzz-hum of the washer were almost deafening to me. But those were just the physical tunes of motherhood, weaving themselves in and out of the silent, sobering voices in my head saying I couldn’t. That I wasn’t enough, that I was drowning, that there was no more space for my own song, let alone the voice of God. Then something started to shift…beauty, goodness, the Truth started humming its way in and out of my brain and being. The poems, teeny flowers outside my door, twinkly stars, and the stories, oh my all those stories straining, dripping, hip-hopping down, down trickle-like into the soil of my dry-cracked mama heart. There’s something underlying this chaotic drumbeat of motherhood. A sound track for life, a parade and flood of goodness to keep us march, marching. Surprisingly enough, the household sounds grab and cling to the spirit of hope pouring out. It all joins in this glorious riot of sympathy and love that burst over us like hot sunshine, mercies and newness each morning. Truly God’s faithfulness is big enough. These days, you will find me delightedly digging through YouTube for grand, epic literal soundtracks for our days. A statement to our day and to our life, we are putting on our dance shoes, lacing up those muddy hikers. We are waiting and expectant of what God has daily moment-by-moment ahead for us. Irish tunes, sweeping saga songs to traverse and unfold, jazz or simple hymns or quiet lutes, a stream of living beauty to fill our minds and hearts-a-brimming with joy for the journey. Joy for the next step today.

~

 

Saturday Song

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I took to the meadows today. Cloud shadows hover over a section of far-flung woods. Clouds that are low-lying, pancake-like, stretching on to eternity. Green-gold topped with clear blue are the hues of the moment, a bit of scarlet thrown in for extra flourish. A gentle hum and a soft rustle are my background music, the distant shrillness of  machinery cutting rudely in. A small getaway, pens and journals in hand, a small step for the restoration of this mother-kind.

It was a week of relationship work, of gathering together with people. The hard-heart- softening work. Charlotte Mason shares that character is the purpose of education and surely she must mean mostly the mother’s character. Encircling little cousins that visited, comforting aches and pains, you know the stuff life is made of. A birthday party, sunflower-y cake celebrating another niece. A grandpa visiting at dinner time a few nights, homemade pizza, and eking out the last few garden watermelons ripe with late summer. Homeschool friends gathering around the craft and drawing table, turning ears, lifting voices, searching the depths of Van Gogh’s “The Potato Eaters.” Chocolate chip zucchini muffins shared and lovely conversations with other mothers. Francis Bacon and Jane Austen’s Persuasion discussed and quotes swapped. The long van rides, parking next to the riot of purple morning glories, heart leaves twining around my own fleshly heart. The long minutes spent talking, listening, soothing. The loudness of it all becoming magnified by low sleep. My comfy bedside chair became a revolving door for hurts, concerns, laughs, plans, book chats, and dreams. Heavy chair.

The spent, shriveled Queen Anne’s lace nods it’s weary head next to mine. The long expanse and deep view of it all overwhelms me. The wind whips my page over, a glorious, grassy, earthy, clover-y smell dives deep into my nostrils, winging through my lungs, truly refreshing. Beyond the ridge, up and out of a valley of trees, a golden soybean (or is it wheat?) field lies as a bright beacon drawing my thirsty eyes. It reminds me of the hymn I’ve been reading with the children called “Come to Jesus” by Fredrick Faber and how I read it this week accompanied with music. There’s certainly a wideness in God’s mercy, a wideness of the sea or even these vast fields. A small spider crawls up a large weed stalk next to my chair. Oh, my soul sings.

The exhaustion, countless meals, and the schedule threatening to drown unless I stop to see. To admire the three leaves with pale mimicking triangles on the clover, the grasshoppers, and yes, again with those clouds. The beauty of another week becomes my Saturday song. Sure, there were discordant moments, a screech here, and a blast there, but I see. In the midst of reading Mark in the Holy Scriptures together at the hot oatmeal breakfast table, rolling out dough, wiping noses, giving neutralizer treatments. During the washing and drying of towels till they’re soft, fragrant, and fluffy, I see just that small bit of glory. I see a little of the “peace that just begins when ambition ends.”* I’m reminded that I’m on a journey, I don’t need to rush, worry. I can just watch the bumblebee on the goldenrod, wash a dish fresh, open a soybean and a milkweed pod with my 7 yo, walk through grass and white clover, with the dew dampening my toes, steam rising from my coffee. I get to read piles of board books to my 5 yo and 5 month old, catch the edges of fog that lies in the ditches, around corners, and under trees, walk out after late night nursing sessions to gaze at the stars. I get to read about the Knit Your Bit campaign during the World Wars to the intrigue and delight of the children, light the black taper candles as the night draws to a close, and I am always amazed at the little tune of gratitude just hovering inches away ready for me to snatch if I will just listen, if I will just see.

~

*The Cloud of Witness, p. 362

Back Here Again

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I flicked on the faucet, filling my coffee pot. There at the bottom of the sink, a common cricket surprised me, a delightful friend to great the wee hours of the morn with. A weariness stole over me, yet I felt good about the fact that it was Friday and we’d made it. A full week of back to (home)school and it was lovely. Yes, of course, a favorite coffee mug was broken, paint got on the kitchen table, laundry did not get done, wrongs to wrangle and mend, and there were a few tears shed (not just by me, either).  But oh, the joy of Phillis Wheatley’s poetry read, intriguing mix of Greek myth, Christianity, and her ironic, heart-wrenching thankfulness for the coming freedom of the American colonies. My unkempt hair falling in my face (I desperately need a hair cut), while talking over philosophy (Ourselves by Charlotte Mason) with my two older boys about our dual selves and one of them comparing it to that cartoonish picture of the devil and angel on our shoulders, lends a sobering blend of joy and holy seriousness to what I get to do as a homeschooling mother. Silence and contemplation over mysterious bits from George MacDonald in his At the Back of North Wind. In our afternoon free time, my 12 yo son and I have been enjoying reading and discussing Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. I had planned on a shift into our autumn menu, chili, chicken noodle soup, and roasted veggies with sausage. I’ve had to scramble a bit as the temperatures tricked us by dropping and then sultry sunshine slipping back in. We made due and sometimes soup was sipped to the hum of the air conditioner. This seems to be the year of Wisconsin (and England!) geography trails and deeper digging into science, but with glorious LIVING, breathing books at the helm. The early morning math figuring together, each child rotating to me for help, has worked wonderful this first week, it’s amazing the things we talk about as we fill up with ideas.  We had a long ramble on our beautiful gravel road, the dog gamboling ahead of us, darting in and out of the neighbor’s corn, the butterflies following us. “The butterflies are my friends,” the sweet, sensitive 5 yo tells me. Common Buckeye, Red Admiral, Sulfurs, and Monarch are still swishing lightly through these last dog days of September summer. Can you believe that Monday is the official first day of autumn? My sleep deprivation has reached new heights, a darling, chunky almost 5 month old baby boy smiles at me, making it worth it, but not any less hard. I was able grab a few secret moments to dip into this strangely imaginative book about writing and run away to Italy for a bit in Von Arnim’s The Enchanted April. Paint brushes dipped into watercolors remind me of the Staghorn Sumac tips now, brilliantly red-tipped. A few Christmas gifts have begun to get a jump start, and the oven is being used for more bread and cookies. Our favorite Elevenses snack began again, a giant bowl of popcorn and mugs of hot chocolate (yes, even with the heat! Old habits die hard.), hymns and folk-songs playing. It brings back so many memories of the countless pages read, conversations, and the life lived, learned, deep love planted around this old, hand-me-down table. The seasons ebb and flow, like one of those time-lapse videos, in my head.  It’s so good to be back here again.

~

Few things that blessed me this first back to school week:

Each day the world is born anew

For him who takes it rightly…

Rightly? that’s simply!- ’tis to see

Some Substance casts these shadows

which we call Life and History…

Simply? That’s nobly! – ’tis to know

That God may still be met with, –

Nor groweth old, nor doth bestow

These senses fine, this brain aglow,

To grovel and forget with!

 

Lowell, The Cloud of Witness, p. 380

 

Psalm 23 (emphasis mine) NASB

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

~

August Reads

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Here’s what I finished reading and fed on in August. What fed your mind last month? Anything tasty?

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 Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright (***) – I loved the creepy atmosphere of this dual-timeline story, although maybe a bit too many scary stereotypical themes in one book. Ghosts, asylums, cemeteries, and murders, etc. The character genealogies were a bit hard to follow through the two story lines. Overall, this was a page-turner, and I enjoyed it.

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.

Celtic Daily Prayer by Northumbria Community (****) – The daily devotions in the second half of this book are full of little gems. I’ve been dipping in and out of this book for a couple of years. It’s time to set aside for others, but I really, really love this and will return to it. It is definitely a book you just keep reading bits and pieces of, not meant to be read straight through, a beautiful one for picking up and using in your prayer and devotional life.

Sailing to Cythera: And Other Anatole Stories by Nancy Willard (****) – This was a reread for me in one afternoon. Anatole’s quirky grandmother’s house full of treasures turns into magical adventure. Very fun and so unbelievably real feeling despite being amazingly imaginative.

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate -Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben (****) – A whole different way of looking at trees! Wohlleben anthropomorphizes trees in an intriguing and engaging way, bringing to life what is going on inside the bark and beneath the earth. Occasionally, this book seemed a “little” over-the-top and redundant, but over all, I really enjoyed it and I feel it will further enhance my love and enjoyment of these beautiful parts of our natural world. May have my oldest read it as a nature/science title for school.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear (****) – This is not my usual fare and I’m so glad I tried this title. I have never read a book on habits that was such a page turner! I finished this pretty quickly and walked away with some lovely ideas and helpful tips. I tend to be all or nothing, also known as impatient (ha!), so I needed to force myself to just take a few things to try right away, instead of making myself crazy with too much, and just quitting because of being overwhelmed.  If that makes sense. I love how he breaks down everything to identity and it’s the inner changes that matter more than an outer veneer. He really emphasizes that it’s the small changes made consistently throughout our lives that we need to focus on, not the big goal that we want to achieve. Focusing on writing a little bit everyday instead of writing a novel. The goals will take care of themselves if we stay focused on the little daily habits. I also loved the idea of hooking a new habit with an already existing thing you do in your life. That’s helpful to me. I commonplaced pages of quotes from this one and will be revisiting them often! I’m slowly narrowing down some areas in my life that need habit cultivation and it’s been eye-opening and refreshing to start small and manageable. I recommend this book and am so glad I heard of it from a friend and mentor, Nancy.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – I finally finished my reread of this again. I started blogging through this favorite eons 😉 ago and never finished that. For that, I’m sorry, reading in the midst of life is often like that. But oh, my heart. Such a lovely visit with Anne, Marilla, and Matthew. Sigh.

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie (***) – I forgot that I read this already! Ha. This was encouraging and a lovely reminder. I especially loved her admonishment to be present in each thing you’re doing, sort of debunking the idea that multitasking is good.

House of Secrets by Chris Columbus (**) – This COULD have been a fun concept, but so dark and grotesque. I found it disturbing, especially for children. I was so disappointed, because the description of this one and the others in the series sounded exciting and mysterious.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Mark and Luke

~

 

Monday Ponderings {September 2nd}

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“…that God the Holy Spirit is Himself, personally, the Imparter of knowledge, the Instructor of youth, the Inspirer of genius…” 

~Charlotte Mason

Parents and Children, p. 270-271

There are two things we should give our children: One is roots and the other is wings. ~Peggy Noonan

{I’ve been praying and thinking on our upcoming formal learning year. Our little home school is called Willow Tree Academy, based on Jeremiah 17:7-8. Our new motto that I’ve been thinking on and tossing around in my heart and mind for years, is Roots, Rings, and Wings. Roots in Jesus Christ, Rings of faithful sowing and slow growing, and finally Wings that carry us upward towards God and outward towards others. Do you have any life or home or school mottos? I’d love to hear!}

~

Crazy Love

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I have a crazy, crazy love of things….

So many little things…

Crazy, crazy, swirling, circling…these are the days of needing to reduce the daily life down into teeny increments. The copper tea pot, the baby sock, the drip of green paint slowly oozing down the side of the paint can, the u-shaped upside down bit of light from the table lamp, hour-glassing up the wall, the click of wooden blocks, post it notes, a black crayon, jug of distilled water nearby, smell of cornbread, can opener, shocking yellow bath towel, crossed off days on a nearly spent August, weeds taller than I, said green paint under finger nails, sunflower seed shells, two shoes without mates, white barn salt shaker, blue flicker of gas, glisten of waning light on ham slices, moonshine on roofs of cars below,  distant cry from crib, squares of blue & green outside, piece of spaghetti stuck to foot, the off button on the podcasts, the sign-out tab on social media, and the hesitant smile, side glance of a child, probably wondering where his mother has gone.

So many little, crazy things to love with a crazy, exhausted love.

~

Monday Ponderings {August 19th}

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“…nothing was more servile than the love of pleasure, or more princely than a life of toil…” 

Ourselves, Book 2, p. 52

Charlotte Mason

{Interesting flower at a botanical gardens…it reminds me of Dr.Seuss, how ’bout you? Lovely memories of my birthday visit! Thinking on this idea that I jotted down in my commonplace journal, starting off the week. Happy Monday!}

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Questions

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May I put life on pause and catch up on sleep? Can I find some space from the children to plan for the children, an upcoming school term, with thoughtfulness, grace, and purpose? Is there anything more beautiful than barn swallows swooping through the light pink and pale blue early morn? Is there a reason I feel like crying even though I have a supremely blessed life? How do I conquer all the piles in my home, piles of books, piles of clothing, piles of fabric for curtains, piles of hopes, dreams, piles of dishes needing tender loving care? How can I not miss the moments that are flying by, the teeny toes, the little eyes looking at me with their own questions pooling deep behind, and the butterfly fluttering on by? How can I enjoy the warmth and sunshine of summer from my deep, dark nursing chair cave, a sticky, squirming, DARLING, boy suckling from my breast? Where do I find mental room for on-going, never-stopping conversation swirling, rising and falling around me? How does my marriage grow and become beautiful without attention? Where do I find the well of energy, creativity, and get-up-and-go to cook for these lovely eaters here? Where do daring dreams go when they are crowded out by equal and lovely daily dreams? How does the weight melt off when one finds themselves in a sitting season? How do you know what is the next right thing to do? Where does one go after the last sip of delicious morning coffee or afternoon tea is gone, the empty bottom of cup reminding you of something? How do you find a prayer to pray when the reservoir is dry? How do you answer all these exhausted questions that float up and out and settle on down around your bowed shoulders? How do we take up our cross and follow when our ground lies fallow?

Just a few of the questions I’m asking myself today.

~

The Slow Work of Leavening

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“…any experiment that can benefit by one hairbreadth any single human life is a thousand times worth trying. But those whose hands have tried the most, and whose eyes have seen the furthest, have come back to regard first the deeper evangel of individual lives, and the philanthropy of quiet ways, and the slow work of leavening others one by one with the spirit of Jesus Christ…” 

~ Henry Drummond

Celtic Daily Prayer, p.708

(emphasis mine)

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