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…

 

~

 

 

 

British Educator, Miss Charlotte Mason {English Memories}

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{St. Mary’s, Ambleside, Cumbria, England and my sister}

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Charlotte Mason, a British educational reformer. As I’m in the throes of planning our new learning year, and just reading and researching, I got to thinking how very grateful I am to have found her philosophy. The impact her teachings has profoundly changed me and my life in all areas. It’s been two YEARS now, since I made my wonderful trip to see where she lived and worked, and I’ve yet to share how much it touched me. She has complimented and enhanced my faith in so many small ways and I was trying to put my finger on the why. I think that it has to do with the emphasis on people and relationship. Children are born persons, after all. Mothers and fathers are persons, too. I’m just barely grasping a small fraction of the importance of this and how Jesus really loved and cared for people.

{inside of St. Mary’s – and my dear mother}

I’ve been rereading favorite posts on Nancy and Karen’s blogs, as well as dipping into Karen’s book A Charlotte Mason Companion (a yearly summer reread!)and Charlotte’s own books, specifically Home Education, as I’m in a book group reading this together. What richness! This gift of a feast of ideas, which culminates in a love of God and others. Sigh. It’s not easy though, its not quick, there are no formulas, it really is a gentle sowing of the seed and trusting by faith, that richness is going to spring forth.

I so enjoyed strolling through some of the places Miss Mason lived and worked, visiting her grave. It was easy to see why the Lake District made such an impression on her, just the beauty and freedom of spirit, must have dove-tailed into her thoughts on the realness of this life and education. Life found in the little corners of the every day moments. Life found in the hard moments and good moments of family and friendships, and the lives we touch through beautiful books, art, and music.

{Archives of student work at the Armitt Museum and other items- a treasure trove of inspiration!}

Life is a balance between duty and pleasure, why not blend them both, with the cultivation of habits and careful attention, yet an openness and beauty of being unique people with unique gifts and bents, dipping our toes into many interesting pools of life?

{Ambleside Bridge House}

I guess I’ve been just trying to refresh my heart again about the deep emphasis on relationship. All of life really is a careful, thoughtful stitching pieces of our human relationships, our relationship with God, and all of the world around us. A delightful building of the quilt of life. Its hard, but it’s beautiful. It’s not hurried, it’s a slow flowing and filtering through each day, moment by moment. It really is revolutionary and counter-cultural. Charlotte Mason’s thoughts continue to help me in a small way with understanding the essence of relationship. When things are out of sync here, after reflection and prayer, it is usually that I have a rift in one of my many relationships.  I’m prayerfully considering again, a time of refreshing and reordering of my affections. On God and on people. Truly, the things that matter.

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{Scale Howe – Miss Mason’s teacher training school – now part of the University of Cumbria}

My sister and I were so touched by this quote in one of the students notebooks at the Armitt Museum. I still think about it often ~

 

The Heavens are calling you and whirl around you,

Displaying to you their eternal beauties;

Yet still your eye is looking at the ground.

~ Dante

Why indeed am I still ‘looking at the ground’ when there is so much more? A beautiful quote to meditate on and consider as I realign myself and refocus on what it means to have this privilege and a responsibility to be alive. I am so grateful.

~

Drenched

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The day is drenched in Thee:

In little, exquisite surprises

Bubbling deliciousness of Thee arises

From sudden places,

Under the common traces

Of my most lethargied and ‘customed paces.

~”His Surprises”,  Amy Carmichael, Mountain Breezes, p. 44

 

Yesterday was one of those actual delicious mornings, wind on the face, cool and sweet, sun-kissed, and soft. My laundry was flapping away, I sat on my deck, drinking in coffee,  bits of  the Book of Psalms and Isaiah. The newest batch of kittens, tumbled and rolled about me, my flower baskets tickled by the same wind that kissed me. My youngest was playing in the puddles, with old ice cream buckets, grass clippings, and his sister’s little pink tea kettle.

My husband and oldest daughter were off on a farm adventure, two of my daughters were with Grandma Margaret, having a grand time, evidenced by the photos I was receiving via text. So it was just myself and my three boys, reveling in the sun and  general splendor of a lovely, warm June day. These sorts of days aren’t always around. Days can be dark physically, mentally, and relationships torn. If you look hard enough, though, I believe any day can be redeemed. This just happened to be a gift day, a particularly drenched-in-beauty day. We scrambled up some of my son’s fresh eggs, and the boys, who have hollow legs, raided leftovers, also. I continued my laundry work, slowly making my way through the bedding from our Texan family visiting last week.

The act of hanging clothing on the line is so soothing to me. There is just something so satisfying about pulling the basket along after you, rough-wooden pins in hand or mouth, and slowly seeing your family’s daily life unfurl. My son’s favorite t-shirt, all the extra potty-training underwear (ha. ok, those make me grumble a bit ), table cloths, well-used for family meals, towels that dried little bodies, and swimsuits from hours of fun at the lake.

I tackled a project that had taken me three weeks to work up the nerve. It took me only about 45 minutes to complete. Isn’t that always how it is? We make things so much worse by building them up in our mind. The craft/game/supply closet was a veritable bog of random puzzle pieces, pencils, dust bunnies, leftover diapers, craft sticky letters, and flotsam and jetsam of our school year.  I can’t tell you the relief I felt, packing away the Bing Crosby Christmas cds that were still out and stacking all the toilet paper in ONE spot! It’s the little things, folks.

Later morning found me blissfully relaxing under the lone tree in our front yard, yes, admiring the clothesline’s dancing occupants, talking with Ben, as he made a grass salad, and contemplating a beautiful line from Elizabeth Goudge’s A Pilgrim’s Inn, 

When she had filled her basket with holly Jill sat down on the rock and waited happily for the twins. She did not find the waiting irksome, for she had been born one of those fortunate people who are never in a hurry and never restless. She had never felt restless in her life. In all that she did, in all that she saw, she was aware of a deep upspringing wonder, as though she did it or saw it for the first time. She was blessed with a mind neither retrospective nor anxious; the past and the future did not pull her two ways with remorse and dread, and the lovely freshness of each new-made moment was apparent to her focused vision. p. 314

What a wonderful thoughts… I desire to be constantly aware of a deep upspringing wonder. Isn’t that just such a lovely thought?  No matter how dark life gets, wonder is there, pushing at the cracks and bruises, trying to shine through. Brushing the grass from my skirt, I took this thought into the house, where I made leftovers, tuna, and salad for lunch.

The afternoon brought more freshly laundered sheets, more reading, my boys choosing to watch some LoTR movies, since their little siblings weren’t around, the scary factor is high on those. I got outdoors and took a quick walk through the countryside anticipating running to town right after to pick up my middle girls and have a coffee with my sister. It was so unbelievably gorgeous, the  birds, wind, and hot sunshine blending into a song and poem, floating on the wind, their notes following, matching the beat of my footsteps.

Grilled pork chops, deck moments gazing at the full moon, and late night banana bread baking were more frosting on the cake. What a gift, drenched with wonder. I’m saving it away to be pulled out when I need it.  ~

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June Loveliness

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{Can you spy the baby White-Tailed Deer?}

The smell of June has been in the forefront of my mind lately.  A deep, earth-y, humid, moist smell, with just a hint of floral influence tinging it. It is just heavenly. Barn Swallows swooping, Red-Wing Blackbirds trilling away, and the whispering rustle of the leaves and grasses. The glorious blueness of the sky and amazing green of the fields and woods. I’ve been listening to this song over and over again, the marriage between nature, faith, and a favorite author of mine, Elizabeth Goudge. I invite you to listen with me, closing your eyes, and letting the breeze wash over you. I’m so thankful for this gorgeous month.

~

T.G.I.M, or Are You Glad It’s Monday?

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{L.Maud Montgomery’s Place of Birth, P.E.I., Canada}

I don’t know if it’s my personality or my nature of my full-time job as a stay-at-home-mother and homemaker, but I love Mondays. I find the weekends are busy and semi-chaotic. Oh, you betcha, we probably had fun on Saturday and Sunday. It’s ok, if you think I’m such a stick in the mud, because sometimes I am. I just can’t help thinking that fun equals more-work-for-mom. Come on, admit it, it’s fantastically true. For the most part, I’m able to let go and enjoy the moment, but inside there is something sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting expectantly for delicious, quiet-ish Monday. There’s something so sure about it, so solid, so steady about it – it’s a recover-the-house-from-the-weekend-sort-of-day. We slowly dig ourselves out, one shovel full at a time, from the piles of weekend picnicking, towels & swimsuits, piles of dishes from the hurried, countless meals, and pick up random soda cans, discarded shopping bags, dead, discarded bouquets. The book stacks we perused are re shelved, movies put back in their cases, and the slate wiped squeaky clean. The washer starts its thrice-weekly chugging and I bask in the quiet, windy moments, sunshine on my face, hanging laundry out. The cupboards and fridge are glanced and tumbled through for delicious dinner ideas for the coming week, usually to no avail. Six busy, but glorious days of familiarity, semi-predictability, and lovely home-life potential stretch out in front of us. Oh, the possibilities. Each night, reading aloud before bed, falling into cool sheets, usually with filthy feet. Don’t get me started on slow morning coffee rituals. None of this gulping and burning my lips, and dumping precious elixir into a cold, sterile thermos, that I end up doing on the weekend. Never-mind the wasted coffee (gasp!) that sometimes happens when we are running around like chickens with our heads chopped off. (Where did that saying originate, I wonder?) Instead, a favorite, bright, warm, cheerful mug, slow sipping and ruminating happen most weekdays. Ahh, this is the life. Watching the sunrise, steam rising over the oatmeal simmering, flicking off the gas, and covering the pot. The hard work, sweaty gardening days, who am I kidding, weed days is more like it, that fresh smell of the cut grass. Time slows way down, we stop to smell the air after the rain as we jump in the van, headed to softball with friends.  Meals are generally served around the same time, surprises are kept to a semi-minimum (one has to be realistic with 8 people here, there WILL be surprises, eek!), and I feel even more like an old lady in her old, little cottage that never leaves, sipping tea, and reading books. Oh, well. That sounds heavenly to me. Five day weekends are wonderful, my friends. Thank Goodness It’s Monday.

~

New Year’s Ramblings

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Icy fingers wrap around my ankles as I sit here at our big wood desk. I feel shackled, worn, old, and frankly, cold.  The pellet stove is chug, chug, chugging, the edges of our old home are a bit chilly.  Thank God for the licking, crackling warmth, for piles of quilts, and thick socks. How are you beginning out the new year? I feel a bit stuck, dazed, and confused, which is how I probably am every year after the holidays. Not the cheery new year post you were looking for? I’m sorry for that. I just needed a place to ramble.

Foremost on my mind is our formal learning beginning again Monday here at Hearth Ridge Farm. I’m excited and anticipating diving into all the beauty with my children. Meeting again our favorite friends through the piles of books, forming relationships with many things, and being pointed in a subtle, gentle, really loving way to the One who gave it all to us.   I’m very aware of the fortitude and determination this takes on my part. It’s a humbling and a discipline to choose this educational path for our family. I’m extremely grateful and know it’s a privilege to even HAVE this choice. Not all families are able to walk this road, even if they desired too, and I know that it isn’t always the easiest route in some countries with legalities. I’m praying and ruminating on this and have things generally set for beginning.

I’ve been thinking about peace and relationships. That they aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Although they certainly seem that way at times. By peace, I mean, a quietness, a calmness, a sameness. Ha. Ya. Really the opposite of relationships. Real relationships are a tension, a messiness, and a dance. Of course, that’s what makes them so beautiful and so ugly.

I began reading Les Misérables as part of my goal for classics this year and I’m really enjoying it so far. I knew I had to get started on it so that I can savor and not get rushed and bogged down in huge sections to read.

I enjoy writing so much, but sometimes I think I overthink how much time or quiet it takes. It DOES take a lot of editing to make a thoughtful piece, but the initial puking it out doesn’t have to be fancy or long-winded. Sometimes I feel like there are a thousand little dwarf ideas pounding at the inside of my head with their pickaxes, but poof, they are gone in an instant, and if I don’t write them down quickly, I forget. So, I have piles of gems waiting for me to refine, buffing to bring out their shine. I keep reading things how one needs to just do what they want to do NOW, you know seize the day and all that rot, because we don’t know how much time we have, but that wars within me due to the season I’m in. The truth is that I find it VERY difficult to have the mental space and clarity to write very much. And I’m ok with that. Or rather, I’m learning and choosing to be ok with that. The rewards for what I’m privileged to do right now, far outweigh any perceived level of greenness I can only guess at on the other side of the fence.

I don’t have a lot of goals or resolutions or even really a word this year. Not yet, anyway. Aren’t I just a ray of hot sunshine? I think it is going to boil down to something to do with how seriously I take my faith. How do the affections of my heart order? How am I walking in obedience to what I believe is true? How can I quiet and yield myself, listening for His still, small voice? I also have been praying about how easily I forget my faith for ungratefulness when plans go awry, or dryers break for a time, or relationships rear the ugly side of the head. Oh, to live on a higher plain then the immediate.

I probably sound depressed, but I assure you, I am not. I’m trying to be realistic. 😉 However, I have some bends in the yellow brick road ahead. For instance, I’m very inspired by Edith Holden’s nature notebooks and have plans to work on mine. Our feeders are full of birds and there is nothing better than quietly watching them. I have an embroidery and quilt project on the docket.  My oldest daughter and I are going to take a sewing class. Our Charlotte Mason group will beginning again and I’m honored to be researching and planning for our new poet. Piles of books, mugs of coffee, gorgeous, never-ending views, a family gathered, and a Love of a Savior that never gives up on me.

I’m good. Happy first week of January. Stay warm.

~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving} #10

{continuing my gratitude list} 

91. Gratitude lists with my friend Marjorie via email every year, she reminds me, so grateful for the slowing down, the paying attention together

92. God’s love, we can’t even begin to fathom the depths of it

93. The fluttering children’s artwork hanging over the heat register

94. My father-in-law and his Amish coworker stopping by for hot chocolate

95. Goofy Messenger texting back and forth between me, my sisters, and my parents

96. Hugs from my 12 year old son

97. Pretty candle holder from the Dollar Store, my Phoebe buying it for me ❤

98. My brilliant green stocking cap, gray wool coat, and floral scarf, so cheerful

99. Thanksgiving feast with family today

100. Words. Blank pages. New day to live.

~

 

Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving} #9

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{continuing my gratitude list}

81. bananas and string cheese shared together

82. last few chapters of a good book, bittersweet

83. the ancient (alright, moldy) smell of old hard cover books

84. Lovely songs, poems, and bits of Shakespeare. We all love this CD!

85. Pilot G2 Extra Fine .05 Gel Pens…perfect scritch-y scratch-y noise when you write.

86. cinnamon and sugar toast

87. conifers, so cheerfully ever green, for the most part, anyway.

88. children crafting with recyclables

89. fluffy towels out of the dryer

90. Tacos on Tuesdays

~

Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving} #8

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{continuing my gratitude list}

71. Outdoor Christmas lights popping up here and there. They are so cheerful driving along on deepest, darkest country roads.

72. My long-suffering Charlotte Mason book study friends, who once-a-month have to listen to me blast them with what I’ve been reading for the last month and all the ideas that come out of that reading. I don’t go out much. Poor friends, you know who you are.

73. My husband who attempts to follow my incoherent ramblings and rantings.

74. Brioche. Need I say more?

75. The beauty and inspiration I learn daily with and from my children as we learn together here at Hearth Ridge. It’s subtle, but astounding if I really pay attention.

76. A week or so without WiFi, showing me that many things I think are important, ahem, aren’t that important. And really, not having WiFi, isn’t even a problem in many areas of the world. Perspective.

77. My mother! It’s her birthday today. We get to go out to lunch together tomorrow.

78. Christmas secrets and surprises being worked on and planned.

79. Pie baking today and tomorrow!

80. Pen pals

~

Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving} #7

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{continuing my gratitude list}

61. Homemade costumes by Phoebe and Ella, putting on a show for me
62. The beautiful drive to a friend’s house
63. Spending time with new mom friends at local homeschool mothers night
64. Ben being so excited to see after I’m gone
65. Anticipation building for opening day of hunting
66. New book to share over Christmas
67. Jan Brett illustrations
68. Surprise pumpkin pie for Amos
69. Thanksgiving plans at my brothers home
70. The closing down of another blessed year, Lord-willing a new, fresh start next

~

Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving} #6

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{continuing my gratitude list}

51. giving, giving, and giving more…coming to the end of myself, seeing the need of my Savior more than ever to carry me

52. library trips

53. listening to my 8 year old daughter talk, talk, talk

54. fluffy, hot, clean laundry from the dryer

55. poetry

56. Minestrone soup with thick-cut sausage, home made bread slathered with butter

57. early morning light reflecting off glass-glazed ice puddles

58. warm, woolen coats

59. new tights, cardigans, rich colors

60. Amish gentleman rollerblading by with his bow hunting gear slung over his shoulder, welcome to the “deep country”, I’m so thankful I live here

~

Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving} #5

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{continuing my gratitude list}

41. the way leaves swirl up behind our vehicle as we drive down the road

42. Ben’s sweet little hands

43. hours of LEGO playing

44. grilled cheese on sourdough

45. a husband who faithfully provides

46. early morning stillness

47. two oldest passed Hunter’s Safety

48. first big flakes of snow, so beautiful

49. a big load of seconds from apple orchard at a good price

50. hot chocolate mustaches on little children

~