Monday Ponderings {Happy June 1st}

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{Drops of dew, nature’s jewels and pools of light}

 

Reflecting on mothering and domestic artistry a bit this morning…

“Now you are deep in what seems to me a peculiarly selfless service. The spiritual training of children must be that. You work for the years you will not see. You work for the Invisible all the time, but you work for the Eternal. So it is all worthwhile.”

~Amy Carmichael

“Divine Service Conducted Here Three Times a Day.”

{The context of this was cooking meals. What a perspective shift! I may place this above my stove.}

~ Ruth Bell Graham

“The true secret of happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”

~William Morris

{I believe these quotes came from the lovely book Mother Culture by Karen Andreola. I just finished my second reread through it and these were some encouraging things I jotted down.}

~

 

Monday Ponderings {May 25th}

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…’ it is only as we live in the ideals,’ says Bishop Wescott, ‘ that sameness of work does not become monotony of life. We cannot escape sameness of work if we wish to effect anything. The greatest achievement evolves itself out of endless petty and unnoticeable details; but, thank God, we need none of us suffer from that last dreariness, monotony of life. One thought of God, one glimpse of our ideal, and we go to work with renewed impulse and quickened powers, remembering that all the power of Christ is behind every scourge of small cords with which we would cleanse the defilement of our own hearts or of the world.

~ Charlotte Mason

Scale Howe Meditations, p. 88

Bold emphasis mine

{Thinking on obedience to our work, our callings,  and our stewardship here on this earth lately. A few of those things for me is obedience to the work of writing, my work as a mother, and my work as a lover and servant of God. Have you thought of your life as a work of obedience out of love?}

~

 

April Reads

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{early morning favorites: sunrise and The Cloud of Witness devotional}

Hello, Bibliophiles. Happy May 1st! I finished MANY reads this past month and wowsers, my brain is spinning from all the goodness in here. How ’bout you? Did you finish anything noteworthy? I’d really love to hear! The next best thing to reading books is talking about reading books. *wink, wink* I also realized that I read from ALL of my categories in my challenge to myself this year, although the one I’m counting as memoir is more of an autobiography. I really do love those genres of books.

Tree and Leaf: Includes Mythopoeia and The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth by J.R.R. Tolkien (*****) – This was small collection of an essay, a short story, and two poems and it was AMAZING, but unfortunately, I’m not going to succinctly be able to explain why. Ha. These great, learned writers do that to me. Make me all tongue-tied and starry-eyed. My imagination soars up and away and I’m gone. I seriously had a book-hangover from this one. The first essay “On Fairy Stories” was one of the reasons I wanted to read this book, as an artist friend on Instagram had referenced it. It was amazing and just such an encouragement to me as a writer, mother, and really as a Christian, too. I found it so beautiful, I had to reread lines, pause, and go back. I took time to read his extensive footnotes which were all at the end of the essay due to space. The short story, “Leaf by Niggle” was vague, beautiful, and so inspiring. Perhaps a wee bit autobiographical of Tolkien’s life. I didn’t understand it all and perhaps it had a thread of his Catholic faith that was beyond me, but it was all just so lovely. The poems were so fascinating too. I highly recommend this one, especially if you are looking for creative inspiration.

The Joy of Snow by Elizabeth Goudge (****) – I found this autobiography just a beautiful look at Miss Goudge’s life and you could see how so many of the lovely details in her stories came out of experiences and places in her real life. I gobbled this book up in a couple of days. So fascinating! And of course, England comes alive through her eyes.

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë (*****) This was the March pick for my Instagram Classics read-along and I listened to it while I washed dishes. I finished it a little late, but I really enjoyed the story of Miss Grey’s life as a governess and this was just a sweet and sobering look of the life of the hardships, yet little joys that Agnes found. This was slow, yet interesting. After digging around, I may have already read this one, but had forgotten! Ha. So, I wouldn’t say it’s RIVETING, but I definitely look on it fondly. It was happier than some of the reads we’ve done this year.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper (*****) – This is ageless adventure story surrounding three children and their mysterious Uncle Merriman Lyon on the coast of Cornwall. They must decipher a mysterious, ancient map and find a priceless treasure before the Dark does! Doesn’t that sound wonderful? That’s because it IS! I reread this book often. Highly recommend!

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (****) – This was my first Wharton and wow, it was amazingly written. I loved immersing myself in the Golden Age of New York and the wealthy families and intrigues. I found Wharton’s characters so interesting and this was funny and thoughtful at the same time. It was a teeny bit repetitive as Newland Archer agonized over his life, decisions, and keeping up an outward adherence to what was the norm for his class and culture while internally and morally battling his choices. I really want to read more Wharton now.

The Voice of Many Waters: A Sacred Anthology for Today complied by Kay Snodgrass (*****) – This was a beautiful collection of poems that I had found for .25 cents at a thrift store earlier this year. I’m so glad I picked it up and I will be thumbing through it again. I found a couple new-to-me poets also.

From Room to Room by Jane Kenyon (*****) – Poetry has really been feeding me lately and this sparse, gorgeous collection was no exception. Deceptively simple, layers underneath. ❤

The Dalemark Quartet, Volume 1: Cart and Cwidder and Drowned Ammet by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – I needed a new series from Diana and this was fun! 3 stars for the first book – Cart and Cwidder and 5 stars for the second book – Drowned Ammet. Both of these books are set in Dalemark and are loosely related.

The Ravenwood Saga by Morgan L. Busse (****) –  I got this series via Kindle as the first was free with my Prime account. This was well-written, intriguing fantasy about a young woman’s coming into her inherited secret power that she doesn’t fully understand. To her horror and revulsion, all isn’t as it seems. The country is divided into different Houses each with different gifts and House of Ravenwood’s gift has take a sinister twist over the centuries. An outside threat could draw the Houses together in defense of their land or will it drive them apart? My oldest daughter and I enjoyed this series!

Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings by Henri J. M. Nouwen (*****) – This was a BEAUTIFUL look at Jesus and what we can draw from His life example during the Lent and Easter season. I really loved this!

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (*****) – Beautiful and haunting lines creep up on you in this interesting, ageless story of a fountain of youth. I’d like to reread it at sometime and jot the lines down soon. The story definitely makes you think, but my favorite is Babbitt’s lyrical writing. Just lovely. I grabbed this off my shelf one afternoon when I was looking for something different to read.

The Child from the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) – Heartbreaking and beautifully written – a darker story from what usually came from Goudge’s pen. She definitely wanted to put a kinder spin on Lucy Walter’s life than history. I found it extremely sad at the end and it made want to hug my babies tighter. I really loved it and gobbled it up in a few days.

A Hundred White Daffodils by Jane Kenyon (*****) – This was a lovely and thoughtful collection of essays by the poet Jane Kenyon. I touched on it a little here, if you’d like to read more. I’m stalking Kenyon’s work currently. Extremely inspiring for fueling creativity!

The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett (*****) – Oh, my goodness. This was so simple, yet so complex. Layers of beauty in this simple, intimate look at the lives, loves, and natural beauty of Maine. Even though this is fictional, it felt living and truly heart-felt. Jewett breathed life into these people and this place. You could really tell she KNEW this region and deeply loved it. This is probably so slow moving to some (not much of a plot), but I found it so very lovely. I think the older version has illustrations, but mine did not, which was a bummer. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

James and the Giant Peach by Ronald Dahl (***) – We’ve been trying to read more Dahl here and I grabbed this off the shelf and enjoyed it one afternoon after we had finished school. So creative and I really loved the illustrations. Probably not my favorite of his, but lovely all the same.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (*****) – I struggled with this a bit at first, but then I read some reviews on Goodreads that made me want to hold on and I’m so glad I did. This ended up being a beautiful, reflective read for me. I copied down some passages into my Commonplace Journal also for further reflection. This is a time period I really know nothing about, the United States in 1930’s and we follow a young woman, Janie, as she walks through three different marriages and the tensions of race in a post-Civil War America. Definitely gave me a lot of food for thought and the different characters were done so well in this book.

Lady Catherine’s Necklace by Joan Aiken (****) – I really enjoy Joan Aiken’s fanfic based off of characters and situations from Jane Austen’s novels. This follows mainly Anne de Bourgh and Maria Lucas. Light and fun!

Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather (****) – This is a beautifully written historical fiction story and I was transported to 17th century Quebec in a lovely story full of domesticity, children, faith, and wonder. It was a slower read for me and in fact, I started this in February and finished it today! Ha. I really love Cather’s writing, though, so it was worth it.

The Holy Bible (*****) – I’ve been slowly working through Psalms and finished 2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, and Revelation.

Wow. I made a dent in my TBR stack this month. Ha. I guess Covid is good for something. 😉 There were SO many  lovely finishes this month, but I’d have to say Tree and Leaf and  The Country of the Pointed Firs were my favorites. How ’bout you?

~

 

Wild and Windy: Memoir Minute

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Wild and windy. The old windowpane drums and clanks fighting the wind’s tug and pull. The baby whimpers. I scoop up his soft, warmness and pull him close to my heart. Another tug and pull, his nursing gulps, his cold feet curling into my stretched belly, his little hands on my side are all mixed in with the howling drumbeats. I cuddle us deeper down into the duvet. A warm, firm hand comes from my husband’s side. My hair smoothed back softly by these strong, work-worn hands.  The shakes, rattles, and rolls are strangely comforting. We are inside this big, square lug of a house, four walls around us, and the yanking, wind trying to say something. At least it’s a sheltered listening that we are doing. Oh, the raw, unleashed beauty of the wind, its screams, whispers, and sometimes speaks still, small inklings. I love it even though its a bit looming at times. Riding on the back of this wind was a dust and tap of sugaring snow. Later, after I rise, I light candles, a dark glow creeping in with the dawn and spilling in the edges of the windows. Lamps, candles, and twinkle lights remind me of the Light that pierces all our wind-tossed darkness.  Foundation strong, windows secure, and the flickering light shining in the midst of it all. ~

 

Love which rode into town

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Oh, to be able to capture all the magic and mystery and enchantment I felt and heard in the air yesterday. Just like a shaft of sunlight cutting through the dust motes suspended in the air or wrapping itself in steam rising from hot coffee, this elusive fairy dust is on the wind. It is stuck in my throat, threatening to choke with riotous delight. Who knows how the Spirit moves, in the flutter and quick head-tilts of the birds chipping and pecking at or underneath the feeder. The bread crumbs I scattered or seeds in their little beaks…or the joy of the steady drip, drip of rain flowing over the edge of the roof, all a spring ode to time marching on. The smell of brownies coming hot and slightly gooey out of the oven, mixed by a new boy baker, his finger chocolate-dipped as he licks the edges of the bowl and boyhood. This approaching Good Friday shrouded in isolation and fear and maybe not unlike a tiny fraction of the absolute loneliness felt by a Son from His Father’s avoidance. A plague settled on Him so grim and so contagious, a scapegoat was exposed for us all – this Resurrection posture needed more than ever by us as we live a really quite simple death of convenience, wealth, and relationship. Disease and death don’t have the final say on this short pilgrimage here. We are one step closer to being with the Love which rode into town on a donkey. The swirl of story, faith, belief, and a little magic, and swish of light breaking through the rain drops lingering and trailing down my window. Light has a new meaning when we glance and rustle around in it this coming weekend. A reflection catching my eye in the murky dish water, the flicker from the candle, glint off my ring, light that promises to cut through, to tear the thick veil from top to bottom, to restore to us the beauty and mystery of a Love so beautiful death can’t bury it. The rough stone, vines crawling, draping over it, a bird alighting on the gritty surface – an empty place so we may be clean, free, and live gloriously up into all He has given us by giving it all. This beauty is here for the taking, to be snatched out of the swirling air, waiting with arms open wide.

~

Monday Ponderings {March 30th}

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“…the arrow endures the string, to become, in the gathering out-leap, something more than itself.” ~ Rilke

 

{Monday sunshine, poetry, hot shower, and focusing on that “out-leap” for others today. I SO desire to be something more than myself, trusting that Jesus will complete the work He has begun in me. How are you today? Sending sunshine to you this morning!}

 

~

Practice resurrection.

Marguerite Gachet au Jardin 1890 Van Gogh
Marguerite Gachet In The Garden, Vincent van Gogh (1890)

I’m listening to music and tackling a mountain of dishes this afternoon. Practicing resurrection is on my heart and mind, my dear friends. What did Wendell Berry, mean exactly by that, I wonder? In his stirring poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”,  I believe he alludes to creation that isn’t seen or measured or counted, weighting the “finished” product, place, person, or piece of art. We sing, speak, scribble, and send it off into the world without any glorious measurement of what has been done. I’ve been thinking about this as we all adjust to a slower paced world for the moment. Who am I? What is my worth? In Berry’s words, I find hope and slowly began to contemplate the coming celebration of the ultimate Resurrection. I find a tangible something that I can hold onto, even though I don’t fully understand, it flashes out as a filigree of truth and beauty swirling and spinning around me in a warm bath of light. I’m already known and am already of immeasurable worth. And so are you. You are still right now. You are at home in more ways then one. Be still and listen for the still small voice. “Do something that doesn’t compute,” and Berry’s call to “plant sequoias” rings loud and tall in my ears as a mother. It isn’t guaranteed that I will live to see the length, height, and breadth of my children’s days, yet I set in that seedling and I walk away knowing that I practiced resurrection. This isn’t something you have to do, necessarily. There are myriads of things we are told to do right now, this in Someone you find rest. A spiritual awareness of God in us, the Hope of Glory. An attitude of resurrection, that life abundant has been already given to us, we have no shadow of fear. Increase my resurrection faith, Lord! Resurrection looks like breathing in deep gratitude for the Heavenly bits here on earth. Loving deeply, living laughter, asking forgiveness, these create newness to replace the deaths. A cycle of regeneration, all things being made new. Yes, even my heart attitude and posture. The best thing about the resurrection life is that it multiplies. Truly a gift that keeps giving. And yes, tangible things like baking bread, scrubbing all these dastardly dishes, and looking deep into a love ones eyes can be part of resurrection resuscitation. An invitation to others to join into our resurrection practices, our giving of ourselves, their receiving becomes part of that cycle. Our words, our love, and our daily lives will be resurrection testimonies or most likely hidden, intimate resurrection worship for our Lord . Even if no one cares or notices, we keep at whispered prayers of our heart. Whether I live or die from a virus, I am the Lord’s precious child. I can practice right now, in these soap-sud-drenched life moments the beauty of being a creation of the resurrected Jesus. A masterpiece created to worship Him.

“My faith and my art coexist. Neither is in a closet. Everything I write is autobiographical. Even writing a recipe or directions from the airport reveal something of who I am. My faith is not unconsciously authobiographical. It is yoked to purpose, and for me that is God’s purpose for all of us on earth or anywhere else in creation we may turn up. I never ask: What is life for? The life I live is a constant answer. What I do is in the interests of others. Nobody writes, paints, sews, saws, chisels, or takes photographs twenty-four hours a day. But in all we do, we reflect our purpose – our faith, our reason for being.” –                             

Mary Duckert, p. 50, Voice of Many Waters (emphasis mine)

“Take heart, I have overcome the world.” ~ Jesus

~

Monday Ponderings {March 9th} Match-Striked Dawns

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Only Heaven is better than to walk with Christ at midnight over moonlit seas.

~B.M.

 

Trial ever consecrates the cup

Wherefrom we pour the sacrificial wine.

~Lowell

 

The Cloud of Witness

 

Fragments of these quotes have been tumbling around in my head lately. My heart skips from the idea that being shrouded in the blackness of life with Christ is the very next best thing to being with Him in Heaven. A profound reshifting of how I view the sorrows and trials of life. Weariness and relational pressures build like the dirty, greasy dishes in the sink. Yet I can choose to see the precious, discarded, darling pint-sized blue and green gingham shirt on the bathroom floor as evidence of a vibrant, earnest 5 year old boy I get to love.  Irritations war within me over snippy words, grating like the large dental bill opened recently. But the pleasant ‘thawp, thwap’ sound of our USA map blowing as the furnace kicks in below, visible heat and friendly sounds warming me inside and out. Hope drains away quickly like the last dregs of my coffee, if I glance at the waves instead of gazing into the piercing Eyes of strength. His hand outstretched through the darkness towards me. Deadlines, half written schedules, tensions between to-dos and to-creates, crumpled recipes, all pile like the dead, sodden, end-of-winter, depressing leaves out under the tree. Leaves not unlike the potato peels all over the floor, a child-like outlook that I so wish I could grab onto, saying this was the “best job ever” – peeling potatoes with mom. Potato-peelings of life moments are glorious if I can look at them anew, through a filter of child-like honesty and without cynicism.

I want to look at life through the simple delight of a deeply, simple but gorgeous painting found thrifting for a dollar – a fresh, haunting blue, sheep on a hillside – He comes for me, that one, lost wandering sheep, a mother floundering in a midnight, blackness of soul. He holds me safe around His shoulders, quieting my incessant bleating and trembling. His beautiful truths of how much He truly loves me, filtering down through the cobwebs and endless muck of my emotions and pressures of this world. He delights in giving me good, tangible gifts, yes, earthly things like moist, spicy chicken and buttery broccoli, deeply lashed pooled blue baby eyes to stare deeply into, piercing my brown ones. Gifts of little rivulets of melting ice, dribbling, merrily and softly down the side of the street, speaking, no whispering hope and spring to the heart and soul, a knowing that it will come again. The grave cannot hold hope for long  –  I know so, because of the jonquils everywhere in the wild as we traveled south recently – shards of joy piercing deep their yellow welcome,  cutting up through the thick, leathery folds of my dry, skin heart.

Those pudgy little boy feet, with one sock on, one off, moments that culminate in this heart whisper that “Jesus is here RIGHT now” with you, Amy. Even in the messes, misunderstandings, the doors of the van of life spilling out paper wrappings, petrified apple cores, and crumpled socks. Not unlike the refuse twisting and turning inside, frantically trying to recycle into anything redeemable. Ice melting, last bits of snow sifting down from branches, trial and triumph, hatred and hope, a mixture of drinks to sip from this deep cup of life…nothing immediately good can be seen or felt in these times of emotional  graveyard, but through these dry bones are rising brilliant match-striked dawns of joy.

Wait for it, Amy.

~

February Reads

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Hello Long Lost Friends ~ I had a quiet month on the reading front as we were traveling the second half of February. I have a lot of books going but I only finished these few. I didn’t get any in my 2020 Reading plan categories finished. What have you been reading?

Rainbow’s End and The Dirty Duck by Martha Grimes (***) I actually grabbed Rainbow’s End off of my local library shelf because it had a beautiful, old-fashioned tapestry type cover. Ha! I had no clue what it was. It turned out to be a beautifully written, character-driven crime novel. Richard Jury is the protagonist and is a fascinating Scotland Yard detective chasing down three murders that a colleague is convinced are connected. If you like fast-paced novels, you won’t like this one. 😉 We get pages of being inside character’s minds and life. It was VERY slow moving. I found Rainbow’s End crime a bit thin and unconvincing, but I loved the writing so much I decided to grab another. The Dirty Duck was much more dark and grisly and not written as well.  I found out it was one of Grimes earlier books in the series. I would recommend starting at the beginning and reading the correct order as I was very confused by all the characters. Overall, I would be willing to try another Richard Jury mysteries as I liked him as a detective, the side characters were fascinating, and Grimes’ writing is good.

Hints on Child Training by Henry Clay Trumbull (*****) – This took me a long time to read as I was reading it with an online Voxer group. Although there are a few archaic ideas in this book, I found it to be an encouraging and convicting read on parenting and a way of looking at and valuing children. Highly recommend for Christian parenting. I definitely would like to reread it in the future.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 &2 Thessalonions, and 1 Timothy.

Here’s to a new month of reading! Happy March!

~

 

 

Monday Ponderings {February 10th}

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Now, – the sowing and the weeping,

Working hard and waiting long:

Afterward, – the golden reaping,

Harvest home and grateful song.

Now, the long and toilsome duty, 

Stone by stone to carve and bring;

Afterward, – the perfect beauty

Of the palace of the King.

Now, – the tuning and the tension

Wailing minors, discord strong;

Afterward, – the grand ascension

Of the Alleluia song!

 

~Francis Ridley Havergal

The Cloud of Witness, p. 86

 

Sunrise, Sunset

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Sunrise on oatmeal breakfasts, a newly-minted 15 year old’s birthday, on morning visits to friends that live 45 breathtaking minutes away, the grand, barrenness of the trek striking me with joy and a sigh. Sunset on our beloved Arabian’s life, his old age catching us not unawares but a bit unready to say goodbye, sunset on candlelit dinners, the dishes waiting for the dawning of day. Sunrise on my parents 41st anniversary,  and water park days with dad, tickets a gift from a beloved Great Aunt.  Sunset on lingering moments with book stacks, french toast and bacon dinners, and canvas tepee sleepovers in girl’s bedroom. Sunrise glittering across icy driveway, faint light creeping around corners of house. Sunset ushering in full moon, unseen from main windows, reflection glimmering  off cars, buildings, soft, blue glow enveloping the night. Sunrise joining the flicker of early morning candlelight and twinkle lights, bursting brightness into the house, glinting off that never-ending pile of dishes to be washed. The dry, chapped mother hands dipping in suds, listening to Mill on the Floss, towel over arm. Sunset bringing husband and son with a large load of bright, red apples from storage, children’s eyes sparkling and grins over a favorite fruit. Sunrise on devotions, The Golden Key, and Book of Luke, as we lick our breakfast spoons. Sunset on reservations, travel plans being finalized, and new {green 🙂 } glasses ordered.  Sunrise on nursling’s cries and a mother’s kettle steaming, books, lists, and words to soak into soul. Sunset on harsh words, fights about our beloved Playmags {of all things!}, and uncleaned crumbs. Sunrise slowly coming earlier and earlier, darkness being pushed back, ghostly blue blackness being parted aside, and a warm, friendly light peeking around the edge of the curtain. Sunset on bad habits, out of ordered affections, and worry, hopefully. Sunrise, the new dawn on a new day, a newer month, one week old already, oh the possibilities. If I listen and notice. Sunset on library trips, babysitting jobs for my oldest daughter, mentoring Zoom meetings for a teacher mom, and soup lunches at church. Sunrise, sunset on the first week of February.

Sunrise, sunset. 

~

Monday Ponderings- Keep Your Clocks Wound {February 3rd}

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…we must daily keep things wound: that is, we must pray when prayer seems dry as dust; we must write when we are physically tired, when our hearts are heavy, when our bodies are in pain. We may not always be able to make our “clock” run correctly, but at least we can keep it wound, so that it will not forget. ~ Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

Sunshine has spilled for two and half days in a row, albeit a bit spotty. On Saturday, I stood still near my kitchen window, gingham curtains brushing my elbows, hands wrapped around my hot coffee cup. I lifted my face, eyes closed to its warmth bathing me. Yesterday, I noticed a flicker of it through the tree branches, slanting through the window, and landing on the back of the church pew. It blinked and bowed, dancing across the wood grain just like a prayer.  This time of year we think of the coming of the spring, as we angle half past through the blinding white and the equally blinding darkness towards greenness and light.  Thinking on the L’Engle quote, it’s hard work to keep our many “clocks” wound and things going, especially in the darkness. Then the sunset itself was hopeful last night, a promising gift of purples, pinks, and pungency. There is often just the right amount of grace for the moment if I take time to look hard, peering through the dimness. This morning, I found myself up in the early black with baby,  then hands deep in dish bubbles, and my audio book. As the morning knocked, the sky grew lighter and lighter…mismatched to my heaviness over words that I was repeating in my head. Words have power, just as light does. Words sink down into our souls, whereas light shines up, around, out, and through.  The sunshine is good medicine though, when wading through dishes, desperate moments, and peeling back the inner onion layers (more on this later). Sunshine therapy at its finest, a moment or two of clarity, and the click clack of keys to catch it before it floats away into the air.

~