Gratitude & Glories: {February & March 2021}

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The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Happy Good Friday! ❤ We must endure the darkness to see the light! ❤ Hold on, Love is making a Way!

For February/March 2021

Looking out my window… February was gray and temperamental. We got a big snowstorm early in the month that dumped 8” on us. Good ‘ole northern midwest. I confess February is a hard month weather wise for me, dreary and dark. Dear March, thank you for rescuing us from February. 🙂 March brought hints, whispers of loveliness to come…the trilling of Red-Wing Blackbirds, daffodil spears poking up, and crocus smiling up at us. We had some lovely warm days and some shockingly cold ones that make the warm ones all the more sweet. The first day of Spring was another gift of March and we’ll take hope in any way we can get. The end of March brought Robins, too, rain, and deep, delicious, rich loamy smells, and the spring peepers are serenading us from the pond at night. I won a Snow-Drop plant on IG and can’t wait for NEXT spring to see it bloom!

I am thinking… about SO much. I’ve been reading massive amounts and watching rather too much Youtube. Ha. I took the last couple of weeks off of Instagram and it’s been lovely to immerse myself in my library book stack and interesting ideas via Youtube. A booktuber that I love over there is Chantel at An Intentional Life and a silly, but interesting one that is a sort of mashup between goofy pop culture and classical music is TwoSetViolin. If you want to stretch your brain, here are a couple of mind-blowing channels: DarkHorsePodcast and Jordan B. Peterson. I don’t love EVERYTHING that comes out of these channels, but if you listen when scrubbing mounds of dishes, you may come out with something to mentally chew on and feed you.

I am thankful… for my hubby, who has been working SO hard to get the new-to-us wood burner working properly and breathe a little life into our tired vehicles. He also is sending me on THREE different little getaways this year. One related to my health and two for inspiration related to our Charlotte Mason home educating. So lovely and such a blessing! I’m so thankful for the weather turning, life springing forth, and for the Resurrection. Such an amazing and important part of my faith.

One of my favorite things…early morning quiet time with my coffee, Bible, books, journals, and candlelight. Then after, my littlest comes down and snuggles with me for a bit in my chair. He chatters in his baby language and all’s right with the world for a few minutes. He’s SO snuggly.

I am wearing… black jeans, my powder blue button down, and a 3/4 quarter length striped sweater. It has powder blue, browns, and pinks in it. I got the whole outfit thrifting or on clearance. I also have on my dangling pearl earrings. My hair is terribly in need of a cut, but I’m so lazy to go get one. I have it in a messy bun. 🙂 I’ve been still wearing a lot of scarves, because of the cold, but soon I’ll have to pack them away.

I am creating… oh boy. I knew this prompt was coming. I only seriously wrote on my story last month TWICE. 😦 Yikes. I didn’t meet my goal of making it to 20,000 words. New month, new opportunity. I have yet to confess to my writing buddies this travesty. 😉 Can I blame Youtube? Ha. Anyway, I’m planning on buckling down and hitting it this month and my reward will be this sticker for my laptop. Isn’t this darling? I want it SO badly. Come on, Amy. Wrestle with the work. Wrangle the words. Sit in the seat.

I am watching… well, besides those things above, I found this version of Elizabeth Gaskell’s “North and South“. I still prefer the Richard Armitage version, but this was a pleasant watch.

I am reading… SO much, but I especially enjoyed the medieval-like, fantasy Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (I’ve heard negative things about the second book, so I’m not reading it as I really, REALLY loved this one!), a time-slip, middle-grade, portal story, Fog Magic by Julia L. Sauer, and Okay for Now by Gary P. Schmidt, which was HEART-WRENCHING and beautiful story focused around domestic abuse, Audubon, and Jane Eyre. The Rivers Lead Home by Emily Hayse was a collection of sparse, beautiful short stories about brave spirits in wilderness who battled survival situations. I loved this one, because it made me FEEEEEL. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell was an amazingly delicious and warm unique adventure for middle graders, centered around a girl raised in Zimbabwe and sent to an English boarding school. I’m not a huge historical fiction reader, but someone recommended Ruta Sepetys to me and I read her Salt to the Sea and it was amazing and heart wrenching. Focused on four different evacuees from war-town parts of Europe in Germany. Wow. When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka was another historical fiction centered around the horrific relocation of Japanese Americans to interment camps during WWII. It was sparse and written in such a way that is displayed the psychological horrors along with the physical deprivations and abuse. I read a lot more in February and March, but those probably were my favorites. I’ve been also reading Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Matthew and dipping into John here and there. I have a few Lenten/Easter devotionals going as well, my favorite being Bread & Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter. As always, I’m just LOVING prayasyougo app each morning to begin my prayer and meditation times.

I am listening to … Josh Garrels, my same ‘ole instrumental stuff, and my daughter twisted my arm to listen to this band 😉 and I guess it’s ok for dishwashing (I wash A LOT of dishes.), ha. Boy, I’m old. Brings back high school. 😛

I am hoping… to WRITE. I’m working on ideas for a poem using the atmosphere/vibes/stories of a cemetery for my online local writing group. I’d love to write some more poetry this month, too, as April is National Poetry Month.

In the garden… we have BIG plans and need to get moving on them. I need to invest in some black plastic to help with weeds and we are in the process of starting seeds. I dream of all the flowers etc, but need to put in the work! 🙂 My hollyhock plants are coming back. Nothing yet from all the lovely plants my friend Sandi gave me and my son and I transplanted last year here, but it’s early here. Still very cold earth!

I am learning… how to just take things one day at a time. One moment at a time.

In the kitchen…I’ve been VERY uninspired, but got a load of veggies from the grocery today and am planning lots of stirfry concoctions for the next couple of weeks and will serve them over brown rice for the kiddos. Any easy, lovely meals you’ve been enjoying? I’m excited to start grilling more.

In the homeschool room… we are plugging along, just trying to faithfully move FORWARD. It’s been very nice outdoors on and off and the younger children have been enjoying that. We’ve resurrected our morning walk when it’s nice and I LOVE THAT. We’ve really been loving the book King Alfred’s English and rereading The Chronicles of Narnia together. I am looking forward to the finish line, though. This has been a challenging year with 6 students and little guy running around.

Shared Quote

Build a little fence of trust

Around today;

Fill the space with loving work

And therein stay.

Look not through the protective rails

Upon tomorrow.

God will help you bear

What comes of joy or sorrow.

Mary Butts ~

Some moments from my day {month}...

Hubby and I visited a shrine on a little getaway together and it was beautiful.

Monday Ponderings {March 15th}

“How good and how glad it is to be grateful! The joy is not merely that we have received a favour or a little kindness which speaks of goodwill and love, but that a beautiful thing has come out of some other person’s beautiful heart for us; and joy in that other’s beauty of character gives more delight than any gain or pleasure which can come to us from favors.”

~Charlotte Mason, Volume 4, pg. 108

Monday Ponderings {March 8th, 2021}

New Salem, Illinois ~ reproduction village where Abraham Lincoln lived as a young man.

“Every Christian must experience the essence of the incarnation by bringing the next step down into flesh-and-blood reality and working it out with his hands. We lose interest and give up when we have no vision, no encouragement, and no improvement, but only experience our everyday life with its trivial tasks. The thing that really testifies for God and for the people of God in the long run is steady perseverance, even when the work cannot be seen by others. And the only way to live an undefeated life is to live looking to God. Ask God to keep the eyes of your spirit open to the risen Christ, and it will be impossible for drudgery to discourage you. Never allow yourself to think that some tasks are beneath your dignity or too insignificant for you to do, and remind yourself of the example of Christ in John 13: 1-17.” ~ Oswald Chambers

Hush {Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving 2019} #3

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I’m thankful for…

21. baby’s eyelashes resting on his cheek while he nurses

22. feeling of bread dough in my hands, sticky, squishy, then smooth
23. stillness of early mornings, the hush
24. our homeschool group, Excelsior Guild, the children and moms grow me and I love them all
25. poetry…read this one recently and it made me think:
A Betrayal
I cannot undo
           what I have done;
           I can’t un-sing
           a song that’s sung.
And the saddest thing 
      about my regret –
    
I can’t forgive me
       and you can’t forget.
-Lang Leav
26. purple, pink, and orange sunrise, tangible joy
27. reading Where the Wild Things Are over and over again with 5 yo, Ben. I bought a mug with this on it for “Back to (Home) School” and he and I just love it! We giggle every time I use it and look at each other with knowing eyes.
28. drops of water on rose petals in the sink, surprise gift from husband
29. snow on tree limbs, drooping and plopping bits down, a fizz blowing off
30. an empty Saturday, no plans in it yet
~
What’s on your gratitude list 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

~

 

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.

~

Favorite Reads of 2018

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Happy 9th Day of Christmas, friends! Below is the list of books that touched me deeply this year. I separated them in categories, so you can skim to something that may interest you! I found this year that books that challenged or shocked me were some of my favorites. I really found myself gravitating toward books that I had an intense emotional response with or a line or thought or idea that has stuck with me throughout the year, but weren’t necessarily pretty or comfortable reads. I read through the New Testament and Psalms a couple of times and a few other books of the Old Testament and really enjoyed the slow, savoring pace. I’ve only included my favorite favorites, if you know what I mean, because I read so many lovely books including home education titles, writing books, and more.

Favorite Book of the Year:

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (****) – Wow. I hated this book so much I loved it.  I’m not sure why this book so profoundly made an impression on me. I think in some ways it has to do with the fact that I feel SO much compassion for the mother and her girls (not to mention the Congolese) and feel like this is just so preventable. And yet, unfortunately, all to often, some of the elements of this story ring true in organized religion. This fictional story is an achingly beautiful account of The Belgian Congo and a family torn up by Pharisaical religiosity, racism, sexism, and as many other “isms” that Kingslover could think of and fit into this book. This is the first book that made me cry in a long time and I will never forget it. Even though I strongly believe the author made sweeping, prejudiced (ironically, the very thing she eloquently rails about in this book) blanket judgments of things she abhors (or at least seems too based on this novel), there is SO much to appreciate about this and pull away from it. Highly recommend if you can read it with a grain of salt and a willingness to look at yourself, shaking off deeply ingrained things that aren’t right.

Other Hard but Favorites of the Year: 

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

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (****) – Fascinating and intriguing look life after an epidemic wipes out most of the world’s population. Sounds depressing, doesn’t it? It isn’t because it’s told through the voice of a troupe of actors who travel around giving Shakespearean plays. Sobering and beautiful, sad yet strangely hopeful, I enjoyed the creative way St. John Mandel wrote this, wrapping up many veins well at the end.

Discovering the Character of God by George MacDonald (*****) -I absolutely love Mr. MacDonald’s belief on who God is as our loving Father. There are a few things that are vague and a few things I may argue and not agree with him on, but overall, I was so encouraged and challenged by this wonderful book. It took me a very long time to read, because I wanted to go slow and it’s not something you can read quickly. This is set up with three part chapters: his poetry, commentary, and a section from his fiction – all tied together with a topic for the chapter.

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

Books that Built my Faith:

The Wild-Bird Child: A Life of Amy Carmichael by Derick Bingham (*****) –  Amy Carmichael is one of my heroines of the Christian faith, her poetry, writing, and life’s work, encouraging and inspiring me. I really enjoyed this unique look at this Irish missionary.  Mr. Bingham created an unique take on her life, beginning each chapter, with a bit of what was going on in the world at the time. I love the first hand letters, personal stories, and information from diaries that the author had access to while writing this book. I found this much more interesting than A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot.

Peace Like A River by Leif Enger (*****) -this was a reread for me, in anticipation of reading Enger’s two other books soon and I gobbled it up in a few days. I loved this so much and was just drawn again in by the rich characters, story, and beautiful spiritual vein and questions posed throughout. Highly recommend!

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (*****) – I absolutely loved this book about a bus ride between Heaven and Hell and the conversations between “Ghosts” and “Beings”. I found it just lovely and amusing that George MacDonald was Mr. Lewis’s Being. The theology and thoughts were thought-provoking, challenging, and absolutely beautiful. I also listened to a few episodes in a series of podcast discussions on this book, which I found interesting.

Poetry:

Mountain Breezes by Amy Carmichael (*****) – This took me all year to read. It is a collection of all of Miss Carmichael’s poetry gathered from throughout her other writings. This is one of my favorite books of the year, as I found her simple, sweet poems of nature observations and the character of God to be so challenging and inspiring to my faith. Some of the poetry is very basic, but you hear her heart through it and some lines are just like arrows to your heart. I highly recommend this book.

Billy Collin’s poetry (****) – I read many collections of his poetry and I don’t know if there was one that was my favorite although The Art of Drowning and Picnic, Lightening  I immensely enjoyed. They are written in engaging, yet simple style, but meaningful and hugely layered. I was astonished at the beauty of some of his close, minute observations of daily life. He renders the littlest bits of our lives in a grand universal way, yet he was so approachable. I can’t wait to read more from him! Here is a TED talk by Mr. Collins that I enjoyed.  I thoroughly enjoyed this humorous, down-to-earth poet.

Habitation of Wonder by Abigail Carroll (*****) – I would give this six stars if I could. Just lovely, haunting poetry, exploring the beauty of life, nature, and faith in an approachable, gorgeous, lyrical way. I’m on my third reread of it, it’s not long, it’s so life-giving and wonder-provoking. Carroll is my favorite modern poet and you can visit her here and read some of her words.

On the Lighter Side: 

The Market Square by Miss Read (*****) – Another of my favorite genres is British family-ish type fiction. Miss Read is the master of beautiful settings and lovely characters that you come to love and care about. Sometimes not much happens, but you still keep reading anyway. This title was a bit different from her Thrush Green and Fairacre series in that it was a bit more sad and darker than those. Two friends grow up together and their families are inseparable until a change in the economy forces a wedge. Misunderstandings, class, race, morality, the World Wars, all test the true friendship between these two men as their lives move on. This was slow start for me and it took me awhile to get into it, but once I did, I loved it. So much to think on and consider and I won’t forget this story! I think this might be a series, but I haven’t checked into it yet.

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”. 😉

Crosstalk by Connie Willis (*****) – SLIGHT SPOILER! The daily workings of a telecommunications company may not sound fascinating, but oh wow, they are when you have Willis writing about them. The new craze is a medical implant supposedly to increase your emotional connection to your partner. Briddley, a young employee, is thrilled and astonished by the attention lavished on her by one of her bosses Trent, and now he wants to get this implant with her! The weird tech department guy won’t stop warning her about the dangers of this procedure, and her big crazy Irish family won’t leave her alone.  Continued review here!

The Anatole Trilogy by Nancy Willard (*****) – These three short fantasy adventure stories follow a young boy and were just wonderful. I was looking for a middle grade read and happen to have book #2 of this series on my shelf. I quickly got the other two and thoroughly enjoyed them, the last being my favorite. I love Willard’s ability to keep things grounded in the reality of a young child’s mind, yet make completely absurd and fantastical things and happenings seem everyday and normal. I loved this little escape and the quests Anatole found himself on with the help of many magical creatures and new friends. You can tell Willard understands young children, which I love so much.

 

 

{For major bookish browsing, check out my Year in Books category!}

Otherwise, you can just go to my past years favorite lists! 🙂 I can’t believe I’ve made these lists for three years now already. Time flies when you’re reading.

Favorites from 2017

Favorites from 2016

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On the Eve…

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September ~

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

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

Happy Beauty Feast Eve.

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Monday Ponderings {August 20th}

Frog jar Mercer Mayer

 

Soundtracks for today: “Bring Me a Little Water, Silvy” and  “Little Sparrow”

Leisure

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

~William Henry Davies

{I said no thanks to someone this weekend over a seemly innocent thing, no big deal in my mind, and yet it really seemed to bother/intrigue them why I did so. I’ve been mulling on it ever since and I got to thinking about how much of our lives are driven by “more, more” and “it’s your right” and “take, take, take” and “you deserve it” and the idea that there are cultural norms that you MUST follow. I hope and prayerfully propose and DECLARE to myself and I pray for my children, that we DO NOT have to follow all of these winds blowing through our cultural landscape. So, here’s to a week of saying, “No thanks!” to all the things that rob us of light, love, health, and the time to just sit and stare.}

{Illustration from Where are You, Frog? by Mercer Mayer, all rights reserved.}

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