The Gift of This Moment

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Haunting flute music drifts through the air mixed with my lemon essential oil mist. Feasts for nose and ears. I’ve been slowly floating up and out of post-partum exhaustion and haze, resurfacing, so to speak. Not quite back in the land of the living yet, but one moment at a time, finding my way, taking deep breaths at the surface. Our summer has been a mixture of scrambling, snuggling, and sliding around in the big, red van. We’ve been bumping our way over country roads to family parties and a week at the cabin, surrounded by the memory of pine-drenched air there still fresh in my nose mind. The year has flown, new baby’s have a way of slowing time down and speeding it up at the same time. We’ve enjoyed reading poetry together, trying to finish stories and songs that fell to the wayside during my last months of pregnancy. Summer is time for long book series, my oldest especially embracing the extra reading time, but also she has been found out in the hay meadow on her horse, our new family dog trotting alongside. Ahh. Summer. A welcome friend, I’m soaking her in, recalling the Polar Vortex that swept the northern midwest just a few months ago. I saw somewhere online that there was like a 100 degree difference in some parts of the midwest when compared to the deep “winter that never seemed to be Christmas” that we went through. In hindsight, that was a lot harder for me than I thought. So, I’m determined not to complain of the slow, sultry, still days we are having now. I closed my eyes and let the sweat drip down my back, trying to soak in warmth, bone-deep. Yes, I don’t love nursing a hot, wiggling, darling in this weather, but I’m grateful for it and it’s erasing effects of that cold that is written deep in my skin. Technology has been a boon to me the past few days, as a dear heart, Elisabeth, has been voxering me about my history study plan for the autumn. Summer is off from the scheduled books, but mothering and teaching really never rest. We plan, we dream, we hope, and pray. My black hollyhocks stir slightly in the breeze, a hopeful bit for me, as I fight feelings of being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of needs. Needs for myself, of health, feeling good again in my stretched skin, sleep, and peace. Needs for my husband, encouragement and restful place to come home to, and the needs of a whole bouquet of beautiful children I’ve been given to water. We walk by faith, not by sight, and sigh, isn’t that a good thing? If I looked outwardly only, I’d faint, but I fix my gaze by faith on the One who walks along with me, in fact, carries me. Flute, water trickles, and a gentle murmur of sweet voices are surrounding me now. A gift in the moment. And I’m thankful for it.

~

May Reads

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Here’s what I finished in May! Running a month behind, folks. I’ve been busy snuggling my darling little baby. I had a memoir heavy month!

Letters of a Women Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart (*****) – A friend recommended this to me and I’m so glad! This is hilarious and super inspiring. I listened to it on Librivox and was so charmed by her hard-working spirit, love of nature, and resilience. Eye-opening, turn of the century real letters between two women. My children enjoyed listening to some of it as well. Page turner. Just FYI: racial slurs and some scary/intense situations.

The Other Side of the Dale by Gervase Phinn (*****) – A gentle, delightful memoir of a rural English school inspector. I absolutely loved his humorous insight and descriptions of the English countryside. However, the most delicious part of this was the darling and fascinating conversations he had with the children in the schools he visits. He really captured how delightful children are if we just listen to them. I found out this is a series! Can’t wait to read more about Mr. Phinn’s adventures.

Middlemarch by George Eliot (****) – I did it! I finished this massive classic. I read some and listened to the rest on Librivox while waiting on my baby and then during the long nursing sessions. It took me a long time to get into this, but then I really started to appreciate it. The different characters and marriages in and around the town of Middlemarch were very interesting to me. My favorite character (s) was (were) Mr. Garth and possibly Dorothea Brooke. There are many deep, wonderful lines that I’d love to go back through and copy down in my commonplace. My brain is sort of muddled currently, so I’m not doing this book justice, but it was fascinating.

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – I needed something light and sweet and this reread was just as wonderful the second time around! I read this one afternoon when my baby was sleeping and it was just what I needed. An “old-maid” is diagnosed with a life-altering illness and believes she has a short time to live. She throws caution to the wind, breaking away from her controlling relatives to take risks. Never in her wildest imagination could she have guessed what would happen.

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay (***) – I enjoyed this light fiction centered around three women who are connected to one bookshop. Reay did a wonderful job of making these characters real and interesting. I especially loved Janet, imperfect and struggling with her divorce. I loved all the book references and the atmosphere of the shop.

The Enchanted Isle by D.E. Stevenson (***) – This was a sweet story about a burned out headmistress of a girl’s boarding school, Charlotte Fairlie,who visits a gorgeous Scottish island. I really loved the young girl that befriends Miss Fairlie, leading to love and adventures.

Shepherdess of Elk River Valley by Margaret Duncan Brown (****) – This title is amazingly similar in topic to Letters of a Woman Homesteader, and yet it has it’s own flair and uniqueness. In Stewart’s book, Elinore has many children and responsibilities to others, whereas Margaret is alone most of the time, alone with her mountains of backbreaking work, books, and her own thoughts. I found Margaret’s thoughts & quotes on her extensive reading, intriguing and unique. She does a good job of sharing the hardships of shepherding in the harsh Colorado climate.

West Wind by Mary Oliver (*****) – Beautiful poems that came at a perfect time for me.

The Holy Bible (*****) –  finished John, starting back through the Gospels, Matthew,  some of Mark

~

 

April Reads

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(poem in photo by Mary Oliver)

Better late than never. Here is what I finished last month, waiting for my baby. He was eight days “overdue”.  What have you enjoyed reading recently?

The Mad Farmer Poems by Wendell Berry (*****) – I loved this short collection of poems. I especially loved “Satisfactions of a Mad Farmer”. I used it in my nature journal for my spring and summer sketches.

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden (****) – an online friend mentioned that this was a good read during Lent. I have had it on my shelf forever and am so glad I dove in. I found it fascinating and found a lot to contemplate as I thought over the life of these nuns. This story is focused on a career business woman who gives everything up to enter the Brede convent. The lives of the nuns and the intricacies of their relationships was so interesting. Godden did a wonderful job making each woman really interesting and deep.

Writing Motherhood: Tapping Into Your Creativity as a Writer and a Mother by Lisa Garrigues (*****) – beautiful exercises and essays on writing and motherhood. I hope to go through this again and do some of them. The beginning part is for very new writers, but it gets deeper in the second half.

Consider the Oyster by M.F.K. Fisher (***) – Confession time: I have never eaten oysters. Ha. This book did nothing to induce me to either. My husband tried them in P.E.I, Canada as well as mussels and he enjoyed them. This was lovely writing, but I just feel grossed out by oysters. I know it’s unfair judgment since I’ve never eaten any!

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (*****) – Lovely imaginative tale about a clock that strikes thirteen, opening a time portal to a dreamy garden, friendship, and beauty. I really enjoyed this children’s classic.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Luke and some of John

~

 

Why write?

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“Let your white page be ground, my print be seed, 

Growing to golden ears, that faith and hope shall feed.”

~ George MacDonald

 

Why write? Or pursue any other creative endeavor? I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve been reading a lovely book called Writing Motherhood: Tapping into Your Creativity as a Mother and a Writer by Lisa Garrigues. The author really is making my brain whirl with ways we can write from our everyday lives. While she specifically is focusing on mothers, I have found so many tidbits, quotes, and little ideas for general writing, especially as I get deeper into the book. As I thought of this question above, at first, I panicked. I felt a huge need to write beautifully about this and automatically felt this need to justify creativity. However, once I calmed down a bit, I realized, in my heart of hearts I knew why I write. So, here’s a small list that I’m thinking on and refining in my heart:

  1. I’m an Image Bearer of my Creator God, who loves me – my creativity is a small glimmer of His beauty and character. Of course, it’s not perfect like Him, but if it can reflect even a minuscule piece of Him, it’s worth it. I offer it back to Him as an act of worship, as something I love-to, have-to, and want-to do.
  2. I write to force myself to slow down and humbly notice the small beauty of life. Ultimately, this helps me cultivate gratitude. I mainly write with paper and ink, initially when working on a project. You have to go slow at that inky speed. It’s been a wonderful practice for me.
  3. I write to prayerfully encourage and inspire others in the same upward, outward direction. I want to bring our physical realities a little higher up till they touch the spiritual realm. Yes, we live here in this fallen world, but we are sojourners on a land not our own. I want to be deeply aware of this, but also realizing if we look closely enough we can find glimpses of our real life beyond piercing through here…

Have you thought through why you write or pursue your creative bent? I’m sure my reasons will shift a bit in different seasons, but this is a start.

~

 

 

Reflecting

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I have so much to do today but little energy with which to do it. I’ve been struggling with a bit of insomnia and it hangs heavy on my back like buckets of water swinging from a yoke. Our last holiday gathering of the year is tomorrow, so you know that fudge I’m to bring and the other dessert, as well as gifts to wrap and odds and ends of traveling? They are all sort of heaped in a mental pile by the door, beckoning. My husband is off to work early, with promises of getting a new cellphone for me. I’m leaving Apple behind, one lonely bite in its forlorn side. I’m the only lone Apple customer in my family and for ease, I’m switching. I’m hoping I just get a simple layout with a good camera.

We’ve already visited with an uncle who happened by, swiped clean the breakfast table of its bagel remnants and granola bits, and I enjoyed a strange, but entertaining story, wearily sinking into the quilts and comfort of my bed. Our school holiday ends on Monday, and I think all of us had a wonderful, for-the-most-part, restful time this year, for which I’m truly thankful. I think fondly of the stories, Advent readings, and poem we enjoyed. We had a little advent calendar from the grocery store, the children taking turns, finding darling chocolate shapes within. We also shared Tasha Tudor’s Advent calendar in her A Book of Christmas and were thoroughly charmed by the darling pictures she painted. The children enjoyed frosting and decorating cookies for various parties and it worked well to do it slowly and in a couple of days. I loved keeping the rush as low as possible, so we could hear the seasonal hush. We enjoyed feasting together as a family, red candles lit, and just more games, movies, and laughter. Oh and the Christmas music. James Galloway and Bing Crosby being favorites. Even chores weren’t the same, with a pine scent lingering in the air, and cinnamon rolls after coming in after feeding animals.

The beauty of the season is definitely still hanging about and it’s really only the 11th day of Christmas. I held out for as long as I could on getting a Christmas tree and I’m so glad I did! We found an off-the-beaten track Christmas tree farm and they had some left just for us to choose from. It was a lovely time, excitement high because it was so close to Christmas and the sparkle of it all hadn’t worn off yet. We were given fresh-popped popcorn and hot chocolate, and my husband and oldest son ratchet-strapped the tree tightly to the top of the mini-van. We may have seemed behind or late, but truly getting the tree later in December has made it all the more special now. It’s standing tall and beautiful right now…most of it’s needles soft and scent fresh.

I think the most special thing has been the few meaningful conversations I have had with a few children or over an Advent reading. We didn’t do all that I wanted, but what we did read and talk about really was special. The children really stepped into their own spirit of gift-giving this year, making or using their own money to buy others things. I didn’t do or make them do that at all, but it was its own special gift to me. The sun is glaring against the piles of snow, and I’m so grateful for its blinding brightness. Carries one through the immense, long gray days of this time of year, does it not? Even our New Year’s Eve ended in a special way, all of us home, singing and sipping sparkling Apple Cider at midnight! We’ve never done that before and it was special. Sigh and back to the present, I hope to make some turkey and veggie soup later, Thanksgiving Tom still giving a month later, and some of the children may go to a homeschool gym night with my father-in-law. Oh, but wait, it’s actually lunch time and I haven’t yet put anything on the table! Time to stop typing and heat up some leftovers for lunch, maybe with a side of piping hot grilled cheese.

I’m so thankful for another year of celebrating the Savior’s birth and for the small moments that make His love truly tangible. Off to fix lunch!

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowy {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving} #6

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{a gorgeous restored church on Prince Edward Island, Canada}

 

51. lamp-lit dinner of buttery pancakes shared with two children who were at home with me last night. We listened to soft music as the flame flickered. So peaceful!

52. the sound of potatoes being grated. Juicy and a pleasant scraping. Hash browns for my husband! Opening deer hunting and an empty fridge had me scrambling to find some things for hungry bellies. The hunters seem to appreciate the few eggs, random turkey sausage (found deep in freezer),  and hastily-made hash browns.

53. the sizzle of oil and smell of crispy potato.

54. the soft, top outline of snow on some forgotten laundry on line.

55. slowly attempting to paint the constellation Orion in my nature journal. It looks primitive, but I’m glad to capture the moments I’ve spent gazing at this imposing fellow in the sky.

56. fascinating essay here and quotes here on Myth & Moor, probably one of my favorite blogs. I suspect that the author and I are kindred spirits, hopefully, we could be friends even though we may differ in many of our core beliefs.

57.  reading The Little Engine That Could over and over to my littlest as he just discovered it on our library shelf. I never realized until now that it’s sort of a retelling of the Good Samaritan.

58. Black-Capped Chickadees and a Male Cardinal at my feeders! We don’t have a lot of trees and I’ve really missed the variety of birds that we had at our former home.

59. pretty Christmas wrapping paper that I ordered. I usually wrap all my gifts in one print, the monochromatic scheme looks so pretty under the tree and frankly, it’s just easier.

60. I got a few things scribbled last night in my journal. Some writing actually down in ink and not floating around in my stuffed, spilling-over brain! I’ve really struggled with making the time, because it feels like I need so much mental space, of which I have zero right now. I’m finding I’m going to have to fit it in the margins of life or it won’t happen at all. How wonderful it is to just get down one page of words captured for just a little while.

~

 

Welcome, November ~ {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving} #1

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Hello, welcome to my second annual gratitude list here at Hearth Ridge Reflections. I hope to make a list, culminating at the American celebration of Thanksgiving, of things that I am noticing and grateful about in my life. Please join me on your own blog or jot it down in your journal, I find it such an amazing practice of reordering ones focus. I find this time of year, no matter how hard I try, becomes a haze of busyness and materialism. This little project helps me to take a moment away from all of that.  I miss it around here, yet I’ve been given a lovely, wild bunch of children whom I’ve chosen to home educate and that takes precedence. How are you all, dear friends? I hope this post finds you well. Yes, I do call you friends, even though most of us have never met. I appreciate you reading here, sharing your thoughts, and I pray that you walk away with a bit more hope and delight in your back pocket then when you arrived. Here is what I’m thankful for today:

  1. Searching the shelves for our Thanksgiving books and refilling our book basket.
  2. The delight on my daughter’s face when she realized she got a letter in the post.
  3. The smell of peppermint tea.
  4. Stepping out onto our deck, escaping a boiling hot kitchen, into a cool, dark, and star-drenched sky. I grabbed our constellation chart and spent a few lovely moments.
  5. Planning a pineapple-glazed ham for our first holiday gathering coming up, anticipating family enjoying it.
  6. The rotation of children and myself in rocker set near wood pellet stove. Little toes and fingers warmed. Conversation around the warmth. Books read, snuggles.
  7. Little heads stuffed into warm, colorful hats.
  8. That autumn smell. A soupy mixture of wood smoke, earth, rotting, wet leaves, and a closing down of the year.
  9. Unexpected inspiration in a magazine about how important the intangible moments are during the holidays, beautiful, wise, and a blessing.
  10. Precious sleep, when I’ve been not sleeping well.

~

Retreat

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The pine smell enveloped me, breathing deep, I soaked in the flickering sunlight. It dappled on green, falling and shifting down. My face lifted, eyes closed for just a moment. I was home in this place away from home. The trees shifting and waving, welcoming ripples, the wind weaving me into this tapestry of green, with a hint of autumn color beginning. My husband kindly covering the home front, so that I could take time to retreat. I was struck by the quiet solitude, yet not a loneliness. The crunch of leaves, the occasional bird, and that glorious wind were the background music for my visit. I slowly strolled through the stone work, little bridges, and other work of the Franciscan monks that had lived here beginning almost a century earlier.  The Stations of the Cross intrigued me. I didn’t have the prayers with me, yet I stepped up to each one, and something was hovering at the edges of my mind. I studied the rough, yet careful stone structures with their wooden crosses on top. Inside were the images of Jesus being condemned by Pilate, Jesus accepting his cross, and seeing Mary. I was interested in the three falls of Jesus, wondering. The people mentioned. Simon, Veronica, and the women of Jerusalem. Jesus dying and buried. This Via Crucis was complete and as I looked back,  my vague impressions struck me. First, I wondered and felt a longing for the depiction of the Resurrection and the hope I find in that part of my faith. I found myself shocked at the violence played out in the midst of this wooded sanctuary. The blood, pain, and rejection He encountered stood out harshly against the very calm creation surrounding me. He more than anyone understands. Understands me as a human, is with me through life, and whatever sorrows I’m treading through, He will lead be beside still waters, He will restore my soul. Violence and pain are real, but I rest in His beauty and love. I thought of this retreat weekend and all the beautiful women that I’d been visiting with, our hopes, dreams, and yes, pain, some with deeply intense pain of things they are carrying. A rustle of wind shifted the leaves and light. All of us here were coming to grow and rest a bit, taking a break from the daily cares of cooking, answering questions, and being “on” for others. Yet, I found myself seeing how much of those things echo Jesus’ very posture towards me. The very “job” if you will, that I find myself in, one of mothering and caring, one of practicing compassion, was what I was seeing dimly reflected in these ancient walls, in these unique women, and whispering through the trees and words from our discussions. One last glimpse back, as I exit these woods, gratitude for the green, the light, and for a little bit more understanding than before. The small things of life are truly the biggest.

~

“Keep out of the shadows and seek the sunshine”

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{Lake Superior, Minnesota}

The floods of life are all around us. Metaphorically, in our hearts and souls, but also quite literally here in Wisconsin. We are having unprecedented flooding and I can just see how it weighs on everyone. Hearth Ridge and my family aren’t directly affected besides roadways because we live away from the river and high on a dry hill, surrounded by glorious wind-blown meadows. I feel a heavy-heart for many of our local towns, friends, and the places we visit and love which are currently underwater.

How do we go on when weariness or discouragement hit us, or mud and muck must be hauled out of basements, the bits and pieces of our life floating around our feet? When the dishes, to-do lists, illnesses, and family demands just seem too much? As a spouse, parent, friend, or employee, how do we not sink under the depths of our responsibilities?

This may seem too idealist and yes, there are times we just have to roll-up our shirt sleeves, clean-up, working hard to solve a legitimate problem. However, much of the time, things are just regular life, or things outside of our control, and our hearts and minds need an anchor, and where idealism isn’t necessary a bad perspective on life to cultivate. An anchor, a perspective shift, and a holding onto something outside of ourselves.

That Anchor is found in the shimmer around the edges of the sunset, in the way the wind tickles the grass, in the steam rising from the freshly baked peach cobbler, and from the last glorious pages of a beautiful story. I believe we see a reflection of the gorgeous character of our God everywhere, if we would but just look closely enough. The single line of poetry or lovely Psalms that touch that spot deep in one’s heart. The small hand holding our large one, and the big pot of potato soup ready for lunch. I’ve been thinking about this idea of a focus on the good  no matter what hardship we find ourselves, as I’ve been very slowly reading a book called So Sweet to Labor: Rural Women in America, 1865-1895 by Norton Juster. This book is a collection of articles from popular housekeeping and rural magazines of the time. The importance of women and the reality of how truly unromantic their lives were a majority of the time, about how bone-jarringly hard these pioneer women worked. And yet, they found bits of that shimmer to hold onto, in their faith, in nature, and their homemaking.

In a beautiful letter from an older woman to a new mother, Alice, this advice struck me as poignant, and even though she was writing in regards to parenting, I took it for all difficult moments of life (emphasis mine):

    Do not fret; do not worry; do not be despondent. Do not seek the shadows, but, as far as may be, keep yourself in the clear sunshine of the soul…Do you say “this is an hard saying; who can bear it?” Perhaps it is, regarded in one light. But He that was born of woman, and who humbled himself to become Mary’s loving and obedient son, looks tenderly and compassionately upon all mothers now; and for the sake of her at whose breast he was nourished, and whom he remembered in his dying agony upon the cross, he longs to sustain and to comfort them. Go to him, dear child, when the burden of your responsibility grows too heavy, and lay it at his feet. We try to in poor human weakness to carry so many loads that Christ is ready and willing to carry for us, if we will only let him.

But if you look at this matter merely as regards yourself, it is for your own good now and in the coming trial, that you should look on the bright side, and give way to no useless and idle forebodings. Therefore I say again keep out of the shadows and seek the sunshine; and finally, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report – if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Surround yourself as far as may be with beauty and with grace. Cultivate your flowers and take their loveliness to your inmost soul. Look not with eyes that see not upon the wonderful magnificence of the star-lit heaves, nor turn away from the daily miracles of sunrise and of sunset, heeding not their glory. There are hundreds about us who would go thousands of miles to to see a  veritable Titian or Leonardo da Vinci, who never opened their eyes to behold the more glorious pictures that God hangs in his temple of the heavens. 

 Breathe the atmosphere of refinement and peace, and in this time of seclusion, when the world seems afar off, and the tumult of its strivings and its noisy ambitions fall deadened upon your ear, commune with your own heart and be still. It is a holy season, Alice, a time for thought and prayer. See that you use it well.

pg. 43

Isn’t this so true and applicable for today? No matter the dark, foreboding rain clouds on the horizon or the murky floodwaters swirling, there IS hope. These trying times are holy seasons, ones where deep soul work is birthed, and joy breaks forth in the morning.  I’m holding onto these little snatches and seeking sunshine.

~