Monday Ponderings {January 6th}

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{Sunset over Hearth Ridge}

I have always had one lode-star; now,

As I look back, I see that I have wasted

Or progressed as I looked towards that star –

A need, a trust, a yearning after God.

~Browning

p. 51, The Cloud of Witness

Favorite Reads of 2019

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Happiest New Year! Here are my favorite reads from 2019. I’ve categorized them so you can scroll to a genre that interests you, if you only have a few moments.  Otherwise, I welcome you to stay and scroll around for awhile! The above photo shows a couple of things non-book related that I loved reading.  Commonplace Quarterly is a Charlotte Mason book quality magazine which is so encouraging.  The Letters From the Sea Tower is a monthly subscription based handwritten-letter and art piece, and I can’t tell you how much we’ve all loved these letters. The thoughts and ideas in them have enriched our lives. Ourselves by Charlotte Mason Book 2, I was privileged to go through as apart of Nancy’s Living Education Lessons.

My Favorite Book of  2019 

The Cloud of Witness – A Daily Sequence of Great Thoughts from Many Minds following the Christian Seasons (*****)

~2019 was a harder and richer year for me in many ways. I honestly struggle so much emotionally and physically with pregnancy. And yet…there is this precious little person here smiling at me as I type with his little two-bottom tooth grin. Sigh. So darling! This above devotional poured out it’s life-giving water to a parched woman-mama soul over and over again. Even just one small line or word from one of the daily snippets meant the world to me very often. A faith lifeline, really. I highly, highly recommend it. You can purchased it here and I check this helpful calendar and there is an Instagram and Facebook account to keep you current as well. My church tradition doesn’t follow these days/feasts so those are all so useful. I love to know if I’m keeping up with all the others sharing in the beauty and encouragement.

Faith Encouragement

The Holy Bible, OF COURSE. I read and reread the four Gospels many times as well as my favorites Psalms, John, James, and others.

The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith (*****) – This title has been on my shelf and TBR forever!  One of “the Read and Finish things on my shelf books”. I am so glad I did. This is probably will be a favorite forever for me and I hope to make it a yearly reread.  The title of the book is a bit strange and misleading, don’t let that stop you from soaking in lovely book from Whitall Smith. There were a few things, I may quibble with, but overall this was the most challenging and encouraging read for my faith in a very long time. Highly recommend!

Memoir

Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard (*****) (HIGHLY RECOMMEND)– This was beautifully written and I love her honesty with struggles about motherhood and as a creative. I loved her perspective as an American married to a Frenchman and learning to live in French culture. She was so interesting and the recipes, bits of life, and gorgeous look at motherhood made this a HIGHLY loved book for me. I would love to attempt some of the French recipes, too, I appreciated them seeming approachable for the average cook. If you need to escape to the French countryside for a bit, pick this one up.

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.

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 inspring. 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.

General Fiction

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim (*****) – A favorite reread! In the back of my mind, I remembered really enjoying this fictional account of two English women, who on a whim, answer an advert for month in Italy at a medieval castle. They end up inviting two other women to share the costs and space with them. Sigh. This is so lovely in that I think it does a wonderful job in relating the struggles and internal battles women in different circumstances and life stages go through. The beauty of Von Arnim’s descriptions of Italy and the gardens are so soothing and there’s a subtle deepness underlying the story line of these women. I highly recommend this one. I then watched the movie and really, really enjoyed it.

The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim (*****) – The hilarious introspection of a wife and mother. Lush descriptions of nature, gardens. Enlightening, insider’s look at a wealthy, upper class woman’s life. I really enjoyed this title. This is technically a sequel to her Elizabeth and Her German Garden, but I don’t think you need to necessarily read them in order.

Virgil Wander by Leif Enger (*****) (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!)

“All this building and talking and flying made me homesick. It wasn’t logical, since I was home, but that’s what I came to perceive – a fulminant ache high in the rib cage, a sense of time’s shortening fuse. After the first accident, it had felt as though my apartment belonged to someone else; after the second, I began to feel as though there was a home I belonged to, and this one, though pleasant and likable, wasn’t it. The previous tenant would’ve rejected such nonsense, but then the previous tenant never had an eccentric foreign house guest, sewing up artworks to hang in the sky, talking to ravens, spinning twilit Arctic stories. My weary old ground was broken and watered, and what sprang up was a generalized longing. I began to feel like a character myself, well-meaning but secondary, a man introduced late in the picture. I wished to spool back and watch earlier scenes, to scout for hints and shadows, clues as to what might be required of a secondary actor when the closing real began.”

~Leif Enger, Virgil Wander

Poetry

Breathing the Water (*****) by Denise Levertov {gorgeous nature poetry}

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver (****) – This was a 450+ page anthology of Oliver’s poetry. I checked it out from the library following her death earlier this year. Oliver is one of my favorite modern poets, A Thousand Mornings, being my favorite collection of hers. Overall, I loved this and really enjoyed revisiting poems I’ve read before over the years as this is a collection from most of her poetry books. Poetry seems to really be feeding my soul during the last bits of winter and into early spring.

Mine the Harvest by Edna St. Vincent Millay (*****) – a collection of beautiful poems! I’m planning out our poets for autumn study and have been reading different poets here and there. I was only slightly familiar with St. Vincent Millay’s work and I’m glad I read this.

A Pentecost of Finches: New and Selected Poems by Robert Siegel (*****) – This took me awhile to really get into and appreciate, but as I read further along, I fell in love with many of these detailed, observant poems. I’m so glad I finally picked this up off of my TBR pile. I found one of my favorites here online.

Children’s Literature

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (*****) –This one did made me cry! The ending was unbelievable, love lost, and the importance of family and friendship. I really enjoyed this classic.

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.

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 Chronicles of Chrestomanci Vol. 1-3 by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – These are tomes because each volume is 2 books. I had so much fun with these and they would be perfect for over the holiday vacation. They are interrelated stories about a powerful enchanter whose title is Chrestomanci. He has nine lives and the current enchanter is Christopher Chant. He is an enigmatic, mysterious personality and he helps in many different children’s lives and situations throughout the books. These are SO fun and escapist fiction with interesting ideas in it. Jones really understands children’s imagination and thoughts. I found that so lovely. My favorite of the books were The Pinhoe Egg and Witch Week. If you are a fan of light fantasy/magic Middle Grade books with subtle British humor, you will enjoy these!

Long Classics

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.

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 was sort of muddled currently, so I’m not doing this book justice, but it was fascinating.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens (*****) – I read along with an Instagram group and I really loved this book. One of my favorite things about this was how places take on a life of their own, how amazingly distinctive Dicken’s characters are, and all of the children in this were fascinating and heart-wrenching. Mr. Bucket was one of my favorite characters, but I still can’t pinpoint why. I will probably have to reread it, someday! Ha. This follows multiple story lines and slowly culminates in them all tied together in some way. It features two main narrators, a young woman Esther Summerson, and a third person narrator, presumably Dickens himself? I can’t even begin to do this A-mazing book justice. Dickens gives us an immersive experience literally bogging us down at times in the foggy, gritty details of London. Highly recommend!

General Non-Fiction 

Home Education by Charlotte Mason (*****) One of my favorite home education and parenting books ever. I reread it again this year!

Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones (*****) – 6 stars…best book on writing (especially for children) I’ve read, I think. I’m starting right back over. These are speeches and essays by Wynne Jones on writing and I found a kindred spirit in this book.

 

~What richness! I was so blessed by my reading year in 2019! You can always look through my Year in Books category for hours of book browsing, if you so choose. Here are my past years favorite books as well! Ever upward and onward to our 2020 bookstack! 🙂

Favorite Reads of 2018

Favorite Reads of 2017

Favorite Reads of 2016

 

Monday Ponderings {December 23 aka Christmas Adam}

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The Four Seasons of Mary Azarian, by Lilias Macbean Hart, illustrated by Mary Azarian

Continuing my Advent Monday musings with Azarian and The Cloud of Witness

 

In every gladness, LORD, Thou art

The deeper Joy behind.

 

~George MacDonald

p. 29, The Cloud of Witness

(emphasis mine)

 

{Take Joy home. Considering the words from J. Ingelow in the above photograph and Mr. MacDonald’s from a few days ago. Just perfection for contemplation while gazing at Azarian’s lovely woodcut. Christmas blessings to you all!}

 

Monday Ponderings {December 16th}

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The Four Seasons of Mary Azarian, by Lilias Macbean Hart, illustrated by Mary Azarian

Continuing my Advent Monday musings with Azarian and The Cloud of Witness

 

…Heaven within the reed

Lists for the flute-note; in the folded seed

It sees the bud, and in the Will the Deed…

~D. Greenwell

 

How shall we judge their present, we who have never seen

That which is past forever, and that which might have been?

Measuring by ourselves, unwise indeed we are!

Measuring what we know by what we can hardly see.

~F.R. Havergal

 

Be not proud of well-doing;

for the judgment of God is far different

from the judgement of men, and that

often offendeth, Him which pleaseth them. 

~Thomas A Kempis

 

God judges by a light Which baffles mortal sight;

And the useless – seeing man the crown hath won

In His vast world above, –

A world of broader love, –

God hath some grand employment for His Son.

~Fabor

 

all  partial or full selections above from The Cloud of Witness, p. 20

 

~

Monday Ponderings {December 9th}

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The Four Seasons of Mary Azarian, by Lilias Macbean Hart, illustrated by Mary Azarian

Continuing my Advent Monday musings with Azarian and The Cloud of Witness

 

Earth breaks up, time drops away,

In flows heaven with its new day

Of endless life, when He who trod,

Very Man and very God,

This earth in weakness, shame

and pain,

Dying the death whose signs

remain

Up yonder on the accursed tree, –

Shall come again, no more to be

Of captivity the thrall,

But the one God, All in All,

King of Kings and Lord of lords:

As His servant John received the words,

“I died, and live for evermore.”

 

~ Browning, p. 9

The Cloud of Witness

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Ponderings {Azarian Advent ~ December 2nd}

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The Four Seasons of Mary Azarian, by Lilias Macbean Hart, illustrated by Mary Azarian.

It may be in the evening,

When the work of the day is done,

And you have time to sit in the twilight,

And watch the sinking sun,

While the long bright day dies slowly

Over the sea,

And the hour grows quiet and holy

With thoughts of ME:

While you hear the village children

passing along the street –

Among those thronging footsteps

May come the sound of my feet

Therefore I tell you, Watch!

By the light of the evening star

When the moon is growing dusky

As the clouds afar,

Let the door be on the latch

In your home,

For it may be through the gloaming

I will come.

 

~B.M. , p. 4

The Cloud of Witness

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{Join me this month in quiet contemplation and prayer on our Savior’s coming…}

~

Sky-Full of Stars {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving 2019} #6

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Full of gratitude today for:

51. staring out my bedroom window in the dark, on our bellies, my 5 yo and I, looking at a sky-full of stars, endless and amazing

52. a clean desk, even just for a few moments 😉
53. the gift of prayer, something we can always do, Someone who will always listen
54. 14 yo old making baby giggle and coo, baby loves, listens, and looks for his brother’s voice
55. breakfast devotions – a favorite moment of our days, Golden Key devotional, Gospel of Mark, and poetry (Thanksgiving themed at present)
56.  5 yo delight over a simple maze in coloring book
57. making a winter bird stamp order from USPS
58. JRR Tolkien tshirt gift I know will bless my 12 yo – Tolkien’s signature symbol
59. the weather, coldish, but no snow, glimpses of sun
60. the chipping sound of a sparrow on the hedge outside the window
~
What is on your gratitude list today?

Sundogs {One Hundred Bits of Gratitude by Thanksgiving 2019} #4

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I’m grateful for…

31. Rereading old, silly Ogden Nash poems with my younger kids, my older kids chiming in with “Isabel, Isabel,” my husband telling of how he said this poem as a child, also

32. Baking peanut butter chocolate chip cookies with 5yo, his little apron, and his excitement over getting to lick the beater
33. Thanksgiving picture books out and favorites being looked at…reading Cranberry Thanksgiving for the first time to younger child
34. Colorful children’s art on windows, helping brighten the white landscape
35.baby giggles
36. reading a picture book about the Sky Boys (workers who built the Empire State Building), intriguing conversation with children about Great Depression era and laughs about a Three Stooges parody of the Sky Boys my older children remembered
37. delicious smell of chicken simmering in crock-pot
38. Celtic flute music playing in snatches today
39. sundogs flaring out gorgeously as I drove home
40. husband and I’s Mexican food and thrifting date, little treasures found…snow-pants, a couple of books, 2 mugs, and a couple of art pieces
~
What’s on your gratitude list today?

Monday Ponderings {November 18th}

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Compensation

Solitude that unmakes me one of men

In snowwhite hands bring singular recompense,

Evening me with kindlier natures when

On the needled pinewood the cold dews condense

About the hour of Rigel fallen from heaven

In wintertime, or when the long night tides

Sigh blindly from the sand dune backward driven,

Or when on stormwings of the northwind rides

The foamscud with the cormorants, or when passes 

A horse or dog with brown affectionate eyes,

Or autumn frosts are pricked by earliest grasses,

Or whirring from her covert a quail flies.

Why, even in humanity beauty and good

Show, from the mountainside of solitude.

 

~Robinson Jeffers

Modern American and British Poetry, p. 223

edited by Louis Untermeyer

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?

September Reads

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This is what I finished last month from my lovely books stack. Anything sound interesting? What did you finish reading?

The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis (*****) – this was a reread from my master list for the year and it was better than the first time. I, especially love the “Inner Ring” essay, but there are so many nuggets sprinkled throughout this collection of talks. This took me a LONG time to reread, but it was so worth it.

A Pentecost of Finches: New and Selected Poems by Robert Siegel (*****) – This took me awhile to really get into and appreciate, but as I read further along, I fell in love with many of these detailed, observant poems. I’m so glad I finally picked this up off of my TBR pile. I found one of my favorites here online.

The Golden Journey by Agnes Sligh Turnbull (***) – This follows the life of a wealthy father who manipulates his crippled daughter’s life out of genuine, but misplaced love for her. I found this one at a used library sale and was very excited, as I’ve enjoyed Turnbull’s fiction before. 3.5 stars because of the predictability of the plot. However, I really enjoyed how much Turnbull highlights the importance of character in this story. Engagingly written and definitely inspiring, albeit a little too good to be true, I enjoyed it immensely. 

Home Education by Charlotte Mason (*****) – This book is a timeless classic on the educating and parenting of young children and a foundational book in our home. I’ve been hoping to reread it annually and I did this year to my great delight and blessing. It just keeps on giving.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (****) – 3.5 stars for this creative and interesting children’s middle grade fantasy book. I became interested in this after watching a movie by the same name. This is the first in the series and I look forward to reading the other two. Sophie is the responsible oldest and finds herself on the wrong side of the Wicked Witch of the Waste. In her quest to right the wrongs, she encounters the Wizard Howl and friends, leading to all sorts of adventures. This was a little bit convoluted at times, especially toward the end, but overall, I really enjoyed this. So imaginative! The enjoyable movie definitely deviates a bit and adds an anti-war message that’s not at all present in the book.

What Is It by Lynda Barry (****) – 3.5 stars for this wildly imaginative mixture of memoir, diary, sketchbook, and writing instruction combination. I found this a lovely look at how creativity works and flows from the mind of this mixed media and craft artist, Lynda Barry. This book is actual scans of her amazing sketchbooks and hodgepodge scrapbooks all the while telling the story of her childhood and her growth as an artist. Very interesting!

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim (*****) – A favorite reread! In the back of my mind, I remembered really enjoying this fictional account of two English women, who on a whim, answer an advert for month in Italy at a medieval castle. They end up inviting two other women to share the costs and space with them. Sigh. This is so lovely in that I think it does a wonderful job in relating the struggles and internal battles women in different circumstances and life stages go through. The beauty of Von Arnim’s descriptions of Italy and the gardens are so soothing and there’s a subtle deepness underlying the story line of these women. I highly recommend this one.

Moominsummer Madness by Tove Jansson (****) – I just love the whimsical and nonsensical nature of the Moomins. I’ve accidentally read these out of order, but no matter, I’m always charmed and delighted by these creatures and their little adventures. A flood separates Moominmamma and Moominpapa from Moomintroll and friends and they have all sorts of adventures (including a theater debut!) while trying to find each other again.

Across the Miles: Tales of Correspondence by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – These were completely predictable and totally charming. I love writing real snail mail letters, so I loved this collection of short stories that Montgomery wrote for newspapers and magazines.

The Holy Bible (*****) – John and beginning to dive into Psalms. I’ve been reading through the four Gospels over and over this year, but felt I needed to dig into Psalms for the rest of the year.

~

Monday Ponderings {Happy October Eve, September 30th}

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When thou hast thanked thy God for every blessing sent,

What time will then remain for murmurs or lament?

~Trench

The Cloud of Witness, p. 386

 

“…remember that our happiness, our clarity, our ability to be attentive and of benefit to ourselves and the world really is dependent on building that stillness into our days to slow down a little and travel in.”

~Pico Iyer

Day 88

Studying to Be Quiet

Laurie Bestvater

 

~