April Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

 

Monday Ponderings {March 9th} Match-Striked Dawns

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

~B.M.

 

Trial ever consecrates the cup

Wherefrom we pour the sacrificial wine.

~Lowell

 

The Cloud of Witness

 

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

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

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

Wait for it, Amy.

~

Monday Ponderings {February 10th}

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Now, – the sowing and the weeping,

Working hard and waiting long:

Afterward, – the golden reaping,

Harvest home and grateful song.

Now, the long and toilsome duty, 

Stone by stone to carve and bring;

Afterward, – the perfect beauty

Of the palace of the King.

Now, – the tuning and the tension

Wailing minors, discord strong;

Afterward, – the grand ascension

Of the Alleluia song!

 

~Francis Ridley Havergal

The Cloud of Witness, p. 86

 

Monday Ponderings {January 27th}

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I thank Thee more that all our joy

Is touched with pain;

That shadows fall on brightest hours,

That thorns remain;

So that Earth’s bliss may be our guide,

And not our chain.

For Thou, Who knowest, LORD, how soon

our weak heart clings,

Has given us joys tender and true,

But all with wings, –

So that we see gleaming on high,

Diviner things.

 

A. Procter, The Cloud of Witness, p. 29

{I certainly didn’t plan being away from this little space for almost the whole month of January, but it was so needed. I’m learning to let go, being patient with myself, and yet, there also has to be a point where one shows up to one’s creative work. So, as yet, I’m not sure what that will mean, still muddling that through, but I do so hope I will be back more frequently}

~

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

Monday Ponderings {December 30th}

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What wonders shall we feel when we shall see Thy full-eyed Love!

Herbert,

p. 31, The Cloud of Witness

{I hope you had a lovely Christmas. Almost time to sweep out the old year and open the door to the new! I’ve enjoyed thinking on this quote from a few weeks ago. I hope to be back soon with my December Reads and my favorite books from 2019!}

 

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…}

~

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

 

~