Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving}

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  1. Cosmos still blooming
  2. Big, fat, white, squat pumpkins Noah grew for me
  3. .25 cent linens from yard sale
  4. Laundry on line
  5. Annie’s homemade caramel corn
  6. Amy Carmichael’s Toward Jerusalem book of poetry
  7. Technology to keep in touch with my sister in Haiti
  8. Little boy hands hugging my neck
  9. Prayer line directly to God
  10. Lovely honor of home educating, hard, but SO worth it!

~

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Daily Diary {Illness}

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“Yesterday is ashes; tomorrow is wood. Only today does the fire burn brightly.” ~Old Proverb

A clank, a splash, dish washing noise mingles with children’s voices, and one of our favorite bits of music, Loreena McKinnett’s “The Book of Secrets”.  I wipe away the hot chocolate rings from a mug, rinsing, and dipping my hands into the hot water again. Each dish, a drink sipped, a meal shared, a person strengthened, sustained. The twinkle lights flickering in my peripheral vision. I don’t often do dishes anymore. Noah is away, my wonderful dish washer for this year, so I’m back sink-front. Momentarily wandering, I vaguely remember the long days with all little children needing me, all the chores done by my own hand, instead of the family effort it is now, and how short the years do end up being. I was listening to a podcast recently, and this jumped out at me. That idea that we have to overcome our fears, an idea we’ve heard for years, what if it’s wrong? What about just working alongside of our fear? Living and working with the fear. Not letting it overwhelm us, but humbly acknowledging it, and just keep going. For myself, my faith has an answer for fear. It’s Love. Love so great, fear cowers piteously. This idea continues to rattle around in my head, just how much, and how far I go to overcome or put off something until I’ve “mastered” my fear of failure, discomfort, change, or of whatever random unknown it may be at the moment.

However, there is something to be said for just putting one foot in front of the other, no matter if the next step is off a cliff. We just don’t know what tomorrow holds. Why let it rob today? Urgent care visits yesterday for my Ben, his airway restricted due to a cold triggering asthma-like symptoms.  Family issues, broken down vehicles, and puke staining the floor can make me afraid. Afraid that I can’t do this. Afraid that my comfort is being challenged. My whiny-First-World little self can’t handle the heat.

Yet, fear can be kept at bay. I can live alongside my old enemy, all its nasty, looming shape-shifting grotesque self. I can hug the little wheezing boy, kissing him, giving him another asthma treatment, reading a dinosaur book. I can search for those lost keys, carefully choose a new t shirt for Noah that I know he is going to love for Christmas. I can just be with these people. I don’t have to be anything special, I just have to be. Fear may be sitting alongside me, but I’m choosing to notice my Phoebe’s hands cutting out little shapes, I’m choosing to notice the flicker of candle light, the raindrops suspended on the clothesline, Sam’s elaborate drawings and stories. I’m choosing to appreciate the way the light hits the stack of clean dishes on the counter. I’m choosing to live with gratitude that I’m here today, surrounded by gifts, tangible and intangible. I hold onto the infinitely small, those little candles lighting the way through the enormous cavern of life. Sure they send out only small rays, but it’s just the right amount light to see my way for today. And that’s enough.

~

September Reads

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The Lady and the Unicorn: À mon seul désir 

How was your reading month in September? I finished a few things and started a few others. With our home learning beginning, I definitely slowed down (for me, anyway) as my brain power lowers a wee bit after spending each day in lovely books with my children. I really have too many books (is there such a thing?) going currently, which sometimes makes me uninspired to pick up anything. I need to cull my stack a bit. Someone asked me recently how I read so much. Well, I rarely watch any t.v. or movies, not that I don’t like them, it’s just I want to read, write, or be on social media instead. I read fast, sometimes too fast. I also read while doing other things, riding in a car with my hubby or I even read while cooking, which I don’t recommend. Ha.

L’Abri by Edith Schaeffer (****) – This followed a portion of theologians Francis and Edith Schaeffer’s lives as they begin their ministry of hospitality and outreach to searching individuals in the Swiss Alps. I found this inspiring and challenging. I especially loved how hospitality, simple, yet delicious meals, and just opening ones door, played a vital role in helping so many people. Food and conversation around a table has so much power.  I found it interesting to get a glimpse of the Schaeffer’s children’s lives and how they prayed in their financial support. I loved the sketched map at the beginning of this book, so charming.  The stories were just a wee bit redundant by the end of the book, but overall my faith was challenged in a timeless way and I know I won’t forget the beauty I pulled away from this title.

“Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare (***) – This is one that I’ve been reading for awhile as we completed this last year with our Charlotte Mason Community. I didn’t love this one as much as some of the others we have done. The tricks seemed a bit too cruel, for some reason I felt bad for Malvolio especially even though he was such a silly person, and I couldn’t like Olivia very much. Overall, the language was so beautiful and the turns of phrase so interesting. Maybe I was just sick of the “twin” vein since we had completed “A Comedy of Errors right before. My children loved this play very much, so it was just me that thought it was “meh”. One thing I loved from our group was that my friend wore yellow tights with cross-garters for our class! That was such a fun touch.

Twelve Moons by Mary Oliver (****) – A beautiful collection of her poetry. I especially loved the second half of this book.

Maud by Melanie J. Fishbane (****) – 3.5 stars – This was a light, interesting historical fiction based on some true events and people in Maud’s life. A YA look at teenage Montgomery’s angst and loneliness. The grit and determination that drove L.M. Montgomery to pursue her dream of writing. I enjoyed this, although occasionally there did seem to be “fact dumps” in the middle of the narrative.

The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie (*****) – This is the first Agatha Christie that I have TRULY loved! I think it’s because I don’t really love Hercule Poirot that much (and I’ve only read his titles, if I’m remembering correctly), but I didn’t realize that was the problem till I read this one. This is hilarious in a dry way, I loved the main character Anne, lots of twists and turns, but definitely more tongue and cheek than super creepy. Light romance, history, travel, and suspense. What a fun read!

Refuge on Crescent HillEnchanted Isle, and Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor  by Melanie Dobson (***) – about 2.5 stars between the first two of them.  I heard about Refuge on Crescent Hill as something that was “good Christian fiction” and the story was mysterious and interesting. I felt like the sense of place and the depth of characters were a TEENY bit flat and I still want to know how to write clean fiction with elements of faith without being preachy. Unfortunately, Enchanted IsleI disliked immensely. I felt like this was very slow, plot-line very unbelievable (an old amusement park in The Lake District?), full of cliches and little bits of British culture dropped in to make it seem authentic. The descriptions of the nature were beautiful. Then, because I’m ever an optimist, I tried a third title from this author. I was pleasantly surprised by Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor. I’d probably give it a solid 3.5 stars and it reminded me a small way of Kate Morton. Teen pregnancy, a special needs little girl, family secrets, and a cottage and a manor in England. The characters were flawed, yet there was a redemptive vein through it all, the story was interesting, and a lot of surprising twists and turns. The flashbacks and journal entries slowly came together at the end of the story. The slight romance was tasteful. The overall tone was sad, yet hopeful. This was clean in the sense that it wasn’t graphic, but not preachy and included dark, hard choices. The sense of place was well done, not overwhelming, but yet you felt immersed in this world. I enjoyed this.  So surprising and interesting to see three novels from the same author in this way.

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley  (*****)- This is the third in the Flavia de Luce mystery series, surrounding a lonely, slightly disturb, morbid yet genius 11 year old with a knack for solving mysteries and love of chemistry. I loved this! An attack on a Gypsy woman stirs up the town and brings to light a mystery surrounding a missing child, stolen antiques, and Flavia’s concern over her father hiding their money troubles. The depth of the main characters in these books is amazing and fascinating as Flavia’s relationship with her father, dead mother, and sisters unfolds just a little bit more. I love the glint in the police Inspector’s eye also regarding Flavia’s detective abilities. Highly recommend!

Collected Poems by Edward Thomas (***)- An English poet and naturalist, I found these haunting and sad. Some of them were a bit convoluted, but I appreciated them. Thomas seems a bit lost all the time, searching for something. I loved his close attention to the natural world, his love of the English countryside, but I often wanted to reach out and offer him some hope.

Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen (*****)- This was a reread and I loved it probably more than the first time I read it. I really noticed a difference between Pride & Prejudice, which I’ve also reread this year, and this in the writing style. S&S is much deeper, richer, and meatier, if you will. The tone is a lot more serious and it touches on some tough issues. I found myself really admiring Elinor and Colonel Brandon as characters. Marianne is harder for me to like, although I wonder if I am more like her in the way I’m too quick to show my emotions. Highly recommend.

The Paradise War by Stephen R. Lawhead (*****) – This fantasy follows two Oxford graduate students who chase a crazy tabloid story to Scotland. This is a weekend diversion intending on checking the fantastic claims of this paper, seeing if they have any merit. Lewis is a bland, laid back American who is skeptical, yet curious. Simon is a wealthy, English, spoiled kid who thinks it’s great fun to drag his roomie on wild goose chases. Something is suspicious about the whole trip to Lewis and before he knows it, Simon is missing and he is in a web of Celtic history, myths, legend, cairns that open doorways to the past. My oldest, Annie, and I found this first in the series fascinating and really enjoyed it.

Thou Givest, They Gather by Amy Carmichael (*****) – I’ve been reading this devotional on and off for a year or so. This is a collection of unrelated devotional pieces that didn’t make it into Carmichael’s other devotionals. Gathered together these are piercing and soul-searching bits to challenge and encourage deeply. I highly recommend.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Esther, Job, 2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, Revelation

Happy Reading!

~

 

 

 

Daily Diary {Autumn Breeze}

 

Just like that. The cooler weather is back. The countryside slides by, emerald green tinged with orange-hues, deep and rich, my windows down. The Amish are out splitting wood, mums and pumpkins appearing all over, this day gorgeous, breezy. It was clear with a few fluffy bits of white tickling the blue. Pink cosmos gaily dancing, smell of pears baking, this autumn feeling deserves a dessert. Tetleys in our cups, poured over sugar and cream, we read “The Children’s Hour”, such a lovely bit of poetry. We can imagine ourselves in the same exact situation with Mr. Longfellow, his sweet daughters clambering all over him. A bit of that lovely breeze tickles the red gingham curtains. I finally hemmed them up a year or so after buying the fabric. Something so simple, that brings so much joy. Since I’ve hung them we’ve admired the red glow, the breeze dancing with them, a kind of stop and think about it moment. Clothesline is flapping with towels, most the books are back in the basket for today, although Annie, Noah, Sam and I want to read Plutarch together. It may have been dubbed “Puketarch” a few times here, but the richness of language, characters have us returning. We always end up with bits of gold jumping out at us, surprise-like if we press through the difficulties. That’s life in a nutshell.

I’ve been missing my reading stack a bit, but I realized that I’m really enjoying all the books the children and I are reading together. I’ve been sneaking a peek of Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children by Susan Cooper here and there. The title is a bit misleading as it is so much more. Essays on imagination, reading, fantasy, writing, and too many interrelated ideas to count. It’s fascinating and inspiring. Poetry also has been a constant fount to draw on, soaking deep into the cracks. Abigail Carroll, Wordsworth, Mary Oliver, and most recently, new to me, pieces by Anna Akmatova. I’ve been dipping my toe into one of my favorite rereads during my current season of life, Bequest of Wings: A Family’s Pleasure with Books by Annis Duff. Inbetween the pencil sharpening, listening, cooking, and coffee sipping, her lovely words about this feast we are partaking warms me. It sets me to the grabbing of the next beloved book off the shelf, striking the match to light another candle, and ignoring the spider webs in favor of just one last chapter. Last night, my heart welled up as we sat, cozy under blankets, I just listening from my spot on the faded green couch. It was like they were coming alive. On their laps, pages open, was Rosemary Sutcliff’s Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of THE ILIAD and this led to many thoughts and ideas being slung back and forth. They touched on history, geography, morality, religion, art, helping one another, companionably arguing, thinking and hashing things out. I sat there, silent, stunned, learning and taking in so much. My heart sang as I read Mrs. Duff this morning on this very life of relationships. This relational life of the tears, the dishes, the beauty of seeing and knowing TOGETHER, of having others to share with the richness of words, nature, music, art. All of it intertwined, shining, sounding out a loving Creator Who is reaching out His hand to us all. The gift of this life is stunning and I can’t ignore it.

The sun slowly descends, I think of my chicken and vegetables waiting for their bed of rice, the hungry bellies to fill, another day coming to a close. Pajama-clad little ones, perhaps a bit of the Ralph Moody Series or Mandy by Julie Andrews, before climbing in our cozy beds for the evening.

Welcome, Autumn loveliness.

~

Be It Ever So Humble

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There is no place like our little home of learning. Yes, we are returning to the book shelves, returning to an invitation to enter in. The rustles of paper, woodsy pencil smell mixed with burnt electrical odor drifting up from our faithful sharpener, and the back acres’ beckoning call. Embroidering little gifts for Grandparent’s Day and Christmas, enjoying a hilariously performed narration of Saint George of Merrie England, inhaling loaves of fresh bread, digging into their maths with happiness (how I have children that enjoy Mathematics is nothing short of miraculous, they are actually teaching me the fun of it), watching our Monarch caterpillar build its gorgeous chrysalis, and measuring, crisp ruler lines emerging, seeing little paper envelopes unfold.  Journals cracked open, new sketches join the old. Belly laughs over Edward Lear’s Half Magic, thoughtful discussions on silkworms, and diving back into the beauty, magic, and intrigue of history. Loreena McKennitt playing softly while morning breakfast is served.  Milk, walnuts, and brown sugar poured over hot oatmeal, salty popcorn for elevenses, tapers are out, for autumn is slowly approaching. Soup and chili are back on the dinner menu, thank goodness.

The ecstasy, the sheer delight of this privileged life I’m blessed with is true and it is here. I choose to see, I have to see it. I closely notice the green vine of it peeking up through the cracks. Because as the big picture flickers by, playing out a tense-feeling mother who is fumbling along, trying to help us all get back into a regular rhythm, the habits of what we ought to do versus what we would like to be doing. Or in reality, the tension of what I like to be doing versus what I ought to be doing. This is ministry at its finest. A ministry of listening, the ministry of time, a ministry of stories, a ministry of delicious meals, a ministry of love, compassion. It is the ministry of relationships, possibly the hardest thing of all. It’s the piles of overflowing laundry, the grocery shopping, the garbage, the lawn to be mowed, the appointments to make, the filthy floors, the beauty and beast of it all. 

In a few weeks, the flow, and the newness will even out, the three chocolate bar afternoons will end, and the semi-sanity will return. I will get gradually use to the indoor noise level again, the four-persons-asking-me questions at once, and the proverbial split milk, but now on top of someone’s copywork. The glorious thing is that as we soak all of this messy beauty in together, it begins to seep out in our stories,  our art, our conversations, it becomes part of us, it forms our relationships, it enriches us. It changes our path, informs our decisions, turns our hearts, hands Heavenward and outward. An unseen beautiful vine of love twining its way through our home. And that is worth every minute of it all.

 

~

 

Monday Ponderings {September 4th}

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2 Kings 2.19-22: Salt in the spring of the waters.

I have noticed that when there is a word about the wonderful love of God, someone is sure to write and say how much that word helped; and this is joy to me. But I have also noticed that often that same one is cast down about the merest trifle, overwhelmed by difficulty, overcome by temptation. This should not be. The love of God is meant to make us valiant. A soldier who is constantly bemoaning difficulties has missed something.

This morning as I read 2 Kings 2, it seemed to me that verse 21 was for such: “And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land.” The salt was cast into the spring of the waters, and then the Lord said, “I have healed these waters.” We must let God deal with the spring of action, the very inmost in us, if we are to be thoroughly right. What is it that makes things go wrong? It is often some inward pride. What is the cause of discontent? It is that love of myself that makes me magnify my own troubles and forget those of others. Self, self, self at the spring of the waters makes those waters utterly useless for the help of others.

Salt smarts when it touches raw flesh. Do not be surprised if the first effect of some sharp word of God applied to your soul is painful. Suddenly to realize that quarrelsomeness has its root in pride; that to take offence simple means that I love myself; that laziness is another kind of self-love – is to be stung, as the raw flesh is stung if salt or anything with cleansing power be applied to it. If we ask our God to cast salt into the spring of our being, we asking Him to deal with us thoroughly, to cleanse us thoroughly.

     That means that next time the temptation comes to pride, selfishness, sloth, we claim the power of the Cleansing, and in the strength of our God refuse to yield to the I.

Amy Carmichael

Thou Givest, They Gather

p. 136

(emphasis mine)

~

 

 

Dear Diary, {Summertime Thankfulness}

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Our summer-soaked lives are humming along, not unlike the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird of yesterday, yesteryear. It hovered over the Day Lilies, right at eye level with my perch on my my porch swing. I sat silently drinking in the flash of green, flip of red, as this whirring wisp sipped the sweet nectar. We’ve had an usually mild summer, with the humidity staying south on it’s own vacation, perhaps. We’ve been swimming, mowing, ignoring weeds, and having bonfires with family. We’ve enjoyed reading aloud The Swiss Family Robinson together, hours of building with little plastic bits of the rainbow, baking, and riding bikes. Stories being acted out in the midst of chores, neighbors organic cows are here for a visit with a field of ours, so their own home can rest and grow a bit. Hours of dealing with fencing for that visit.  Roofs being fixed, Amish metal guy certainly must be delighted with us. Wood being fashioned into bows, arrows, and swords mixed with duct tape, paper bags, and moms expensive washi tape, whenever the regular tape gives out. Beef hot dogs and S’mores staples, crock-pot chicken BBQ, ice cream, and watermelon on an endless rotation. Summer days, sigh, sunlit and golden. The dirt and sweat are canceled out by the cerulean sky and marshmallow clouds. Rain and then cool sunshine-y days are a perfect recipe for lush green, trees, grass, and life everywhere.  We’ve seen family and friends, summer bringing parties, outings, camping, cabins, and reunions, so many it reminds me of the stars piercing the night sky. Speaking of the night, words cannot begin to capture what it is like here, deep into the country. I don’t have the camera equipment or where-with-all to begin to hope to ever capture it’s still, silent presence. Where the earth and sky meet is hard to discern, an endless expanse too immense for my stumbling words. Nature is an extension of our home and family, long walks along the wild-flower strewn roadways, my prayer room, the little streams and rivulets, my music. Drumbeats of rain, and melodies of the wind, this summer sits like a gracious gift in my mind. The stories I’ve personally read, longer expanses for reading given during these warm, sweet months, meld together with moments of relationship with my family and glorious Creation, a nod to my loving Creator. The words from Isaiah, The Holy Bible, poetry from Edward Thomas, a beautiful story of bravery, love, and children from Nevil Shute in the Pied Piper, all bring a richness and relief, a feeding of soul, to each day. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned my love affair with my huge clothesline. The lines of beautiful clean linens and towels whipped in the wind are a sort of art to me.  Our black cat running between them, his tail curling, his playful batting at them. They represent something to me. That immense beauty can be found in the small dailies of life. This is just the beginning of gratitude for this summer for me. The glimpses of precious people in my life. My oldest daughter curled on her bed working through book series, flashes of my own self, reminiscent of summers spent the same special way. My  oldest son and middle daughter faithfully tending their garden and chickens, fights and friendly discussions inevitably growing out of these projects, pecking away at frustrations and learning to love. My littlest, a pure delight to us all, his humorous actions, love of his books, blanket with bears, and glasses of milk. His early morning wanderings into my husband and I’s bed, kicking us, snuggling, and stealing my pillow. All the requests to guzzle my coffee (really creamer with a dash of coffee) and, “Please mom, it’s been way too long since you’ve made tea” reminders. My gigantic baskets of Amish-grown flowers on the deck, faithfully watered, and tended, so many lovely conversations around these blooming gifts with each of my children, and that midnight swing with my husband, the pepper-y smell of the geraniums, a special favorite of mine. We, of course, have seen our share of disagreements, spills, messes, and frustrations. The washer is leaking, we run out of gas, we snap at each other, we scrape our knees, we get stung by bumblebees. That’s life. But by turning the eyes of our hearts up in gratitude to all of the fireflies sparkling, the cake-candles blown out, wisps of smoke lingering, and the hands clasped together around the dinner table, we can rest.

We can rest in the love of our glorious God, we can rest in this moment, right now, and be glad.  I’m still holding on to summer, it’s not over yet, and I’m truly grateful.

~

The Second Coming

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“How to Prepare for the Second Coming”

by Abigail Carroll (Anglo-American, contemporary)

 

Start by recalling the absolute goodness of rain

and repent for every grumble you have ever made

about the weather (this will take approximately

 

forever.) Next, you will want to commit a theft:

with deft lock-picking and a shrewd hand, steal

back the hours you fed to the hungry god of work,

 

then squander them on hydrangeas, Wordsworth,

voluntary sidewalk repair. Teach a child to lace

a shoe (your child or another’s – any four-year-old

 

will do), and while you’re at it, set the alarm

for three, and fumble through the dark to the pond

to guard the salamanders as they cross the road. If,

 

having accomplished these tasks, you wish

to go on, sit at your desk and carefully design

a few radical acts of grace, by which I mean

 

murder (of a sort): you must willfully, passionately

kill the living, breathing debt owed you by those

who stole your goods, your rights, or the jewel

 

that was the beating muscle of your hope. Apart

from this, you cannot know the full extent of love.

(For precedent, refer to the cross.) Thrust

 

your nails into dirt and plant a few seeds (carrots,

radishes, perhaps); indeed, a get scandalously intimate

with the earth. After all, it is where you will live

 

when the lamb lies down with the lion, and the lion

has become your friend. And when the water

of the new world breaks, all is said and done (heaven

 

and earth made one as the prophets foretold),

you will lose each doubt to a song – which is

a kind of praise – and reap the good you sowed.

 

Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for

Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide, compiled by Sarah Arthur

p.234- 235

 

(this poem blessed me so much this past week. I’m adding it to my commonplace journal.)

~

 

 

 

Metaphoric Mountains, The Maytrees by Annie Dillard, and “The Magic of Ordinary Days”

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From somewhere, somehow, comes the idea that things that are hard are wrong. Or that rough days are temporary and not “real” life. The crunch under my dirty tennis shoes, one more mile, that late night conversation with family, exhausted, and one more dish, one more mess, spilled milk, rivulets swirling with dust from unwashed floor. Ignorance is bliss, they say, and I gaze at beautiful Instagram photos from mountain tops. The breath-snatching, far-reaching beauty in every direction, I am choosing to forget what it took to get there.  The climb, the stumbling, the sharpness, the gasping for air, these things are real life. I’m in denial, I’m doubting, I’m missing out on the beauties of this life, when I focus on the perceived unfairness, the lie of the serene life I’m must be missing just beyond my grasp.  Amy Carmichael, a beloved writer, put it this way, speaking on a verse from Ecclesiastes 8:8, The Holy Bible,

“No day, no hour, no minute when we can count on being out of the reach of the fiery darts.  Greek fire, as the Crusaders called it, used to terrify them because it burned on the water. There was no escape from it. There is no escape for us from the Greek fire of the enemy of souls. We have never been promised such escape. ‘There is no furlough in war’. ‘If ye trust not surely ye cannot be trusted!’ If we let our hearts ask for what is not promised – furlough from war –; if we let ourselves wish for it; if the inmost thought in us longs for respite from the conditions of war, or wonders why they are what they are, or why they are so prolonged; then we are not trusting, and we cannot be trusted with the spoils of the battle – treasures for others.” * (emphasis mine)

Lou Bigelow and Toby Maytree find each other and marry, Annie Dillard’s prose bringing their love to life in a Massachusetts town. Weary, sun-scorched, wandering, I chose The Maytrees off my small library shelf, because I have appreciated Dillard’s nonfiction.  Half way through, my delight is drowning.  Maytree is moving to Maine, with another local gal, Deary. No explanation, really. Just all of a sudden. This jarring twist to the narrative was clever, I suppose. But as I search for a foot hold, reaching one bloodied hand towards the next bit of rock to climb in my own marriage, my own pile of relationships, I wonder at those that quit. We exalt those that leave. We exalt those that change. What of those who keep at the same for their entire lives? What of those who “make mere loving their life’s work”*? Those mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters who grapple with the mountain side so they can share the vista at the top.

I don’t have to fight this climb. I focus and bask in today’s work upward. I choose to be glad in the forward motion, be it icy rain on my face, warm sunshine flickering overhead, the cutting ropes around my waist, the pack pressed sweaty to my back.  I’ve been given the gift of life. It’s not easy, acts of faith, this deep trust.  Things worth fighting for are never easy, that breathtaking view that C.S. Lewis said was “higher up and further in”*.  In contrast to the Maytrees, Olivia Dunn, in the movie, “The Magic of Ordinary Days”*, is dumbfounded at the love that Ray Singleton, his family, and neighbors, shower on her, a stranger, and her unplanned baby. The beauty of this story is that these people make a choice to love. They don’t reject, give up, or complain under the unfairness, inconvenience, or shame of taking on this steep, unfamiliar mountain. They keep climbing. Ray keeps reaching forward, quietly, faithfully loving, even when many would have long ago quit, left, or just needed “a change.”  Isn’t that a picture of Jesus Christ? It wasn’t easy to die in relative obscurity. His life was full of hardship and hate. He didn’t sit around pinning and waiting for things to get easier.  He went about His Father’s business, Love spilling from every bloody step He took.  Hard isn’t wrong, it’s real. Hard is brave, trusting, and true. Hard brings us to those glorious mountain tops.

~

 

Thou Givest, They Gather, by Amy Carmichael, p.116-117

The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge, p.122

The Maytrees by Annie Dillard

The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis, p. 202

“The Magic of Ordinary Days” Hallmark Hall of Fame, 2005

 

‘Late and Soon’ {Living Education Retreat 2017, Part 2}

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{Beautiful gift given to us by our LER friends – “Keep cutting back until there is peace in your home.” – Nancy Kelly.  Design by – Charlotte Mason Living}

Part 1

Breakfast is being made, cheesy scrambled eggs, and I’m still feeding on the Living Education Retreat*. I’m a simmering soup after the weekend of sharing Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and practices with my fellow learners. My husband is getting an earful and my children are like, “Yes, mom, we know. Charlotte Mason, blah, blah, blah.” All in good humor, of course.  A thread, a main phrase seems to be emerging in my mind. It is the line ‘late and soon’.  I’m trying to wrap my mind around how that and other ideas tie together in a beautiful whole, taking it deep into my heart. I remembered in our Charlotte Mason book study having read it in the volumes, discussing it with my dear friends, and then stumbling again on it in a Wordsworth poem. What’s with Wordsworth lately popping up? Anyhow, here is the poem,

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

 

I went searching for when Miss Mason uses this Wordsworth line in her writings and I found it in her School Education, p. 27.

“We ought to do so much for our children, and are able to do so much for them, that we begin to think everything rests with us and that we should never intermit for a moment our conscious action on the young minds and hearts about us. Our endeavours become fussy and restless. We are too much with our children, ‘late and soon.’ We try to dominate them too much, even when we fail to govern, and we are unable to perceive that wise and purposeful letting alone is the best part of education. But this form of error arises from a defect of our qualities. We may take heart. We have the qualities, and all that is wanted is adjustment; to this we must give our time and attention.” – Charlotte Mason (emphasis mine)

As I thought on the retreat’s theme of Simplicity, the beautiful times of sharing on math with Marcia, a poetry immersion with Karla, contemplating truths from Charlotte’s volume Ourselves with Joy, the beautiful why’s behind handicrafts with Amy, and all the main sessions with Nancy, Art, and Jeannette, ‘late and soon’ and “keep cutting back until there is peace” started to come alive to me.  What Wordsworth, Mason, and all my lovely friends at this retreat are saying to me is that I can be at rest, narrowing and aiming my focus, not getting too grand, too distracted. I often become inwardly “fussy and restless”, inwardly focused on my inadequacies, inwardly focused, instead of an upward focus on God, and an outward focus on others. I become too grand in my own eyes and of course, weary if I start to drift into thinking that everything rest with myself!  Nancy’s quote ringing all the more true here, “Inner reality that effects our outward lifestyle.” I often let the “cares of this world” to choke out the simplicity found in a Christ-centered focus, in life and in the education of my children.

The wonderful idea of “cutting back until there is peace” extends for me, not only out into the daily practicalities of my home and schedule, but an inner culling, a careful removal of all the dross of self doubt, condemnation, fretting over my children, and faithlessness. This isn’t really about me, it is about faith in Almighty God.

“Education, like faith, is the evidence of things not seen.” – A Philosophy of Education, Charlotte M. Mason, p. 29.

“This great recognition resolves that discord in our lives of which most of us are, more or less, aware. The things of sense we are willing to subordinate to the things of spirit; at any rate we are willing to endeavour ourselves in this direction.” Parents and Children, Charlotte M. Mason, p. 275. (emphasis mine)

Through the conversations, singing fireside with Bobby and Amy, the wonderful lunch discussions with Ami, Barbara, Shauna, and countless others, lingering after small groups, chatting, crying with one another, and the late night talks with Carla, the beauty of this mindset, this feast, shone forth even clearer. Spending time with my daughter and other young adults, enriched, and listening to their panel, looking back over their experiences in this life-giving educational path, all just swells in my heart and mind.

Pausing my typing, my three year old son approaches with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and says, “Book?” I wrestle my brain out of it’s lofty rumination 😉 , my heart melts, and we share this book together. The Supreme Educator, the Holy Spirit, the God of all Creation, of the “sea that bares her bosom to the moon” is for me and with me. He is my Source, He gently leads those who have young, in Him I live, move, and have my being.  The winds howl for hours, flowers gathered, we easily can get out of tune, but “…once the intimate relation, the relation of Teacher and taught in all things of the mind and spirit, be fully recognised, our feet are set in a large room; there is space for free development in all directions, and this free and joyous development, whether of intellect or heart, is recognised as a Godward movement.” Parents and Children, Charlotte M. Mason, p. 275.

 

 

*{Charlotte Mason was a British educator. We enjoy her philosophy and methods of  life-giving education in our home. The Living Education Retreat encourages parents on this journey.}

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