Christmas-y, Winter-y Reading

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John William Waterhouse – “The Annunciation”, 1914 {Google}

Oh, ’tis the season for a good book. Well, it’s always the season for that, but it’s delightful thing to pick up something related to winter and Christmas. I’ve been inspired by reading other’s Christmas reading.  This list isn’t exhaustive, but I’ve just named a few in each area that we’ve enjoyed or are enjoying currently.

For the Family, our past favorite chapter books:

 

{Goodreads, Google}

The Christmas Stove by Alta Halverson Seymour -We are currently reading another Christmas story of hers and loving it. These are set around the world and The Christmas Stove is set in Switzerland.

On That Night by Elizabeth Yates – this book fostered many good discussions and I hope to reread it again another year. Lovely, heart-probing story.

Winter Cottage by Carol Ryrie Brink – a lovely story from the author of Caddie Woodlawn, another favorite title of ours. A family struggling during the Depression, end up staying in someone’s summer cottage. A heart-warming tale set in winter-y Wisconsin.

Currently, we are reading two new tales to us, and are really enjoying them:

 

{Goodreads, Google}

The Wonderful Winter by Marchette Chute – don’t let that cover fool you! We found an older copy of this lovely story. An orphaned boy runs away to London and spends his best winter ever with an acting troupe! We haven’t finished this, but the writing is GORGEOUS.

I Saw Three Ships by Elizabeth Goudge – I’ve been wanting to read this story for years and now we are finally getting to it. Polly lives with her poor aunts and is hoping for a Christmas surprise. Charming story surrounding the Christmas carol of the same name. I am a huge Goudge fan, so I’m delighted with this!

For myself to enjoy, I was trying to remember ones that I have really loved over the years:

 

{Goodreads}

A Christmas Book by Elizabeth Goudge (not pictured) – I fondly remember this book from years ago and hope to revisit it in the future. A collection of stories from her previous novels, centering around Christmas, and a few new stories, make for a charming read by the tree, sipping hot chocolate.

Winter in Thrush Green by Miss Read – I’m a huge Miss Read fan, albeit I haven’t read much of hers recently and need to remedy that! I enjoyed this story, Miss Read is so good at cozy stories centered in little villages and you can’t help fall in love with what’s happening in the villager’s lives  and the subtle humor throughout.

Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams by Susan Branch – this may be a bit too sad for the feeling of the season, but I adored this memoir. Filled with Susan’s delightful illustrations, she shares how she pursued her dreams of drawing & painting, finding a darling little home of her dreams, helping her heal and work through a hard divorce.

Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen – I read this with my children and was deeply moved. This is a good title for deep winter, angling into spring. A little family decides to move to a small cabin they’ve inherited that is filled with great summer vacation memories. Dad is suffering from PTSD from the war and it hasn’t been an easy time as a family. This is written so beautifully and surprising wisdom and beauty sneak up on you all the time. I hope to reread this later in winter.

Honorable mention: Jane Austen’s 6 novels often make it into my winter reading rotation. My favorites, currently are, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and Pride & Prejudice.

We also enjoy many different pictures books and devotional type readings together, but I’ll stop for now. How ’bout you? What titles have you enjoyed during the winter season?

~

 

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Dancing

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Dancing with them was the best thing that happened last Tuesday.

Curls flying. Laughter. Little, slippery hands in mine.

“Faster, Mommy!” Ella said, on her tippy-toes. We circle dance, meeting in the middle like a bunch of Celtic monks, flowing in and out. It doesn’t matter if the music doesn’t exactly match our dance moves or rather our lack there of.

Loreena McKinnett sings “The Highway Man”, a haunting poem by Alfred Noyes, remember Anne reciting it in front of an admiring Gilbert in the movie version of Anne of Avonlea? My reverie about poetry ending as three year old Ben stomps on my bare toes.

“Dance, Mommy!” he hollers, daring me to stop thinking, pay attention, and just keep dancing.

Giggling, spinning, chattering, and trying to sing the eclectic ballads swirling from the “Book of Secrets” CD.

Phoebe grins her toothlessness up at me, readjusting her iron-like grip. I keep going, huffing and puffing, trying not to accidentally trip and make an even bigger fool of myself.

Collapsing, we start talking all at once, even the non-dancing, by-standing critics. “Remember the ‘Charleston’, that Jimmy Stewart did over the swimming pool?” I throw out into the fray. “Mom, you mentioned maybe learning contra dance,” Annie adds. “Let’s look up circle dances on You Tube,” one enthusiast says, “And swing like from the Glenn Miller songs from the other day.”

Eyes rapt with amazement, we watch the beauty of dance, movement, swiftness, creative precision.

It begins again, inspired and intrigued, we badly “Charleston” around, hilariously attempt Highlander jigs, float like butterflies and, well, you get the picture. We pump up the music and just let go, following a cadence of joyful footsteps dancing away the ages.

So simple, the world to them.

Shining eyes, quick breath, smiles look up and over at me. Like I hung the moon specially for them. All from a simple dance together.

~

 

Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving} #10

{continuing my gratitude list} 

91. Gratitude lists with my friend Marjorie via email every year, she reminds me, so grateful for the slowing down, the paying attention together

92. God’s love, we can’t even begin to fathom the depths of it

93. The fluttering children’s artwork hanging over the heat register

94. My father-in-law and his Amish coworker stopping by for hot chocolate

95. Goofy Messenger texting back and forth between me, my sisters, and my parents

96. Hugs from my 12 year old son

97. Pretty candle holder from the Dollar Store, my Phoebe buying it for me ❤

98. My brilliant green stocking cap, gray wool coat, and floral scarf, so cheerful

99. Thanksgiving feast with family today

100. Words. Blank pages. New day to live.

~

 

Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving} #9

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{continuing my gratitude list}

81. bananas and string cheese shared together

82. last few chapters of a good book, bittersweet

83. the ancient (alright, moldy) smell of old hard cover books

84. Lovely songs, poems, and bits of Shakespeare. We all love this CD!

85. Pilot G2 Extra Fine .05 Gel Pens…perfect scritch-y scratch-y noise when you write.

86. cinnamon and sugar toast

87. conifers, so cheerfully ever green, for the most part, anyway.

88. children crafting with recyclables

89. fluffy towels out of the dryer

90. Tacos on Tuesdays

~

A Seed of Sympathy

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…she will point to some lovely flower flower or gracious tree, not only as a beautiful work, but a beautiful thought of God, in which we may believe He finds continual pleasure, and which He is pleased to see his human children rejoice in. Such a seed of sympathy with the Divine thought sown in the heart of the child is worth many of the sermons the man may listen to hereafter, much of the ‘divinity’ he may read.

Charlotte Mason

Home Education, p. 79-80

(this quote is talking about the mother (or father, of course), what may be her role as an interpreter between her child and Nature. Miss Mason cautions that this is an infrequent or occasional thing that the mother might do reverently,  probably because we can quickly become moralistic, preachy, and completely get in the way of God’s Creation and the child.  I found this to be such a beautiful passage and idea, that I couldn’t not share it!)

Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving} #8

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{continuing my gratitude list}

71. Outdoor Christmas lights popping up here and there. They are so cheerful driving along on deepest, darkest country roads.

72. My long-suffering Charlotte Mason book study friends, who once-a-month have to listen to me blast them with what I’ve been reading for the last month and all the ideas that come out of that reading. I don’t go out much. Poor friends, you know who you are.

73. My husband who attempts to follow my incoherent ramblings and rantings.

74. Brioche. Need I say more?

75. The beauty and inspiration I learn daily with and from my children as we learn together here at Hearth Ridge. It’s subtle, but astounding if I really pay attention.

76. A week or so without WiFi, showing me that many things I think are important, ahem, aren’t that important. And really, not having WiFi, isn’t even a problem in many areas of the world. Perspective.

77. My mother! It’s her birthday today. We get to go out to lunch together tomorrow.

78. Christmas secrets and surprises being worked on and planned.

79. Pie baking today and tomorrow!

80. Pen pals

~

Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving} #7

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{continuing my gratitude list}

61. Homemade costumes by Phoebe and Ella, putting on a show for me
62. The beautiful drive to a friend’s house
63. Spending time with new mom friends at local homeschool mothers night
64. Ben being so excited to see after I’m gone
65. Anticipation building for opening day of hunting
66. New book to share over Christmas
67. Jan Brett illustrations
68. Surprise pumpkin pie for Amos
69. Thanksgiving plans at my brothers home
70. The closing down of another blessed year, Lord-willing a new, fresh start next

~

Fortitude

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I’m sick of fortitude. She’s been staring at me ever since July. Botticelli’s painting, a small print of it, a bit worn around the edges, stuck to my fridge.

My single-eyed focus is wavering. Miss Navel-Gaze and Mrs. Self-Absorption are friendly companions. Over a mug of steaming coffee, they commiserate with me.

They help me try to figure myself out, no rigid battle mode here. At their kind insistence, I’m giving myself a little more-than-usual grace. We’re going to figure this out, create some some steps for fixing things. Just why can’t I get myself together anyway?

I’m nervous I’m going to mess up, fail. But my companions are helping me take care of me, to keep my focus on my needs.

Who’s that peeking in at the window? That headdress is hideous. She’s pointing, dress billowing in the wind, towards my daughter, who needs help. I stand, push out through the door, and reaching Ella, I breathe a prayer of thanksgiving. She has only a small cut. My companions beckon at the door of the house, fresh coffee and ease in their hands. I look hesitatingly to the side of me. She stands there. Still, resolute, obedient, faithful. Weariness and slothfulness tug me toward the house, forgiveness, understanding, and strength ooze from this warrior.

I slowly turn, bare feet on cold earth, seeing my husband getting out of his car, eyes weary, arms full. I see gardens needing clearing after the frost, I know of four pounds of beef thawing on counter for this evening’s meal.

Fortitude calmly takes my hand, her sword held purposely in the other. She gives me a tiny smile.

I want that inner strength I see in her battle-worn face. I want this posture of restful readiness and watchfulness. A waiting purposefully for the next right thing.

Ignoring the clanging coming from those voices, I squeeze her hand back and take a step towards living death. Death to self as primary. One of love, not of anxiousness, which I sense from her is really selfishness, after all, it is a preoccupation with self. I take a step towards my husband, kissing his cheek, her sword slashes at the hovering navel gazing, never loosing her grip on me. I do menial tasks, her by my side, I listen to endless conversations from children, cooking meals to feed a crowd, she is stomping self-absorption into dirt. Together, the hard, becomes beautiful.

I look over at that wretched-lovely art print and I thank God for it. It’s trumpet call to humble myself under the mighty hand of God, and He will lift me up. I’m armed and restfully waiting with Fortitude.

May I be bold enough to dive into the tumult with her each and every blessed day I’m given. Fortitude, stand on and continue to shine forth.

~

Emptied

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{Prince Edward Island, Canada – August 2017}

 

Empty Vessel

 

Poured out, drained, decantation

Bone-dry, cracked, fearful

Dusty, grainy, gritty, grim

 

Lonely, solitary, shelved, siren-sucked,

Useless, stagnant, stuck

Yearning, thirsting, doubting

 

Portal, shaft, brilliance, unbroken

Chink-patched, warmed, lightened

Outside, upward, forward

 

Burgeoning, blooming, full to top

Fruitful, tangy, rich, overflowing

Emptied to be filled

 

Potter, Vintner, Maker

Earth, sun, sky, sweat

Blood, tears, laughter

 

Slipping, spilling, sloshing

Filled to pour out

Best wine saved for lasting

 

~

 

Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving} #6

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{continuing my gratitude list}

51. giving, giving, and giving more…coming to the end of myself, seeing the need of my Savior more than ever to carry me

52. library trips

53. listening to my 8 year old daughter talk, talk, talk

54. fluffy, hot, clean laundry from the dryer

55. poetry

56. Minestrone soup with thick-cut sausage, home made bread slathered with butter

57. early morning light reflecting off glass-glazed ice puddles

58. warm, woolen coats

59. new tights, cardigans, rich colors

60. Amish gentleman rollerblading by with his bow hunting gear slung over his shoulder, welcome to the “deep country”, I’m so thankful I live here

~

Monday Ponderings {November 6th}

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IN ANY HOUSE

SAID one whose yoke

Was that of common folk,

Would that I were like Saint Caecilia,

And could invent some goodly instrument

Passing all yet contrived to worship Thee,

And send a love-song singing over land and sea.

 

But when I seem

Almost to touch my dream,

I hear a call, persistent though so small,

The which if I ignore, clamours about my door

And bids me run to meet some human need.

Meanwhile my dream drifts off like down of thistle seed.

 

A sound of gentle stillness stirred and said,

My child, be comforted,

Dear is the offering of melody,

But dearer far, love’s lowliest ministry.

 

Amy Carmichael, Towards Jerusalem, p. 26 (emphasis mine)

~