Dishes and Dreams

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The rainbow swirl of greasy film glimmers up at me. A spot of soap makes it shrink away in concentric circles. The bright, scorching light of sun off snow hits my eyes from the little window above the sink. The brightness is a gift this time of year, as is the flicker of candle flame sitting on the sill. Any sort of light offsets the February gray. The smell of the candle intermingles with dish soap, the sudsy, drips hitting the water with a pleasing, soothing sound. Water is so meditative, running through little streams, out of faucets, down crashing falls, dribbling off eves, and bubbling over rocks. A dangerous, beautiful thing. I wash away the vestiges of spaghetti, oatmeal, and frustrations. Meditating on music, movies, and a glance through the window, a Downy Woodpecker at the suet. The rough towel, that’s seen better days, dry in my damp hands, swiping, stacking, closing cupboard door. Shutting out the bitterness, harsh words, washing it all clean, and stacking it away in the forgetting cupboard. Our days are stories, stories that we are putting down in living ink, blood, sweat, and yes, fat drops of salty tears. Silverware jumbles, clanging, the clink, clink of stacked glasses and mugs, building, working through each step of these relationships. Each day of clanks, clinks, and new blocks for the foundation.  I scrub stubborn spots of crusty peanut butter and Nutella, it fading and swirling down into the depths. Just like my children, their childhood, messy, beautiful, and slipping away all too fast, the slurp of the drain licking up the last drop. Dishes that held hot delicious memories of these moments, this twenty-four hours around the sun. Sustenance, conversation, and fruits of one’s hard labor. There’s something so satisfying about dishes and dreams.

~

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Monday Ponderings {Abe Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12th}

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One of the greatest things in human life is the ability to make plans. Even if they never come true – the joy of anticipation is irrevocably yours. That way one can live many more than just one life.

Maria Trapp

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, p. 260

 

Writing is torn from a person, it has to be said. If you are going to say something worthwhile, you’re going to burn.

-Unknown author

from Amy Carmichael: Beauty for Ashes by Ian H. Murray

 

referring to a snow storm:

…all the time there was a rustling and whispering, a sibilance of snow. The air was alive with movement, the dancing and whirling of a thousand individual flakes with a life as brief as the distance from leaden sky to frozen earth. ❤

p. 105

on feeling like one isn’t doing “enough” of __________ in life:

Warmth suddenly flooded Sep’s cold frame. A man could only do so much! He had set his hand to this particular plough and he must continue in the furrow which it made. What use was it to try to set the whole world to rights? He must travel his own insignificant path with constancy and courage. It might not lead to the heights of Olympus, but it should afford him interest, exercise and happiness as he went along. And, Sep felt sure, there would be joy at the end.

p. 206

Miss Read, both above quotes, emphasis mine

The Market Square

 

I’ve discovered my best work comes from the uncomfortable but fruitful feeling of not having a clue – of being worried, secretly afraid, even convinced that I’m on the wrong track.

Dani Shapiro

Still Writing, p. 51

 

{Happy Birthday to Abe! These are some quotes that struck me from my weekend reading. Hope they intrigue you as well. I’m mulling over them more as we start a new fresh week. Happy Monday}

~

 

 

 

How Thy Heart was Set

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“Rose From Brier”

Thou has not that, My child, but thou hast Me;

And am not I alone enough for thee?

I know it all, know how thy heart was set

Upon this joy which is not given yet.

 

And well I know how through the wistful days

Thou walkest all the dear familiar ways

As unregarded as a breath of air;

But there in love and longing, always there.

 

I know it all; but from thy brier shall blow

A rose for others. If it were not so

I would have told thee. Come, then, say to Me:

My Lord, my Love, I am content with Thee.

 

Amy Carmichael

Mountain Breezes, p. 294

~

{Thank you for all your thoughts and encouragement yesterday here and on Facebook regarding my questions about writing. I spent some time this morning praying and reflecting and was so blessed by a few things deep in my heart. This poem above is a recent favorite and is VERY pointed and convicting in a good, challenging way.}

A Chat about Writing

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Hello there,

Welcome! Please pull up your chair and grab a cup of your favorite coffee or tea and let’s talk writing, shall we? I’ve been thinking about writing lately, well, more like, I think about words all the time, my brain is always swirling with ideas, stories, like a little spider on my web, latching onto moments, wrapping them up for later opening, assimilating. The question is how does one take all that is up here and put it out beautifully down there? Onto that blank, crisp journal page, or get that blinking cursor moving? Well, the short answer is to just do it.  The long answer, I don’t know. I find that it is so hard to roll out a lovely smooth dough from all the ingredients being mixed in my head. I realize I have way too many metaphors going on here. That’s just how fast and how convoluted my brain operates. That’s part of my huge problem. Do you feel the same way? How do you organize your writing? How do you separate different threads and veins and voices rambling in your head? How do you choose which to give priority? How do you remember the light-bulb moments in the midst of cooking dinner or reading to a child? How do you turn off the tide when needed, but like the moon turn it back on and faithfully keep the ebb and flow going? How does one live real life, when the brain is living a thousand others? It often feels like it has to be all or nothing for me. That’s unrealistic.  I have a blessed, wonderful life here on earth. One that deserves faithfulness and attention, gratitude in action. One that actually is my real living breathing muse. However, I can’t silence those things happening upstairs and don’t really want too, necessarily. They are beauty, light, and a bit of wrestling with darkness as well. A continuing conversation that  binds all of the realness of this life on earth with the moments that inspire and lift us to our life beyond.

I vacillate between just spewing things out (like currently) or taking time to carefully think, research, edit, and meditate on something before the ink dries permanent. The latter takes huge amounts of energy and brain power, which I’m sure we all find in short supply.  I fill up on conversations, prayer, nature’s messages, my faith taking on wings, floating through my days, the books I drink from bringing me closer to a small glimpse of glory. I feel desperate at times for it to congeal into something with jello-like form.

Where does one find the stillness to process, slow down, and prioritize? I know for myself, it’s a choice. It’s a choice between getting my to-do list done, or sitting in a comfy arm chair snuggling with my little boy. It’s a choice between conversations with my oldest daughter sprawled on my big bed, or vegging on another Doctor Who episode. It’s a choice between scrolling through Instagram or reading another chapter of a delicious, enticing book. None of these are necessarily better or worse than each other, but for every yes, it’s a no to something else. Excess isn’t necessarily better, but how does one drain away the pond? How does one satisfy the insatiable hunger for words, thoughts, and newness? How does one be content with the little gift pulled from the squeaky bucket from the bottom of the well? How can one stop the constant motion and voices that never shut up, and birth something into life from that mess?

Anyway, just thoughts I’m thinking, metaphors I’m mixing, and awesome alliterations I’m always assembling.

🙂

Thanks for listening. Please feel free to chat back.

~

January Reads

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February is here. This is what I finished in January! How about you?

Mother by Kathleen Norris (***) – I read this title for my Back to Classics Challenge in the category of Classic with a Single Word Title.   The sentiment expressed in this book about the importance of mothers in the lives of their children was beautiful.  I thoroughly enjoyed the sweet family life. I value and believe this to be true and am blessed to be able to stay at home with my children. The message even brought tears to my eyes and was inspiring as a mother. I’m pretty old-fashioned and enjoy traditional family values.

With that said and keeping in mind that this was originally published in 1911, I found this book to be too saccharine. It definitely painted a women’s life as being the best ONLY one way and not the other. But of course, I’m not going to get up in arms about modern issues on a vintage book. I hate reviews like that. (Continued here.)

The Wild-Bird Child: A Life of Amy Carmichael by Derick Bingham (*****) –  Amy Carmichael is one of my heroines of the Christian faith, her poetry, writing, and life’s work, encouraging and inspiring me. I really enjoyed this unique look at this Irish missionary.  Mr. Bingham created an unique take on her life, beginning each chapter, with a bit of what was going on in the world at the time. I love the first hand letters, personal stories, and information from diaries that the author had access to while writing this book. I found this much more interesting than A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (****) – Guy Montag’s life and world give one so much to think on! The thought of books being illegal and a life totally dictated and controlled by popular culture and the powers-to-be, so to speak. I recently just read a short story called “The Murderer” by Bradbury in his collection, The Golden Apples of the Sun, and it was so fantastic and tied into Fahrenheit a bit. I think I’ve heard SO much about this book from SO many people I was expecting something earth-shattering. For me, it was a subtle, yet powerful read and I really enjoyed it, but wasn’t blown away for some reason. Dandelion Wine was more shocking to me creativity-wise.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (***) –This was my first Woolf. I really enjoyed her stream-of-consciousness type conversational style. She is humorous and interesting. In this collection (or expansion of one?) of essays, she brings up many interesting questions about women and creativity. I didn’t really feel like she came to any conclusions or definite answers to her concerns, but I felt like more like I was listening to a friend, talking over tea, chatting about her concerns and passions. Occasionally, her writing made me feel out of breath and she definitely repeated herself a lot, but I appreciated her general message, her nature descriptions, and her admiration for Jane Austen was evident, which is a plus in my book. Overall, I’m glad I read this. 

My Mother’s Quilts: Devotions of Love, Legacy, Family, and Faith by Ramona Richards (***) – I was given this as a gift by a dear person and found it sweet and heartwarming. The author looks back over her grandmother’s and mother’s lives, walking through many of the beautiful quilts they collected and made. The memories and history were fascinating and the gorgeous color photos added a lot. The only thing I didn’t like was it was a bit redundant, which added unnecessary length.

A Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden (***) – (spoiler alert!) 3.5 stars, this is a sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale which I read at the end of last year. I liked this title much better than the first in some ways, yet I skimmed a lot, especially in the beginning. I found the writing and the atmosphere of this book to be wonderfully beautiful and engaging. I love the natural elements interwoven into the story, talking with horses, water, fire, the trees etc. I loved that there were less characters, so you felt like you got to know them a bit deeper and weren’t jumping around trying to keep people, demons, and gods straight. I loved learning more about Vasilisa’s brother Sasha who is now an older, wiser, if not unconventional (violent? kind of hard to swallow) monk. The creepy monk from the first book is touched on and eww, still as horrifying as before. (Continued here – again spoiler alerts!)

A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver (****) – Oliver doesn’t disappoint, her beautiful words inspire. The technical part of this book was a little harder for me to dig through, but if you are patient she has gems waiting for you. The honesty about how much revision goes into good writing was sobering and a relief in some ways. She doesn’t just sit down and write these gorgeous things instantaneously, huh? 😉

Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful by Katie Davis Major (*****) This is the continuing story of Katie Davis, a missionary to Uganda. This focuses on one of her adoptive daughter’s birth mother returning to reclaim her child. What I appreciated about this book was the fact that she doesn’t seem to blame God for all the heartache all around her. I’m not a big fan of the popular thought now that everything is always God’s will, including all the horrific evil in this world.  I believe that this terrible world, demonic forces, and evil choices of humans have way more to do with suffering. Katie really comes to the conclusion that no matter how her circumstances look, God is WITH her and is suffering alongside her, loving her and those all around her.

The Holy Bible (*****) – John, Acts, Romans, and dipping in and out of Psalms

~

 

Good Morning, February.

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The sun is shining. The fire is hot. The door opens with ease. The blue sky spills down into the dankness. The cellar door clanks back and forth, back and forth, my friend wind waving well wishes.  But it cannot block out the fluffy bits of fullness floating through the firmament. I turned the calendar page. A new month, a brilliant blue moon to love. A clean slate, chalk-dust free, full of promise.  The books are opened, tattered bookmarks and all, candle wicks blackened from light and heat, mugs with rings around them, grounds in the bottom. The ice is still here, the ice is still everywhere, but the sun glints off of it, a jewel shining in my heart. February, welcome.

Meditating on grace and truth:

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

~

 

Get Lost

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I follow the wet, dirty footsteps down into the basement. My own previous steps upwards and out. My winter boots thunk, thunk. A dank, warmer air greets me as I step inside. The door creaks. Despite its chipped paint, cobwebby appearance, the door betrays finer days. Perhaps the farmer’s wife, I daresay, chose it for a bit ‘o beauty to grace her humble cellar space. Or perhaps, and more likely, added later, a cast off, used where needed. This underground cavern I’m in is lit by a few naked bulbs, a draft of air, as I pull in the green garden snake of a hose, tinkles the string against the light. The hose, muddy, leaky, wet in my hands. A splatter of it all on my black leggings, my well-worn, brilliant blue t shirt clashing, garishly with my mauve cardigan. No need for fashion here. Function definitely over form. Function with its kind of beauty, for the taking, for the absorption. I brush my hand, broken finger nails, rub the hose slime from them, and clump, clump up the inner stairs. Left behind are the wet tracks, tinkling light cords, slosh, and mud. Mingling. What does it all mean? I don’t know. Nothing. Everything. But its a clear moment. Senses engaged. A noticing. And for that I’m grateful.

Thinking on this quote:

“I have to get lost so I can invent some way out.” – David Salle

~

January Gifts

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His hand on my neck. A middle of the night wayfarer cuddling. Three year old cold feet, climbing under the quilt with me. “I sleep in Momma’s bed,” he says sleepily. Crunch of  gravel and ice, a warm gifted day, taking me out into the wood smoke, manure-tinged air, whiff of icy earth. The sun setting shards of sharp sparkle skittering across the straggling snow. There’s something about January. Its sound of silence, quiet under pinning of a humming low, a gentle song. Its own smells, its cadence and chorus. There’s lots of pockets in January. In sweaters, coats, pockets of ice and snow, little bits of fog and sunshine tucked away like my car keys, old receipts, mittens, and lemon lime lip balm. There’s flashes of golden, angled-pieces of fodder rising from fields, the browns, murkiness, grays, and black shadows. Fire flutters, not unlike the busy feeders, ding dinging, clanking, crackling as I pour sawdust bits into the stove. The smell of wood shavings rising brings me immediately to the sun shafts on the floor of the Amish carpenter shop, Amos and I stood in last summer. Drinking in the smell, I feel in two places simultaneously, at home in front of the warm fire, and at the shop, the little dog running around my feet. A sweet Amish child’s eyes staring up at me from under her navy kerchief.  January sharpens the distance between outdoors and in, summer, its door wide open, all of it home, the natural world welcoming and friendly-like. A careful purposefulness is needed to come out into this new, bitter world. This January room. A world foreign, strange, yet essential for the renewal of the earth and its growings and groanings. A watering, a deep rest, a sigh. We too, find ourselves at rest, a rooting and watering deeply, often in-between pages of poetry and prose. A soaking in music, hot drinks, a pause. A conscious sound of silence. Metaphoric silence of course, with our beautiful gaggle of geese here who forgot to fly south. But a season that naturally draws close, simmers, sips, a mind that knows it grows through fallowness. We rest to awake. We drink to quench. We sow to harvest. No matter the broken pipes, icy roads, cold hearts, January breathes of life to come. It takes only a moment to see through the fog, hail, to the gifts given all around. ❤

Quotes for Reflection ~

“The beautiful is as useful as the useful.” He added after a moment’s pause,” Perhaps more so.” Les Miserables – Victor Hugo p. 23

“There may be more beautiful times, but this one is ours.” Jean-Paul Sartre

~

 

Dear Friend

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Dear Friend, 

It has been such a long time since I last wrote. How are you? We find ourselves in a bit of a grey, snowy landscape, yet not without its pleasures. The sun has been shining, glittering off the white brightness, and the temperatures fluctuating between icy negatives to downright balmy 30-ish degrees fahrenheit. Our dear Phoebe turned SIX years old this week and it’s been a spread-out, quiet-like celebration for the past few days. Just her style. She loved her little felt kitty family we stitched for her and we’ve read through her new book twice already.  She asked for a batch of  scones for her Saturday breakfast. Our first two weeks back to our home learning have been just lovely, albeit a few inevitable back-to-the-books hiccups. “Opportunity” by Edward Sill, Spanish lessons, and a sewing class are just few things we’ve loved. I find myself fighting to enjoy all the beauty in this moment, in this season, yet with an anticipation for the coming of spring. There’s a fine line between contentment and looking forward to something, is there not? The bird feeders have been full and I’ve especially enjoyed the American Goldfinches with their dull grey winter coats on, a hint of their brilliance on the edges. They are so much daintier then the jolly, chubby Juncos.  How is the weather in your area? We’ve enjoyed a winter picnic on a brilliant sunny morning, when the temperature rose a bit. We even attempted tea making by melting snow over a crackling fire. A lovely time of relaxing. The children have ice skated and brought out their sleds, their tracks and paths, crisscrossing the acreage. How is your family doing? Anything new brewing? I’m easing back into some crafting, which has been enjoyable. I set aside some of it two children ago, and now with older ones pitching in, we’ve been able to try our hands at embroidery, painting, and I’m gazing at fabric stacks waiting for a new project. On my book stack, I’m especially slowly savoring The Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury. It’s definitely a bit weird, but very creative and thought-provoking. This is the first time, in a long while, I’ve enjoyed a collection of short stories. Have you read anything lovely lately? Well, I better close, as I have a birthday lunch to prepare. I’m thinking of a lemon cake for afternoon tea as well. Maybe from my Jane Brocket book. Blessings to you, dear friend, and can’t wait to hear from you soon.

Love & beauty to your day!

Amy

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{Simple Scones – Allrecipes – I double the recipe. We omit the raisins and I sometimes substitute Greek yogurt if I don’t have sour cream on hand. Sometimes, I add a little nutmeg or other spice. I would love caraway seed, but some of the children aren’t fans.}

~

I will tune my harp again ~

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FULFILL THY WILL (Psalm 42:5)

“O my soul, why art thou vexed

And disquieted in me?”

Why cast down and sore perplexed,

Goest thou so heavily?

Hath the Lord thy God forgot?

Can it be He careth not?

 

Nay, He careth. Clouds of sadness

    Quick dissolve in gracious rain.

God of all my joy and gladness,

I will tune my harp again;

I will sing Thy love long tried,

And Thy comforts multiplied.

 

I have proved the heavenly treasure

Sustenance in desert land;

I have tasted of the pleasure

Stored for us at Thy right hand.

Now right joyously I praise

Thee, the Succor of my days.

 

Surely peace, like some fair river,

Reacheth even unto me;

And my leaf need never wither

     For my root is hid in Thee.

Ever let Thy love fulfill

In me, Lord, Thy welcome will.

 

~Amy Carmichael

Mountain Breezes, p. 96

(emphasis mine)

~

First Things Preeminent

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Ice crystals of my heart

Jack Frost across my soul

Clang, din, discord, tearing apart

Driving wind takes toll

 

Sun dogs flare out, refracted chill

Which came first?

This distracted frayed heart, ready to spill?

Or relationships, cursed?

 

This tension, people or peace

Relationship blizzards, slippery and cold

When will these flakes cease?

When will I bow, buckle, and fold?

 

There must be a shelter,

Where the two can dwell together,

A place where first things are first

But freedom of peace, stillness can bloom, burst

 

It won’t be easy, a bitter battle fought

An inner quietness, calm

Midst a white barrenscape, thrown and caught

A teeny snowflake resting on my palm

 

Frosty breath, stomping feet

Hot drinks, arms cuddled

Warmth and cool, people and peace, mix, meet

A forever mixture, a forever dance, forever muddled

 

People preeminent, peace frost bitten?

Or soul warmth, relationships forgotten?

Frozen stream on pause

Gray skies, blankness, life’s unanswerable flaws.

~

New Year’s Ramblings

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Icy fingers wrap around my ankles as I sit here at our big wood desk. I feel shackled, worn, old, and frankly, cold.  The pellet stove is chug, chug, chugging, the edges of our old home are a bit chilly.  Thank God for the licking, crackling warmth, for piles of quilts, and thick socks. How are you beginning out the new year? I feel a bit stuck, dazed, and confused, which is how I probably am every year after the holidays. Not the cheery new year post you were looking for? I’m sorry for that. I just needed a place to ramble.

Foremost on my mind is our formal learning beginning again Monday here at Hearth Ridge Farm. I’m excited and anticipating diving into all the beauty with my children. Meeting again our favorite friends through the piles of books, forming relationships with many things, and being pointed in a subtle, gentle, really loving way to the One who gave it all to us.   I’m very aware of the fortitude and determination this takes on my part. It’s a humbling and a discipline to choose this educational path for our family. I’m extremely grateful and know it’s a privilege to even HAVE this choice. Not all families are able to walk this road, even if they desired too, and I know that it isn’t always the easiest route in some countries with legalities. I’m praying and ruminating on this and have things generally set for beginning.

I’ve been thinking about peace and relationships. That they aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Although they certainly seem that way at times. By peace, I mean, a quietness, a calmness, a sameness. Ha. Ya. Really the opposite of relationships. Real relationships are a tension, a messiness, and a dance. Of course, that’s what makes them so beautiful and so ugly.

I began reading Les Misérables as part of my goal for classics this year and I’m really enjoying it so far. I knew I had to get started on it so that I can savor and not get rushed and bogged down in huge sections to read.

I enjoy writing so much, but sometimes I think I overthink how much time or quiet it takes. It DOES take a lot of editing to make a thoughtful piece, but the initial puking it out doesn’t have to be fancy or long-winded. Sometimes I feel like there are a thousand little dwarf ideas pounding at the inside of my head with their pickaxes, but poof, they are gone in an instant, and if I don’t write them down quickly, I forget. So, I have piles of gems waiting for me to refine, buffing to bring out their shine. I keep reading things how one needs to just do what they want to do NOW, you know seize the day and all that rot, because we don’t know how much time we have, but that wars within me due to the season I’m in. The truth is that I find it VERY difficult to have the mental space and clarity to write very much. And I’m ok with that. Or rather, I’m learning and choosing to be ok with that. The rewards for what I’m privileged to do right now, far outweigh any perceived level of greenness I can only guess at on the other side of the fence.

I don’t have a lot of goals or resolutions or even really a word this year. Not yet, anyway. Aren’t I just a ray of hot sunshine? I think it is going to boil down to something to do with how seriously I take my faith. How do the affections of my heart order? How am I walking in obedience to what I believe is true? How can I quiet and yield myself, listening for His still, small voice? I also have been praying about how easily I forget my faith for ungratefulness when plans go awry, or dryers break for a time, or relationships rear the ugly side of the head. Oh, to live on a higher plain then the immediate.

I probably sound depressed, but I assure you, I am not. I’m trying to be realistic. 😉 However, I have some bends in the yellow brick road ahead. For instance, I’m very inspired by Edith Holden’s nature notebooks and have plans to work on mine. Our feeders are full of birds and there is nothing better than quietly watching them. I have an embroidery and quilt project on the docket.  My oldest daughter and I are going to take a sewing class. Our Charlotte Mason group will beginning again and I’m honored to be researching and planning for our new poet. Piles of books, mugs of coffee, gorgeous, never-ending views, a family gathered, and a Love of a Savior that never gives up on me.

I’m good. Happy first week of January. Stay warm.

~