Beautiful Day

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Intentional Reading for Mothers

Reading by the Window
Charles James Lewis

I have read several excellent posts lately on the subject of reading---more specifically, reading with the intent to sharpen our minds and hearts in order to be filled up with great thoughts out of which we give to others.  Reading has always been a very centerpiece of my life and our home.  Thanks to this great book, one of the very first books I read on educating our children, I was spurred on to adopt the philosophy that our children need the same from an early age.  They need to "engage" with heroes, well-written stories, and the very Word of God itself.  I still believe that if we do little else, our children will benefit tremendously by becoming good readers.  Not only should they become excellent and discerning readers in their own right, but we should be investing time at home in feeding their souls by reading to them.

I also know that in a busy world and with much to manage at home, the mind certainly wants to become lazy--or it seems that way to me.  I have noticed as I've grown older that the disciplines I cherish require all the more discipline.  My mind wants to wander.  It doesn't want to focus on the Bible as I read it.  It doesn't naturally lend itself to memorizing Scripture.  I find this very frustrating.  And as I have read these articles of late about reading, I am finding encouragement to keep at the spiritual disciplines.  Part of this for me is the exhortation to continue to read from great minds and to read difficult things sometimes.  It takes work.  And it would seem "work" is just what we need.

In a world bombarded with books, and may I say, so very many NOT worth the ink, it can be difficult to determine just what we should spend our time reading.  I keep reading lists in a file.  I also jot down a book in my "brain" (planning book) any time I come across what looks like an interesting title.

In future posts I hope to share some of my lists for various reading "groups"--books for girls, books for boys, theological books, family read-alouds, and books on topics of interest in keeping the home, to name a few categories.  For today, I am sharing a list for women and mothers.  Karen Andreola coined a term called "Mother Culture."  I like this expression of cultivating our hearts as mothers, both to refresh and renew our hearts and vision, and to share it with others.
 "A woman cannot give out greatness of mind if she has not invested her mind in great thoughts."~Sally Clarkson, I Take Joy
I readily admit that I have a long way to go in my reading of great thoughts and minds.  I think this is one area where the expression "it's not a destination, but a journey" is especially fitting.  I may never be as well-read as some of my friends and that is okay.  What matters is that I am making the time to read quality books, fascinating stories, and the things that will challenge my weak places, strengthen my strong points, and give wings to visions and dreams.  I want to be a woman filled with greatness of mind in order to share it with my own children and with younger women, according to Titus 2.

So here's my list.  Of course it is not exhaustive.  You may have favorites that aren't here (and I'd love for you to share them!).  You may not even like some of them.  But I share them as a launching point for your own journey.  My hope is you will find encouragement, delight for your soul, and something to take away that lifts your heart and mind to do great things in your own dominion of home and family.

  1. The Bible
  2. "The Hidden Art of Homemaking"--Edith Schaeffer
  3. "What is a Family?"--Edith Schaeffer
  4. "Homemaking"--J.R. Miller
  5. "For the Family's Sake"--Susan Schaeffer Macauley
  6. "The Mission of Motherhood" and other books by Sally Clarkson
  7. "The Trapp Family Singers"--Maria von Trapp
  8. "Stepping Heavenward"--Elizabeth Prentiss
  9. "One Thousand Gifts"--Ann Voskamp
  10. "Your Home:  A Place of Grace"--Susan Hunt
  11. "Feminine Appeal" and "Girl Talk"--Carolyn Mahaney
  12. "Mother"--Kathleen Norris
  13. "The Shaping of a Christian Family" and other books by Elisabeth Elliot
  14. "Queen of the Home"--ed. by Jennifer McBride
  15. "The Private World of Tasha Tudor"--Tasha Tudor and Richard Brown
Happy Reading!

(For other great thoughts and resources regarding reading, see Sally's post  on I Take Joy and check out my friend, Carrie's blog on reading from a Christian worldview).

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Snow Adventure

I mentioned that Warrior and the children went to find the snow.  And that we were hoping for snow.  Well, we DID get some snow.  And around here, ANY is a welcome sight!  It didn't last long on our ground here at home though, beautiful as it was.  So with a work holiday and some eager children in tow, off went Tender Warrior to the nearest mountain with more snow to actually play in.  We are blessed to be near beautiful mountains.  Once upon a time we lived in more of the "flatlands" of the country and though they have their own kind of beauty, I am grateful for the kind of beauty that is here.

Little ones were a bit cold, as I hear it was very windy up there.  So sometimes they watched from the shelter of the truck.  Others didn't care so much until they'd had their fill of snow.

After a couple of hours, all were ready to warm up and dry off.  Hot chocolate and marshmallows were waiting to warm up the insides.

Sometimes I get rather frustrated at being a "suburban-ite."  Actually, we call our home-sweet-home our "Suburban Homestead."  I truly am grateful for just how much we have been able to do on this space we've been blessed with.  So much of it is because of the efforts of the strong arms of my Tender Warrior and I love him for it.  We all dream sometimes of living in the country just so our children have ROOM---to explore God's mighty creation and to be in tune with His natural world more than the techno-gadget world that threatens to consume at every turn and swallow up REAL relationships and REAL beauty in the outdoors (I'm not arguing the merits of technology here---it certainly has its merits!  And I'm all for Christians taking dominion of technology in ways that honor God and further His kingdom.  I'm just expressing my chagrin at how much it can encompass our lives and leave us "weak" in our engagement with other people and how we were designed  to live in a garden, as it were, being outside much more than most of us are).

I really try to do my best to get us outside as often as possible.  But I often do long for space that is quiet and full of "scope for the imagination."  Breathing room and opportunities for the children to do more with animals.  That is my idealistic side (thinking of Prince Edward Island or the English countryside of Beatrix Potter or James Herriot here).  I perfectly know the grass is not greener elsewhere.  We are determined to make the best of where God has placed us and believe that He knows each one of our personalities and gifts and will make ways for those to be used no matter where we abide.

"I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in."

~George Washington Carver

"To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment."
~Jane Austen

"We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things."
~Charlotte Mason  

Friday, January 20, 2012

Everything for His Glory

My Young Warrior was listening to one of his favorite songs.  It drew me in.  And really there are few joys in life that compare to dancing in the quiet of your home with a baby in your arms.  It ranks up there just under dancing in the living room with your husband.  So that is what I found myself doing.  It's even more fun when other children join in.

The chorus of the lyrics goes like this:

As you do every thing you do for the glory of the One who made you
Cause He made you
To do
Every little thing that you do
To bring a smile to His face
And tell the story of grace
With every move that you make
And every little thing you do

I needed to just soak in those words for a little while.  Am I telling the story of grace as I go about the day in my responses and conversations?  This song just has a way of lifting me out of the mundane and putting joy in the journey and a spring in my step.  Ordinarily, I prefer more reflective and "quieter" music.  But I have kept Steven Curtis Chapman as a favorite for well over twenty years (and yes, some of his songs are quiet and reflective).  Meaningful, well-chosen words is one reason why.  I find his  music so compelling because he also seems to have a grasp of the condition of our human souls--the struggles, the messes, AND the victories--and how we need to be turned God-ward in the midst of every moment.

These words also brought to mind the voice of my Young Princess when she was even younger and we were teaching them the Catechism for Young Children.

Q:  Who made you?
A:  God.

Q:What else did God make?
A:  God made all things.

Q:  Why did God make you and all things?
A:  For His own glory. 

When the moment was gone, I was a bit sad it was over.  I think I wanted to play it again.  I decided to see if there was a good video to go with it.  Children were giggling and the older ones came over to see.  Now all of us were laughing at the funny antics of Steven Curtis Chapman in this video. 

I hope this might bring some joy to your day---and delight that you were made for His glory!  I know I can use this reminder often.  So though the video is a bit goofy, I hope the message of the lyrics ministers to your heart today.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Time Well Spent

 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 

~Ephesians 5:15-17, ESV

I appreciate messages, books, and sermons in the month of January that remind me to take time to evaluate and plan.  I do want to make the most of my time---or rather, His time, which I am a steward of.  I LOVE planning and thinking and I never seem to think there is enough time for it.  As much as I thrive on it, there are times and seasons where I feel like I just can't squeeze it in to busy days and I try to tell myself it will be okay.  But my spirit gets cluttered and pretty soon everything is out-of-focus and my vision is blurry.  I really need to preserve time for planning and evaluating--in order to hear from the Lord, prioritize, be renewed in vision and spirit so that I can joyfully keep on giving.  At the beginning of a new year I am considering how to spend our time and days this year.  I am reading a delightful little book, Shopping for Time, by Carolyn Mahaney and daughters.  I'm finding it such a helpful little read from this wise woman as she has discipled her daughters in how to look carefully, evaluate, and redeem the time.

One of their tips is to "Sit and Plan."  In other words, to take a planning retreat--be it a night or weekend away, or just a few hours.  Sally Clarkson often talks about this as well.  I have heard her "voice" reminding me that I need to do what is necessary for me to keep on going.  I need to protect that vision and joy so that I will persevere and not give up on my ideals or become complacent (or just plain not very fun to be around).  I cannot do anything in my own strength and this becomes readily apparent when I start operating without taking time to be still--to sit and plan.

" we can't afford to put off charting a course for life's seasons because we are too busy.  The pressures of life are, in fact, the very reason we need to sit and plan."
~Carolyn Mahaney, Shopping for Time
The authors remind us that Jesus withdrew from ministry at set times to pray and discern the Father's will (Luke 5:15-16).  I like to think of it this way:

To advance in the battle we need times of retreat 

I took such an opportunity this week as Warrior and all children, except baby, headed to the mountains for some snow play.  Oh, it was delightful to enjoy a quiet house and I could feel myself being filled up!  Thoughts started flowing as I read, considered the Word, and listened (and wasn't interrupted).  I finished putting my planner together, being content to put together my own this year in a format that works for me.  It was all just so encouraging and so fruitful, for just the few short hours they were.

I am hoping to preserve more consistent planning retreats this year--on a weekly basis would be nice.  I have heard the following quote repeatedly for the past several years (and again in the January sermon I was privileged to hear recently), an find it to be true and helpful:
Write down what you believe to be the will of God in a place where you can see it in time to take obedient action.
~Gregg Harris 

This is really the only way I can see any progress on my goals.  Otherwise, they end up buried in "my brain" (aka personal planner) and I easily forget them.

May you be encouraged to take some time to sit and plan at the Master's feet.  I believe you will be refreshed and rewarded with joy and perseverance to live out your days well by glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Snowflake Tea Party

It's January.  But there's no snow here.  There's actually sun, which we are very happy for as well because it too is rare this time of year!  We wish for snow and even pray for it at times.  It doesn't happen here near as often as we'd like.  But we're going to pretend and talk and decorate as if there were snow.  It's January and something special is in order.  My little Princesses have been begging for a real tea party (as opposed to their frequent pretending with their play tea sets).  So with some last-minute inspiration we pulled this together.

 When I make tea parties I do like to do the extravagant.  But not always.  And in this case, there wasn't time.  Sometimes simplicity is all that's called for--and children are equally happy.  I went with a white and blue theme--something that looks wintry.  I've seen some beautiful all-white and elegant winter snowflake tea party ideas out there, but that wasn't going to be for us today.  Instead this is a more child-friendly and simple, but lovely occasion.

The decorations:  Our paper snowflakes made together that hang each year.  A little tree with some paper snowflakes sprinkled throughout and some pinecones.  So I guess you could say my theme was kind of a woodland winter.

The food:  Anything close to white we could come up with on short-notice.  We made snowflake cream-cheese and lemon curd tea sandwiches.  I splurged and bought Pirate Booty "chips" and sour cream and onion bunny crackers.  White cheese, pieces of banana, cucumbers (that turned out to be a bit green) and the must-have snowflake cookies (made with these cookie cutters) that the children made.  I had visions of making white cocoa, but since I could not find any, we just had cocoa with some whipped cream on top.  Truth be told, I'm not a fan of white chocolate anyway (it's not really chocolate and it just tastes like sugar to me).  Heated and whipped up eggnog would have worked too, though it seems stores aren't selling it anymore so you'd have to make the homemade variety.

During our lunch we talked about winter activities we dream of doing--sleigh rides for my horse-loving Country Girls, skiing down a mountain fast and making a bona fide snow fort with one of those cool snow brick makers for my Young Warrior, building snowmen and snow horses, and cross country skiing in the countryside for me (along with all of the previously mentioned activities, except that I'm not so sure I'm likely to ski fast down mountains anymore).  We read some winter time poems from Favorite Poems Old and New, including my favorite, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."  We just tried to linger here awhile and enjoy it all before it was time to move on to other chores and work of the day.  I so enjoy finding opportunities to bless and lift spirits with a little bit of beauty.  It was just what we needed for today.

The weather forecast is mentioning snow.  We are hopeful.  Whether or not it materializes, we enjoyed our little imaginary jaunt in a winter wonderland.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Life-Giving Grandmother

"...Lifegiving should be a lifestyle and a lifetime ministry, which is both a path to feminine maturity and a source of wisdom to pass down to the next generation of women."
 ~Barbara Mouser, Five Aspects of Woman

My grandmother is 92 years old.  She is my last living grandparent.  Grandpa has been gone for over ten years now.  I don't get to see Grandma very often, but I treasure the times I still get to visit with her.  One such occasion happened just recently.  She is still living in her home of nearly 50 years and it looks just like it did when I was a little girl.  She was perfectly delighted to see the great-grandchildren and to meet Littlest Warrior.

This woman is a model to me of what it means to be a life-giver as a woman.  She raised life above mere existence every time that I saw her.  When I was a young girl, we saw her very often as we didn't live too far away.  As I grew and we moved farther away, I didn't get to see her as often.  But every time I did, it was greatly anticipated.  I treasured the times we got to stay overnight at her house.  We would wake up to the smells and sounds of breakfast cooking, which usually included some delicious fruit coffeecake.  I think she must have constantly been making food (like I do now!) and she did it with such joy.  We all sit around and laugh now about how much food they would try to offer us--it was just Grandma and Grandpa's way of blessing others and giving them life.

I learned some traditions from her that I have continued just to have the continuity of generations (and because I like them and they will always make me think of her).  For example, at Easter we make a 3-dimensional lamb cake.  I can't remember a year without one as a little girl.  My grandma had this beautiful cast-iron mold that I tried and tried to find one like in my adult years, but I didn't want to pay the price antique dealers wanted for one.  Imagine my delight when she gave me hers!  This was after she had spent well over 50 years making them every single year (and usually more than one for each family of grandchildren).  She is Roman Catholic and I believe this is a tradition from her Polish roots that went along with the blessing of the baskets at Easter-time.

Then there were the butter cookies--those delicious, melt-in-the-mouth, shortbread-like morsels with the beautiful cookie stamp designs on them. She has since gifted me with several cookie stamps and we make these once a year.

She has always loved children and at 92 she still delights in interacting with them.  I want to be like her in the way she makes children smile and so enjoy being with her.  It seems so many people nowadays get older and don't want to or don't have the patience to be around children.

Every holiday was surrounded with joy when Grandma and Grandpa were part of it.  They used to arrange phone calls from Santa Claus on their old dial phone (and we fully believed it was real!)  One year I had the chicken pox in December and then my siblings got them--right during Christmas!  This meant no visit to Grandma's for Christmas and I can remember being so VERY disappointed.

Tea parties and games on the kitchen table I will never forget--the laughter, the warm cup of tea with a little milk and sugar, looking out at the radio tower lights in the distance from their window.  So many warm memories because she spoke life into me just by her acts of kindness and the time spent for and with me.  She also gave life with her words and still does--she always encourages me.

Now when we visit her we soak in all of her stories as much as possible.  There are almost always stories about World War II.  She also told us about the first time she saw an airplane....about the old days of Chicago when there were rarely cars but many more peddler she and her sister would sneak rides on the backs of those her mother would have them scoop up after the horses to have fertilizer for the garden.....about how strict the nuns were in her school if they found out you went to see the movies during Lent.  I really wish I had some means of capturing these on audio file.  But for now I am writing them down.


I often think about what it will be like when I reach "grandma-hood."  I think it is sad that in our present culture so many women raise their children and consider their job "done" and then go back to work or their own pursuits, having little time to invest in their grandchildren.  A true multi-generational legacy must have grandmothers (and grandparents) who see the bigger picture and understand that they do indeed have a role in investing in the lives of their future generations for the glory of God.  There are many Scriptural exhortations in this regard.  I have a dear friend whom I remember saying that she keeps a journal of all the things she wants to remember to tell herself to do (and not do) and be like when she is a grandma.  I have done this a little.  I do want to remember such lessons.  When I get there, I hope that I will be like my life-giving Grandma.  I am blessed to still be receiving life from her example.
"We need only have one care--that we live well our one short life as we go on, that we love God and our neighbor, that we believe on Christ and obey his commandments, that we do each duty as it comes to our hand, and do it well.  Then no sudden coming of the end will ever surprise us unprepared.  Then, while glad to live as long as it may be God's will to leave us here, we shall welcome the gentle angel who comes with the golden joy to lead us to rest and home."
~J.R. Miller, The Home Beautiful 


Friday, January 6, 2012

Pondering Wisdom on Epiphany

Epiphany---it means "to make known" or "reveal."  And I am in need of revelation today.  I seem to be walking about in a fog--not at all with the kind of intention those wise men must have had in following the star to that wee cradle in Bethlehem.

It is the formal end of the Christmas season.  Difficult as it is in our culture, I am determined to hold onto Christmas throughout the twelve days (which follow, not precede Christmas Day).  Each year I slowly develop more thought as to how to make this happen.  It is far from a perfect thought, but it is in process.  And on this particular day in the church calendar we celebrate the arrival of The Wise Men to see Jesus, bearing their regal gifts for a true King.  Christ was revealed to them.  That HAS to be amazing!

 I have been thinking long and hard about this, trying to make sense out of my foggy day (it happens to be both foggy outside and foggy inside). What does it look like to be truly wise?  How do I live so that Christ is revealed to me and through me?

"Never be content with your current grasp of the gospel.  The gospel is life-permeating, world-altering, universe-changing truth.  It has more facets than a diamond.  Its depths man will never exhaust.    ~"The Cross-Centered Life" by C.J. Mahaney 

It's sort of a buzz-word (phrase) to say I must "preach the gospel to myself everyday."  But it is nonetheless true and wholly necessary.  On this day it has been particularly difficult.  I have wished for a heart like the Wise Men---offering the best that I have, seeking until I find what is truly worth finding, and letting Christ show himself to me.  Sadly, today that heart has been lacking.

It's been good to celebrate this day (though we really did most of it last night on Twelfth Night), turn our thoughts toward the Wise Men, and seek for God's wisdom.  At day's end my fog has lifted.  I wish I could see the stars outside, but I am ever so grateful that the star of His revelation has dawned right now.  And HE is the one giving gifts to me!  May my humble offerings (and even daily messes) somehow shine forth His glory.

"Each breath I intake,
ev'ry beat of my heart,
All pleasures well-tasted
are His to impart
Indeed, for such blessings
He should be adored
And honored supremely 
as eminent Lord."

~"A Gospel Primer" by Milton Vincent 

(And here's our King Cake to commemorate the occasion).

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Need of the Hour

Picking Apples---Arthur John Elsley

What does the country need?  Not armies standing
With sabers gleaming ready for the fight;
Not increased navies, skillful and commanding,
To bound the waters with an iron might;
Not haughty men with glutted purses trying
To purchase souls, and keep the power of place;
Not jeweled dolls with one another vying
For palms of beauty, elegance, and grace.

But we want women, strong of soul, yet lowly
With that rare meekness, born of gentleness;
Women whose lives are pure and clean and holy,
The women whom all little children bless;
Brave, earnest women, helpful to each other,
With finest scorn for all things low and mean;
Women who hold the names of wife and mother
Far nobler than the title of a queen.

Oh!  These are they who mold the men of story,
These mothers, ofttime shorn of grace and youth, 
Who, worn and weary, ask no greater glory
Than making some young soul the home of truth;
Who sow in hearts all fallow for the sowing
The seeds of virtue and of scorn for sin,
And, patient, watch the beauteous harvest growing
And weed out tares which crafty hands cast in.

Women who do not hold the gift of beauty
As some rare treasure to be bought and sold,
But guard it as a precious aid to duty--
The outer framing of the inner gold;
Women, who, low above their cradles bending,
Let flattery's voice go by, and give no heed,
While their pure prayers like incense are ascending
These are our country's pride, our country's need.

~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox

from "Queen of the Home," ed. by Jennifer McBride

May you live as the queen of your home today!  Our work IS needed!



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