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Archive for the ‘Jane Austen’ Category

Lockdowns and race riots. Isolation and old wounds. What on earth does Jane Austen have to do with it all? A lot, it turns out. An awful lot.

While I’ve read both Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility, and have watched the film adaptations more times than I care to admit (who else can join this club?), I never got the urge to snuggle up on the sofa with a blanket, a cup of tea, and Mansfield Park, Austen’s 3rd published novel. One viewing of the film adaptations was enough, and those never inspired me to read the book.

But one of my lockdown activities was to re-watch the 1999 and 2007 versions of Mansfield Park as well as give the 1983 version a chance. The 80s version had always looked too–well, slow. And slow it was–deliciously slow, if you’re hankering to see nearly all of the dialogue and scenes from Austen’s novel brought to the screen. Although the cinematography and soundtrack aren’t quite the delight to the senses that the later versions are (it was rather like watching a play), after seeing the 80s version, the others seemed horribly rushed. Entire scenes and characters from the novel had been cut out. Not only that, but Fanny herself–the dutiful, steady, almost timid character that Austen created–had been lost and turned into something more flashy and exciting. One review of the 1999 version was titled, “Please, Miramax, Don’t Call it Mansfield Park” (Rosenbaum) because of the films extreme alteration of Fanny Price.

Frances O’Conner & Johnny Lee Miller in Mansfield Park, 1999

I also realized something more significant that I so disliked about the 1999 version in particular–its inclusion of slavery. While tending her bedridden cousin, Tom, who has just returned from Antigua, Fanny discovers his sketchbook. It is full of horrifying depictions of the goings on at the family’s plantation. The pictures are upsetting, and the fact that slavery is presented, but not dealt with, didn’t sit well with me.

In the novel, Fanny and her cousin Edmund have a conversation–

“Did you not hear me ask him about the slave trade last night?”

“I Did – and was in hopes the question would be followed by others.  It would have pleased your uncle to be inquired of farther.”

“And I longed to do it – but there was such a dead silence!”

One wonders what was meant by this “dead silence.” Was the family disinterested or embarrassed by mention of the slave trade? Whatever the case, they were not eager to speak of it. I wondered what Austen herself, thought, and started digging . . .

Billie Piper & Blake Ritson, Mansfield Park, 2007

What did Austen think about slavery? Why did she mention it in her book? After all, Austen’s world is one where one can count on villains getting their comeuppance and all being put to right. I watch and read Austen to escape to a world of balls and empire waist dresses, where the biggest threat is a marriage proposal from the likes of Mr. Collins–not to be shown one of the world’s greatest evils, only to have it left unresolved. And though I still think Mansfield Park is in a different category because of the inclusion of this grave topic, on further examination I’ve realized it’s not as different from Austen’s other novels as I first thought.

Woven through her stories of romance and happy endings she included many social issues which concerned her, such as the custom of marrying for money and social status rather than suitability and love. She made many statements about morality through the repercussions her characters faced as a result of their choices. The outcomes of their lives are meant to make us consider our own. And though she could not erase slavery, she made a statement about this, too.

We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.

– Fanny Price, Mansfield Park

The most obvious statement is made with the title of the book–Mansfield Park. It is believed by many scholars that Austen chose this name because of Lord Mansfield, who presided over the case of James Somerset, a slave who escaped from his owner while on English soil.  Mansfield declared that a slave could not be forcibly removed from England against his will. By using the name of this well known judge, who declared slavery “odious” (White), Austen was most likely making her own views known.

Sylvestra Le Touzel & Nicholas Ferrell in Mansfield Park, 1983

Mansfield Park was completed in 1813, just five years after The Slave Trade Act of 1807 abolished slavery in the United Kingdom. Austen would have been very aware of the goings on in the Caribbean, both because of current events, and because of her own family’s involvement (her brother was in the navy and intercepted a Portuguese slave ship, her father was made the trustee of a plantation, while her cousins settled in the West Indies). This all would have given her insight into many of the ins and outs of the slave trade, and also most likely the horrors of the practice, which she would have known about when she wrote Mansfield Park.

As further evidence of her opinion on slavery, in one of her letters to her sister Cassandra, she writes of her “love” for the writing of prominent abolitionist, Thomas Clarkson (Davis). She was also fan of poet William Cowper, a fervent abolitionist, who wrote poems such as “The Negro’s Complaint” (Tomalin). It seems very likely from her writings, especially her prayers, that Jane Austen had a strong Christian faith, and the Christian worldview that all people are made in God’s image would certainly have affected her view of the slave trade (Haykin).

And speaking of abolitionists, my lockdown movie binge also led me back to the film Amazing Grace, 2006. This movie depicts the lives of William Wilberforce, British politician and leader in the movement to abolish slavery, and John Newton, former slave ship captain who penned the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” after God changed his heart and life. This was a great movie to share with my oldest boys, and brought up some important conversations. I was also delighted to see that Sylvestra Le Touzel & Nicholas Ferrell, who play Fanny and Edmund in the 1983 version of Mansfield Park, play Marianne and Henry Thornton, friends of Wilberforce. How wonderful that they were able to act in two films with such important messages.

Sylvestra Le Touzel & Nicholas Ferrell as Marianne & Henry Thornton, Amazing Grace, 2006

If you haven’t seen any of the above films–or indeed read Mansfield Park–they are wonderful ways to learn about some of the people from history who have stood against the mistreatment of others, particularly with regards to slavery. Lord Mansfield, John Newton, William Wilberforce, and even our own Jane Austen (now don’t we like her even more?).

More amazing things about Jane Austen & fun literary & movie connections coming soon…

Avonlea x

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Instagram @happylittlesigh or Facebook @happylittlesigh

Happy Little Sigh

Finding beauty in the everyday

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Quarantine and stay-at-home is these four walls, and this same view. It is little more in terms of location than a trip to the supermarket every two weeks, or a stroll around the block for some exercise. And so holidays, and visits, and adventures must be had by way of video chats, movies, and books. But what if it could be more? What if you could spend your quarantined time not just reading, but living in the pages of a book and being its heroine for a while? If you could do just that, to which if these five period classics would you escape for a month?

1. Jane Eyre – You’d have a large room to yourself, complete with four-poster bed and a view of the gardens in a beautiful, but slightly spooky English manor house. Your mornings would be spent studying French, Geography, and Flora & Fauna with Adele, Mr. Rochester’s ward. Your afternoons would be spent painting, or wandering the moors and gardens of Thornfield Hall. In the evenings, you could have long talks with Mr. Rochester, or chat with the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax. It would be a quiet escape to a beautiful place with some good company, but you’d have do endure the occasional eerie noises outside your door at night.Jane Eyre

 

2. Little Women – You’d share a cozy room with your sisters, complete with a fireplace, lots of quilts and books, and a view of your quaint New England village. Your mornings would be spent taking food to the needy, or reading to your Great Aunt Josephine. Your afternoons would be spent having walks in the woods with your charming but incorrigible neighbor, Laurie. In the evenings, you could do some playacting in the attic with your sisters, or stay up late into the night writing by candlelight. This would be an escape full of lovely people and lovely ideas, but you might occasionally find yourself a little bored and longing for more adventure. littlewomen199413

 

3. Anne of Green Gables – You’d have a bedroom to yourself, complete with iron bed, washstand, and a view of green farmland. You’d spend your mornings at the small island school, where you’d learn to spell C-h-r-y-s-a-n-t-h-e-m-u-m, and would have to endure teasing by Gilbert Blythe. You’d spend your afternoons strolling along the shore beneath the lighthouse with Diana Berry, or holding tea parties, or reenacting poems like “The Lady of Shallot.” You could spend your evenings sitting by the fire chatting with Matthew and Marilla, or reading books. This would be happy escape to a cozy community, but you might grow tired of the taunting from Josie Pye, and with the ugly dresses Marilla makes you wear. green gables house

 

4. Pride & Prejudice – You’d have to share a bedroom in your large family home in England with your sister Jane, complete with beautiful furnishings and a view of your family’s small park. Your mornings would be spent reading, or listening to your sisters squabble. Your afternoons would be spent walking in the garden picking flowers, or visiting your friend Charlotte Lucas. In the evenings you could attend balls and gatherings, where you’d get the chance to mingle with many different people, including Mr. Darcy. This escape would present a good mixture of peaceful and exciting moments, but you might not like having to be polite to Mr. Whickam, or putting up with withering looks from Mr. Bingley’s sisters. pride and prejudice dance

 

5. Little House on the Prairie – You’d share a room with your sister in your family’s simple pioneer home with a view of the rolling prairie. You’d spend your mornings doing chores like churning butter, collecting eggs, and kneading bread. Your afternoons would be spent exploring outside with your sisters, or taking a trip to town in the wagon with Pa. In the evenings, you could listen to Pa tell stories or play folk songs on his fiddle, or sit outside by the fire and look at the stars. You’d learn a lot of practical skills in this escape, and have a happy, wholesome time, but you might feel like you need a vacation from all the hard work when you get back. prairie-e1510179053375-1-850x510

So, which would you choose? Share your pick below, or share on Facebook or Instagram and see how your friends would vote!

Avonlea x

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Facebook @happylittlesigh

Happy Little Sigh

Finding beauty in the everyday 

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“Pretend you’re eating with the Queen,” she’d say, my mother, in those preschool years when my sisters and I would gather around the table for our lunch of cottage cheese and tinned pineapple rings. Oh, and we knew something of the Queen, over in her castle in England, and of Princess Diana and all her lovely clothes. I owned copies of them, after all. Paper copies, which fit neatly onto my Princess Diana paper doll. 
And so when she’d say it, our minds were filled with pictures of a royal banquet at Buckingham Palace. And my sisters and I made sure to keep our elbows off the table, chew with our mouths closed, and always say “Please pass,” instead of stretching for something out of reach.

 

But they weren’t quite enough, those lessons in manners. Didn’t quite do the trick when, sixteen years later, I found myself dining with real royalty–well, they were only 42nd in line for the throne, as I was told. But for this young American, that came close enough.

I arrived by train. My friend was there to greet me, and as we climbed into the car and whizzed down the single track road towards his family home, I felt as though I were being driven to another world. Through the maze of green hedgerows that towered around us, I caught glimpses of thatched cottages and gently rolling fields.  The sky grew smaller as the hedgerows grew taller. And in the next couple of days, I would grow smaller, too. 

“My mother is hosting a dinner party,” he said, my friend, “and you should probably apologize for arriving in the middle of it.”

Wide-eyed, I assented, and when we arrived at the most ancient of large cottages that his family called home, I found his parents and six of their friends gathered around a table (which was really a 400-year-old door) for a casual four-course summer evening meal. 

I dutifully apologized, was met with murmured acceptances of that apology, and was then seated to the left of his mother. 

The meal could have gone worse, I suppose, if I’d tried to make it so, though I made a small disaster of the affair quite well without even having to try. 

And what did I do that was so very wrong?

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I could have laughed a little quieter, eaten a little less, declined the cheese course. But I did not. 

And when the man to my left made a comment about the side-by-side American style refrigerator that my friend’s family had just purchased, followed by the statement that everything in America is large, I could have smiled demurely and said something diplomatic like, “Perhaps that is so, but bigger does not always mean better.” But I did not. 

And when, for the first time in my life, my nose started to bleed, I could have quietly slipped from the table into the other room until it stopped. But as I had a proper handkerchief with me, I decided to use that to dab at my nose, thinking the bleeding would soon stop. But it did not, and I waited until the elderly man who sat across from me looked at me with a measure of horror before I decided to slip away. 

But there is more. 

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.  If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.  

– Emily Post

The next day I awoke to find my hosts in the garden wearing their wellies, having just returned from a countryside stroll with their King Charles spaniel. I was offered some strawberries from a large basket on the kitchen door-table and asked how I had slept.

The main activity of the day was watching my friend play cricket, that most English of games. I sat with his parents to watch the match, where we could look down at the local castle and admire how brilliantly the men’s white cricket uniforms stood out against the green.

“Do you ride?” I was asked. 

had taken horseback riding lessons, but as it had been a few years, I replied with an honest, “No.”

His parents looked thoroughly unimpressed. 

And later on back at the house, as I sat beside the enormous inglenook fireplace while my friend watched a football match on the telly, I was asked, “And what do your parents do?”

It was all a bit too much like that scene in Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth Bennett visits Rosings Park and is interrogated by Lady Catherine De Bourgh. “Do you play and sing?” and “Do you draw?” and all the rest. 

I cringe as I remember the humiliation I endured, though I didn’t realize I was enduring it at the time.

I sigh as I recall the golden English June sunlight that bathed those few days, illuminating the green of the fields and pouring through the windows of that old house.

I laugh at the shock I must have given my friend’s family, especially when I imagine the fear they must have felt that he would fall in love with me and that they would have to welcome me into the family.

And what I wouldn’t give to go back and re-do the visit. Not to deny who I was–the great-granddaughter of poor immigrants who chose to make America their home–but to present myself with more of the discretion, thoughtfulness, and self-respect that I now possess. But that was then, and this is now, and had the visit gone differently, I wouldn’t have been left with such a fine story to tell.

Read more on manners in part 2!

Avonlea xo

Find me on Facebook & Instagram @avonleaqkrueger

See you there? 

happylittlesigh.com

Finding beauty in the everyday 

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I woke smiling. Basking in the sunlight I could feel on my eyelids and in the merry sound of a little bird’s song.

The snow had melted, the sky was blue. Surely we’d put the days of cold and darkness behind us and spring was here. But, oh, not so! Winter is putting up a terrific final fight here in Midwestern USA, and we are living in a snow globe once again.

But I haven’t lost heart, for it will at last be defeated, and until it does, I have every excuse to boil the kettle, slip my feet into my slippers, and curl up with my book.

I’m back in Mitford, do you know it? Have you met Cynthia and Father Tim? They seem real enough that I feel I should introduce them, but then I do have a subconscious way of disbelieving that many of my favourite characters were, in fact, made up. Fictional. Didn’t ever actually exist.

I find myself wondering if they could still be alive . . . or their children or grandchildren at the very least. Maybe a few more greats in there if you’re talking Elizabeth Bennet or Jane Eyre. But Anne Shirley, yes, she and Gilbert could easily have some grandchildren still living. Maybe even children, at a push. I think Rilla was in her early teens during the first World War.

But this character–what to say of them? What to say to convince you that if you haven’t ever visited Mitford, then you really, really should?

I was disbelieving myself, in the beginning. Had a hard time thinking I could ever so adore a book whose hero was a 60-something-year-old Episcopalian priest. But I’ve grown to love him. Him, and the woman he woos, and the people they love and live out life with in their little mountain town.

In the lives of these individuals you will find most of the tragedy and pain you would encounter almost anywhere in this world. There, written across the pages in black and white. And yet the characters are not left abandoned to a cold and self-seeking world. They have each other. And through the actions and words of Father Tim–keen gardener, Wordsworth quoter, reluctant jogger–they are reminded that they also have God.

There are days I’d like to stop by the rectory. Sit by the fire. Ask Cynthia to see her latest watercolor. Rest my body and soul as I sip a cup of sweet Southern iced tea.

I’d like to see these two in action. These two love-birds who go on picnics, and surprise each other with presents, and go walking in the rain. These two who pray together–the prayer that never fails–and though they may themselves be struggling, still seek to shine light into each other’s lives time and time again.

And I’d like to hear her say it. Hear Cynthia tell Father Tim what she loves. And hear him ask back, “What don’t you love?” Because she’s ever so good at saying it. Ever so good at NOT complaining, but instead putting into words her delight in every good and perfect gift, no matter how small. Rain on a summer evening. Sleeping an extra three minutes. An unexpected email from a friend. Why not give thanks for it all?

Complaints come tumbling out so easily, spreading discouragement to all those who hear. So I’m trying to remember to say it–to give thanks out loud for every gift, every glimpse of beauty, no matter how small. 

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Indignant is the word to describe how I felt back in 2005 upon hearing that another version of Jane’s Austen’s beloved novel, Pride and Prejudice, was to be released in the cinema, this time starring English actress Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet. The very existence of this new intruder version felt like an insult to those who had played in the 1995 BBC adaptation of the book. Like utter disloyalty to Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, who, in my mind, actually were Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Why make another when perfection had already been reached?

But of course when the time came for the film to appear in our one local cinema in Inverness, Scotland, where we were living at the time, I went along to see it. And slowly, as I sat with my sweet popcorn and mini tub of ice cream, I felt my arched brow of skepticism slowly fade into a soft smile. For even with the simplified script, the overacting, and that awful brown dress Kiera Knightly dons for the majority of the film, it cannot be denied that with all the talented cinematography that captures the breathtaking Darbyshire scenery and the gorgeous film score by Dario Marianelli, the film is a veritable feast for the eyes and ears. And I decided that perhaps seeing what other artists had to offer was, after all, a good thing. 

I like to put it on in the background sometimes, if I’m, say, folding laundry or working on my scrapbook. But Keira Knightley will never, ever be Elizabeth Bennet, just as the 2005 version will never be to me the haven of coziness, inspiration, and nostalgia that the 1995 version is. 

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And so it will be with this newest adaptation of the novel Anne of Green Gables by Canadian Author Lucy Maude Montgomery, which will air in February 2016. This version was created by Breakthrough Entertainment , and stars young actress Ella Ballentine as the red-headed orphan Anne Shirley, and Martin Sheen as Matthew Cuthbert, the Bachelor who, along with his spinster sister Marilla, ends up adopting the feisty, talented, kindhearted Anne.

Canada’s CBC-TV also has plans to run a series, simply titled “Anne,” which is set to air in 2017, and which CBC says will follow Montgomery’s story line, but will also “chart new territory.” Writer Moira Walley-Beckett say she had adapted Anne’s story and that Anne’s issues are really contemporary ones like feminism, prejudice, and bullying.  

I will watch both versions. And if the trailer for the made-for-TV film is any indication, that adaptation will be charming and entertaining, if nothing else.

But I’m a little concerned that the series will modernize Anne too much, throw Anne’s catch phrases about in a way that becomes obnoxious, make the story into something Montgomery never intended it to be.

 So yes, I’ll watch them, but at the possible risk of having to go back on my word, I’m quite sure that these will not be the versions I go back to–again, and again, and again. Because Megan Follows who starred as Anne in the Sullivan Entertainment   version simply is Anne Shirley, just as Colleen Dewhurst is Marilla, and Jonathan Crombie is Gilbert Blythe.

I was practically introduced to Anne’s world from birth when my mother named me Avonlea, and it was to Sullivan’s 1985 version that I was first introduced. It was these actors whose faces I had in mind as I read the books, these faces I felt uplifted and encouraged by on those days when I, too, felt “in the depths of despair,” or had “a Jonah Day,” or could say of God’s working in my life, “He knew.” They are as much like friends to me as any fictional characters could ever be.

Another chance to view what is probably my favourite story on earth? Yes, please. Perhaps Breakthrough will even go on to make other Anne films based on Montgomery’s books,and stay a little closer to the stories than Sullivan did with their second Anne film. But just as I’m quite sure that a rose called a thistle or a skunk cabbage wouldn’t smell the same, an Anne by any other name could just never be as sweet. 

 

 

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For friend hearts, and sweethearts, and parent hearts, too,

for hungry tummies, and open arms, this one’s for you.

Some truth, some fluff, some real love stuff . . .

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Ah, Janey, make us swoon.

To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.

~Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

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Love? Yeah . . . You’ll be crying . . .

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Well, well . . .

Handsome is as handsome does.

~J.R.R. Tolkien

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Ah, at last . . .

I don’t want sunbursts and marble halls. I just want you.

~Lucy Maud Montgomery,

Anne of the Island

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Sweetest video ever made–send this one to your honey.

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And this is what you can tell them over Valentine’s dinner 😉

Opening her eyes again, and seeing her husband’s face across the table, she leaned forward to give it a pat on the cheek, and sat down to supper, declaring it to be the best face in the world.

~Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

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Love? Oh, WOW.

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Love comforteth like sunshine after rain.

~William Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis

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A little something for the Valentine table.

For your children, for your honey, or for you!

Beetroot and Parsnip Soup with Horseradish*

(nope, not tomato!)

pink soup? think of that! and jolly easy to make!

30 grams butter

1 potato, peeled and chopped

2 parsnips, peeled and chopped

1 small onion, chopped

2 large or 4 small beetroot,

peeled and chopped

800 ml vegetable stock

1oo ml cream and sour cream,

combined

1 T horseradish mixed with

1 T olive oil and 1 t vinegar

Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. And the onion and cook till soft but not brown, then add the potato, parsnip, and vegetable stock/broth. Bring to the boil and then add the beetroot, cooking for a further 15 minutes. Don’t overcook, as the beetroot will go from a lovely deep pink to a red color. When the vegetables are tender, remove from heat and puree with a stick blender (or blender) until the soup is smooth, but with a few lumps. Stir in the cream, sour cream, and horseradish mix and season with salt and black pepper. Exquisite!

*Recipe adapted from Delicious Soups by Belinda Williams

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Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.

~C.S. Lewis

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Wishing the happiest of Valentine weekends to you!

Avonlea x

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Happy Little Sigh is now on Pinterest! Join me there?

http://www.pinterest.com/happylittlesigh/

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AileenDonan5

It all began with a cup of tea.

He wanted one.

And so did I.

We were the only ones.

Earlier, on that cold walk through the night to the student flat where a group of us were meeting for a DVD, there were questions about peanut butter (isn’t that what Americans eat?), and secret smiles, and I thought he must be very young.

I was in Scotland.

The world was green, and there were castles, and though I could hardly understand a word of what he said, my red-haired Scottish loon from the village on the sea,

on the pages of my journal I swore I could marry that boy.

And, more to my amazement than anyone else’s, I did.

We moved to Scotland, and life began.

It began. It didn’t end.

Not like the movies or the books, where it ends with “I do.”

No, that was the beginning.

And I went to teaching and he went to working. And meals were cooked, and floors were swept, and a baby came. And although it happened, every few months, that I’d pinch myself and wonder how little me ever ended up there, in the Highlands of Scotland, most of the time it was just life.

And while life was happening, it also happened—as it happens to us all, I think—that somewhere between the tenth time washing the dishes and the hundredth time making the bed, between the hundredth night up with a crying baby and the thousandth time wiping a toddler’s face, that I began to wonder.

I wondered if this was right.

Because this was not how happily ever after was supposed to go.

Castles and Scottish mist aside, I wasn’t supposed to be tired all of the time, and the housework wasn’t supposed to take so long. I wasn’t supposed to get lonely, and we weren’t, no we weren’t supposed find within our hearts such moments of hate that with our words and our eyes and a turning of our backs we would wound each other. Leave each other bruised, starved, and with our very hands widen the cavern between ourselves and God and between each other.

And yet we did.

And the days were dark.

We could have walked, either one of us, in search of our real life. Our real fairy tale. And though we didn’t feel it, we chose to believe it when we heard that the grass is always greener where you water it.

And even yellow grass, or even brown and dry, can become green. But you’ve got to water it every day.

Even when it’s the last thing you want to do.

And you can try to be happy with it just being all right, or so-so, but I’ve got to ask you, like I asked myself, don’t you want the very best?

AileenDonan AileenDonan3

More than anything, I love to talk of those first days.

The first dance. The first giggle. The first time I dared to touch his shoulder with my head.

Because I know I must remember who he is. Who he really is, deep inside—that boy I first met.

We’re the same people, he and I, deep, deep inside.

Oh, sometimes we’re both still so angry, we’d like to do a whole lot more than spit. And it takes a whole lot more than a little grace to make it through.

But love is not self-seeking.

And real love gets a little less sleep, a little less time for what we want, a little less of what we most love to eat, to make the other person happy. To give them joy. To make them strong.

Never underestimate the power of a smile. The power of a kind word.

Like water to grass, they are spring rain to the soul.

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No, life doesn’t end with “I do.” That is where it begins.

For you and your Mr. Darcy.

For me and mine.

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“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”
~ C.S. Lewis

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Another day ahead.

Not that it’s always easy. The getting started of a day.

Not when my bed’s so warm and the house so dark, and the children woke me in the night three times, at least.

And while my mind swirls with the to-dos of today,

beneath the surface of these plans, beneath all that I know will keep me busy, rushing from here to there,

lie my deeper dreams and goals.

All my heart longs to do and be for my family.

All the words I long to write.

And they look like a mountain from here. Like I’ve been given a wheel barrow and a shovel and told I have to move it.

Like I have to move a mountain.

But of course, I can’t.

And so no wonder it’s easier to stay in bed. Slip back into those dreams.

But this new day awaits. It’s time.

And though the stars are still out,

I can smell the bread.

The first gift of today, and there will be many.

And just waking, well isn’t that a gift?

And hasn’t the one thing that really needs to be done

already been done by Jesus?

In that, I can rest.

With that, I can pull back the curtains,

with hot cup in hand venture a step or two outside

to hear the first bird sing.

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Lamentations 3:22-24

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

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Morning-Land

Old English songs, you bring to me
A simple sweetness somewhat kin
To birds that through the mystery
Of earliest morn make tuneful din,

While hamlet steeples sleepily
At cock-crow chime out three and four,
Till maids get up betime and go
With faces like the red sun low
Clattering about the dairy floor.

~Siegfried Sassoon

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And finally, a word from Jane . . .

“What fine weather this is! Not very becoming perhaps early in the morning, but very pleasant out of doors at noon, and very wholesome—at least everybody fancies so, and imagination is everything.”

~ Jane Austen, November 17, 1798, in a letter to her sister, Cassandra.

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I almost didn’t see him.

Nearly passed right by those handsome features, noble mien, and that shock of dark hair falling becomingly over his forehead.

You’d think I’d have been on the lookout. Kept my eyes peeled wide open.

I was in his house, after all.

Pemberley. Or, em, Chatsworth, which is what the place is really called. Chatsworth, not Pemberley, though it’s quite the grandest house in all of Derbyshire, and most certainly the place Jane Austen had in mind for this favourite literary hero, if the experts have it right.

Yes, there I was, at Pemberley, and I nearly missed my chance to meet Mr. Darcy because I had my eyes on the gift shop. The gift shop. Coasters and tea towels, and things like that.

But John called my name, and I swung round

and there he was.

Just waiting.

He even posed for a picture.

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But that’s not the real Mr. Darcy!” you may be muttering, or even shouting at the screen.

Well, I was at the other Mr. Darcy’s house too (Lyme Hall in Cheshire)! BBC fans, you may now breathe a sigh of relief.

Only there, I didn’t see him.

Though I did see this fair prospect . . .

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I laugh a little now.

I almost didn’t see Mr. Darcy!

And oh, doesn’t it seem just a world away.

Not only that we’re in America and can’t just pop down to England to see Elizabeth and Darcy and all our other favourites like we did when we lived in Scotland.

But even having time to think about it all. To dream.

Finding time to put two of my own thoughts together seems like a luxury these days, what with all the loving I’m blessed to pour out on my three precious little men and their daddy.

The making of tea and the making of beds. The raiding of the kitchen and the cleaning it up. The folding and folding and folding of laundry, and the trying to find the time to put it away. The potty accidents to clean up, the littlest one to pick up, and the trying to look above and through it all to find just what gifts there are in today.

But it’s worth it, I’d say.

Worth taking time for stories.

Worth taking time to be still and (with a cup of tea!) examine and consider the finer, the truly beautiful and good.

And it’s worth, most of all, taking time to be with Him.

To be with Jesus.

How many times do I race through my day with my eyes on the gift shop? On running my errands, making my phone calls, and leaving my house at least as clean as it was that morning?

But how would it be if I took more time to look for treasures along the way?

To realize there is someone far nobler, realer, and more beautiful than even Mr. Darcy?

Someone who’s not just waiting, but knocking.

Knocking at my door, knocking on my heart,

and not just to pause for a picture,

but to spend the day with me.

JEREMIAH 29:13

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

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I wouldn’t be surprised if the dictionary definition of the word cozy (or cosy, as it’s spelled in the UK) read “of or relating to all things British.” During the years I spent in Great Britain, I came to recognize, appreciate, and love Britain’s penchant for the simple, the ordered, and the beautiful things in this world. Those uncomplicated, quiet routines, which have the ability to add much richness and comfort to life. Pulling on a worn pair of wellies and a wooly jumper to take the dog for a walk through the woods, the continued popularity of a real, open fire, and that wonderful, ongoing routine of a mid-morning tea break, known as elevenses.

Over the sweltering hot summer months we experienced this year in America, I was disappointed to find that the last thing I wanted to partake of was a hot drink (although my husband continued to brew himself a cuppa several times a day). And so I’ve been thankful for the recent dip in temperatures, which sent me searching for the cozier items in my wardrobe, and once again found me reveling in the slow sipping of a hot cup of tea from my favorite mug.

Yes, elevenses continue at our house. It falls conveniently just before naptime for my youngest, and is a chance for us to break away from whatever has occupied our morning and come together for a little company and refreshment. Even our six-year-old enjoys a cup of tea, “with loads of milk and sugar,” and we all enjoy a piece of shortbread or two. Routine adds a sense of comfort and stability to our days, and I believe that any routine that involves tea, and gives us the opportunity to speak and laugh together, is a good one. So hurrah for elevenses. Long may they live!

What about elevenses? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper? He knows about them, doesn’t he?

~ Pippin, Lord of the Rings

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