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Archive for the ‘Books!’ Category

A castle is where I’d end up on days like today when we lived in Scotland. Days when the luminescent green earth called me outside for an adventure. Out to where pink-blossomed trees quivered in a gentle breeze and white fluffy clouds danced across a seamless blue sky.

As we’re sadly lacking for castles in Midwestern USA, I buckled the General, Waddlesworth, and Little Bear into the car, handed an apple to each of them, and headed off for a country drive through woods and rolling farmland in search of some Estate or Barn Sales. And did I find any? Certainly did.

I came home in possession of a light-up globe attached to a table. Some vintage curtains dotted with fishing, golf, and other manly pursuits, which I hope will one day become cushions or even a bean bag for my boys’ rooms. And books. Always books.

With my dose of sunshine and newly found treasures, and a day off from homeschooling due to my eldest being at a friend’s house, life looks good. I feel happy. Blessed.

Not so a fortnight or so ago, when I found myself tangled at the bottom of a slippery, murky, gnarly pit. 

While my morning routines got my days started and gave me focus, by afternoon my positive, cheery mummy reserves were running dangerously low. After a long school day I wanted nothing more than to curl up with a mug of chai and watch Fixer Upper. Not face the whole make dinner/eat dinner/clean up after dinner/wrestle the kids to bed routine.

But my  lack of motivation and feelings of despair came more from simply the exhaustion of raising four squirrelly little boys. It was more than the challenges of homeschooling. More than the difficulty of doing so much of it on my own since John has been working unusually long hours of late.

while I battled within the walls of my own home . . . it felt like the world around us was crumbling to pieces.

The problem was that while I battled within the walls of my own home, trying to give my children knowledge, feed them healthy meals, help them grow in faith, it felt like the world around us was crumbling to pieces. And what could a tired out mummy do about all that?

What was the point, really, in trying to make up my mind which shade of grey to paint the dining room, or doing anything else to bring loveliness to our home? Why search Pinterest for sugar-free dessert recipes? Why invest the energy in teaching the Professor about the injustices of segregation?

What, really, was the point of all my efforts, what with wars being raged, the American political scene making us all cringe (or cry!), and craziness like the recent Target bathroom/dressing room controversy leaving people up in arms.

What was happening to the world I would one day send my boys out into? 

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I was overtaken by a Spirit of Fear that left me nearly useless to the people in my life. And so one night, sitting in my bed with my pink and white polka-dot clad phone, I began to search for what God’s Word might have to say about all that.

What I found has changed my outlook 100%.

I read

 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesions 2:10

And that has made all the difference.

As I Christian, I believe that God created me, his daughter, with great forethought and care. That He chose the date and place of my birth, this exact time in history, for a reason. That He gave me these sons to raise up and prepare for the good works He has for them to do. That he gave me this husband to be my partner in life, that we can be a mutual blessing and “spur one another on to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). That he gave me this home to be a haven for my family and all who enter here.

And so you see, the daily work I do with my sons, with my home, with the people I seek to care for in my community and across the globe, they are not meaningless at all. They are vitally important to those whose lives I touch. Important in eternal ways I may never see.

Our world may seem to be spinning into chaos. Our current political candidates may not seem worthy of the title of President. But our God in control. And he IS worthy in every way. He is all-wise, all-loving, all-powerful, and always present.

And He has good works for me to do.

Avonlea x

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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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Six fingernails. Only six. That’s how many I had time to cut that day, into short, blunt squares. The other four were left long and ladylike for a few days longer, until I noticed, and remembered that I’d been interrupted, called away from my task to see to the needs of one of my wee men.

And that’s how life’s been since the arrival of Little Bear, my fourth son. A sprinkle of time here, a sprinkle there, and not much more, for all the little extra things I love.

Those non-essentials that relax me and that I really enjoy, but that somehow don’t seem as pressing as cleaning up the raspberries someone smashed all over the kitchen floor, or icing a bleeding lip, or stopping someone from over-cuddling the baby.

Those non-essentials

like exfoliating with Dead Sea salt scrub.

Or watching a new version of Jane Eyre.

Or reading my Bible.

You know, extra, non-essential things like that.

And where can I possibly fit them into to my hectic life, when there isn’t even time for the essentials?

Like sleeping.

Or taking a trip to the bathroom.

Or drinking enough water.

How can I possibly find the time?

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Four months, we’ve been back from our visit to Scotland. Four months, which is the same length of time we spent back there. And I meant to keep you abreast of it all, every visit, every city, every castle that we saw.

But the arrival of Little Bear, and traversing up and down the country, and the jumble that went on inside my own head made it difficult. But there are things, there are moments, I remember. And I’ll tell them, I’ll tell them to you, if you’ll stay with me and you’ll wait.

Because they’re worth the telling.

Like what I spotted in the new mud room at my friend Katie’s.

When we lived in Scotland I’d set aside time nearly every week to visit with Katie and a few other treasured friends at one or other of our houses.  And they were sanity for me, those times, as I sat across from their smiling faces, corralling crumbs from my oat biscuit into a pile on the table top while I sipped my tea and we talked about life—children, husbands, our walk with God.

And I was there again at Katie’s house this winter. Sat at her table. Heard her laugh. Sipped my milky tea.

And yes, saw the new mudroom, with its tidy place for Wellington boots, jackets, mittens, and hats. And it was all quite something, but it wasn’t that which made me smile. Pause.

In a corner beneath a window, where the sun could lay a beam of light, sat a chair. A chair, and a little shelf in the wall just the size for a Bible, and a picture frame on the wall with this:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

2 Peter 1:5-8

A place made in her home just for this. Just for reading God’s word, and speaking and listening to Him.

A place for making every effort.

Not a casual squeezing it in every few weeks when there’s a sprinkle of time, but a place. A purposeful seeking after Him. Every effort.

Because reading my Bible, knowing God, is not a non-essential after all. Not if I want to be like Christ.  Not if I want to be for my family a refreshing stream, instead of the dried up desert that I so often feel.

His delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

Psalm 1:2-3

I don’t have time aplenty. Not the luxurious hours to read and ponder that I once did. But if I’m to make the most of the time with my family, if I’m to help lead them in the everlasting way, then I must find the time to be in God’s Word, and find even a simple line of truth and goodness on which to meditate throughout my busy day.

Finding time will be a challenge. But my soul is dry, and I feel it. I feel it, and it shows. I feel it, and it’s worse, even, than only six short fingernails.

Make every effort.

I’ll start today.

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How do you make time to be in the word? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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So I’m a little late with the news.

Four days is an eternity in our World Wide Web World.

And yet my own little world

spins at quite a different pace.

A constant splattering of primary-colored Duplo Blocks and breadmaker toast crumbs

have been crying out a little louder for my attention

than even this.

But I’ve got to mention it.

Put it down for posterity’s sake.

After all, how often does the Duchess of Cambridge pose for a photograph with Lady Mary Crawley?

How often does she go down to the kitchen for some cake from Mrs. Patmore?

It’s all just a bit dizzying.

Like someone got their fairy tales crossed.

Like it’s Cinderella meets Sleeping Beauty . . .

(or maybe Toads and Diamonds, however it is you see those Grantham girls).

But it’s that real life Cinderella Girl

most of us can’t help but admire,

and she’s gone to pay a call to

that period drama

most of us can’t help but watch.

And the moment’s just a bit magic

and most of us can’t help but smile

when we watch.

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I still regret a little that I didn’t go to see Kate Middleton And Prince William when we lived in Scotland

and they visited St. Andrews, their former university.

After all, it was just a short drive away.

And that time I had the chance to work on a TV set with Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey

(more on that another time!).

But ah, it’s all a little lovely,

and the lovely things in life can point us, if we let them,

to the good and beautiful that is not of this world.

The good and beautiful of the next,

where are hearts are really longing for.

So here it is.

Enjoy.

Kate Middleton visits the Set of Downton Abbey

Kate also once visited Prince Edward Island,

home of Anne of Green Gables.

A kindred spirit here, perhaps?

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Look for HappyLittleSigh on Pinterest for more loveliness

https://www.pinterest.com/happylittlesigh/

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The posts haven’t come as regularly recently. Did you notice? But they aren’t done and the inspiration hasn’t stopped. 

The whirlwind of life has kept going, providing me with more life-lessons than I’d sanely choose, if given the chance. And after the long bitter winter, I find myself still in awe of the heavy fullness of the trees and the strange new sensation of heat.

And so yes, still the words come to me, click together like magnets in my head, demand to be spoken, printed, heard. 

But in spite of all I long to share, I’ve been otherwise engaged, and I’ve found there simply isn’t enough time in the day (not until I get a housekeeper like the Brown family in Paddingtion Bear, as the Professor suggested I do). 

Otherwise engaged? Yes. 

Lying on the sofa, mostly. Enduring the drug-like fatigue and debilitating nausea of the first few months of pregnancy. Baby #4 is due to arrive in December, and before you even think it, no, we don’t know the gender but are counting on the baby being another wee boy. 

And when I was well enough to be up and caring for my family, holding up the walls and trying to keep the layers of crusted on food from becoming too thick, I’ve been writing. 

Writing?

Yes! Fiction, this time. Fiction that I deeply hope I will get the chance to share with all of you. 

And what is it about? 

It’s set during WWII . . . and the present day. 

A wee blurb for the back of the book might go something like this:

Two women. Two generations. Separated by an ocean. Brought together by a house. 

So, yes, I’ve been writing fiction, trying to churn out a few pages a day. 

Then there’s been the preparation for our Scotland trip. Oops, I didn’t mention. Yes, a trip to Scotland. A long one. We’re hoping to have the baby there. And I wouldn’t dream of going without you. So stay along for the journey! 

Stay and see the view of the Moray Firth from John’s parents’ house. 

Stay and find out if #4 is indeed a boy. 

Stay and maybe even find out more about my book. 

For today, I leave you with a quote–a thought to keep you soaring–aptly taken from the words of a German Christian who was martyred by the Nazis for standing up for all that’s right. 

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The movement leaves me dizzy, for fast was never a speed that I’ve done well. Though words can come fast (from my lips or from my fingers), my moving and living, I’ve always done slow.

And it’s caused me problems, a little more than once, all my ponderings and perhapses. For time is sovereign in this world of ours, and doesn’t often leave room for the extras. The smelling of roses,  the sighing over music, the browsing of books. And so while I start out ambling through my day like a Sunday driver, I end up racing half panic -stricken to make up for lost time and reach this or that place when I’m supposed to be there.

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No, life doesn’t give us time enough for wonder. No, not enough time at all. Not like I thought it would be, those days before my real children came, when I poured over Victorian homemaker’s guides, all those black and white photos of ringletted children sprawled out on quilts to watch the clouds pass by, or gathered round the fire while their mother darned their stockings and read from Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

While we have our moments, our moments of creativity and laughter and peace, it seems to me that every day is more like a race. A mad rush to cross off my list, and get through the cycle I completed just the day before (with a few things extra, if I’m lucky).

It’s a mad rush, a frenzy, and the movement leaves me dizzy. For all day, every day, I move things. Move crumbs from tables and high chairs, from countertops and floors. Move clothes from hamper to washing machine, from washing machine to dryer, from dryer to drawer. Move dishes from dishwasher to cupboards, from cupboards to table, and back again. And the toys, oh the toys!

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I move people, too. In and out of cribs and high chairs, pajamas and nappies, car seats and prams. The boys, they move, too. Round me in circles at times, trailing behind them their tears, their bickering, their shouts, till I feel like they’ve bound me and I might just crash.

And I’m running and I’m rushing, taking glances at my list, hardly stopping it seems at times, to eat or drink, let alone to wonder. Ponder. Enjoy.

Through the blinding light of these last few days—the unhindered light of the winter sun glaring off mountains of snow—I’ve tried to stand back and look. To breathe deeply and untangle the movement, the activity, and the noise. To find beauty, find truth, and remind myself why I do what I do. Where we’re headed, and why I dared to bring these little lives into the world.

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For what is the point of making our home look peaceful and beautiful, if peace and beauty are not found in our hearts? And how can I ever find the strength to have patience in those moments of chaos, or have serenity, or joy, or wonder enough to pour out on my children, if I do not first take time to let myself be filled?

I don’t often have hours. For though I’d like it otherwise, busyness is the call of motherhood. But I’ve learned the importance of taking a few minutes—even five or ten—to feel God’s arms around me, listen to his voice, and ask his Spirit to fill me with his strength, his stillness, his truth.

Without him I so often end up on a merry-go-round of movement, my head spinning, and my day feeling as fractured as a mirror broken into a thousand colored shards, and I cannot think straight enough to put back the pieces.

And so that alarm gets set. A few moments to myself. I’m tired, yes, but those twenty minutes of quiet, just me and God, will make all the difference for the rest of my day.

I asked some friends to help me by sharing their favourite morning readings. Some are my favourites, too, and the others, I look forward to reading. A few are also available on CD, for drives in the car or mountains of laundry that need folded or ironed! As I said, I haven’t read them all, and so cannot comment on each one, but I’d SO love to hear your thoughts on ones you’ve read–or suggestions for more! Most can be purchased on christianbook.com

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  1. One Minute With God by Kathy Hardee

  2. The Book Lover’s Devotional from Barbour Publishing

  3. Running Into Water – by Angela Blycker

  4. Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

  5. Jesus Today by Sarah Young

  6. Jesus Lives by Sarah Young

  7. One Thousand Gifts Devotional Journal by Ann Voskamp

  8. Near Unto God by Abraham Kuyper

  9. Morning and Evening by Charles H. Spurgeon

  10. Because He Loves Me by Elyse Kirkpatrick

  11. Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Kirkpatrick

  12. My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

  13. Surrender: The Heart God Controls by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

  14. Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard

  15. Crazy Love – Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan

  16. Forgotten God – Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan

  17. Reading the Bible with the Damned by Bob Ekland

  18. Expository Thoughts on the Gospels by J.C. Ryle

  19. Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper

  20. Pierced by the Word by John Piper

  21. Life as a Vapor by John Piper

  22. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper

  23. The Great Work of the Gospel by John Ensor

  24. Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman

  25. The Precious Things of God by Octavius Winslow

  26. Spiritual Depression by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

  27. He is There and He is Not Silent by Francis A. Schaeffer

  28. Reflections by Jim Branch

  29. Victory Over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson

  30. The Great House of God by Max Lucado

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Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

Colossians 3:16-17

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