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Archive for the ‘Inspirations’ Category

And I had been crying that day. Leaning against the countertop in the kitchen and sobbing it all out while the boys played in the next room.

The oldest came in but I didn’t stop.

“Why are you crying, Mummy?” Tender little heart of the firstborn child.

And so I told him.

“I’m sorry.” Sad little smile of sympathy, then off he goes to play.

It had been the best part of four hours. A good stretch of my day. Finding the words, getting them out. Fonts and photos chosen and arranged. And I was close, so close, to pushing the button. Sharing the post. But then some crazy glitch in my computer, and in a second it was gone. Crazier still, the site hadn’t, as it usually does, been auto-saving every two minutes. And so it was gone. My post. My day.

After a call to John, a few more tears of despair, a few frantic attempts to get it all back, I gave up. Gave in. There was nothing to be done.

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The sun was shining.  Setting the snow to sparkling like ten million diamonds sprinkled on the smooth dips and hills of our backyard. A little gift–and nothing to be sniffed at–for us and this frozen, grey tundra we’ve been calling home.

The sun was shining and so after a few more tears I whisked up Mr. Waddlesworth by his portly 1-year-old middle, his legs sticking out behind me like two pink stumps, called the other boys, and announced, “We’re going sledding.”

 

And so from the oak chest in the mudroom, one of the few pieces of furniture we brought with us from Scotland, I began to toss out the snow gear. Wrap up my boys up like marshmallow men. Though my heart wasn’t in it, we were going to go.

And when we were all nearly ready, he said it, in his sing-songy three-year-old voice.

“This is a happy day,” he said, “because Jesus loves us.”

That’s just what he said, and I hugged him for it.

That’s just what he said, and I wanted to cry.

And that wasn’t all, from my wise little General. My black-olive eye boy, my precious gift.

Just as I zipped up my own coat, he put up his red-mittened thumb and said, “Great jacket, Mummy.”

That’s just what he said, and my heart had to melt, for the generous gift of their words, my boys. For their sympathy, their compliments, their declaration of truth.

CAM002501Not that it’s always the case. The General was born with the fight in him. My passionate soul who loves to wrestle and throws his blocks more than he’ll ever build a thing. And my oldest, well, he’s prone to sulking. Tender heart that can’t bear for a thing to go wrong. And Mr. Waddlesworth’s had an obsession recently with scattering cereal (whole boxes at times), and he spends the rest of his days crying as he tries to climb my legs.

And it doesn’t take much, sometimes. Just one foam sword fight too many. That second spilled drink that I have to clean up. The crunch of cereal under my slipper. That’s all it takes sometimes, and my nerves are undone.  Anger boiling up inside me like baking soda tossed in vinegar. Because life isn’t easy, and in a torrent of words and frustration many syllables too high, they’re all going to hear about it, my little souls. My little men.

Because isn’t it my right to vocalize my dissatisfaction—with what I have, with how I’ve been treated, with all that went wrong with my day? To tell anyone who asks, or anyone I can make to listen, all that is wrong with my world?

I do let myself believe it. Yes, sometimes I do. I speak and act as if my words will leave my listeners unruffled, unaffected, unchanged.  That I can somehow pour upon them the greyness of my worries and my woes about my job and my house, my children and my spouse, and expect to leave them feeling inspired, encouraged, beaming with light.

But that is not, of course, the case.

What those words do is drag their hearts right down.

For our words are not invisible, not neutral particles that vanish like the wind. They are like music, whose melody and lyrics sway our very moods and actions, and stay long years in our minds and hearts.

And when we complain, when we shout, when we voice our dissatisfaction, or bring to the attention of others something that is negative or out of place, we bring these sorrows, this discontentment, this darkness to the forefront of their minds.

And God, of course, calls us to a different way.

He asks that we speak about, think about, all we are thankful for, all that is right.

whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

~Philippians 4:8

When it’s convenient and I’m felling well.  Kind, thankful words.

When it’s inconvenient and I’m not. Kind, thankful words.

CAM00259cd1On that day last week they taught me, my little men, the immense, the incredible, the significant power of our words.

Not that I’m there yet. Not that it’s easy. But it is a worthy goal, and worth the effort to seek to bring true beauty to our homes and lives. To bless others, and teach our children to bless.

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.

~Audrey Hepburn

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Avonlea xo

For more breathtaking pics of Great Britain, inspiring quotes from our favourite authors, & peeks into the daily life of a boymum looking for beauty in the everyday things in life, find Avonlea on

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Facebook @happylittlesigh

OR for EXCLUSIVE photos, inspirations, & videos, sign up for my MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com 

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Finding beauty in the everyday 

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Everywhere, there were walls. Day by day, they’d grown up around us till every house and shop and school and road had its own borders, its own barriers. Keeping things out, keeping them in. Walls, running all over this frozen land. Walls made of snow. Not that the barriers were intentional, when we all went out with our shovels, blowers, and plows. But the walls came anyway, as we made a path from door to car, from car to sidewalk, from sidewalk to road. But at our house, we also had a path. A path between our neighbours’ house and our own.

Not that we’d used it often, that imaginary gateway, that break in the wall. No, not in such a winter when the snowfall set records and people had to shovel their roofs so they wouldn’t collapse under the weight, and icicles hung like thick stalactites from gutters, and the painful wind and cold brought tears to your eyes and chapped hands and cheeks and lips. No, not in such a winter.

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But then there came a day, one soft and snowy Sunday, when we did. Church had been canceled after an ice storm left thousands without power. So we were home, the day before us a little lonely and uncertain and unfilled. But then there came a knock.

I shuffled to the mud room in my slippers, found the tall frame of our neighbour filling the glass door. Expecting him to ask John’s help with the snow or maybe something to do with frozen pipes, I reached for the handle, hoping all was well.

“We’re not going anywhere today, and neither are you,” he said. “We’ve got a ham in the oven and we’re hoping you’ll come over and help us eat it.”

Well, such an invitation! Such a welcome invitation on such a silent, snowy day.

And so we put on our boots, didn’t bother with coats, and filled the silence with our chatter as we walked that path, that break in the wall of snow, and into our neighbours’ large kitchen.

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We stayed for hours. And I couldn’t tell you what it meant to sit round their table, surrounded by photos of their grandchildren and a collection of Eiffel Towers. But it was more than the ham and potatoes and veg that we ate while we talked and laughed. More than the tea and cookies and jello that came next. More than the stories from days past, told with such animation that we laughed over till our sides hurt. More than our neighbours themselves, who had begun as kind strangers and turned into friends.

It was the sum of it all that filled us that day, warmed us from the inside out, made us feel that winter was the most wonderful of seasons because it had brought us together–could bring us close to other family and friends–before spring came and the world opened up and let us sprawl out, warm in the sun but far from each other.

March is nearly upon us, but the temperatures are still frigid, and until the warmth comes to melt the mountains of snow and banish the walls, we will have winter. And for as long as it lasts, for all those long Saturday afternoons and black winter nights, I’ll be searching for ways to warm our home, to warm the hearts of our friends. With big pots of chili, and spontaneous tea parties with plates of shortbread taken from the rations John’s parents bring.

And that is the best way to not just survive winter, but love it.

It is said that good fences make good neighbours, and I agree. Good fences, good walls, they make good neighbours–but only when there is a gate.

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And there is quite a different sort of conversation around a fire than there is in the shadow of a beech tree…. [F]our dry logs have in them all the circumstance necessary to a conversation of four or five hours, with chestnuts on the plate and a jug of wine between the legs. Yes, let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.

~Pietro Aretino, translated from Italian

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Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She withers the plant down to the root that she may grow it up again fairer and stronger. She calls her family together within her inmost home to prepare them for being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth.

~Hugh Macmillan, “Rejuvenescence,” The Ministry of Nature, 1871

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Avonlea xo

For more breathtaking pics of Great Britain, inspiring quotes from our favourite authors, & peeks into the daily life of a boymum looking for beauty in the everyday things in life, find Avonlea on

Instagram @happylittlesigh

Facebook @happylittlesigh

OR for EXCLUSIVE photos & inspirations get my MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com

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Finding beauty in the everyday 

 

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I threw the phone on the sofa and shook my head. A good ten minutes or more I’d wasted, ogling over photos of other people’s living rooms, and fall outfits, and–for goodness’ sake!–what they had for dinner. That, instead of, well, cleaning my own living room, perhaps. Or cooking something for my family to eat (they do get hungry some–all–of the time).

And I’ve said it before how all of these images–perfectly filtered glimpses of another’s world–can leave me downright flat and dissatisfied with my own world–the life that was given to me.

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This week, though, I was struck with a feeling very different. As I scrolled through my Instagram photos–those images I’ve carefully selected and filtered before sharing–I realized that yes, I may have purposefully chosen these particular photos to show the best of my world. But these most splendid photos are glimpses of my wonderfully blessed world! Those awful, funny messes that Littlebear makes for me to clean up. The peeks at Professor and his cello. The glimpses into my writing life. The pirate and viking adventures I watch my wee men get lost in. They are all gifts. And they are mine.

So this week as you pick up your phone and are tempted to start scrolling, go to your own page. Let yourself linger and smile over all that God’s given to you. Don’t focus on what you don’t have, but on what is yours. 

Avonlea xo

Join me Instagram & Facebook — @avonleaqkrueger

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I saw them through the window. It wasn’t my moment, but I froze anyway. Watched. Not that it was deep grief I saw. Nor even great joy. Just a needing of one another. A finding of peace and delight in the one who had, for so many years, been there for you.

And so like there was nothing else in the world more important, there on the driveway, with leaves scattered around, she laid a grey head against his chest. He, still towering above her, wrapped his arms around. And gently, gently, he rocked.

Three years, we came and went as neighbors. And it’s hard to hide from those living so close the truest state of affairs. That is, we could maybe hide a lot of bad, but it would take something a whole lot more to pretend a lot of good. To just sit there on your front porch sipping iced tea with lemon, pretending you both wanted to be there together, if in fact, you did not.

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And it’s not that either one pretended perfection. We heard the stories many times–around a bonfire, our faces lit orange in the night. Or in one of our living rooms, clutching cups of coffee that would keep us up all night. Or on their front porch when they asked us to join them, which they often did.

He would get to telling stories, and she would chip in. And his voice carried, sing-song like, rising here, dipping there, as the story rolled on. So yes, we heard it all. About the early days of their marriage, when he was trucking and she was left alone with her worry, trying to raise their two boys. About his swearing and rough-and-tumble ways before he came to the cross.

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Last month we were invited to help them celebrate their Golden–married fifty years! There in the township hall basement we gathered, their family and those of us blessed enough to be called friends.

I set my boys at a table, with vanilla cake and foamy punch, and circled round the room. Talked to her granddaughters (five of them, and she’s a boymom, too!). Looked at every photo. At her wedding dress displayed in the center of the room. And there, just beside it on the table–the place of honor in the room–the book I’d seen open on his lap, turned to this . . .

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And just below it, this . . .

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They’d neither one claim that every one of those fifty years was an easy one. What they would both make clear is that God stepped into their lives, changed them, and has been leading them ever since.

What they’d tell you, as they’ve told me, is that when you seek to follow the Lord, you may stumble, but you can never be on the wrong path. And that when one person does what’s best for the other, a marriage can survive. If both people do what’s best for the other, the marriage can thrive.

So thankful for their example in my life.

Avonlea xo

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The smell of rain as dusk fell. We bumped along the gravel road, windows down, past the old barn.  From the house, a row of smiles along the porch as they raised their hands farewell.

We’d spent the last of a warm autumn day there.

A birthday celebration.

Pumpkin cake, and coffee, and the smell of cinnamon candles.

Pushing the boys on the tire swing.

Gazing out across corn fields.

Watching a wool blanket on the wash line stir in the breeze.

Ideas flew. Memories, too.

Laughter bouncing over all.

And it breathed peace on me.

The space, and the home, and the people inside.

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Peace, because there, I can just be—unfiltered. Because if things were good, full saturated colors, I could say it. And they’d all say how happy they were for me. And no one would think I was boasting . . . because if things were greyscale bad, I could say that, too. And I would. And all their good and bad, they’d say it to me, too.

Peace, because there, I am enough. Peace, because people like these people would make anyone feel enough—and not just enough, but wanted. Valued as they are.

Yet earlier in the day I saw a friend’s face fall as she shared how her son’s friends had all joined a new soccer league without bothering to tell her. She and her son thought they were “in,” but turns out they were not. And they are new to this place, the family, and it was such a struggle to call a strange place home. And neighbors and schoolmates could have made that all different, but in their busyness, and the fun they were having with each other, they did not.

Oh, how fun it looks at the center of it all. Where things are happening, and people are pretty and smart. Where marriages, and outfits, and landscaping all seem together. Filter-perfect images of a seemingly perfect life. And if you’re perfect enough then they might let you “in,” because being a Christian, or being a human is somehow not enough.

But we see through it, yes, we see it—when eyes glance to the side, looking for someone more important than you to speak with. Someone they could better benefit from. When they glance you up and down and you know you’re not quite right. When the smile is with the mouth but not the heart.

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So they can have “in,” if they want it, for I know what they miss. Judging books by their covers is never wise. And when filter-perfect is all you’ve got, how can you have peace, knowing that if they catch you unfiltered—see you for who you really are—you just might be “out,” too.

Yes, too many of the best friends come with wrinkled skin, or old cars, or hurt. And those who have known hurt, and broken, and ugly, can turn out to be the ones we love the most. They have the strongest arms to lean on. The best wisdom to share. And though beauty or riches may be theirs, they will not point it out to you. Will not flaunt it. Rather, they see it as something to share.

It’s hard for me, too. Proud one that I can be. Ashamed one, fearing in my deepest heart that someone will catch me unfiltered—see a corner of my house, a piece of my wardrobe, a glimpse of my marriage that will reveal me as the flawed person that I am. But though I know I will not click with everyone, let me yet be the one who can live unfiltered enough with my home, and my smile, and my time, that for the length of my interaction with each person, I can make them feel seen. Feel enough. Feel loved.

Dare to live unfiltered. To know and to be known.

Avonlea xo

Find me on Instagram @avonleaqkruegerFacebook @avonleaqkrueger

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Refugees from Sudan. Private school children. Those who fall somewhere in-between . . . Welcomed into the church doors where they are loved fiercely, with food and hugs and hands held tight. Taught how to love each other. How to laugh at each other’s jokes. How to be one in Christ.

Graham crackers and peanut butter. Laundry detergent and toilet paper. Honey and Macaroni . . . an assortment of boxes and plastic grocery bags stretching the length of the church school hallway, purchased by the mommas in my homeschool co-op for a family in our midst who we learned was in need.

Four year old orphaned twins from Haiti . . . delivered into the loving hands of a momma and daddy who already have three children of their own. And yet they stretch their hearts to love more.

A missionary in a distant land, fallen ill . . . taken to the hospital by acquaintances from his new church, who also offered to pay for his medical care.

Dresses in the brightest of colors . . . made by hand for children in Puerto Rico who have lost everything in the recent hurricanes.

A businessman setting aside work and income for a week . . . traveling to Texas to help families he has never met to rebuild their homes.

In minutes I recalled these outpourings of Christ’s love I have witnessed in this past week alone. I didn’t ask what people had done. I only listened, and this is what I found—Love for friends. Love for strangers. A disregard for one’s own comfort and self.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. ~ Philippians 2:3-4.

There is much evil in the world. Much we could fear. But “perfect love drives out fear.” ~ 1 John 4:18. And Love came first.

Where have you witnessed selfless, Christ-like love in your corner of the globe?

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I got sucked in again today. Lured into tapping a headline on my phone and reading a news report on a horrifying event from across the world. Problem is, just knowing the facts—enough to know how to pray and how to help—was not enough. Before I roused myself from my stupor and set down my phone, waaay too much time had passed.

I wish I had a record of how many minutes I waste like that. How many Pins I save on Pinterest (that I will never look at again). How many news stories I get distracted by. How much time I waste on Facebook just . . . surfing.

And yet . . .  if I knew how much time I wasted, would it shock me enough to do something about it? To reclaim those wasted minutes and invest in my life? In those people and pursuits that matter? Would I know how? Would I have the strength?

Because when I thoughtlessly lift my phone, find myself swiping, stroking my Precious with my finger, it’s more than habit. More, even, than trying to fill my boredom. Somehow, when I reach for that little black rectangle, I am seeking to improve my imperfections. Fulfill my dreams. I am longing to be complete. 

Truth is, I rarely find peace there. The emotions most likely to come over me are jealousy, anxiety, discontent. Yet I keep reaching. It’s clear who’s master here.

The emotions most likely to come over me are jealousy, anxiety, discontent. Yet I keep reaching.

I’m tired of the virtual living that has come along with my smartphone. Tired of comparing the worst of me to the best of everyone else. That friend who runs marathons. The one who’s a gourmet cook. The one who’s house could feature in a magazine. The one who’s always doing crafts with her kids. The one who’s career has been such a success. The one who’s traveling to Venice . . . again.

I’m tired of comparing the worst of me to the best of everyone else.

As if I could be the best at everything. As if that’s the standard I should be aiming for. As if even if I could, I’d be happy. As if impressing all these people–strangers and friends alike–is what matters most. But it wouldn’t (make me happy). And it’s not (what matters most).

My aim in life is to love, know, and bring joy to my Creator. And to love, know, and bring joy to those in my life (strangers, enemies, and friends alike). Yes, sometimes that can be done in cyber world. Reading an encouraging email from a friend can change your day. There are some amazing blogs and helpful resources out there that can certainly make life easier (as my son said, “Mummy’s phone is named Google, and Google knows everything.”). Even YouTube has a lot to offer if you know what to look for–(I’ve been using my phone to plug into the husky voice and uplifting words of Lauren Daigle like an IV of late). But if I am not using my phone or computer to feed or be fed, why am I even there?

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I’d love to live more old-fashioned. More like the way things used to be, when instead of having the world at our fingertips, we lifted our fingertips out to the world.

 . . . instead of having the world at our fingertips, we lifted our fingertips out to the world. 

I’ve become so dependent on my phone that making such a change seems overwhelming. But change is necessary. Not simply because of the time a phone wastes, but because the images and information it bombards me with can make it oh-so-difficult to master my thoughts. Master my goals. Master my life. Inspiration should come only from the sources that I choose. These are three ways I’m trying to start living more purposefully. More old-fashioned.

  1. Talking. You know, to people. In real life. Face-to-face. Eye-to-eye. No emojis in sight. Turning “We’ll have to have you guys over sometime,” (which doesn’t happen) into “Are you free this Friday?” or “What are you doing after church?” Building relationships with those lovely, wise people who feed my soul. And taking time for others–those who for one reason or another could use a hot meal, a flesh-and-blood smile, and a listening ear that isn’t in a rush.
  2. Nature. Somehow, getting myself out the door seems harder than when we lived in Scotland. There, the misty green hills that surrounded our village pulled me out as if in a trance. But the beauty of creation dazzles the world over, and once I step out, I never regret it. I know for certain that spending time on my porch listing to birds sing and watching squirrels perform impressive acrobatics is anything but a waste of time. Or trying to do a thing called take a walk. Just putting one foot in front of the other–around the block, through a park, down a country lane  . . . soaking in all that sunshine and green. Talking with the people I love. Letting my thoughts have time to digest. It rarely leaves one feeling depressed.
  3. Reading. Those things called books. The ones made of paper and ink. Reading the Scriptures. A classic novel. The words of the wise. Maybe even jotting down my favorite quote in a notebook. Snuggling on the sofa to read a favorite book to my boys. Reading the funny bits out loud to my husband till one of us (usually me) starts to laugh. Oh, what joy compared to sitting side by side mindlessly scrolling through our phones.

In what ways do you struggle with over-use of your phone? In what ways have you had success with putting it down? In what ways do you use your phone for good? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Blessings for a beauty-filled weekend!

Avonlea x

 

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