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Archive for the ‘Marriage – For Happily Evers’ Category

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 anyway, back to Jan Karon’s Mitford series and the people living there. What to say of them? What to say to convince you that if you haven’t ever visited them 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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I know all about lists.

I know all about lists of things that should have been done yesterday . . .

last week . . .

last year . . .

I know all about adding something to your list

just so you can cross it off

and feel like you’ve done

something.

And I know all about those things that stop you,

get in your way.

The things that need to be done everyday and keep you from getting ahead.

All that time in the kitchen that can leave you wishing

that you didn’t need to eat.

Those mountains of washing (clean or dirty)

that never, ever go away.

And I know what it’s like to trip over a toy, drag it back to where it belongs

for the seventh time that day.

Or what it’s like to feel frustrated by a spilled drink

(oh, do I!).

What it’s like to feel a little less than sympathetic

when someone gets an owie,

bursts into hysteric tears,

yet again.

Oh, and isn’t it easy to grow frustrated, feel hopeless

at the impossibly long list of jobs you want to get done–

those emails, those phone calls, those jumbled closets and drawers.

And it’s easy, far too easy,

to forget

the very reason

that you even do it all.

And forget the very people behind the reason

you’re making those phone calls, cooking those meals, cleaning that house.

You can forget

that for those of us home raising little souls,

our children are not a distraction from our work,

they are the purpose of it.

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And so next time you feel disheartened

by all the things you didn’t do,

remember what will matter

a week, a year, or more from now.

Remember what they will remember

when they go.

And take the time to pull them close,

tell them how they’re loved

by God,

by you.

And pull them close to read

that favourite, dog-eared book.

And kneel down to tell them,

as if there’s nothing else,

what they’ve done right,

or how what they’ve done has hurt another

and how they can make it right.

For raising souls should not be rushed, 

is not a side-line job. 

And while we long to make a beautiful, harmonious haven

for those we love,

it is not the meals we cook, the dust we extinguish, the pictures we hang,

but the love we give, the patience we show,

the fruit of the Spirit within us, 

the Spirit we help them to grow inside

that they will remember most,

that will really matter

in the end.

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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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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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For a home that’s truly beautiful

You must begin with the air.

Not lavender essential oil

although that’s lovely . . .

Not fresh baked banana bread

although an untidy house where there is cake

is better, far better, than a tidy house with no cake . . .

But for a home that’s truly beautiful

you must begin with the air,

the very air,

and the words that float across it.

The words that find their way

to the ears,

to the hearts,

to the souls

of our children,

of our spouses,

of our friends.

What does it matter how clean,

how coordinated,

how stylish a home,

and who could care about granite countertops,

wooden floors,

chevron-patterned cushions,

organized drawers,

if the words we fling at each other

across our air

are like poison darts,

causing stinging little wounds

that fester and bleed,

leaving us and our loved ones

with a little less hope,

a little less faith,

a little less joy?

A freshly baked cake and the lovely smell it brings does make a home inviting, but the words with which we choose to fill our air have more power, far more power than we could ever know, to bring beauty and life

to our homes

and the people in them

than any piece of furniture, any article of clothing, any lovely smell

ever could.

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A Dozen Cosies to Warm Your Heart  & Your Hands and  Bless Your Week . . .

  1. Spread a blanket and have a picnic lunch inside. Or a candlelit picnic at night when the children are abed?

  2. Buy a bouquet of fresh flowers and divide them up in jars around your house. Don’t forget your bathroom and your bedside table. And don’t forget to give them a smell.  

  3. Rake some leaves and jump in the pile. Go in and warm your hands and your soul with some tea.

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4. Bake something with cinnamon. Apple pie?

5. Go for a walk and pray until your nose and cheeks are red. Then go in and warm up with some tea.

6. Watch Anne of Green Gables and laugh and sigh when Anne is “in the depths of despair.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HZfQ7EqMUs

7. Make a cup of tea and cradle it in your hands while you read the Bible. Psalm 42?

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm%2042&version=NASB

8. Make a big pot of soup. Calcannon, an Irish favourite?

2 Tbsp butter

1 large onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

4 large potatoes, thinly sliced

Chicken or vegetable stock/broth

Herbs and salt to taste

200 grams kale or cabbage, shredded

300 ml cream

1. Heat butter on low. Add onion, garlic, potatoes, cook for 5 minutes without browning.

2. Pour over enough stock/broth to cover, season to taste.

3. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Add the kale/cabbage, bring back to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.

5. Pour in the cream, ladle and serve.

9. Sprawl out on the carpet and listen to some favourite songs. Maybe this, by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins?

10. Invite some friends over without worrying about the house. Light some candles. Serve tea.

11. Stand under a tree, look up, and watch the leaves fall. Try to catch one.

12. As many times as you can remember, tell your spouse and your children how very much they’re loved. By God. By you.

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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?

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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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