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In honour of my former home,

and on this Monday after the first Advent Sunday,

I bring you a little taste of a Scottish Christmas past . . .

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Heap on more wood!–the wind is chill;

But let it whistle as it will,

We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.

~ Sir Walter Scott

 

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This was the Sunday to light the Advent candle of HOPE.

Hope because of that child.

The One the world heard about,

the One promised,

long, long before He was born.

Wonderful,

Counselor,

The Mighty God,

The Everlasting Father,

The Prince of Peace.

Unto US

He was given!

He was given

unto US!

Hope.

Hope for everyone.

Everyone

who drops whatever else they’re holding onto

to take this gift.

Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7

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It’s not too late to re-focus your Christmas

for yourself

for your family.

Not too late

to bring others

reason to HOPE . . .

 

Avonlea xo

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Join me on Facebook & Instagram @avonleaqkrueger

See you there?

happylittlesigh.com

Finding beauty in the every day ❤ 

 

 

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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 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.

Ice Cream Party

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

See you there!

 

 

 

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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.

happylittlesigh.com

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

Find me on

Facebook @avonleaqkrueger

Instagram @avonleaqkrueger

See you there!

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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.

Unfiltered

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

See you there!

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The darkest day.

I always remember.

The least sunshine. The least light.

Winter solstice.

December 21st.

And after this, I’m counting minutes–approximately two each day–until the hours stretch to bring the golden light of the summer sun. But for now, when I feel more than a little sorry for those Narnians and their ever winter never Christmas. When even the icicles hanging outside the kitchen window, and the layer of ice coating everything else, when even they can’t shine, my brain can feel as cloudy as this murky winter light.

Still, sometimes I see it–the beauty of eternity that begins today. These little souls, my little men, and the treasure that they are.

Other days I hit the floor running,

some crazy dance from room to room,

glancing occasionally at the clock,

and imaging the utter shock

my friends would feel if they ever stopped

and saw the state of this house.

On those days I find myself, at least once,

pausing–the whirlwind of Cheerios and Lego and foam swords  and four little men swirling all around me, a now cold cup of tea in my hand–wondering,

what, oh, what, is going on?

There must be something, something I’m missing,

or it wouldn’t be

like this.

But what?

A little sleep, to be sure.

An intentional effort to count blessings

and sing praise

and speak truth.

Yes.

All that.

All that, and just a little more time

with Jesus.

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Because though I have 2 million distractions, though the crumbs, and the laundry, and the children cry out to my clouded, foggy, weary brain, though the weather is bleak, and though I carry sorrows and disappointments in the deepest chambers of my heart,

none of it

none of it

should be an excuse.

An excuse to raise my voice or declare my dissatisfaction or remain in a dark, murky mood.

Because eternity begins today.

Our eternity began the day we were born.

And for those of us who love Jesus

that means counting those blessings,

speaking those truths,

and no matter how we’re feeling,

choosing to live like Christ.

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The new year is coming.

Isn’t that a shock?

And what sort of year, I wonder, is it going to be?

I have my hopes and have my dreams,

but I realize that what I need

more than anything

is to spend more time with The Word.

With Jesus.

Pouring over His commands,

reading and re-reading his life

until His words and His ways and His will,

which are all Him,

become more of who I am, too.

For there is no better way to know what we’re missing.

There is no better way to bring into the darkness of our lives and minds

His perfect light

than to know Jesus.

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Let’s remember not just the manger but the cross. The purpose of Christ’s arrival on our planet. The depth of His LOVE.

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For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.   ~ John3:16

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Love came down at Christmas
Love all lovely, love divine
Love was born at Christmas
Star and angels gave the sign.

Avonlea xo

happylittlesigh.com

Finding beauty in the everyday ❤

Follow Happy Little Sigh on Facebook & Instagram @avonleaqkrueger See you there?

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I’ve heard it before.

So often my eyes glaze right over.

A stable, not a palace.

A manger, not a throne.

Yes, I know.

The King of the Universe,

our God,

here, on earth, in a human body.

A small one.

A cuddly bundle,

all silky skin and baby breath.

With his big brown eyes

and wee legs kicking.

A little baldy.

Or maybe an absolute

mop of curls.

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But reading the words,

writing them down,

my mind still can’t grasp it all.

Because there’s a door, and though the Light shines through all around it, 

it’s black, and it’s shut, and I can’t seem to turn the handle to see what’s inside.

And you wouldn’t think that anything could blind it,

make those beams seem a little less bright.

But somehow, the twinkly lights and inflatable Santas,

somehow, they all just DO.

Because after all, the whole world’s singing it. Belting it out like it’s no big deal.

Silent nights and angels singing.

Little towns and receiving our King.

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And so of course–of course–it’s hard to awe.

Hard to grasp.

But what I can see with those golden beams shining–

when I cup my eyes to shut out the rest–

is the wonder, absolute wonder

that God would care

at all.

That He’s in love,

so in love,

with us, with the world,

that no matter what we say

or do,

no matter how hard and fast we’re running

in the opposite direction,

He’s there.

Eyes waiting to catch ours,

hand outstretched.

That He doesn’t just sit there

high on His throne,

calling, whispering

into the moments of our lives,

but He came down to join us mortals.

So close He could cook us breakfast

(like maybe toasted fish on the beach?),

so close He could kneel down in the dust

to wash the sheep dung from our feet.

He went to those lengths

because for some strange reason

He loves us that much.

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Now that is something to wonder over.

Something to feel happy about.

That is a God we can worship.

A God who deserves our very selves,

who deserves our hearts.

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him:  give my heart.

~ Christina Rossetti

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRobryliBLQ

Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.
~G.K. Chesterton

 

Avonlea xo

happylittlesigh.com

Finding beauty in the everyday ❤

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Find Happy Little Sigh on Facebook & Instagram @avonleaqkrueger See you there?

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