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Posts Tagged ‘England’

“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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Never have I been so glad to see mud. In my garden where there should be grass, clinging to bottoms of my boys’ boots as they climb into the mini van, smeared across the mudroom floor. I’ll tire of it, complain about it eventually, but for now I’m glad for anything, anything but the salt and grit that my family tracked into the house over the long months of this frigid, snowy, record-breakingly cold winter.

Mud, yes, we can now see it, but apart from the slight thaw, mountains of snow still surround us and the temperatures hover just above freezing. And so still, we are waiting. Waiting for balmy breezes, and for tender green things to make their appearance. Waiting for color, and an end to this black and white world. Waiting, waiting, waiting for spring.

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The Kilns, former home of C.S. Lewis

The Kilns, former home of C.S. Lewis

And I’m feeling that wait as I clean the mudroom floor, glance out the window at the snow, now grey, littered with twigs and leaves, and pock-marked by the rain. I’m waiting for spring, sure, but also waiting for answers to prayers I haven’t even bothered to pray, waiting for clearly marked miracles and the next bend in the road.

Because all that waiting can make me feel trapped. Trapped, like I’ve been all winter, trapped here rattling around the house with the boys,  when most days the temperatures were too low to even get out and exhaust ourselves in the daylight and snow. Trapped in the sameness and monotony, wondering why I do each little thing that I do day in and day out. Stuck with that unsettled feeling that something’s not right, and it’s more than my décor, or how clean the house is, or even how many cuddles I give the boys. Because no matter how I try to make it so, this is not really my home. And no matter how I wish it so, though I know the end, I don’t know what comes next. 

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Oxford University

And it’s strange how much waiting can feel like fear. Strange how sameness, instead of affirming who I am, can leave me feeling oh, so purposeless, so lost.

I feel lost, but I keep sweeping that mud into a pile, a pile of black dirt I can scoop right up. And while I sweep, I think of Susan and Lucy in Narnia, waiting in the darkness of that almost spring as they watch the Lion leave them hidden in the trees as he goes forward to face evil. They’re waiting, though they don’t know what for, and they’re frightened because they don’t yet know the ending, or how much they can trust.

Oxford University

Oxford University

And then after, when it’s over–when it is finished–they run towards him to caress him, to free him even though they think he’s gone. And they don’t even know what he’s accomplished, what’s been given–for Edmund and for them. And they don’t know the power he has over darkness, over evil, over death. But for the moment they are waiting, fearing every dreadful probability that their minds can fathom. They fear because they’re waiting, and they don’t know what’s coming, though we on the outside, do.

So I remind myself that these times come, and I can’t escape it. In this world we must wait, though our eternity begins now.  And even though we know He’s with us in Spirit, we’re not home, not with Him like we long to be. But we know, though Lucy and Susan didn’t, that it’s coming, that being with Him. And we know, though they didn’t, just what’s already been done for us.

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And in these frequent times of in-between waiting, sometimes the only thing to do is sing. Sometimes when your heart is heavy–with waiting, or uncertainty, or fear–the only thing to do is lift your voice and sing out praises to the One in whose sameness you can always put your trust. Sing it like you mean it, loud and clear. Sing of what He’s done, sing of how He’s won. Sing it till you feel His presence, feel His arms wrapped tight around.

And so I’m singing, and I’m sweeping. Moving boots and wet door mats. Cleaning this floor like I’ll clean it tomorrow, like I’ll clean it the day after that. And though I’m waiting, still I’m smiling.Because it all does matter. This home, and the cuddles, and what we say and do here.

Because He’s here. And He’s returning. And when He does, He’ll really hold us. He’ll hold us and the wait will end.

He stood for a second, his eyes very bright, his limbs quivering, lashing himself with his tail. Then he made a leap high over their heads and landed on the other side of the Table. Laughing, though she didn’t know why, Lucy scrambled over it to reach him. Aslan leaped again. A mad chase began. Round and round the hill-top he led them, now hopelessly out of their reach, now letting them almost catch his tail, now diving between them, now tossing them in the air with his huge and beautifully velveted paws and catching them again, and now stopping unexpectedly so that all three of them rolled over together in a happy laughing heap of fur and arms and legs. It was such a romp as no one has ever had except in Narnia; and whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten Lucy could never make up her mind.

– From The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

by C.S. Lewis

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Running to His arms . . .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f3sNiYpuF4

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I know their fantasies. Whispered in the semi-dark of their living rooms, or over coffee on our girls’ night out, they’ve confided in me what they really want. And I’m not shocked. Not one little bit. After all, it’s what I want too.

A hotel room.

A cup of tea.

And a book.

No one else. Nothing else. For one entire day.

And that is the true, wild fantasy of mothers everywhere.

Not only strange, unusual mothers, but average mothers, like you or me.

A mother who endures drafty showers because someone has burst in to ask her to tie on their ninja mask. A mother who rarely sleeps through till morning, and must nightly peal herself from bed and lurch through the house to lift and calm a teething baby. A mother who must clean a food-encrusted high chair three times every day.

And that is to say nothing of the raisins that get squashed on the bottoms of her slippers, the puddles of water and crumbs that appear as if my magic on her kitchen worktops, the mountains of laundry that move in cycles around her house, and all the toys that she must daily return to their homes on the shelf. The little fingernails she must cut, the beds she must make, the toilets she must scrub. The meals she must prepare, the dishes she must wash, the floors she must sweep.

This, all this, a mother must do. And how she longs to do it well! With joy, and patience, and grace, so that her children and husband and any guests who enter may be strengthened and comforted by their time there, in this mother’s home.

And yet motherhood is not a part-time job. It’s not even a full-time or a live-in one. There are no vacation or holiday packages. No weekends or nights off. And so it’s not hard to see why a mother—a mother like you or me—could get a little tired. Find herself longing for escape. A time of refreshment. A break.

Like hiding in the closet, maybe, with a bar of chocolate. A trip to the grocery store all by herself! Or that hotel, maybe? A trip, a real trip away? How about England? A country estate? Yes? Then come with me!

A virtual trip to England . . .

to the quiet and the green . . .

Hear the bird song. Smell the lavender. Let the grass tickle your feet.

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Stop at the tent for tea and scones. It’s all here for you, so enjoy!

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There’s a concert, too. Did I mention?

Right here in the gardens, underneath the sky.

David Crowder Band. Ever heard of them? Listen, will you? to what they have to say . . .

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How He Loves

He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions
Eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me

And oh, how He loves us,

how He loves us all

And we are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking

And heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way

Oh, how He loves us,

how He loves us all

 Singer: David Crowder Band

Songwriters: John Mark Mc Millan

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Hope you were refreshed by your visit. Come back any time.

For more than sunshine. More than chocolate. More than a new outfit, or a girl’s night out. His love is what strengthens. Renews.

Bask here for a while in the immensity of it.

For you will never find the depths of Jesus’ love.

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We arrived late morning, just in time to see the tail end of the die-hard Black Friday shoppers toss another piece of plastic in their over-laden carts before struggling to maneuver them to the check-out.

I couldn’t help but wonder,

did they even like that stuff?

Did they need it?

Or had they been tricked?

But I was there, too, of course.

I was there, or I wouldn’t have seen it.

I was there, and armed with the page from the paper that showed the great deal on the bathroom set I was after. Bathrobe hook, hand towel loop, toilet paper holder, plus a few more.

And wasn’t I excited to keep the hand towel off the floor, where the children always leave it, and keep the toilet paper roll out of the toilet (or so I hoped).

But of course those items were just one of many on the long, long mental list of things I’d like for the house.

And of course once we’d stopped at the mall to let the children burn off some energy at the play area, and I took a stroll past H&M, I began think about my other list. The list of things I’d like for my wardrobe.

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It’s intoxicating, you know, the mall is.

Every sense assaulted from every side.

Starbucks coffee, cinnamon rolls, perfume drifting from the department stores. The feel of silk, and faux fur, and leather. Nat King Cole crooning, and the Salvation Army bell jingling. The displays of clothes and furniture all looking so perfect, so much better than anything we have at home.

Couldn’t a person just get lost in it?

Caught up in the frenzy of buying

and trying

to fill the hole inside.

And while I went home looking forward to the giving

of the few gifts I picked up,

I also went home aching,

asking,

feeling anything but PEACE.

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Because I know, though I never quite believe it,

that I am blessed beyond measure,

and that the more I have, the more I will want.

And though I tell it to my children,

what Christmas is all about,

and though we’re finding more ways of giving,

more ways of loving this year,

I find it’s still easy

to miss the point.

To miss the heart.

To miss PEACE.

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I love the Christmas season.

Love it more each year.

Love the baking,

and the making

of sugar cookies,

paper snowflakes,

a wreath for the door.

Love candles glowing bright,

and singing Silent Night.

Love spotting a red cardinal

perched on a branch of lacy snow.

Or holly berries, and their leaves of thorns.

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But what I needed on that day,

and what I need on this,

and what I desperately want my children to see,

is that the point of Christmas,

the heart of it all,

is found in His heart.

In the heart of Jesus,

and His love for us.

In His love we can let go of all the trappings,

all our unwritten lists,

all that haunts us in the wee hours of the night,

and we can simply rest.

Cling to Him, and be at peace.

“For He Himself is our peace.”

~Ephesians 2:14

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As you light your second Advent candle this Sunday, remember the PEACE we have through Jesus. Hear Him whisper, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.”

Avonlea xo

happylittlesigh.com

Finding beauty in the everyday ❤

“The Holly and the Ivy,” King’s College Choir, Cambridge University, England

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Find me on Facebook & Instagram @avonleaqkrueger  See you there?

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Another day ahead.

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

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

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

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

lie my deeper dreams and goals.

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

All the words I long to write.

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

Like I have to move a mountain.

But of course, I can’t.

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

But this new day awaits. It’s time.

And though the stars are still out,

I can smell the bread.

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

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

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

already been done by Jesus?

In that, I can rest.

With that, I can pull back the curtains,

with hot cup in hand venture a step or two outside

to hear the first bird sing.

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Lamentations 3:22-24

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

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Morning-Land

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

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

~Siegfried Sassoon

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And finally, a word from Jane . . .

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

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

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You blinked and it happened, didn’t it?

Summer flew by.

All those lazy days you planned and enjoyed are gone . . . or never seemed to come about at all.

And you’re not sure how it happened because, why, yesterday was just the fourth of July, and the time was meant to go slower, and the days were meant to be longer, and you’re just not ready to put your child into the next grade up, or go into the next grade yourself.

And you can already feel yourself drooling over tropical islands and craving some vitamin D.

And please don’t anyone mention that C word.

Christmas?

Mmmm . . . that’s right.

But aren’t we all happy when it comes?

I mean, imagine that it didn’t.

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Imagine no family, no friends, no gifting, no baking, no singing, no decorations, no lights.

No light.

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But there is, and we do.

Have Christmas. Have Light.

Even in winter.

6759890bb24056f0e86bc5f3570130efAnd Light has a name.

“At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.”

~ C.S. Lewis

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

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And Light’s other name is Love.

Love that can get you through the winter.

Or a winter of your soul.

Love that comes after you, with a deafening roar and a mighty leap.

Even if you don’t know it, or you know it and you’re running away.

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Winter.

It will come, no matter how we dig in our heals and will summer to stay.

But lighting our path through to next spring will be the celebration of the birth of a King.

A King who will, one day, make an end to

darkness

of

every

kind.

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Journey with me? Into autumn, through the winter, as we look for Love, look for Light?

Avonlea x

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Psalm 139:7-12, James 1:17

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The Thaw Begins

The Thaw Begins – photo by crunklygill

“‘Yes,’ said Queen Lucy. ‘In our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.'”

—The Last Battle, C. S. Lewis

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