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Posts Tagged ‘Homeschooling’

I almost didn’t see him.

Nearly passed right by those handsome features, noble mien, and that shock of dark hair falling becomingly over his forehead.

You’d think I’d have been on the lookout. Kept my eyes peeled wide open.

I was in his house, after all.

Pemberley. Or, em, Chatsworth, which is what the place is really called. Chatsworth, not Pemberley, though it’s quite the grandest house in all of Derbyshire, and most certainly the place Jane Austen had in mind for this favourite literary hero, if the experts have it right.

Yes, there I was, at Pemberley, and I nearly missed my chance to meet Mr. Darcy because I had my eyes on the gift shop. The gift shop. Coasters and tea towels, and things like that.

But John called my name, and I swung round

and there he was.

Just waiting.

He even posed for a picture.

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But that’s not the real Mr. Darcy!” you may be muttering, or even shouting at the screen.

Well, I was at the other Mr. Darcy’s house too (Lyme Hall in Cheshire)! BBC fans, you may now breathe a sigh of relief.

Only there, I didn’t see him.

Though I did see this fair prospect . . .

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I laugh a little now.

I almost didn’t see Mr. Darcy!

And oh, doesn’t it seem just a world away.

Not only that we’re in America and can’t just pop down to England to see Elizabeth and Darcy and all our other favourites like we did when we lived in Scotland.

But even having time to think about it all. To dream.

Finding time to put two of my own thoughts together seems like a luxury these days, what with all the loving I’m blessed to pour out on my three precious little men and their daddy.

The making of tea and the making of beds. The raiding of the kitchen and the cleaning it up. The folding and folding and folding of laundry, and the trying to find the time to put it away. The potty accidents to clean up, the littlest one to pick up, and the trying to look above and through it all to find just what gifts there are in today.

But it’s worth it, I’d say.

Worth taking time for stories.

Worth taking time to be still and (with a cup of tea!) examine and consider the finer, the truly beautiful and good.

And it’s worth, most of all, taking time to be with Him.

To be with Jesus.

How many times do I race through my day with my eyes on the gift shop? On running my errands, making my phone calls, and leaving my house at least as clean as it was that morning?

But how would it be if I took more time to look for treasures along the way?

To realize there is someone far nobler, realer, and more beautiful than even Mr. Darcy?

Someone who’s not just waiting, but knocking.

Knocking at my door, knocking on my heart,

and not just to pause for a picture,

but to spend the day with me.

JEREMIAH 29:13

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

 

Avonlea x

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Happy Little Sigh

Homemaking Inspiration from Literature ❤

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AileenDonan5

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.

Avonlea x

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Happy Little Sigh

Homemaking Inspiration from Literature ❤

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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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When Covid restrictions hit two years ago, we, like most of the world, found ourselves cut off from the people and activities that were the framework of our lives. The large church we attended closed. For quite some time. Even though we’d volunteered and attended faithfully for eight long years, the size of the church and several other factors made it almost impossible to make deep friendships with people in our area. More than ever, we ached to share life with friends. So we started attending a small church. Before we knew it, we were “doing life” with two other families. Sarah and her husband, who live locally, and Ann and her husband, who were here for missionary aviation training. Here are two more reasons why we fell in love with our tiny church (link for part one below) . . .

1. Gaining wisdomMany big churches tackle the need for community by creating small groups, or churches within the church. These small groups are meant to meet together regularly to study the Bible and encourage one another. Sometimes this results in real spiritual growth and lifelong friendships. But other times these groups become transient. People move, change churches, or don’t want to lead any more, and the budding friendships, along with the spiritual growth, can fade away. Another challenge is that Bible studies and small groups are often organized by ages and stages of life. All the newlyweds are put together, all the young families, all the college kids, and all the retired people. While we may have more in common with others in our same stage of life, we end up missing out on the blessing of a real church family. College kids don’t get the benefit of homecooked meals and a stable place to take refuge on the weekends. Older adults are left feeling like they’re in the way and not needed any more. Children lose the joy of adopted grandmas and grandpas. And younger couples lose the gift of being discipled by those who have already passed through many mountains and valleys of life . . . Not only did we find we were “doing life” with Sarah, Ann, and their families, we were also blessed to be surrounded with others both older and younger than ourselves. The woman who came from England some 50 years ago to work for the summer, and married a local farmer. The single dad with two kids. The grandma who drives a school bus and teaches Sunday school. The high school graduate. The WWII vet. The guy who comes on a motorcycle. These sound like stereotypes, but each one has a name, and each has gifted us with generous pieces of themselves, and a share in the wisdom and richness of their lives.

We cared so deeply that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our own lives as well. That is how beloved you have become to us.

– 1 Thessalonians 2:8
One of our favorite Seniors & one of our favorite Juniors

2. MissionariesPeople who serve God in foreign parts don’t come home for long, and when they do, getting to know them personally and hearing firsthand about their work can be hard, especially in a large church. Missionaries, like those on stage in the worship band, can become “other,” people who are extraordinary and different from ourselves. But all that can be different in a tiny church. Being part of our church family provided us and our children the opportunity to bond with Ann, her husband Ernst, and their children. We were wading rivers, walking trails, soaking each other in splash pads (even the grown ups!). We were roasting hot dogs, sipping coffee, dishing out ice cream. And as friendships formed, so did the realization that their year was almost up, and we would soon have to say goodbye. With growing achiness in our hearts, we felt how attached to them we had become, and how at home they had come to feel with us. Yet through the pain, we realized the immense blessing of seeing up-close-and-personal that Ann and Ernst were special. Not because they were super-humans, but because when God called, they had responded, “Here am I; send me.” (Isaiah 6:8). The impact of this living example of obedience to God has been incredible, both for our children’s hearts and our own.

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

– 1 Chronicles 16:24
Charlie getting a lesson from Ernst on one of the helicopters used to reach remote and mountainous areas

A year after arriving at our tiny church we said goodbye to our friends, as they prepared to enter the next stage of their missionary journey. I was so glad Sarah’s family is still local, and God has answered our prayers and brought other families to our church. I’ve been reminded that we talk about hearts for good reason. It’s the muscle that pumps life-giving blood through our bodies. It’s also the source of our joys and sorrows–and sometimes, blood-clot like, is the place those joys and sorrows get stuck. I’m feeling that today. Feeling that immense grace, but with a good measure of achy-heartedness, lodged like a lump in my chest. That happens, sometimes, when friends are loved and lost. But isn’t that what life is? To love. To find our true purpose. To lose–but only for a short while! Because in Christ, this is not the end. Never goodbye, only “See you later.”

Ann, Sarah, Avonlea

Avonlea x

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Happy Little Sigh

Homemaking Inspiration from Literature ❤

  • Missed my first post, “Three Big Blessings in a Tiny Church”? Catch it HERE

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“Stop saying ‘he.’” My husband, John, stared over the steering wheel as we headed south. “It’s made of fabric and stuffing, that makes it an IT.” Earlier, he’d suggested Charlie was too old to drag around a stuffed rabbit, anyway. He was being strong, but I knew he felt like crying as much as I did. So I didn’t argue, turned to stare out at the cloud-like hills of September green. Okay, so Peter was an “It,” but I still felt like we were leaving behind a very piece of ourselves.

Charlie with Peter and his blanket, Nat-nat, at 1 year old.

I’d bought the 9-inch (ears included) stuffed rabbit for Charlie when he was 3 months old, and it quickly became his lovey. But more than simply needing the rabbit at bedtime, Peter became his best bud. In almost every photo of Charlie, Peter’s head or ears or tail can be seen somewhere in the picture. In Charlie’s arms, or mine, or at the very least, lying close by. I have hardly a memory from Charlie’s 5 years on earth that don’t include Peter. Every trip, mealtime, bedtime routine—all with Peter and Charlie.

And then there’s how Charlie used Peter to talk to us, putting on a high-pitched voice as he moved Peter’s head. It seemed rather like Peter was part of who Charlie was. How could he be the same boy without his “Petey,” as he liked to call him? And yet here we were, heading full speed away from . . . wherever Peter was.

It wasn’t as though we hadn’t tried to find him. During our end-of-summer stay in Northern Michigan, we’d remembered seeing Peter a few times. But the last two days, with all our toing and froing—visiting old forts and lighthouses, swimming in the lake, returning to the cabin to roast marshmallows at night—I hadn’t noticed Peter was missing. It was only on the last day, as I packed up coolers, sleeping bags, and camping gear, that Peter wasn’t anywhere to be found.

That’s when I knew—though the man doth protest too much—that my husband did, indeed, care about Peter. Or, to say it better, cared about what Peter meant to Charlie. We spent at least two hours retracing our steps. Crossing the mighty Mackinac Island Bridge that connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas–paying the $8.00 toll–to check the Museum of Ojibwa Culture, which was the last place we’d clearly remembered seeing Peter. John even looked through the trash. Then another toll to cross back over the bridge, where we re-checked the campground and the restaurants where we’d been. When we ran out of places to look, we started the long drive home, though I hadn’t given up. I started calling every place of business, chamber of commerce, and museum I could think of, leaving them with my name and number, just in case. When we got home, I did the same with Facebook groups. I lay in bed for hours that night, thinking of Peter lying all alone under a bush, or worse, torn to shreds by some dog that might have happened upon him. Oh, Petey. Someone had to have found him, and didn’t they understand?!?! Couldn’t they see, by Peter’s very well-loved state, that this was no ordinary bunny? That he meant a great deal to some little person who needed him very much? But after a few days passed and I didn’t hear from anyone, I began to give up hope.

The last photo taken Up North with Charlie & Peter

Charlie seemed to have confidence that we’d find Peter, but I kept catching him with a distant, not-quite-himself look in his eyes, and once, he said to me, “I just keep wondering—where is Peter?”

Then a package came for Charlie from a friend of mine— a stuffed rabbit and a raccoon, with a note saying she hoped these animals would cheer Charlie up since he was feeling so sad. I was so grateful to my sweet friend, and Charlie happily added these animals (especially the rabbit) to his bunny family.

And then—THEN!—came a response to one of my Facebook pleas—a woman Up North had the same stuffed version of Peter Rabbit, and would happily send it to us! I messaged back with a resounding “Yes!” And so we waited some more, filled with relief, but wondering if Charlie would detect that this wasn’t his Peter. Then the package came, looking much bigger than one would expect for a small stuffed bunny. In the box was the rabbit . . . along with a hardcover photo album. Inside, were both pictures and a story of how Peter had been lost, what he’d done when he and Charlie were apart, and how Peter made his way back home. The kind woman must have driven all over to pose Peter in different locations, and spent hours putting the book together. John and I were blown away. We sniffed and swiped at our eyes as we read through the book. When we handed Peter to Charlie, he hesitated at first, but then squeezed his bunny tight. Petey was home at last! When he saw the album he couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear.

How could we receive such a gift from a perfect stranger? Someone who knew nothing about our family, or Charlie, or what Peter meant to us all? This woman was such an example of kindness to us. She, and my friend who sent Charlie the rabbit and raccoon. This showed me the great power we all have to bring joy into the lives of others—even to those we have never met.

If you ever happen upon a very loved-looking stuffed someone, make a child and a mama’s heart glad by trying to find the owner. Try local Facebook pages or log your discovery into lostmylovey.com

Avonlea x

Find me on . . .

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Happy Little Sigh

Finding beauty in the everyday 

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We said “No, thank you” to everything we could this summer. Library reading programs, and classes for the children, and fancy vacations. After a hectic year where we had something going seven days a week, plus frequent trips to the dentist for the Professor’s retainer (Yay! for the middle school years!), and frequent trips to the natural health doctor for me (a real, true Yay! to finding out why I’ve been so very tired for the past decade), I was ready to say “No” to those things. This made us able to say “Yes, please” to a lot more of what we needed, body and soul. Hikes in the woods. Trips to the beach. Sitting on the porch eating popsicles and playing Yahtzee. And Vikings. We said “Yes” to Vikings, too.

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We’ve never studied a topic over the summer before, but it worked out just perfect. We had loads of time to read all the books, watch all the documentaries, make all the costumes, and best of all–build a Viking Longship in our playroom! My boys soaked it all up, and we had loads of Viking battles fought in the back garden (and sometimes in the house!) as they re-enacted what they’d learned. I’d love to share with you the resources my four wee men and I used during our Viking summer.

The books we read–

  • Leif the Lucky by Ingri & Edgar Parin D’Aulaire ( a GORGEOUS picture book telling the story of Leif Erikson, son of Eric the Red. If you aren’t familiar with the D’Aulaire’s books, you’re in for a treat).42124199_295240854406877_305622047352946688_n
  • The Vikings by Elizabeth Janeway (a living history chapter book that weaves the details of Viking life into a story on the life of Leif and Eric). 42201333_476219392878002_208868442902626304_n
  • The Story of the Vikings Coloring Books by A.G. Smith (a detailed coloring book that includes descriptions on each page, and quite a broad history of the Vikings).

Those days we had to travel and couldn’t read, we listened!

  • The Dragon and the Raven – The extraordinary adventures of G.A. Henty (an enthralling audio drama with an impressive cast, including actors from The Hobbit, and British drama Call the Midwife). That can be purchased here. 42185898_652046728529508_3880848254421696512_n

Our study also made them curious about the countries of Greenland, Iceland, and Norway, and so maps were studied, and documentaries on YouTube watched. A couple of good videos I found can be found here and here.

I purchased all of their Viking helmets from Amazon. I decided on the plush kind, since the hard plastic hats often don’t stay on, and get cracked so easily. My favorite is the brown plush hat. The link to that can be found here. We also made a miniature longboat to sail at the park.

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Emerging ourselves into the world of the Vikings sparked all kids of creative play in my boys. It caused many a village to be plundered in our back garden, and many a sea to be sailed and new land explored in the Viking longship we built in the playroom! They set up Viking villages, and wanted to read our Viking books again and again. I’d recommend this kind of focused, immersive kind of play-learning for any topic (especially history or literature, or science related) that you want your children to not only enjoy learning but also remember!

This autumn our focused study will be about the first explorers of North America (after the Vikings, because of course we know they were really the first!). So for more ideas, and to follow along with our life of 1 Scottish Daddy + 1 Writing Mummy + 1 Rambling Victorian House + 4 Rambunctious Boys, follow my blog or find me on Facebook or Instagram @happylittlesigh.

Avonlea xo

Happy Little Sigh 

Finding beauty in the everyday

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We can wait decades. Sometimes more. Hoping, praying, begging that God would make a thing come true. And you pray, and you wait. And sometimes you recall some sweet blessing, or some specific prayer that was answered in the past, and you faith is boosted a bit–just enough to keep you hoping, even when it all seems to fall on deaf ears.

Other times the seeming silence makes you feel you might crumble right down to nothing but dust. And sometimes dust is just what you wish you could be.

For the waiting, and the longing, they can work away like long years of labor on tender heart, leaving you just . . . tired. And the world, with all it’s beautiful places and beautiful faces can begin to seem like the only comfort you’re going get. And sin is drug-like, and it smiles so sweet, and the lies it tells you never look like lies at all.

Sin can begin to look more beautiful than . . . well, than God himself. And you find yourself wondering if He really is so good.

Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame.

But I’m here to tell you–as I’m here to tell myself–that whatever it is the world is offering you, it will never bring you the peace and fulfillment you desire. Whatever it is you’re being tempted by, God is better. He is BETTER. And He is GOOD.

Yes, I’m waiting. Long, long waits. And I’m asking God so many Whys–about family, and relationships, and these books, which I’ve written but have yet to land in a reader’s hands. And it’s ever-so-hard when a burning desire–an ability, a gift–we think God has given us, seems to bounce off the ceiling and land right back in our laps.

And I can’t give the answer to that for my own life, as I can’t give the answer to that for yours. But I am determined to choose what is BEST. No matter what the outcome, no matter if I go to my deathbed still whispering these prayers, I am determined to trust the One who gives me breath. The One who made me and placed me just as and where I am. The One who calls me His own.

May God give you the strength to do the same. For the dear ones in your life. For your own self. For the glory of Christ. May you determine to walk the narrow path of life. To “set your face like flint, determined to do His will.” Isaiah 50:7.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,

and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

Avonlea xo

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happylittlesigh.com                                                                                                                  Finding beauty in the everyday 

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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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Finding beauty in the everyday 

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The London days are the worst. That feeling I wake with, or that settles over me in the almost twilight of an afternoon, to be somewhere exotic yet familiar. Buzzing with activity, yet gracefully weathering the passage of time. Somewhere able to give me the rough grittiness of ancient castle stone and surround me with the intoxicating fumes of a double decker bus. Somewhere with all the imagined romance of a Charles Dickens novel, all the contemporary romance of William and Kate. Somewhere that can always give you a hot cup of tea, a good deal on a new pair of shoes, and a crisp set of white sheets at the end of the day. London.

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It’s hard, you know, when you’ve been to a city like that. Especially when you’ve been enough times that you begin to find your favorite haunts, your favorite stops on the tube, but where the scenery is still something like a living painting, dazzling before your eyes.

I get other sorts of days, too. Florence days, where I long for the lazy air of a sun-drenched piazza, pistachio ice cream dripping down the cone and over my hand, though I’m glorying too much in the beauty of it all to notice. Edinburgh days, when I ache for Princes Street, and shortbread, and hearts, dear hearts of friends.

But there is something about the otherworldliness of London that can catch like a gasp in my throat, and I have to breathe it out. Breathe it all out.

Because it took a million miracles to get us here. Here, in this little yellow house in the country in the middle of America. At the edge of the river and the edge of a town founded when America was still quite new. Here, where I wake and breathe in the now of my life.

Most of those miracles passed by unnoticed, like most every moment of an ordinary day.

A few of them seemed more like tragedies than miracles at the time. That house in the city. The break-ins, where they took so much, and yet left so much pain and fear and those awful dreams. The bat in our bedroom. The garbage. And the bugs.

And then there were those events that came about in such strange, unexpected ways that we had to look at each other, my husband and I, and we just knew. This house, which seemed a half-decade or more away, was scrolled past on the computer just for fun one Wednesday night. We didn’t know the thieves were coming that Sunday while we sat learning, praising, smiling in church. That we’d come home to find they’d been in our room—just there beside the bed, rummaging through the drawers and taking that pocket watch I bought him for our first anniversary. And the money and the phones, and worst of all the computers with the pictures of our babies and all those files of my research and words, lost. We didn’t know, and it seemed like the worst thing ever, and we didn’t know why.

Looking back, it seems as strange as ever. But so does this house. Six minutes from my mother, and six years earlier than we thought we’d be here. An empty house. Just waiting.

And then there are our neighbors—kinder, and with more joy and home-baked cookies than we know what to do with, and it feels like they’d been waiting. Just for us.

That night they came for dinner and I heard the story about the truck crash that ripped the top off the trailer like a tin of sardines and yet left their five-year-old son curled up behind the seat fast asleep. That night I felt it heavy upon us. That miracle. That grace.

And I could go on and say more about our baby. Our silky-soft butterball of a baby boy who joined our family in December. I call him Wonderbaby. Did a child ever laugh so much? I prayed over him, prayed over my stomach that God would give me a child of peace. And He did. Wonder.

 

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But I couldn’t see it all so clearly, wouldn’t treasure it so dearly, if I hadn’t first stood drenched, umbrella-less in the torrential rain that lifted us up and floated us here.  Here, to this house and this place in our lives. Here, where our hearts are full of love for our children, and for every hurting person who has known our pain and worse. Here, where we’ve dropped everything else and our arms are empty as we go running through fields in the gleaming sunlight to Him.

These are the days I’ll want back. These days of wonder and want. Of nappies and sticky hands. Of gifted dandelions, and legos, and laundry, endless laundry.  Of never, ever enough sleep, and staggering from bed to lift my smallest one and tuck him close so he can drink.

London can wait. We’ll take them one day, our boys, and show them where the Queen lives, and that roaring T-Rex robot in the V & A. And we’ll have our cream teas, and it will be grand.* But for now, here, where we live and breathe today, I’ll show them the wonder. The miracle of a God who doesn’t stop loving, who doesn’t stop thinking of them as if it’s just them. For every glimpse I’ve gotten, I want them to see more.

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It took a million miracles to get us here. And for all the days we have to come, however many that will be, whether they are London days or laundry days, I want to live them with my eyes open to it all. To every miracle. Every gift.

Avonlea xo

happylittlesigh.com

Finding beauty in the everyday ❤

*This post was originally written in 2013. The very next year, we did go to London, and these photos are from that trip.

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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

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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

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