Monday, May 29, 2017

Mondays are for Grace

"What if we know that forgiveness and mercy are what heal and restore and define us, 
that they actually are the fragrance that the rose leaves on the heel that crushes it?"

-- Anne Lamott

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Peonies 2017


Another year of peonies has come and gone! The week goes by so fast. At first there are just one or two in bloom but a few days later the majority of buds burst open and every few hours I go out to cut a few more before the sun fades them or the rain gilds their edges with an ugly brown.

I have a flower bed just devoted to peonies. Just think, that flower bed sits for 51 weeks of the year in preparation or recovery for one week of marvelous beauty. It makes me laugh to think how addicted to productivity and getting a run for our money we are when God creates flowers that spend 98% of the year in quietness and only 2% of the year in visible productivity.

I visit the cut peonies all throughout the day, resisting the urge to cup their gentle petals in my hands like the face of the cutest toddler. I don't know exactly what it is about the peonies but their magic keeps me spell-bound for a week.

I planted my row of peonies about 8 years ago. My sister, Emily, and I did it together because back then she lived with us. We dreamed, and I even prayed, that maybe we'd use these peonies in her wedding, if only God would send her a boyfriend! The peonies grew and Emily found a boyfriend but their eventual wedding was not during the week of peonies -- it was an October wedding. But who knew that some years later Emily's first child, a daughter, would be born during the week of peonies?! How special is that? She came at the tail end of the season, but our season was early this year and next year her birthday will be smack in the middle of our celebration of beauty. Baby Olivia got the very last peonies that came off the bushes. It couldn't be more fitting!

I cleared out nearly all my vases today, hating the task of throwing the nearly dried flowers into the trash and thinking how long it will be until I pick more.  I'll just need to find some other expressions of beauty to enjoy in the mean time and maybe watching Olivia grow over the next year will divert my attention just a bit.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mondays are for Grace

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, 
through which God speaks to us every hour, 
if we only will tune in.”

-- George Washington Carver

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mondays are for Grace

"Take the very hardest thing in your life - 
the place of difficulty, outward or inward, 
and expect God to triumph gloriously in that very spot. 
Just there He can bring your soul into blossom.

-- Lilias Trotter

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Few Book Recommendations

It's been some time since I've posted book reviews on the blog. Time to remedy that and share with you what's been on my reading stack this year:

 None Like Him by Jen Wilkin
I read this at the very beginning of the year and it was the perfect way to focus my mind on the attributes of God and what that means for me as I headed into a new year. Jen is a gifted communicator. Her books are always well-written, enjoyable to read but also spiritually challenging.

 Theras and His Town by Caroline Snedeker
This was one of our homeschool read alouds. Theras is a young boy living in Athens but gets taken to live in Sparta part way through the book. This was a perfect way for us to explore life in both Athens and Sparta and experience a bit of the rivalry that existed between the two cities.

 The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
I love talking books with the circulation desk staff at my local library. This was recommended by one friend there and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's technically classified as "young adult," but being a well-written World War II story set in England I enjoyed it just as much as if it had been written for adults.

 Bandersnatch by Diana Pavlac Glyer
I loved sneaking into the everyday life of Lewis, Tolkien, and others through the research of Diana Glyer as she painted a picture of how these men interacted over their own written words and inspired each other to create books that have become classics.

 Niko: Sculptors Apprentice by Isabelle Lawrence
Another read-aloud set in Athens with a 12-year old boy as the hero. We enjoyed this and it gave another look at everyday life in ancient Greece.

Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins
I got strangely drawn into this book by a homeschooling mother describing how she became interested in homeschooling, began educating her ever-growing brood of children, and then mellowed into a woman with perspective as the bumps of life took their toll. I think I was so drawn to this book because Rollins was describing a way of life and community that I grew up in but she also didn't neglect to point out some of the problems/down sides to homeschooling. It gave me plenty of food for thought.

 Devoted to God by Sinclair Ferguson
This is an excellent and well-written book on the doctrine of sanctification.

 The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood
The kids and I recently discovered this series and have been listening to it in the car. I can't help but laugh out loud, especially when the narrator imitates the wolf howls that the children make. Set in Victorian times, the tale describes the crazy life of three children rescued from their wild upbringing in the woods and now being trained by a governess to be proper Victorian children.

 Different by Sally and Nathan Clarkson
The Clarksons tell the story of what it was like to be the parent of, and the child with, several issues like anxiety, OCD, and ADHD. I'm thankful for their candid and honest sharing of how difficult it can be to struggle with these issues yourself, and to be a loving, patient parent to those who struggle in this way. I think this book would benefit any parent in helping to think through how best to love and shepherd your child(ren) since each child is unique in some way.

 Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
This was my first time to read anything written by Wendell Berry. I really enjoyed this novel set in the hill country of Kentucky. The book is Hannah's narration of her life beginning in the 1920's, carrying on through World War II, and into the remaining 20th century. I loved the gentle yet real descriptions of country living and the observations of human life.

 The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
We just finished this book as part of our Roman studies. It is set in Galilee in the time of Christ and helps to give perspective on the great desire of the Jews to escape the rule of the Romans. It follows the life of a young boy who vows to fight the Romans and we watch the results of that vow play out in his life and that of his sister.

Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson
This was an excellent book on humility. I loved how Anderson chose a garden plant for each chapter and used that plant as an illustration for the message she was communicating. This will be one of my favorite books from the year.

And, if you're interested in the Scottish books I've been reading, you can hop over to my Reading Scotland blog and scroll through those reviews.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Mondays are for Grace

"Grace evokes gratitude like the voice an echo.
Gratitude follows grace like thunder [follows] lightning."

-- Karl Barth

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Review of Attend: Forty Soul Stretches Toward God

Attend: Forty Soul Stretches Toward God is a book written to gently turn your face to Christ in the midst of everyday life.

Werezak defines "attend" as literally meaning "to stretch toward." Throughout the book she is cutting a trail toward more awareness of God's presence in our life, more attention to his love and grace at work around us, and a deeper relationship with the Savior of our souls.

This gift book-sized volume is organized into four parts: Returning, Rest, Quietness, and Trust. In Part One Werezak begins with activities such as opening a window, making your bed, cleaning up a mess, or sending a handwritten note. Each activity is short, written as a sort of devotional to help your mind begin to think in God's direction. Opening a window helps us to think about the wind that we will allow into our home space, the connection it will bring with the outdoors, the ventilation it will provide, and ultimately the spiritual metaphor of opening our hearts to the presence of God's Holy Spirit.

Part Two of the book moves on to Rest. Here we are exhorted to take a walk, play with a child, pray a prayer already written down, or read a spiritual classic before bed. Taking a walk can provide a few moments in the day for our thoughts to turn to God. Or, perhaps for us to ponder the frailty of our human condition as our muscles ache and bones complain. Werezak encourages us to take time to express gratefulness to God for nature, for the place we have to walk, for this momentary break in our day.

Part Three deals with Quietness. Werezak's ideas include: making something with your hands, giving a gift, watching a sunset, sitting with someone in pain. Think of the quietness required to sit with someone in pain -- the willingness to surrender control, to give up on fixing the situation, to bow in humility to difficult reality. God reveals himself as Immanuel -- God with us. God with us in our pain. Imitate God by taking time to be there for someone who is in a painful situation.

Part Four concludes the book with Trust. Activities in this section include rocking a child to sleep, giving up something you can't imagine living without, listening to someone you love, and asking someone for help. Werezak explores the ideas of learning to open up and trust others and draws the book to a close sharing her own experience of drawing close to God again after a time of feeling very far and distant from him.

I would recommend this book as a thoughtful addition to your daily Bible study, or perhaps as reading during a regular coffee or tea break, or even right before you drift off to sleep at night.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Mondays are for Grace

"God looks different in other people's stories and that scares us.
Or, God looks the same and we didn't expect to have anything in common.
Our differences challenge us.
This is why we need church -- on a local, global, and historical level.
To be offended by grace."

-- Laura Davis Werezak