Don’t you love that when Spring arrives, things that seem like CHORES the rest of the year are actually enjoyable? For instance, this week I got outside and washed weeks’ worth of of grime off my car, AND I weeded. Ask me in the middle […]
Month: March 2015
Once upon a time, I was a little girl who, more often than not, spent hours on end living vicariously and aimlessly wandering through the pages of books. Sure, I played outside. A LOT, actually. But coming inside was not really ever a problem because there was always a book that was just as enticing as building a dam on the creek behind our house or putting pennies on the railroad tracks at the far end of the neighborhood. There was always a story just as thrilling as riding my bike down the “big” hill. There was always a character I wanted to spend as much time with as I did my friends. I was the kind of kid who sat and read (then re-read the next day) cereal boxes. My mom rarely had to convince me to take a bath as a child, because I usually had a mystery to solve in a Nancy Drew book, and with it hovering on the edge of the tub, bath time became sleuth time as well.
I’ll take them in any form, really, I will. Audio, digital or the ones where I can physically turn the pages. Although, I really do still prefer the real ones. I find immense satisfaction in turning the pages and seeing how rapidly the end approaches.
Honestly? My idea of heaven would be a nice little window seat in a cozy, sun-filled room, window open, just enough of a cool breeze flowing through the window that I need a fuzzy blanket on my lap, and a cup of tea or hot chocolate within reach. And then, just like in Beauty and the Beast, a massive library with one of those ladders on rails so I can find whatever my heart desires. (Because Belle is my cartoon alter-ego.) Maybe a delivery once a day from Amazon with a new book as well, because, after all, I’d have eternity to spend reading!
Both my parents read – and still do – quite a bit, so it was only natural that I followed suit. And, as an only child, the characters in books became my “friends” in a manner of speaking. I did have real friends, but I loved exploring the mountain with Grandfather and Heidi, or figuring out the best way to turn the wreckage of the ship into a tree-house in Swiss Family Robinson. Those “friends” opened my eyes to a world beyond my little patch of earth, and fed my curiosity about life “out there somewhere.”
I would imagine that most people who blog also like to write, and write because they like to read. Or even if you don’t write or blog, if you’re reading this, you must surely like to read? So I wondered, what are the books that changed your life in some way? And how? I love, love, love, love, love book recommendations from other people. I can stumble into a book on my own, but even so, I often use Amazon reviews to see if the book and I might be compatible. (I really like to research any purchase, even if it is just a book!) But the books from people I love and admire, well, those are the best books to read. For anyone reading this post, I consider you a (virtual) friend, so please share with me the books that have meant something to you. And then, if you can, try to boil down what you think is the essence of the book in one word. Follow that with a more lengthy explanation if you like, but try to condense what lesson the book taught you in just one word. For instance, to me, from Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, what lingers in my mind to this day is optimism. It was a hard book to get through when I read it the first time in 6th grade, then again when I read it with my kids while homeschooling. Still, I was always impressed that in the face of such hardship and fear, Anne remained optimistic. She wrote:
I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.
To endure what she did, and yet persist in believing in beauty in the midst of that cramped, darkened apartment?
I’d love to know what kinds of lessons have been imprinted on your heart by the books you’ve read. In a few days, I’ll return the favor and recommend a few of the books that changed my life. Who knows? We just might make each other richer for it!
For anyone who’s ever planned something, be it a work presentation, wedding, party for New Year’s Eve, or even a trip, well, sometimes, you just have to compromise on your expectations. Sometimes, you have this vision in your mind of exactly what you want something to be, but rarely does it ever work out that way. I know that for me, I’ve made birthday cakes for my kids – even taking cake decorating classes to learn how to decorate them well – and no matter how I envision the cake, it just doesn’t look the way I want it to. Ditto for just about everything else in life! Even going clothes shopping, I seldom seem to find that “This is precisely, completely what I wanted!” outfit. The fabric is the wrong color, the fit is just a little off, my size isn’t to be found,, well, I’m sure you’ve been there, done that too.
Good thing I took home ec in 8th grade.
While I don’t often make my own clothing anymore (although, on occasion I’ll make pajamas or curtains, not that I would wear curtains!), taking that class helped teach me that not everything in life has to be bought. I remember making a simple red wrap skirt in that class, and feeling pride and accomplishment that it was actually wearable in public. Since then, I’ve taken upholstery classes so I could buy used furniture and update it to my liking, learned how to refinish furniture so I could restore antiques to their former glory, taken a landscaping course so when we gutted a historic home, we could landscape it without paying professional fees, and spent a gazillion hours on the Interwebs learning all manner of other things. Maybe all that was the precursor to the homeschooler in me, but I really love learning new skills. Especially if they help save money!
To that end, last year, I was out and about somewhere, and I saw a woman wearing an amazing scarf with “handwritten” words of a Shakespeare sonnet on it. Totally me. If anyone in my family sees there is some kind of period piece on TV (um… Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey, Shakespeare in Love, Franco Zefferelli’s Romeo & Juliet, Pride & Prejudice, North & South, Jane Eyre, War Horse; you get the picture) they Tivo it for me because I’m sort of in love with clothing & manners & eloquent speaking from the past. Especially Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy… But, I digress… I caught up with the woman and asked where she got it only to be told it had been a gift. So my BFF Google and I got together to stalk said scarf, only to learn it was nowhere to be found.
I decided to try to make one instead. First order of business, find a scarf and something permanent to use to write on the scarf. Thank you Amazon for always having everything in the world you could ever want in one place, and only needing 2 clicks of the mouse to purchase it. (I mean, really, if I were the White House, I’d ask Amazon to run Obamacare.)
I found a plain white pashmina scarf for just $7, but they have, oh so many different colors. Next time perhaps. Then I did some research to find out the best way to put permanent ink on the scarf, and found these Sharpie fabric markers at Walmart, because we love Sharpies with a passion at our house. My daughter swears she’s going to marry the Sharpie heir one day! Instead of the set, I bought black fabric markers for about $2 a piece. I used 3 for the whole project just so the ink would stay bright and crisp.
Then, I had to figure out what I wanted to write on the scarf. While there are so many wonderful words by the Bard that I could’ve used, or for that matter, words from Robert Frost, or Einstein or other quotes that mean something to me personally, I chose one of my favorite Bible verses:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
It’s the verse I repeat to myself ad nauseum when life isn’t perfect.
Which is all the time.
If, on the off chance someone else were to ask about the scarf, I wanted them to ASK about it. The Bible verse, I mean. So I found the French translation (because French is just such a lovely flowy-sounding language). Unless of course, I’m actually in France, then it will hold no mystery.
Je peux faire toutes choses par Christ qui me fortifie. Philippiens 4:13
- I found the beautiful script font Before the Rain that looked like something a calligrapher might have used for an invitation to the palace, and printed it out in 72 point. This took a couple pieces of paper that I then had to cut and piece together. It was helpful to use a yardstick to keep the line level.
- Before I began pinning the writing onto the scarf, I kind of eyeballed & measured the distance between lines of writing. I didn’t want it to be messy, but I didn’t want the words to be so far apart as to be “empty” looking either. I think I had about 2½” between each line of writing.
- I placed the printed writing underneath the scarf, right side up. Again, I used a yardstick to help me pin the writing onto the scarf to keep the writing level. The fabric of the scarf will naturally pull a little, so having it level to begin with is important. I started the first line at the top all the way to the left.
- The Sharpie fabric markers have a paint brush end so you can lay the marker tip a little flatter on the thicker parts of the letters, and use the thinner tip for the thin portions of letter. Basically, with the writing underneath the fabric, you just trace the letters as best you can, working slowly to make sure the ink covers and fills in the on the fabric
- I had enough space after I wrote that line that I ended up starting the same text on the same line about 4″ after the end of the first section. I also found these decorative dingbats to put between the start of one line of verse and the next.
- For the next line, I centered the text in the middle of the fabric, writing it out completely. There was enough blank space both before and after the text that I “wrote” the 2nd half of the text to the left, in front of what I had already traced. Then, on the right side of the middle text, I finished the line with the 1st half of the text. I know this is confusing, so here’s an example of what I mean:
1st line: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX’
2nd line: XXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXX
3rd line: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX’
4th line: XXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXX
7. I then just alternated the remaining lines according to the above layout.
8. After I had finished all the lettering work, I ironed the scarf on a low setting, just enough to set the ink.
You have a homemade personalized scarf with words that matter to you!
I did this a little at a time, working only when the light was decent, which, wasn’t very often with this gray wintry weather, All told it took me about 3 hours from start to finish, working in starts and stops. Still, for $13 and having exactly what I wanted, well…. that’s kind of the opposite of most clothes shopping, don’t you agree? And that? Priceless!
For some reason we know several families of Norwegian descent. Several year ago, we were visiting one of those families in Seattle and we happened to be there during the birthday of one of their little boys. For breakfast he requested Norwegian Pancakes. I’d never […]
I often appreciate reading a whole book, like Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, and just being blown away by the story in its entirety. Unbroken remains for me one of the top 10 books I’ve ever read. The fact that not only was it a true story but one ultimately ending in redemption and forgiveness, well, I just can’t recommend it enough.
Sometimes though in other books, I might only take away one thought, one idea or one quote. That one thing sticks with me more so than any other part of the book. I might enjoy the whole book, as was the case of Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan, but there was one passage that as I read it, I just knew that it was meant for me. Has that ever happened to you?
Heart in the Right Place is kind of a “local” story for me, because it was written in and about a place that’s close to an hour away from where I live. The author was a senator’s aide in Washington, DC when circumstances dictated that she move back home to East TN to care for her aging parents. The book is an amusing and touching memoir about her adjustment to a new life in a completely familiar, yet somehow foreign place. During her period of readjusting to life into rural Appalachia, she comes to appreciate the simple truth and beauty of a life less complicated. A life where people without much exposure to things beyond the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains possess a plain and quiet wisdom.
And it was one of those pieces of simple wisdom in the book that I knew was meant for me:
From pg. 172
“You know how in Bible stories whenever an angel shows up, first thing he always says is, “Fear not!”
“Well, it took me most of my life, but I finally figured out that he’s not trying to comfort us when he says that. He’s giving us an order. It’s a command given more than 300 times in the Bible. The Lord’s telling us not to let ourselves be afraid. We can’t afford to be scared. It just gets in the way of us doing whatever it is that we’re supposed to be doing.”
I was stunned. Such an interpretation had never occurred to me and it sure wasn’t what they taught in church. Fearlessness didn’t come from being comforted, being patted on the back by God, and having our fear reduced. It meant making a conscious decision not to indulge ourselves. We had to intentionally turn things around, like when Virgil convinced Dante that the best way out of hell was to climb up the hairy-legged devil himself.
I said, “I don’t know if I’ve got that kind of courage.”
“But that’s just it,” Fletcher said. “Everybody gets scared. It’s okay to feel scared. But you can’t let it run your life. If you’ll just mind the Lord on this one thing, you don’t hardly need any courage – or even faith.
“Just mind Him in the one thing, ” Fletcher said.
Like the author, it was a revelation to me.
A few years ago, this book was one I chose to read to my kids as our daily read-aloud in our homeschool. I chose it for no other reason than that it was a local book. I thought they’d appreciate hearing about where they grew up from a different perspective. I pretty much try to maintain a 50/50 balance of reading fiction to non-fiction, whether it’s for myself, or for when we still homeschooled. Sometimes real life is more interesting than the imagination!
Little did I know that the book I chose to read for them, really was meant for me! That one passage… meant to calm and reassure me. Meant to instruct me to “fear not.” Meant for me because at that time in my life, I had a lot of fear about the path my prodigal was on.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
Like the author, it hadn’t occurred to me either that not fearing was a decision we have to intentionally make for ourselves. I always assumed it meant that God himself would give me the faith to overcome the fear, not that I needed to determine whether I would give in to the fear or not.
But the more I pondered this, the more I came to see that it was something I did on an almost daily basis anyway. And if you think about it, you probably make small choices each day to not give in to fear as well…. For instance, I always have a moment of fear when I’m driving on a rainy day and I approach a curve, because a couple years ago, on a rainy day, a driver coming the opposite direction lost control of his car on a curve and hit me head on. Fortunately, we were both going slowly so no one was really hurt, but my car was totaled and I remember the feeling of utter helplessness as I watched his car careen into mine, knowing there was nothing I could do to prevent it. Yet, I still drive and make the choice to overcome that fear as I enter a curve on rainy days. Or the few times I’ve had some kind of medical procedure where anesthesia is involved, I have a twinge of fright that I might not wake up, because that happened to a neighbor of mine when I was growing up. Still, I know that the chances of that are very very slim, so I face the fear and get on with it.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. … Matthew 6:25-34
Knowing that I have “small” fears each and every day, but already make a conscious decision every time to face them, somehow makes it easier to know that I can choose to surmount the larger fears and doubts as well.
One thing I’ve heard almost since the day I chose to homeschool my kids was “I could never…”
“I could never homeschool my kids.”
“I could never be with them all day.”
“I could never stand having to put up with being stuck in that kind of routine each day.”
Likewise, when I decided to run a marathon, I often heard “I could never run that far.”
Well, guess what?
I had doubts. misgivings, anxiety and often moments of panic that I “could never” homeschool or run those marathons. I didn’t go into them thinking they would each be a piece of cake. Instead, I chose to approach homeschooling one day at a time, and training for the marathon one step at a time, one run at a time.
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6
I faced my fear on a small scale, which allowed me to overcome the thing as a whole. God is so merciful to allow us the small victories. In them, we’re encouraged to know the larger ones are already won.
There really are over 300 instances in the Bible of “fear not,” but one of the most recognizable ones is:
Really, on the other side of fear is everything we ever wanted – good news of great joy!
Surely we can obey Him and choose to fear not?
Forget Mondays being notorious for their BLAH-ness, with winter hanging on for dear life, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and even Fridays have felt a lot like Mondays lately. Yes, I know Northerners make fun of us Southerners not being able to handle a single snowflake, but honestly, […]