Thursday, August 24, 2017

I'm Home! An Update.

Did you see the eclipse?
Thankfully, our viewing options have advanced.
(Look at the adult in the group!)

It was a wonderful summer in Portland. I loved seeing my kids who live up that way and spending so much time with my granddaughter. I’ll miss them all, but I’m home now, and home is good.

Before coming home, I spent a few days at my second daughter’s house, where some of my family gathered to watch the eclipse on Monday. Was anyone else right in the path of totality? Because if you were, “Wow! That was amazing!” wasn’t it?

My daughter lives on a street of young families who practically live in their front yards. Every single day, kids are running all over, playing football or basketball, driving little motorized cars down the street, riding bikes or scooters, and playing war with nerf guns. Parents do yard work and hang out with each other to visit while their kids play. All of this outdoor play and neighborliness seems unreal nowadays, like it’s a movie set or something. It’s a great neighborhood!

So, it wasn’t surprising that the street had an unplanned eclipse party. Everyone ended up in the same area of the street with our verified eclipse-safe glasses, and we visited while we watched the sun disappear. It kept getting darker and colder as the moon moved across the face of the sun, but even when there was only a teeny-tiny sliver of sun showing, it wasn’t as dark as we expected it to be.

But as soon as the eclipse was total, everything went instantly really dark. We pulled our protective glasses off and stared at the moon-covered sun. Wow! Street lights came on. The birds got quiet. We could see stars! Everyone jumped up and down, bouncing and dancing and cheering. You had to be in the path of totality to experience the thrill of that because it wasn’t that cool until it was total.

Several of us commented how surprised we were that a minute, almost-not-there thread of sun won’t let it get totally dark! Even a tiny amount of light keeps darkness at bay. (There’s a spiritual metaphor or two there if you want to think about that!) :)

My son-in-law said, “I’m really surprised at how affected and moved I was by the eclipse. I didn’t expect that. It might be one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen or done.” I think a lot of us felt the same way. I was still excited about it hours later.

I didn’t drive home til the next morning because the traffic. It was stop and go traffic (mostly stop) on the interstate all day long after the eclipse. Someone said it took them 3 1/2 hours to drive what would normally take 1/2 an hour. No thanks.

But when I arrived home the next day, I received a nice welcome from my apartment-neighbors. I live in a small, six-unit apartment building (owned by friends), and everyone who lives here is a Christian. We’ve got a young couple with a baby (they’re expecting another), a 94-year-old man, and everything in between. It’s such a great place to live.

When I drove up, my 94-year-old neighbor was out in the garden waving and smiling at me. He hollered, “Welcome back! We missed you!” (Love that man!) We chatted for a bit, and then I walked upstairs to go to my apartment. My sweet 90-year-old next door greeted me at her door with a hug and my mail (she collected it for me while I was gone).

For the last few days, I have been decluttering like crazy! While I was in Portland, I kept a little notebook of ideas and plans and musings. I thought and prayed long and hard about the way I want to live my life going forward, and I mean in just about every facet of my life. This decluttering is a very small part of that.

In the past two days, I’ve taken more than 10 boxes of books to the thrift store! (I cleared out about 1/3 of my books.) I’m finished with the books, but I’ve barely begun doing what I have in mind to do. I don’t want to say much about this yet, but when I’m finished and up and running in these areas of my life, I’m sure I’ll have lots to say about it.

Today, I’ve made green juice for the freezer, ground almond butter in the food processor, and enjoyed puttering a bit in my own kitchen. I went to the co-op and bought enough veggies and other stuff to get me by until I sit down and food-plan. I love all of the local produce for sale in our co-op!

I don’t have internet in my home, so I’m typing this on my laptop while I sip a cup of mint tea. After awhile, I’ll go to the library to post this (the library is just a few blocks away, and I need to go there anyway). This is how I’ll be blogging until I get internet in my house, which may be this fall (for a few reasons).

I hope to post two or three times a week. (I can already tell it’s going to be a lot easier to think and write posts now that I’m home in my own space, in my own rhythm.) Judi asked how she can get notifications of my posts. I don’t know! Haha. I will look into putting up a link that sends post notifications via email for those who are interested.

If you are wondering why I’m only posting photos not taken by me, it’s because I currently don’t have a camera, but I’m researching to see what I want to buy (I want something as good as what I used before, and I’m getting closer to figuring out what that is). I hope I will be posting my own photos again sometime this fall. In the meantime, sorry to be so impersonal.

Speaking of fall, can you believe it’s almost here?! September is just around the corner. I’ll be starting back to work this coming Monday. Some of my kids will be coming to visit for Labor Day weekend, and then the old work-year rhythm is back on!

I’l have more to say soon. I hope your days have been sweet. God is good. All the time! Count your blessings.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

An Expansive Home

A corner of my current home.

Home is on my mind because in two days, I'll leave Portland and start working my way back there. I've been thinking about the different places I've lived and how we settled into those places and made them our own. I remember the warmth and laughter and fun that happened within our walls (there was trouble and grief as well), and, it occurred to me that when I picture this, others from outside our family are often included in these memories. Home was for our family, but it was also for others.

I am a big proponent of making home the best place in the world—the place where all members of the family can grow and thrive. It is the place where we can become who God created us to be. There really is no place like home, and we benefit from spending lots of time there.

But humans weren’t meant to be insular. God made us for community. Both individuals and families need other people in their lives. I have felt this need deeply at various times in my life, but I’m thinking of one instance this morning, with gratitude in my heart for how the Lord puts the lonely in families.

When our family moved to England way back in the 1980s, we had two young girls— a one-year-old and a three-month-old. Soon after arriving in the UK, we bought our first house, a new brick home with a bright red door in a development called Cloverfield Estates.

That house became a wonderful home for our family. We painted the rooms, decorated with British scrubbed pine antiques, built a wooden playhouse for the kids out back, and planted beautiful English flowers all around the house. We added two more children to our family while we lived in that house (four kids under the age of five!), so it was brimming with energy and laughter (and sometimes screeching tears—mostly from the kids, or exhaustion—mostly from me). The place was adorable and radiated warmth and cosiness. I’ve never loved any house I’ve lived in more than I loved that one.

It was sort of picture perfect. But it wasn’t.

I’ll never forget the sharp, painful loneliness I felt when we first moved to England. I spent long days with two little ones who didn’t yet hold conversations about books or cooking or hobbies or interesting things to see or do in our area of the country.

Our young family had only one car, and my husband often left for work as early as 4:00 a.m., so it didn’t make sense to take the kids from their beds at that horrifically early hour, buckle them into their carseats, and drive the half hour to my husband’s workplace to drop him off, only to drive another half hour back home—all so I could have the car.

Hence, I was home alone so much of the time that I began to feel almost exiled. And because we didn’t have a TV or radio in our home, it was totally silent. Internet, wifi, and smartphones didn’t exist back then, and long distance phone calls to the states were too expensive to make regularly.

I spent my days changing diapers, rocking babies, reading endless picture books, playing little games, singing silly songs, lulling babies to sleep, and so on. I adored my children, and this mothering role was exactly what I wanted. I joyfully embraced it, but a young mother alone, for long hours on end, day after day, with very little adult interaction, becomes lonely. And I was desperately lonely.

Home was sweet, and it was a refuge and a place for our family to grow and blossom, but it was not enough. We needed people in our lives, or maybe I should say I needed people in my life. I had such an ache of homesickness and loneliness inside that it sometimes made me cry, and I began to ask the Lord to help me meet people and give me friends.

And the Lord answered. It wasn’t long before I met other people from the US whose husbands worked with mine. I gradually became good friends with some of them, but I didn’t have the opportunity to get together with them regularly until we got a second car almost two years after moving to England.

But the Lord had gone before us. He knew what we would need, and He gave us what we would treasure most about our time in England—our neighbors across the street. We quickly became fast friends with them, and by the time we left the country to return to the U.S., their extended family was like our family. We loved them deeply.

These neighbors were older than my husband and me, and they had two girls who were younger than us. One of their daughters was married and lived just two doors down the street with her husband, and the other daughter—a 15-year-old who still lived at home—became our babysitter.

We became comfortable, everyday friends with these neighbors—with the whole extended family. We shared meals, enjoyed cups of tea together, and popped in to each other’s homes daily just to say hello. I had an ongoing book exchange with the son-in-law. They taught us to flower garden. They were part of every birthday and holiday we celebrated. We didn’t need excuses to get together daily; it happened easily and naturally.

We adored our British neighbors, and they enriched our lives immensely. Having them become so much a part of our home life greatly expanded the joy we had there. Our home was a great place for our family, but it became so much more when we shared it with others.

When we share our lives with others—talking, laughing, sharing food, playing games, or whatever—we:

ease loneliness
encourage each other
support each other
sharpen each other
strengthen each other
refresh each other
build community

We don’t contrive to do this. Just by welcoming people into our homes and lives, it happens. We fill each other’s hearts with love.

If we want to make this a natural everyday thing, we can’t worry about style and perfection. Some of us will never feel ready. The house will sometimes be messy. The meal won’t always be amazing. We won’t always feel prepared or in control.

But so what?! We aren’t putting on a show; we’re building meaningful connections. We are just loving each other.

Our society is highly individualistic. We look out for ourselves and can get protective of our space. This can be isolating and unhealthy. Or perhaps we have friends, but we stick to our own tight little friendship group made up of people who think, look, and act similarly to us, but we rarely reach beyond it.

Part of building community is definitely having those like-minded kindred spirits in our lives. They are just so easy and so much fun to be with. They are the iron that sharpens our iron. These easy friends are a true gift from God, and we should value the time we spend with them (which is, hopefully, often!).

There’s a balancing act families need to play because we definitely need to know when to say no and where to set limits and boundaries for our families. (Even Jesus withdrew at times to be alone, and He didn’t try to heal or impact every single individual in the land.)

But some of us also need to say yes a lot more to sharing our homes and lives with others, not forgetting to include the lonely, the friendless, those who are older, widows, single people, and others who are sometimes marginalized. They are all around us.

I’ve known loneliness. Have you? It is a deep, dark, sad ache in the heart. If God puts the lonely in families, as the Bible says, how is that going to happen if we don’t reach out and make it happen? The litmus test of whether or not we love God is whether or not we love others. Jesus said that when we love others, we’re loving Him.

Does this sound intense and difficult? Because it shouldn’t. We don’t need to feel obligated to invite every lonely person into our home, one by one, and then sit there in an awkward attempt to make conversation. (The idea of that makes this introvert sweat.)

Invite that lonely person to join the hospitality you already share with groups of close friends. Include them in your little community. Also, pop in on them at home, maybe with a little token to brighten their day. It doesn’t have to be for long, and this means a lot to those who live alone.

This isn’t about you saving the world. Because you can’t. Only God can. He simply asks us to shine His Love and Light as we live in community with others.

God’s community includes everyone, not only those who are just like us. And community is at its best, I believe, in our homes.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Lessons From a Friendship

Laughter is one of the best bonds of friendship.

It’s a chilly, sunny autumn morning, and I’m driving out of town, north up the highway to the home of my special friends. They’ve invited me out to join them for their usual Saturday morning waffle breakfast.

As I drive up their gravel driveway, I notice smoke rising from the chimney. Sheets hang on the clothesline, catching the morning breeze. I park my car and step out. Everything around me is tidy and orderly, which provides a sense of peace.

Pretty flowers bloom everywhere, and all around are displays of collected nature—driftwood in an old wire basket, containers of interesting shells, colorful rocks from the beach—and handcrafted items. Though the summer flowers have faded, the autumn garden remains lovely and cheery.

I step onto the porch. The old rocker sits there invitingly, as it has for years, surrounded by flowers and things from the seashore.

I knock at the pretty vintage green door, and through its beveled window panes, I see a smiling face coming to open it. I admire the antique knob of the door—brass on the outside and glass on the inside.

“Good morning! C’mon in! How are you?”

As I take off my jacket and set down my bag, I am, once again, charmed. Little decorations for fall add sweetness and cheer to this small, cabin-like home with its warm wood walls.

Artistic craftsmanship is all around and makes the place both interesting and inviting. I’ve visited my friends here countless times over the years, and I still find myself noticing delightful items or features I hadn’t noticed before—the closet door handle crafted from an interesting, beautiful curved piece of wood, the pretty wooden outlet covers. So many vintage items remade into something useful and beautiful for this home.

I stand in front of the warm wood stove, the fire flickering and crackling with orange light. The scent of waffles and coffee fills the air. My friend puts a variety of delicious waffle toppings—homemade raspberry sauce, lemon curd, whipping cream, maple syrup—on the table, and we all sit near the fire to eat and chat.

Everything is as welcoming as can be—my friends, the cosiness, the originality and artistic charm of this unique home, the fire, the waffles and coffee, the books that are everywhere, all of the vintage and antique things that decorate this place, and the quilts my friend made by hand.

This beautiful morning was made more beautiful because of the life, home, and kindness that my friends so happily shared with me. The loving hospitality and friendship I’ve found here has literally enlarged my vision and changed the way I live my life.

I’ve learned so much from my friends, and now they will be moving out of town, four hours away, to be closer to their wonderful children and grandchildren. I will miss them terribly, but I am happy for them.

So, in tribute, and just because I’m thinking about them in this way, here’s a list of some of what I’ve learned from this friendship. I count the friendship I have with these two as one of the best treasures in my life. I am so blessed to know them well and to have benefited from their great love and encouragement.

The list:

Be yourself. Don’t follow trends.

Be an artist. Make art out of whatever you are given in life, both in material things and in your situation. Imbue everything you do with your own fun mark. Be unique and awesome.

Love others.

Give freely and generously because you can’t help it—you are full of the Lord’s love and compassion.

Love the Lord and seek Him wholeheartedly.

Invite others over often for enjoyment and fellowship. Spend long hours encouraging them— talking, laughing, praying.

Always have hot drinks and treats on hand—for yourself and for visitors. If you have a great cookie or biscotti recipe, make it again and again. For some reason, this matters.

Make things sweet and pretty to your taste. That gives it charm and originality.

See the potential in people and in things. Help turn what is shaky and looks hopeless into something solid and even beautiful. This can be tedious work, but embrace it. Stay steady with it through challenges, obstacles, and impossibilities. Do the work little by little, consistently, with love.

Pray. Pray. Pray. Be about prayer. Know Who is Sovereign, All-Powerful, and Loving. Trust Him.

Love nature. Spend time in it as often as possible, not to rack up another adventure or experience but to enjoy one of God’s best gifts. If we slow down and let it, God’s creation alters and enlarges our mindset. Our troubles get smaller, and God gets bigger.

Live a quiet life. Embrace slow. Be as unplugged as possible and attuned to the real things in life.

Little gifts to others are meaningful and special. They can brighten a day, refresh a tired life, and warm a heart. Give garden goods, flowers, books, and thoughtful little things. Give yourself—laughter and a warm smile.

Be hospitable. Share food, drink, treats, coffee, home, and life! Talk and pray together, share struggles and victories, play games, take a walk, pick berries in the garden, go to the beach together and return home for dinner.

Don’t chase money. God is the provider for all of us! “Be content with such things as you have. . .”

Bloom where you are planted. That’s an old saying from my long-ago youth, but it’s true. Don’t keep struggling for better or different, discontented and trying to wriggle out from the place where you are. There’s certainly nothing wrong with change, but be content now. And shine there!

Mimic the Creator. Create! Make stuff. Make a home. God created a beautiful, orderly world that gives peace and refreshes us. We should make a beautiful, orderly life/home that does the same thing for ourselves and for others.

Be everyone’s best friend. There are quite a few people out there who would call my BFF their BFF because she is the best kind of friend ever! We are all so lucky! Our friend is caring, kind, giving, funny, and fun. She connects with others often, and when she does, it is not about her but all about you.

I love you, and I’ll miss you, my friends. Thank you for everything. And I’ll see you in your new place.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Magic of a Morning Routine, Part I

This is one way to keep your sanity.
A better way is to have a morning routine.

You know what happens when I don’t have a morning routine?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. My day flitters away—amiably, for the most part, but also with my conscience nagging at me—and when it ends, I feel out of sorts. What happened to my day? What happened to those hours? I’ll never get them back. Wah.

It’s a different thing entirely to be on vacation or to decide that I’m extra tired and need to give myself a break. A Sabbath day of doing nothing is not wasting time, either. This is true rest because it is planned, and preparations are made. Our hearts are focused on the Lord and His goodness, and this is the best kind of rest.

Rest is meaningful and important. But being truly lazy and passive while the day gets away isn’t. I know the difference between getting needed physical or mental rest and unrestrained laziness.

I’m not a productivity hound—one of those people who schedules every single minute of their day, including a mere 5 minutes in the morning and afternoon just to breathe and be mindful. (Ah, so much rest there!)

I’m not a Type A personality or duty-driven, but I do like to think that my day has at least some purpose and a point to it. I like to have a sense of direction, even if there’s not a big list of things to do or places to go or people to see.

I unfailingly regret those days when I wake up early in the morning—well-rested—but decide I deserve a little lie-in. It goes kind of like this:

It’s my day off, so I’ll just lie here for awhile and be chill. I’m not sleepy, so I’ll read. I love to read, so this will be nice. And I always have a pile of about 20 books by my bed, so I’ve got options! I read until my eyes are heavy, and I don’t fight sleep when it comes.

When I wake up again, it’s after 9:00. Nooooo! I hate getting up this late. Why did I do that?!

I pop out of bed and head to the kitchen to put the kettle on. It’s Saturday, so I brew coffee in my French press and sit down, as I always do, at the table with my Bible and journal. But I’m feeling antsy and distracted because the morning is slipping away from me fast, so I don’t manage to have a good, focused quiet time.

After I give up on that, I sip my coffee and absentmindedly flip through books and magazines. I look at my phone to see if I have any text messages. Yep. And a couple of missed calls. Well, I’ll call them back after I shower. I take another sip of coffee.

It’s well after 10:00 now, so I eat something. The question occurs to me—what if someone comes to the door? I still haven’t showered. Mascara is smeared under my eyes, and my bed-head is not the charming type. I decide to leave my front curtains closed so no one can peek in and see me (they’ve done it before!).

My phone buzzes. I ignore it. I don’t like the way the day is going. I’m feeling lazy and unmotivated. I look at the dishes on the table and kitchen counter. I look at today’s list of things I wanted to do. No big deal. I’ll get to them. I rationalize that my to-do list is a working list, not a task-master. So, I’m not going to be legalistic about it.

I glance around the house and decide that—hey, maybe right now is a great time to change all of the furniture around. So I try a new arrangement, but I don’t like it, so I move it back. 

I notice my plants are looking thirsty, so I carry them into the kitchen and water them. I leave the plants on the counter so they can soak up the water. Then I begin to putter around while I wait. That’s productive, right?

After awhile, I glance at the clock. It is after 2:00 p.m. So why am I sitting on the floor, still unshowered, hair uncombed, in my pajamas, eating chocolate while I casually flip through a stack of free magazines I brought home from the library?

Sufficiently ashamed of myself, I head to the shower. I dress and finally look presentable and ready for the day. I go to open the curtains—something I normally do early, while the cheerful sun is rising on that side of the apartment— but I survey the room on my way there and realize it is a mess. So I tidy everything and do the dishes before I finally open the curtain. (You can c’mon over now people! I’m ready for ya!) Finally, I make my bed. I decide I won’t bother cleaning my room at this late hour, so I shut the bedroom door.

I look at my to-do list and make little arrows in most of the boxes (—>), which means that I’m moving the items to the next day.

It is now well after 3:00 and too quickly approaching dinner time. I haven’t gone outside today, not even onto my back balcony. I haven’t answered a single message that has come through on my phone. I haven’t done one item on my to-do list (budgeting, bill-paying, grocery shopping, laundry, letter writing, connecting with Mom, possibly for a trip to the beach, doing weekend housework, etc.), and now the list seems overwhelming and oppressive.

The only things I have accomplished at this late hour are the things I usually do before 7:00 a.m. There’s nothing wrong with moving through the day in a leisurely fashion sometimes, but this is ridiculous and I know it.

* * *

You get the idea, right? I may or may not have had a day exactly like this before. I’ve definitely done all of those things on separate days, and I’ve managed combinations of them on other days. It is possible that I’ve done all of this, and more, on a single, hopefully very rare, day. But I do know the feeling of aimlessness and lost time, and I don’t like it!

As I was typing, it occurred to me that I don’t think I’ve ever talked to anyone who has had days like this. (Do I really want to post this?) In fact, my best friend and her husband are quite the opposite. They might be ashamed of me.

Over the years, I have almost eradicated this type of aimless wandering, but I can quickly move back into this mode if I am not proactive about my days. Thankfully, on most days I do feel a happy sense of direction, and that is, for me, thanks to keeping my morning routine.

In my early years of motherhood, I realized that if I didn’t develop a morning routine—one that was flexible enough to allow for all of the unexpected things that come up with babies and children, but that was also fixed enough to give our family checkpoints throughout the day— we were going to struggle.

Having a routine is what made our mornings happy. It is how I got myself—and all of us—moving in a good direction. I made the effort to determine and establish a routine that flowed well for our family, and I eventually figured out how to get things done in a relatively peaceful manner.

Having a routine allowed us to read more books together, play more games, have a cleaner house (though it was a disaster sometimes!), laugh more, have more peace, and even have time for friends.

I prayed for wisdom and thought hard about what kind of rhythm I wanted to establish in our home. I learned to remove time-sucking distractions from my day (and life, for awhile at least). I studied my children to see what they needed in their lives to best keep them at peace, give them a sense of freedom and joy, and yet make them more compliant (routines help so much!).

Striving to create a workable, flexible routine helped to clear distractions and obstacles from my day and made it possible to focus on having a heart of love and service for my family.

Now that I’m older and have no children at home, I still need a routine. I work now, so I actually have a schedule, but even before I leave for work, I have a routine that I follow every single day. It allows me to almost automate my morning tasks and rhythms so that I have a sense of peace all the way through. I love my mornings before work. On weekends and during vacations (I work only on school days), I follow a different routine, but it’s similar.

The morning routine is a jumpstart. It gets things going, and once they’re going, it’s easier to keep them going. Again, I’m not talking about driving myself through to-do lists and all kinds of goals and frantic activities. I just know what I need to do, and I also know what I want to do.

I enjoy all of my tasks when I keep somewhat to a routine. It gives order and direction to my day, so I don’t need to hide my messy self behind closed curtains or procrastinate with text messages and phone calls. It does away with the chaotic atmosphere that gives me a nagging sense of guilt that I’m being lazy. My routine keeps me going in a good direction.

I am not a strict-schedule person. I like to be spontaneous. So, if it’s an extra gorgeous day and someone asks if I want to go to the beach or somewhere else, unless I have mandatory commitments, I’m in! If I’ve stuck to my early morning routine, I’m free and ready to go!

A routine is a type of discipline that produces peace and leisure. I think having a consistent pattern, rhythm, routine, or whatever you like to call it, can help anyone, in any stage of life. It might not make everything perfect, but it will definitely make it better.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Mrs. Miniver's "Gentle Humanity"

Mrs. Miniver "carrying on" in her bomb shelter.

As I flipped through the pages of my journal this morning to find where I last left off writing, my eyes caught a quote. I had copied the words from a review that is printed on the back of my pink, first edition copy of the book Mrs. Miniver. The reviewer praised the book as:

“Little masterpieces of gentle humanity.”

Mrs. Miniver was published in 1940, when the British were in the thick of WWII. Times there were difficult, but the book doesn’t focus on the darkness and the trouble. And not doing so is not avoidance. On the contrary, Mrs. Miniver is determined to “keep calm and carry on” as the famous British wartime poster encouraged citizens to do. In the midst of troubling times, she refuses to buckle and over-fret. She focuses on beauty and goodness, and lives with joy.

I love Mrs. Miniver for her gracious, warm, appreciative, beauty-seeking domesticity. I think, at first glance, the vignettes in the book can seem trivial and superficial. Is an entire chapter describing Mrs. Miniver’s vacillation as to whether or not she should buy the pretty, more expensive journal over the less expensive and less attractive, but entirely serviceable, journal really worth the space it possesses in the book? And is there really any importance to her sentimentality over the staircase bannister or her nostalgia over the old car that was replaced?

I think it would be easy to read the book and miss the bigger story. Mrs. Miniver realizes that the little things in life matter. She gives significance to the ordinary. She shows that warmth and beauty matter. That making a welcoming, hospitable, comfortable home matters. That flowers in a vase on the table matter. That tea in front of the fireplace matters. That giving warm attention to that child’s stories matters. That doing little tasks with great love matters. That all of the little details of everyday life are lovely and have weight and importance.

Mrs. Miniver has a spirit of graciousness and gratitude, which gives her an ability to delight in the everyday. And mostly importantly, she realizes that it is this irrepressibly positive, hopeful spirit that battles against the powers and forces that would darken our world and undo us.

The hopeful, appreciative spirit of Mrs. Miniver can be cultivated by all of us. It is essentially up to us to choose our daily—minute by minute—attitude, and if we will choose to be grateful, to see how much we have rather than what we don’t have, to see what is lovely in our lives rather than what is plaguing and exhausting us, to pay attention to little gifts and beauties, to believe that God is both Sovereign and Loving over and in our lives, we will be happier and more content. We will have vision, faith, and hope to carry us through dark times. We will also have Love to lighten that darkness, for ourselves and for others.

This demeanor is the atmosphere that goes with us, and this atmosphere affects everyone who comes near. I’ve always been inspired by what Bishop Moule said of his mother: “Her feet brought light into a room.” Do my feet usher in Light and warmth and cheer and hope? Do I spread joy?

If so, my life, like Mrs. Miniver’s can be made up of “little masterpieces of gentle humanity” where “the eternal is framed in domesticity.” For me, this always means, does my life help others to see the Light and Love of Jesus?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Save the Home Library

Yesterday I went to a fun little book club comprised of two of my daughters and one of their friends. I enjoyed hanging out with them in a local coffee shop for two hours and joining their conversation about books.

At one point in the discussion, my daughters’ friend said that she recently read an interesting article about the importance of building a home library and how this practice is starting to disappear.

I thought about what she said because our family enjoyed a good-sized home library that grew with the kids. Every one of us read fairly voraciously. Bookshelves lined the walls of our living room, and we had bookshelves in the bedrooms as well. There were books on tables, in baskets, on the floor, on nightstands, piled everywhere. In addition to building our family library, each of the kids also had their own book collections that expanded continuously over the years. We loved books, and books shaped us.

Every single one of my kids still loves to read, and they continue to pursue finding good books and expanding their personal libraries. (And so do I!) After the coffee shop book gathering, we went to Powell’s, and one of my daughters left with six or so books. These were all books she loved as a child— in the beloved editions she had read as a child— purchased, first, because she loves them and, second, because they are either disappearing from print, or they have been reprinted in an updated, unappealing edition. Reading nostalgia is powerful!

Articles with lists and strategies for turning kids into readers abound, and sometimes this thing that is actually simple and straightforward is made to seem overly scientific and complex.

Raising readers simply comes down to whether or not a few enjoyable practices exist in our homes. Some kids read voraciously at a young age, and some kids are busy doing other things before they take off with their personal reading, but here’s a simple recipe for eventual success in getting kids to read and enjoy books:

1. Have lots of books in the home. Build a library. Have shelves throughout the house. Research shows that reading performance correlates directly to the number of books in a home. A book-lined home makes readers and, besides, it makes home cosy and welcoming. 

2. Parents should read aloud to their children all the time—hopefully every single day, even multiple times a day. But definitely make a routine of it. Set times of the day for reading aloud might help. And continue reading aloud together all through high school, until the kids leave home. The memories that result—for both children and parents—are priceless.

3. The parents have a habit of reading for pleasure themselves. All the time.

4. The children should have a growing collection of their own good books (to keep forever). Hopefully, they will also have their own bookshelves. Take them to used bookstores, new bookstores, thrift stores with books. Help them build their personal library of special, favorite books.

If you can’t afford to buy many (or any) books, you can take kids (or yourself, like I do) to the public library. Our family bought books and went to the library, too. There were definitely times we couldn’t afford to buy books, but we brought literal boxes of books home from the library every week (I still do this). Checking books out of the library feels like shopping for books, but it’s free. Yay! I think this is kind of amazing. Using the library is a great option for making sure you have lots of books in the house, specifically for each person’s delight, taste, and interest.

5. Have a happy, welcoming attitude about books. They are to be used, enjoyed, and dragged around. Sure, you can have some rules about how books should be treated, but don’t be uptight about it. We’re building a book culture. Almost nothing should make you smile more than seeing your child engrossed in good books!

Honestly, this is for everyone. Reading has a huge number of benefits for all of us-- adults and children alike --and not only benefits that are measurable by research. The greater, most important part of my education has occurred apart from schooling, and it has happened largely because of the books I’ve read. My heart and mind and life has been changed in many ways by reading books. And so have those of my children, who are now sharing the joys of reading with their own children.

A home with books is a special place. Let's keep it going.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Currently Trending (in My Life)

Heatpocalypse, as my daughter calls it. Portland is in a heatwave. (Not as hot as other places get, but we're having days of record setting temps here.) The challenge is staying cool in an old—charming, but poorly insulated—apartment. And I have to say, we rock at this! But, nevertheless, we are in a state of aestivation: prolonged torpor, due to heat. Ha.

Meeting my daughter in air-conditioned coffee shops with books and journals. That’s where I am right now. We sip and talk and do stuff.

Going to Powell’s book store. Like way too often. This has got to stop before my fortune is blown.

Frozen TJ's chocolate-honey mint patties. My daughter’s brilliant idea.

Little girls and typewriters. Manual typewriter + six-year-old girl = lots of fun. Since my granddaughter recently discovered the blue vintage Royal I gave her mother a few years ago, she has been super-productive, typing notes, letters, and "books."

Forts under tables. Serious cosiness and fun is going on under there! It is Apartment #100, FYI.

Portland’s awesomeness. #1 Coffee City (according to Travel + Leisure mag) in US. #1 Food City in US., Powell’s, etc.

A successful Goodwill trip. Two pieces of art that my girls want to pry from my grip.

Honey Mamas yummy chocolate treats. Healthy, but spendy, so it really is a treat. LOVE. I usually buy the Oregon Peppermint or the Lavendar Rose, but I like them all.

Second cups of coffee every day, probably due to how much I’ve enjoyed my current bag of beans—Coava Kilenso.

Being with family. The absolute best. Do I have to go back home?

What’s trending in your life?