Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

“Literature has a great natural power. Through it, we receive the gifted communication of other persons. In literature, perhaps more than through any other art form, we are able to get into the other man’s shoes…”
~Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

I read this today.
It’s true, you know.

“In literature, we have the opportunity of developing a series of relationships with other persons, places, and historical times in a direct way. Perhaps this is the best place for mind to meet mind.” ~SSM

Again, true.

“Literature has a great natural power.” ~SSM

Let us not forget these things are true for our children

as well as for ourselves.

So, if it’s all true, how does that play out in practical terms for this busy-in-the process-of-adjusting-beginning-of-the-school-year-momma-whose-husband-just-started-a-new-job-and-also-starts-working-on-his-Master’s degree-this-month? Good question, huh? Also, just today in an email from a friend, she mentioned fitting in some things for herself amidst the heavy schedule of “getting it all done” at home with her children.

Ahhhh, a dilemma many of us face.

With this quandary in mind, mixed with the thoughts on literature I had read, I thought of  a couple of rather practical solutions…at least for me, anyway!

First, websites like this one and this one, offer a huge variety of ‘living books for the ears’. Yes, audio books for Mom, too! Now, those who know me, know that my phone is archaic. But even that old thing can hold a whole audio book! You can also download them to your computer or burn them onto cds. However you go about it, once you have the audio book and some cheap headphones, you can steal a few chapters at a time as you rake leaves, fold clothes, go for a walk, cook dinner, drive to the grocery store, and so on.

Secondly, you can read while the kids read. Remember D.E.A.R. time from when you were in school? You know, Drop Everything And Read!?!? If you make this part of the day for the kids and include yourself, you could easily get half an hour or so of reading a couple of days a week or more!

I love few things more than a really, really wonderful piece of literature. I find it true that “literature has a great natural power.”

Now, I’m off to do some downloading…and attempt to do a better job of ‘spreading the feast’ of literature by reading something not written by my beloved Jane Austen!


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“Besides my Bible, I always keep three books going that are just for me – a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel or one of poetry. I always take up the one I feel fit for. That is the secret: always have something ‘going’ to grow by.”

(Quote Credit)

My current Bible Plus Three:

After an intense semester of taking the Perspectives class…a welcome intensity and stirring in my soul that I pray is never quenched…I echo the sentiments of Amy Carmichael who said,

“Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God”.

Soon after, a series of questions began to evolve between God and I that led me to Psalm 51. I have stayed here for a while combing carefully over David’s words. To make a long story short, I had come to a place where I was asking God for a “clean heart”…wanting Him to search me in the deepest, most intimate places. I wanted anything that stood between He and I to be brought to Light. Any habits I had come to accept or ignore that were not a reflection of Christ in me, I wanted them exposed . I wanted to turn from them. If there were any impure motives or attitudes, I wanted them wiped away and my mind renewed. I needed Him to “teach me wisdom deep within”. So while Psalm 51 is actually David’s prayer for restoration after Nathan the prophet came to him after he had gone to Bathsheba, it has also served as a guide for me. Much of it has been a step by step ‘search and prayer’ effort.


A Passion for the Impossible

This book deserves, and will likely have, a post all its own. I had never heard Lilias Trotter’s name until a lecturer in one of my classes brought her to my attention. While he merely mentioned her name, that she was an artist, and that she made the trek to North Africa, I was compelled to seek her out. She is a kindred spirit in so many ways. She was a gifted artist, a fellow sojourner, a brilliant writer, and a brave pioneer! Lilias’s “passion for the impossible” is fiercely contagions. I also love the CM connection in that Miss Trotter was a patron of sorts to John Ruskin, and Miss Mason references him in her writings!


Back To Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills

Love it, love it, love it! Right up my alley is what this book is! My boys have also picked it up and completely laid out their future homesteading plans!

There are SO many things in the  book that we hope to be able to do at some point. Right now, the gardening information alone makes it a staple in our home. Raising our own chickens (rather than collecting eggs from Grandad’s coop down the road) is next on the agenda, and there is enough to get us started in this book as well.  A plethora of topics range from canoeing and kayaking to preserving produce to waterpower to natural dyes to patchwork quilting to beekeeping to broommaking…and so much more. It’s everything I wish I’d paid more attention to that my grandparents and great-grandparents did and then some!


Successful Adoption: A Guide for Christian Families

We are not in the process of adopting. However, our family is open to it. For now, it is a matter that we have committed to prayer. Either way, whether we do or do not adopt, we intend to care for orphans.  The pages of this book provide abundant details, examples, Q & A, and practical steps/helps. A portion of the book is also dedicated to “Adoption as a Ministry: How You Can Help” for those who are not necessarily going to adopt but who could support and nurture those who do. The author has done an amazing job of sharing her own experience with adoption as well as compiling many others’ experiences. She manages to make the reader feel like she is there step-by-step, hand-holding you through the process from the very beginning: “What Adoption Is and What It Means”.  An unbelievable amount of effort has gone into this book!


So….what are you reading these days?









Note: Bible Plus Three (Entry 1) can be found here.

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Bible Plus Three

At Homeschool World, I once read an article about Mother Culture by Karen Andreola where she quoted another mother as saying this:

“Besides my Bible, I always keep three books going that are just for me – a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel or one of poetry. I always take up the one I feel fit for. That is the secret: always have something ‘going’ to grow by.”

That certainly resonated with me! I always have two or three books going a a time. After I read this, I tried to be more intentional about having my “Bible Plus Three” (as she titled it in the article).  I needed to broaden my horizons a bit. I was a even more encouraged to do so after having read this: “Mothers and teachers should know about nature. The mother cannot devote herself too much to this kind of reading, not only that she may read tit-bits to her children about matters they have come across, but that she may be able to answer their queries and direct their observations.” (Vol 1, II, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children, p.64) I have a desire to know things about the world around me…about Creation…flowers, animals, clouds, and the like. Also, as much as I have always loved history, I want to know more….for my own sake…as well as that of my children’s. I want to be able to answer their questions and share the knowledge I have on a subject. I want to have conversations about WWII, tulips, the African Serengeti, John Adams, and so on and so on. While I’m well aware I cannot possibly know everything…and that there is such beauty in our learning things together…I can be more well-rounded in my attempts in my own self-education.

That being said, here’s my current Bible Plus Three:

I’ve been reading through the beloved, adventurous book of Joshua. God has reminded, taught, convicted, and encouraged me through the pages of this book. Most recently in Chapter 2, I was struck on how God’s reputation had left those in Jericho fearful and panicking. Rahab had said, regarding the people’s fear of God and the impending advancement of the Israelites, “dread of you has fallen on us”, “we lost heart”, and “everyone’s courage failed because of you”. While there are many things to glean from this text, my personal journal pages are inked with words of reflection as I couldn’t help but wonder when ‘the enemy’ has recently felt that way at the thought of me. When had my efforts to advance the Kingdom of God been so passionate and focused that the thought of ‘God in me’ had been a threat to the enemy…

“No Ordinary Home” by Carol Brazo is such a unique book in my opinion. It is essentially a mother’s journal. The author takes her own raw, heartfelt journal entries and revisits them years later. She  expresses her heart on topics such as disappointment, identity, and longing. Also, topics such as gardens, decor, and holidays are addressed as she determines to “bring the holy home”. Already, I have been encouraged as I have read a woman’s thoughts that have often been my own. I also love the chapter on the “keys”. They are a part of her decor that represent something of importance to her and her family. I’m simple. Not at all fancy. So this was a decorating idea that I could get behind! Her own words best summarize the book when she says, “The gentle Savior graciously came and made a disaster area into a sanctuary fit for His dwelling.”

Jane Austen is a personal favorite of mine. In all honesty, it is nearly the only fiction I have read as an adult (other than reading aloud to my boys!). I am hoping to expand on my fiction choices…since I only have two of her books left to read, I will be forced to! While Mansfield Park is so far not my favorite book written by J.A., it has been enjoyable to read. She does a remarkable job of once again connecting me with 18th century England. I am connected to this particular period of history and begin to envision places I have never seen and an age I will never physically be a part of. Sometimes, as I read her books, I think I would’ve been better suited for the time during which they were written….some of the ideals, practices, and such cause me to long for such a time. While there are also many reasons to conjure much gratitude for the time I do live in. In Mansfield Park, I have also had the experience of forming relationships with people from both ends of the spectrum on the socio-economic scale of this time period. I admire qualities in Fanny and fail to understand some of them. I adore Edmund…he is attentive and gentle while also portraying the strength of a man. He seems to bear all the things an eldest son should…although he is not. Thus far, as is typical for me when I read a Jane Austen novel, I am much desiring to walk along the paths and among the gardens of Mansfield Park…

Wow! I checked this one out from the library…and am I ever sorry I did that! This is a ‘must have’ for me! With my library copy, I am unable to dog-ear, highlight, or scribble notes in the margins! This particular book was perfect timing for me. I have been keeping a nature journal for the first time ever, and I love it so much. I was doing some with the kids from time to time, but this book has me even more eager to get out and connect with the world around me with my sketch book in hand. In all honesty, I’m terrible at sketching…but I’m learning! And most importantly, I’m learning that a journal hasn’t any real rules anyway. I am so excited about this book! Can you tell!?!?!

So….what are you reading these days?

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Love -A Guest Post


A Guest Post by Nancy Kelly from Sage Parnassus

First, a few profound thoughts on love. Then, an amazing book to read.

If the old fairytale ending “They lived happily ever after” is taken to mean  “They felt for the next  fifty years  exactly as they felt  the day before they were married,” then it says what probably never was nor ever could be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense-love as distinct from “being in love” is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit;  reinforced  by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both parents ask, and receive, from God.   -C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

This Valentine’s Day, why not pick up a book about a romance?  Make sure it has some poetry and maybe a little C.S. Lewis, too. A Severe Mercy is one of my favorite reads, a true story that has all of these things. I read in bed every night and this is one of those books that finds me making excuses to get to bed and crawl under my grandmother’s quilt earlier than usual. As if I needed an excuse to go to bed early. (!)

The author, Sheldon VanAuken, recounts his courtship and marriage to Davy which he describes as “the Pagan Love”.   Here is the first poem he wrote for her during their courtship:


The aged winter fled away

Before the bulges of the May,-

And love, dear love, arose.

But when spring’s glory goes

The lilacs of our love shall stay,

For ever Maytime sweet and gay,-

Until the lilacs close

Beneath the deathly snows.


Sheldon and Davy moved to Oxford after a few years. Here they read widely and made friends, many Christians among them. “As we read, we talked to our Christian friends, raising our questions and doubts. They answered us very patiently and thoughtfully.” (p. 85)  One night, he impulsively wrote a letter to C.S. Lewis asking questions about Christianity. These wonderful, insightful letters are in the book for us to read.
But life is not all poetry and books for the couple. Davy contracts a fatal disease and their love – and faith- are put to the test.  It is told beautifully, will make your heart ache and have you thinking about much more than love. As C.S. Lewis said, “Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it.” -Mere Christianity

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The Habit of Twenty Wishes

A Guest Post by Susan from Stitchinlife.blogspot.com

…on how she is developing the new habit

of making her own twenty wishes…

Read an excerpt here!


All three of my children were seated at the kitchen table eating a breakfast of cold cereal with milk. John, thirteen was silently reading the back of the cereal box; he still looked sleepy. Sarah, twelve, was wearing last year’s gray and white striped sweater, now, too small. And Kathryn, ten, my youngest was insisting she wasn’t hungry at all.

I cradled my cup of warm coffee between the palms of my hands thinking about the pecan and pumpkin pie dough I needed to roll out, wondering if I should use the dough recipe with the oil or try the shortening recipe I never can get to work. Elvis, our chocolate Labrador puppy nudged his nose against my jeans, his sign, I know that he wanted to go outside. (more…)

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Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.

~Robert Frost

Poetry is, perhaps, the most searching and intimate of our teachers.

~Charlotte Mason


It seems that as of late, I cannot escape poetry. It has come about in subtle ways…

…The poetry of the Psalms
…Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure’s poem O Holy Night was used as an advent topic one evening.
…The introduction of Mother Goose to my boys, and their frequent requests for it to be read!
…Memorized poems being rehearsed by the boys during our instruction time, and to the occasional extended family member who will lend their ear!

And hearing lovely words come from my boys’ lips like…

“Over the hills the summons came,

Over the river’s shining rim.”


“Of fishes and corals under the waves,

And seahorses stabled in the great green caves.”


…has moved me to put to memory a poem of my own. (more…)

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My grandmother tells me I’ve been known as the storyteller in our family since I was about four-years-old. A few years ago I began taking workshops and classes for my personal enjoyment at the Eric Carle Museum on a range of topics that consider the art of the story. This past Sunday I found myself entertaining even deeper thoughts on storytelling while attending a local performance of The Nutcracker ballet.   We had progressed to Act II where candies from around the world entertain the young heroine, Clara, by performing traditional dances from their countries.

Imagine if you will, the famous Russian dance known as the Trepak – which tells it’s own political story since it is more factually Central Ukrainian via Zaporozhian Cossacks – being performed as part of a larger story which is told both through performance dance and Tchaikovsky’s most famous composition.   Better yet, the ballet is based on an adaptation by Alexandre Dumas — yes, of Three Musketeers fame —  of E.T.A. Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Add to that the recollection of a conversation I’d had years earlier with a friend who believes Hoffman’s work is an allegory of the Book of Revelation – though I would argue the symbolism goes even further.

Whew… can see why my head was spinning like a pirouette?

What is this fascination with stories?  I imagine you share the same fascination as an educating mother and lover of living books.   Two years ago I decided to really push myself and give oral storytelling a go.  I’ve now performed a handful of times, including at a Native-American Pow Wow and a Kabbalat Shabbat.    These experiences are positively scary but also exhilarating and, as the audience sits listening with wide-eyed attentiveness, I wonder if I’m being given a glimpse of what some of those story-tellers of old might have experienced.

Bible stories are my favorite to tell – heroic and romantic adventures that are even better because they are true.  The influence of story is evident, though in a subtler manner,  in the first chapter of Luke.   After Mary receives Elizabeth’s blessing which recognizes the deity of the child to be born to her, Mary exults in God and magnifies the Lord. Mary’s poetic praise is so full of quotations from the Old Testament, we can assume that as a child many were the occasions Mary also sat in wide-eyed attention as the stories of God’s merciful and faithful doings were told to her.

This Thursday I am to give a storytelling at a local women’s ministry, and I’m thinking of one along the lines of Song of Solomon, which recounts how the king disguised himself as a country man in order to woo a Shulammite girl.  You see, I’m wondering if they have ever met the Word from eternity past that stepped out of the Godhead and clothed Himself in humanity in order to gain a bride.  They may have heard that God is called the author of our life and the author of our faith, but I would like to introduce them to the Hero and their own part in the story.   Now that’s a romance even the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier’s Pas de Deux can’t hold a candle to.

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