Monday, February 29, 2016

Roots & Sky: How permanence and dreams make up Home

I go thru chapters of life where an idea or a question jumps in front of me and doesn't just fade into the background. It lodges itself in my mind and invites me to wrestle it through, while my hands stay busy with my daily cycle of chores. It's usually never a novel idea, it's usually something that always seemed to have a pretty pat answer to up until now. And then I experience something, I hear something or I read something and the simple assumption I had doesn't quite seem like enough. So, I engage with finding a truer meaning- I discuss it with others, I mull it over in my mind and I seek out what more eloquent thinkers have to say about it. It seems safe to say that in most of these instances, God is the who plants these stubborn thoughts and God is the one who invites me to wrestle out the truth of it. I'm learning that God is okay with us not always blindly accepting but sometimes fighting to understand the truest meanings of living. I love Him more for that. 

 Lately, I have really been thinking on and reassessing my simple definition of what Home means and God has been putting a lot of thoughts and resources in my way to bring encouragement and clarity. First was Sally Clarkson's wonderful new book, The Life Giving Home (which I will be sharing about on the blog in short order!), full of clear and beautiful goals and the motivation to get there. But next came a soul stirring memoir that resonated pretty deeply with all I feel home to be. Roots & Sky: A journey home in four seasons was the heart felt and resounding follow up I needed to making grand and lofty plans for my home and those who reside there. Christie Purifoy writes of the raw honesty, hope, beauty and struggle of carving out a home here in this broken world. Roots & Sky documents a year in her life- making a new start for her family and their "dream house" and a year in her heart- all the love and even tears that go with truly pouring out your all into bringing His Kingdom Come here on the earth. I enjoyed reading this book a "season" at a time so I could fully soak in the feelings Christie portrays for each chapter of the year. I appreciate the verse of scripture Christie attaches to the beginning of each chapter of the book- a verse she attacks to that life memory.

  In Autumn, I loved meeting the new, antique farm house- Maplehurst- that would be their forever home. I am carried back to the bittersweet pains of labor and all the excitement of bringing home a new family member as Christie welcomes their 4th child to an already exciting year of firsts for their family. I relate soundly with the odd urge to be up and moving- actively engaging in life when a newborn means you are to be nesting and tied to home for this season. We are always wanting to be where we aren't currently. I feel Christie really is so much more skilled at expressing these feelings even if I have felt them strongly myself at times so I will share some of her quotes. 
  "I want to go for long walks in the woods. I want to drive up and down the green hills of this countryside, to dazzle my eyes with autumn glory. I want vistas. I want movement. I want to dive in the way my children tip themselves over into great piles of leaves...helping her (baby) requires that I stop moving. Instead of long walks and longer drives, I hold her in the rocking chair...My movements shrink to the small triangle of the rocking chair, my bed and the teakettle I keep humming in the kitchen."

I so, so feel the struggle Christie speaks of in trying to find the impossible balance of being given the gift of great potential and realizing the weight of the hard work and never ending to-do lists to get there. The maddening realization that there really is only so much time in the day and so much of it is already spent, whether we like it or not.-
  " We live so much of our lives with our hands tied behind our backs. With everything to do- more than we can possibly accomplish in a day- we are yet further hampered by illness, tiredness, a lack of money or time. This seems true even on good days. With twenty- four hours in a day, how many must we devote to unproductive necessities like sleeping? Eating? Not to mention shopping for food or washing sheets or changing endless diapers. Some days we have more freedom than others, but we are always, to some degree, hemmed in by weakness, by need, by lack or by loss."

 Winter at Maplehurst brings the great anticipation of the Advent season and Christie helps us to realize the Now and Not Yet type of Advent we live in still. Knowing the hope of a King who came on Christmas morning and still waiting for the Kingdom to fully come.
   "But the now of Advent is a spacious place. A pleasant place. I am given good things to do, things that are not at all burdensome. I must drink. I must eat. I must sleep..If I want to abide in this day, I must only tear my eyes away from tomorrow and look around. For there is a wholeness to this day that I do not want to miss." 

 I enjoyed reading of Christie and her husband planting seeds of dreams during the snow of winter to paint hope into their story together.-
  "Fifteen years ago, we had a romance. By the time we celebrate our anniversary at Maplehurst, we have a shared life. we have memories; we have children; we have plans. We are sleep deprived and haven't had a night out in ages, but we continue to dream dreams about the future at a table sticky with maple syrup fingerprints. This is love in the flesh. The work of belonging together is exactly that: work...(But) this isn't to say it's always laborious..Sometimes it might be as easy as Christmastide evenings spent together reading plant catalogs and drawing up lists of heirloom fruit." 

  Spring brings the thaw of snow in Pennsylvania and the chance for Christie to put her admirable winter-made plans to life on her 5 acre property. But, as I feel early each spring, the task of making those dreams into reality is a lot easier said than done.
  "The first day of spring approaches our horizon, yet it feels strangely as if the gap between my winter dreams and their spring fulfillment is only growing wider. The plans that seem manageable in December as we studied the blank slate of our snow-covered hilltop now seem impossible. I watch as my dreams fracture into doubts."

 To balance the hard work of cultivating in Spring, Christie learns to truly cherish the beauty, even if it doesn't last forever.-
  "For so much of my life I have sought eternity by keeping my arms wrapped tightly around solid things..These are things I believed had eternal significance. But this first spring at Maplehurst is showing me just how much is left out when we equate eternal significance with permanence...It maybe that the most ephemeral of beauties- a baby's pink cheeks, a tree's pink flowers- are the very things that lead us home. It maybe that eternity is the home of so many things I have forgotten or misplaced or failed to even notice. Certainly, eternity is God's home.The throne room of the one who counts hairs. Bottles tears. Holds sparrows as they fall."

Summer means the satisfaction of seeing the literal fruit of your labors come to pass, and Christie's family wasn't disappointed. Living on a farm and tending to a garden myself, I know the truth that is summer brings much- lots of produce, extra hours in the day and mounds of extra work to take up those extra hours.-
  "The rich abundance of July is sweet, but it isn't only sweet..Drowning in more than rain or vegetables..It is a season of too much:too much humidity, too much rain and too much noise. Yet I recognize that there is another way to tell the same story. Because there is also too much zucchini in the garden, too much basil in the plot by my kitchen door. There is too much time for reading on the porch and too much time for doing absolutely nothing at all. My children have too many books checked out from the library, the baby is crawling too fast, and at dusk, when I lock the chickens in the coop, their are too many fireflies too count."

 Roots & Sky circles around to the completion of the year with the realization that we-as the always in a state of tension, human race- can be both profoundly thankful for this present moment and yearning for the next best thing, for more.-
  "In those days the thought of five acres would have seemed both overwhelming and too good to be true. With five acres, I could grow every single plant I had ever admired. Five acres or one hundred and five. Compared to my little fenced- in postage stamp, they would have seemed to me much the same. Endless. Even with five acres , itself more than I can yet manage, let alone cultivate, I resent the boundaries. My eyes seek the deficiencies. I wish we had a creek, bubbling across some corner. I wish we had a small pond, just big enough for the family of ducks...Even the chickens appear to want to live beyond their means. Free to roam every one of those acres,they make a mad dash for our next-door neighbor's bird feeder every single time I open the door to their run. We are all such funny birds. We will rush to the far side of a gold meadow just to yearn for the greener grass beyond." 

 Seasons are a very much a part of life- the routine seasons of the year, the natural seasons of life that come with aging, seasons of emotional states- and it is encouraging to know others are on the same journey. Christie has a gift for deciphering the struggles of the heart- for putting into words the wrestlings of my heart. Of how to be both present in the moment and looking to the future. How to dream big but live a quiet life. Of how I can bring the kingdom eternal to live in my little corner of this fleeting world. Home becomes more and more important and endeared to me as I realize the significance of it really- that it is much more than just a safe haven of a building but a symbol of God's Providence.
 "It is not right that anyone should live without shelter. But exile and poverty are not the only wrongs in the world. Too many of us grow fat on abundant, familiar foods yet starve for want of symbols. We live in solid houses, but do not understand what they mean. We forget who shelters us. The one who is the roof over our heads and the walls around us. Bilbo didn't leave his home because it wasn't important. He left because of how very important it was." 

 Thanks to Revell for this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Prophetess- a great read on a rainy afternoon

Historical fiction has always been "my" genre- it seems the surest way to truly get lost in another time and place. I read almost all of Jane Kirkpatrick's Oregon trail and settling era books during my high school years. Being an Oregonian, the books based on real women tales really seemed to come to life, having visited the settings of this stories in person. In recent years, I have really enjoyed books written thru the eyes of biblical women. I grew up immersed in the bible and hearing of the heroines God chose to use in our redemptive history. The bible (being the greatest story every written) is so filled to the brim with so many inspiring characters and miraculous ventures that we only get glimpses into lives of it's heroes and heroines. It leaves much to the imagination and I used to dream away a slow afternoon pondering exactly that- who were these women in the everyday and what did their lives really look like? I have found an author that does a fantastic job of delving into that mystery is Jill Eileen Smith. A couple of years back I read her novel about Rahab, The Crimson Cord, and thoroughly enjoyed it! I was very excited to get my hands on her latest book, The Prophetess.
 This book was an intriguing read that me gripped from page one- I devoured it during just a couple rainy afternoon/little boy nap times! I really appreciate Jill's knack for being able to flesh out Deborah and make her a woman-wife, mother and servant of God-who I could relate to. Giving enough back story to build up how Deborah's marriage and family came about before God came to her with visions, making her into the prophetess and judge she is know as today was a great starting point for the story. I was endeared by the idea that she was trying to navigate the responsibilities of womanhood and seeking to please the Lord thru her life, making her a vessel the Lord could use to do mighty things for His people. I appreciated the realness brought in thru her growing as a wife and mother thru the book- watching her grow to love her husband through an arranged marriage and raise her children well, even during contentious seasons in the home. On top of that, Deborah's role as a prophetess and judge brings much more weight and adventure to her story. I also enjoyed that Jael and Barak's viewpoints on the tale are woven through out the book as well, since they are large parts of the biblical account.
 Writing biblical fiction is a somewhat delicate area to be taking much creative license in, But I feel Jill Eileen Smith does a tactful and graceful job at making our favorite Bible women into true to life characters in masterful accounts of their part in biblical history. I look forward to "getting to know" more of my favorite bible heroines thru Jill's books.
 Thanks to Revell Books for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

I love a good reason to celebrate! -A sweet, watercolored baby shower

 I have always enjoyed planning the perfectly suited party to celebrate loved ones. I love choosing a theme and planning out all the little details to make it special: designing a fun invitation, "researching" pinterest for décor ideas and planning the menu. My best friend and I used to put on gourmet dinner parties, just for the fun of it (and because we wanted an excuse to make fancy food!). My biggest event planning venture was my wedding, over 6 years ago now. We had 3 months and a limited budget to work with, but our wedding was the perfect embodiment of our love story. Since then, there have been many baby showers, birthdays and other reasons to celebrate on our circle of family and friends!
Our most recent cause for celebration has been the very soon-to-be arrival of my Best Friend's third little one- Little Elsie Jane. With her due date in early March, a bright, water colored soiree seemed perfect for little Elsie and her artistic Mama. With some help from some good friends, we set the stage for a festive evening!
Here's a few snapshots of the colorful décor-


Now comes the fun part, our "water colored" cookie project! my cohost was brave and took on the experiment of putting together our party activity of painting cookies. She found a great sugar cookie recipe with a glaze and then figured out how to go about making our edible paints. We had several color options and I was really impressed with how well they turned out! we let the guests decorate their cookies while our Mama of Honor opened gifts. Everyone really enjoyed getting to be artists for awhile and the finished projects were delicious!

Here are some of the masterpieces! When everyone was done painting, we gathered all the cookies on a table and let our Mama of Honor choose her top 3 favorites and had prizes for the winning artists.


This turned out to be such a fun celebration in anticipation of one sweet, little girl! I love the beautiful and generous offerings from talented women available on the internet for party planners such as myself! I have a great appreciation for pretty elements and details but I do not have the creative skills to make those things myself. I love being able to browse online and find the perfect ideas and resources to make a party really come together! I will share all of my inspiration and links on my pinterest account.

Hope Unfolding- a breath of fresh air of a book for Mothers

Motherhood is hard work-very much a full time job. The farther I go on this journey and the more challenging it gets-adding in more kids and new stages to master- the more I realize how vital a good support system is for every Mama. In my life that looks like a loving husband, awesome parents and in-laws, a great church and moms ministry there AND a row on my bookshelf of encouraging and instructive books specific to motherhood. I have come to realize the significant importance of real life community and camaraderie with local, like minded moms; but being an introvert, I will always appreciate a well written book I can relate to and find solace in. Hope Unfolding: Grace-filled truth for the Momma's heart was just such a book for me. My mom, a true Titus 2 woman-always looking for ways to encourage me as a young mother, introduced me to Becky's blog, Scissortail Silk, awhile back and was excited to see her gather some of her stories and message into a book!


  The cover itself is uplifting and inviting- bringing some beauty into your day from the get go! Becky has a very engaging, conversational writing style that makes it feel as if she's  sitting right across the living room from you, sharing a heart to heart. I really appreciate Becky's drive for reaching out to other moms in the midst of it and to say, "Ya, me too." There is really something to be said for someone willing to let their guard down and allow others to see that their life is a bit on the messy side too. Vulnerability goes so much farther in establishing a real connection with someone than trying to keep up appearances. In the last few years especially, I have gained some amazing mama friends by being willing to open my door (clean house or not) and share a cup of coffee and a good conversation, with children running wild around our feet. I have learned that if I was going to wait until I had everything together and my life spic and span before I let people in, I would be very lonely, indeed. I cherish the friendships that have been built around messy kitchen tables, laughing over the crazy things our kids have done and mulling over this puzzle called life with authentically beautiful women. So I love that Becky has grabbed ahold of that idea and taken it to the internet to connect women to a bigger community and now in book form.

  What I admire more than the fact the Becky is easy to relate to is that she doesn't just leave you there at "Ya, I know, this whole thing sucks sometimes, doesn't it?"  Especially when I'm in a hard season myself, I have a very easy time agreeing with someone else's trials and discouragement but don't quite have the strength to assist in finding the silver lining. Becky does a great job of taking you from a real life scenario from her own story to spinning some deeper meaning and truths out of the situation. Being a Mama of three herself, she can empathize with the wear and tear of motherhood (and those  beyond ordinary days that push you over the edge); but she has rooted herself in the hope of Christ enough to be able to gently lift the chin of her fellow mothers and help them to see beyond the struggles of today, to the bigger purpose and reward found in Him.

  As a (very small-time) Mama blogger myself, most every time a message bounces around in my head that I feel I'd like to write about and share, I tell myself "that's already been said and way better than you could ever express it." Because, thanks to the internet especially, there are thousands of voices out there sharing some very inspiring words. But I was recently kind of shaken out of that train of thought by something I read in Emily Freeman's A Million Little Ways. Emily wrote "Our imaginations are endless. You get to frame things in a way only you can, with a voice only you have. Sure, we may be framing the same thing, but we'll do it differently...See the world out of abundance rather than scarcity. Just because he is saying something you want to say doesn't mean you shouldn't say it too...If they are saying it too, all that means is you're on to something...Yes, someone can do it better and they probably already have...but you saying it might be the first time someone finally hears." All this to say, I can't say I haven't heard the message Hope Unfolding brings before, but it was a refreshing reminder of truth. I think Becky's voice is one that resonates well into the hearts of those traveling the well worn path of motherhood.

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."