Friday, August 26, 2016

Lake District Love

Be still my heart. The Lake District in Cumbria, England. A small slice of Heaven on earth. I can't begin to tell you what the cool, damp air, dry stack walls, stone buildings, ancient gates, well-worn paths, gorgeous gardens, and the soaring fells mean to me.   Poetry about the Lake District for perusing ~

Thursday, August 25, 2016

...vast and still...

Life is marching on, and I find we are slowly and smoothly settling in from our busy summer of changes, and I'm finally starting to process my trip to England, with a side of Paris. Yes, it's taken me a couple of months to stop my brain and heart from swirling around and around. I was thinking about all the words, images, inspiration, and beauty that I stored up in my soul and it's spilling up and over and out and I am having a hard time articulating all that it meant. I don't want to do a daily diary of my trip...but hopefully,  I can write and share photos about what various bits and pieces meant to me. Hopefully, so I will never forget and before I forget all too soon.

I can't think back over the trip without remembering the churches, big and small, Anglican and Catholic, ornate and simple. Imagine with me stepping into, a coolness, darkness, and a sense of hush. Even though, I was often surround by others, I felt alone. The earthy, dampness smells heavenly and full of ancient beauty. It begins to smell welcoming and familiar after I was further along in my trip. My sister and I turned to one another, and smiling, said, "That smell." 

Two things struck me the most about these places of worship. The stillness and the vastness. I often felt a reverence and just a sense of "Be still and know" come over me warring with the awe of the sheer vastness of the cathedral ceilings and windows. I wish I could have bottled it up, so I could uncorked it at special times, to smell and be reminded of the beauty. I couldn't take photographs of everything, and so much of it is truly could try to reach out and touch that unknown feeling, grasping for the wind. The vastness is a picture of our God, of His greatness. Yes, He is far greater and bigger than the most magnificent building man can build, but it gave me a small taste, yes indeed. 

I truly am grateful for the chance to visit the small parish churches, and the great soaring landmarks. I can just smell those moments, imagine the rainbow sunlight slanting in, the flicker of the candles, the low murmur of worshipers and visitors, the songs, prayers, and words. God is so vast and powerful, yet a gentle Shepherd stilling our fears in the storms. 


Monday, July 25, 2016

Foxglove & Recap of our 2015-2016 School Year

Hello! I found this photo on my camera and I just LOVE it...notice the bees?! I saw foxglove frequently in England and I'm just swooning over it. It's harder to grow it in Wisconsin, maybe due to our heat? I thought I do a brief review our last school years learning as we begin again in a few weeks.

Willow Tree Recap for 2015-2016:

Some of what worked well:

Our rhythm to our days worked well and over all went so smoothly. I will be changing it a bit though out of necessity as my two youngest nap times have changed, but what a blessing that it flowed so well.

Our Gathering Time was a blessing, just sitting together and going through various books & subjects with my four students and my 4 yo was overall, a lovely and engaging time. Yes, we had whines and wiggles, but generally it was good. 

Poems at the breakfast table is a highlight. Everyone isn't always delighted at the time, but the reservoir built up in us has been evident and lovely. 

I lighten up the amount of books we were doing at once and it was better to just fully immerse ourselves in the stories. However, I will need to lighten more. I'll talk on that in a minute.

Geography went better. We focused on one area, New England, since that ties into our American history and biographies. We did map drills and those were enjoyed. We read and narrated CM's Elementary Geography which fostered a lot of good conversation. 

Over all, copywork and dictation went well.

Limited media time at a set time in the afternoon, once school and chores were completed, worked out WONDERFULLY. It created good habits in us!

A mixture of Life of Fred, a multiplication book, and Khan academy is working for our family for Math, however, since there is a lot reading I have to leave time to help my non-readers.

Our CM group, Excelsior Guild, was encouraging and helpful. 

There were many other beautiful things, but these jumped out to me.

What needs tweaking:

Too many books. ;) That made our learning times too long. I want to be faithful with short the reading and the narrations being short. Also if I cut the amount of books down we can finish things in a more timely manner. I'm all for slowly savoring a book, but dragging it out WAY TOO LONG isn't the best sometimes for remembering and continuity to the story. 

Our individual work time was too long especially for the younger two children...they need my help with everything and I had too many books for them. 

Other then chores, cooking, and baking, we didn't do a ton of hands-on activities and handicrafts. Although, the children DID do drawing, LEGO creations, and lots of acting out battles, etc on their own. I'd like to rethink handicrafts, because I think I make psych myself up about it being this huge, messy thing and USUALLY they are not...and when they are, I need to be ok with that. 

I'd love to work more on dictation, written narrations, and grammar with my oldest consistently. 

Nature journaling becomes kind of an afterthought or optional activity if I'm not careful. I don't like that!!! I need to cultivate the habit in myself of slowly down, giving time for it, and invite the children to join in regularly.

I want to work on a few habits specifically more purposefully and I would like to make schedules for my older children to take more proactive responsibility over their own learning and chores. 

Plutarch started off slow, but I was given some wise advice, and we would read a little then, narrate, read a little more then narrate. This worked SO much better. 

Our Bible recitation and readings, I'd like to tweak. We used a retelling last year as I took a break from the heavy reading I was doing the year before. I'd like to get back to reading straight from the Bible. Short bits, narrate and then possibly the same bit in a retelling, narrate? Still thinking on it.

So that's what I've been mulling over as I looked over last year. I was reading this morning in Proverbs and know I can plan, plan, plan, but the Lord is the one I need to be looking at and gazing upon for this coming year. 

A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.

~Proverbs 16:9

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


The Lake District, Cumbria, England ~

The music is drifting out of my player. The children are reading, napping, and some playing blocks and animals. I have the start of supper ready to be prepped on the kitchen table. My folded laundry is stacked and ready to be put away. Ahh. Home. It is such a blessing. My husband and I put an old swing that I discovered in an out building on the deck last night. The moon was full and the wind deliciously cool as the humidity faded away a bit...

We have one more big family outing this summer and then home, easing into our rhythm for autumn. I'm SO looking forward to that! I hope to share slowly bits of my trip and our learning in the coming days. Right now, I'm focusing on getting back at the work and joy of relationships...with my precious Lord Jesus, husband, children, and others.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Just chatty... maybe these aren't the best photographs. But I love what they represent. A bit of home beauty. Memories and love. Celebrations and family meals. 

How are you all? We are moving ever forward on our remodel. Once I figure out how to get the photographs off my phone, I can share just has been way easier to take them with that, then lugging my Canon around. The purging and packing at Hidden Valley is surprisingly refreshing. Out with the old and all that. Ten years of papers, old medicines, piles, and stacks. Ahh. A breath of fresh air. 

I'll admit that I am weary. Oh, so weary. Yet, how did the pioneers forge new homes and carve out places for their families? By back breaking work and the sweat of their brow. :) We aren't QUITE doing what the pioneers did, but I'd like to identify with them in a small way. It lends a romance to the mundane. I've been trying to have a lot of compassion on my children, as times like these prove how important being at home, having a rhythm to our days, and structure is to ones mental health. 

I'm reading a few things by dipping in and out, between working and my eyelids drooping. The Shepherd's Life : Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks is a memoir on the Lake District in England. It is just lovely! I'm rereading Life Giving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson with some friends, and it is SO timely and inspiring read for me. And Gladys Taber is spurring me on the way with her gorgeous reflections of nature and home in Stillmeadow Seasons. I picked up Essential Woodsworth at the library and I'm LOVING it also. The most encouraging to me now, however, is Psalms and the Gospels. Oh, how beautiful. Oh, how it waters my soul. 

So, my England trip is fast approaching and I am so looking forward to it. To be honest, with it falling in the same summer we decided to remodel (boy, we planned that well, eh? ;) ) , I've felt a little distanced from it. I'm getting more excited and am so blessed by this opportunity. 

My next little project, I'm researching is making some curtains for the main floor at Hearth Ridge. I want to have something with a floral, gingham, and burlap mixture. Still planning and excited. I found my sewing machine, so that is a good step. Ha. ;) 

The flower beds are a mess and I'm not sure how much I will get to do with them this year. I hope to at least put down some mulch and maybe plant some zinnias. I am loving dreaming about them, though, for the future. I am sooo inspired by Bobby Jo's blog and photos. :) Her gardening photos are so lovely. 

We found a neat old metal swing in one of my husband's sheds and I can't wait to drag it over to Hearth Ridge. Just needs a little TLC and maybe a spray paint coat of white. Then we can swing on the deck in the the mornings, sipping coffee. Swoon. 

How are you all? How is your summer shaping up? What are your plans? What are you reading? What's in your garden? I'd love to hear!


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C.S. Lewis - A Book Review


Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C.S. Lewis - This was an intriguing book, as are most of Lewis' writings! I wasn't sure what to expect, but I wasn't disappointed. First of all, I have to admit, that I thought this was REAL letters that he wrote to someone. ;) The letters are actually just a literary device he uses to address common questions, criticisms, and arguments surrounding prayer. 

I love Lewis' humility. He often shares how these are his opinions and much of what we know we see in a "glass dimly". He peppers these letters with subtle humor and grace. It really DOES seem like he is responding to letters from a good friend! This title isn't long, but it took me a long time to finish because I had to think about each bit for awhile. 

One of the opening areas that intrigued me was his comments on corporate prayer, worship, and liturgy. 

Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they don't go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best - if you like, it "works" best - when, through long familiarity, we don't have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don't notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

pg 4

A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question "what on earth is he up to now?" will intrude. It lays one's devotion waste. there is really some excuse for the man who said, "I wish they'd remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks."

Thus my whole liturgiological position really boils down to an entreaty for permanence and uniformity. I can make do with almost any kind of service whatever, if only it will stay put. But if each form is snatched away just when I am beginning to feel at home in it, then I can never make any progress in the art of worship. you give me no chance to acquire the trained habit - habito dell'arte. 

pg. 5 

I found all of that extremely fascinating as I'm not Anglican or Catholic and am in a church that doesn't practice liturgy. There is so much out there today about making church services and programs more "relevant" and I'm not sure I agree with much of it. I appreciate strong Bible teaching that focuses on Jesus and isn't swayed by fads or cultural trends. So, in my own way, I really loved what Lewis said here. 

He then touches on using "ready made" prayers and has some same conclusions on those as liturgy. He began his Christian life not using them except the Lord's prayer...but now, he concludes that they can be useful in that we don't have to think so much about what is being said as Who they are being said too.

I love when he talks on how much of our prayer is us telling God information, which of course He already knows. :) 

What, then, are we really doing? Our whole conception of, so to call it, the prayer-situation depends on the answer. We are always completely, and therefore equally, known to God. That is our destiny whether we like it or not. But though this knowledge never varies, the quality of our being known can...The change is in us. The passive changes to the active. Instead of merely being know, we show, we tell, we offer ourselves to view. 

pg. 20-21

In Chapter 5, he takes us through how he uses the Lord's Prayer to aid him. This was excellent and so thought-provoking. I often use Scripture as a form for prayer! After all, it is the inspired Word of God and much better often then anything I can think of! 

He touches on petitionary prayer and how Jesus Himself prayed these...with humor and wit, he discusses so many thought-provoking images about this!

He shares on how having anxieties and worry isn't necessarily a sign of a lack of faith. 

Does not every movement in the Passion write large some common element in the sufferings of our race? First, the prayer of anguish; not granted. Then He turns to His friends. They are asleep-as ours, or we are so often, or busy, or away, or preoccupied. Then He faces the Church; the very Church that He brought into existence. It condemns Him. 

pg 43

I could go on and on for pages and pages with interesting quotes for thought and reflection, but I will end with this one:

I have a notion that what seem our worst prayers may really be, in God's eyes, our best. Those, I mean, which are least supported by devotional feeling and contend with the greatest disinclination. For these, perhaps, being nearly all will, come from a deeper level than feeling. In feeling there is so much that is really not ours - so much that comes from weather and health or from the last book read. One thing seems certain. It is no good angling for the rich moments. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when He catches us, as it were, off our guard. Our preparations to receive Him sometimes have the opposite effect. Doesn't Charles Williams say somewhere that "the altar must often be built in one place in order that the fire from heaven may descend somewhere else"?  (emphasis mine)

pg 116-117

This book was fascinating and filled with food for thought. I know I will be going over my notes in the margins and dipping in and out for years to come. 

I read this for my 20th Century Classic for the 2016 Back to the Classics Challenge.


The Simple Woman's Daybook {May 18th}

Many years ago, on an old blog of mine, I enjoyed participating in The Simple Woman's Daybook. I thought it would be fun to do occasionally again. I really enjoy reading others entries. *smile*

For Today... 
I'm working slowly through a big list of things! Tonight we will be celebrating my husband's birthday, so baking a pineapple upside down cake for him. :)

Outside my window...
it's chilly, but sunny and I hear the birds singing cheerfully. 

I am thinking...
about a million things and trying to rest in the Lord about all of them. 

I am thankful...
for the Bible and coffee. My fuel. ;)

I am wearing...
a black shirt and my jeans. 

I am creating...
centerpieces and little gift bags for our church's women's retreat.

I am going...
on some errands with the children later.

I am wondering...
if I can take the children outdoors together later.

I am reading...(just finished!)


I just finished City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell, a fiction title, which was based on true stories, about Mennonite missionaries to China in the early 1900's. This was so beautiful and thought-provoking! I highly recommend! 

I am hoping...
to get a lot of purging done in the next week and a half.

I am learning...
to faithfully work at the things in front of me, yet never to let them get in the way of relationship. I shouldn't be impatient or irritated if I don't get the dishes done THAT instant or that chapter of the book is left unread for awhile. I struggle with that. If I'm doing something, to be able to stop, remember that it will still be there in a minute, and focus on the person in front of me, make spending time with the Lord a priority, and learn to make time in my mind and heart for truly paying attention to my husband and children. An atmosphere of love and that people matter and are made in God's Image. This takes me having a SIMPLE rhythm to our days, so that things do get done, yet there is a lot of free time for relationships. 

In my kitchen...
today I'm working on a nice birthday meal for hubby. I'm also planning for a lot of crockpot meals and a few more easy on-the-go stuff since this weekend is full.

In the homeschool room...

The Life of Saint Patrick by Quentin Reynolds - We are almost finished with this biography and have just LOVED it! :) 

A favorite quote for today...
"Thomas Carlyle said that the tragedy in life is not what we suffer, but what we miss." from pg 220 in Romancing Your Child's Heart by Monte Swan (emphasis mine)

A peek into one of my days...

Recently celebrated my daughter's 7th birthday with a little tea party! She is a ray of sunshine and I'm so blessed to be her mom!

One of my favorite things...
the beautiful shelves that my husband and FIL are working on for Hearth Ridge. Swoon! :D

Post Script
My England trip is fast approaching! My sister, mother, and I are finalizing transportation details and trying to narrow down what to try to see. What would be a must see for you in England?