Collaboreads: A Circle of Quiet

Monday, August 31, 2015

Amber and Rachel have been hosting a book lovers link up on the last Monday of the month for months now. When I found out that the theme this time around was going to be "a book set in summer",  I knew I was going to take part! After all, I'm always up for a chat about books.

The book I chose is Madeleine L'Engle's "A Circle of Quiet".  For those of you who don't know, this book is the first in a series called The Crosswicks Journals. If I understand correctly, these books are made up of pieces L'Engle took from her journals and then expounded upon. That being said, this a book that is nonfiction and reads a lot like a memoir style blog. The entries are short and connected and yet each of them could also stand alone.

Below is my Collaboreads style review. You can learn more about that here
I loved reading about what L'Engle calls her "Crosswicks family". Crosswicks refers to the farmhouse she and her husband had in Goshen, Connecticut.  They did live there for 9 or 10 years of their marriage, but most of their time was spent in apartments in New York City and using Crosswicks as a summer home. During those summers, the house would be filled with all kinds of friends and family. Summertime living never grows old.

She couldn't write about Crosswicks without writing about writing. There's just something about reading about another writer's routine that is inspiring.

I've read a handful of L'Engle's books and as I read this one, I realized how much of her writing truly does come from what she knows. I could relate to everything she wrote about small town living. Whether you've lived in a small town or wondered what it would be like to do so, L'Engle describes them and the people that come from them so very well. 

A section was devoted to the time she spent at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City and how she came to be the librarian there. Somehow I never knew she was a librarian, so I was thrilled to learn more about that! 

One of my favorite books to dip into every now and then is The Essays of EB White. This book feels very similar to that one except that L'Engle's entries are much more connected to one another than White's. Life in New England, especially back in the mid 1900's translates into essays so very well. 

Reading these books will make you stop and think and maybe write some pieces of your own! 

The cover of this book is what first drew me. As it turns out, L'Engle describes the place that she would head to when she needed to be surrounded by quiet. I'm not sure if the cover is a sketch of that exact place, but the peacefulness it depicts lines right up with what L'Engle's not so secret place provided for her. 

I gave this book 4 stars. 

When I snatched it off of the little cart outside of my favorite used book store earlier this spring, I had no idea what kind of impact it would have on me. This book about L'Engle's life and writing completely exceeded my expectations. Whether you've read any of her other books or not, this is one I definitely recommend! 

Did you read a book set in summer this month?

Let's Chat

Friday, August 28, 2015

July 23, 2015

I've gone back and forth about whether to share this and how much of this to share...It's going to (and actually already has) have a pretty major impact on my blogging, so I guess the time to spill the beans is now. Earlier this year, we started looking for a house. The plan was to move to a different city.

After going through about one million different properties, we decided not to sell our current house and to buy a second smaller house. A few weeks ago, we closed on that second house. We've dubbed it "The Queen's Cottage" and for the last few days we've been staying in it sans furniture because my brother and sister jumped right into a local theater.

I'm currently sitting on the floor in one of the back bedrooms leaning over the computer typing this out. I'm not even joking! We have one chair that we borrowed (from the theater so that my brother could practice one of his routines) and two kitchen chairs that we picked up at a yard sale for $10 earlier this morning. We did get some things for the kitchen and I whipped up our first actual dinner last night (a BBQ inspired pork sloppy joe dish with fresh green beans from the garden at home and some left over rice).

The idea behind this venture is pretty basic: Bigger city. More opportunities.

We'll be going back and forth and settling into a completely new routine. In the meantime, you can find me scrubbing cabinets, vacuuming vents, and enjoying walks through this new neighborhood!

If it's quiet around here or you don't hear back from me on an email or think that I've stopped reading YOUR blog...Know that I've got my own batch of first world problems and I'll be back! I just need a little time to get myself sorted out.

UPDATE: As of 3pm, we are now the proud owners of the cutest little plaid sleeper sofa that used to belong to someone's grandparents AND a couch from the neighbor who happens to be moving out of the house across the street. I guess the furniture situation is just sorting itself right out!

What's happening in your corner of the world today? 

Any tips on getting to know a new city?

Heart Check

Monday, August 24, 2015

August 18, 2015
"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4

I've seen these verses three or four times over the last few weeks. Everywhere I turned, they just kept popping up. Sometimes, when you see a couple of verses on a little plaque or quoted on someone's status, you read them slowly and you notice something you've never noticed before. That's exactly what happened to me when I saw it on a printable a the Wednesday before last.

I stopped my scrolling and read it. I let it sink in. "Do NOTHING from rivalry or conceit." NOTHING. Words like that can't be confused for any other word or meaning. When we read words like that, we really must listen.

Rivalry (and conceit) is one of our biggest motivators. If you don't believe me, pay attention next time there is a small child around. Listen to their taunting voice when they're really proud about something, "I can do thiiiiisssss annnnnnddddd yyyyyooouuuuuuu cannnnnnn't." "Myyyyyyyy shooooooooesssssss liiiiiiiiighhhhhht up annnnnnd yyyyyyooooooouurrrrrrsss dooooonnnnnnn't."

We love one-uping and outdoing the people around us. We love getting praise and admiration and applause. When we read verses like these, they serve as great reminders of the wickedness that dwells in our hearts. God put these words in His Bible because the fact is, that on their own, His people LOVE doing EVERYTHING out of rivalry and conceit.

The surrounding verses make it pretty clear: we're to replace our doing out of rivalry and conceit with imitating Christ and acting out of humility with the same mind for the glory of the Father that He had. The encouragement we have in Christ, comfort we have in love, participation we have in the Spirit, and affections and sympathy that are ours in Him are to be the grace that keep our hearts turned toward His example (verse 1).

I'll tell you, I have always been a lover of rules. I don't care how silly the rule is, I'm 99.9% likely to keep it and to try to help others do the same. I'm this way because a) I don't want to get in trouble and b) I want to make people happy. I'm a rule keeper out of conceit. This verse (like so many others) flips my soul upside down and makes yet another aspect of my life centered on God.

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." Philippians 2: 12-13

When I do my rule keeping, I must consciously tell myself that it's about serving those around me and living in a way that will not tarnish the name of God. When my motives are pure (aka not wrapped up in ME), then even my rule keeping turns into a way for me to work out my salvation.

What is something that you do out of rivalry or conceit?

What verses have been following you around lately?

What I Learned In July 2015

Monday, August 17, 2015

July 6, 2015

* How to process leeks (and make Leek Soup). Jerry and Kay gave me a bunch of leeks from their garden and sent along a recipe to go with them. After a little help from the internet, I learned all about which part of the leek you use (the light green part of the stalk and also the bulb) and how to clean them (rinsing well, cutting in half, and soaking water for a bit).

* Blogger comments can only be 4,096 words long. Since Jessica took the time to answer all of these questions, I took the time to comment on every one of them! Needless to say, I ended up e-mailing her instead! 

* Geocaching makes for some great stories. I don't make this stuff up.

* The Korean War started in 1950. I've heard about this war. I've met people that served in it (one even took a wife who now goes by "Maria from Korea"). Somehow, it's always been pretty hazy in my mind. Now I know when it began (and was SHOCKED that it followed so closely after WWII), but I still have no idea what it was about.

* Summer vacation is worth waiting for. My brother and sister were in school for most of July this year. Our summer may have been cut a little short, but we made the most of it!!! (They started back up with Algebra last Thursday.) My sister and I got through a large chunk of "The Help" (and raced through other books on our own - she won), my brother and I went for bike rides, we made ice cream, we stayed up late watching movies, they got in a fair amount of boating with our Dad, and they had plenty of pool days with their friends. The slowness and spontaneity will continue until their full course load begins and that's what summer vacation is alllll about.

What did you learn in July? 

When 25 Is One Month Away

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

When I was growing up I was always thinking about what it would take to make the best of my future. After becoming a Christian, I started seeking God's will for my life. I remember being in high school and honestly telling people that what I wanted to do with my life was whatever God had for me to do. This wasn't a cop out. I had allll kinds of plans and even more short and long term goals to make them happen. I was so diligent (and proud) that I knew I needed to step back and seek God. 

Somewhere in my early 20's, my high school self found herself LOST. I was listening to God and seeking Him, but I also began to think about what would make me happy in the long run. I began to realize that I could move anywhere and do anything. That freedom really appealed to me. It is so easy to get caught up in possibilities and to let those possibilities trick your soul into forgetting to ask God what He might have in store. 

I'm going to be 25 in exactly one month. When summer starts coming to a close and my birthday draws near, I always take some time to step back and evaluate things. 

This year, I'm thinking about one thing, namely, how to get my heart back to the place where it's set on pleasing God and trusting that pleasing Him will please me. The first half of my 20's has flown by. They've been full of completely unexpected things. My 15 year old self couldn't have dreamed of where the first half of my 20's would take me. The theme of these last five years has been fighting sin, digging into God, and living by faith (or at least, trying to). Now that I think about it, those three things have been the theme since I was 9 years old and will be the theme until I die. 

The thing is, the first half of my 20's put those three things to the test. 

I faced my pride head on and learned that it's something I really have to guard against. I dealt am dealing with a major family conflict that has shown me how ugly I get when someone shows me I can't trust them. I faced depression. BIG time. 

I recovered from that bout of depression ONLY by pouring over God's Word, clinging to Him in prayer, and with the support of other Christians. I read through the entire Bible. I learned how to really study the Bible with help from this book. I continued journaling, even when it hurt to do so.

I didn't finish college, but worked really hard at it (I'm still going to finish, by the way). I've lived in five homes on two coasts. I found myself being served by a family while I did student teaching, doing life with my family, working at a Christian retreat center, helping an older woman recover and make it through a rough winter, and helping my best friend welcome her new baby into the world. 

For the first time in my life, I've slowly settled into a place where I really don't have a long term plan for myself. I only have two things I'm really working on: being a faithful Christian and a better writer. Other than that, I don't have a clue. 

I find myself remembering what my high school self said about doing whatever it was God had for me to do and asking my nearly 25 year old self if this is really it. It doesn't seem right. It doesn't seem like enough. It doesn't seem wise. It seems like I'm coasting and heading nowhere. It seems like my 30 year old self, and more likely, my 65 year old self will look back and give my 25 year old self a good whack and ask her what in the world she was thinking (and doing). 

25 is one month away and I'm battling the temptation to make my life about what I think will make me happy by reminding myself that following God is the only thing that will. 

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

Driver's Ed Mornings

Monday, August 10, 2015

This summer, my youngest brother took driver's ed. There was a bit of a drive involved, so usually, my Mom and I would go together and then keep each other company while my brother was in class or on a drive. When the class began, the mornings were super cold. They were the kind of mornings where you welcome cozy slippers, a warm drink, and a longing to cuddle up on the couch by the window.

I baked up a batch of cinnamon rolls that took us through the first few weeks of class. On driver's ed mornings I would pack up a breakfast, a blanket, and my Bible study basket. My Mom always brought a pile of her own things to work on.

During those chilly mornings, we would sit in the back of the van enjoying our picnic breakfast. We talked about what we were learning in our studies. We read portions of our notes and texts to each other. Sometimes, we would talk, and sometimes we just sat quietly enjoying this change of pace.

As I set out the food on that very first driver's ed morning, I could feel that some special memories were about to be in the making. I was eager to settle in and enjoy the time that was being granted to us.

During those weeks, I made my way through my study of Galatians. I also read a whole stack of books, mainly because we had soooo much time on our hands! My Mom can only sit still like that for so long before she dozes off. Several times, she didn't even try to fight it off.

We chatted with my other brother and my sister on the phone. We took walks. We meandered our way around town checking out geocaches, the local park, and the little store where they even had old groceries on display. I got in a lot of people watching. It's strange to observe the people from a small town that you don't belong to.

There was the boy that came flying out of his house everyday around 8am pulling on his sweatshirt and wiping the sleep out of his eyes. He watched us so closely those first few weeks. I think he must have been about 15, but every morning he came out of the house to take his walking tour of town. Sometimes, he came back with a mountain dew.

One morning I found myself crying a little bit as I watched a grandpa return from a trip to the store with his little granddaughter. His way with her was so gentle and patient. He provided a running commentary of what they were doing and why and she tried her best to keep up with him. His manner reminded me so much of my Ghiddu. I was crying tears of loss and also of pure joy for what that little girl was getting to experience.

A cat named Dion quickly made friends with us. I'm not sure if it was a boy or girl, but she (all cats are she's and all dogs are he's in my mind) came running up to us one morning while we were walking and would not leave us alone. She meowed and pawed at us and laid on the ground in front of our feet and then ran after us every time we tried to continue on our way. At one point, she even came and sat on the windshield of our van. I enjoyed watching her run over to greet the driver's ed kids, mainly because of the way each child reacted to her visit. Some would completely ignore her, some would be fighting the urge to reach down and pet her, and others looked around to make sure no one was watching before they finally did.

Teenagers have such images to keep up! Every kid that came out at the end of class came out with a certain saunter. I had completely forgotten about that walk and the feeling of having to look like you had somewhere to be and someone there waiting for you. The careful balance between caring and yet looking like you didn't care one tiny little bit.

While my brother was learning the rules of the road and the ins and outs of driving a car, I was learning a little bit more about God and His Word and this world that we live in.

Whether I spent the whole time studying or walking around or having breakfast at the golf course (where they have THE best restaurant biscuits and gravy I've had since Hardee's) or just sitting and watching the world go by - I was listening. When I listen, I begin to learn.

My brother finished driver's ed and those mornings are over, but I won't soon forget them. I'll remember them for the gift that they were and let them remind me to listen even when the sound is just a quiet town.

Currently: August 2015

Friday, August 07, 2015

July 6, 2015
It's the end of summer and nothing is going like it is "supposed" to!  I took the week off of blogging (and didn't announce it - sorry!) because I was supposed to be camping this week. The story isn't mine to tell, but I'll say this: we made it to the campground and enjoyed the rest of the day there before returning home on the first night. My friend Shauna is coming out this way next week and I was really hoping to be able to drive down to spend a few days with her, but after pouring over maps and her timeline (she's out here for a wedding), we realized that it's just not going to work. So, that's cancelled as well. 

I've shed my tears and I'm moving on. It's August and summer is still here. I've got all kinds of things to be happy about! Yesterday I started in on one of the last five books on my summer reading list. "A Circle of Quiet" by Madeleine L'Engle is one you'll be hearing more about, but for now, I'm trying to decide if I want to read it slowly or devour what's left of it in one long sitting. It's that good! 

Whether things have been going well or if the bottom has been falling out of everything lately, you've got this! Cry if you need to and then get ready for the "insteads". They might not be as bad as you think! Let's join Jenna and Anne to talk about what we're currently...  

Creating: Blueberry muffins and peanut butter cookies were my latest creation. :) 

Wishlisting: A swim. A beach day. A great deal on a bike. And a heart that rests in God no matter what is happening. 

Hoping: For clarity of mind and strength from God. I'm telling you, human weakness is a beast and it's one I've been battling a lot this summer! 

Eating: All kinds of sandwiches. I ate at Bruchi's the other day and it was surprisingly good. I got the Signature Cheesesteak, if you're wondering.  

Watching: Last night I watched a movie called "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" on Netflix. Watch it. Earlier this week I watched "Last Love" on Netflix for the millionth time. Watch that too.

What about you?