book review: bread of angels

978-1-4964-0647-7I loved Bread of Angels. I knew I would, because Tessa Afshar is an excellent writer who brings biblical times to life so effectively! I’ve always been so impressed by the way that she portrays the women of that day – their struggles, their emotions, their normal lives – just like ours, but distinctly different. And it brings so many biblical concepts into perspective.

Bread of Angels is a fictional account of Lydia, loosely based on Lydia, the believer in Philippi. It details her struggles as a single businesswoman and demonstrates the very clear differences between her life before and after conversion in Christ. It is a story about overcoming fear and learning to trust – a story we can all relate to.

I’d highly recommend it. 🙂 I received a copy of this book from Tyndale in exchange for my review. 

throw the towel in

Don’t it feel like the wind is always howl’n?
Don’t it seem like there’s never any light!
Once a day, don’t you wanna throw the towel in?
It’s easier than puttin’ up a fight.
-“It’s a Hard-Knock Life”, from Annie

One of my fun garage sale finds last weekend was a kids’ CD of Broadway musical songs… so fun to listen to and so different than stuff we already have! “It’s a Hard Knock Life” from Annie is one of the songs on there and I was singing part of it tonight after supper. When I got to the part about throwing the towel in, Ivory piped up with “no, it’s some days don’t you want to go to a palace!” I replayed it in my head and realized how easy it would have been for her to come up with that instead of the actual words, and then thought about how much lovelier her thought process was! I was ready to throw the towel in by 6 p.m. – but she was palace-minded! Well. I could learn a few things from her. We really don’t have it too bad, now, do we? 🙂

We have had so many beautiful things going on in life that I shouldn’t be complaining. It’s just that any parent knows the aftermath of fun and exciting events is days of re-training. One of my goals between now and vacation is to knock out our interrupting habit entirely. But that’s another story for another day.

IMG_1495

In between the big events (which I’ll document in the upcoming blog posts) we’ve spent an enormous amount of time on our front porch, of all places! Daddy is amazing, and the addition of these two little rope-and-barnwood swings extended our house in incredible ways. They go out there before breakfast, after breakfast, before snack, after snack – you get the idea. They spend so much time in an area of our yard that literally never saw footprints before. It’s always so exciting to be able to maximize your space that way. 🙂 So I’m grateful, that on days when I want to throw the towel in – I can actually just send them out to the front porch. 🙂

 

arise

Death of a believer is never in vain

Death does not swallow – it’s all for His gain.

And yet the heart cries, and the pleas arise –

“why, WHY, does she have to die?”

 

The faces behind who still must walk on

we know little children are not very strong.

The tears pour down and our prayers arise –

“Be with them, Lord, that their faith would not die.”

 

Her words, her life showed sacrifice here

A woman of faith, to whom God was near.

It comes to an end and our praises arise.

“Father, in her life, you have been glorified”.

 

Let’s kneel to our still-great God in prayer,

even when we wonder if He’s really there.

“For whom the Lord loveth“, He tests and He tries,

And in deepest grief, we lift up our eyes.

 


 

Janella’s death has hit me hard… which is a little bit uncharacteristic of me. Not that it isn’t so tragic and awful, but that I didn’t know her well, and I had only had some brief Facebook and blog communication with her, and usually it takes much more than that for me to feel loss like I do now. Maybe it’s because I know how beautiful that vacation would have been in the midst of regular missionary stress. Maybe it’s because it just hits so close to home – those two little sweet faces, ages 4 and 2, and a grieving daddy. Maybe it’s just because the whole situation comes when I’ve been battling a fear of surrender for the longest time, because it just seems like so often, surrender ends in hurt.

But there’s this quote that I shared with some girls on Friday night and I’ll share it again here, because its so relevant:

  “How does one become butterfly?’ Pooh asked pensively.

  “You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar,” Piglet replied.

  “You mean to die?” asked Pooh.

  “Yes and no,” he answered. “What looks like you will die, but what’s really you will live on.”

-A.A. Milne

And that’s exactly it – to become the spirit-filled beings that God intends for us to be, we must be willing to go through the pain of giving up what we know and want in exchange for something unknown, and yet better.

Because “what looks like you will die, but what’s really you will live on.”

book review: walking on water

41gMhPpGx8L._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_I remember when we were assigned “jobs” for books in AP English, one of the roles was to keep track of quotes throughout the book. A combination of quotes can be a really effective way to present a book in its entirety, and to see themes recurring throughout the pages. For my review of “Walking on Water”, I decided to do it that way. The book is a little scattered anyway in the writing style – it’s an artsy book, about the intersection of art and faith, and it’s excellent, but takes some time to digest and some patience to look for the overarching messages and themes. I loved author Madeleine L’Engle’s perspective as a whole – that art created without order, or acknowledgement, or glory to the ultimate Artist is just chaos.

“All art is cosmos, cosmos found within chaos. At least all Christian art (by which I mean all true art, and I’ll go deeper into this later) is cosmos in chaos. There’s some modern art, in all disciplines, which is not; some artists look at the world around them and see chaos, and instead of discovering cosmos, they reproduce chaos, on canvas, in music, in words. As far as I can see, the reproduction of chaos is neither art, nor is it Christian.” (pg. 7)

“Usually, after the death of a well-known artist, there comes a period of eclipse of his work. If the artist reflects only his own culture, then his works will die with that culture. But if his works reflect the eternal and universal, they will revive.” (pg. 41)

“The artist who is a Christian, like any other Christian, is required to be in this world, but not of it. We are to be in this world as healers, as listeners, and as servants. In art we are once again able to do all the things we have forgotten; we are able to walk on water; we speak to the angels who call us; we move, unfettered, among the stars. We write, we make music, we draw pictures, because we are listening for meaning, feeling for healing. And during the writing of the story or the painting or the composing or singing or playing, we are returned to that open creativity which was ours when we were children. We cannot be mature artists if we have lost the ability to believe which we had as children. An artist at work is in a condition of complete and total faith.” (pg. 47)

“I look back at my mother’s life and I see suffering deepening and strengthening it. In some people I have also seen it destroy. Pain is not always creative; received wrongly, it can lead to alcoholism and madness and suicide. Nevertheless, without it we do not grow.” (pg. 55)

“There is much that the artist must trust. He must trust himself. He must trust his work. He must open himself to revelation, and that is an act of trust. The artist must never lose the trust of the child for the parent […] Jesus told us to call the Lord and Creator of us all ‘Abba’. Not only Father or Sir or Lord, but Abba – Daddy – the small child’s name for Father. Not Dad, the way Daddy becomes Dad when the children reach adolescence, but ‘Daddy’ the name of trust. But how can we trust an Abba who has let the world come to all the grief of the past centuries? Who has given us the terrible gift of free will with which we seem determined to destroy ourselves? We trust the one we call Abba as a child does, knowing that what seems unreasonable now will be seen to have reason later.” (pg. 68)

“What is the nature of time? of creation? of life? What is human creativity? What is our share in God’s work? In his letter to the people of Ephesus, Paul wrote, “Each of us has been given his gift, his due portion of Christ’s bounty.” To accept our gift means accepting our freedom. This involves a new understanding of time and space […] And the men and women to whom Jesus offered this gift were ordinary human beings, faulted and flawed, just like the rest of us. He gave his disciplines no job descriptions; he did not disqualify Mary Magdalene because she had been afflicted with seven demons; he did not spend a lot of time looking for the most qualified people, the most adult. Instead, he chose the people who were still childlike enough to leave the known comforts of the daily world, the security of their jobs, their reasonable way of life, to follow him.” (pg. 79)

“So we must daily keep things wound; that is, we must pray when prayer seems dry as dust; we must write when we are physically tired, when our hearts are heavy, when our bodies are in pain. We may not always be able to make our “clock” run correctly, but at least we can keep it wound so that it will not forget.” (pg. 86)

“Kairos. Real time. God’s time. That time which breaks through chronos with a shock of joy, that time we do not recognize while we are experiencing it, but only afterwards, because kairos has nothing to do with chronological time. In kairos we are completely unself-conscious and yet paradoxically far more real than we can ever be when we are constantly checking our watches for chronological time. The saint in contemplation, lost (discovered) to self in the mind of God is in kairos. The artist at work is in kairos. The child at play, totally thrown outside himself in the game, be it building a sandcastle or making a daisy chain, is in kairos. In kairos we become what we are called to be as human beings, cocreators with God, touching on the wonder of creation. This calling should not be limited to artists – or saints – but it is a fearful calling. […] If we are to be aware of life while we are living it, we must have the courage to relinquish our hard-earned control of ourselves.” (pg. 88-89)

“To name is to love. To be Named is to be loved. So in a very true sense the great works which help us to be more named also love us and help us to love.” (pg. 105)

“Even when the artist bears the spirit (the Saint Matthew Passion; Michelangelo’s PietaThe Tempest) he does not fully understand, and that is all right. The work understands. God understands. And God understands that part of us which is more than we think we are.” (pg. 120)

“A lot of the time we don’t want to know all of ourselves, our more ignoble motives, our greedy desires, our participations in the stonings of Stephens. But only if we accept all of ourselves, our flaws as well as our virtues (and we’re all a grab bag of good and evil, and by and large can’t tell which is which) do we become useful servants – of our art, of our Lord.” (pg. 122)

“Remember – the root word of humble and human is the same: humus: earth. We are dust. We are created; it is God who made us and not we ourselves. But we were made to be co-creators with our maker.” (pg. 125)

“All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well. No matter what. That, I think, is the affirmation behind all art which can be called Christian. That is what brings cosmos out of chaos.” (pg. 150)

“We live under the illusion that if we can acquire complete control, we can understand God or we can write the great American novel. But the only way we can brush against the hem of the Lord or hope to be part of the creative process, is to have the courage, the faith, to abandon control.” (pg. 153)

“The journey homewards. Coming home. That’s what it’s all about. The journey to the coming of the kingdom. That’s probably the chief difference between the Christian and the secular artist – the purpose of the work, be it story, or music or painting, is to further the coming of the kingdom, to make us aware of our status as children of God, and to turn our feet toward home.” (pg. 155)

“I’m not sure it’s a choice. If we’re given a gift – and the size of the gift, great or small, is irrelevant – then most of us must serve it, like it or not. I say most of us because I have seen people of great talent who have done nothing with it and who mutter about getting down to work “when there’s time.” For a woman who has chosen family as well as work, there’s never time, and yet somehow time is given to us as time is given to the man who must sail a ship or chart the stars […] I’m often asked how my children feel about my work, and I have to reply, “Ambivalent”. Our firstborn observed to me many years ago, when she was a grade-school child, “Nobody else’s mother writes books.” But she also said, around the same time, “Mother you’ve been very cross and edgy with us lately, and we’ve noticed that you haven’t been writing, and we wish you’d get back to the typewriter.” A wonderfully freeing remark. I had to learn that I was a better mother and wife when I was working than when I was not.” (pg. 157-158)

“A life lived in chaos is an impossibility for the artist. No matter how unobstructed may seem the painter’s garret in Paris or the poet’s pad in Greenwich Village, the artist must have some kind of order or he will produce a very small body of work. To create a work of art, great or small, is work, hard work, and work requires discipline and order.” (pg. 159)

“In a sense, nothing the artist produces is his in any exclusive way. An inventor takes inventory of that which is already there. A discoverer uncovers that which is. T.S. Eliot says: “Poetry takes something that we know already and turns it into something new.” Perhaps art is seeing the obvious in such a new light that the old becomes new.” (pg. 167)

In the end – it’s a book I would recommend, but not an easy read… be prepared to think! 🙂

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my review. 

the adventures of april

April has been relatively quiet, especially the past couple weeks. We’ve been staying home, and I’ve been attempting to settle into this new stage of low energy me, high energy kiddos, and patience. 

IMG_1422

Up three/down three was the result of several very, very tough days in a row that left me at a complete loss. When morning #5 started out about the same way that the others had been going, I remembered an idea a friend had told me and grabbed a couple paint strips and a sharpie. We now have a system that forces me to look for the positives to reinforce and also gives me the freedom to give warnings and administer discipline without worrying that I’m doing it too often or not often enough. I’m sure it won’t last forever, no system does… but it’s brought some sanity to daily life around here and I’m grateful.

We were excited Lela could come dye Easter eggs with us! We also went outside and hunted for some plastic eggs and candy. We’ve been loving this beautiful spring weather.

A few other fun things lately, clockwise from the top left: 1) a 10 mile bike ride with Tonya during Saturday naps was very refreshing and much-needed! I have been forcing myself to get out and get some exercise to combat the fatigue. 2) popsicles on the porch during some of these particularly warm days… a fun treat to look forward to after naps! 3) “helping” wash ambulances the other night, and 4/5) frisbee golf in Galesburg with Grant’s mom and dad and Elise and Noah last Sunday afternoon. It was such a fun way to spend time together!

Garage sales are still one of my favorite things, and North Peoria never disappoints. Last weekends finds included matching Lands’ End backpacks and that hat. He calls it his “farmer hat” and usually insists on wearing it with his black rubber boots while going out to “feed the animals”.

Cotton & Corduroy continues to keep me busy when I’m not breaking up fights and running laundry and trying to find something that sounds good to eat, but every now and then I still need a no-pressure creative project. This dress (below) was one of those. My inspiration came from Hanna Andersson; mine is definitely not identical, but it was really fun to be able to pull it together with fabric I already had. I used a free pattern I found on Pinterest, which is for a size 3T, I made just a few adjustments for a better fit for Ivory, but she’s petite so patterns usually are pretty flexible for her. 🙂 It was easy and turned out… that’s always an exciting combination.

And finally, I’ll leave you with this… I caught her studying the last page of “Fancy Nancy – Budding Ballerina” very intently and discovered she was just learning the five positions of ballet… definitely very practical information. 🙂 This week from the library we have “Fancy Nancy – Too Many Tutus”, which is about the same amount of practicality. But, who doesn’t love a little bit of drama in their lives? If that’s all the drama we have right now… that’s fine with me. 🙂

book review: next door as it is in heaven

51J3vSECbxL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In some ways, this book reminded me a lot of another book I reviewed a while back – Staying is the New Going. It’s about living in your neighborhood intentionally, invested. I read this book a while back and I’m just now getting around to reviewing it. It’s ironic because I just finished a messenger conversation with a neighbor, and it seems like I should be able to do better than that right? 🙂 I do talk to her in person, this just happened to be online, but still. It made me realize I hadn’t been in touch with her in a while. And at another elderly neighbor’s house there has been lot of activity that makes us wonder if her children are moving her out… sadly, I don’t even know her name and hardly enough information to ask any questions. It’s shameful.

So anyway, I have a lot of work to do in this area of “living out God’s kingdom in your neighborhood”. I appreciated the authors’ approach to it, though. Their philosophy isn’t overwhelming or even really more than an encouragement to live daily life and to be willing to have others come alongside you, and to be willing to come alongside others. We need each other a lot, but it also takes effort to live in community; it’s kind of funny how that works. The effort is not only worthwhile, its also a biblical calling… to do life with others is good for all of us.

The authors also offered interesting historical perspective on growth and change in neighborhoods, particularly following World War II, and just how economic and societal changes and shifts affect the way that we interact with one another now. It was helpful and fascinating.

In my life, there’s several people I can think of who have done an excellent job of choosing to invest in a neighborhood long-term, with positive results. It’s inspiring, for sure, and this book is good encouragement to keep heading in that direction.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my review.

little adventures

For anyone who hasn’t seen it anywhere else on social media, we’re excited to announce…

baby announcement RED

We are so grateful for a healthy pregnancy so far and excited siblings-to-be!