Letters to Arden – February 3, 2018

Dear Arden,

I saw a picture of you yesterday from three years ago. You were dressed in a pink bodysuit, pink tights, pink tutu, and pink slippers, ready for your very first ballet class. If I do the math, you were only four years old. Your smile showed excitement, and just a hint of uncertainty. You were about to step into something new.

Looking back, you seem so small. I remember someone telling me at that age, to step back and remember just how little “four” is. I’m not sure I saw it then. Not sure I could have seen it. You were the firstborn, the big sister, the first to grow into everything. I remember some of the struggles we had. I remember not knowing what to do. I remember feeling small and unsure. Most of the growing pains were mine.

And I’m sorry, little girl, if I handed you some of my burdens. If I put all the expectations for the success of my parenting on your behaviour. If I tried to mould you, like a lump of clay, into some image in my mind’s eye.

I see your four year old face looking back, or is it forward, at me, and my heart melts a little for all the ways I’m sure I failed you. Forgive me daughter, I knew not what I was doing.

And now you are seven, going on eight. You’ve changed your ballet slippers for shoes with metal soles, and you are tapping and stomping your way through the world. I still don’t know what I’m doing. You are still the first, and everything is new for us!

But maybe I can remember how little you are, even now. I pray I can step back and see you for who you are. I pray I can see the smallness, and enjoy it for all that it is.

And maybe I can drop the burden, and stop using you as a measurement of myself. Maybe I can release the muddy hold, and give you to the hands of the skilled Potter. Maybe we can learn together from our Father what it means to grow, yet keep our childlike hearts.

Let’s dance together, little girl. Let me see you smile.

love Mom

hibernation

It could be I’m in hibernation. Maybe I’m a toad, buried deep in the mud at the bottom of the river, insides turned to antifreeze, waiting out the winter. My eyes are closed and my body is cold, and I’m just trusting the mud to hold me here till it’s time. I don’t understand everything that’s going on above me, beyond the layers of silt and the sluggish waters and crust of ice. But the river is still life. Even now, when all awareness has drained from my synapses, there is life flowing over me, singing the song of my winter lullaby. It flows and carries me in the season of silence. Now I am but a hidden lump of clay. All I can do is wait, and trust the stilling of my soul in the hollow of the river’s hand.

 

~lg

S.D.G.

A fresh snow

I woke up this morning and things seemed lighter. The sun had not yet risen this midwinter Monday. But the windows had a bluish glow to them. It took me a few minutes sipping my coffee by the fire to realize why.

A fresh snow.

When the sun had been snuffed out last night, the ground was a dreary landscape of ice and brown, the wake of the last storm. Now there was a soft white over the still earth, over the maple’s branches, and dusting the evergreens by the river’s edge. The snow took what little light there was in this predawn, kissed it, and released it back as a hopeful radiance.

The snow of the ancient near east was a little more rare than what falls on my cold Canadian island. But how could divine revelation ignore its dazzling whiteness? For God’s hexagonal thoughts were from the foundations of the world made to crystallize upon a seed of mercy.

“Come now, let us reason together. Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow,” writes the prophet Isaiah, messenger of the Most High.

Imagine being called before a judge to reason out your pathetic case, only for him to quote poetry at your offences, the crimson fury of Sinai’s fire extinguished by a mantle of snow.

And in one of the most lavish of all the Sovereign’s invitations, snow is the Word of God itself, irrevocable in its purpose to quench the thirst of the earth and summon life from its soil.

In the wisdom of Providence weaving the narrative, Isaiah must have known the wonder of snow. Did the LORD delight to surprise him as a boy with a morning such as this? A strange light from without, before the lamps were lit? Did he hear the flakes falling as whispers of an unusual grace?

God’s lovingkindness cannot be thwarted by the darkest stain in the most famished heart. Snow upon snow, the windswept ugliness of barren ground is covered, till the sun turns the gift of heaven into water for its renewal.

The flakes keep falling, falling falling. The morning is ever lightening, and the world about to sparkle with the rising glory. “Come, come!”

 

~lg

S.D.G.

Book List 2017

Here’s a list of the books I read in 2017!

Fiction:

Most of these I read with my book club, which is continuing to be a great source of reading material and thought-provoking discussion.

The Iliad (Homer)
The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoevsky)
Anne of Ingleside (LM Montgomery)
Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen)
The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)
Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens)
The Man Who Was Thursday (GK Chesterton)
Wives and Daughters (Elizabeth Gaskell) – in progress
The Odyssey (Homer) – in progress

I enjoyed all of these books, though I think I have 2 favourites: The Iliad and The Wind in the Willows. I’m sure my selection of The Iliad has as much to do with the group of women I’ve been reading with and our rich discussion. But really, Homer is a classic for a reason. A favourite moment from that book was when the river Scamander had Achilles in its watery grasp. Homer is a master of painting vivid and action-packed scenes.

This summer I finally got around to reading that “children’s” classic The Wind in the Willows. I read much of it on our front porch swing, overlooking our own river. The language was beautiful, the escapades hilarious, the characters well-drawn, but it was the atmosphere of the book that had me at hello. The reading was also enriched by Circe Institute’s Close Reads podcast, which has a series on the book. I especially enjoyed the comparisons to The Iliad and The Hobbit!

Non-fiction:

The first three I read in preparation for my first book review in a scholarly journal, published in December (The Canadian Journal of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity).

Out of the Mouths of Babes (Thomas Robinson & Lanette Ruff)
Preacher Girl: Uldine Utley and the Industry of Revival (Thomas Robinson)
How To Read a Book (Mortimer J Adler) – selections
Unglued (Lysa Terkheurst)
A Tale of Three Kings (Gene Edwards)
The Happy Dinner Table (Anna Migeon)
Stepping Heavenward (Elizabeth Prentiss)

Favourite: Stepping Heavenward. I read Unglued and Stepping Heavenward for many of the same reasons. Unglued was helpful in its own way, but for me, watching a character struggle and grow through sanctification is far more powerful than reading about how to become sanctified. This is one I want to re-read, almost right away, and journal some of the passages that resonated with me.

Advent reading:
Hallelujah: A Journey Through Advent with Handel’s Messiah (edited by Cindy Rollins)
All Creation Waits (Gayle Boss)
Waiting on the Word (Malcolm Guite)

Favourite: I enjoyed all of these Advent books. It’s my third year through Waiting on the Word, and every year I am enriched by the poetry and meditations. But All Creation Waits came to my attention unexpectedly through The Mason Jar podcast, and I knew right away I had found a kindred spirit in this book. It’s a living book where the natural and spiritual realms come together in a unique way. The illustrations really add to the beauty of the book as a whole.

Education:

I am essentially slow reading my way through Charlotte Mason, one volume on my own, and one with a group. I’m continuing to draw wisdom from these books for our home education and parenting journey.

Home Education (Charlotte Mason) – in progress
Parents and Children (Charlotte Mason) – in progress, reading with a group of parents
The Happy Dinner Table (Anna Migeon) – I know I listed this above, but I have to mention this application of Mason’s methods to the realm of eating have done as much to help me understand her principles of education as any other book about her methods!

With the children:

Farmer Boy (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Mr. Popper’s Penguins (Richard Atwater)
Little Threads (Elizabeth Prentiss)
Milly-Molly-Mandy (Joyce Lankester)
Winnie-the-Pooh (A. A. Milne)
Letters from Father Christmas (JRR Tolkien)
On the Banks of Plum Creek (Laura Ingalls Wilder) – in progress
Understood Betsy (Dorothy Canfield Fisher) – in progress

Audio Books:

This has been a new way of “reading” books for us. Many of these we listened to on our family vacation to Ontario this spring. Others we’ve made our way through on our regular drives to town and around the island. The Saturdays was a particularly fun listen.

A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
Peter Pan (JM Barrie)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L Frank Baum)
Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren)
Anne of Green Gables (LM Montgomery)
The Saturdays (Elizabeth Enright)

Goals

At the end of last year, I said I had wanted to read more classics, more theology, and more Charlotte Mason. I definitely read more classics, thanks to my book club. I did continue to read Mason, though at a slower pace, which I think has been just as profitable. I didn’t really get to any more theology, though I read two books about an interesting period of Christian history (evangelism in the flapper age), which had some theological implications.

What about 2018? 

I don’t have any grand reading plans at this point, certainly nothing systematic. However, I would like to finish a few of the books I either received or began reading in the last year or two and haven’t finished yet! (Thanks to Nelleke for this suggestion!)

To finish reading:
The Broken Way (Ann Voskamp)
Joy and Human Flourishing (edited by Miroslav Volf)
Evangelical, Sacramental & Pentecostal (Gordon T Smith)
Orthodoxy (GK Chesteron)
Home Education (Charlotte Mason)

I’m looking forward to more classic book club reads this year, and to hopefully finishing The Odyssey, which is rather different from The Iliad, in a neat way. Fewer epic similes, more fantastical creatures. I’m finding it connecting on a more personal level. (Apparently I connect more to fantastical creatures than bloody battles. But maybe I am also more sympathetic to Odysseus’ struggle than I was to Achilles’.)

I’d also like to delve into the world of writer’s craft. I’d love any suggestions in this area!

What did you read in 2017? What’s on your list for 2018? Happy reading!

 

~lg

S.D.G.

Strange wonder and secure welcome

“[W]e need this life of practical romance; the combination of something that is strange with something that is secure. We need so to view the world as to combine an idea of wonder and an idea of welcome. We need to be happy in this wonderland without once being merely comfortable.”

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

* * *

While part of Chesterton’s introductory defence for the writing of Orthodoxy, I think this also speaks to the unique power of the incarnation.

Jesus – like us in so many ways, and yet so completely other. In Him we find both the strange wonder and the secure welcome.

 

~lg

S.D.G.