Monday, January 31, 2011

Lessons From Zumba And A Beautiful Poem

Photo Credit : Ben Smithdeal

Would you believe that an old prude like me had my first Zumba class tonight?  Boy, did I feel like an elephant with two left feet. I can't imagine how I looked (Don't worry-no pictures of that!)
I had the time of my life!! It was like a giant dance party, and as clumsy as I was, the instructor and the great group of ladies there made me feel perfectly fine.

Along with my early rising regime, I'm making a big push to drop some pounds. I don't know where,
when, or how it all happened- I used to be a twig of a thing-but somehow the weight crept on. I am watching carefully what I eat and exercising every day.

 I keep thinking of the encouragement the instructor gave us panting Zumbans (?) One thing she said was :
"Just do your own thing if you need to. It doesn't matter what you do AS LONG AS YOU KEEP MOVING! Just keep Moving!"

Isn't that a great life message? Baby steps, leaps, twirls, gallops, inches, miles, micrometers....It doesn't matter....AS LONG AS WE KEEP MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION!

self portrait by Ben Smithdeal

As we were leaving the class, I noticed a little pile of give away books. I found a small book that contains one poem.  It is so lovely that  I have posted it here on my blog. It is quite long; you may want to print it up and read it when you have a quiet moment. I also discovered that the poem is in The Harp And Laurel  Wreath  poetry anthology by Laura Berquist.The poem describes how we flee Christ when we most need his love:

The Hound Of Heaven  by Francis Thomson

I fled Him down the nights and down the days
I fled Him down the arches of the years
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind, and in the midst of tears
I hid from him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped and shot precipitated
Adown titanic glooms of chasme d hears
From those strong feet that followed, followed after
But with unhurrying chase and unperturbe d pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat, and a Voice beat,
More instant than the feet:
All things betray thee who betrayest me.

I pleaded, outlaw--wise by many a hearted casement,
curtained red, trellised with inter-twining charities,
For though I knew His love who followed,
Yet was I sore adread, lest having Him,
I should have nought beside.
But if one little casement parted wide,
The gust of his approach would clash it to.
Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,
And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,
Smiting for shelter on their clange d bars,
Fretted to dulcet jars and silvern chatter
The pale ports of the moon.
I said to Dawn --- be sudden, to Eve --- be soon,

With thy young skiey blossoms heap me over
From this tremendous Lover.
Float thy vague veil about me lest He see.
I tempted all His servitors but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,
In faith to Him, their fickleness to me,
Their traitorous trueness and their loyal deceit.
To all swift things for swiftness did I sue,
Clung to the whistling mane of every wind,
But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
The long savannahs of the blue,
Or whether, thunder-driven,
They clanged His chariot thwart a heaven,
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn of their feet,
Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Still with unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
Came on the following feet, and a Voice above their beat:
Nought shelters thee who wilt not shelter Me.

I sought no more that after which I strayed
In face of Man or Maid.
But still within the little childrens' eyes
Seems something, something that replies,
They at least are for me, surely for me.
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair,
With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
Come then, ye other children, Nature's
Share with me, said I, your delicate fellowship.
Let me greet you lip to lip,
Let me twine with you caresses,
Wantoning with our Lady Mother's vagrant tresses,
Banqueting with her in her wind walled palace,
Underneath her azured dai:s,
Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
From a chalice, lucent weeping out of the dayspring.

So it was done.
I in their delicate fellowship was one.
Drew the bolt of Nature's secrecies,
I knew all the swift importings on the wilful face of skies,
I knew how the clouds arise,
Spume d of the wild sea-snortings.
All that's born or dies,
Rose and drooped with,
Made them shapers of mine own moods, or wailful, or Divine.
With them joyed and was bereaven.
I was heavy with the Even,
when she lit her glimmering tapers round the day's dead sanctities.
I laughed in the morning's eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
Heaven and I wept together,
and its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine.
Against the red throb of its sunset heart,
I laid my own to beat
And share commingling heat.

But not by that, by that was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heaven's grey cheek.
For ah! we know what each other says,
these things and I; In sound I speak,
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor step-dame, cannot slake my drouth.
Let her, if she would owe me
Drop yon blue-bosomed veil of sky
And show me the breasts o' her tenderness.
Never did any milk of hers once bless my thirsting mouth.
Nigh and nigh draws the chase, with unperturbe d pace
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
And past those noise d feet, a Voice comes yet more fleet:
Lo, nought contentst thee who content'st nought Me.
Naked, I wait thy Love's uplifted stroke. My harness, piece by piece,
thou'st hewn from me
And smitten me to my knee,
I am defenceless, utterly.
I slept methinks, and awoke.
And slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
I shook the pillaring hours,
and pulled my life upon me.
Grimed with smears,
I stand amidst the dust o' the mounded years--
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst like sunstarts on a stream.
Yeah, faileth now even dream the dreamer
and the lute, the lutanist.
Even the linked fantasies in whose blossomy twist,
I swung the Earth, a trinket at my wrist,
Have yielded, cords of all too weak account,
For Earth, with heavy grief so overplussed.
Ah! is thy Love indeed a weed,
albeit an Amaranthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
Ah! must, Designer Infinite,
Ah! must thou char the wood 'ere thou canst limn with it ?
My freshness spent its wavering shower i' the dust.
And now my heart is as a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
From the dank thoughts that shiver upon the sighful branches of my

Such is. What is to be ?
The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind ?
I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds,
Yet ever and anon, a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity.
Those shaken mists a space unsettle,
Then round the half-glimpse d turrets, slowly wash again.
But not 'ere Him who summoneth
I first have seen, enwound
With glooming robes purpureal; Cypress crowned.
His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.
Whether Man's Heart or Life it be that yield thee harvest,
Must thy harvest fields be dunged with rotten death ?

Now of that long pursuit,
Comes at hand the bruit.
That Voice is round me like a bursting Sea:
And is thy Earth so marred,
Shattered in shard on shard?
Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest me.
Strange, piteous, futile thing;
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of Naught (He said).
And human love needs human meriting ---
How hast thou merited,
Of all Man's clotted clay, the dingiest clot.
Alack! Thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art.
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save me, save only me?
All which I took from thee, I did'st but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might'st seek it in my arms.
All which thy childs mistake fancies as lost,
I have stored for thee at Home.
Rise, clasp my hand, and come.
Halts by me that Footfall.
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
Ah, Fondest, Blindest, Weakest,
I am He whom thou seekest.
Thou dravest Love from thee who dravest Me.

photo credit: Ben Smithdeal

photo credit: Ben Smithdeal

Sunday, January 30, 2011

How To Make A Home

I crept through the door quietly as not to wake Anna. She, curled there in fetal slumber, soft and innocent. She is not a baby anymore-turned three in December, but the way she looked just's the same.
The same as three and a half years ago when we studied that ultrasound picture so hard but said we didn't want to know if it was a boy or girl- and we didn't know until the day she was born!

In the blurry image her perfectly formed sixteen-week old body curled as it does now. Her one arm tucked carefully under her face, and her little hand rested under her chin. We could see all this... a baby being formed in dark watery depths. A hidden miracle.

"I was her first home," I thought to myself, standing there watching her sleep. "Yes, I am a homemaker. And I have made a body-dwelling for nine miracles." Such Grace, such Blessing~ That I could be used by God to give LIFE.

I had been thinking about the business of homemaking a lot that day- the monotony, the drudgery, the fact that nothing stays done. We, as homemakers, do the most mundane tasks over, and over, and over. And then- tomorrow- it will all have to be done again.

I know we're supposed to see all of our housework as a form of prayer, and it is; Living our vocation IS prayer. Serving others IS prayer...but how? How does feeding and cleaning and wiping and doing the dirty work bring us closer to God?
That night I gazed at Anna sleeping, I saw the answer. I read the answer in the lines of her curved body, awakening those maternal instincts so present in pregnant expectation three years ago:

Every mundane task I perform builds a home for the hearts of my children.

It may be a cliche, that "home is where the heart is," but it is so true! I can have a beautiful home and the most delicious meals and not have made a home for my children. Giving children a home is about being loving towards them, doing things out of love for them.

Every time I serve my family with love, I am building a home that cannot be undone or destroyed. True, they will get hungry again, the clothes will need washing again, and the toys will get scatterd on the floor...

But the love imparted by serving my family cannot be taken away.

Each loving action is like a brick that builds a home for my children's children's soul.

"Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do... but how much love we put in that action. "

 ~Mother Teresa

"Love begins by taking care of the closest ones - the ones at home. "

~Mother Teresa

"Let us then, be up and doing. With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait."
 ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Mess Of Fun

Tommy was chanting this at the top of his lungs for twenty minutes. For once I was not alarmed! We made some "bathtub fingerpaints" tonight.

Last month I couldn't get Anna out of the bath. This month she screams "Nooooooooo!" every time I even mention the word bath. It's really not fun to give a flailing child a bath! Now maybe you have children that will just obediently and quietly do what you say. Sighhhhhhh. I don't. Sometimes I have to be creative.

Anna loves to paint! So why not paint in the tub? We made these neat **washable** finger paints to use in the bath. The recipe comes from : The Ultimate Book Of Kid Concoctions.  It's so easy.

I tripled the recipe, and the book said to use ice cube trays, but I used small bowls instead. (We don't have any ice cube trays). I will give you the tripled version:

Place 1 cup of clear dish soap in a medium sized bowl. Stir in 3 TBS cornstarch. Mix well.

Divide the mixture evenly into four small bowls. Add a few drops of food coloring and stir well. The kids loved doing this part.

Now for the fun and messy part!!! Don't worry....this is super easy to clean. The colors weren't as bright as I thought they would be, but the children had such a great time. They came out clean, too!

I hope you have fun with the paint recipe. Do you have a link to a great craft recipe? Please enter it on the linky list provided below!!

Anna doesn't pitch a fit when it's time to eat pizza!

Please share a kids' craft link with us:

Friday, January 28, 2011


I mean do I really think I'm going to get all of these read in a couple of weeks?

The stack started out small, I checked some books out of the library, I was given some as gifts, and well...when it comes to books I just don't know moderation. I made a feeble attempt to edit the stack.

Forever the optimist, here are the books that made the cut:

Yes...the stack really is smaller! There were thirty-six books in the stack to begin with, and now there are only twenty-five!

Just in case you're interested, I put links to all the books in *The Stack* .The list is quite long, and no, I'm not an Amazon affiliate, but I always like to have a link to go to when I see a book that interests me. If you are not interested, you can scroll down to my next topic, "Camera Queries." I hope I haven't bored you to tears today!

Here's what's In *The Stack*:

1.One Thousand Gifts~ Have been waiting for this book for two months, and it has NOT disappointed! This book will completely transform the way you view life, with a thankful heart and joyful spirit.

2. Beauty (The Invisible Embrace)~ If you have read my blog at all, you know this book is right up my alley. A good friend of ours gave this to me and I am Oh so excited to read it!!!

3. Silent Night~ Have been wanting to read this one since Christmas. It's about the Christmas truce of World War I. I think it's an important book to read- might read it to the kids when I'm done. Actually, there is a Jim Murphy book of the same title geared more to children. I might read that one to them.

4.How To Write Poetry ~This is a library book I checked out in hopes to start writing poetry with the children. I've already looked through it, and so far it looks pretty neat!

5.Spiritual Rhythm~ An Ann Voskamp recommendation...A short section to read each season. Looks deep, but not overwhelming.

6.Strong Women Stay Young~ My mother recommended this title a few years back. I'm finally getting around to reading it; well, at least it made it to the bedside. I imagine I will be using this book when I exercise; there are a lot of exercises in it, but there is also a lot of text to read about health, fitness, and such.

7.The Saints' Guide To Happiness~ Doesn't this book have a promising title? Now, I'm no saint, but I sure would like to know some of their secrets to happiness! This is also, encouragingly, from the local library!

8.Graced and Gifted~ From our church library, looks like a lovely book on spiritual homemaking and homeschooling.

9.Living The Interior Life~ Had to leave this one in the's Anna's favorite book! Really, she sits next to me and makes up words: "God wants me to be good. I want to be nice to everybody. Once upon a time a wolf lived in the woods..." (Her book covers all the bases!)

10.Poem Crazy~Another library book...lots of fun exercises to bring out the poet in all of us. Not meant to be read cover to cover, the book is full of exercises to stir your creativity. I did one where I was instructed to write a "Shadow Poem." This book gets you thinking in ways that are insightful and give you self-knowledge!

11.The Inner Voice Of Love- A Henri Nouwen book, also from the library. I have never read something of Nouwen's that I haven't liked!

12.The Rest Of God~Great book so far; I'm about three-quarters of the way through. The author looks at the Sabbath and the role that living the Sabbath plays in our lives. We can not fully know God until we seek "the rest of God."

13. The Power Of Patience~What I need as I type this right now!!! There are children bickering in the other room, and....
Guess what.
I'm going to go for a walk and I'll finish this later. That's the way I handle stress, but maybe this book could help, too!

OK..That's better. Went for a walk, took some pictures, had tea with my neighbor, patience is back. The house on the road is ours. We like to walk on the hill across the street. The view is spectacular. About going for a walk just now, I could develop my patience or leave the scene. Sometimes leaving is better...for just a little while.

*Back to my list*:

14.Little Britches~ This book is right up there with the Little House books! Do I dare say I like them even more? Well,  maybe because I have more boys, and the main character is a boy. This (true) story is about a young boy (Ralph Moody) and the adventures he has with his family moving out to a ranch in Colorado. (early 1900's) The relationship the boy has with his father is moving, and the story itself is captivating. I have read this book many times through, but it is by my bed because I am currently reading it aloud to Oliver and Sam.

15. If your Mind Wanders At Mass~ You probably could take one look at this lengthy book list and see that I need this book.

16.Small Is Beautiful~ Ha! The irony of this title, stashed in a pile of books twenty feet high. Small is beautiful; this book is subtitled, "economics as if people matter." 'Living simply so that others can simply live 'kind of message.

17. Fasting~ Lent is around the corner...but I might start a little early. Have heard good things about this book.

18. Organized Simplicity~ Another book title that mocks the enormous stack it rests in, unopened.I'm getting there...I have flipped through it, and it looks like there's lots of helpful info and ideas to get organized!

19.How To Get Ideas~ library book- really a book about learning to think creatively. This book has gotten great reviews at Amazon. It's another book I hope to share with the children.

20. The Creative Family~ Have been wanting this one forever! I like Amanda Soule's blog, SouleMama, and I have been looking forward to perusing this book!

21.In This House Of Brede~ I try to only keep one work of fiction going (for myself) at a time. I read a couple of Rumer Godden books last Summer, and they are always well-written and inspiring. This book is about a woman who leaves the rat race to join a convent. Interesting, huh?

22.A Valley And A Song~ The story of the Shenandoah River...local history...plan to read to the kids if it is interesting. I'm noticing a pattern here?

23.How To Think About The Great Ideas Good old Mortimer Adler. He converted to Catholicism when he was ninety-five. It's never too late! This book breaks down ideas such as: work, education, love, etc... For each idea, Adler was interviewed, and  the interviews are collected in this book. Insightful. Lots of food for thought here.

24.Pioneer Girl- "A true story of a girl growing up on the prairie." Not Laura Ingalls- this is also a children's book, but appealed to me. It's a library book.

25.The Lost Colony Of Roanoke~ Ever since we visited Roanoke Island when I was young and heard the story of the 'Lost Colony,' I have been wanting to read a book about it. For my personal history reading, I prefer children's books. Can't go wrong with Jean Fritz!

So there's the list...I hope I added to your own bedside stack. Are you reading a good book right now? Please share it with us on the new linky list at the bottom of this post!

Camera Queries:

I have been asked several times in the last couple of weeks if all of the photos on my blog are my own. Mostly, Yes! And if they are ever not, I put a photo credit with the picture. Photography is art, and I would never use someone else's art without permission!

I am quite the amateur photographer. I take pictures with a Nikon Cool Pix l110. This camera takes great outdoor pictures and does most of the work for me (a good thing). The indoor pictures have not been so great, so far. I don't know if it's the camera or my ignorance of photography. My understanding is that it is hard to find a camera that takes exceptional indoor pictures without spending a lot more money. Suggestions always welcome!

One feature I like about this camera is the ability to crop photos right on the camera. If I can't get close enough to the subject, I can zoom in and crop later. I also like the 'action mode' ; it enables me to take pictures of the children when they are playing and moving. Having a digital camera has changed my life! I try to never leave home without it! Did I mention it was my sweet husband who surprised me with  this camera on our anniversary last year? He is my biggest fan.

I rarely use photo shop/enhancement techniques. I know you can do a lot of neat things with your pictures, but I just don't have the time. Most of the pictures I take do just fine on their own...even if I do admit that I toy with the thought of taking the time to make the pictures more 'picture perfect.'

"Mittens" likes to sit in the sun.

Oliver's snowman. I'm liking the chiseled nose!

sigh...another mountain picture. Indulge me?

Oliver and Tommy trying to sled on a dinky hill.

Having fun, anyway!

Tommy was caught off guard for this shot! "Mommy, I'm eating my beans!," he said. Yep...beans are the latest thing around here!

I like his choice of reading material for lunch. He was making up a script to go with the characters on the covers of the books.

Mary Margaret(6)  has a way of making her art come to life. I love this picture she started of the ocean:

What's on your bedside table? Kindly share a link to your relevant post:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Gives Life

"In all ranks of life, the human heart yearns for the beautiful; and the beautiful things that God makes are his gift to all alike."
~ Harriet Beecher Stowe

The snow came down, carpeting the earth in splendor of newness, frozen rebirth. Life.
I am not an artist. But He is. And I don't need to do or be best or create. I need only


In and out, pulses of His Heart beat mine-because beauty does this. Beauty restores our souls and makes us one with our Creator. Is there any other reason He tells us:

 " Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
~ Philippians 4:8

No. He is not just giving us another set of rules and obligations. He is showing us the way to LIVE. To BREATHE.

And two sets of footprints course frozen earth in search of beauty, in search of meaning.
If we do not seek the beautiful, it is because our hearts have hardened.
Like reaching for the bag of chips when our bodies crave the baked potato,


Yet we walk away unsatisfied and empty, because artificiality and death do NOT breathe. They SMOTHER.

And we become what we eat.

"The beauty seen, is partly in him who sees it."

The more we yearn for the beautiful, the more beautiful we become.
The more beautiful we are, the more we yearn for the beautiful.

"Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I'd do. I'd go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I'd look up into the sky - up, up, up - into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I'd just feel a prayer."

— L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables)

"The soul, by an instinct stronger than reason, ever associates beauty with truth."

So how do we go about feeding our souls with the beautiful.  How do we cultivate beauty in a world gone wrong?
Anne Morrow Lindbergh takes this perspective on beauty, gifts from the sea :

It must not be sought for or-heaven forbid dug for. No, no dredging of the sea bottom here. That would defeat one's purpose. The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, choiceless as a beach~ waiting for a gift from the sea.

(From Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift From The Sea)

Some days my eyes and heart are so clouded with the heaviness of life that just opening my eyes is LABOR . I have to birth the lovely, and the contractions of  birthing life burn deep.
The first step to seeing beauty, then, is opening our eyes. We have to want something in order to get it!  We have to first choose beauty, then peel back the eyelids of our soul.
Sometimes this is the hardest step.

" I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth."
~Psalm 121:1-2

We must ask with a yearning in our hearts for God to show us the beautiful, the lovely...not just feasts for our eyes, but for our minds and hearts as well- our thoughts, the words that come from our mouths, what we choose to watch and imitate. There is no such thing as harmless death ,and

Ugliness is death to the soul.

We can't always get away from the ugly, but we can do our best to avoid it when possible. And when it's not possible, we must embrace that ugliness as a cross, not as something that is beneficial in itself, but only as a means to unite with God, a share of His suffering.

Once we have opened our eyes, we must start small.

To see a world in a grain of sand,

And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.

~William Blake

Look around, wherever you are, for the patches of beauty God has placed right beneath your feet, under your nose, a handshake away...
When you catch a glimpse of that beauty. Behold. Notice the way the light hits each facet. Close your eyes. See it again, in your mind's eye. How does this piece of God-earth stir your soul?

Funny- the way the light was hitting the snow today brought back the memory of Sunday roasts in my home-kitchen. When I was young, my mother would often cook roasts on winter Sundays. Right at about 4:00, the sunlight would stream in the kitchen door, hitting the wood stove, mingled with the smell of roasting potatoes and Rosemary. Standing in the snow today, seeing that same light, closing my eyes, I could smell the sizzling roast, the fragrant Rosemary.

And do you know what? You don't have to live in the wild to experience beauty. Next time you find a pine cone, pick it up and marvel at its beauty.

The design, intricate, the way each barbed scale folds together to form a rosette. All this planned so symmetrically, the design of a loving Creator who cared about the details...the scales on a pine cone, the hairs on our heads.

"And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered."
~Matthew 10:30

Just today, a dear friend of mine said that Red-winged blackbirds saved her from despair when she was a young girl in the hospital. She said that she would watch the birds, and the way the light reflected off of their wings filled her with hope.

No, you need not GO to partake in beauty. It is everywhere.

He is everywhere.

There is such a thing as barbed beauty- the beautiful which seems distasteful from all outward appearances. There is nothing more beautiful than what one of my friends does for her mother every day- changes her diaper, feeds her, meeting her every need, day after day.

Serving our children, changing diapers, grubby pots and pans-all barbed beauty, but beauty, nonetheless and

We are storing up eternal treasure.
(Matthew 6:20)

We also cultivate beauty in our lives by weeding out the ugly.

Stop...throw it out, turn it off, refuse it, cut it at the root. JUST SAY NO TO UGLINESS. You may miss it at first, but if you replace the ugly with the beautiful, your soul will be fed, and you will thrive.
You will have life. You will be filled.
You will live.

What are some of the ways you are cultivating beauty in your life? Kindly enter a link to your relevant post: