appendix vo. 14

Cheese with friends this week was simply divine!

Can we not mention that it’s been a few weeks since I had a Friday appendix post? Let’s not speak of it. I’m back today and that’s all that matters, right?

Here’s what’s catching my eye this week:

  • Like I’ve been saying for years and years…..one mans trash is another mans treasure. Don’t forget to glance in the dumpsters!
  • Three cheers for Grandmothers! They might never become famous or get a cookbook deal, but their food has fed nations. Watching these is such a delight.
  • I can’t tell you how hard I have fallen in love with the work of Flannery O’Connor. I haven’t felt this admiration for a writer since I was introduced to this man. I have now read 10 of her stories and have more on order. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to listen to some of her stories on Audible – the thick Southern accents made the characters that much more vivid and real. I would also recommend this documentary for some introductory background information about her life. I am so looking forward to learning more about her, reading all her works, and discovering her hidden and layered nuance. She was extraordinary and it’s a shame that modern day high-schoolers and college students aren’t being introduced to her to with more flourish and frequency. Her word drawings are very appropriate for our time.
  • And finally, if you are in love with cheese as much as I am, this is the site for you.

Have a wonderful and restful weekend!

-Rachel

the book review I don’t want to write, but might have to.

I read a lot but I don’t write book reviews. My opinions are generally saved for date night with my husband or for the ears of close friends over a cheese plate (obviously.)

However, once in awhile a book gains enough traction for being so popular with all the loudest dissenters or thought-makers in a movement that it’s hard to ignore. Trust me, I have no problem ignoring the latest NYT Bestseller when I can feel in my bones that the content is antithetical to my beliefs or, in the simplest words, nonsense. I say those words having never written my own book and am sure that I don’t precisely understand what it must require for someone to formulate pages and pages full of their own deeply-felt inspirations, only to have people like myself get wound up and pontificate why it isn’t worth buying. That’s why I don’t write book reviews.

Well, until the one I might start writing this afternoon.

I’m simultaneously reading all of the short stories of Flannery O-Connor (she is incredible) and also making my way (although very slowly because I am writing comments after just about every sentence) through, “Jesus and John Wayne” by Kristin Kobes Du Mez. Honestly, I don’t even know where to start with Du Mez’s book, so I won’t. Yet.

I will say this:

I grew up Evangelical. My entire life I’ve been in evangelical churches. My mom was on staff at three separate churches in my childhood. My father served as an elder. I went on missions trips and to bonfires with the youth group in the summer. I killed it in “Sword Drill” contests and played “Sardines” long into the night with fellow junior high friends. We had lock-ins and I grew up on a steady diet of Psalty, McGhee and Me, Brio, Amy Grant, Considering Lily, DC Talk, and SuperTones. I was in devotion groups with pastors wives and toilet-papered the assistant pastor’s house. I went to Hume Lake, Camp Fox, and Forrest Home and jumped on “the blob.” My uncle was the pastor of the church I attended when newly married and I worked on his staff for seven years. On that staff I was the only female that wasn’t in an administrative position. I’ve been at church parties, at youth group retreats, at potlucks, prayer meetings, interventions, reconciliation prayer nights. I’ve been at the deathbed of church goers and I’ve been at births. I’ve watched church bodies split and go their separate ways after decades together. I’ve organized and ran multiple VBS events, Sunday school teacher trainings, pool parties, summer camps, and Harvest gatherings. I’ve been the first person at the church in the morning and the last to lock up.

Aside from preaching in the pulpit, I think I’ve done just about everything you can do at an Evangelical church.

Why am I telling you this? It’s certainly not assure you that my opinion about evangelicalism is the only one, or to assert that those with a dissenting opinion are not valid.

That quick glimpse over 40 years of my life is shared to couch my forthcoming review of Du Mez’s book with, as the youth say, “receipts.” I feel like I can confidently assert myself into a conversation about evangelicalism, and have a leg to stand on – as much as any other person my age. My relationship with the evangelical church wasn’t casual, it was life.

And while our family recently changed denominations to the Anglican church, it was not out of an animosity or anger towards the larger Evangelical church. I don’t have an ax to grind and I certainly don’t look at the national church (as does Du Mez) with a glaringly reductive and obviously never-to-be-redeemed negative view.

Is the Evangelical church without her faults? Obviously not.

Is she fumbling now? Yep.

Might she need to fumble further and even harder in order to come back to the important “first things?” Possibly.

Do I see major problems in the Evangelical movement and an unhealthy marriage with politics? Certainly, and I hope you do as well.

Have I been hurt while attending an Evangelical church? Of course.

All these things are true. But all these things can be true while also existing alongside the fact that there are many, many evangelical churches that don’t deserve to be unfairly lumped into an oversimplified soup of progressive “woes” railed against the American church.

I’ll stop.

I haven’t finished the book and want to give it a completely fair shake before I attempt to comprehensively review it. I will say though…..I pride myself on not being the person who can’t listen to the “other side” and so I want to hear stories and experiences. This is important to me. But I will also say that when someone shares opinions as “factual evidence”, while also providing a very suspect and slim paper trail, all the while couching it under the cloak of “academic research”…..I have to slow you down.

Give me facts and I will listen.

BUT. If you’re just going to write a 300 page hit piece that loosely ties John Wayne to the Capitol attack on Jan 6th and then go on to blame every man who ever attended a “Promise Keepers” event for the election of Donald Trump, I’m going to have a tough time taking you seriously.

We will see how the the remaining chapters strike me, but the outlook isn’t good. I hope to offer you a review that is based in something that Du Mez seems unfamiliar with…..snarkless factually-based evidence that isn’t propped up by hyper-emotion.

For now, I need some O’Connor as a palette-cleanser. And, if you’ve read anything by Flannery, you know that “palette-cleanser” isn’t how she is usually described. That’s telling.

planting flowers in the rain, a shoemaker, cheese, and the longing for sushi.

It rained for 4 solid hours this morning, but she stayed outside. Resolved to weed some stray growth and plant her Lupines, Sweet Peas, and Carnations. It’s the perfect day to spend in some dirt – schooling has been much slower for the last two weeks as we wait for next semester curriculum to slowly trickle in. The rain has made today a lovely 68 degree reprieve from the intolerable 90 degree scorcher that yesterday brought.

A historian who is also a shoemaker {and his extremely kind wife} are coming to dinner tomorrow night. Doesn’t that just sound like a meal you want to be at? Of course, this couple is much more than their work credentials *but* you have to admit that being a cobbler who attends colonial fairs and puts on presentations about the history of footwear is pretty unique. As many of you already know, I have an intense love for cheese and so tomorrow evening I’ll be {hopefully} taking my charcuterie-making to new heights….testing out a few new varieties of fromage and splurging on a large piece of honeycomb. I am considering it my meager payment for all of the interesting stories that might be told during our time of communing, tomorrow evening.

Tonight, prior to our cheese shopping, Sean and I are going to sit down and dine on plates and plates of far too much sushi. We are supposed to leave the house in two hours and I can honestly say that my mouth will be watering that entire time. We ate out much more frequently {and somewhat more exotically} when we lived in Southern California. Things were closer, and more available. Diversity in cuisine was a staple in our life.

It’s not so much that way here and there are times that I miss having good Mexican, Thai, Korean, Japanese, Indian cuisine on a regular basis. I will say that when you have something {like say, really good sushi} once a week, it can become pretty normal and “meh.”

But when you only have it once in a great while, the mouth waters and you think about fresh tuna for a solid 120 minutes.

Delayed gratification is something I haven’t always appreciated. But it’s growing on me.

That being said, I wouldn’t hate it if I could get a good bowl of Pho without having to drive 45 minutes. Sigh.

fathers

It seems that with a large portion of our culture being swept up in the, “The Future is Female” movement, the vital role of men and fathers has sadly been pushed to a backstage position • God made roles in the family so intricate and perfect and worthy – separate & different, but equal in value • To those who really desire empowered & courageous women, I’d suggest the ultimate solution is to give them a strong, present, godly father-figure, who emphasizes values, discipline, virtue, Christ’s plan for humanity & who teach self-respect because one’s worth is from the Lord • Instead of focusing on promoting one of the two genders, to the exclusion of all else, let’s applaud the men and fathers who show up, do the dirty work & rarely get praise • I wish the role of “father” was paid a higher honor in our society….that is surely what it deserves • Good, consistent fathers are everyday heroes •

three years

On Sunday we celebrated three years since the day we were handed the keys to our farm. Three years! In some ways it feels like we just arrived and in other ways it feels like we have always lived in Virginia.

So much has changed in the last 1096 days.

We learned to grow some of our own food. We bought ducks, chickens, guinea fowl, and sheep. We became adept at fixing random things around the house, using odds and ends sitting in an old garage. We completed a few more years of homeschooling. We bought a pick-up truck. We joined a local Ruritan Club and met neighbors and community leaders. We held frogs, stupidly pet snapping-turtles, and fed ostriches. We bought a 1/4 of a cow (for grilling, of course) and learned from cattle owners. We got bit by ticks and hornets and spiders and learned it’s not that big of a deal. K learned to ride a horse, Frankie learned to play violin, Polly learned to spell. We organized swaps of baked goods with neighbors and played for endless hours in the blow-up pool in our front yard. We’ve berry picked through the woods next door and watched countless thunderstorms from our front porch. We’ve seen BroodX and yearly fireflys. We learned about native trees and birds. We joined co-ops and nature groups and put on plays with fellow students. We painted and renovated parts of our home, while other parts stop working or fell apart. We found snakes and bats in bedrooms, had many dinners with loved ones, hosted over 70 houseguests, and have made our house a true home.

We found our forever church and were confirmed into the Anglican denomination.

We have had the honor of meeting wonderful people since moving here. We watched as God moved some of our closest friends in California to the East Coast, within months of our departure.

Yesterday marked three years and we worshipped at church and then spent the afternoon and evening celebrating with three other families . It was a true happiness that filled us as we left the Andersons home last evening.

Grateful that the Lord brought us to Virginia. Grateful for how He has changed us. Grateful for how He is molding us.

Grateful for three years that we never expected.

that’s a wrap (not really, but sort-of)

– a handful of the books we worked through this past year –

Well, the last few weeks have been lived at a fast pace between church events and wrapping up the latest homeschool term. It’s my excuse for not being as present here, but the fullness of our calendar has left us feeling really satisfied and content – so many good things.

– Kensington’s flower watercolors-

Today we filled canvas bags with French workbooks, completed math tests, hand-written booklists, and much, much more. Our piles of “educational evidence” were categorized and taken to our evaluator, who goes over the past year with each child and certifies that we have “met standards” so the state of Virginia is satisfied. Our state allows two options at the end of each school year to stay current/qualified as a home educator – take a standardized test or meet with an evaluator who signs off on the samples of our work. We love our evaluator (a veteran homeschooler and all around great gal) and the girls love the chance to talk about all they have accomplished. Mainly, I think they love sitting down with someone other than their parents who is genuinely excited and interested in the quirky, artistic, and beautiful things they have acquired through their learning at home.

– Frankie’s anatomy section of her portfolio –

While we technically homeschool the entire year, the month of June generally marks an end to a term where the girls get excited to put together their individual “portfolios.” Each girl fills a binder or mixed-media Strathmore art portfolio full of samples from each subject we focused on. This year they had sections for: Western Civ, Fine Art, French, Language Arts, Handwriting, Typing, Bible, US History, and Anatomy. They started working on them last week and finished them last evening – they were so proud, and I was proud of them.

– Frankie’s US Geography maps –

This June wraps up the seventh year that I have homeschooled all the girls together and I feel like my heart and mind are full of thoughts about this method of educating young minds. I feel my heart is often in a state of extreme gratefulness for this opportunity, when I know many don’t feel like they have this option. My heart is often so full with a recognition of how blessed our family is to be able to learn in tandem – the very strong bond that has been created between us is a gift of great value.

– Our weekly “theology” study board –

Homeschooling will always be the most difficult and challenging endeavor I will ever participate in. I feel confident in saying that, even though my job is not yet complete (and because I know some will ask: yes, we plan to homeschool through high school.) It can be frustrating and exhausting. Most of the time, however, it is incredibly rewarding and beautiful. With each passing year, I fall more in love with learning alongside my children, and watching them grow into little women. It’s been one of the greatest gifts of my life. I know that Sean would echo that sentiment. If it wasn’t for his continual support (and occasional discipline as headmaster) it wouldn’t be nearly as joyful. I can complete this task because he leads our family with such grace and wisdom.

– One of Kensington’s anatomy drawings –

Heading into our eighth year homeschooling, I have many wishes for our girls. Above any other, I’m finding that my greatest prayer is that each of our daughters becomes passionate and wise regarding the things of the Lord and His teachings. This is our cornerstone and what informs all other areas of study. I’m seeing the intense need for this more and more every day. The foundation of our studies has to be the truth about the Creator and His creation. Everything else comes secondary.

– Art by Frankie –

Lord willing, I’ll be homeschooling for years to come. For today, I’m giving thanks for this past year, growth we have seen, lessons learned, stories told, and scripture that is solidly imprinted on our hearts. It’s time to take a week off for VBS, to leisurely read some neglected books on my nightstand, and to say goodbye to our dear friends who are moving to South Carolina.

And then…..we begin planning for next term.

a beautiful day.

Yesterday, Kensington was baptized at our small Anglican parish. I’m not sure that I can explain the emotions her father and I felt because I’m unable to grasp them all myself. I’ve been praying for each of my daughters since they were young; that they would arrive at their faith in a deeply personal way, without a sense of coercion or debilitating reluctance. There have been nights when I have laid in bed worrying that we haven’t done enough to share a sense of awe when it comes to the greatest story ever told.

Both Polly and Frankie were baptized earlier this year and we encouraged each of them to share with us when their heart felt ready to do so. And while I understand the reasons and theology behind why many families have their children baptized as infants, there is a part of me that will always feel grateful that we were able to watch our girls come to the personal decision of desiring baptism. It was such a pure and beautiful set of circumstances – the conversations, the tears of realization at the gravity of their choice, the selection of their godparents, the opening of cards and gifts, the nervousness prior, the relief and joy after it was done, the solemnity of the situation.

We watched as our dear friend, priest, and godfather to our girls prayed for them, answered their questions, promised to always play a role in their lives, and administered the sacrament.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

I feel like all is well with the world and even though we all know it isn’t, I am resting in that emotion for just a little while.

the generations before

Our eldest daughter recently bought a small greenhouse for her bedroom. She received a book for Christmas about flowers and their meanings (it’s beautiful and would make a perfect gift for the anthophile in your life.) She had grown two flower boxes full of blooms last season and enjoyed it enough, but once she learned the historical “meaning” behind specific flowers, she became absolutely enamored. She began putting together hypothetical flower arrangements in her mind and making lists of befitting celebrations to present them at. For instance, did you know that a bouquet of Amaryllis and Clematis was traditionally presented to someone to celebrate “pride in their cleverness”? Or perhaps a less desirable occasion you might encounter – Anemone and Camellia to share the sentiment of a broken heart?

In her upstairs room, amongst the books and vintage typewriter and notepads, she has tables of propagated succulents and trays of Lupine, Sweet Pea, and Voilet seeds. She leaves the gro-lights on for 12 hours and waters every other day. They are her little babies and watches them closely. Between her books, her stationary, and her plants…she’s and old lady in training.

Have you ever thought about the times someone has joked about someone (or you) being a “granny in training”? I have had my fair share of jokes aimed at me when I show off a newly-acquired crocheted pillow I found at an estate sale, or when someone learns that I like to be in bed by 9pm (at the latest.)

What I’ve realized is that most things people relate with “grandma-worthy” behavior are the most comforting and purposeful things we can acquaint ourselves with.

Tea drinking. Cat petting. Hand-writing letters and sending them through the post. Making Sunday dinners. Watering the garden. Sitting on the porch. Bringing a meal for a person in need. Crocheting. Needlework. Making a big batch of iced tea. Reading a good mystery novel. Waking up at 5am, sitting in a large armchair and reading the Bible. Walking the dog, leisurely. An inability to text, thereby forcing one to make an actual phone call. Prolonged conversations after church, causing the hurried to be anxious. Garage-sale shopping. Coupon cutting. Change-saving. Photo-album appreciating.

It seems to me that, perhaps, people want to be grandmas more than they care to admit. I know I do. In fact, I admit that it’s a goal that I’ve been working towards for a long time and it’s for good reason. The best grandmothers (and those from the older generation in general) are full of wisdom. They have lived. Normal lives, yes, but they are been through all of the things we are going through. Maybe not in the same way or to the same degree, but they’ve seen things. Some that we have seen and some we never will. They have lives that can inform our living and while they may not be able to identify with all the modern issues we have come to face, they have been through enough pain, joy, and years to know when they should speak and when they should just listen. The older generation has lived long enough to learn that surviving at a break-neck speed will ruin us and that’s why I think we look at their lifestyles with yearning….and perhaps why we make fun of those who choose something slower. It’s weird. It’s different than what is normal for us middle-aged parents with kids.

I’m not sure what I’m getting at exactly, but I suppose it’s this: I love the older generation. Not in a patronizing way, but in a posture of admiration. They have been through much more than I and while not always handling it perfectly, they know a heck of a lot more than I do and I appreciate watching how they live. I want to learn from them and emulate many of the things they have been convinced are the best things in life. The slow things. The things that add value and virtue.

I recently joined the “Alter Guild” at our small parish. In doing so, I’ll be responsible for the flower arrangements that decorate the alter, and changing out the linens we use each week. It’s a job that receives little fanfare and I’m sure, at times, feels thankless to those who lovingly choose the peonies or holly or roses and drive to the church to set them up and wipe down the vases and throw out the old blooms.

But that’s not quite the point, is it? Of course not, because we do not measure the value of our jobs by the recognition given. We partake in the task because of the value it inherently provides. What it adds to the whole. What it means to the process and what it does to our own heart in the meantime. It refines us, slows us down, and shows us what it important.

Life. People. Slowness. Community. The Lord. His gospel.

When I asked another Alter Guild member today if she just loves arranging the flowers she looked at me and said, “I do find so much satisfaction from putting together the flowers. Because it’s all for the glory of God for us to enjoy.

And, of course, she was from and older generation.

She gets it. She knows.

the answers on how to live.

Family pain. Middle-East conflict. Vaccines. Anxiety. School closings. Chronic illness. Church abuse. Election scandal. Anger. Pornography. Resentment. Loneliness. National poverty. Opioid addiction. Racism. Apathy. Abortion. Depression. Politics. Fear. Alcoholism. Gender identity. Teachers Unions. Masks. Sex trafficking. Lust. Fake news. Critical Race Theory. Big tech. Unemployment.

If any of the above words illicit a reaction while you were skimming them, you’re not alone.

The world is fraught right now. The heaviness of the present moment seems to be pushing people down so low that they are without hope, abandoning long-held relationships, ideals, truths, and traditions. Our nation and world feel upside down and in no rush to turn back over. But then, even if it did, would all be well? Of course not.

Knowing this doesn’t help us in the present moment, however. Each day presents a new concern and usually one that can’t be solved by evening.

It’s a fraught time.

And while this is a truth universally accepted, regardless of religious affiliation, the means to resolve these issues are hotly contested. You’ll find answers and opinions on the pages of papers and lips of journalists but I’m finding these outlets almost always leave me wholly unsatisfied.

As believers, the answers surrounding salvation are, as found in the pages of the Good Book, simple. We know He is the way, the truth, and where to find life, but the answers on how exactly to live? Those can so often feel illusive – especially when they are prescribed by a culture that stands in staunch opposition to what we believe to be true. It’s hard to know how to respond to any variety of matters.

But this year, I found a chapter of the Bible that simultaneously gives me peace, calm, and instructive answers.

In Fall, our homeschool co-op set out to memorize one entire chapter from the book of Romans. At that time, I was feeling the weight of our world on my shoulders (much like you were.) I had no idea how comforting this passage of scripture would become in the upcoming days and months. Of course, the Lord did. And while I’m certain He had bigger plans than I can even imagine, I like to also think He chose this memorization project just for me.

He knows we will need answers in this life and He has provided them for us, if we only seek and sit ready to accept the answers. That is always the hard part because something will need to be given up in return. Our anger, our need for control, our selfishness.

But the answers to all that ails us are already provided. They are laid out plainly and they are balm in the always-present storm.

And so, I share these verses from Romans Chapter 12 with you. My hope is that they give you clarity for the questions you have. If any of the first words within this post brought tears to your eyes or grieving in your spirit, my true hope is that you find a path forward, straight into the fray, armed with the gentle guidance that has been laid out.

He is for us. He stands with us. He has given us the answers on how to live.

***

Romans 12:1-21 ESV

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Amen.